10 Great Movies That Define Self-Reflexive Cinema

Advertisment:

Self-reflexive cinema has been around since the early years of the medium. In a couple of words, self-reflexivity isn’t a genre per se but an artistic choice by the filmmakers in which they make their narrative aware of their nature in order to either question or critic the process of filmmaking.

Hence, from the silent era to today’s cinema, self-reflexive films have always been considered unconventional or avant-garde due to their focus on filmic discourse. Whether it be making the audience aware of the moviemaking process through film language, or purely making a film about filmmaking, self-reflexive cinema motivates intellectual interaction with the film.

That said, there has been numerous films produced throughout the history of cinema that are considered self-reflexive. However, only a handful of them truly captured the essence and capacity of its devices for revolutionary or critical purposes as well as the films that follow.

 

1. Man With A Movie Camera

Man With a Movie Camera

Released when the silent era was coming to an end, Dziga Vertov’s 1929 Man With A Movie Camera is nonetheless considered one of the most revolutionary and influential film of that period. It is a movie, as the director clearly states at the beginning of the picture, that doesn’t have any inter titles nor story— as it aims at creating a truly international language of cinema based on its absolute separation from the language of theatre and literature.

In other words, Man With A Movie Camera is composed of a series of images that, at first viewing, don’t seem to have any purpose. However, they have a distinct pattern and meaning since every shot is either preceded or followed by a secondary shot explaining and demonstrating the procedure involved in capturing the primary image.

In addition, Dziga Vertov intercuts images of industrial machinery throughout the film as a representation of the editing process. Hence, when viewing Man With A Movie Camera, the audience is both witnessing the process of it being shot and edited.

That said, besides being the first true film about filmmaking, Man With A Movie Camera is also notably known for its groundbreaking introduction to unconventional, for the time of its release, cinematic techniques such as, among others, split screens, fast motion and dutch angles.

 

2. 8½

8½

One of the most reputable film amongst critics, Federico Fellini’s 8½ is nothing short of a masterpiece. Released in 1963, it stars the director’s long time collaborator and diegesis alter ego Marcello Mastroianni as its protagonist named Guido, a proclaimed director suffering from creative block. Hence, 8½ delves into Guido’s unconscious as he wanders through reality and fantasy, trying to figure out the meaning of the film his cast and crew is so eager to start shooting.

That said, 8½ is a true example of modernist cinema as Federico Fellini proceeds to communicate Guido’s story through a stream of consciousness narrative. In other words, as Marcello Mastroianni’s character struggle’s creatively, he immerses himself in dreams of childhood memories and fantasies throughout the film, thus blurring the lines between his reality and illusionary world. Consequently, the film works as a revelatory window opening to the psychological and existential state inhabiting the mind of an artist, in this case Guido.

Furthermore, even though the transitions between Guido’s reality and fantasies are inconspicuous due to their shared mise-en-scene, Fellini nevertheless, among other filmic techniques, makes his protagonist self-conscious of the non-diegetic soundtrack. Therefore, the audience is constantly reminded that what they are witnessing isn’t real life but rather an artificial and artistic rendering of it.

 

3. Sunset Boulevard

SUNSET BOULEVARD

Released in 1950, Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard has often been cited as the director’s best and most influential film. Produced approximately twenty years after the transition from the silent era to the talkies, Sunset Boulevard captures the essence of the state Hollywood was in at the time of its release, in that it is the story of a forgotten and deranged silent film star named Norma Desmond who hires a screenwriter in order to write herself back into the big pictures.

Hence, in order to add realism to the movie, Billy Wilder cast two established silent era stars such as Gloria Swanson playing Norma Desmond and Erich von Stroheim playing the former’s butler. Ergo mirroring the fading of both their fictional and real life careers. In other words, Sunset Boulevard studies the effect a cynical industry has on aging stars such as Norma Desmond who, due to the arrival of sound-sync pictures, lost her celebrity status therefore forcing her into seclusion and delusion.

That said, the film is perhaps the first attempt by a renowned Hollywood director to formally depict the more obscure side of stardom. Consequently, its influence can be observed in many subsequent movies that deal with the same thematic, most notably David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

 

4. Le Mépris

Jack Palance in “Le Mepris”

Considered as one of his most accessible and popular movie, Le Mépris by Jean-Luc Godard is also his first and most innovative work among his many films about filmmaking.

Released in 1963, it is Godard’s sixth yet first international feature length starring a star-stubbed cast including Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli as the main characters. That said, Le Mépris follows the life of a married couple as the husband, Paul, is hired by an arrogant American producer to help retouch the script of a film version of Homer’s The Odyssey directed by Fritz Lang.

Accordingly, what makes Le Mépris “one of the greatest films ever made about the actual process of filmmaking” as Martin Scorsese once said, is, for one, how Jean-Luc Godard doesn’t shy away when it comes to reminding the audience they are watching a movie.

In fact, the french director goes so far that within the very first shot of Le Mépris, the viewer starts off as a witness of a diegesis shot only to become a part of it as the camera operator pans and tilts the camera until it catches the viewer’s gaze. Thus, in doing so, the audience isn’t simply reminded of the artificiality of cinema but is also invited into the process.

Furthermore, Le Mépris ironically mirrors Jean-Luc Godard’s own friction between him and his producers as his artistic vision was stricken from him during production. Hence, not only is Le Mépris visually beautiful and highly poetic, it’s also primarily the young French New Wave director’s critical response to an industry that favours grossing revenues over creativity and artistic vision.

 

5. Inland Empire

Following a five year hiatus, David Lynch offers his most structurally complex film to date with the 2006 release of Inland Empire. Staying true, thematically, with the course of his previous release; Mulholland Drive, the small town director once again plunges into the world of an actress in Hollywood. Hence, Inland Empire follows the performance of a life-time by actress Nikki Grace, played by Laura Dern, as she progressively adopts her character’s, named Susan Blue, persona.

That said, what makes this film particularly stand-out is its capacity to blur the lines between the reality and artificiality of Laura Dern’s character as she continuously keeps the audience wondering whether she is acting as Susan Blue in the film-within-a-film titled On High in Blue Tomorrows or if she’s simply Nikki Grace.

In addition, as it is known that David Lynch builds his movies around certain images or specific ideas as opposed to figuring out the exact storyline first, Inland Empire’s fragmented narrative and temporality is evidently reflexive of his creative process.

Being both David Lynch’s most under-rated and longest feature film with a running time of three hours, Inland Empire is a rollercoaster of a movie that mustn’t be watched but rather experienced. It engulfs its viewers until the end only to release them puzzled yet satisfied.

10 Totally Awesome 1990s Sci-fi Movies You Shouldn’t Miss

The sci-fi genre has always been a mixed bag of high-budget spectacles and low-budget camp. Due to the far-fetched premises inherent to the genre, even the most special effects-laden flick runs the risk of coming across as silly, while a strong premise and creative practical effects can carry even the lowest budgeted sci-fi film. None of the films on this list are Starship Troopers or The Matrix, but they demonstrate how a good concept can overcome budgetary limits.

There’s something admirable about making a sci-fi film on a small budget: it takes passion and enthusiasm on the filmmaker’s part to attempt creating work in a genre that’s known for its dazzling special effects, and sci-fi is a genre that even a film with tons of money behind it can fall flat on its face on-screen.

To make a film in this genre armed with only a script, a handful of actors, and sheer determination–and produce a decent genre picture out of it–is almost a miracle. Here are some sci-fi films–some campy, some clever, and all relatively obscure–from the radical 1990s that made the most of what they had to bring to the screen their far-out sci-fi vision.

 

1. Circuitry Man (1990)

Circuitry Man (1990)

In a grim post-apocalyptic world, the surviving population is forced to live underground. To cope with this horrible circumstance, people plug into computer chips that have mind-altering effects.

A female bodyguard comes into possession of a suitcase full of these narcotic chips and–accompanied by a pleasure android–makes the dangerous trek from Los Angeles to New York City to sell them. But she’s chased by a sinister man simply known as Plughead (due to the multiple outlets he has installed in his head) who wants the chips for himself, all while she contends with mutant leeches and the inhospitable environment of the outside world.

Made for just a million dollars, Circuitry Man is a low-budget affair that transcends its limitations with a well-executed story and an original premise. Now looking back, it has a certain low-budget charm and was prescient for including elements that would appear in later sci-fi films of the decade like Johnny Mnemonic and A.I.

 

2. 964 Pinocchio (1991)

964 Pinocchio (1991)

A s slave cyborg that can’t maintain an erection has its memory erased and is thrown out by its owners. If that completely insane sentence hasn’t already piqued your interest, maybe the rest of the film will. This bizarre cyberpunk story follows 964 after another homeless android finds him and takes care of him, trying to bring his memory back.

While his original owners search for him, 964’s caregiver experiences some sort of breakdown of her own and begins to torture Pinocchio. Meanwhile, his original owners’ goons are sent out to retrieve him but 964 experiences his own breakdown at this point and escapes. What follows is not only difficult to explain, but the ending is so esoteric that it’s difficult to discern whether it should count as an actual ending or not.

