Monday, September 17, 2018

Ben Hur AFI Top 100

Number 100.

I was glad that the first film we came to was one we hadn't seen before. I knew nothing at all about it other than it was an old epic. Mr Meks knew it contained a chariot race.

It was interesting to see what has changed and what still seems the same in cinema. It didn't look half as dated as I expected. I think the aspect that dated it most was the ethinicities as they were portrayed. Colonising Romans had English accents. Brave downtrodden subjects has US accents.I was shocked to see the blacking up involved then realised that is a huge signifier of the film's age. Hopefully one we're nearly rid of.

The subject matter wasn't really my bag. I couldn't accept Heston as being from Jerusalem. The cast made the whole story come across as a little fake. I did find the parallel stories of Ben Hur and Jesus Christ quite an interesting twist. Though the actor playing Jesus was very unconvincing with what little he had to work with.

The spectacle of the film was impressive. It was much grander than what I'm used to in modern cinema. It was lovely to watch. The Chariot Race was amazing. I struggle to imagine how many jobs were provided constructing the sets and costumes alone.

We split the watch into 2, 3.5 hours was too much.

I enjoyed parts of the film more than others. I loved the opulence of the production but I much prefer acting styles of today. I can't fathom why such effort is put into sets and none put into casting an actor suitable for the role. I'm assuming it's about 'Star' power.  If I had to choose I'd go for gritty realism over grand epic.

3 out of 5 pawprints

Next Up - Toy Story

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

AFI Top 100 Movies

Whilst browsing the internet last night I came across the American Film Institutes Top 100 Movies. This looked at 100 years of movies being made in America, finding the best 100 examples of those. It was made into a tv programme shown in 1998. 10 years later the list was updated. On the AFI website you can tick a box alongside each film in either list to calculate how many you've seen. Impossible to resist....

I have seen 62 of the 100 films on the 2008 list. Problem is I've forgotten most of a good chunk of those films. Then again some I've seen many times over. This brought me to the same idea I'm guessing many, many people have had since these lists were published. How about watching the list myself, from 100 down to Number 1? I asked Mr Meks if he was a willing co-participant in this viewing experience. I'm glad he said yes. Tonight we begin with Ben Hur. One neither of us have seen. I'm hoping we can enjoy 1-2 films a week and spread this over the next year or two. Anyone that wants to follow I'll be blogging as we go.

We did consider following a BFI top 100 list as this would be more patriotic. The US list is much easier to watch though. No subtitles with more fun and less worthiness. The BFI lists have a lot of foreign cinema. I haven't given up on them. We'll just take the easier road in. They'll be there if we wish to continue the journey.

The 2008 list we'll be using is here

Let me know in the comments how may you've seen :-)

Edit - Thanks Shane for pointing out the broken link. I cannot get it to work :-(

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Remaking Robocop? SPOILERS GALORE

When I first heard of this remake I was slightly worried. I'm a big fan of the original film and couldn't think of a reason it needed to be remade.

The charm of the original lies , for me, in it being firmly set in its era. Despite it being set in the future. I like its brevity. There's nothing unnecessary in there. It doesn't waste my time, sticks to the point. It's point seems to be a worry about the future technology can bring and the age old tale of corruption. Special Effects not being entirely realistic has never marred my enjoyment of a good story. I like the theatre, I hope I have an active imagination to aid things.

I've heard that Robocop is a picture ripe for remake. It seems to me that what this means is 'We'll give it better effects.' Yes they did. The effects are a million times more convincing. There are also hundreds more instances of them throughout the film. There is also a warning in this film. One which they hammer home with the power of a dozen ED-209s. This is criticizing drone warfare and American control of other countries. The lack of finesse at getting this point across nullifies it.

This is a film for our time. Compared to the original it has to be longer with more of an emotional arc. Hence the extra scenes concerning wife and family. Scenes I could live without.

If there was no comparison piece I would probably have enjoyed this much more. I went in with my negative 'what's the need?' head on. It does look good. Taken as a piece of entertainment alone it doesn't do any harm. Some of the cast are excellent. I can't help but enjoy watching Michael Keaton. Oldman rarely sets a foot wrong for me. Marianne Jean Baptiste hasn't graced my screen for far too long. I'd pay too see Michael 'Omar' Williams mow the lawn. Everyone else did a pretty good job. I felt the wife and son were written in an obvious, boring way but that wasn't the actor's fault. Samuel L Jackson played a stereotype very well.

