Tag Archives: The Godfather

Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 5 – May: Pacino, Pyun, Papa & Perfection

The fifth entry in Owen’s continuing year in review series sees him mull over the movies he’s watched during May. As with each of the previous articles in the series, the month will be broken down by week, with a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

An Evening With Al Pacino At Eventim ApolloThere is, and there is what you would like it to be.

That’s a quote attributed to Plato by Al Pacino’s character Big Boy Caprice in the 1990 crime comedy Dick Tracy. I’m not sure if Plato ever said it, but who cares? It’s a line that has, for some inexplicable reason, stuck in my mind ever since I heard it whilst watching Warren Beatty’s movie for the first time late last month. I literally thought it over and over for about 45 minutes whilst mowing the front lawn this past Saturday, out in the sunshine, mind wandering as it does during these menial tasks, trying to work out the saying’s meaning without going all Phaedrus. Why, of all the quotes from all of the 33 films I’ve watched in May, did this particular line from some pretty crappy (although multiple Oscar winning) comicbook adaptation stand out?

Short answer: I’ve no idea. I think maybe it’s just because it sounds quite cool in the same artificial way that Dick Tracy tries to be. In the film, as in all movies and life in general, there is what there is and there isn’t what there isn’t.

Therefore, I came to the conclusion that there are two ways to interpret the quote. The optimistic way is that ‘stuff just is what it is right now’, but you can always strive for something better; to shape something the way you want it to be (yes, that is me shoe-horning in an Alpha Papa reference, seeing as how I’ve watched the film twice this month).

Or, there’s the pessimistic way of looking at it, which is what I would personally subscribe to. And it’s also kind of the same with movies, for the record. Things are what they are, and you can accept them for that, but they can never be perfect. A movie exists as it is, but there’s always going to be a better movie, or a better way of making the movie. No matter how much you like it, or love it, or want to tell everyone you know about how amazing it is, it just is what it is, and there’ll be another way that you would like or prefer it to be. It’s why I struggle to ever give anything 10/10, or ★★★★★/★★★★★, or two thumbs up or six golden bananas or 100g of dogs bollocks or a full kinky duck or whatever your rating method may be!

I’m not a perfectionist, I just have a problem with the word – or the concept of – ‘perfect’, which is defined as: “as good as it is possible to be.” Nothing is perfect. If you move the goal posts of what’s ‘possible’, then it ceases to be perfect. In the case of a movie, as objective as you might try to be when rating a movie, subjectivity and relativity will always seep in.

If you listened to the recent podcast, you might have heard me talk about the Al Pacino Q&A I went to in Hammersmith last month. I spent a few days/weeks catching up on some of his more well known works that have slipped through the net somewhat during my film watching career (and reviewed a few below, and mentioned one above). I also rewatched one or two of his classics, including a film lauded by many as the perfect film, The Godfather; or, at least, the film that’s held up as an example of the best that it’s possible for a film to be. But The Godfather is only perfect relative to other films. As soon as something better comes along, it ceases to be perfect. Else, are we to believe that L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat is the perfect film? Literally the absolute best that it was possible for that movie to be at the time? Technically speaking, at least. Especially as there were no comparator margins. But it too could be considered flawed now we look at it in hindsight, comparing it to the potential that could be made of the techniques available. Similarly, the same can be said for all films. None of them are perfect. Not even my beloved Night of the Living Dead, as much as it pains me to say it!

It’s not just films, though. Nothing is perfect in the sense that it can never ever possibly be better. The sun isn’t perfect, it’s just the best it’s possible for it to be right now. Al Pacino isn’t the perfect actor, he’s just at times in his career put in the best performance that it was possible to do in his films. Our podcast isn’t perfect! It’s quite clearly limited by both Steve and I’s ……. well, it’s just limited by both Steve and I.

I do think there’s still optimism to be found in that, though. Just because something can’t ever be eternally inexplicably infallible, doesn’t mean it can’t actually meet the actual definition of ‘perfect’ as we know it to be. Things in life that are as perfect as it’s possible for them to be. Such as b-movie director Albert Pyun’s creativity and ambition, or the Alan Partridge movie….

….hey look, that almost resembles a segway into my actual reviews of stuff I’ve watched this month and I can knock the pretentious pseudo-intellectual nonsense on the bonce. You should go read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance instead afterwards to see the thoughts of someone who is actually clever talk about ‘quality’ in a much more meaningful and coherent way.


Week 1 – Friday 1 – Sunday 3 May 2015

Friday – [absolutely nothing]; Saturday – OMEGA DOOM (1996); Sunday – Frankenweenie (2012)

omega doomAlso in the podcast I linked to above in the intro (with the Al Pacino Q&A), at the beginning, just before the quiz, Steve reviewed an Albert Pyun film that I made him watch. Which, if you’ve been reading any of the previous four articles in this series, you might have been expecting to happen at some point. I gave Steve the option of watching any number of Pyun films, but he picked this particular movie, starring Rutger Hauer as the titular robot ‘Omega Doom’, in a post-apocalyptic future whose ‘evil circuits’ had been destroyed. Blade Runner it ain’t. The plot basically revolves around Doom as he pits two gangs against each other in a small town, both of whom are scared of the presumed extinct human race leading an uprising. Think Yojimbo, or A Fistful of Dollars, but with 1990’s, black-shades wearing, lame-joke making, red-lipstick clad, unemotional, menacing cyborgs. Steve described Omega Doom (rather unfairly, I might add!) as “a bit dumb, a bit annoying, a bit crap”. I tried to explain that the charm of Pyun is all about the concept of his films and the scope of his projects, regardless of his budgetary restraints. But it appears that rather unfortunately, Albert Pyun just isn’t for everyone. A shame, because I genuinely have loved watching his movies this year and would hold this specific example up as maybe his most accessible – and possibly even his best film. As much as I like his Jean-Claude Van Damme led 1980’s classic Cyborg (as discussed on our JCVD Corridor of Praise podcast), Omega Doom is certainly his most well realised. OK, so it’s not perfect………..