This movie is a bit of an endurance test for the viewer: there’s minimal dialogue, a number of disturbing scenes, and the cinematography and editing often comes across like an edgy film student’s project.

But there’s a lot to recommend, as well: the jerky physicality of the malfunctioning Pinocchio 964 and cacophony of disorienting visuals and noises are affecting, leaving the viewer guessing as to where this bizarre movie is headed. Decidedly not a mainstream affair, this Japanese sci-fi flick is still recommended for those with a taste for the outré.

Advertisment:

 

3. Hardware (1990)

hardware

A robot is found in the irradiated wasteland; its head is bought from a junk dealer and given to a girlfriend as a present. The two lovers speculate as to the robot’s origin, fearing that it was built by the government to eradicate the human population, which has already been depleted by warfare.

After she mounts it as a sculpture, the head comes to life and begins repairing itself, eventually going on a rampage, destroying everyone in its path. While eventually destroyed, an announcement comes over the radio that the robot will begin to be mass-produced by the government.

Based on a story that first appeared in the magazine 2000 A.D., this low-budget sci-fi thriller makes the most of its limitations, with inventive cinematography, editing, and by presenting a believable post-apocalyptic world. Starring Dylan McDermott, the film was a surprise hit in the United States, where it debuted at #6 on its opening weekend. Its aesthetics and storyline still hold up today, taking a page from Mad Max in creating a future that’s built on sand and heat and metal instead of high-tech comfort.

 

4. Nemesis (1992)

Nemesis (1992)

In the future, where cybernetic augmentation and illegal androids are commonplace, an injured bounty hunter (Alex) who’s been repaired through cybernetic implants dives into the underground world of a group of revolutionaries who are trying to stop a larger plot to replace human leaders with android replacements. As Alex further infiltrates the rebellion group, he ends up fighting for the resistance and finds out a horrible truth about himself.

Made on a tight budget, Nemesis is a surprisingly skillfully made sci-fi flick that’s filled with interesting ideas, accomplished special effects, and an intriguing story. B-movie director Albert Pyun (who helmed such low-budget “classics” like Cyborg, 1990’s Captain America, and Dollman) creates an entertaining cyberpunk story that’s carried by its concept rather than its budget.

While currently out of print, it was successful enough at the time of its release to spawn two sequels. Reflecting the obsession with the potential of technology in humanity’s future that sci-fi film made in the decade had, Nemesis is a solid, entertaining film from the early days of the 1990s.

 

5. Fortress (1992)

Fortress (1992)

Released in 1992 and set in 2017, Fortress follows the imprisonment of a couple sent to prison for getting pregnant with their second child–and although their first child died, a strict one-child policy has been enacted and any further procreation is outlawed in this dystopian sci-fi film. Both are sent to prison, in this case an underground facility. John has his memory erased while the woman is held until she births the child, who now is owned by a giant corporation and will eventually be turned into a cyborg.

Not a terribly ambitious movie, but a fun one, its cast is engaging in a story that manages to smash together several reliable tropes of the sci-fi genre to great effect. The underground prison is appropriately effective as a nightmarish place while the concept of the prison itself–where murderers and “breeders” (people who have more than one child) alike are held–evokes the sort of totalitarian state that’s long been established as a potential nightmarish future for humankind.

7 Reasons Why “Taxi Driver” is a Masterpiece of American Cinema

Taxi Driver

“Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.” This pessimistic line of dialogue is recited by the emotionally unstable character Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro in the groundbreaking film “Taxi Driver”, which was released in 1976, directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader. The movie tells a story of loneliness, urban decay, and vigilantism, and it takes place in the notorious streets of New York City in the 1970s.

Stylistically, the film is a kinetic, cinematic experience as Scorsese shows off his talents as a filmmaker and storyteller, creating stunning visuals with the help of cinematographer Michael Chapman; no other film prior to the release of “Taxi Driver” could match its sheer intensity. The screenplay by Schrader captures the raw essence of the 70s, a decade of political upheaval, high rates of crime, and sual exploitation. It’s a story with a powerful message that doesn’t preach to the choir.

After the release of “Taxi Driver”, Scorsese would go on to have a prolific career directing such films as “Raging Bull”, “Goodfellas”, “Gangs of New York”, “The Departed”, and “Wolf of Wall Street”, and is widely recognized as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

At the age of 74, the director hasn’t slowed down one bit, releasing the critically-acclaimed film “Silence” in 2016. However, “Taxi Driver” remains his greatest cinematic accomplishment, and 40 years later, the film is still a powerful, hardcore, and timeless work of art.

 

1. Old Gritty New York City

Before ‘the city that never sleeps’ became a safe haven for hipsters to take up residency, New York City was the scariest place in the world if you weren’t born and raised there. The city had a thriving red light district located at the crosswalk of 42nd Street, near Times Square.

Plenty of X-rated movie theaters and s shops existed throughout the city, and pimps and prostitutes were the norm. The subway system was covered with graffiti, crime was at an all-time high, and most people avoided Central Park at night. On the surface, New York appeared to be an immoral city in need of redemption.

While many outsiders felt like New York was a place where no one in their right mind would want to live, one fact couldn’t be refuted: the rich and famous celebrities, and the most powerful influential people in the world all called the city home.

New York is the only place where the rich and poor walk the city streets together or ride on the subway with one another. Before rents in the city became unsustainable, the best up-and-coming artists in the world lived here, and musical genres such as hip-hop and punk rock were created here and thrived.

Scorsese captured the gritty underworld of the city, casting it as a supporting actor in the film and most times, the city of New York steals the show in “Taxi Driver”. If there wasn’t an old gritty New York City, it’s hard to imagine “Taxi Driver” taking place in another location and having the same visceral impact.

 

2. Robert De Niro

TaxiDriver4_002Pyxurz

From his roles in “Mean Streets”, “The Godfather: Part II”, “The Deer Hunter”, Once Upon a Time in America”, and Michael Mann’s “Heat”, Robert De Niro has starred in some of the most compelling movies of the 20th century. In his heyday, audiences and critics all agreed that De Niro was the best actor working in the industry at the time. Being a method actor, De Niro, who was already an Oscar winner, drove a yellow cab around the city and picking up fares to prepare for his role in “Taxi Driver”.

Playing the lead character Travis Bickle, De Niro’s performance is brilliant in the way he conveys loneliness, social awareness, and isolation. You can’t help but have sympathy for the friendless cab driver, but as the character develops, the transformation becomes scary; he’s slowly losing his mind right before our eyes and graduates from being mentally unstable to becoming a cold-blooded killer in the form of a vigilante when he shoots and kills a would-be robber inside a store.

Travis begins to descend deeper into madness, preparing himself for a confrontation unknown to the audience until the very end of the film, and while talking to himself into a mirror while playing with a firearm, De Niro utters that icon line everyone knows: “You talkin’ to me?” De Niro’s performance is masterful because we go from feeling sympathetic for his character to being disturbed by his behavior, and at the end of the movie, the audience views Travis Bickle as a flawed yet heroic individual, and the fact that De Niro was able to pull off the subtle nuances of this complex character shows what a great actor he is.

 

3. Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese & Robert De Niro

Director, screenwriter, historian, and founder of The Film Foundation, an organization dedicated to film preservation, Martin Scorsese is more than just a filmmaker – he’s a renaissance man for cinema itself. Born in Queens, New York and raised in Little Italy, Scorsese was the perfect director to bring “Taxi Driver” to the big screen. The project was controversial from its inception, so everyone working on the film took pay cuts and the movie was done on a low budget so it could get made.

Cinematographer Michael Chapman credits the low budget as one of the reasons why the film turned out the way it did, and said: “Much of the way the movie looks was dictated by the fact that we didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t have a lot of money and therefore couldn’t do traditional things.

We couldn’t light the streets with big lights. We had to take our level of light down to let New York light itself. Of course, that turned out to be exactly the right thing to do, and I was eager to do it in a terrified sort of way. Thank God we didn’t have any more time or money.”

What the production lacked in budgetary resources was more than made up on a creative level as Scorsese’s camera movement, use of slow motion, and the precision-like editing brings the movie to life, and his choice to present the material in a realistic tone makes it a gorgeous film to watch, but at the same time, a disturbing experience.

With the release of “Taxi Driver”, Scorsese established himself as a filmmaker with a truly original visual style. His movies are beautiful to look at, edgy, and have an in-your-face style of filmmaking, “Taxi Driver” would become Scorsese’s greatest achievement because it would go on to set the tone for the type of visual excitement and gritty material that Scorsese would create for the next 40 years.

 

4. Paul Schrader

Paul Schrader

For a man who didn’t see a motion picture until the age of 17 due to his religious upbringing as a Calvinist Christian, Paul Schrader has written and directed some of the best movies of the 20th century, directing such films as “Blue Collar”, “American Giglio”, “Cat People”, and “Affliction”, but his most lasting piece of art is the screenplay for “Taxi Driver”, which was created while the writer was suffering through a Travis Bickle-like life crisis himself. And if it wasn’t for Brian De Palma, the movie may have never been made.

