Wednesday, 6 February 2013

100 Films to See Before You Die

Hello my few readers. I'm here to apologise again (again and again) for my absence. I've been extremely busy with uni work and looking for a house for next year. My posts will be few until April because I'm doing a practical film project for my course, where my time will be spent making a short film. When I return I will continue my 'Oh to be Great' posts. But for now I will leave you with this: 100 films you need to see before you die.

Ive been wanting to do this for a while, but it's taken me forever to find a good list of films.  I have now found one and I'm quite proud to say that I've already seen 41 of the films on the list. Some are modern films, others less so. But I feel that all the films on the list are worth seeing, even if they're in black and white, old, weird or even independent. All the films on the list are quite well known and even the directors are well known. I hope you will be inspired to watch all of them, because they are good films. I will update you on my progress. I'm hoping to watch them all by the end of the year. I know that's a long period and not really a challenge, but I do have a life and a uni course that needs passing :P

Have fun and speak soon :D

The List
1. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)

3. Star Wars Episode V: Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
4. Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)
5. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)

6. GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
7. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
8. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, 1952)
9. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
10. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)
11. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)

12. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
13. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
14. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
15. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2007)
16. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
17. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

18. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz)
19. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
20. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
21. The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
22. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977)
23. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)

24. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001)
25. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1967)

26. Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick 1964)
27. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 199)
28. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)29. Die Hard (John McTiernan 1988)
30. Aliens (James Cameron, 1986)

31. Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood, 1939)
32. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969)
33. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
34. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Peter Jackson, 2003)
35. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (James Cameron, 1991)
36. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1969)
37. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

38. Heat (Michael Mann, 1995)
39. The Matrix (The Wachowski Brothers, 1999)

40. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
41. The 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959)
42. Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949)
43. The Big Lebowski (The Coen Brothers, 1998)
44. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
45. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
46. On The Waterfront (Elia Kazan 1954)
47. E.T. (Steven Spielberg, 1982)
48. This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
49. Evil Dead 2 (Sam Raimi, 1987)

50. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
51. 8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
52. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
53. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)
54. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)
55. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
56. Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)
57. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
58. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
59. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
60. Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)
61. The Usual Suspects (Bryan singer, 1995)
62. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
63. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
64. Oldboy (Chan-wook Park, 2003)
65. Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971)
66. Edward Scissorhands (Tim burton, 1990)
67. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
68. Annie Hall (Woody Alan, 1977)
69. Three Colours Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994)
70. Stand By Me (Rob Reiner, 1986)
71. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
72. 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957)
73. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
74. The Treasure of Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948)
75. A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1946)
76. Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)
77. Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960)
78. Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
79. The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)
80. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1943)
81. Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005)
82. The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963)
83. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
84. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997)
85. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
86. Carrie (Brian de Palma, 1976)
87. The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1983)
88. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (John Hughes, 1986)
89. Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
90. When Harry Met Sally (Rob Reiner, 1989)
91. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Richard Marquand, 1983)
92. Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)
93. Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973)
94. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
95. Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961)
96. American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)
97. Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
98. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
99. Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)
100. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Oh to be Great: Cinematography and Editing

Once again I feel the need to apologise for the delay. I've been enjoying the new uni life too much, writing essays and taking my first lot of assessments. I totally ran out of time. I should be writing an essay now, but I feel more inspired to write this.
Finally I present to you. Oh to be Great: Cinematography and Editing.

The importance of cinematography and editing in a film tends to be taken for granted because the audience is more interested in what's on screen and the story (which is fair enough). But, if you think about it, they are some of the most important things when it comes to a film.

The cinematography has to be right for a film to be great because it's what we see the story through. No camera means no film. There are different kinds of camera shots that can mean a wide range of things and if they don't work the audience can easily get confused, not understand what is happening or have an unintended reaction to the film. There are hundreds (maybe exaggerating, but there are loads) of shots, but the main ones are;
  • Extreme Long Shot
  • Long Shot
  • Medium Shot
  • Close Up
  • Extreme Close Up
I won't go into all of them because I think you can guess what they look like. I will just mention the two shots that need to be right to make a film great. An extreme long shot tends to be used to establish where the film or scene is set. These can be some of the most beautiful shots you will ever see in a film. My favourite establishing shots come from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