Week 2 – Monday 4 – Sunday 10 May 2015

Monday – Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983), Unfriended (2015); Tuesday – FALSTAFF – CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1967), The Man With the Iron Fists 2 (2015); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Kung Pow (2002); Friday – Repulsion (1965); Saturday – Vertigo (1958), The Punisher (1989), Cube²: Hypercube (2002); Sunday – Lake Placid (1999), Spooks: The Greater Good (2015), Prometheus (2012)

falstaffYes, that’s right, on May the 4th I watched a Star Wars movie. But in my defence, I was gonna anyway! I swear! It wasn’t planned that way to coincide with some Twitter trend. However, continuing my theme from the last article where I refused to talk about any of the Star Wars films, I’ll not be discussing them here either. And just to prove a point, I don’t only watch b-movie sci-fi films with a ridiculous (/equally awesome) premise. Sometimes I watch “proper” films. Like, black and white ones an’ that about plays and cultural things, y’know… For example, during the second week of May, I watched Falstaff, the film that Orson Welles himself described as his favourite of his own movies. That might just be down to the fact that he adored Shakespeare’s recurring character of Sir John Falstaff, who the famous, influential and iconic film maker stars as in this rough adaptation of a number of the Bard’s plays. I can’t purport to be super-knowledgeable about Welles, about Shakespeare, or about Henry V (surprising as that may be..!!) but the reason I’ve chosen this to talk about above all of the others on the list is partly to issue a public apology. I’m sorry everyone. This film did nothing for me. I chose to watch it for two main reasons: firstly, it’s Orson Welles. Secondly; it was research. Preparation for when we eventually get around to finishing the Decade In Film series. And I mention that because it’s unlikely I’ll include this film in my eventual list. The dubbing was very off-putting, although I can understand the rationale behind it from a technical point of view. It’s worht mentioning that the big Battle of Shrewesbury sequence that the film is famous for was extremely well done and gave it that epic feeling of having hundreds of extras, even if there were only a handful. But by the end, it felt like a box ticking exercise. One to disappointingly chalk off the list as “seen”, but not really enjoyed.


Week 3 – Monday 11 – Sunday 17 May 2015

Monday – Brainsmasher: A Love Story (1993) ; Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Invasion (2007), Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire (2010); Thursday – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015); Friday – Pernicious (2015), V/H/S Viral (2014); Saturday – THE CROW (1994); Sunday – Spawn (1997), What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

the crowInitially, when I first drafted this list, I really wanted to talk about The Crow in this bit. It was the first time I’d seen it in well over a decade and it was so much better than I remembered. I didn’t care about the cheesy electric guitar this time, I didn’t mind the crying goth anti-hero, or the crying long-haired flannel-shirted bad guy, or any of that! And then I thought, “no, what I really want to talk about is Mad Max: Fury Road, which was gloriously fucking spectacular”. But it seems somewhat greedy to go over Mad Max yet again, especially after Brooker and Jackson Tyler already joined us on the podcast to have a natter on its awesomeness for about half an hour. So, back to The Crow I go. Hand on heart, it was way better than I had expected it to be. I actually only sought it out after seeing a tweet from Brooker about his new blu-ray. Not only did the film take me by surprise, but Brandon Lee was also surprisingly excellent too. Not just in the way that the context around the film makes him seem posthumously, knowing how unfortunate he was to die on set with just 8 days before production wrapped on what would become by far and away his biggest, most successful film – not too dissimilar to his father Bruce Lee dying before getting to see just how successful Enter The Dragon would become. The Crow is undeniably melodramatic (in the best kind of way) and incredibly atmospheric. Strange to think that it was brought to us by the same director responsible for the shower of shit that is Knowing.


Week 4 – Monday 18 – Sunday 24 May 2015

Monday – Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow (1993); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Scarface (1983); Thursday – Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995); Friday – …And Justice For All. (1979), In The Loop (2009); Saturday – ALPHA PAPA (2013); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

alpha papa“In England we have a saying for a situation such as this, which is that it’s difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.” Yeah, In The Loop is great, isn’t it? “Never, never criticize Muslims; only.. only Christians. And Jews a little bit.” Yeah, Alpha Papa is great, isn’t it? Yeah. Both are great, aren’t they? Considering that Alan Partridge is the best comedy character to come from these shores (or any shores, for that matter), and that The Thick of It is one of the best sitcoms to come from these shores (or any shores, for that matter), it’s not surprising that they both became such fantastic films. Intelligent, well crafted and, above all else, hilarious. On my train trip to London, I needed something to watch on the commute. With both of these available on iPlayer, there didn’t seem any point looking for anything else. In The Loop on the way down, Alpha Papa on the way back the following day. If I had to choose a favourite, then the Alan Partridge Movie nudges it. The evolution of that character from the obnoxious sports reporter and radio-turned-TV chat show host of the early 90’s, to the local radio disc jockey for North Norfolk Digital (Norfolk’s best–North Norfolk’s best music mix) – via one of the funniest sitcoms ever (I’m Alan Partridge), a stupendous webseries-turned-T V show (Mid Morning Matters) and the genius piece of work that is I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan – is so good it makes me swell with pride that the human race is capable of producing something fictional that is as good as this. I saw Alpha Papa in the cinema twice and both times cried with laughter. I’ve seen it half a dozen times since and each time laughed until it hurt. In fact, I even watched it the following week (as you’ll see below!) and I still laughed like an idiot. I’ve seen this film with both Partridge and non-Partridge fans and seen them all with tears in their eyes when watching Steve Coogan’s greatest creation. I voted for it as one of my favourite films in our 2013 Awards, and I stand by that. And, it’s still on iPlayer too if you have yet to watch it.


Week 1 – Monday 25 – Sunday 31 May 2015

Monday – [absolutely nothing]; Tuesday – Scent of a Woman (1992); Wednesday – Dick Tracy (1990); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – The Panic in Needle Park (1971); Saturday – THE GODFATHER (1972); Sunday – Alpha Papa (2013)

godfatherI suppose I better talk about this Q&A with Al Pacino a little bit. My first reaction to Pacino wasn’t one of awe at what a presence he was in the room, but more like “wow, I never knew that the guy who played Michael Corleone and Tony Montana was so camp!” This chap, who I had always assumed was a bit macho, was actually leaping out of his chair to sing show tunes as soon as someone in the audience even finished saying The King & I. Other startling observations from the evening were that: he loved Shakespeare’s character of Richard more than is healthy; that he is genuinely very cool; and that he hated working on The Godfather so much that every day throughout filming, he hoped the studio or Francis Ford Coppola would fire him. It later transpired that my wife had never seen The Godfather (not as a result of the Q&A) as she doesn’t like gangster films. As is kinda normal, I think. Me? I love crime dramas and thrillers. So this past weekend, I forced her to sit through the second best film of all time (according to IMDb’s Top 250, anyway.) It was, as it always has been every time I’ve seen it, exceptional. Everything about it is tremendous. The build up of Michael’s character, the portrayal of the family, the acting on show from the likes of Pacino, Brando and Duvall, and yes, even the camera angles. I’ve already explained why I love it in our Decade In Film articles though, so you can go check that out if you’re actually bothered.