Schrader described the experience in an interview he did with Hollywood Reporter: “I had a series of things falling apart, a breakdown of my marriage, a dispute with the AFI, I lost my reviewing job. I didn’t have any money and I took to drifting, more or less living in my car, drinking a lot, fantasizing. The Pussycat Theater in LA would be open all night long, and I’d go there to sleep. Between the drinking and the morbid thinking and the pornography, I went to the emergency room with a bleeding ulcer. I was about 27, and when I was in the hospital, I realized I hadn’t spoken to anyone in almost a month. So that’s when the metaphor of the taxi cab occurred to me, this metal coffin that moves through the city with this kid trapped in it who seems to be in the middle of society but is in fact all alone. I knew if I didn’t write about this character, I was going to start to become him if I hadn’t already. So after I got out of the hospital, I crashed at an ex-girlfriend’s place, and I just wrote continuously. The first draft was maybe 60 pages, and I started the next draft immediately, and it took less than two weeks. I sent it to a couple of friends in LA, but basically there was no one to show it to until a few years later I was interviewing Brian De Palma, and we sort of hit it off, and I said, You know, I wrote a script, and he said, Okay, I’ll read it.”

De Palma loved the script but felt the material wasn’t best suited for him; however, he did pass it on to his good friend Scorsese, and the rest is history. After reading the script, Scorsese fought hard for the next couple of years to get the film made; the material was controversial and a lot of studios was afraid to make “Taxi Driver”.

However, after De Niro won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “The Godfather: Part II”, the movie was finally green-lighted because De Niro was attached to star as Travis Bickle. Scorsese always credits the screenplay for “Taxi Driver” as being the driving force behind the success of the film and Schrader’s story of loneliness, and the nightmarish reality of insanity still packs a punch 40 years later.

 

5. Bernard Herrmann

title_taxi_driver_blu-ray

The theme music for “Taxi Driver” is a hypnotic arresting score which feels like militarized call to arms, infused with jazz. As the film begins, we see a yellow cab driving through a cloud of steam, and the theme music attacks the viewer as soon as the first frame is revealed. The powerful score grabs your attention from the first moment you hear it.

Bernard Herrmann was a legendary composer scoring such films as “Citizen Kane”, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, and is best remembered for his frequent collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock composing the scores for “Psycho”, “Vertigo”, and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and during his career, the composer worked with notable directors like Orson Welles and Francois Truffaut.

After composing the scores for two of Brian De Palma’s films, “Sisters” and “Obsession De Palma”, he introduced the legendary composer to Scorsese, and Hermann would go on to score “Taxi Driver” which ended up being the last film Hermann would ever score because he passed away after composing the film’s music. The music plays a big role in the film because of its chaotic nature, and it’s so dramatic that it helps ratchet up the tension in the film.

 

6. Climatic Showdown

Overhead View of Carnage in

Once Travis has completely lost his mind, he cuts his hair into a mohawk and seeks a resolution to the demons that haunt him. After aborting an assassination attempt on a Presidential candidate, he turns his sights on saving a young teenage prostitute, Iris, played by Jodie Foster. The bloody shootout at the end of the film is one of the best in movie history.

What makes the showdown so shocking is that Scorsese doesn’t build up to the climax; it happens spontaneously like all random acts of violence. After shooting Iris’s pimp Sport, played by Harvey Keitel, Travis heads to the tenement building where Iris turns tricks, and he unleashes a shocking level of violence; he shoots and stabs anyone that’s in his way and even after getting shot in the neck, he still soldiers on killing everyone that confronts him.

Once he reaches Iris, Travis tries to kill himself but is out of bullets. And when the police finally arrive, a bloody and battered Travis lays against a wall raising his hand to his forehead shaped like a gun, and metaphorically pulls the triggers several times. This moment is one of the most haunting and powerful scenes in the entire movie.

 

7. Redemption

Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver

The end of “Taxi Driver” is truly surprising because Travis Bickle became a local celebrity, as the news tabloids in the city report how this brave selfless cab driver dueled it out with hardened criminals to save an underage girl from a life of prostitution. A heartfelt letter from Iris’s parents helps put Travis’s actions into context; even though he’s mentally unstable, his morality was higher than most, and Travis finally received something he’d been looking for his entire life – acceptance.

At the end of the film, Betsy, Travis’ former love interest (played by Cybill Shepherd), comes to pay Travis a visit. Earlier in the film, she rebuffed Travis after he naively took her to an X-rated film on their first date, but now like everyone else, including the audience, she views Travis in a different light.

After Travis drops Betsy off at her apartment, he drives off as a hero, but is he truly free of his demons? Travis spots something in his rearview mirror that questions his sanity; Scorsese does this on purpose and explains the ending: “I had him look in the mirror again as if he just saw something happen quickly; he checks the mirror and I wanted to give the impression that the time bomb is beginning to tick again and it’s going to happen again.”

Author Bio: R. Prince is a filmmaker from Harlem, New York and the author of the book How to Roll a Blunt for Dummies.

Advertisment:

10 Intriguing Movies That Were Completed But Never Released

Creative differences, development hell, and studio heads getting cold feet are all normal and expected occurrences in Hollywood. Sadly, it has resulted in enticing projects never getting off the ground, too many to be honest; in fact, there are several informative lists on this site already dedicated to them.

Yet, what happens when an intriguing project has filmed and completed production, but is then never released? It’s a rare occurrence, but one that has happened a handful of times for strange reasons. Let’s delve through the top choices of those lost films that never got their proper due…

 

10. Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales (1969)

The Film in Question: Penelope Spheeris went on to enjoy a solid career as the director of “The Decline of Western Civilization” (1981) and “Wayne’s World” (1992), but back in the late 60s she was subject to one of the worst experiences a young filmmaker could imagine.

While still a film student, she managed to land a job directing the hugely successful comedian, Richard Pryor, in his personal passion project “Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales”, a scathing satire where a rich white man is put on trial by the Black Panthers for raping a black woman. With the film completed after a three month shoot and a rough edit assembled, things went decidedly pear shaped shortly afterward.

What Happened? This is where things get weird. Spheeris screened a rough cut at Pryor’s house, then a marital tiff between the comedian and his then wife (Shelly Bonis) blew up, with the spouse accusing Pryor of dedicating all his time and energy to the movie and not to his marriage. In a fitful rage, Pryor grabbed the negative (the only existing copy) and shredded it to pieces.

The devastated director attempted to splice her debut film together after her arduous work, which only kind of helped (supposedly the negative could hardly stay in the projector when played), with the result supposedly ruined forever.

Is It Really Lost? The original version will always be lost, but the sliced and diced version might still be floating around, although several conflicting reports have led to confusion about who actually has it.

Supposedly, Bill Cosby (Pryor’s biggest rival at the time) bought it to keep it off the market. Yet, in 2005, at a Pryor retrospective, scenes from the actual movie were shown for the first time for the Director’s Guild of America. It turned out that Pryor had kept the negative and given the resulting film to the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.

Yet, after the actor’s death, Jennifer Lee-Pryor (the comedian’s seventh and final wife) kicked up a large lawsuit stink that is still pending and has successfully prevented the film from ever being shown.

Was it Supposed To Be Any Good? Who knows? What little we know about the film definitely sounds intriguing, especially for a rare chance to see Pryor displaying his dramatic chops and personal political agenda. Yet, to this day, only Spheeris (and maybe Bill Cosby) could answer the question about how watchable the film actually was. Maybe one day, this lawsuit can be sorted out and the general public can delve into this intriguing and bizarre piece of film history – fingers crossed.

 

9. Don’s Plum (2001)

Don's Plum

The Film in Question: Back in the early 90s, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire were part of a crew tastefully called the ‘Pussy Posse’ (Kevin Connelly and David Blaine were also members). One doesn’t need a colorful imagination to decipher what the gangs priorities were, but coincidentally they also were all determined to make it big in Hollywood.

A couple of honorary (less famous) members spitballed the concept of making a heavily improvised ensemble piece based on their hangouts and exploits. Oh, and being a 90’s indie movie, it would, of course, be filmed in ultra stylish black-and-white. Posse member R. D. Robb directed whilst DiCaprio and the others agreed to star.

What Happened? With the film being a self-financed, unofficial type of deal, it quickly fell into the background as DiCaprio and Maguire (and to a lesser extent Connelly) broke through into the industry. Suddenly, in 1998, the producer of the movie filed a lawsuit against Maguire and DiCaprio for preventing the film from getting a proper release.

It came out that the producer’s worries were valid, since the stars were embarrassed by the film’s “unflattering nature.” Everyone eventually settled, with the agreement that the producers never release the film in the United States or California.

Is It Really Lost? It was briefly made available on Region 2 DVD a few random times before copies dried up and it faded into obscurity – making it only a weird footnote in famous actors’ filmographies. Coincidentally (or not at all, actually), in 2016, after DiCaprio’s Oscar win for “The Revenant”, the producers attempted to release the film for streaming, completely free of charge on their own improved website. DiCaprio and Maguire took legal action and prevented it in one full swoop.

Was it Supposed To Be Any Good? As a feasible movie, not really. It’s a meandering, directionless chore that apes early Cassavetes, yet without the purpose or grit. Yet, as a fascinating curio into soon-to-be famous actors delivering unfiltered, ego-free performances – especially in the case of DiCaprio – it makes for a fascinating watch. He displays a carefree bravado not found otherwise in his carefully planned career trajectory.

