Ridley Scott’s Alien remains one of the defining works in both the horror and science fiction genres, a film that, like any of the best of their genres, invented a whole new universe by starting small. From the many films that the Alien series has spawned, Ridley Scott’s original film still remains my favourite of the bunch for good reason. It remains my favourite because it shows how little is necessary in order to start a universe of its own from scratch. Although eventually this rule was broken by eventual sequels (as much as I love James Cameron’s Aliens), it’s already impossible to deny the impact that Ridley Scott’s original film would have left behind on science fiction and horror within years to come. In itself it would easily have been just a “haunted house movie in space,” but perhaps there’s a whole lot more that results in the final product actually turning out to be all the more clever.
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It’s a shame that the films of Éric Rohmer are not talked about nearly as much as the likes of Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut because his filmography has kept such a great streak of consistency and even at his weakest something so intriguing. There’s always a sense of thoughtfulness to be found within what he covers in his work especially from how he masters the art of a conversation. In yet another one of his “Comedies and Proverbs” (the sixth and final of such), he has already found himself at the hands of some of the vastest his ideals can reach. While not at the heights achieved by Pauline at the Beach what has come by in Boyfriends and Girlfriends is yet another thought piece about the extent to which we value our own relationships under the guise of what could easily have been a standard romantic comedy. But that’s already become so easy to say about Rohmer, considering it’s so hard to describe that feeling of his style leaving its mark in one’s head as Boyfriends and Girlfriends continues to prove.
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There are two sides to the battle as portrayed in Michael Mann’s epic crime drama Heat that grants it the title of being one of the best films of its own time. Putting Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together for once after their share from The Godfather: Part II, what we have now is a different crime saga, but one within the streets of Los Angeles. Under the hands of any other filmmaker, Heat could almost have found itself falling in the same category as just about any other cops-and-robbers tale, but there’s a great sense of humility present in the way that Michael Mann is telling his own story that ultimately has made his work one of the defining works of its era. Michael Mann’s Heat doesn’t simply carry its own weight through a sense of the action, its strength lies inside the morality at play.
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Rohmer’s voice isn’t as particularly well-known amidst the best French New Wave filmmakers along the likes of Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut, which is quite a shame because there’s no doubt that he’s one of the most thoughtful filmmakers to have arisen from the movement. The third film in Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs” series following The Aviator’s Wife and A Good Marriage, this is the most I’ve found myself entertained watching any of Rohmer’s films. Not to say his work was any less enthralling but it has come to stick in my head within time because I’ve almost in some sense found a common comfort prominent within how he weaves conversations between characters together. But add it to the delivery of his own actors and what comes out is a beautiful coming-of-age tale also brings out a new tale of understanding within one’s own comfort and eventually going beyond.
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NOTE: Jonathan Demme passed away on April 26, 2017, and this review is dedicated to his memory.
In the history of the Academy Awards only three films have managed to sweep up the Big Five, and the most recent one to hold such a distinction is none other than Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. It was at the point where Demme was making a name for himself through the comedy films Melvin and Howard and Something Wild or documentaries such as Stop Making Sense. Within the many years that have come by, The Silence of the Lambs has already become widely seen as Demme’s best known film together with the most widely celebrated cinematic portrayal of Hannibal Lecter – for good reason. The greatest joy that Demme presents in The Silence of the Lambs doesn’t come from the consequence of event but how it works its way into one’s mind the way Hannibal Lecter finds his way under another’s skin just as the very best thrillers do just as The Silence of the Lambs is indeed deserving of every bit of its own reputation as one of the best films of its own period.
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It was only fitting that Charlie Chaplin could have been around to make a film during Hitler’s reign of Germany that outright mocks his regime in order to expose a harsher reality and teach his audiences an important lesson about humanity. From here onward, Chaplin had become no stranger to politics and even put his own popularity at risk although the satire that The Great Dictator has presented still remains frighteningly relevant even today, for even though the film had made a name for itself on the count of its depiction of Hitler’s regime there’s a universal message lingering all throughout that only calls for it to be seen even by today’s audiences. But of all the films in his body of work that had to allow Chaplin to shift from making silent films to talkies, it was only fitting that The Great Dictator was that one. Not only is it a work of comedic genius but it speaks many lessons still necessary today.
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The most basic comic book movies prominent today come from the likes of Marvel and DC, but Edgar Wright bests all of them with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. But for as much as I love Edgar Wright, I’ve always underrated this film since the first day considering I merely came in as a prominent Nintendo gamer and of course in theaters I caught onto the numerous video game references ranging from The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., and Final Fantasy, but even then, it only came perfectly clear to me I still didn’t “get” what the film was saying. But over the years and a journey through Edgar Wright’s body of work, everything had come clear to me about why Scott Pilgrim vs. the World works as perfectly well as it does and it may also be Edgar Wright’s finest film as a director as of yet. For as wonderful as the Cornetto trilogy may be, this one tops the rest in an instant.
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I’ve struggled even trying to come up with an opener when I wanted to talk about Tsai Ming-liang’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn because the subject matter is something that had always spoken great volumes to me. But among those was a question that I’ve been asking many of my own peers who are also into film, where does everything start? Our own love of cinema has to start somewhere, so to recollect a memory of where one starts is a key to understanding the impact of Goodbye, Dragon Inn. We have that experience, we want to share it with another, but others have their perceptions of what films mean to them. For how much we love films, there’s another degree to where we wonder what they mean to someone else based on how others see them. But what happens if they end up going away from us? This melancholy is a feeling that Goodbye, Dragon Inn captures beautifully in what I believe to be Tsai Ming-liang’s best film as of yet.
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I’m fairly certain that Nicholas Ray didn’t make Rebel Without a Cause as a teen drama back in its day, the way it could have been perceived during its own time. Had this film been a teen drama reflecting the morals of the youth of the period, it’s easy to say that it didn’t age very well, but perhaps it feels reflective of another image of youth that still carries its own bite today. Though to know the style of Nicholas Ray is to know his own tendencies to present an image from an outlook and then distort it, and on this ground he has proven himself to be one of the finest filmmakers working in Hollywood during its classical period. And although Rebel Without a Cause makes a case for the potential the late James Dean had, there’s all the more reason to see this film as a defining moment of its own era. Teen drama it may not be, but as a distorted teen fantasy it finds its own wonder and becomes something incredible.
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It’s hard enough for me to try and comment on Felipe Cazals’s Canoa: A Shameful Memory from its own sociopolitical context because of a fairly limited knowledge I carry about the background it is set within, but nevertheless I was taken away from the viciousness on display. Often considered as one of the most representative figures from his own generation in Latin American filmmaking, Mexican director Felipe Cazals has only brought out one of the finest films to have come out of the period. But as I was watching Canoa: A Shameful Memory a chord that almost struck me was one that brought Medium Cool back into my mind, although I feel safe in saying this has succeeded far more in itself. As anger consumes the world at one point in time, the title alone would already foresee a specific feeling coming afterwards, one of great shame – hitting oneself like a trauma.
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