Tag Archives: Martin Scorsese

The Oscars (better late than never)


It’s been a busy few weeks but the intention HAD been there to do an Oscars prediction post. Good old Matt had inspired me in his own inimitable way to take in the films and, with the exception of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (and THE READER…. hmmm), I’d managed to see the top contenders for the main awards in good enough time to make a set of, maybe not predictions, but bold claims on who should win.

So here we go, who won and who (I think) should have won…….. I didn’t do incredibly well in terms of agreeing with the academy. I’ll only cover the big 6 or I’ll be here all night….



Now I’m gonna be honest here. I knew SM would get the nod. It’s a very well made, entertaining, beautifully shot, acted and directed work from Danny Boyle. I have to say though, and I can say this with confidence even though I’ve not seen THE READER, FROST / NIXON was the picture from the bunch that had me absolutely transfixed from start to finish. Whether that was purely because of the extremely interesting, non fiction subject matter or not, the fact remains, it moved and consumed me in a way SLUMDOG couldn’t.

Sean Penn: MILK


“This was undoubtedly the shock of the night” said numerous red carpet commentators and I think, as most people probably do, that Mickey Rourke was robbed. That’s not to take anything away from Sean Penn, he’s by far the best thing about the MILK film and you totally forget you’re watching him act. Mickey Rourke however, gives a depth of performance that maybe only comes along once a decade far less once a year. You could tell there was a lot of himself in that role which lent such honest weight to it without it being a case of pitying the guy. We’re with him for the whole picture, when you witness him dragging his battered body into the ring for another pounding you can almost feel the pain he’s going through.


And let’s not forget the Rourke of circa RUMBLEFISH.


Kate Winslett: THE READER


Kate Winslet?? Best Actress???

I had Meryl Streep for this one and my reasons are irrefutable. Firstly: Streep is amazing in this film. Secondly: It was the only movie in this category I saw so who else was there to choose? CHANGELING was the only other picture I would pay to watch from this group. Film critic Mark Kermode thinks that Winslet deserves the award, just not for this film, in his opinion she should have got it for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, another movie I’ve yet to see. Does anyone concur with this take?



It was always going to be the case and I agree with it completely. There’s no way on earth this is purely a sympathy vote. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great, Josh Brolin is good but I think if anyone from MILK got nominated it should have been Emile Hirsch for his utterly convincing and compelling performance as Cleve Jones. Heath Ledger, however, creates this heaving, magnetic, mesmerising character you can’t take your eyes off. When The Joker leaves the screen, you want him back as quickly as possible, you want to see more disapearing pencils, he’s the bad guy you fell good routing for. Ledger completely abandons himself in this role and leaves you with a dark presence long after the credits have ended. Truly amazing and thoroughly deserved.



My initial thought when I heard the results was that Marisa Tomei should have got this for her role as Cassidy in THE WRESTLER. I revisited VCB last night though and now agree with our friends at the Academy. Penelope Cruz is rather good isn’t she? I was going to do a Cruz double by sticking on VOLVER after it but then I would run the risk of starting to like the woman. It’s a compulsion I’m determined to fight for no good reason.



Yep, you’ve gotta hand him this one without any real complaint. There were other movies in the Best Picture category that held my attention more the SM but the sheer audacity, energy and skill with which this film was made should be applauded long and loud. I’m a big fan of Danny Boyle, as a director he’s always pushing the envelope and never takes the easy route. There is a sincerity in his films that clearly reflect the man himself, he’s one of these guys that when you hear them talking about cinema, you know they mean it from the heart and you can’t help but take serious notice. Scorsese is another one. Well done Danny. Here’s hoping the British film industry realises finally that it’s not America’s runt brother.


Never Judge A Book……

So 2009 has started with a boom and now the festive period already seems like a distant memory of some girl I kissed behind a tree at school camp in 1987…… Pleasant enough, but strangely unfulfilling.

I hope you all had a good one.