And that’s it. Job done. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do. As ever, I’m more than happy to chat about these films in more detail in the comments below or you can message me on Twitter at @ohughes86. See you next month!

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Shark Tale

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

This year, DreamWorks Animation celebrates its 20th anniversary.  To mark the occasion, Callum Petch is going through their entire animated canon, one film a week for the next 30 weeks, and giving them a full-on retrospective treatment.  Prior entries can be found here, should you desire.


shark tale09] Shark Tale (1st October 2004)

Budget: $75 million

Gross: $367,275,019

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 36%

Oy vey.

Ever since I started this little project, I was dreading the moment when I would have to do Shark Tale.  Its presence on the “To Watch” list hung over the entire venture like a dead rotting albatross, never letting me forget its existence even whilst I was really enjoying myself with DreamWorks Animation’s other, really very enjoyable films.  Shark Tale, you see, has a reputation.  Despite taking $367 million worldwide and being the 9th Highest Grossing Film of 2004 Worldwide, you will find nobody who is willing to admit to liking Shark Tale.  It is widely seen as one of the worst animated films of the decade, a distillation of everything that is wrong with animated movies and DreamWorks Animation, and would have faded into total obscurity if it weren’t for obsessive asshats like my good self dredging it back up every so often to ensure that nobody forgets it, lest they end up making the same mistakes and subjected a new generation to unspeakable horrors.

Yet, though I approached my task with wary and weary resignation, I entered with a good sense of curiosity overriding everything else.  If you’ve noticed a common thread with regards to this series by now, it’ll be that this endeavour is just an excuse for me to take an in-depth look at animated movies and spend multiple A4 pages explaining why they do or do-not work, why they were or were-not successful at the time, and to go on for hours about the history of animation, a subject I know much less about than you think I do.  And let’s not short-sell it, Shark Tale was a giant success at the box office with the public.  It was even nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (2004 was not a good year for the medium, granted, but this over The Spongebob Squarepants Movie?!).  Obviously it must have done something right.  I even had the DVD and watched the film a few times as a kid.  Seeing as I remembered nothing about it, I decided to go in with the hopes that it couldn’t be as bad as it had been made out to be, and that I was going to try and figure out why this movie became so successful yet faded into memory.

Below, you will find my reaction to Shark Tale whilst it was running and for a good half hour after it finished.

double facepalm

Shark Tale is one of the worst films that I have ever seen.  This is not an exaggeration, one made for comic effect and to flanderize my true thoughts on the movie.  Shark Tale is one of the worst films that I have ever seen in my entire life.  At the 22 minute mark, I genuinely paused the film with the intent of shutting it off and never returning to it.  I have only ever (metaphorically) walked out of a film once due to it being absolutely dreadful (read: no outside circumstances, like power cuts or needing to be elsewhere), said film being Disaster Movie, and Shark Tale came this close to joining that club.  I don’t even know how I’m going to touch on everything wrong with this movie within my usual allotted space.  This is a total failure on every single level and there are no redeeming qualities anywhere.  That sentence should probably give you a strong indicator as to why I was all set to just quit at barely the 1/4 mark.

But, I persevered, for I set out to watch every single DreamWorks Animation film and over-analyse them like a nit-picky internet jerk.  Plus, it would look really bad if I missed a week and just moved onto Madagascar without saying anything about this.  So, with the remainder of our allotted time together (because you are busy people with places to be and better things to be doing than watching a 19 year-old man complain about Shark Tale for an eternity), I will attempt to explain what is wrong with Shark Tale.  The result will likely end up covering just a fraction of the problems with this film.  Be grateful this isn’t a video or audio-based series, as the end result would probably be about 90 minutes long and have at least 40% of the runtime consist of me sputtering futilely like an enraged-yet-despairing Looney Tunes character.

Let’s start with something easily tangible that we can all notice together: the animation and, most specifically, the character designs.  The animation itself is mediocre to poor: there’s a lack of detail pretty much everywhere, the water doesn’t look or feel like water, colours are muddied instead of decently shaded, and movements are pretty dreadful.  Whenever character movements aren’t being too jerky, less the artistic decision to make it “pose-to-pose” (like in the TV series Clone High) and more “this character needs to be in this position from that position, but lunchtime is coming up and I can’t be arsed, so I’m only going to do, like, half of the frames the job needs,” they’re instead being way too smooth and lacking in weight; it never feels like anyone’s actually in liquid of any viscosity, let alone the sea.  It’s bad and, yes, it does come off even worse considering the fact that Finding Nemo came out 18 months earlier.

But the animation is not the main issue with the look of Shark Tale.  That would be reserved for the character designs.  Now, there is a reason why one does not try and accurately make animated characters look like the people voicing them.  Actually, make that two reasons.  The first is that you’re going to look very silly if you design a character to look like Brad Pitt and then Brad Pitt doesn’t show up to play him.  The second is that a more cartoony and stylised art design for the rest of the film and a really accurate facial likeness of a celebrity don’t mix, meaning that your character is going to look hideous, terrifying, and completely ill-fitting with the rest of the world.  Apply the knowledge that you’ve just learnt, then, to answering this question: why do you not try and design a cast of fish to have faces that resemble the people playing them.

Answer: because you get Jellyfish Christina Aguilera.

maxresdefault

This is more terrifying than anything that Annabelle will cook up

That’s the most extreme example, but the rest of the cast are honestly not much better.  Oscar’s face is noticeably off-looking from a good majority of angles, due to his eyes being too wide and his facial features trying to resemble Will Smith.  Lola’s lips are stuck in this weird halfway house between fish and human, like they desperately tried to capture the effect of Angelina Jolie wearing lipstick and failed miserably, and just end up distracting as a result.  Sykes, meanwhile, is basically the result of copying a photo of Martin Scorsese’s face without glasses, circa 1978, and pasting it onto a puffer-fish, with the unholy result being what you spend 90 minutes viewing.  And the way that their fins move like human arms and hands is just unnervingly creepy.  These are bad, ugly character designs; the kind that makes even the film’s nicest character, Lenny, look like a knock-off tie-in toy for the real character rather than anything loveable or even bearable to look at for 90 minutes.

I’m probably not going to get any better of a segway than that last paragraph, so let’s transition over to the voice acting.  Now, stunt casting in animated films was absolutely nothing new in 2004.  Hell, Shrek 2 heavily indulged in it about six months prior to Shark Tale, and let’s not forget the all-star cast lists of other DreamWorks films.  And whilst I will sit here and grumble irritatingly about how professional VAs never get any chances in big budget cinema-focussed films nowadays, I will cease my complaining if the cast are really good or fit their parts well.  Basically, as long as they were cast for reasons that amount to more than “they’re big now, right?” then I don’t have a problem.  You’ll notice that this is why I didn’t moan about the overabundance of big-names populating Shrek 2, they may have been given garbage material but they were all at least trying to make it work.