I love these because they really show off the picturesque setting and they draw you into the scene.  If the establishing shot isn't right, then the audience won't know where the film is set. Great establishing shots leave the audience with a sense of familiarity because they know where they are in the film world. A close up is used to show a characters emotions. I tend to call it a reaction shot. These (in my mind) are extremely important when it comes to great films because they take you closer to the characters physically and emotionally. A film is there to entertain and provoke emotions. If you don't come out of a film feeling something, then the film has failed. Directors try to create certain emotions in audiences through close ups; someone crying makes you sad, someone laughing makes you happy etc. The master of this is Steven Spielberg. It's hard for me to explain so here is a video… It's long, but please watch at least 2 minutes into it. Spielberg can manipulate an audience into feeling certain things. It slightly freaked me out at first because it's so simple and yet so effective. I now appreciate that it is an amazing technique that can really make you enjoy a film. 
The movement of a camera can make or break a film. Too much and an audience will be left feeling sea sick. Too little and an audience will get bored. The majority of big budget films will use mounted cameras to keep them still. The movement comes from turning (pan) and tilting the camera or in editing. Some films use hand held cameras and this can make a film good or bad. Cloverfield is one of the most renown films for using a hand held camera. I liked the use of a hand held camera because it made the film (if possible) more realistic. However, some people (my mum included) didn't like the film because it made them feel ill because there was too much movement. It comes down to personal taste.

Editing is also very important in making a great film because it's what links the separate shots and scenes in the narrative of a film and it's what keeps you interested in the film. Editing tends to be invisible ( We don't notice it), but there are some directors who use different techniques making it more noticeable.
Alfred Hitchcock, one of the most famous directors, produced one of my favourite pieces of editing in Psycho. In the exceedingly famous shower scene the shot of the shower drain dissolves to Marion's eye, while the camera zooms out, spinning in the same direction as the water was running to the drain. This is a beautiful piece of editing that was different for the time it was made.  I love this film and think the cinematography and editing really do make the film great.
Editing is really how we (the audience) are interested in a film. The faster the cuts (changes) between images, the more interested we are. This tends to be used in action/thriller films. The cut rate has to be right and keeping an audience interested is key to a great film. If they aren't interested, then the film isn't great.
However there is a shot that contains no editing that keeps the audience interested. This is the long take and my favourite example of this comes from Atonement. With these kinds of shots, you only really have one chance to shot it because it takes a long time to reset it all. They're rare and that's what makes them so amazing and wonderful. These can make a film. Atonement is now famous for this long take and it is a great scene.

So,  in terms of cinematography and editing, this is what makes a great film for me. Next up Sound and possibly a review of Skyfall (Depends on whether I can get to see it again :D).

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Oh to be Great

My friend Kat recently asked me to answer some questions for her new website (she wants to be a journalist). One of these questions was, 'What makes a movie good for you?' and it got me thinking. Not one thing makes a movie great, but there tends to be one good thing in a film, in my opinion. I very rarely hate a film. So I thought that I would look into what makes a film great or bad (for me). This will be broken down into separate sections because this would turn in to an extremely long post because I can get very excited when writing about films in this way. I'll try not to go into full analysis mode because that could bore you, but I apologise if I do.
First port of call will be Cinematography and editing, so look out for it.
If you'd be so nice as to look at my friend's website I'd be much obliged:

That's all for now :)

Thursday, 20 September 2012


I would like to apologise for the long delay in posting. It's been a hectic few weeks preparing and moving into uni. After this week, I will hopefully be able to get on and continue writing for you.
Sorry :)

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Disney Princess Opinion

With the release of a new Disney (teamed with Pixar) Princess film Brave I thought I would talk about the Disney Princess films. Over the decades there has been a lot of criticism thrown towards these films. These criticisms mainly concern the 'unrealistic' portrayal of love and relationships, and the representation of women. I explored part of this in my A Level Media Studies coursework and I found it to be a really interesting subject to delve into, especially as I watched and adored them when I was a little girl.  People tend to find that they form very strong opinions concerning these subjects and I thought I would point out the issues and put forward my opinion, so that you can form your own.

Disney's apparent 'unrealistic' portrayal of love and relationships has left parents questioning whether they should let their children watch the films.  Personally, I am in love with the idea of true love, soul mates, the happily-ever-after and I think it stems from my viewings of the Disney Princess films. They promote these ideas about relationships to little girls and in a way I think that these little girls (me included) always hope for it. Who wouldn't? The perfect relationship. However, I'm also a pessimist and I find it hard to believe that everyone will have a happily ever after and meet their true love. Your soul mate could have already found someone they're happy with and the divorce rates don't exactly help the idea of true love. But, that doesn't stop me hoping. I'm an optimistic pessimist. I know that some parents don't let their children watch the Disney princess films because they don't want them to have false expectations about love. I would happily let my children watch the films because I know that (as my mum did) you can educate them yourselves about relationships.

