by John Hamilton 03.09.2015
at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Forgotten Classics: Zulu

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

When I mention war films, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably titles like Saving Private Ryan or, more recently, something like the controversial and much-debated American Sniper. But what if I ask about British war films? Maybe you’d think of Lawrence of Arabia and one or two others. What about the 1964 film Zulu? I’m going to guess that not that many are familiar with this one, let along the actual Anglo-Zulu War. But you don’t really need to know all the ins and outs of the conflict to enjoy and appreciate this movie. The movie is based on the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift, in which roughly 150 British and Welsh soldiers faced off against an overwhelming number of Zulu warriors at a mission station in southern Africa. In a lot of ways it’s almost the British equivalent of the Battle of the Alamo — the difference in this case being the British soldiers won their battle, whereas all the defenders of the Alamo died. Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, there are a lot of historical inaccuracies in the movie. But anybody who has ever seen a “Based on a True Story” movie should be aware of that by now. To me, some of the best war films out there are not the ones that are overly patriotic and about ‘us vs. them,’ but ones that show us who the people are on both sides or, at the very least, films that don’t broad-brush the other side. With Zulu, we get that. Neither side is portrayed as the hero nor the villain; they’re two powerful forces, in their own way, who duke it out in combat. Both are proven to be worthy adversaries who don’t give up without a fight. One thing I love about this film is the use of sound. The movie seems to use chats, songs and sounds as a motif about the sides. Probably the most effective use is when the Zulus arrive, coming over the ridge making a huge clatter with their assegai (short spears) and shields. One of the officers in charge, Gonville Bromhead (played by Michael Caine in his first film), says that it sounds, “Like a train…in the distance.” This comparison works rather well. It’s this constant clamor created that gives the audience an idea that the British are up against an almost unstoppable force. And when the near 4,000 Zulus pop up on the ridge, it seals the envelope. Along with the drumming, the Zulus also have their own war chants which are another form used to intimidate the defenders, but on the morning of the second day the defenders reply with their own battle cry, the military march “Men of Harlech.” I see this as director Cy Enfield’s way of showing that even though these men are in a war against each other, they do have similarities. But the beautiful medleys of the British and Zulus are disrupted with the continuous roar and volley of rifle fire. And at the end of the battle many lay dead; although they are victorious, there’s no cheers to be shouted. But the Zulus do offer a final chant of respect to their worthy adversaries. At the end, Bromhead is asked by the more experienced officer John Chard (Stanley Baker) what he thought of his first action. Bromhead replies with “Sick,” and Chard follows it with, “You’d have to alive to be sick.” A clever indication of the creative team’s thoughts on war.There are many other great things to say about the film. The dynamic between Baker and Caine is fantastic, and supporting performances from James Booth as the drunk, petty thief Henry Hook (one of the controversial inaccuracies) and Nigel Greene as the tough but kindhearted Colour Sgt. Bourne are great. The performances from then-Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his people are impressive. Also the cinematography by Stephen Dade is gorgeous, he makes every shot interesting. It almost reminds me of a John Ford Western.

Characters Make the ‘Second’ Stay Worth the Trip

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 4, 2015
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is all about the innumerable chances life offers, and the fierce fighting spirit that burns in us no matter the age or situation in which we find ourselves.  

David Cronenberg ‘Maps’ Out His Perverse History Onscreen

0 Comments · Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Maps to the Stars shows what happens when a native like Cronenberg leads the way.  
by Jac Kern 02.24.2015
Posted In: TV/Celebrity, Movies, Fashion at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

