‘Decades’ Blogathon – The Final List!

Decades Blogathon Banner

That’s it! The final spots have been filled and we now have the roll call of the 20 entries for the ‘Decades’ blogathon being hosted by myself and Tom over at Digital Shortbread!

As you can see from the list below, there’s a wide range of entries covering all genres that – I’m delighted to say – go back 100 years. Personally speaking, that’s exactly what I wanted to see when I first thought about doing this blogathon and I’m really looking forward to getting this underway.

Thanks so much to everyone for their interest and sorry to anyone who has missed out on this occasion. There’s always next year when we can possibly run this again and feature movies released in the sixth year of the decade – there are plenty I’d like to see on that list!

So here’s the full list:

1. Movies SilentlyThe Taking Of Luke McVane (1915)
2. Back To The ViewerA Night At The Opera (1935)
3. Defiant SuccessMildred Pierce (1945)
4. Epileptic MoondancerNight Of The Hunter (1955)
5. Tranquil DreamsLady And The Tramp (1955)
6. Movie RobMonty Python And The Holy Grail (1975)
7. It Rains… You Get WetShampoo (1975)
8. Fast Film ReviewsOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
9. Carly Hearts MoviesTommy (1975)
10. Cindy BruchmanBarry Lyndon (1975)
11. Film GrimoireDeep Red (1975)
12. Movie Man JacksonThe Stepford Wives (1975)
13. The IPCJaws (1975)
14. Three Rows Back – Back To The Future (1985)
15. The Cinematic FrontierPee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
16. Kaput, AlreadyThe Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985)
17. Ramblings of a CinephileLa Haine (1995)
18. Drew’s Movie ReviewsTommy Boy (1995)
19. Committed to CelluloidCasino (1995)
20. Digital ShortbreadBatman Begins (2005)

Now that we have our list, we’ll be aiming to start the blogathon on Monday, 18 May and will post one review each on our sites (10 on this site and 10 on Digital Shortbread). We’ll make sure to flag up each other’s daily posts to ensure every review on the list gets plenty of exposure.

Thanks again to everyone who’s taking part in what’s sure to be a great blogathon. See you on the 18th!

‘Decades’ Blogathon – Get In Quick!

Decades Blogathon Banner

Spots have been filling up fast for a new blogathon being hosted by myself and Tom from Digital Shortbread… but there’s still time to get involved before they all go!

The response to our call for contributors to the ‘Decades’ blogathon has been fanastic and it’s already promising to be a great event. We have a couple of spots left so be quick!

The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the fifth year of the decade – whether that be 1985, 1935, 1945 or any other decade.

So far, the following discerning writers have confirmed that they will be joining Tom and I in this endeavour:

The Cinematic FrontierPee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Ramblings of a CinephileLa Haine (1995)
Drew’s Movie ReviewsTommy Boy (1995)
Movie RobMonty Python And The Holy Grail (1975)
It Rains… You Get WetShampoo (1975)
Epileptic MoondancerNight Of The Hunter (1955)
Tranquil DreamsLady And The Tramp (1955)
Fast Film ReviewsOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Carly Hearts MoviesTommy (1975)
Committed to CelluloidCasino (1995)
Movies SilentlyThe Taking Of Luke McVane (1915)
Cindy BruchmanBarry Lyndon (1975)
Kaput, AlreadyThe Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985)
Back To The ViewerA Night At The Opera (1935)
Film GrimoireDeep Red (1975)
Movie Man JacksonThe Stepford Wives (1975)

On top of these guys, Tom will be reviewing Batman Begins (2005), while I’ll be having a stab at Back To The Future (1985).

We’re looking to run the blogathon from Monday, 18 May. If you’d like to get involved then please drop me an email at threerowsback@gmail.com or email Tom at tomlittle2011@gmail.com letting us know which film you’d like to cover or for more info.

Don’t miss out!

Blogathon Announcement – ‘Decades’

Decades Blogathon Banner

Tom from the second-to-none Digital Shortbread and I are jointly hosting a brand spanking new blogathon… but it can only be great if you join us!

