Tag: hollywood

The Friday Film: Peeping Tom

The Friday Film: Peeping Tom

This week’s Friday film is Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. Protagonist Mark is subjected to constant surveillance by his father as a child under the guise of scientific research. This unusual upbringing results in Mark becoming the ultimate voyeur in adulthood. Working in a film studio by day, he captures scenes which are far more sinister in his free time. Mark films the murders of young women.

All this filming isn’t healthy. – Mrs Stephens, Peeping Tom

Causing anger on its release in 1960, this film is now a much loved classic. Film buffs will notice that this was also the year that Psycho was released and indeed, the two films have been compared many times. Personally, I think that Peeping Tom is a far superior film. It manages to get under your skin and is truly disturbing whilst remaining entertaining throughout.

It’s a long time since a film disgusted me as much as Peeping Tom. – C.A. Lejeune for The Observer

HOLLYWOOD—I recently revisited a classic in the cinematic universe that not many people are aware of. It’s a film that was quite controversial when it was released in 1960, and it preceded what many consider to be the movie that ignited the horror genre, “Psycho.”… The one thing I can say about “Peeping Tom” and many horror flicks before the 1970s is that blood was very tame to say the least. – Canyon News

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Mark Lewis is a focus puller in a film studio. Severely disturbed as a result of his abusive and manipulative psychologist father, he is gripped by an obsessive voyeurism that leads him to murder. – BFI Screenonline

Director Michael Powell
Production Company Michael Powell (Theatre)
Screenplay and original story Leo Marks
Cinematography Otto Heller
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The Friday Film – Hail, Caesar!

The Friday Film – Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar!
Hail, Caesar!

Last night I watched the Coen brothers’ comedy Hail, Caesar! (2016). Starring George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton and many more fantastic faces, Hail, Caesar! presents a day in the life of a Hollywood studio fixer in the 1950s. I haven’t heard many good words about it, but I thought it was fantastic!

Hollywood, the ’50s. Capitol Pictures is making prestige picture Hail, Caesar, A Tale Of Christ’s Life when its star (Clooney) disappears. Studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Brolin) has to bring him back, while also dealing with other daily issues. Empire

Hail, Caesar!
Hail, Caesar!
Stand By Me (1986)

Stand By Me (1986)

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8/10 IMDb

Writer:  Stephen King (novel), Raynold Gideon (screenplay), Bruce A. Evans (screenplay)

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Last night I watch the nostalgic classic Stand By Me for the first time! It’s apt, as the film is two days older than I am and turns the big 3-0 next month. Although the actors playing the lead roles were only aged 11-13 when the film was made, Stand By Me has an age certification of 15. This seems mostly due to strong language and a dead body.

It was directed by Rob Reiner, written by Stephen King, narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, and stars Will Wheaton, the late River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell. You may argue that Stand By Me is not strange enough for this blog and you’d be right, but it’s still Stephen King and I like it.

The film also stars the excellent Kiefer Sutherland, playing almost the same character as he does in Lost Boys. I think I’d say I like Lost Boys more than Stand By Me, but they’re extremely different films (sincerely). The latter contains no form of the supernatural, but it makes a good effort into delving in to the special friendships that most people only seem to experience at the age of ten to fifteen. I don’t know if it’s the same for kids now, not being one or having one, but I hope it’s still the case.

My DVD has a pretty good “behind the scenes” documentary in the extras, featuring interviews with Reiner, King and the three living boys (in their late twenties or so). It was filmed after the death of River Phoenix. It’s worth a watch, which makes a change from most DVD extras.