Enjoyment wasn't enhanced by the suit changing colour and the heavy message segment at the end.

All I all this isn't a horrible film. It's just not a good one either. It's lacking in subtlety and more upsetting, lacking in the charm of the film it threw a big budget at. It hasn't been relegated to the 'convinced  myself they don't exist' bin that the original film's sequels inhabit. Can't see myself ever watching it again though.

Hollywood, throw your dollars at something original, pretty please.

2 pawprints out of 5

Thursday, January 10, 2013

WWW Wednesday

This was a nice idea I stole from a blog I follow

It's just 3 quick questions.

Please play along by leaving a reply with yours.  I'm very nosy!

What are you currently reading?
The latest Bernie Gunther novel, Field Grey by Philip Kerr.  I was a bit unsure of this series when I started but I'm so glad I stuck with it.

What have you just finished reading?
A Kind Man by Susan Hill.  A strange novel, one that can't really be discussed without spoiling.  I'd recommend it though.  It's interesting and a short read.

What do you think you'll read next?
Mortuary Confidential by Todd Hara.  I saw this on a friend's blog it has to be read!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I found this on Facebook thanks to Marius whose blog can be found here
He was happy with his writing style being likened to the great Arthur C Clarke.

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

I have to admit I was pretty chuffed with Lovecraft.  Though I assure you I differ greatly in mindset towards other things!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tome Time - The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Started January 11th, finished February 17th.  534 pages.

This was a book suggestion for Great American Novel from Adnams.  Thanks for the recommendation.

I had no idea what the book was about before reading.  I just knew it was set during the Great Depression.  From the outset I was intrigued by the introduction of the characters.  My main aim was to find out what had happened to the people as they were introduced and how they'd got to where they were.  Just enough, a bit at a time was revealed about each.  I liked most of the characters.  This was where my difficulty with the book lay.  I liked these people, empathised with them to an extent.  This made it a very hard read.  There is no relief in this book.  The world they inhabit is one of the bleakest I have come across in fiction.  Made all the bleaker by it's reality.  This is our world at its worst.  No fantastical, supernatural forces or huge disasters.  Just a series of things going wrong through no fault of those that suffer.

The depiction of the pitfalls they encounter constantly and the 'nasty' characters willing to exploit them is very depressing.  This book is heartbreaking.  Your hindsight can see the folly in their plans and what is bound to happen.  Whilst knowing that there was no correct option anyway.  You wish there was an out for this family but you know that an unrealistic happy part would ruin the book.  

This is a very, very, good book.  I ma not sure it is one I will ever read again though.  I found it very hard going.  It may be shallow but I find I enjoy books where I can escape my little problems.  One where I leave them for 1000's of families in a dire situation didn't give me a sense of peace but of misery.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints  It only lost the 1.5 because it made me sad.

Next - River God by Wilbur Smith

Book 3 of 2012, total pages 1,082

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tome Time - The Pale Criminal by Philip Kerr

Started January 3rd, finished January 10th. 272 pages.

As you may have noticed my blogging has been terribly ignored lately.  A combination of a busy time at work and home improvements has left me with little free time.    Apologies.

This is the second in the Bernie Gunther series of books.  Once more we're in 1930's Berlin.  This time Bernie is hired to try and solve the killings of many 'Aryan type' girls/young women.  This looks very much like the work of a sexually motivated serial killer.

The scene setting is again very good.  You find yourself immersed in the era.  It's a good story.  Full of the twists you expect from a thriller.  I had inklings of what was going on but never the whole picture.  Just how I like a novel.  

My only problem with the book is the name dropping.  There are a couple of very high ranking Nazi officials who pop up.  I know they give you something you think you recognise.  It doesn't work for me though it takes me out of it for  a second or two.  It's an easy way of giving a character plenty of weight.  We all think we know these people and definitely have opinions on them.  I would have preferred the characters to stay fictional though.  Not a big problem for me, just a niggle.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Book 2 of 2012, total pages 548