As you may have guessed by that entire preceding paragraph, I am building up to the earth-shattering revelation that almost none of Shark Tale’s cast are any good or even trying at all.  There are those in paycheque-collecting mode (Robert De Niro who almost reaches the depths he plumbed in The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle just 4 years earlier), those who are flatter than Flat Stanley (Angelina Jolie who, goddammit, is supposed to be playing a sexpot, for crying out loud), those who are trying but being directed poorly (Jack Black is the only one of the main cast who actually tries putting on a voice, but he can’t stick with it the whole way through), and then there is Martin Scorsese.  Before watching Shark Tale, I firmly believed that I could listen to Martin Scorsese talk about anything for hours.  The man is just so excitable and passionate about pretty much anything that he could probably read the phone book and hold my interest.

Then, about 11 minutes into Shark Tale, this happens.

Look, maybe there’s a way to make that exchange funny.  Scorsese did not know how.  That was my first indicator that my long-held belief with regards to Scorsese was going to be put to the ultimate test.  The man, quite simply, is out of his depth (he he, sea puns) and I realised that he would not be able to elevate garbage material.  That, incidentally, is the only clip of Shark Tale that I can find on YouTube with Sykes prominently featured in it, which is a pain for me trying to illustrate my point, but a blessing for you, the reader.  See, that means that you don’t have to see or hear Martin Scorsese attempting fist-bumps, gangster lingo, dreadful mafia movie references, or “that one dance move where you lick your finger, place it on your butt and hiss like steam is going off” and you get to go through life without having those images permanently seared into your subconscious because DEAR GOD WHY!?

So it probably won’t surprise you to find out that Shark Tale was written by white people, yet keeps attempting to work in references to hip-hop, gangster, and lower-class New York life.  It also probably won’t surprise you to find out that their every attempt to tap into those sub-cultures is embarrassingly cringeworthy and gives off the strong impression that their only experience of primarily black culture was The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.  Fitting seeing as Will Smith is playing the lead, but it leads to this continual feel of people trying to tap into sub-cultures that have become popular without actually understanding them.  Or, in fact, knowing anything about them at all beyond a ten-second Google search and an afternoon watching MTV Base.  It’s like if your Granddad tried to prove that he is “hip” and “down with the kids” by using those very phrases earnestly.

Plus, those references don’t gel with the gangster movie that Shark Tale also wants to be.  In fact, Shark Tale is a confused and aimless movie with no general point to it.  It keeps trying on all of these different hats, all these different plot threads, all these different thematic threads, but it never settles on one.  Not once does the film seem to know what it’s trying to be.  Is it a mafia story about a father who is passing on his empire to his sons?  Is it a rags-to-riches story about a lowly schmuck who has dreams bigger than his current standing in life?  Is it a cautionary tale about how lying will only make things worse for everyone or about not letting success go to your head?  Is it a film about grief?  Is it a film about social standing?  Is it a film that uses the thinnest of metaphors for homosexuality and coming out to your parents?

Truth is that Shark Tale is about every single one of these and none of them whatsoever, because it tries to do them all at once and schizophrenically hops between them from scene-to-scene doing absolutely none of them justice.  As a result of this indecisiveness, the film lacks a thematic core, a central reason as to why all of its events are happening.  Of course, I’m pretty sure the problem is not indecisiveness.  The entire vibe that Shark Tale gives off, more than any other, is a desire to earn a quick buck.  A light bulb moment from everyone involved higher-up at the company: the realisation that Shrek may be a winning formula and a desire to milk that “edgy kids’ animation” udder as hard and as fast as is humanly possible.  Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the film was greenlit after somebody walked up to a man in charge one day with a list of A-list actors and a note saying that rap culture was in right now, with everything else just being made up on the fly after the fact.  It would explain the total over-stuffed mess that we ended up getting.

It would also explain how we ended up with one of the most inadvertently unlikeable heroes I have ever met in an animated movie.  Seriously, Oscar is a giant jerk-ass.  He is selfish, manipulative, a compulsive liar, gambler and overall degenerate, lazy, uncaring of his friends, and only helpful when it serves his own personal interests.  Now, I get that this is supposed to be the point, he starts a jerk and then gets better when character development kicks in, but there are two stumbling blocks to this.  1) He begins too unlikeable.  There is a difference between “a jerk who is entertaining to watch” and “a jerk who I would like to see flambéed immediately” and he is most definitely in the latter category, despite Will Smith’s natural likeable charisma.  2) His big heroic act near the end, rescuing Angie and revealing his lie, is still being done out of selfish desires, a desire to pork Angie, so he’s actually learnt nothing.  His making amends with the sharks feels crowbarred in purely to try and make that complaint hold little weight, instead of anything natural.

That “pitch” that I mentioned two paragraphs back would probably also explain why the film’s “jokes” are so utterly non-existent or just-plain-terrible.  As a little mini-case study, let’s all watch the fake shark attack sequence together.

Notice how most of this sequence is not built on broad physical comedy, character work, or at least contrasting the fake performance with how it looks to the bystanders.  Notice instead how it primarily attempts to get its laughs from random pop culture references.  Yes, references.  Lenny singing a bastardisation of the Jaws theme to himself (which is not a call-back, despite the joke having already been used with a different character earlier in the movie, because it’s the same joke), the battle taking place in a very-thinly veiled version of New York, and then there’s that bit where Oscar just starts shouting phrases from classic movies.  None of them have any reason for being said in the context of the scene, and there’s no rhyme or reason as to their delivery or choice; the lone exception being “YOU HAD ME AT ‘HELLO’!” because, hey, Renée Zellweger starred in Jerry Maguire so ha.