I Just Can't Get Enough…Oscars

Recapping the 87th Academy Awards

Neil Patrick Harris hosted the 87th Oscars Sunday night. Let’s talk about it! Having hosted multiple Emmy and Tony award shows in the past, quadruple-threat NPH (he sings, dances, acts and does magic) was well suited — cue Barney Stinson high-five — to the task. He did in fact sing, dance, act and do magic all while poking fun at the nominees, recreating significant movie moments and ad-libbing on the fly. Great job, NPH! As far as the night’s trends, there were a few: Using the acceptance speech as a bigger platform While some folks stick to the traditional “Thank God, the Academy and my manager” speech, others used the time in the spotlight to address other issues. This is nothing new — Marlon Brando famously boycotted the 1973 Academy Awards for Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans, arranging for Sacheen Littlefeather to attend in his behalf and decline the Best Actor award (for The Godfather). This year’s acceptance speech shout-outs ranged from appreciating parents (J.K. Simmons) and supporting ecological sanitation and women’s rights (Patricia Arquette) to empowering the LGBTQ community (Graham Moore) and discussing immigration (Alejandro González Iñarritu). Play someone with a disease, win awards Again, this trend is far from new. The Academy — and audiences — love to see an actor transform, and portraying someone with a mental or physical condition can certainly do the trick. It’s not a surefire way to win an Oscar — just ask poor Leonardo DiCaprio (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator) — but the Oscars have looked favorably on roles like this in the past. And present: Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything; Julianne Moore was awarded Best Actress for her role as a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. Ladies in White Whiteness wasn’t just the hilarious subject of NPH’s first joke in the monologue (see below), it was also a prominent dress color for many attendees, nominees and performers. Patricia Arquette, Reese Witherspoon, Carmen Ejogo, Marion Cotillard, Lupita Nyong’o, Julianne Moore, Lady Gaga, Kerry Washington, Nicole Kidman and others all rocked white, channeling the snow that many of those not in L.A. were knee-deep in. Now for a play-by-play recap of the event. Neil Patrick Harris opened the show with a theatrical song, but not before making a joke about celebrating the “best and the whitest” – err, brightest film stars. I like how the Oscars always start with the supporting actor award to get people excited, only to spend the following hour busting out all the technical awards and best picture nominee previews.Best Supporting Actor Ethan Hawke, Boyhood Edward Norton, Birdman J.K. Simmons, Whiplash Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher Robert Duvall, The Judge Yay! Simmons has been in the acting game a long time and killed it in Whiplash. Totally deserved.He used the time to thoughtfully and thoroughly thank his wife, kids and parents and urged viewers to do the same. “Call your mom. Call your dad.” Adam Levine continues to take over the world/every television program. He performed a song from a movie he was in (???). Costume Design The Grand Budapest Hotel Inherent Vice Into the Woods Maleficent Mr. TurnerMakeup and Hairstyling Foxcatcher The Grand Budapest Hotel Guardians of the Galaxy Makeup, hair and costume design awards went to the visually delightful The Grand Budapest Hotel. Costume designers always wear the best stuff, obviously Exhibit A: Milena Canonero’s sequined pants. Oscar lobby boys officially became weird when they held Channing Tatum's hand down the stairs. Best Foreign Film Ida Tangerines Leviathan Timbuktu Wild Tales I love director Pawel Pawlikowski’s style — he just talked though the Oscars’ STFU Music Cue until it finally stopped playing! All bets are off now that we know the truth: Just. Keep. Talking. The (not nominated) Lego Movie had its moment in the sun with an over-the-top performance of “Everything is Awesome.” Best Live Action Short Aya Boogaloo and Graham Butter Lamp (La Lamp au Beurre de Yak) Parvaneh The Phone CallBest Documentary Short Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 Joanna Our Curse The Reaper (La Parka) White EarthSound Mixing American Sniper Birdman Interstellar Unbroken Whiplash NPH recreated Birdman undies scene: Sound Editing American Sniper Birdman The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Interstellar Unbroken Jared Leto showed up in Dumb and Dumber cosplay to present Best Supporting Actress; he also had a heavenly moment.Best Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette, Boyhood Emma Stone, Birdman Meryl Streep, Into the Woods Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game Laura Dern, Wild Yay again! The Boyhood actress had this one in the bag. During her speech, Arquette promoted the organization GiveLove and gave a call to action to all the country’s mothers. Visual Effects Captain America: The Winter Soldier Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Guardians of the GalaxyInterstellarX-men: Days of Future PastBest Animated Short The Bigger Picture The Dam Keeper Feast Me and My Moulton A Single Life Feast director Patrick Osborne is a Cincinnati native and gave us a little shout-out. Best Animated Feature How to Train Your Dragon 2 Big Hero 6 The Boxtrolls Song of the Sea The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Star T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley) was literally in the last row of the theater, but still managed to get the camera's attention as he celebrated in the nosebleed seats. Production Design The Grand Budapest Hotel The Imitation Game Interstellar Into the Woods Mr. Turner Best Cinematography Birdman The Grand Budapest Hotel Ida Mr. Turner Unbroken Film Editing American Sniper Boyhood The Grand Budapest Hotel The Imitation Game Whiplash Idina Menzel finally got her revenge on Glom Gazingo John Travolta. Yet he still managed to act like a fucking weirdo. Best Documentary Feature Citizenfour Finding Vivian Maier Last Days in Vietnam The Salt of the Earth Virunga Best Original Song “Glory” (Selma) “Everything Is Awesome” (The Lego Movie) “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights) “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me) “Lost Stars” (Begin Again) John Legend and Common won this right after giving a powerful performance of the song. Best Original Score Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything Hans Zimmer, Interstellar Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner Lady Gaga gave the most “normal” — for lack of a better word — performance of her career with a tribute to The Sound of Music, proving that beyond the meat dresses and famous fiancés and 9-inch heelless platform monstrosities, Gaga is a talented entertainer. Best Original Screenplay Birdman Boyhood Foxcatcher The Grand Budapest Hotel Nightcrawler Best Adapted Screenplay American Sniper The Imitation Game Inherent Vice The Theory of Everything Whiplash In his acceptance speech, director Graham Moore revealed he tried to kill himself as a teen because he felt different. “Stay weird. Stay different,” he encouraged. Best Director Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel Richard Linklater, Boyhood Alejandro González Iñarritu, Birdman Bennet Miller, Foxcatcher Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game Best Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game Michael Keaton, Birdman Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything Steve Carell, Foxcatcher Bradley Cooper, American Sniper Best Actress Reese Witherspoon, Wild Julianne Moore, Still Alice Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night Best Picture American Sniper Birdman Boyhood The Grand Budapest Hotel The Imitation Game Selma The Theory of Everything WhiplashIñarritu dedicated the award to, among others, Mexicans and immigrants. While I was rooting for Boyhood (a movie I will probably never stop talking about and encouraging people to see), I’d be remiss not to say Birdman deserved all the accolades it received. Overall, many of the year’s best films got some deserved recognition on a night that was entertaining for movie makers and lovers alike. Also, did this year's show break the record for tighty whitie references?