 

8. All American Massacre (2000)

The Film in Question: Back in 2000, William Hooper (son of Tobe) concocted the idea of making a sequel/prequel to his father’s 1974 horror classic “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. The gripping idea would directly follow up the bug-nuts conclusion of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”, with Sawyer family member Chop Top (Bill Moseley, reprising his iconic role) being captured and placed in a mental asylum. From there, he would chart via interview the family’s sordid past history, in a grisly flashback tale.

What Happened? Original conceived as a 15-minute short, it began to attract a large horror pedigree due to Hooper’s industry connections. Moseley starred and Buckethead created the score, with it expanding into a 60-minute feature. It was filmed and completed, with even a trailer posted in the early days of the Internet. Yet, the product was hit with a truckload of legal litigation, which landed it a no-contest ban, preventing it from ever being released in any form, even in the free streaming variety.

Is It Really Lost? Surprisingly, yes. Despite there being a completed version, and with this day-and-age of Internet leaks, it’s never ended up randomly online for streaming – most likely due to the financial hellstorm that would engulf Hooper if it were ever to be released. Still, adamant horror fans have kept their fingers crossed, and there have been recent murmurings from its Patreon page that it might finally see the light of day… soonish.

Was it Supposed To Be Any Good? There’s no possible verdict in that area. The premise is intriguing for fans of the franchise, and Moseley back as Chop Top is always a good thing, but judging from the released trailer, the results seem to be fairly disappointing.

We have no way of knowing if Hooper has the skills to back up the premise, especially since this was filmed on the cheap 17 years ago on (then) high-definition video. One thing is certain – its infamous reputation will at least have the horror buffs checking in for a watch, if/when it gets released one day.

 

7. I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (1998)

The Film in Question: The Orson Welles of terrible cinema – Edward J. Wood – received a brief renaissance in the late 90s due to Tim Burton’s masterpiece biopic/homage “Ed Wood” (1994). One of Wood’s completed yet unproduced scripts (left after his passing) was an eccentric take on the noir/thriller genre.

It was picked up by part-time actor Aris Iliopulos to make into his feature film debut with this ambitious indie (featuring zero dialogue) that proposed to homage the deceased director’s slanted charm. The film churned up some buzz and a killer cast full of Wood regulars, intriguing character actors (Christina Ricci, Ron Perlman, Bud Cort), and Billy Zane as the lead, who had just enjoyed a giant win with his turn in “Titanic” (1997).

What Happened? Well, once it played the festival circuit, to be frank, the critics tore the film a new one. The film was an acquired taste, but that flavor never found its audience and it found itself without a distributor when all was said and done. Add to that, legal troubles reared their ugly heads and the film had a fork stuck in it for an indefinite amount of time.

Is It Really Lost? Not completely. The production company that financed it managed to release a European VHS back in the 90s, but since then it’s been without a home, only popping up on randomly on the Internet (rumored that it was done at the filmmaker’s behest) before being taken down. In 2016, however, murmurings have arisen that it might finally get a proper VOD release.

Was it Supposed To Be Any Good? As said before, it was an ambitious venture, with zero dialogue and a cast of interesting actors replicating Wood’s unique stylings via pantomime – it was always an idea that had its work cut out for it.

It’s not badly directed by any means, but its sole ambition is to be eccentric for the sake of being eccentric, and a 90-minute length makes the concept unbearable after the first 30 minutes (which would’ve been a more effective length), regardless of the game talent it attracted. Over the years, though, it’s gained a worthy cult reputation, and you certainly have to give the film credit for attempting something unique, even if it fails at it.

 

6. Tomorrow Night (1998)

The Film in Question: During the tail-end of the 90’s indie explosion, a young writer for “The Chris Rock Show” managed to save up enough money to direct his own eccentric, oddball feature debut, and even managed to have it screen at the Sundance Film Festival. That man was the one and only Louis C.K., who now enjoys a respectable and prosperous career, yet unfortunately the fate of his first movie wasn’t as lucky.

What Happened? Well, after several headache-inducing hiccups during production on the already micro-production, including running out of money midway through (which C.K. managed then to get help from industry friends Chris Rock and Dennis Leary, amongst others).

The film managed to get into Sundance, the pinnacle spot for indies to get bought up by the money men. Yet, when the film screened, it was lukewarmly received and gained absolutely zero buzz, with no one willing to buy it up for distribution. C.K. returned to New York with his tail between his legs and moved on to greener pastures over time.

Is It Really Lost? Not anymore. Back in 2014, C.K. posted the movie up for streaming on his website, letting people finally have their first gander at his insanely offbeat debut.

Was it Supposed To Be Any Good? For curious fans of C.K. and his TV show “Louie”, it’s definitely worth a watch. The unpredictable comedy and colorful characters are in full form, with several supporting players from the show (including Nick DiPaolo and Todd Barry) present in small roles.

Still, it’s a rough-edged product for sure, and unlike the comedian’s later work, any form of pathos and connection to the characters are missing, feeling more like a series of off-kilter yet amusing sketches that are haphazardly glued together as a story.

13 Guilty Pleasure Movies From The 21st Century That Feature Great Heroines

For those who weren’t paying attention last time, guilty pleasure was paraphrased as a film shunned by the critics and/or audience, while liked by this writer, nevertheless. So, you can expect another plate with various kinds of cinematic cheese served.

On this list, there won’t be any exceptions meaning that all the characters are the leading ones. The rules of chronology and subjectivity under control are still valid. And now, let’s have some fun!

 

1. Bloody Mallory (Julien Magnat, 2002)

Bloody Mallory

A marriage demands sacrifice and Mallory (Olivia Bonamy) learns that the hard way. On her first wedding night, she is forced to become the evils’ worst enemy by axing her demon-in-human-guise darling (Julien Boisselier) to a bloody pulp. But, their love doesn’t end the moment (his) death do them part, as they keep seeing each other by the power of summoning rituals and marital laws of Necronomicon (which is kind of un-fictionalized in this movie’s universe).

As you might have already guessed, “Bloody Mallory” doesn’t take itself seriously, but that is one of the reasons it’s a blast to watch. With her anticlerical attitude and Franka-Run-Lola-Run-Potente-meets-Milla-The-Fifth-Element-Jovovich looks, Bonamy truly enjoys playing a tough girl with a soft spot for the (romantic) dead hubby.

Her first and last appearance (smeared mascara + wedding dress combo and the elegant widow attire, respectively) seem to be referencing gothic metal bands’ music videos, whereby in the mid-section, she’s more like the anime heroine.

Paying homage to “The Night of the Hunter” with “f Evil” inscription on her gloves, Mallory is great in kicking ghouls’ butts and converting a man of faith to her side by some quality flirting.

On the save-the-pope mission she reluctantly accepts, she is assisted by a drag queen explosives expert, Vena Cava (Jeffrey Ribier), and a mute, pre-teen telepath capable of possessing both humans and animals, Talking Tina (Thylda Barès). On top of that, the campy and colorful visuals are wrapped in Kenji Kawai’s pulsating notes.

 

2. Underworld (Len Wiseman, 2003)

Underworld

Despite being bashed by critics, Len Wiseman’s debut “Underworld” spawned four sequels to date, but as the subheading suggests, this chapter will focus on the first part of the series. Essentially, it bastardizes vampires and werewolves (i.e. lycans) into a “post-Matrix” urban gothic action-fantasy-thriller that revolves around the centuries-long war between the said species.

In the midst of this nocturnal conflict, we follow a Death Dealer vampiress, Selene (the intelligently hot Kate Backinsale), who gradually learns that her true enemies are not the lycans (allegedly, her family’s butchers) and falls for a man of a “special lineage”.

With a brooding aura, graceful posture, piercing blue eyes (her transformed brethren’s common feature) and commendable fighting and gun-toting skills, she finds herself in a tricky situation of questioning her loyalties and redirecting her anger.

Being bold, defiant, determined and quite emotional for a bloodsucker, as well as having a hunch that someone’s plotting behind her back, she emerges as a winner of a battle in which she has the last laugh – no, better make that decisive sword-cut.

 

3. Immortel (Enki Bilal, 2004)

Immortel

Set in the CGI-ed world of humans, mutants, holographic propaganda, synthetic flesh, virtual brains and Egyptian Gods who like to play Monopoly, “Immortel (ad vitam)” revolves around Jill (the ethereal Linda Hardy) dubbed “the greatest mystery of nature” by her experimenter tutor, Dr Elma Turner (Charlotte Rampling) of notorious Eugenics corporation.

This amnesiac, telepathic, pale-skinned and blue-haired beauty has the body which is, biologically, only three months old (as we are told at one point) and yet, she looks like a twenty-something. With no memories and a masked man John (Doe?) as the only one who seems to know her origins, she “works” as the aforementioned scientist’s guinea pig and is simultaneously chosen by Horus to bear his or rather, his host Nikopol’s (Thomas Kretschmann) child.