The scene has no actual jokes.  Lenny eating Oscar could have been a funny sudden gag, but it’s dragged out too long, leads into an overly-tangential rant by Oscar, and the animation is too low-quality to truly sell it.  Otherwise, it’s just pop culture references and a performance that’s too absurd and too long to be funny.  When concocting a scene where two characters are putting on a fake display of some kind, you need it to be absurd enough that it’s funny for the viewer, but not dragged out too long as to make them start wondering why nobody in the film’s world has cottoned on.  There also need to be jokes.  Shark Tale’s is absurd, but it goes on for way too long and lacks in jokes, making one wonder how anyone could be buying this.  (For an example of how to do this kind of thing right, I point you towards this scene from Avatar: The Last Airbender.)  Instead of there being actual jokes, Lenny gets punched through a billboard for Jaws.  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

And that kind of quote-unquote joke abounds everywhere throughout Shark Tale.  From its casting (hey, look, it’s Michael Imperioli who is here because he was in Goodfellas and The Sopranos), to its billboard parodies (more on those in a sec), to brick jokes that should be funny (a shrimp that Lenny spared earlier in the movie returns in the climax quite literally so that it can say “Say hello to my little friends!”), to pretty much any usage of music.  What do I mean by that?  When Oscar seems to have outsmarted the sharks, he immediately gets up on the table and sings Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer, complete with doing the dance (which was the moment I realised why Oscar’s character design was the way it was).  When Lola is introduced (and I could write something like 20 paragraphs on this film’s usage and treatment of women, so be glad we’re near wrapping-up time), the soundtrack plays Gold Digger by Ludacris, to just ram that point home as hard as is humanly possible.  And then, there’s this.

Oy vey indeed, Robert De Niro.  It’s all just so goddamn lazy, completely devoid of skill or effort, and done with a near-total contempt for the audience the result ends up in front of.  Then, much like in Shrek 2, there are the jokes aimed only at children, because attempting double-coding properly like in the first Shrek was just too much work for everyone involved at DreamWorks Animation in 2004.  You know: fart jokes, inherently funny words being repeated endlessly for no reason, wacky comic relief that pops up with a joke any time that a scene gets in danger of being too serious (funny that the first Shrek lampooned this Disney trope and yet DreamWorks couldn’t stay away from it, isn’t it), more fart jokes, wacky comic relief based around racial stereotypes that everyone involved hopes that children are too young to realise are racist, something gross occurring, even more fart jokes, poorly-done physical humour, and sudden music cues because WACKY!  Wanna take a guess how this all turns out?

One last thing and then I will let you leave.  I get that Shark Tale is supposed to be set in an underwater equivalent to New York City.  I get that that means that there will be a temptation for the animators to create parodies of famous brands and advertising billboards and the like, littering them around the set.  When the parodies are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, to such a degree that I spent a good half of the movie thinking that there was genuine product placement going on for Coca-Cola until it got a close-up, though, you have failed at your job.  There are not-100%-intrusive places for product placement in movies.  An animated film aimed at kids’ about undersea life is not one of them.  This should have been cut down immediately in the concept stage of the film’s lifespan, especially since it’s one of the quickest ways to figure out exactly when the film came out and the culture it spawned from.

Well, we’re out of time.  I hope you enjoyed this systemic breakdown of just a small percentage, about 14% tops, of the ways that Shark Tale is a complete and total failure, a blight on DreamWorks Animation, the animation industry as a whole, and the world in general, and a completely creatively-bankrupt exercise in cynical cash-grab movie-making.  Fortunately for us all, despite being one of the year’s highest grossing films, we have been spared any further adventures in the world of Shark Tale as, apparently, it didn’t play well overseas.  Which is demonstrably false, but I guess is better for business than just admitting that everyone at DreamWorks done f*cked up and would prefer that we never speak of this again.  A sentiment that I will be happy to oblige…

…right after I subject you all to The Dance Party Ending.

See you next week, folks!


2004 was the year that DreamWorks Animation forcefully staked their claim to the feature-length animation landscape.  Two giant financial successes, one of which also being a critical smash, will do that to your standing.  The company would spend the next few years solidifying its position as one of the major players in that field, albeit mostly at the cost of the critical acclaim that stood them out from the pack of pretenders at the beginning of their career, keeping up a steady output of two films every year for almost the entire remainder of the decade.  Next week, we enter 2005 and look at the beginnings of their second mega-successful franchise, Madagascar.

A new edition of DreamWorks! A Retrospective will be posted here every Monday at 1PM BST!

Callum Petch might not ever get rich, but it’s better than digging a ditch.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

A Decade In Film: The Seventies – 1974

A series where the Failed Critics look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema, choosing their favourite films from each year of that decade.

I am fully prepared to get a bit of stick for this one. I know how popular Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein are, but I just couldn’t fit them into the list. Similarly, whilst researching this article, I found a few films to watch specifically in preparation for writing this piece and none of those could break the top five either. A rather surreal coming of age / life retrospective Japanese film called Pastoral: To Die In The Country narrowly missed out, whereas Phase IV, about some scientists observing super-intelligent ants in the desert that are threatening to overthrow humanity, did not miss out by such a close margin. I also gave John Carpenter’s Dark Star another go having turned it off half way through on a previous attempt. I made it to the end this time but wish I’d switched it off at the midway point. Needless to say, the following five films just could not be topped, no matter how hard I tried.


5. The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue

living deadYou’re all the same, the lot of you, with your long hair and faggot clothes. Drugs, sex, every sort of filth!

I’m slightly cheating by including this in my Decade In Film: 1974 list. Technically this low-budget Italian zombie horror, set in deepest darkest Cumbria (yes, not technically where Manchester is located, I know, I know, but don’t tell director Jorge Grau that) wasn’t released in the UK or the US until 1975. However, in its original limited theatrical run in its home country, it just scraped into 1974 by the rotten peeling skin of its blood drenched teeth.

If the title doesn’t sound familiar to you, then maybe you know of it by one of the fifteen other names it goes by? Let Sleeping Corpses LieDo Not Profane the Sleep of the DeadDon’t Open the WindowZombi 3? Or even the rather playful sounding Weekend with the Dead? Whatever you know it by, it is but one of the many dubbed Italian/European zombie movies that flooded out of the continent in the 70’s-80’s, like a ghost galleon full of flesh eaters ready to commit a cinematic zombie-holocaust. Some of which were better than others; specifically, this little English countryside graveyard b-movie.

Like so many good zombie movies, its real message is buried underneath the living dead that occupy the screen. An anarchic anti-establishment theme is predominantly the main focus, as a couple of kids on their way to the Lake District run into trouble. Accused of being murderers, just like every other good-for-nothin’ hippy cult like they’ve got in that there ‘merica, our protagonists fail to convince the authorities of their innocence as, quite frankly, the idea that the atrocities are actually being committed by walking corpses instead does indeed sound preposterous. Tonally it’s rebellious and youthful, whilst stressing the point that not all young kids are hoodlums. So just back off, dude! Never trust the man, man!