I’d always had a problem with Robert Redford’s 1980 picture ORDINARY PEOPLE. Even before I set eyes on a frame of this film I was against it, if the movie came up in conversation I’d sneer and sometimes throw crockery. There was only one reason for this and I have to admit, with hindsight, it was a pretty stupid….. It’s the movie that beat RAGING BULL to the best picture Oscar. Now winning an Oscar isn’t the be all, and end all of course, there are better accolades to receive, but it annoyed the hell out of me nonetheless. Being so in awe of anything can be dangerous but I genuinely believed that Martin Scorsese had been hung from a tree, publicly flayed and massaged with salt as RAGING BULL, for me, was a perfect example of what Oscar winning cinema should be. This visceral examination of man’s capability to self destruct had such an effect on me that when I found out it had been pipped by a family drama, instant unresearched opinions were formed.

These opinions have been changed somewhat now I’ve actually seen the thing.

Actually, the initial exposure to the picture came via the script. Our library at college has a collection of screenplays and this is one of them. I realised my half baked pre-conception was in trouble within the first ten pages and by the time I got to the end, the desire to see this film was overwhelming. In fact I read the last half of the picture in my local pub, at the bar, on a heaving Saturday night. it was incredible. Sitting reading the third act affected me physically, there was a welling up situation happening and there was nothing I could do about it.

That’s the test of a good screenplay, if you can be COMPLETELY absorbed in the story whilst surrounded by drunk men in Edinburgh, you’ve got a hit…. Producers take note.


The premise is simple, a family wracked with grief following the death of their son Buck in a boating accident struggle to function as a unit leaving each individual member lost in their own way. Timothy Hutton plays Conrad the surviving son who has returned to the family home after some time in a psychiatric hospital following the incident. Mary Tyler Moore plays Beth, the mother who uses her upper middle class social cycle as a barrier between herself and the truth, and Donald Sutherland who plays Calvin, a father desperately trying to keep his family intact whilst living with the same grief. It’s really powerful and moving stuff. The supporting performances are also very strong, notably Judd Hirsch (most famous for his role as in the 70’s comedy TAXI) playing Dr. Berger, Conrad’s Psychiatrist, who has maybe the most important part in this film.


I really enjoyed the scenes with Berger and Conrad, they were beautifully shot and although we go back to that office on maybe 3 or 4 occasions, Redford does well to create a different aesthetic feel each time. These scenes also serve as a perfect respite from the claustrophobic atmosphere within the family house. Yes, there’s tension in that office but you can see that Conrad is making progress when in the company of Berger.

Conrad’s relationship with his mother is the core conflict of the movie. Beth is submerged in the comforting folds of the well heeled social scene while her son tears himself apart with guilt fuelled by teenage alienation and the pressure of “performing” to the levels are are expected of him.

Donald Sutherland is wonderfully understated in his role as the diplomatic father, trying to find a common ground between his wife and her son. In fact all the performances in this film are understated, it’s what makes the scenario so utterly believable.


The structure of the film is interesting in that climactic confrontations are not held until the end of the picture, for a film of such seemingly sombre pace there’s many peaks and troughs.

If I was to highlight one negative of this movie, and there are a few but I don’t want to go on too much about them, I’d say that the dream sequences seemed a bit clunky although absolutely essential.

So seek out this film, anyone who’s had any kind of trouble with the complexities of family existence will completely buy into this picture.

Oh,….. And it won the Oscar in 1980. That’s gotta be worth something right?

Bargain Therapy

It’s been a strange and none too pleasant couple of days.

My daughter Lauren and I were in HMV this afternoon, buying a birthday present for a friend of mine when I found a little gem that has gone some way to lifting my spirits. Browsing the shelves for something interesting I could call a gift, a plain white box with plain black lettering and a Hollywood legend’s face shown in close up without any decoration came into view. It was THE EDWARD G ROBINSON COLLECTION, 3 discs for a mere £10.

Not bad I thought…. It was on discovering what 3 films were contained within that the excitement kicked in.