I will admit that women on a whole aren't represented very well in the Disney Princess films. They're always slim, beautiful and have no flaws. Up until Pocahontas the Princess were all white with blonde/brunette hair. Even when Disney diversified, the women were still unrealistically beautiful. It leaves the little girls aspiring to look like them. There are reasons for why women were represented in this way. First of which is they were originally constructed by men to appeal to men. This explains the low cut dresses and flawless beauty.  The animators had to base the images of the princesses on real people and they found the easiest people were ballerina's. This explains the original images of Snow White; Slim and elegant.
All of the princesses are vain. I think the majority of them look in the mirror to make sure they are presentable for the 'prince.' This implies that to the little girls that they need to look perfect to impress a man. The evil villains tend to want to stop/kill/imprison the princesses because of their beauty. The films are obsessed with the idea of beauty. There are only two instances that I can think of off the top of my head where Disney suggests that beauty isn't about image, but about what is on the inside. This can be seen in Cinderella II (Die-hard Disney fan here) with the ugly sisters and the Princess and the Frog. I think the Princess and the Frog is a great example because the prince falls in love with the frog version of Tiana rather than the beautiful human version.
All of the princesses are domesticated, even the most recent, Rapunzel (sorry I haven't seen Brave yet...out next week). They all clean and cook. You never see men doing the chores. If you take these films by when they were made, then it can be seen as a fair and realistic representation. But, Rapunzel was released in 2010 and this isn't a fair or realistic representation now. Women are more equal to men and men have started doing more chores. I know women who don't cook. Their husbands do it for them.
However, the Princess are changing. They have become more independent and less girly. The earlier princesses waited for their Prince Charming's to save them from their dreadful fates. Where as, Pocahontas refuses to marry her father's choice and Mulan runs away from home to join the army as a man to save her father. They have also become less interested in domestication and more interested in reading and playing chess.

Even after all of these points which are valid and they do disturb me slightly, I still love these films. They were the best films of my childhood. Every little girl wants to feel like a princess and these films make you feel like this.  You have to take these films with a pinch of salt and take into account when they were made. They are wonderful films and you can see that Disney are trying to change their representations of women. Brave looks really good, an independent, strong princess who can kick butt for little girls look up to (It's about time). I can't wait to see it and I hope it's everything they promised. Now I leave you to make your own verdict.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

3D: You Either Love It Or Hate It

3D, the newest craze in the film industry. I neither love it or hate it. I know many people who are fascinated with 3D. They will go and see 3D versions of films and will complain when films aren't in 3D. However, I also know twice as many people who don't like 3D and I understand why.
The first 3D film I saw was Spy Kids 3-D. As a child this was one of the most amazing films ever. You got to wear the retro glasses and objects came flying out at you, making you jump. This is what I loved about 3D. It was great before it became all stylised and techno-dependent. I will also admit to liking Avatar in 3D and that was the main reason I wanted to go and see the film. In 2009 we were drawn to the cinema to see Avatar because of the 3D and I feel that if it hadn't been in 3D, it may not have had as large a box office takings as it does.
However, now I feel that 3D is being over used and in the wrong kinds of films. Avatar, for example, was just as good in 2D. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger's Tides was better in 2D for me because I found it really hard to concentrate on certain action scenes when it was in the 3D format. This goes for the majority of live action films. I still enjoy seeing animations in 3D, but once again they're just as good in 2D. You can obviously tell when watching a 2D film that it was made for 3D, but that doesn't take anything away from the film.
3D has become a gimmick to make money in my opinion. Cinema prices shot up when 3D was introduced to pay for the new equipment that they needed to play the films, but after 3 years these prices either haven't change by much or have risen. You have to pay extra for the glasses and the luxury of seeing the film in 3D. The price for a 2D ticket alone is ridiculous for an adult, but then add the 3D charges on top and your spending a small fortune, especially in a recession. As I said in a previous post, the film industry is there to make money by entertaining us and this seems to work, but at a small, extra price(A large one if you have a big family).
Recently James Cameron re-released Titanic in 3D for the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking and I don't agree with this. The film was perfect in 2D and it would have made just as much money in the re-release if it was left like this. I don't understand what 3D adds to a film like that...a little bit of depth, but that's all. The film wasn't made to be in 3D.
This doesn't apply to everyone, but the glasses do annoy me. I have to wear glasses to the cinema anyway and it's not comfortable wearing two pairs of glasses and frankly you look like a bit of an idiot. I think this puts of many people because they cant wear the two pairs of glasses. I think if they really want 3D to catch on they need to do something about this. Today, I went to see Ice Age: Continental Drift and my friend and I had chosen to see it in 2D. The screening before ours was in 3D and our film was 30 minutes late because they seemed to be having problems with the screen after the 3D showing. This is another issue they need to sort out if they really want the craze to catch on.
Overall, I do enjoy 3D films to a certain extent, but I believe that it is being over used and should be kept to certain genres of films because it's hard to watch certain films in 3D and it isn't always necessary.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

I have been looking forward to this moment for four years and it did not fail to impress. I was seriously expecting The Dark Knight Rises to be nothing compared to The Dark Knight, but it was just as good. The Dark Knight Rises is set years after the previous film. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, but he must come out of hiding when Bane threatens to rip Gotham City apart.
Note: I do not recommend reading this without seeing the film.