“Guided” by three forces and unaware she’s capable of procreating a descendent of a falcon-headed supreme being, Jill is the most passive, but also the most cryptic heroine on the list. (Not to mention her azure tears leave permanent stains on human skin.)

 

4. Lady Death (Andy Orjuela, 2004)

Lady Death

Condemned to death for the sins of her father who is none other than Lucifer in disguise, Hope – a pious girl from the 15th century Sweden – is burnt at a stake. Selling soul by uttering an incantation with her last breath, she arrives at Hell, with her skin and hair restored during the “trip”.

After refusing Lucifer’s offer to join him, she encounters his former blacksmith, Cremator, and going under the name of Lady Death (the voice of Christine M. Auten), gathers and leads an army of rebelled devils against “The Lord of Lies”.

Unlike the original work – the eponymous comic book created by Brian Pulido and Steven Hughes – Orjuela’s adult straight-to-video cartoon (of angular design similar to the DC-comics adaptations) depicts the titular (anti)heroine as less evil, with her blood-soaked tale of vengeance and infernal survival ending on a different note.

Hope’s Heavy Metal-like, horned-steed-riding persona epitomizes fan-service – the longer she stays in the underworld, the skimpier her outfit becomes. (Eventually, her nipples are outlined on the halter top which barely holds her protruding breasts.) However, beneath all that pale, exposed skin, a self-confident nature and strong desire to carry out justice can be easily recognized.

 

5. Æon Flux (Karyn Kusama, 2005)

Aeon Flux (2005)

In the year 2415, Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron who lends a certain gravity to her character) is the owner of the most powerful eyelashes in the universe – in a blink of an eye, she’s capable of catching a fly (the most obvious reference to Peter Chung’s original animated series).

A member of the underground organization called the Monicans, she lives in a dystopian, virus-survivors’ society masked as its opposite – urbanistically and architecturally attractive utopia of Bregna (represented by some impressive locations of Berlin and Postdam).

Her sister Una’s death is the last drop that makes the cup (of deceit) run over – it intensifies her anger towards the mendacious government, so she accepts the mission of assassinating their leader, Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas), without any hesitation. However, things don’t go as planned, despite Aeon’s smooth, acrobatic moves and exceptional fighting skills which render the baddies easily disposable. Dealing with emotional obstacles, she gradually reveals the truth.

Theron’s magnetic presence and a few mildly surreal flourishes slightly elevate “Æon Flux” above your average and simplified Hollywood remake. It is far from reaching the experimental heights of the 90s show, but on the other hand, it’s not as bad as metascore suggests.

 

6. DOA: Dead or Alive (Corey Yuen, 2006)

DOA Dead or Alive

Whether animated or live-action, fighting games adaptations tend to be trashy and “DOA: Dead or Alive” based on Tecmo’s 3D franchise is no exception. But, if you send your brain to La La Land (not the overrated one) and recline in your armchair, this hot-babes-meet-martial-arts extravaganza might bring a smile to your face.

Taking cues from “Enter the Dragon”, “Mortal Kombat”, “Charlie’s Angels”, as well as from anime such as “Battle Arena Toshinden” and “Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie”, Yuen’s story starts with a determined ninja-princess, Kasumi (the cute Devon Aoki), leaving her clan and becoming a renegade. Looking for her missing brother, Hayate (Collin Chou), she enters the titular tournament.

Together with a pro-wrestler (setting out to prove she’s not a fake), Tina (Jaime Pressly), a cunning thief and assassin, Christie (Holly Valance), and the late DOA founder’s daughter, Helena (Sarah Carter), she’s about to put an end on the villainous Dr Victor Donovan’s (Eric Roberts) schemes (and, of course, find her sibling). Excellent both solo and in tag team mode, Kasumi is the master of acupuncture, katana and bamboo sticks, as well as an avid hang-glider.

10 Movies That Received The Most Oscar Nominations

When the 2017 Oscar nominations were announced, Damien Chazelle’s musical La La Land tied with an historical record of 14 nominations. No other film got more than that, and only two others (the first two spots on this list) did the same number. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Chazelle’s film will also beat the 11 Oscar wins record of Titanic, Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. We’ll have to wait to know if it does.

It’s curious to assess what the most “awardable” (if not awarded) films were in Academy history however. As the reader should note from the following list, the big number of nods doesn’t always mean that these are immortal pieces of art, which only serves to cement the Academy Awards’ reputation for being an elitist and traditionalist show.

 

10. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (13 nominations, 5 wins)

Whos Afraid Of Virginia Woolf (1966)

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is most probably the only film in Oscar history in which all of the credited members of the cast were nominated. Elizabeth Taylor (Best Actress in a Leading Role) and Sandy Dennis (Best Actress in a Supporting Role) took home their prizes, while Richard Burton and George Segal didn’t, but it’s interesting to note that Mike Nichols’ film was nominated in each and every category it was eligible for.

Besides the two acting Oscars, it won Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Costume Design, while losing Best Picture to Fred Zinnemann’s A Man for All Seasons. The film’s theatre roots might have pushed the Academy to award a more frankly cinematic and expansive piece like Zinnemann’s film.

 

9. Mary Poppins (13 nominations, 5 wins)

mary-poppins-1

While Julie Andrews rightfully took the Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar for her portrayal of title character in Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins, the film faced heavy competition in the other main categories, eventually losing Best Picture to another musical, My Fair Lady, which also took Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Director.

In turn, Poppins took both music categories, because of course it did, plus Best Editing and Best Special Effects. Still, it stands as a cautionary tale that, even if you get more nominations than everyone else, it doesn’t mean that you’ll dominate the year.

 

8. Chicago (13 nominations, 6 wins)

musical oscar

The most recent musical to win Best Picture at the Oscars, Rob Marshall’s cinematic version of Broadway classic Chicago was a surprise hit even for the ones that hedged the bet that Moulin Rouge!, released the previous year, would create a new tidal wave of musicals. Chicago’s wins were mostly in the technical categories, with the notable exception of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ well-earned victory in the Best Actress in a Supporting Role category.

That being said, the ones that Chicago did win were well-deserved, especially Best Costume Design, Film Editing, and Art Direction-Set Decoration. Renée Zellweger, John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah’s nominations were nice surprises, but there was no way they would win that year, especially because, while Chicago did win Best Picture, The Pianist took home Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

 

7. Forrest Gump (13 nominations, 6 wins)

Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump is tremendously directed and has a great Tom Hanks performance in its center, I don’t want to deny that at any moment. I even get how interesting and potentially revolutionary its special effects are, as usual with Zemeckis’ big passion projects. However, this was the year that Pulp Fiction changed the whole cinematic game, so it’s hard to swallow that Forrest Gump took Best Picture and Best Editing, to cite the most outrageous categories.

Among its 13 nominations, it lost on the ones it should have won too. Gary Sinise’s career-defining performance as Lieutenant Dan, for example, took a back seat to Martin Landau’s affecting turn in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. While certainly a film that’s worthy of anyone’s time, Forrest Gump stands as a weird case of overestimation in Oscar history.

 

6. Shakespeare in Love (13 nominations, 7 wins)

shakespeare-in-love

We don’t know what this film is doing here either, but the Academy fell absolutely in love with John Madden’s alternative history of Shakespeare’s inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. Gwyneth Paltrow robbed Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro of her Oscar, and Judi Dench won one of those Academy Awards that seem to be about making up for past mistakes or, in her case, complete lack of recognition.

And look, I’m not saying that Shakespeare in Love is a bad film. It’s a lovely little period piece that absolutely deserved recognition in the production value categories. Its wins in the Original Score and Costume Design categories I can absolutely understand, but as usual de Academy took its passion for “classy” filmmaking a little bit too far.

10 Actors Who Won Oscars With Their Debut Performances

Most actors wait a lifetime for the opportunity to win an Oscar. They work hard throughout decades of their careers, picking good and bad parts alike, until they luck out and an affluence of things lead them to the Academy Award win. As the most notorious award in Hollywood, the Oscars are a sign of status and recognition unlike any other in the industry.

The guys and girls in our list, though, didn’t have to wait at all. They’ve all won their Oscars in their feature film debuts – some of them were really young performers whose careers were suddenly thrust into the limelight, some of them are Broadway or TV stars who were more than welcomed into the world of cinema.

The one thing they uniformly are, though, is great.

 

10. Eva Marie Saint in On The Waterfront (1954)

Eva Marie Saint in On The Waterfront (1954)

Eva Marie Saint was already casually called “the Helen Hayes of television” when she made her feature film debut in which would turn out to be a legendary career. In 1954, she was a twice Emmy-nominated 30 year old playing against the legendary Marlon Brando in an Eliza Kazan thriller about a dock worker witnessing a murder and becoming obsessed with vindicating the victim’s sister, played by Marie Saint.

It’s a wonderful film that won 8 Oscars, and Saint brings gravitas and drama to her role without caving to melodramatic gestures that were in vogue back then. She’d turn in celebrated performances after that in films like Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Fred Zinnemann’s A Hatful of Rain, but her most enduring image onscreen is still of her debut role.