First up is:

THE RED HOUSE, Delmer Daves (1947)

I’d been looking for this film since seeing it referenced in the essential Martin Scorsese documentary A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES and was finding it impossible to source, that is until the good people at Elstree Hill Entertainment saw fit to put this neat little set together. My only previous exposure to director Delmer Daves has been the excellent DARK PASSAGE which “stars” Humphrey Bogart, although you don’t actually see his face until half way through the film. It had got the point where I was going to watch THE RED HOUSE in it’s entirety on Youtube, which should always be the last resort, and only employed by people doing serious time in jail with no access to a decent selection of DVD’s.

SCARLET STREET, Fritz Lang (1945)

I know very little about this picture other than it’s a remake of Jean Renoir’s LA CHIENNE, which I’ve also not seen. I’ve done a little research and there seems to be a raft of opinion that this is one of Robinson’s finest performances. This coupled with Fritz Lang at the helm should make this interesting viewing. Talking of Fritz Lang, I read a while ago that the lost sections of METROPOLIS had been found in the archives of a tiny cinema in Argentina. Exciting stuff as, for the time, METROPOLIS is genuinely stunning.

THE STRANGER, Orson Welles (1946)

This is Welles’s third feature (discounting JOURNEY INTO FEAR) following CITIZEN KANE and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. It was apparently his first commercial success with Robinson again turning in a fine performance. The synopsis makes for interesting reading…
“Wilson of the War Crimes Commission is seeking Franz Kindler, mastermind of the Holocaust, who has effectively erased his identity. Wilson releases Kindler’s former comrade Meinike and follows him to Harper, Connecticut, where he is killed before he can identify Kindler. Now Wilson’s only clue is Kindler’s fascination with antique clocks; but though Kindler seems secure in his new identity, he feels his past closing in”

……. So. Daves, Lang and Welles for only a tenner. Maybe the world isn’t such a bad place after all.

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.

I Feel Truly Ashamed

Paul Newman passed away on the 26th of September. May the man rest in peace.

My work colleague and blog regular Matt Etheridge alerted me to this sad fact today, I hadn’t heard, it’d been a busy weekend. He followed up with “you’ll be doing something about him on the blog then?” to which I initially thought, “yeah, of course I will”

Tonight, as I sat down to pen (or type) a comprehensive and heartfelt tribute, the realisation hit me……..

I haven’t seen a Paul Newman picture since I was a little boy….. And that was TOWERING INFERNO

He’s an actor I’ve always seemed to miss. I’ve only got 2 of his films in my collection, THE HUSTLER (Which I’m definately watching as SOON as I’ve finished here) and TORN CURTAIN. I’ve watched The Hustler once but it doesn’t count as I was really drunk and I’ve tried to watch Torn Curtain 3 times but can never get through it. The phone always goes, I have to go out, I GET BORED!

I can’t begin to answer how I’ve managed to miss BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, and THE COLOUR OF MONEY is literally the only Scorsese movie I’ve not seen.

So…. I’m sorry Paul, what can I say? Not much with any authority or knowlege.

I’m a new man learning about Newman, tonight it starts with THE HUSTLER. I’d appreciate a recomendation of where in his career I should go next.

………. I can almost hear Matt sharpening his knives of disdain on the grindstone of contempt.

RIP Paul.

The Last Drop

I hate to do this…… Showing your work on youtube is akin to Martin Scorsese premiering THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST on a 14 inch black and white portable. For those of you that were born after 1980, portable means you can move it……. A concept lost on modern televisions.

Nevertheless, I’d like all those that don’t see me much to watch this documentary as I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again, I’m due a stretch of bird and some time abroad. I made it in March this year and it follows the last days of a lovely historic Edinburgh pub that is now a hole in the ground thanks to a tram system being installed in the city. To all the people of the Caledonian Ale House that get this link, there is a DVD copy available for you and a longer cut is being produced as we speak.

I only hope I did the place justice…….