In my opinion it's the characters that really make this film great. The film contains the usual characters Bruce Wayne a.k.a Batman (Christian Bale), Alfred (Michael Caine), James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). But, it also boasts some new characters, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Selina Kyle a.k.a Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), Bane (Tom Hardy) and Miranda Tate a.k.a Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard).
Bruce Wayne has in some ways gone back to Batman Begins. He is no longer Batman, so lives a life in the shadows. He refuses to see anyone and his company is falling apart. But, when he goes back to being Batman he sees only two options; Kill Bane or die doing it. I liked this version of Batman because he started to fear death and seemed more relatable. I also liked the fact that some characters had guessed that Wayne was Batman and that others were told. It was nice ending. Taking off the mask as it were.
Wayne has many father figures in his life and I like the fact that you see a part of all of them acting like one. Alfred disappeared for a large chunk of the film and I seriously missed him. Batman isn't the same without Alfred. He couldn't watch Wayne destroy himself because he wanted him to have a life and a family. James Gordon, now Commissioner was struggling with the lies he had told about Harvey Dent and I felt really bad for him because he had lost everything because of those lies. I like his character because he will stop at nothing to rid the city of crime, but he needs the help of Batman and he believes entirely in him. Lucius Fox looks after Wayne's company in his absence and he continues to gather weapons/tools to aid Batman. He will do anything to help Wayne and this is why I like him. They're all loyal to Bruce Wayne and believe in Batman.
John Blake is an everyday police officer that rises up the ranks dramatically to detective during the conflict with Bane. I really liked that he had a similar but less privileged past to Wayne and that he knew that Wayne was Batman. The twist at the end made everything better, when you discover his real name is Robin. It leaves Christopher Nolan with a chance to do a sequel (Please :'( ).
Selina Kyle is a new character in Nolan's trilogy, but she had to compete with Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman. There was no competition really because they were different. In this film, she was stealing from the rich because there were so many in need in Gotham City. A twisted Robin Hood. I liked her because she didn't even know what she wanted and when it came down to it, she wanted to help rather than run. I also liked that she was never referred to as Catwoman in the film and that her goggles were cats ears when on her head.
Right, Bane...I have mixed opinions about Bane. I liked him and thought he was a good villain. He looked amazing, I hardly recognised Tom Hardy. He looked an awful lot better than the Bane in Batman & Robin (1997). He was different kind of villain to the Joker. I do prefer the Joker, but Bane was one of the better Batman villains. However, I found him really hard to understand at times and that was a bit off putting.
Miranda Tate is at first the love interest of Bruce Wayne and I liked that I was never sure if she knew that he's Batman or not. I thought that her being the true villain behind Bane and being Ra's al Ghul's daughter were great twists. I had heard about her being his daughter at the beginning of the production, but I dismissed it. I also liked that her and Bane seemed to be in love. It made Bane seem more human rather than beast.
I have to mention the little appearance made by Jonathan Crane a.k.a The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) because it made me giggle because he was the judge and jury against the privileged members of Gotham's society.

There is a lot I can say about the setting because it's exactly the same as the other films and it's New York City renamed as Gotham City. I love that it is used in Banes plan as he cuts off a large part of the city. I also liked that it was set during the day for the majority of the film because it was like the Batman was rising from the ashes and he couldn't hide in the dark anyway due to Bane's ability to see the him in the dark. I also liked Batman's new form of transport, The Bat. Batman was flying.

I really enjoyed the narrative because it was full of twists and turns that you do not entirely expect. Which is always good when it comes to watching a film that is nearly three hours long. However, it is really worth sitting through it. I liked that in a way the film had gone in a full circle because it was similar to Batman Begins. I also liked that the Nolan brothers had kept close to the comics by having Bane break Batmans back. The ending is slightly predictable, but it is great all the same. I walked out of the cinema and would have happily sat and watched it again straight away. I don't want to say a lot because I find it hard to describe. I read a review in a paper that said the film took too long to get into the action, but I felt that it was good because if you had just lost the woman you love and turned a city against yourself, it'd take some time to get back into the game. Plus, you really follow Bruce Wayne's journey. I really enjoyed it.

It is rare for me to leave a film with a massive grin and this film is still making me smile just thinking about it. It was a great ending to a great trilogy. I applaud Nolan on breaking the bad sequel issue. He is a great writer and director making these films great. I am really sad that it's over, but I will always have hope for another Nolan Batman. It will never be the same again. I'd like to see someone try and top these films. Good Luck.