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Archive for November, 2017

THE LAST EMPEROR – Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Byrne, and Cong Su

November 30, 2017 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

They don’t make movies like The Last Emperor anymore. A lavish historical epic directed by the great Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci and starring John Lone, Joan Chen, and Peter O’Toole, the film tells the life story of Pu Yi, the last monarch of the Chinese Qing dynasty prior to the republican revolution in 1911. It is set within a framing story wherein the adult Pu Yi – a political prisoner of communist leader Mao Zedong – looks back on his life, beginning with his ascent to the throne aged just three in 1908, and continuing through his early life growing up in the Forbidden City in Beijing, and the subsequent political upheaval that led to his overthrow, exile, and eventual imprisonment. It’s an enormous, visually spectacular masterpiece that balances great pageantry and opulence with the very personal story of a man trying to navigate his life as a figurehead and monarch, and how he balances that with his private life and his political and social importance. It was the overwhelming critical success of 1987, and went on to win nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as a slew of technical awards for Art Direction, Cinematography, Editing, Costume Design, and Score. Read more…

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THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS – Mychael Danna

November 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The words ‘Dickensian Christmas’ often conjure up specific imagery. Crisply snow-covered cobbled streets, gentlemen and ladies dressed in their finery, handsome houses bedecked with wreathes and candles, great feasts centered around a roasted game bird. It’s fascinating to realize that much of the festive iconography we take for granted was popularized, if not outright invented, by the author Charles Dickens in his 1843 story A Christmas Carol. Even the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’, despite the words themselves obviously pre-dating Dickens, was only adopted as a common seasonal greeting following their liberal use by the story’s central character, Ebenezer Scrooge. In fact, the very concept of Christmas being a time for family gatherings, specific seasonal food and drink, and a festive generosity through present-giving, was not commonplace at that time, and it is only in the period since the novel’s publication that this aspect of the holiday has been given equal importance to the original religious meaning. Read more…

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY – Ennio Morricone

November 27, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The commercial success of the Spaghetti Westerns A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few More Dollars caught the eyes of studio executives at United Artists. They contacted Italian screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni, offered him a contract, and expressed a desire to purchase film rights for the next installment. The Italian creative team of producer Alberto Grimaldi, director Sergio Leone and Vincenzoni met and agreed to collaborate. They proposed a story set during the American Civil War, where three rogues join in an uneasy alliance in search of buried treasure. United Artists agreed to the storyline and provided a generous budget of $1.2 million. Vincenzoni joined with Leone, Agenore Incrocci, and Furio Scarpelli to create the screenplay that was not without controversy, in that it eschewed the traditional Americana romanticism. It instead offered a potent social commentary on capitalism, greed, as well as the destructiveness and absurdity of war. Its heroes are less pure, less righteous and more morally ambiguous, where the clear lines between hero and villain are blurred. Read more…

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI – Carter Burwell

November 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There’s a line in writer/director Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, spoken by a fairly minor character, which says “anger begets anger,” and this is the basic crux of what the story is about: how a single event can release years of pent up anger and hate in an entire community, and how that community then deals with the aftermath. The brilliant Frances McDormand stars as Mildred Hayes, a woman from the eponymous small town in Missouri, whose teenage daughter Angela was raped and murdered seven months previously. Frustrated by the police’s failure to track down her daughter’s killer, Mildred rents three disused billboards outside town and posts three enormous posters which read: RAPED WHILE DYING / AND STILL NO ARRESTS / HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY. This single act is the catalyst for a series of events that irrevocably changes the lives of dozens in the town. Read more…

JUSTICE LEAGUE – Danny Elfman

November 21, 2017 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The competing comic book franchises of DC and Marvel have arguably hit peak saturation point. Between them they have released 22 movies – 17 from Marvel dating back to Iron Man in 2008, and 5 from DC beginning with Man of Steel in 2013 – and there have been five this year alone: Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, and now Justice League. This latter film is a direct sequel to 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and sees the Batman and Wonder Woman attempting to put together a team of similar super heroes in order to combat the existential threat posed by a powerful alien/god named Steppenwolf, who wants to destroy the Earth in the aftermath of Superman’s death. The film stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, and Ray Fisher as the five members of the Justice League – Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg – with support from Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, and J. K. Simmons, among a large ensemble cast. Read more…

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO – Maurice Jarre

November 20, 2017 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Doctor Zhivago was adapted by screenwriter Robert Bolt from the famous novel written by Boris Pasternak. The original manuscript was smuggled out of the Soviet Union in 1957 and awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958. Director David Lean recruited a stellar cast for his film that included Omar Shariff as Yuri Zhivago, Geraldine Chaplin as his wife Tonya, Rod Steiger as Viktor Komarovsky, Tom Courtenay as General Pasha Strelnikov, Alec Guinness as Yuri’s half-brother Yevgraf and finally, Julie Christie as Lara Guishar. This timeless and epic film tells the tale of young lovers drawn together by fate, caught in the cruel currents of war, clinging desperately to each other to survive amidst the clash of empires, as they bear witness to a grand romantic age succumbing to a cruel and violent new order. It is a magnificent film of sweeping and poetic grandeur for which I am eternally grateful. The film was a critical success earning 10 Oscar nominations, winning five including Best Score for Jarre. It was also a commercial success earning $112 million, more than sufficient to cover its production costs of 11 million. Read more…

SUBURBICON – Alexandre Desplat

November 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The idea of taking a peek behind the white picket fences of American society is not a new one, but few have taken it as far as director George Clooney in his new film, Suburbicon. It’s a highly stylized, bizarrely comical drama set in the 1950s in a planned community, the epitome of white middle class utopia, a fantasy of manicured lawns and pristine shopping malls. However, things start to change in Suburbicon when a quiet African-American family moves in; despite them doing literally nothing to provoke any sort of reaction, the town erupts into a frenzy of racially-driven anger and violence. Against this backdrop, the story of Gardner Lodge unfolds – to the world, he is a mild-mannered middle class husband and father, but in private his life is falling apart in an increasingly nightmarish spiral of betrayal and murder. The film stars Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac, and was co-written by Clooney and Grant Heslov with Joel and Ethan Coen. Despite this star lineup, the film was roundly panned by critics, who couldn’t fathom its uneven tone, heavy handedness, and odd mix of genres. Read more…