Countless King adaptations have left audiences affronted – The Graveyard Shift languishes on IMDb with a score of just 4.7 and The Mangler has accrued just 3.9 – while other adaptations like Christine and Cujo have merely disappointed. But when King’s work is adapted with faithfulness, skilfully compressing all of its complexity into the limited run time offered by film, it can result in some of the world’s most adored and acclaimed cinema; look no further than Carrie(1976), The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999). Writer Loves Movies

The universality of childhood adventures (or misadventures), the struggles of growing up and a cast that Hollywood execs must have congratulated themselves on for decades. ‘Stand by Me’ launched the careers of so many of its actors: Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, John Cusack, River Phoenix and Kiefer Sutherland all appeared in the film. SF Gate

The Gentleness & Vulgarity of ‘Crimes of Passion’

The Gentleness & Vulgarity of ‘Crimes of Passion’

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I only got round to seeing Crimes of Passion… yesterday. Yes, yesterday. My excuse – I was minus two when the film was released. Crimes of Passion moves between a seemingly confident prostitute and Bobby, a generic man whose marriage is failing. In order to make some more money to keep Amy (the wife) happy, Bobby takes on some extra night work conducting surveillance on a woman – Joanna Crane (Kathleen Turner) – at the behest of Joanna’s employer. Cult Reviews

“Yikes!” – Kathleen Turner’s response to the mention of Ken Russell. I can’t imagine he was an easy man to work with – perhaps a little like working with Dennis Potter? A man who liked everything in excess.

In fact, Russell’s excessive style is strikingly similar to that of classic Hollywood melodrama, a connection that, despite its importance for understanding this filmmaker’s work, seems strangely unexplored. – from Ken Russell: Re-Viewing England’s Last Manneristedited by Kevin M. Flanagan

“I truly believe that he is a genius. But he was a genius that had to shoot himself in the foot. He wanted to be a hugely successful Hollywood director. But he also wanted to prove that he wasn’t Hollywood, so that meant doing a few awful things to his work… It was complicated making that film.” – Turner

Crimes of Passion (1984) was directed by Ken Russell and written by Barry Sandler. Turner reportedly slept for a whole day once the filming had finished. I got on the first plane home. My fiancee picked me up at the airport and 22 hours later he woke me up and said, “If you don’t wake up I’m taking you to the hospital.” – Kathleen Turner, who played the torn, powerful and pitiful lead role of China Blue/Joanna brilliantly. I was slightly distracted during the second half of the film once I realised that Turner voiced Jessica Rabbit.

Rabbit-wives aside, I really enjoyed this film and I can only imagine how I would have received it as an adult in the eighties. It’s more sophisticated than The Lair of the White Worm, on a par with Gothic and, although more mainstream, I found it easier to watch than the wonderfully surreal Altered States.

Crimes of Passion Clip from 1984 – China Blue (Kathleen Turner) with a customer.

Those Curious Coen Brothers

Those Curious Coen Brothers

Known for their unique characters and gripping dialogue, Joel Coen, 61, and Ethan Coen, 58, are the directors, writers and producers of numerous critically adored films including “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski” and the Oscar-winning “No Country for Old Men”. The Economist

Joel Coen is often listed as the sole director on early projects, but this is only because guild rules stopped two individuals taking credit for one film. They have pretty much shared most roles throughout their careers.

I’ve seen people walk out of the cinema before a Coen film has ended, and I’ve heard the confused and annoyed chatter during the end credits, but the brothers have still managed to break really quite unusual, niche films into the mainstream. Perhaps this is partly due to the large list of popular actors who are keen to work with them.

Anyway, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on my top Coen films…

Burn After Reading (2008) is one of my favourites, with Brad Pitt and John Malkovitch giving hilarious performances, particular when in the same scene. Pitt’s character has grand plans but it’s a Coen film, so you know it’s not going to work out for him!

True Grit is another of my favourites, and it’s thanks to this film, Quentin Tarantino and the Weird West fiction genre, that I’ve finally realised westerns are great. The characters in True Grit seem very honest portrayals of human beings, doing what they want or need to do. I think it’s one of their more normal films too, which probably explains why it’s their most financially successful so far. I’d love some more recommendations for modern traditional westerns. It’s one of the Coen brothers’ few films that doesn’t mash up genres.Business Insider

I saw Barton Fink very late (last year I think) and it’s probably in my top three Coen films, being complicated and super exciting all the way through. It’s a bit of a secret film, meaning different things to different viewers.