We’re already halfway through the 2010s and we thought it would be a good time to run a blogathon focusing on movies that were released in the fifth year of the decade.

We’re calling it – originally enough – the ‘Decades’ blogathon.

Is there a film you’ve always wanted to review that was released in 1995, 1945, 1975 or the fifth year of any other decade? If so, then we’d love you to get involved. Hell, go back to 1905 if you like (I’ve already got dibs on 1985’s Back To The Future, though, sorry)!

Jaws

Jaws

These blogathons are only as good as the entries they receive, so we’re looking forward to receiving some fantastic contributions.

Night Of The Hunter

Night Of The Hunter

So what’ll it be? Michael Mann’s Heat from 1995? Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic Jaws? The unforgettable Night Of The Hunter from 1955? The choices are huge!

We’re hoping to run the blogathon from Monday, 18 May. We’re keeping the number of entries limited to about 15 or so to stop it getting too unwieldy, so please make sure to get in touch ASAP to avoid disappointment by either dropping me an email at threerowsback@gmail.com or emailing Tom at tomlittle2011@gmail.com letting us know which film you’d like to cover (just so we don’t get duplicate posts) or for more info.

We’re both really excited to receiving your posts for what we’re hoping will be a diverse and absorbing blogathon. Thanks for reading and we hope to hear from you soon! Most importantly, though, GET INVOLVED!

Blogathon Relay: The 10 Most Influential Directors Of All Time

The 10 Most Influential Directors Of All Time

One of the more pleasant surprises I’ve had recently was to have received the baton from the lovely Ruth at FlixChatter for the 10 Most Influential Directors of All Time Blogathon relay.

The Blogathon was the brainchild of John at Hichcock’s World. It’s a brilliant idea and John sums it up nicely: “I have compiled a list of 10 directors I consider to be extremely influential. I will name another blogger to take over. That blogger, in their own article, will go through my list and choose one they feel doesn’t belong, make a case for why that director doesn’t fit, and then bring out a replacement. After making a case for why that director is a better choice, they will pass the baton onto another blogger. That third blogger will repeat the process before choosing another one to take over, and so on.”

The baton has so far been passed to the following:

Girl Meets Cinema
And So It Begins…
Dell On Movies
Two Dollar Cinema
A Fistful Of Films
The Cinematic Spectacle
FlixChatter (Thanks for the banner logo Ruth!)

The original list had plenty of incredible directors on it, but as the baton has been handed down the list has become pretty damned impressive:

The 10 Most Influential Directors Of All Time

Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Georges Méliès, Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick

Ruth’s addition to the list was Billy Wilder and her justification was thus: “I’ve recently seen one of Wilder’s best, The Apartment, and I could see why his films are so beloved. He imbued such wit in his films, a dose of cynical humor. He also has a way with actors, having directed no less than 14 actors to Oscar-nominated performances. He’s also a versatile writer/director, as he excelled in numerous genres: drama, noir, comedy as well as war films. He’s one of those directors whose work I still need to see more of, but even from the few that I’ve seen, it’s easy to see how Mr Wilder belongs in this list.”

So, Who’s Out?

Jean Luc Goddard

Jean-Luc Godard

Man, this was an almost impossible decision. Godard’s still making movies aged 83 and there’s no denying the influence of his work. Breathless remains a defining work of the French New Wave and his 1964 film Bande à part was stolen by Tarantino for the name of his production company. The more I think about it, the less I’m sure, but compared to the others on this list I feel Godard’s influence has slipped and, as such, he doesn’t quite make it. Sorry Jean-Luc, but I suspect you’d feel that lists like this are way too bourgeois anyway.

Now, Who’s In?

John Ford

John Ford

Reflecting on his masterpiece Citizen Kane, Orson Welles was asked who influenced what is still regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. Welles’ reply was simple: “The old masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford and John Ford.” He had reputedly watched Ford’s 1939 classic Stagecoach more than 40 times in preparation for his debut feature and he wasn’t the only one to have been drawn to the work of one of the most influential directors of all time.

