Tag Archives: Ernst Lubitsch

Doin’ It For The Kids

And who said it was only high-brow French cinema that gets a nod on this blog. Shame on you!…..

So winter has hit Scotland after the four weeks of slightly warmer rain we like to call summer. This is traditionally a time for mass movie going for Lauren and I as there’s precious little else to do indoors in Edinburgh that generates any real fun, there is only so many times you can walk round that damn castle.

Last weekend we took in the new animation feature IGOR, which features the voices (because it’s all about the voices) of John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard, Jennifer Coolidge, John Cleese and Jay Leno, amongst others. I have to say, I found this to be a nice little movie. British film critic Mark Kermode said it’s “a Tim Burton movie with all the Tim Burton bits removed” and while I can kind of see where he’s coming from, I think there’s enough in this film for it to stand on its own two feet, albeit just.

The film, like most contemporary mainstream animation, attempts to work on two levels by providing engaging material for both kids and their long suffering parents. The movie delivers some nice slapstick in the form of Scamper the suicidal rabbit who is voiced by the perfectly cast Steve Buscemi, there’s just something wonderfully defeatist about Buscemi’s delivery which works to great effect in this film. The nice touch here is that the rabbit is not actually suicidal but is just tired of living after being made immortal by the brilliant but totally ignored Igor, voiced by John Cusack. The third character in the trio of friends is brain that is simply a brain in a jar but ironically, is thick as mince in the neck of a milk bottle. Brain, like scamper, is the result of Igor’s inventive, but hidden talents.

The film is based in the fictional city of Malaria and follows Igor’s quest to prove to the world how clever he is by winning the annual science fair, this has been tough due to the fact that Igors are expected only to be bumbling servants to the ego maniac scientists that litter the city. It could be said that the Igor’s are held back because of the way they look, talent means nothing as long as you have an ego and beauty, very fitting when considering this alongside our X Factor obsessed society. Igor’s master is voiced by John Cleese and for me is the best drawn character in the picture, of course it’s this aesthetic that leads to the Tim Burton comparisons but I like it all the same.

On seeing his master blown up by his own stupidity, Igor seizes the chance to enter an invention, dressed as the work of his dismantled oppressor. Great hilarity ensues as Igor creates a Frankenstein woman who instead of being evil, is programmed to act like an actress. There’s a bit of a twist at the end that again, is more aimed at adults and goes as far as saying the government is corrupt and creating a smokescreen that leads to the population having a fear of what isn’t really there…… Sound familiar? This message isn’t too subtle either which led me to like the movie even more. Not that this is a great film, it’s only just reaching good, not a bad way to spend some time with your kids on a horrible Scottish afternoon however.

What REALLY gets on my nerves now is how little choice there is for kids under 12 these days. Back in the golden age of “the code” kids could pretty much go and see anything. You’re lucky if there’s 2 features specifically for kids at any one time in mutiplexes these days, and those are usually advertising vehicles for merchandise, this begs the question, where can modern children develop a love for cinema? If their parents aren’t pumping them full of old Marx Brothers, Preston Struges and Ernst Lubistch pictures, they’ve no real grasp of how wonderful the cinema can be…… I despair.

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Desert Island Discs

Picture the scene….. The FED EX plane you’re travelling in has been struck by lightning, causing it to plunge into the ocean. You get washed up on the beach of a nearby island which is apparently without habitants. Instead of a football for company you find a 50 inch plasma TV with attached DVD player which was miraculously wrapped in waterproof packaging. Somehow you discover a power supply and are delighted that 10 movies have escaped unscathed in the over the shoulder folder holder you had on your person at the time of the tragedy.

These are the 10 films that will prevent you going insane whilst you wait for McDonalds to discover this is the one place they don’t have a restaurant….

My picks are:


REAR WINDOW, Alfred Hitchcock (1954)


THE BIG LEBOWSKI, Joel & Ethan Coen (1998)


2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Stanley Kubrick (1968)


HEAVEN CAN WAIT, Ernst Lubitsch (1943)


MEAN STREETS, Martin Scorsese (1973)


MANHATTAN, Woody Allen (1979)


RASHOMON, Akira Kurosawa (1950)


RIFIFI, Jules Dassin (1955)


IF…., Lindsay Anderson (1968)


PAN’S LABYRINTH, Guillermo Del Toro (2006)

This was a really hard thing to do, and the selections could well change as I think about it more. There’s no Welles, Antonioni, Bergman, Ozu, Lynch, Powell & Pressburger…. God, the list is huge. These are the 10 films that tick as many boxes as possible whilst being infinitely watchable. I also think that each of these 10 films gives you something very different, from the half an hour of silence during the robery scene in Rififi to the technicolor joy of HEAVEN CAN WAIT. Although there are many other top ten lists that could be made, these movies would keep me going for a LONG time.

Although this post could be considered cliche, arbitrary or even downright lazy, there are rules…..

Trilogies are allowed, maximum of 4 (no more than a trilogy though, so you can’t select the POLICE ACADEMY series, not that you would…. I hope)
TV shows aren’t.
Box sets aren’t (unless it’s specifically a trilogy)
I say DVD, this of course includes blu ray. (That’s for Matt, the high def philistine )

So over to you good people. The ten movies that would keep you happy in times of hardship, let’s have it.