Fargo the film is one of the best films of all time, Fargo series 1 was an extremely fun viewing experience… and I’m not sure I can even talk about Fargo series 2. “We have no problem with it. It just feels divorced from our film somehow.” – Joel Coen talking about the TV series. However, all three pieces of work make me wish we had more snowy settings on the big and small screens. Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) is possibly one of the best Coen creations.

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No Country for Old Men (2007) is a film that I often forget is by the Coen brothers. Watching it for the first time seemed like such a big experience and I felt like films were changing, they were going in a new, higher direction. It’s also their longest film at two hours two minutes, short by today’s standards. “I mean, after two hours with a character we feel we’re pretty much done with them.” – Joel Coen. Many say “No Country for Old Men” is objectively the best film the Coen brothers ever made. They have a point. “No Country” earned them their first Oscars for best director and best picture. The awards were well-deserved. At first, this doesn’t feel like any Coen brothers film ever made.Business Insider

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be A Serious Man (2009). It’s hard to explain why, but since first seeing it I’ve discovered the short stories of Ethan Coen and this film seems to have a lot of his mind in it. It is hilarious, but it’s also so… well, serious. “A Serious Man” is the most confident and personal film the Coen brothers have ever made… At one point, it diverges into a story about Hebrew letters found on a man’s teeth. That’s because the Coens can. Business Insider

And then there’s The Big Lebowski (1998). 

“The Big Lebowski” is bigger than just one movie.

The story of a laid-back stoner named The Dude (Jeff Bridges), who gets sucked into a seedy LA underworld after asking for a replacement for his soiled rug (“that was a valued rug”), was a box-office flop when it came out. But it slowly gained cult status. Now it plays to sold-out crowds at midnight showings. It has launched clothing lines and even a religion called Dudeism.

And even with the overexposure, “The Big Lebowski” never gets old. After countless viewings, I can’t quite put my finger on it, because my perception of this movie changes every time I watch it. That’s what happens when you have a story so intricate and well mapped out. The mystery gets more intriguing and makes more sense the more you watch it. And yes, this is a film you will want to watch many times.

The Dude deserves to be in the pantheon of great cinematic characters as does Walter Sobchak (John Goodman). For creating a timeless comedy and a character whose face decorates both a shirt I wear and a mug I drink coffee out of every morning, I say, “the Dude abides.” Business Insider

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Moving on: The Coens are often praised for the music in their films, and composer Carter Burwell is responsible for the score in sixteen of them. He is not responsible for the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack, one of my least favourite of their films (it’s not a bad film but I expect amazing from these guys now, so I was disappointed). Not planning to be a film composer, Burwell received numerous requests after scoring the music for Blood Simple, the Coens’ first feature-length film. “It is, in fact, just an accident of the way that Blood Simple was received, frankly. Other people started calling me and asking me to do film scores. So, yes, it’s entirely their fault” – Carter Burwell.

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Despite Burwell’s lack of formal training, Joel Coen says the brothers have always felt like they were in good musical hands.

“Carter is so good at sort of moving into these different kinds of storytelling,” he says, “and understanding what the sort of imperatives of the movie are, and what it needs musically.”

That’s good, because the Coens don’t like to give Burwell too much instruction up front. Burwell says they discuss all the practicalities, but he can’t necessarily ask what a scene is really about…”I’m a bit more of a quieter person,” he says, “and often the music is more behind what’s going on.”…Burwell says he tries to work with people who understand the virtue of withholding information or leaving the audience uninformed and even confused. NPR

Their latest film, Hail, Caesar!, another period piece about Hollywood, isn’t released in the UK until next week, so I haven’t seen it yet! It looks silly and fun, so I’m looking forward to it. This twisted love letter to blacklist-era Hollywood finds the brothers at their most absurd, and it totally works. Business Insider

If you’re an aspiring film-maker, the brothers offer some tips here!