Sensually scored to Pink Floyd’s “Careful with That Axe, Eugene”, Arnaud Lallouet cuts a superb argument for the filmmaking of Kubrick’s classic horror picture. All those steadicam shots, combined with meticulous use of colour and framing. Obviously, when there is a chance to catch this film on the big screen, you should always sieze the opportunity. For now, I hope you enjoy this ‘five reasons’ kind of reminder..
After skipping this years Academy Awards last weekend, but nonetheless reading a lot about them online the next day, I started thinking about how much I enjoyed Spotlight (it’s fantastic), but also how much we will be talking about the film in 5 years or so. The Oscars have the reputation amongst, well, everyone, that in the past decade (or three) of getting the Best Picture so utterly wrong. Now this argument may be extended all the way to the inception of Best Picture in the 1920s, and the primary question about the futility of ranking of art is: By what criteria makes any one movie the best one of the year? Not so easy, but films that resonate, have been lifted into significance over time, and otherwise tickle the popular culture in interesting ways.
Will all due respect to The Dew Over podcast, which had guests (including myself) on a panel re-assess each year (one per episode) of the past several deacades, typically -but not always- in the context of the 5 or so Academy nominations for Best Picture, I took some time to consider the innovation value, cultural imprint, the overall ‘force of contribution’ to the medium of film for any film released in that year, from any country. (This is, obviously, as I see it, of course, not by any ‘scientific or consensus metric.)
I took a look at 1980 up until 2011. These dates were chosen because they constitute my main personal time consuming movies, as well as me living during their release. I was 6 in 1980, and my parents started taking me to movies often (weekly) at about that time, especially to films that were inappropriate for my age, but I digress. I have omitted the last few years due to the need for a little time and space for things to percolate in the culture. Feel free to discuss in the comments section (Obvious Disclaimer: Clearly this is more a fun exercise than a definitive one — because that ultimately is a futile effort, there is so MUCH content in this art-form we call film to really pin anything down, but us humans like our reach to exceed our grasp.)
The format is simple. I list the film awarded by the Academy for Best Picture, then I list what I believe is the ‘best representative’ of that year (yes it is slanted towards American cinema, sue me) and I list a ‘dark horse’ choice to keep things interesting.
The Best Picture Oscar – Ordinary People
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE SHINING
Dark Horse Pick – The Empire Strikes Back (Also: Raging Bull)
The Best Picture Oscar – Chariots of Fire
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
Dark Horse Pick – Excalibur
The Best Picture Oscar – Gandhi
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BLADE RUNNER
Dark Horse Pick – Fitzcarraldo
The Best Picture Oscar – Terms of Endearment
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – RETURN OF THE JEDI (Star Wars)
Dark Horse Pick – Tender Mercies (Also: The Right Stuff)
The Best Picture Oscar – Amadeus
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – AMADEUS
Dark Horse Pick – Paris, Texas
The Best Picture Oscar – Out of Africa
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BRAZIL
Dark Horse Pick – Back To The Future
The Best Picture Oscar – Platoon
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BLUE VELVET
Dark Horse Pick – The Mosquito Coast
The Best Picture Oscar – The Last Emperor
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FULL METAL JACKET
Dark Horse Pick – Broadcast News
The Best Picture Oscar – Rain Man
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
Dark Horse Pick – Grave of The Fireflies
The Best Picture Oscar – Driving Miss Daisy
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – DO THE RIGHT THING
Dark Horse Pick – The Killer
The Best Picture Oscar – Dances With Wolves
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – GOODFELLAS
Dark Horse Pick – The Sheltering Sky
The Best Picture Oscar – The Silence of the Lambs
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THELMA AND LOUISE
Dark Horse Pick – Barton Fink
The Best Picture Oscar – Unforgiven
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – UNFORGIVEN
Dark Horse Pick – Raise The Red Lantern
The Best Picture Oscar – Schindler’s List
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – NAKED
Dark Horse Pick – The Piano
The Best Picture Oscar – Forrest Gump
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – PULP FICTION
Dark Horse Pick – Chungking Express
The Best Picture Oscar – Brave Heart
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – SAFE
Dark Horse Pick – 12 Monkeys
The Best Picture Oscar – The English Patient
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FARGO
Dark Horse Pick – Trainspotting (Also: Crash)
The Best Picture Oscar – Titanic
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE ICE STORM
Dark Horse Pick – Princess Mononoke
The Best Picture Oscar – Shakespeare In Love
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – OUT OF SIGHT
Dark Horse Pick – The Big Lebowski
The Best Picture Oscar – American Beauty
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FIGHT CLUB
Dark Horse Pick – Eyes Wide Shut
The Best Picture Oscar – Gladiator
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
Dark Horse Pick – Memento
The Best Picture Oscar – A Beautiful Mind
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (LORD OF THE RINGS)
Dark Horse Pick – Mulholland Drive
The Best Picture Oscar – Chicago
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Dark Horse Pick – City of God
The Best Picture Oscar – Return of the King (Lord of the Rings)
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – MASTER & COMMANDER
Dark Horse Pick – Lost In Translation
The Best Picture Oscar – Million Dollar Baby
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Dark Horse Pick – Birth
The Best Picture Oscar – Crash
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Dark Horse Pick – Cache
The Best Picture Oscar – The Departed
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE PRESTIGE
Dark Horse Pick – Children of Men
The Best Picture Oscar – No Country For Old Men
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – ZODIAC
Dark Horse Pick – There Will Be Blood
The Best Picture Oscar – Slumdog Millionaire
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – MAN ON WIRE
Dark Horse Pick – Synecdoche, New York
The Best Picture Oscar – The Hurt Locker
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Dark Horse Pick – Enter The Void (Also: A Serious Man)
The Best Picture Oscar – The King’s Speech
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Dark Horse Pick – Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Also: Melancholia)
The Best Picture Oscar – The Artist
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – TREE OF LIFE
Dark Horse Pick – We Need To Talk About Kevin
Please chime in with something obvious wrong, or a key title(s) I missed for each year.