 

9. Shirley Booth in Come Back, Little Sheba (1952)

Shirley Booth in Come Back, Little Sheba (1952)

Shirley Booth would win her Academy Award at the age of 54, making her the oldest actor on this list. Truth is Booth was really one of the great stage actresses in American history, making her debut in 1925 and winning three Tonys in her career, including one for the stage version of Come Back, Little Sheba, later adapted to the screen, for which she also won the Oscar. In the film, she played half of a couple whose morose life is shaken when they take in an attractive young lodger.

Even after such a successful feature film debut, Booth still preferred to work on the stage, and eventually on TV. In 1961, she became the star of legendary sitcom Hazel, which ran for 154 episodes and earned her two Primetime Emmy awards. She only did four more films in her career, which is really something for an Oscar winner.

 

8. Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon (1973)

Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon

Not unlike Paquin, Tatum O’Neal never seemed to overcome the shadow of her debut role in Paper Moon, which made her the youngest person to ever win an Oscar, at age 10. The difference is Tatum was born into show business, and starred alongside her own father, Ryan O’Neal, in said film.

As Addie, a child being tutored by a notorious con artist in Depression-era America, O’Neal has that sincere quality of the best child actors, and communicates to the spectator the stark contrast between the sweet plot of the film and the dark reality of the time it portrays. Her subsequent roles did not impress, with perhaps the exception of her 39-episode stint in Rescue Me.

 

7. Anna Paquin in The Piano (1993)

Anna Paquin in The Piano

Anna Paquin was 11 years old when director Jane Campion, impressed by her rendition of a monologue in the audition process for her film The Piano, cast her as the daughter of a mute piano player struggling to come to terms with an arranged marriage. That the film became such a hit with critics and audiences alike was not what Paquin’s parents expected, especially that their young daughter would win an Oscar for her role.

Truth be told, Paquin is extraordinary in the film, and has rarely performed in this level since. She’s a sensitive, instinct-driven performer to this day, and her scenes with Holly Hunter still evoke one of the richest emotional experiences recently put to film.

 

6. Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls (2006)

Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls (2006)

Jennifer Hudson placed seventh on her stint in American Idol, back in 2004. Seventh-place Idol contestants don’t usually win Oscars, let me tell you – Hudson, however, dazzled director Bill Condon and won a part in musical Dreamgirls, completely obfuscating Beyoncé herself in the role of Effie White, the powerhouse singer who’s sidelined by her producer boyfriend when the trio she sings in starts to take off.

Effie is, of course, a classic stage musical part, and Hudson was a casting decision met with controversy, since she had no previous acting experience. However, her intense performance elevated Condon’s film to a different level of critical praise, as she infused the story with vibrancy and urgency, making people care about the fate of her character.

8 Early Luc Besson Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

The Fifth Element

Luc Besson has undoubtedly been influential with his production company, EuropaCorp, which has had an almost incalculable global impact, particularly on the action genre with iconic franchises like Taken and Transporter. Many of EuropaCorp’s action films are also written by Besson.

Of course he’s also directed a number of films himself for his production company, and now three years after the huge success of his 2014 SF thriller Lucy, he is on the verge of releasing what promises to be one of this summer’s most spectacular blockbuster popcorn movies, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Way back before the founding of EuropaCorp in 2000, however, Besson wrote and directed several films that formed the foundation of his unique cinematic sensibility, which combines explosive and sometimes brutal action with a disarmingly humanistic, sentimental and even whimsical sensibility.

Besson’s unique voice as a filmmaker—and the appeal of his films—is difficult to come to grips with, and his films routinely fare much better with audiences than they do with critics. In this list we’ll look at Besson’s first eight films and consider how his style is defined by them, while ranking them from worst to best. In their own ways each one is singularly fascinating and guaranteed to entertain.

 

8. Atlantis (1991)

A lovely and very different kind of undersea nature documentary shot in locations around the world (as detailed in the final sequence before the end credits). Atlantis differentiates itself from other nature documentaries in that it mostly steers clear of narrativizing and anthropomorphizing the activities of the undersea creatures and landscapes that it depicts.

The opening voice over preamble—the only narration in the entire film—simply invites viewers to step away from the noise of their daily lives and enter a different world.

The remainder of the film makes good on that introduction to form a kind of a concept album of music videos with a synthesizer and orchestral score by Eric Serra.

There are a dozen more or less precisely separated sections (La Lumiere/The Light, La Nuit/The Night, etc.) that each focus on either a type of undersea creature (dolphins, an octopus, etc.) or formations in the aquatic landscape (coral reefs, ice floes, etc.). It’s particularly noteworthy that until the very end the camera does not rise above the water’s surface even a single time, which serves the simple film’s goals subtly and well.

Thanks to the beautiful camera work that, for the most part, simply tracks through the various underwater environments, and a score that is as lighthearted as it is adept, Atlantis makes for a pleasant hour and a quarter. It’s worth seeing, but not worth going too far out of one’s way to do so.

 

7. Le Dernier Combat/The Last Battle (1983)

Le Dernier Combat

With its post apocalyptic desert setting, Le Dernier Combat feels loosely, distantly inspired by earlier films like A Boy and his Dog (1975) and Mad Max (1979). Because those films had the benefit of having characters who could speak (including even the titular dog in the earlier film), they also were able to more readily pass expository information to the viewer and explain the basic circumstances of their settings.

Le Dernier Combat cleverly avoids such explanations, instead simply immersing us in its world where people have inexplicably been rendered voiceless. The weather provides life-giving fish for food and life-destroying rubble falling from the sky motivated by nothing other than the needs of the plot.

Thus even in his first feature, Besson emerges with his narrative rule-breaking sensibility already almost fully formed, if not especially refined. He’s going to do it his way whether you like it or not, and he takes clear pleasure in plot points that transpire almost at random, simply because they move the story in the direction he wants it to go.

His quirky humanism is also on full display here as, for example, the only two characters who succeed in forging a friendship in this harsh environment are also the only to speak. With the aid of some sort of gas they manage to croak just one word–“bonjour”– to each other, much to their joyful amazement.

At its heart, Le Dernier Combat sets the tone for much of Besson’s early work. It ultimately focuses on the male protagonist trying to strike up a relationship with a female counterpart in its post apocalyptic world otherwise populated almost entirely by men, most of whom are bad men to a more or less murderously violent degree.

 

6. The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)

The Messenger The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)

Besson’s eighth directorial effort, his last before taking a break for several years, unfortunately sags under the weight of its legendary historical basis. In the early 15th Century Joan (Milla Jovovich), though of low birth, believes that God Himself has chosen her to lead France to victory against England’s invading armies, and at the tender age of 18 she does precisely that.

Unfortunately, however (at least in this somewhat controversial retelling of the story), her inability to come to terms with and fully embrace her own power (she instead persists in attributing her victory to Divine Grace) results in her conviction of heresy, the punishment for which was death at the hands of her English captors.

This humanization of his sainted protagonist is Besson’s greatest departure from accepted lore, and it is firmly in keeping with his strong focus on the core humanity of the characters in his films.

There have been other filmed versions of the story of Saint Joan, most notably Carl Theodor Dreyer’s grim and weighty 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc, one of the great classics of early cinema. For better or worse, any subsequent retelling of the story has quite a distance to travel in order to emerge from the long shadow cast by Dreyer’s stunning film which focuses entirely on Joan’s trial and execution.

Besson attempts to give this shadow the slip by focusing first on Joan’s early life leading to her experience of divine revelation, and after that focusing on the battlefield action elements of the story on the one hand, and subjective point of view sequences of Joan’s spiritual hallucinations on the other.

It’s all undeniably and often spectacularly entertaining, but it also persistently circles back to a place where it somehow doesn’t sit right to be so entertained by something with such grave historical magnitude.

 

5. The Big Blue (1988)

The Big Blue

Besson was born to parents who were scuba diving instructors, and he spent his childhood traveling the world with them from sea to sea. Their work, their divorce, and his own diving accident that for a time prevented Besson from being able to dive are all writ large in the heavy emotional drama of The Big Blue that revolves around the quirky and conflicted polygonal relationship between champion deep sea diving rivals Jacques (Jean-Marc Barre) and Enzo (Jean Reno), Jacques’ love interest Joanna (Rosanna Arquette), and the sublime and mysterious ocean depths themselves (which also form a kind of alternate love interest for Jacques).

Thankfully the long (nearly three hour) version of this film has, in the age of video, pretty well entirely crowded out of existence the much shorter original American theatrical release version (which was a box office flop in strong contrast to the film’s huge success in international distribution). Not only did the American theatrical version suffer incalculable damage from being re-edited to speed up its pace, it further lacked the indispensable Eric Serra score originally created for it.

Some things move better when they more more slowly, and The Big Blue is a powerful, even magical example. Besson’s love of the undersea world—rendered so clearly in Atlantis—winningly combines here with the indefatigably joyful attitude toward humanity that mixes the serious and the silly as only he can do.

2017 Oscar Predictions: Who Will Win In Each Category?

The Academy Awards are right around the category, and like last year, we’re going to try our hand at predicting every single category. Note that this list is not picking the movies that most deserve to win. Rather, it’s picking the most likely winners. Predicting the Oscars requires a lot of annoying analysis, but in the end there’s no way to actually know for certain if a movie is going to win. If Crash can win Best Picture, anything is possible.