‘Still Alice’ Captures the Fading of a Significant Light

0 Comments · Wednesday, February 11, 2015
A new study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, as reported in Variety (Feb. 9), highlights the disparity between perception and reality in respect to women’s onscreen roles in Hollywood.   
by John Hamilton 01.28.2015
at 04:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Forgotten Classics: The Dark Crystal

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

“Another world, another time, in the age of wonder…”It’s with that mystical and somewhat haunting quote that the audience is set up for something truly special. In the 1980s Jim Henson, maestro behind the creation of the lovable and hilarious Muppets, decided to expand his creative mind and came out with two non-Muppet movies. In 1986 there was the cult classic Labyrinth, which featured the man who fell to earth himself, David Bowie. But there was one film he made earlier, in 1982, that many seem to overlook — Henson’s fantasy epic The Dark Crystal. Along with fellow Muppeteer Frank Oz and illustrator Brian Froud, Henson managed to create the enchanted and wonder-filled world with terrific looking creatures, an interesting mythology and a movie with a cast made up entirely of elaborate animatronic puppets. That should sell you on the movie instantly. The story is rather basic: Jen, one of the last remaining members of the race called Gelflings, must embark on a quest to heal the titular Dark Crystal. The crystal in question is missing one chard and Jen must find it and go to the dark castle where it is held. On his journey he meets another Gelfling named Kira and a cranky, eccentric yet wise, old hermit named Aughra (voiced by the late Billie Whitelaw). In the castle Jen must confront not only his fear and self-doubt but the inhabitants of the castle as well — the cruel buzzard-looking Skeksis and their giant beetle bodyguards called the Garthaim. The movie very obviously has the common theme of good vs. evil. When the film begins, the narrator points out that when the Crystal cracked two new races appeared, the aforementioned Skeksis and their gentle, almost dragon-looking Mystics. As the film progresses it hints at that it wasn’t just a coincidence that these groups just happened to appear when the Crystal cracked. The movie is saying that we all have to battle and come to terms with our inner demons, whether it’s rage, greed or even something like self-doubt. Of course, like any fantasy story, there is a ton of expanded universe stuff that gives more details to this story. While every story should stand on its own, acknowledging these details explained in this universe may help the story a tad and it does add a good extra flavor to this awesome buffet of a movie. When Jen finally gets the Crystal chard, his caretakers, the Mystics, find out about his discovery (through some spiritual connection, I’m sure) and they start their long journey to the castle. Now their trek almost rival that of Lord of the Rings, but it could very easily represent what it takes to confront your evil or the part of yourself you don’t want to confront. You may be willing to face it and come to terms with it, but who knows how long it’ll take, or if it’ll be successful at all? This film also features probably one of my favorite movie characters of all time, Aughra the astronomer. She helps Jen find the missing chard and gives him some knowledge about why this journey is important. The reason she’s amazing to me is because she’s just so unique looking and her characteristics are not what you usually imagine when you think of the wise old mentor characters. She’s just splendid, and Billie Whitelaw’s voice fits perfectly. This is a film that has an entire puppet cast, no humans in sight. That’s what makes the film so incredible. Jim Henson and his entire production pretty much started their Creature Shop just for this film alone. Every creature has an amazing amount of detail put into it. The craftsmanship is displayed in the clothing for the characters, in their faces, their sounds and even in the background. This is a movie where almost every scene has something to offer. Henson stated in the “Making of” special of this film that the first thing he thought of was the creatures and the world they were inhabiting. I think that displays what kind of creative mastermind Jim Henson was and a good reason why his non-Muppet related work should be appreciated.

Midwest Movie Town

Cincinnati’s film industry is growing behind state tax incentives and a unique blend of resources

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 28, 2015
When Clooney came to town in 2011 to star in and direct the political thriller The Ides of March, the chatter and headlines told the story of a city poised to become a dazzling Midwest movie town.   

Legendary Still Photographer Douglas Kirkland Looks Past the Frames

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 1, 2014
I was able to peruse Kirkland’s latest monograph — Douglas Kirkland: A Life in Pictures — and what struck me, right from the start, was his voice.  

From Film to Streaming: Time and Technology Wait for No One

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Movie culture has undergone a sea change as theaters of every stripe move to digital projection, a turnabout that has had more of an impact than might meet the eye.   

Watching and Interpreting the Lives of Others

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Selma captures the life and times of a movement distilled down to a chapter in one man’s journey.