Check out these links:
Mark Kermode on Jaws @ 40.
The Most Egregious Acting Oscar-Snubs of the Past 10 Years
Errol Morris on Typography and Truth
For Fans of the Plot of Serial, The Undisclosed Podcast
The World’s Largest Shipyard?
Re-live 1980s Cheese with Green Screen and Vector Graphics and Hitler: Kung Fury
The Cinematography Strategy of Fast-Cutting on Fury Road
Wes Anderson Parody Trailers are a Dime-a-Dozen. The editing is strong in this one.
Shia LaBeouf cautions against living in a van down by the river
The Unauthorized Biography of Vincent Price
Josh Olson on the Life & Times of Judge Roy Bean
In praise of The Chairs in Cinema
I really do enjoy my invites over to Patrick and Jim’s podcasting house to talk about whatever is on their minds. This time around, it is all about obsessing on signs and wonders in cinema. Room 237 is the documentary about obsessive viewers obsessing over Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Upstream Color is the strange new film from Shane Carruth that is open to similar obsessive types that may want to climb down the rabbit hole. The fairly lengthy conversations over at The Director’s Club gets into what type of baggage each and every one of you can bring into a movie, and how a movie can unpack and repack that bagging into exciting new things.
Nicely echoing the original minimalist poster for The Shining, the new poster for Room 237, is simply lovely. Keeping the color (albeit a shade darker yellow) and typeface intact, but replacing the ‘scared-y face’ with a keyhole and film’s iconic hedge maze, the key art offers up what the film is about – or at least it does for those who are tangentially aware of the documentary about conspiracy theories and unusual interpretations of Stanley Kubrick’s cult horror film. The pull quote does the rest of the work in helping out a more general audience, while the all-block-capitals disclaimer at the bottom gives it an edge of ‘unauthorized!’
(Note that the actual film is far from perfect, but nevertheless worth a look.)
The original Shining Poster is tucked under the seat.
Director: Rodney Ascher
Starring: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan
Producer: Tim Kirk
Running Time: 102 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
A favourite of the festival circuit last year, Room 237 is being released on DVD in the UK so that you can analyse and dissect the film as its subjects do with The Shining. If you haven’t heard about Room 237, it’s a documentary which allows 5 people who are obsessed with Stanley Kubrick’s film version of The Shining to describe their various theories about what that film really means. They each have wild ideas about every minute detail of the film and, rather than looking at the overall narrative on display (which came from Stephen King’s book of course), the interviewees look into Kubrick’s input and how his changes and quirks make it more than the sum of its parts.
Room 237 is an odd beast. Rather than really being a film about The Shining, this is more of a look at obsession as well as perhaps a look at how people can see any films completely differently from one another, depending on the knowledge and baggage the viewer brings to a film. This is certainly not a ‘behind the scenes’ look at The Shining and the theories are that outlandish and varied that the film never seems to be claiming that any of these readings of the film are necessarily as Kubrick intended. So, I got the feeling that maybe Room 237 could have been made about fan’s thoughts of any other surreal or cult film, such as Mulholland Drive or Kubrick’s own 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The theories themselves range from bat-shit crazy (one sees it as Kubrick airing his feelings on having directed the faked TV broadcast of the moon landing) to vaguely plausible (The Shining as a metaphor for the genocide of the American Indians). Even the wilder ones have one or two almost convincing ‘clues’ though or at least the interviewees are good at explaining them. Much of what they come up with is reaching though, to put it mildly. A lot of their ‘proof’ comes from what is clearly a continuity error or a ridiculously warped view of some random object in the background (that poster clearly shows a skier, not a minotaur). However, as mentioned, the film seems more focussed on their obsession rather than the theories themselves.