An encounter with Ford proved to have a massive impact on a 15-year-old Steven Spielberg, who subsequently said of the great man: “Ford’s in my mind when I make a lot of my pictures.” Watch Saving Private Ryan‘s devastating D-Day landings sequence and War Horse and you’ll see Ford’s stamp front and centre.

Likewise, Martin Scorsese has cited The Searchers as one of his favourite films. Speaking about the film in the Hollywood Reporter, Scorsese said: “In truly great films – the ones that people need to make, the ones that start speaking through them, the ones that keep moving into territory that is more and more unfathomable and uncomfortable – nothing’s ever simple or neatly resolved. You’re left with a mystery. In this case, the mystery of a man who spends 10 years of his life searching for someone, realises his goal, brings her back and then walks away. Only an artist as great as John Ford would dare to end a film on such a note.”

The list goes on. Ingmar Bergman cited Ford as “the best director in the world”, while Alfred Hitchcock declared that a “John Ford film was a visual gratification”.

From the earliest days of film, through to the invention of sound and the introduction of colour, Ford remained a cinematic pioneer. Although best regarded for his westerns, he also made another masterpiece that defined a nation – The Grapes Of Wrath; while his incredible World War Two documentaries The Battle Of Midway and December 7th remain quintessential examples of the craft. For all this alone, John Ford should be regarded as The Great American Director.


 

Well, that’s me done, so now the torch passes to… Fernando at Committed to Celluloid. Good luck Fernando; you’re gonna need it!

Debuts Blogathon: Steven Soderbergh – Sex, Lies And Videotape (1989)

Debuts Blogathon

It’s the final day of the Debuts Blogathon; and what a great Blogathon it’s been. When we first proposed the idea; Chris and I never guessed we’d get such a brilliant response. The diversity and quality of the entries we’ve received has been what’s made this such a fun feature to put together. I’ve learned a lot and look forward to revisiting some old classics and adding others to my watch list. I hope you have to. Thanks so much to Chris at Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop for being my partner on this venture; I couldn’t have put this together without him. Thanks also to all the brilliant contributors whose insightful and passionate entries have made this Blogathon so great. Finally, thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to follow the Blogathon; I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Here we go, the last entry and it’s my take on Steven Soderbergh’s debut Sex, Lies And Videotape.

Steven Soderbergh

Sex, Lies And Videotape (1989)

Stepping up to accept the Palme d’Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival for his debut feature Sex, Lies And Videotape – at 26, the youngest director ever to do so – a bewildered Steven Soderbergh was heard to say: “Well, I guess it’s all downhill from here.”

Sex, Lies and Videotape PosterThe weight of such an achievement could easily ruin a career, but not Soderbergh. Since that heady day on the French Riviera, he’s made some clangers, but some inspired, important works of cinema too and, as he (supposedly) folds up his director’s chair for good he can reflect on a filmography many others would give their right arm for.

Written in eight days and filmed for a budget of $1.2m, Sex, Lies And Videotape has been credited with helping to usher in the explosion of the new American independent film movement of the 1990s. The film was distributed by Miramax and made almost $25m at the box office. Suddenly, indies were no longer the preserve of the arthouse crowd; they were for everyone.

Sex, Lies and VideotapeThe title of the film helped to turn heads, of course. One might almost think it was a working title as it’s so self-explanatory. The plot is equally straightforward – unhappy, sexually uptight housewife Ann (Andie MacDowell) is married to conceited lawyer John (Peter Gallagher), who’s having an affair with Ann’s extroverted sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). The cat is thrown among the pigeons with the arrival of John’s old school friend, the shy, eccentric Graham (James Spader), whose only cure for impotence is to watch back videotaped interviews he’s carried out with women talking about their sexual experiences.