Predicting the Oscars isn’t necessarily as easy as drawing a name out of a hat. Most of these predictions come as a result of precursor award wins, reviews, box office numbers, and social commentary found in the movies. However, certain categories are clouded in mystery while others seem inevitable. This year is even more predictable than usual, so don’t be surprised if your predictions match up with those on this list.

Also don’t be surprised when these prediction lists inevitably match up with the winners. The descriptions for each category will be relatively brief, so if you’re looking for an in-depth analysis, you’re in the wrong place. Don’t worry though, the reasons for picking the winners should be fairly obvious!

 

Best Picture: La La Land

LaLaLand

It won the Globe. It won the PGA. It won the Critic’s Choice Award. It won the BAFTA. It’s going to win the Oscar. La La Land obliterated expectations. It’s not as if people expected the director of Whiplash to release a turkey, but maybe tying for most nominations in a single year wasn’t originally on the agenda. It may not provide the same type of social commentary that can be found in movies like Hidden Figures and Moonlight, but its ability to keep viewers smiling is unmatched.

At this moment in time, the world is as divided as ever. So while a movie with a strong political leaning would feel like an important victory, it’s looking like people just want to appreciate a movie that makes them happy. La La Land is that movie. The (mostly) upbeat attitude combined with revelatory performances make for a movie with universal appeal.

The chances of a La La Land victory are incredibly high, but if Crash has proven anything, it’s that not everything is set in stone. The most obvious competition comes from Moonlight. It ended up winning the Golden Globe for Best Drama, and the reviews generally conclude that it’s the best movie of 2016. Still, its chances are next to nothing. It can win, but that’s not saying much.

 

Best Director: Damien Chazelle for La La Land

At one point a split between Best Picture and Best Director seemed possible. La La Land would take home Best Picture while Barry Jenkins would take home the Best Director prize. That is no longer the case. Chazelle has this one in the bag. He won the Globe, DGA award, BAFTA, and Critics’ Choice Award. In other words, he managed to win every award that matters when it comes to predicting the Oscars.

As previously stated, his only competition is Jenkins. Jenkins did well at the critics awards that came around early in the awards season. Generally speaking, the critics awards are meaningless when it comes to predicting the Oscars. The critics went nuts over The Social Network back in 2010, and we all know how that turned out. So even if Jenkins picked up a couple directing awards early on, it’s wise to take that with a grain of salt.

If La La Land is the eventual Best Picture winner, Chazelle will win the Best Director award. The only way he won’t take the award home is if the Oscars take some crazy left-turns. If the entire ceremony remains as predictable as people are anticipating, expect Chazelle to nab this award easily.

 

Best Actor: Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck - Manchester by the Sea

Many pundits have recently changed their prediction from Affleck to Washington after Denzel’s recent SAG win, but there is enough evidence to prove that Affleck may still have the slight advantage in this category. This one is definitely neck-in-neck, but there are things working in Affleck’s favor that pundits have overlooked.

For starters, it’s rare for the SAG winners to go 4-for-4 at the Oscars. It’s happened a total of six times since the mid-nineties. Considering the fact that the other categories are much closer to being locks, one could assume that the countless precursor victories will pave the way for an Affleck victory. The guilds are definitely the most reliable predictors, but Washington’s SAG win seems like an outlier.

This is one of the toughest categories to predict this year. In general, the guilds tend to match up with the Oscars far more often than other awards. At the same time, you can’t just assume the other precursors don’t matter.

When The Big Short won big at the PGA awards last year, people remained unsure of its Oscar chances considering the popularity of both The Revenant and Spotlight. If Washington wins, we have even more reason to value the SAG awards. If Affleck wins, we’re once again reminded that Oscar predictions are tricky business.

 

Best Actress: Emma Stone for La La Land

2016 was phenomenal in terms of female performances, so it’s hard to believe that Emma Stone has recently become something of a lock in this category. Natalie Portman was breathtaking in Jackie and Huppert delivered a game changing performance in Elle. Early pundits claimed that the Best Actress category would be a three person race. La La Land was the most popular movie out of the three, but it was hard to deny how much effort was put into all three of the aforementioned performances.

Portman and Huppert actually outdid Stone when it came to critic awards. In the game known as the Academy Awards, critics awards mean nothing. Stone eventually came out of left field and picked up a BAFTA, Globe, and SAG award. Those three wins practically cemented her Oscar chances. Could Huppert of Portman pull an upset? Absolutely. Statistically though, Stone is taking this award home.

 

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali for Moonlight

moonlight

Mahershala Ali lost the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for this category. Aaron Taylor Johnson won the Golden Globe and Dev Patel picked up the BAFTA. Does that mean that Mahershala Ali is further from a lock than we had previously anticipated? No, not really.

He may have lost a couple of the precursor awards, but Ali still has a lot going for him in this category. For one, the Golden Globe winner didn’t couldn’t even muster up a nomination at the Oscars. Secondly, the BAFTAs love to honor their fellow Brits, which could be why Patel got that award. Most importantly though, neither of those actors beat out Ali for the coveted SAG award.

As you’ll hear again and again this article, the guild awards matter the most. However, it’s not just that the SAG gave him the award. Other important factors include the general adoration of Moonlight in general, one immensely powerful scene featuring Ali, and the undeniable amount of chemistry between him and every other performer that shares the screen with him. If you need more convincing, just give Moonlight a watch and see for yourself.

 

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis for Fences

v

In terms of acting categories, this is the biggest lock of the night. Ali and Stone seem like obvious choices as well in their respective categories, but there are a few obstacles in their way. Davis doesn’t have any of those obstacles. If she leaves empty-handed, it will be one of the biggest surprises of the night.

Here’s the thing. In every other category, pundits can pick out a runner-up fairly easily. In this category, people kind of shrug their shoulders. That’s because Davis has managed to avoid defeat whenever possible. Even the smaller awards that tend to deviate from the crowd have chosen to honor Davis’s performance. After losing to Meryl Streep back in 2011, it’s about time she earns redemption. The Oscar is going to Davis, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it from happening.

 

Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea

If the Oscars are willing to spread the love, then Manchester by the Sea is the most likely candidate to take this home. One of the most adored aspects of Manchester by the Sea is the heartwarming and often hilarious script.

This is in contrast to La La Land, where the script is less important than the music, the visuals, and the chemistry between the stars. Manchester by the Sea has plenty of other things worth praising, but the script is front and center. Lonergan has earned two Oscar nominations prior to this year, and it’s looking like he’s finally going to take home a win.

Manchester by the Sea will not win if the Academy chooses to go gaga over La La Land, which they very well could. In the cast of a La La Land sweep, it seems unlikely that the screenplay category would get left out. Also working in the favor of La La Land is the fact that it wound up winning the Golden Globe.

The other three contenders are pretty much hopeless. If Hell or High Water somehow wins, it’ll be a miracle. The other two have absolutely no shot. This is a heated battle between La La Land and Manchester by the Sea. Taste of Cinema just happens to have a little more faith in Lonergan’s script.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight

It’s harder to predict screenplay winners because the WGA has odd eligibility rules and the Oscars love to shove original screenplays into the adapted category. For example, Moonlight won the Best Original Screenplay award at the WGA awards over the past weekend, but it was nominated in the adapted category at the Oscars because it was based on a previously unreleased stage piece.

The good news is that Moonlight is faced with much less competition in this category. Prior to the category switch-up, it was assumed that this category would be Moonlight versus La La Land versus Manchester by the Sea. Now it’s looking like it should end up being something like Moonlight versus Arrival.

Arrival is probably the only competition facing Moonlight on Oscar night in this particular category. Even so, numerous other precursor awards have shown that Moonlight should pick this one up without breaking much of a sweat. It’s not an absolute lock like a lot of the other categories, but it’s far from a giant mystery.

 

Best Cinematography: La La Land

A movie like La La Land doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of best cinematography. While this category was once the home of more visually extravagant blockbusters, it has since been taken over by smaller movies that aren’t as in your face with their use of cinematography. La La Land is one of those movies.

In our predictions, we have Arrival leaving the night with exactly zero Oscars. This could be the category where Arrival outshines La La Land. It’s maybe the easier choice, after all. Arrival is the more immediately attractive movie in this category. Then you get to thinking about the subtleties buried beneath the surface of La La Land. Voters have proven that they don’t care as much about picking the visual juggernaut anymore. That mindset should lead La La Land to victory.

20 Totally Awesome 1980s Teen Comedies You Shouldn’t Miss

80s teen comedies

Time is a funny thing, especially when looking at movies. What would have simply been trends when a film was made become dated and retro upon viewing that film years later, thereby giving it a sense of cheesiness or even kitsch.

The 1980s are a notoriously cheesy decade in hindsight, but that is what makes it so endearing and puts a big smirk on your face. From those distinct tiled walls in houses, the now-goofy slang, the colourful and wacky clothes and hairdos, the upbeat synthesizer music (often conducted by Danny Elfman and his band Oingo Boingo), and the overall great soundtracks; what’s not to love about this decade? It makes you wish you could step into these movies and live in this version of the 1980s.