Continuing with another week centered around an interesting title to talk about, Corey Pierce from CriticalMassCast joins us for a (SPOILER!) filled discussion on structure, themes and mouth-feel of Looper. Corey explains the ‘Rule of Awesome’ when it comes to these types of movies, and whether or not to nitpick. Kurt obsesses about the visual queues in the film and Andrew contemplates Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s adoption of Bruce Willis’ body language. We move on to grading homework, wherein Matt Gamble joins us for colour commentary and general merriment. The Watch List has Corey giving a mini-review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, while Kurt falls down the Kubrick rabbit hole with visual essays both good and bad. Micro-discussions on The Fountain, Christopher Guest, Electric Cars, The Game, Alan Rickman and Compliance ensue.
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
Full show notes are under the seats…
Would you like to know more…?
Special guest star Andrew Robinson joins us on the last day of the Toronto International Film Festival 2012 for our final TIFF ’12 podcast! We wrap up the festival including the audience choice award announcements, and talk To The Wonder, Cloud Atlas, 90 Minutes, Room 237, Reality, Byzantium, Ginger & Rosa, The We and the I, and Everyday. And that’s the end. See you next year!
To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo272.mp3
There is a scene, perhaps midway through Ti West’s most recent film of spooky interiors and patient tracking-shots, where an underpaid employee struggles to get a bag of garbage in to the rear alley bin. It is as good of a touchstone for what he has been managed thus far with his career, going against the grain of mainstream horror trends (torture, found footage, etc.) by making more patient, measured films which rely exclusively on atmosphere and tension. Making a horror film in this day and age that eschews gimmickry and/or mounds of bad CGI (and worse dialogue) while actually getting it out into the marketplace is a herculean task in and of itself. Alas, for all the chatter (and wonderful key art) posted on the internet about The House of the Devil, the film is only a success within the select niche of genre aficionados. Notwithstanding some very minor issues with its digitally-flat (and rather abrupt) ending, it is one of the great horror pictures of the past 10 years. I have little reservation in calling it a master-work in terms of generating both tension and anticipation, which when you boil things down is damn near everything in the horror genre. Yet, suspense seems seems to be dying off with each new re-invention of horror-formula with only a few notable exceptions.
Back to the bag of garbage.
The employee is Claire and she is one of only two remaining staff serving a meagre three guests living at the The Yankee Pedlar Inn until the business shutters at the end of the week. The bag is leaking some sort of fluid as she drags it haltingly across the uneven cracked asphalt. She makes several Sisyphean attempts to heave the hulking sack into the bin whose lid seems close just a millisecond too soon. The whole scene plays out as a charming bit of physical comedy, a levity that rests purely on the comic timing and chummy vibe of Ms. Sara Paxton which, more than a bit, reminds me of Anna Faris’ endearing goofiness in Smiley Face. And so goes The Innkeepers, a haunted hotel story that trafficks in the gentle, snarky comedy of its pair of underpaid and unambitious wage-slaves before breaking out the Shining and the ghosties and turn-of-the-screw tension to become one of most effective horror films of 2011. One of the smartest, too. An early gag in the movie, which threatens to echo/resonate in the films final shot, is one hell of a deconstruction of the jump-scare and its often gross misuse in the genre. This is a good sign that West has his brain and his talent laser focused on the nature and the possibility of this type of filmmaking. The syntax similar to The House of the Devil, but the tone could not be more different. Gone is the late 70s early 80s setting, although it retains a feel of classic, vintage filmmaking that outside of a few laptop computers, and a latte bar across the street, could place the film anywhere in the 20th century. Horror and comedy are rarely mixed well, but resulting cocktail here is shaken and stirred. Hell, it is downright effervescent. The icing on the cake is that the ending here feels far more organic to the themes brought out in the storytelling than House of the Devil. In its own fashion The Innkeepers turns the rules of this sort of film inside out while still managing to follow them. It’s a neat trick, and a welcome one.
Krister is feeling the boot-heel of karma kick him pretty hard for his past transgressions. After abandoning his wife, Eva, and daughter, Sandra, for a secret mistress, he grudgingly returns to support them when Eva has an unplanned pregnancy. The years of juggling a dual-life between his wife and daughter and his mistress have resulted in his lovely blonde 10 year-old rebelling into a goth-and-piercing lifestyle, complete with dropping out of school and dating a significantly older boy, a slacker pothead who believes in elves and wicca. This is how Krister sees things and compensates with authoritarian airs after his disregard. Life goes on with a young baby girl in the house and a storm cloud of resentment between Eva and Sandra over Krister’s flip-flopping and Eva’s ability to forgive. The breaking point arrives on an evening with Sandra babysitting at home with her parents out on a date. A nasty car accident en route to the restaurant leaves Eva dead and Krister reaping all the grief he has sown on an single event that was (Swedish black irony?) beyond his control. Left with one daughter that hates him and an infant that cries all night for its absent mother who will never return, the fresh widower begins to suffer from a severe case of insomnia. It is a potentially paralytic one according to his therapist (the always wonderful Peter Stormare) as a recurring nightmare of a ghost with clicking high heels and a shrieking wail constricts his chest and will not let him rest. Marianne draws its folklore DNA from the Nordic Mare, which not coincidentally (if one is etymologically inclined) is the latter half of the word “nightmare.”