It begs, borrows and steals from a variety of other genre movies from the era, most notably the 1968 originator of the (then modern) zombie-movie, Night of the Living Dead. From the outbreak being caused by radiation, to the one building under attack in the middle of the countryside with no signs of escape – even to the fact that there’s a single zombie shuffling his way over to a woman in a graveyard – it owes a lot to George A Romero and is not ashamed of this. Yet it still manages to achieve a unique identity of its own on the whole. The gore (as these films are so often judged on) is top notch and very effective despite the obviously low budget. It may not scare your regular z-fan, but it definitely has something interesting to say and a lot to admire, even for the most experienced of dead-heads.


4. The Conversation

the conversationI’m not following you, I’m looking for you. There’s a big difference.

Francis Ford Coppola’s first of two releases in 1974 coming out just weeks ahead of the other (that happens to be arguably his most celebrated movie – but I’ll come to that in a little while). The Conversation stars Gene Hackman as a secretive, paranoid, surveillance.. erm, guy? A spy, if you will. He becomes riddled with guilt and suspicion when he begins to suspect that the people he’s spying on may be murdered, depending on the outcome of the work he’s been hired to do.

It’s quite a slow burning character driven drama, rather than a typical goofy espionage thriller of the era. There’s not a single belly-dancer to be seduced or secret criminal lair with its midget butler in sight. Whilst Hackman is very good, as you would expect, a lot of his role requires a steady calmness with twinges of desperation. It’s a convincing portrayal of a (perhaps) hypocritical but moralistic devout Catholic, and it’s through his performance as much as it is the writing that you understand why he doesn’t share his personal life with others. Not just because of the nature of his work, but it’s also down to his borderline schizophrenia; he’s obsessed with the notion that people just like him will be listening to and monitoring everything he says and does. And as well we all know, just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you.

In that regard, whilst the supporting cast (John Cazale, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Teri Garr etc) are all excellent, it’s the character of ‘Harry’ who quite rightly dominates everything. He’s such a strong character to base the film around that the other members of the cast are sadly reduced to mere distractions.

There’s a tendency for The Conversation to get a bit trippy. Personally, the dream sequences weren’t my cup of tea, although it’s important to recognise their role in developing Harry. You could argue that the constant looping of the audio of the recorded conversation is necessary, but no less annoying when played for the 30th time. But there is no arguing that this Oscar nominated film is one of the best of the seventies.


3. Chinatown

chinatownLoach: What happened to your nose, Gittes? Somebody slammed a bedroom window on it?
Jake Gittes: Nope. Your wife got excited. She crossed her legs a little too quick. You understand what I mean, pal?

Whilst investigating a seemingly routine adultery case, our P.I. finds himself embroiled in a case much larger than anything he could have expected. And I’m sorry, but if the thought of Jack Nicholson playing a private detective in a neo-noir thriller doesn’t at the very least even slightly raise your interest, then you might as well give up on watching movies altogether. That’s it. End of the line for you, pal.

Nominated for eleven different categories at that year’s Academy Awards ceremony, Roman Polanski’s mystery thriller is as revered by its peers as it is by critics and regular movie watchers alike. Criminally, it only picked up one of those awards, for its screenplay written by Robert Towne – who also happened to pen the screenplay for another Jack Nicholson film called The Last Detail, which featured in my 1973 list. The competition it was up against in 1974 was fierce, but in almost any other year, it would not be too difficult to have imagined it running away with every award going. From the classic crime-noir direction employed by Polanski with shadows and light in perfect harmony, to each and every spectacular performance (particularly Nicholson and Faye Dunaway) and even the costumes and cinematography. Every aspect of this movie is meticulously crafted into something extraordinary.

The plot is full of mystery and intrigue, which is in debt primarily to its wonderfully characteristic script. But the performances, the visual flair and snappy delivery of some tremendously witty lines of dialogue are all to be applauded. It’s packed to the rafters with homages and odes to the film noir genre, whilst itself being a gloriously entertaining genre-piece. The style, the look, it’s got it all. It seems unbelievable that there could be two better films than it released in the same year, but that just shows how tough these Decade In Film articles can be!


2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

texas_chainsaw_massacre_1_lc_03Well now, look, you boys don’t want to go messin’ around some old house. Those things is dangerous. You’re liable to get hurt. You don’t want to go fooling around other folks’ property. If some folks don’t like it, they don’t mind showing you.

Tobe Hooper announced himself as a director to look out for in the 1970’s with this remarkably scary, intense, sickening and twisted original horror. The reputation it still holds today (in the UK especially) is that of one of the most notorious “video nasties”. A chainsaw wielding, mentally handicapped, leather-mask wearing, violent psychopath did not lend itself kindly to the rating systems of the 70’s and 80’s and thus grew a cult of die hard fans for what is unquestionably one of the most iconic and influential horror films ever made.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is completely and utterly horrendous – and not in a ‘it’s really bad’ way. No, when I say “horrendous”, I mean in a ‘truly scares you half to death’ way. One of the most important life lessons I think anybody could learn from Hooper’s horror is to never knock on a strangers door if you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, where the locals have already warned you away, you’ve met a psycho hitch-hiking hill-billy already that day and you find some human teeth scattered around the front porch. I, for one, have followed this advice ever since seeing this movie and I’m still alive today. Let it never be said that this film is nothing if not educational.

There are plenty of scenes here to totally mess you up for a long time after seeing them for the first time, but without spoiling specific scenes, the worst moment that stayed with me for a while afterwards is most definitely the scene with the Grandpa. Just… Jesus. Wow. I’m sure anybody reading this who has already seen the movie will know exactly to which moment I am referring. The brutality of some scenes in the film towards a group of pretty much innocent kids, coupled with the almost nonchalant delivery of its violence via the nightmarish Sawyer family, is masterful and terrifying. The slamming of the metal shutters could send shivers down the spine of a polar bear. The sign of a great horror movie is in how long it lingers in your mind and subconscious after you’ve hit that “stop” button. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre does not leave your thoughts for days. It is just that good.


1. The Godfather: Part II

godfather 2 2In my home! In my bedroom! Where my wife sleeps and my children play with their toys!

As good as every film in this list is, how many can claim to have had quite as significant a cultural impact as Francis Ford Coppola’s epic gangster series?

Continuing from where the previous film (and best of 1972) left off, Al Pacino reprises his role as Michael Corleone, now the head of the Family (upper case ‘F’). He tries to expand and protect their business, whilst also keeping his family (lower case ‘f’) together. With no Marlon Brando in the sequel to play the original Godfather, Vito Corleone, we instead get to see his back story and arrival in the US in the early 20th century, as played by Bobby (oooOOOH) De Niro (aaaaAAAHH).