Rather than talk about commonly discussed 1980s comedies like Ghostbusters or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this article will focus on films that are unfortunately not as well remembered as they should be. Perhaps their cheesiness may be a deterrent for some viewers, but that is their loss. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as the saying goes, and these movies are comedic gold!

(Some spoilers ahead!)

 

1. Once Bitten (Howard Storm, 1985)

Once Bitten

A young Jim Carrey plays Mark, a high school student who wants to lose his virginity, but his girlfriend is not ready yet, which makes him very frustrated. Enter an ancient Countess (Lauren Hutton), a vampire who needs to feed on the blood for virgins to stay alive, and who aims to seduce Mark in order to make him a vampire too.

Considering how long Carrey has been a movie star, the fact that he is playing a high school student shows how old this film is. But besides a very young looking Carrey, this movie is an ‘80s delight. The synth heavy soundtrack (‘Face To Face’ by Real Life is particularly great), the boys with only one thing on their mind, and the vampire twist to the story give the movie that extra bite.

 

2. Back to School (Alan Metter, 1986)

Back to School

College seems to be a common setting for many comedy movies aimed at young people, but this one has the middle-aged comedian Rodney Dangerfield as the lead, and it is all the better for it.

Dangerfield plays millionaire Thornton Mellon, whose only regret in life is not going to college and getting a proper education. Upon hearing that his son Jason (Keith Gordon) wants to drop out of college, Thorton steps in to reinspire his son and enrols to become a student too.

Those familiar with Dangerfield know what a wisecracker he is, and his performance in Back to School is Dangerfield at his very best. From hilarious one liners to being a loving father, you cannot help but be charmed by him. The villain is a crusty old college professor who is all prim and proper and wants Thornton to fail, but everyone else loves him.

The soundtrack is full of ‘80s pop rock (including a live performance by Oingo Boingo, and the ace ‘Back To School’ by Jude Cole), and the film features a young Robert Downey Jr. playing a very political wise guy with a wacky fashion sense.

 

3. Moving Violations (Neal Israel, 1985)

A film about traffic school may not sound very entertaining, but if you put it in the context of a 1980s comedy about a group of misfits facing off against corrupt police instructors, the result is a comedy from the creators of Police Academy called Moving Violations.

The film stars Bill Murray’s brother John Murray as a smart alec who always disrespects and tricks the bullying cops who put him in traffic school in the first place. He becomes the ringleader of the group of misfits who also want their driver’s licenses back, including as a confused old lady who is practically blind, a horror movie buff who recommends someone to watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to relax, a NASA rocket scientist who is also the love interest, and other oddballs.

This is John Murray’s only starring role in a film, which is a shame, as he is a very charismatic actor too, even if he seems to be copying his brother’s act somewhat. In fact, everyone in the film is funny, and if you have your eyes peeled, you will see a brief appearance from a young Don Cheadle working at a drive thru at a burger joint.

 

4. The Last American Virgin (Boaz Davidson, 1982)

The Last American Virgin

At first glance, The Last American Virgin looks like a cheesy teen s comedy, and while there is truth to that, the fact is it is actually hilarious. From the likeable teenage boys who get up to all sorts of funny hijinks to get laid, the partying, some stereotypical comedic characters, and awkward sual situations, the film is hilarious.

What makes The Last American Virgin stand out on this list though is how it accurately deals with the awkwardness of first time s for teenagers. It gets quite serious and sad towards the end, depicting an abortion subplot and leaving the protagonist to deal with a broken heart. This will definitely come as a shock when first viewing the movie, but this unexpected twist is what makes it work and hits viewers right in the core with the harsh realities of unrequited love that movies do not often touch upon.

Upon further viewings, this can be seen earlier in this film; while it is indeed a comedy, the whole film has a dark undertone and dim lighting, almost giving it a sense of dread. It is a really well made film, and it’s obviously dated low-production values actually makes the film even better.

On a more upbeat note, the film has a fantastic soundtrack that really compliments the film’s funny but dark edge. Consisting of popular ‘80s acts like The Police, Blondie, U2, The Commodores, The Cars, The Human League, REO Speedwagon, and many more, viewers are sure to enjoy these great tunes that will aide in making them both laugh and cry at what is happening on screen.

 

5. Teen Wolf (Rod Daniel, 1985)

Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf was made at the same time as Back To The Future, so Michael J. Fox was mainly known for the sitcom Family Ties at this point in his career. While his performance as the time travelling Marty McFly is far more famous, Fox playing Scott Howard in Teen Wolf should not be overlooked.

The film uses Scott turning into a werewolf as a metaphor for puberty, as his body is changing, he’s becoming hairier, and he uses his ability to become the cool popular kid at school. With funny scenarios like dancing on top of a moving van and winning a basketball game as a wolf, viewers know they are in for a good time with this movie.

Teen Wolf has quite a few 1980s teen movie clichés, from a loser trying to become cool to winning a girl over, but that’s the fun of it. Viewers know what they are getting with a film like Teen Wolf, and they get a werewolf spin on this type of teen film.

 

6. Earth Girls Are Easy (Julien Temple, 1988)

As the title suggests, Earth Girls Are Easy is not a high brow film, and s is the source of the film’s humour. However, what sets this film apart from most s comedies is the fact it is a trio of aliens, rather than mere men, who have their eyes set on the girls.

Set in flashy Los Angeles, three furry and brightly coloured aliens (played by Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey, and Damon Wayans) crash their spaceship into Valley girl Valerie’s (Geena Davis) pool. She gets them shaved, which makes them look human, and she teaches them about life in Southern California.

Earth Girls Are Easy is an amusing story with a very ‘80s pop soundtrack that makes you want to live in the LA of this decade. The film is quite silly as the aliens look wacky (although since the film is a comedy, that was probably intentional), has a dance off in a nightclub, and an out of place musical number at a beach from a ditzy blonde. The film is also interesting for starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans when they were all young.

 

7. Private Resort (George Bowers, 1985)

Private Resort

It is always interesting to see a film made early in a movie star’s career (as is the case with a lot of films on this list). Private Resort is one of Johnny Depp’s earliest films, and like a lot of actors, he started his career in a cheesy teen s comedy.

Depp and co-star Rob Morrow play two teenage boys who are staying at a private resort in Miami for a weekend, and they are far more interested in the girls there than in relaxing by the pool. But they accidentally stumble upon a jewel thief’s scheme, causing all sorts of comedic shenanigans with the resort’s guests.

Private Resort is exactly what it sounds like, a low brow teen comedy full of ‘80s cheese, and it definitely delivers on that front.

 

8. Weekend At Bernie’s (Ted Kotcheff, 1989)

When two low level employees Larry (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard (Jonathan Silverman) inadvertently discover financial fraud on a printout and show it to their boss Bernie (Terry Kiser), Bernie invites them to his beach house. What they do not know is that the fraud was committed by Bernie himself, who hires contract killers to assassinate the two men. However, once Bernie himself is killed, Larry and Richard go to extremes to make it appear that Bernie is still alive.

Weekend At Bernie’s is definitely a “party movie”, where everyone is having a good time despite all the trouble that is happening. Seeing all the ways the two guys make it appear their deceased boss is still alive just so they can continue partying is amusing, and makes this an ‘80s comedy worth watching.

 

9. The Lost Boys (Joel Schumacher, 1987)

The Lost Boys

The Lost Boys has a lot of what was cool in 1980s youth orientated movies: leather jackets, motorbikes, big hair, a great soundtrack, good looking actors, and vampires. The Lost Boys is considered a cult classic these days, and deservedly so since it’s a great romp!

When two teenage boys from Arizona move to a coastal Californian town that is dubbed as “the murder capital of the world”, they encounter a local group of young biker vampires who terrorise the town. While one brother works with two goofy vampire hunters, the other brother is lured into the vampire gang, slowly becoming one of the undead himself.

As The Lost Boys is technically a horror movie too, it has a great visual flair that its director Joel Schumacher is known for. Schumacher’s film just oozes with a very ‘80s sense of coolness that is simply undeniable. Any ‘80s movie aficionado will simply relish in everything The Lost Boys has to offer.

 

10. Bachelor Party (Neal Israel, 1984)

Bachelor Party

It is odd to think that since Tom Hanks is known for being an acclaimed dramatic actor that his early roles in the 1980s were in comedy movies. Bachelor Party has Hanks play a groom-to-be whose buddies want to throw him a crazy send off into marriage. But the odds of them having fun are against them when the bride-to-be’s friends are out to ruin the boys’ fun, the bride’s parents do not approve of the groom, and a disgruntled pimp wants his girls back.

Inspired by producer Bob Israel’s actual bachelor party, it has all the crazy party antics you would expect from such a movie. From lewd drunkenness, hookers, drugs (a donkey snorts cocaine at one point!), and all sorts of shenanigans, Bachelor Party is simply one of the most fun movies you could ever watch.

Bachelor Party is very ingrained in the 1980s, from the obvious aspects like the fashion and music, to a photographer at the start of the film taking portrait photos who states that he wants to try something “more ‘80s”. It is stuff like this that makes Bachelor Party a delightful ‘80s comedy.