Sex, Lies and VideotapeIn lesser hands such a premise could be a recipe for exploitative disaster, but what lifts Sex, Lies And Videotape into the realms of great cinema are two things – the script and performances.

Soderbergh lives up to the frankness of the title with raw, unflinching dialogue that fizzes and crackles when spoken by the superb cast. MacDowell was never better as the prissy Ann, who talks about First World problems to her shrink and is seemingly destined to allow John to walk over her until she’s woken out of her stupor by Graham. Gallagher and Giancomo (an actress who’s deserved a brighter career) are both great, but it’s Spader who really stands out. His big breakthrough, Spader took Best Actor at Cannes alongside Soderbergh’s triumph and it’s easy to see why; the emotional honesty and depth he brings to the repressed Graham is startling.

Sex, Lies and VideotapeAs the title implies, at its dark, chastened heart this is a film about deception. In one nicely observed moment, as John is rearranging a business meeting to be with Cynthia, the camera slowly moves pulls a 180° until it comes to rest on a picture sitting on his desk of a smiling Ann. Soderbergh makes the point more cleverly by running one scene into the next while still having the end of a conversation play out over the new scene. These conversations invariably undercut what we’re watching and underline the lies these characters trade in without fear of being exposed.

Sex, Lies and VideotapeDeception (and self-deception) is a theme Soderbergh has returned to time and again throughout his oeuvre. His Ocean’s trilogy features characters who deceive for a living; the eponymous Erin Brockovich tries to expose corporate secrets that have led to the residents of a small town suffering chronic medical problems; the lies spoken by those in and around the drug trade are explored in Traffic; George Clooney’s psychologist/astronaut chooses to believe in a lie in Solaris; Matt Damon’s whistleblower employee gets a taste of his own medicine in The Informant! and Liberace (Michael Douglas) keeps his homosexuality under wraps in Behind The Candelabra.

Sex, Lies and VideotapeIn an interview, Soderbergh spoke of his fascination with deception: “I’m fascinated by lying, If you walk around all day every day, telling the truth about every situation you encountered, to everyone you encountered, someone will eventually kill you. It’s just a matter of where the line is for you in lying.”

If Soderbergh is anything he’s reliably unreliable when it comes to his output. After Sex, Lies And Videotape, he suffered a fallow period commercially, making curios like the noirish The Underneath (1995) and Schizopolis (1996), which made peanuts. It wasn’t until 1998’s Out Of Sight that he got noticed by the wider world again, a film that paved the way for his style-over-substance Ocean’s trilogy. In between he veered between the brilliant (Traffic (2000), which deservedly bagged him a Best Director Oscar; the hugely underrated Solaris (2002); his two-part 2008 biopic of Che) and the not-so-good (2006’s The Good German; The Girlfriend Experience (2009), which starred porn actress Sasha Grey). For every glossy studio picture there’s been a low-budget project, broadly described as a ‘one for them, one for me’ approach.

Sex, Lies and VideotapeMuch like Tarantino, music is extremely important in Soderbergh’s films. While QT prefers the jukebox approach of adopting pre-recorded music, Soderbergh uses musical score, supplied in many of his films by composer par excellence Cliff Martinez. Martinez’s score for Sex, Lies And Videotape (his debut score) is one of the film’s great strengths; it’s experimental, ‘indie’ aesthetic fits the film like a glove and created a trend that many scores aped over the following decade.

In a lot of ways, Graham is Soderbergh, a man with a movie camera looking for some kind of truth. Graham eventually destroys his camera, which Soderbergh has done (metaphorically speaking at least) by turning his back on filmmaking out of disillusionment with a Hollywood system that could fire him from the Brad Pitt-starring Moneyball a week before the cameras started to roll.

Any time away from the camera for this most gifted and adventurous of filmmakers is our loss. The promise he showed with Sex, Lies And Videotape almost 25 years ago has been realised enough times to make us wish for it once more.

Over at Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop, Chris delivers his brilliant assessment of Stanley Kubrick’s 1953 debut Fear And Desire. To read the other entries in the Blogathon, click here.