The debate that has raged over the decades since their release is mainly over which of the Godfather films is the best. Very rarely does ‘The Internet’ agree on anything, but it’s almost a unanimous decision that both movies are exceptional. Looking to see which of the two is the most well regarded, however, can induce fits of nausea. Just edging it between the two in the popularity stakes (according to IMDb’s Top 250) is the first film, which sounds fair enough, doesn’t it? As good as De Niro is and as brilliantly as Pacino steps up to being the face of the film, it misses a certain something that Brando brings. Him not being there perhaps means there’s more room for the other actors to expand into; and maybe he outshone everyone else in the original a smidgen. He was unequivocally the star of the film. I know it’s slightly unfair as there’s just no possible way to have included him in Part II without it overshadowing everyone involved in this sequel, but I missed the ol’ broken jawed mob boss.

Other than that one tiny personal niggle, there is practically nothing separating the two in terms of quality. I certainly can’t fault it. The development of Michael and the rich tapestry woven for Vito is impossibly complex and executed to near perfection. The third and final film in the trilogy is an utter embarrassment, but these two original movies made fifteen years prior are two of the greatest achievements in cinematic history. From how beautiful the sets are, to how superb the music is; from how stunning the performances are, to how emotional the story is. Even, yes, the camera angles. They are unparalleled in the genre. Hell, they’re probably even unmatched by any film from the decade. Maybe even the century!

Best films on TV – week commencing 18th March 2013

Here is my selection of the best films showing on UK free-to-air television this week. I say ‘best’, but these things are very subjective. Basically, stop telling me on Twitter that I chose rubbish films.

Feeling, so good today!
Feeling, so good today!

Monday 18th March – Gremlins (ITV2 at 11pm)

If the nostalgia trip of the weekend’s film choices hasn’t satisfied you, then why not live out your childhood a little longer with an unseasonal showing of one of the darker Christmas films of recent times. Joe Dante’s Gremlins is a brilliant b-movie homage, with its only let-down being a flaw in its internal logic. If you can’t feed a gremlin after midnight, when can you give them breakfast?

Tuesday 19th March – Outbreak (Sky One at 10pm)

I bloody love a good disaster movie, and this is a bloody good disaster movie. Helmed by Das Boot director Wolfgang Petersen, the film charts the spread of a deadly airborne disease that threatens to wipe out half of mankind if it isn’t contained. Like the great disaster films of the sixties and seventies, this features an impressive ensemble cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding Jr, and Donald Sutherland. And possibly Marcel the monkey from Friends.

Wednesday 20th March – Serpico (Film 4 at 9pm)

There was a time when Al Pacino was the finest actor on the planet. Some of his work in the seventies is quite simply breathtaking. Here is another example of a master of his craft, being directed by another in Sidney Lumet. Frank Serpico is one of the few honest cops in his New York precinct, but his principles turn his colleagues against him, and put his life in danger when he decides to whistle-blow.

Thursday 21st March – Kickboxer (5USA at 10pm)

I know that Owen Hughes of this parish disagrees with me, and he may well be better qualified than almost anyone when it comes to the work of Jean-Claude Van Damme, but this is categorically and without doubt the finest film in the Muscles from Brussels’ career. JCVD plays Kurt Sloane, the suspiciously European-sounding brother of all-American hero Eric Sloane, who nearly dies when facing the villainous Tong-Po in a kickboxing match in Thailand. Kurt then goes off to train in the forest under the supervision of a wise old fella who gets him to work out while doing odd jobs, and encourages the practice of kicking trees until you break your leg.

It’s basically Karate Kid for grown-ups, and features the single best dance moves committed to film.

Friday 22nd March – Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Film 4 at 11am)

I recently wrote about this film for my 1961 Decade in Film piece so, at the risk at repeating myself, this is Audrey Hepburn at her most incredible. There’s a reason the images of her have become a cliché in recent years, so watch this and see what all the fuss was about.

Saturday 23rd March – Project Nim (BBC2 at 9.30pm)

In an ideal world where Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy received the big screen adaptation it deserved (rather than the okay-ish effort it actually got), it would have been my choice for today (BBC2 at 5pm). There’s also a Danny Boyle night on Film 4 with the brilliant Slumdog Millionaire and 28 Days Later showing from 9pm. However  I’m pretty sure most people have already seen those. S0 I’m going to play my weekly ‘I’ve not seen it but it looks good’ card on the network première of a documentary about a Chimpanzee raised as a child by a New York family in the 1970s, in an attempt to discover if the chimp could learn to understand human communication. I’ll probably watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes directly afterwards.

Sunday 24th March – The Godfather (Film 4 at 9pm)

There’s a nostalgic battle royale as Back to the Future and The Goonies are shown at the same time today (#TeamMarty), but on pretty much any day The Godfather is shown, it is sure to be the best film on TV. Owen recently wrote about it for our Decade in Film series, and it features another incredible performance from Al Pacino. The scene in the diner before his first murder is a master class in film acting, with his ability to tell a character’s story through the eyes simply a joy to watch.

A Decade in Film: The Seventies – 1972

A series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema, choosing their favourite films from each year of that decade.

This week the podcast’s Owen Hughes looks back on a year when the highest grossing film star of all time made his debut (it’s Samuel L Jackson, of course), the porno Deep Throat was the sixth biggest hit of the year, and Pong became the first ever commercially successful video game (thanks, Wikipedia!)

5. Solaris

Solaris 1972“Man was created by Nature in order to explore it. As he approaches Truth he is fated to Knowledge. All the rest is bullshit. “

I first read about Solaris in a book called Why Aren’t They Here? by Surendra Verma, which primarily explores (amongst other theories) the Fermi paradox. Put simply, if intelligent alien civilizations exist, and the universe is as vast as we think it is, then why haven’t they made contact with us yet? One of the many possible answers for this could be that we have no way of communicating with them, even if it were physically possible to meet them. A famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once proposed that “if a lion could speak, we couldn’t understand it”. What he means is, even if an animal could physically speak a language to us, our points of reference would be so far apart, it would just be gibberish. We wouldn’t be able to understand a word that lion said, much less recognise it was attempting communication.

What does this have to do with Solaris? Well Andrei Tarkovsky‘s enormously important Russian sci-fi film, based on a Polish novel of the same name, is about this giant, living, liquid planet that attempts to communicate with the humans that are trying to study it. Ultimately, as Wittgenstein predicted, it’s impossible for them to fully understand each other. It’s a story of love and loss that explores the depths of the human mind/imagination with some thought provoking imagery and mind-meltingly complex ideas.

I have to admit, Solaris is mostly on this list out of respect for what it achieved and for the concept behind it. I like to think I can occasionally watch these long, slow, art-house films and enjoy them. Truth is, I found Solaris a really difficult film to watch. Patience is a virtue supposedly, but when you’re watching a film where (for what seems like an eternity) all you’re watching is nothing more than a camera attached to the front of a car as it travels down a motorway, you kind of forget that! I think a lot of the more artistic visual elements of the film went over my head somewhat. However, rarely do you see such an intelligent and thought provoking sci-fi film that I think it can just about nudge blaxploitation horror picture ‘Blacula’ out of my top 5 films for 1972.

4. Fist of Fury

Fist of Fury Bruce Lee“Whenever you’re ready, I’ll take on any Japanese here.”

Whether you accept that there are 4 or 5 full feature films, and whichever film of those is your favourite, one thing that seems to be universally acknowledged is that Bruce Lee was an icon of early 70’s cinema. His legacy has endured over the decades, influencing film writers, directors and stars. He made Asian cinema (or at least Kung-Fu films) the phenomena it is in the West. I don’t need to go on about this. I’m not the first to point this out, I won’t be the last, nor am I the most qualified!

What I love most about talking to people about Bruce Lee’s films is everyone seems to have taken away something different from his movies. I watched Fist of Fury, Enter The Dragon and The Big Boss when I was a young teenager, first getting into movies. Before then, he was just someone I knew from the poster my artistically talented uncle had drawn. There was something about that image of Lee (which looked a little bit like this) that drew me in. He just looked so cool in that poster and the young impressionable me wanted to see just how cool he actually was. As I watched those films (and as I got older Game of Death and Way of the Dragon too) I realised how cool he actually was. Answer: very.

Despite being his second major film, and also starring as Kato in his own TV show, Green Hornet, (including cameo’s in the Adam West Batman series) it was Fist of Fury that launched him into movie superstardom. It’s a simple mystery plot in which Lee is subjected to bigotry and prejudice by the Japanese. It’s not the plot that made the film so endurable. It’s Lee. It’s the cool one liners he delivers mixed with the impressive action/fight sequences that he choreographed himself. It’s that recognisable shriek as he kicks someone in the gut, dispatching baddies with one blow. It’s the character of Chen and how nobody other than Lee could’ve played him in the same way. It’s quite simply an excellent kung-fu film that any fan of the genre should watch and adore.

3. Deliverance

deliverance burt reynolds“Goddamn, you play a mean banjo!”

If there’s one thing writing these Decade in Film articles are good for, then it’s for forcing me to finally get around to watching some classic films. The flip side to that is films I really love and originally included in my top 5 have to make way for films that, as it turns out, are just undeniably better. Take, for example, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which is now losing out on a top 5 ranking position thanks to John Boorman’s Oscar nominated film about 4 guys who go on a trip down the Cahulawasse river in the arse end of the American south that they won’t forget.

Until this week, I’d only ever seen clips of Deliverance. Hell, I could even play part of the duelling banjos song on my guitar despite never having watched the whole of the film! Now that I have seen it, as Matt Lambourne so accurately predicted would happen, I now “understand a number of long-standing cultural references towards it that may have gone over my head before”. It is so influential on other survival films.

I love Burt Reynolds anyway, and even without his moustache, he was still awesome here. He has all the best lines, looks the most bad-ass and has probably the most interesting character too. Although John Voight may have something to say about that; he also has a very interesting character. There’s a lot that makes this film memorable, from the “skweeee” scene, to the fantastic soundtrack. Don’t be like me. If you get the chance to watch Deliverance, do it!

2. Aguirre: The Wrath of God

aguirre“I, the wrath of God, will marry my own daughter and with her I’ll found the purest dynasty the earth has ever seen.”

I don’t have much knowledge of the Spanish conquistadores beyond what is taught at a very basic level at school and what the BBC kids sketch show Horrible Histories has educated me in! So what struck me most in Werner Herzog’s tale of the notorious Don Aguirre and his quest for the mysterious cities of gold (dododo do doo doo, aaahhh) was how real the film felt. I can only liken it to something like the David Simon HBO TV series, The Wire (bear with me here…) It’s a culture and a place I have virtually zero experience or knowledge of beyond fictional representations through TV and film etc, yet the world they have created is so utterly believable that I never question it. I accept that it is mostly likely exactly how these people lived, how their journey unfolded, how the jungle and the river sounded, how it looked, etc.

The title character, Aguirre (played sublimely by Klaus Kinski,) is incredible and it’s not difficult to believe he was as “mad” as he is portrayed as being here. He’s a constant and menacing presence throughout the whole film. The way the film is shot is almost like Aguirre is breathing down your neck, watching your every move, and it’s very uncomfortable. Effective! But uncomfortable.

One other thing I loved about this film (there are much better parts of the film involving all manner of themes about betrayal, love, history, slavery and all that jazz, but something that stood out for me) was the music! I loved that bloke playing the pan-pipes. That tune he whistles is infectious. The whole film is superb though and fully deserves to be on this list.

1. The Godfather

The Godfather“Michael: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
Kay Adams: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.
Michael: Oh. Who’s being naive, Kay?”

The Godfather. Of course, The Godfather. What else but The Godfather? It had to be The Godfather. A film so critically and commercially successful that only the insane would leave it off a list of their favourite films from 1972, never mind not have it as first choice. I mean, come on. As enjoyable as the British horror film ‘The Asphyx‘ starring Robert Powell is, or as deeply disturbing as Wes Craven’s directorial debut ‘The Last House on the Left‘ is, there’s no way any film was going to top Francis Ford Coppola‘s masterpiece.

From the very first scene to the last, The Godfather is undeniably a fantastic example of film making. The swagger that all the characters carry with them, thanks mostly the faultless performances of some unbelievably well written characters by absolutely everyone involved, makes the film feel so real. It’s a tragic story about the collapse of man, the sense of being trapped in a “family” that you can not escape, a destiny that you are doomed to, but at the heart of it is this ideal of love and togetherness.

There are massively conflicting emotions you get from the film, things you know that are not right, but you can’t help it anyway; wanting characters like Don Corleone to recover, to improve, to do well, despite knowing that he is exactly the sort of person that you hope you never have to encounter in your life, is testament to the creativity that has gone into creating this iconic character from the make up, to the costume, the setting, the direction and least of all the acting. It’s a breathtaking performance from Superman’s dad and Oscar winner Marlon Brando, which is rightly regarded as one of the absolute best in cinematic history.

I’m not sure I can actually say all that much else about it that hasn’t been uttered a million times before by people able to put into words their thoughts much more eloquently than I could, so I’ll cut my review short right here. But suffice to say, it’s a film that is timeless and a classic for a reason.

You can read Owen’s choices for 1971 here, and find the entire Decade in film series here.