2001 A Space Odyssey HD Wallpaper

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Working on a few 2001 wallpapers but while I finish those thought I would upload this simple one in the meantime. Click for full 1920×1080 .

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Review : The Man who shot Liberty Valance [1962]

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John Ford‘s “The man who shot Liberty Valance” is at first glance a well produced, star-studded, entertaining Western. However it is when you start to strip away the name actors and get to the heart of the story, that the film’s complexities come to the fore.

Jimmy Stewart stars as attorney at law Ransom Stoddard, a man from the comfortable East of America, determined to bring the freedom of Democracy to the Western town of Shinbone. As he arrives he gets his first taste of the lawlessness of the West, a vicious encounter with the maniacal Liberty Valance (portrayed with fervour by Lee Marvin). He is rescued from near-death by the roguish charm of gunslinger Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), who takes him to be nursed by his love interest Hallie Stoddard (Vera Miles). Once recovered, Stoddard sets upon his task to bring law and order, and to rid the people of Liberty Valance. Not using the violent and fearful methods that the people of Shinbone are so accustomed to but through education and morality.

On the surface, the film as an entertaining Western is near perfect. Jimmy Stewart – who despite lacking range remains one of my favourite actors –  utilizes his usual affable tics and mannerisms to great effect. Wayne really shows some surprising depth here, bringing his usual machismo, but adding in some humour, charm and a certain vulnerability as the events unfold around him. Lee Marvin, despite being the titular villain, is not given an abundance of screen-time, but controls any scene he is in with a wild-eyed veracity. Disregarding the usual cinematic elements though, where “The Man Who..” really excels is how it intertwines rich allegory with what is already a strong film.

The film is set on the cusp of the transition from the old violent ways of Western America, to a new Republic governance, and it is the values and ideals of both sides of the era that is personified so perfectly in Wayne’s Doniphon and Stewart’s Stoddard. They are two sides to the same coin, with similar aims but very different methods. While they would both like to be rid of Valance, Doniphon settles disputes with steel and lead, Stoddard with democratic values. It is this allegory that gives this film so much depth.

Doniphone is bemused by what he sees as Stoddard’s naive, new-fangled way of handling himself, and is reluctant to adopt his way of thinking. He tells Stoddard he will fail, and urges him to toughen up and use violence to settle his dispute with Liberty Valance and clean up Shinbone. Stoddard continues on with his mission, but Valance gradually wears him down, until he feels there is no other way to deal with the situation but to use force. This is the crux of the film. In a tense, inevitable showdown between Stoddard and Valance, Valance is shot and killed. It appears Stoddard has beaten him, but Valance and what he represents, is still the victor. Violence succeeded where modern law failed, and progress stalls.

As Stoddard is lauded for ending the scourge of Liberty Valance, he runs for office, however his claim to the position of Governor is quickly knocked back by his opposition based on his apparent hypocrisy. How can a man stand to represent freedom and law and order with blood on his hands?It is then that Doniphon appears and we find that it was him that shot Valance from the shadows. Doniphon, the personification of old-west ideals, has bowed down to progress and accepted that the world has moved on without him. He essentially sacrifices any chance of his own place in the new world, to enable Democracy to guide the way. He gets blood on his hands, so that the new law doesn’t have to, and stuck as a product of his time, he dies alone many years later. The wild West begrudgingly, but honourably, gives in to allow a more civilized way of life to pass.

Ford is not condemning the old world – far from it in fact – Doniphon’s noble sacrifice is showing us that while progress was inevitable, it was only possible by standing on the shoulders of the men that fought and lived in the “wild” West. Once you are open to the idea that it is deeper than it appears initially, the film reveals its bounty without over-analysis.

The Man who shot Liberty Valance is a wonderful, dark film, that is as deep as it is visceral. A 5-star must see.

5 / 5

1fps : Ashes of Time

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Another visually extraordinary collaboration between Wong Kar Wai and cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Even if you aren’t appreciative of its content, it’s hard not to be in awe of the super-saturated style. Here are a selection of some of the best images found in Ashes of Time.

Click for the whole list

Great movie Dads

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Being a father, I love films which explore in some way the relationship between a father and his son, specifically ones that show the lengths a father will go to in order protect the fruit of his loin. Here’s a list of the greatest dads in the movies.

Guido Orefice

(played by Roberto Benigni)

Film : La vita è bella

Why is he such a great Dad?

So you’re stuck in a concentration camp, and in front of your safely hidden son, you are about to be led away by a Nazi to be shot in the face. Do you:

  1. Cry and soil yourself. Or,
  2. March like a clown and pull a funny face to maintain the illusion that this is all part of a fun game.

If you answered 2 you’re either lying, or you’re Guido Orefice. Despite having a surname which in English looks like a posh way to say arsehole, Guido is one hell of a dad.
Click for the full list

Baraka HD Wallpaper

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The solar eclipse title screen for the excellent visual documentary Baraka is such an incredible image, I decided to use it “as is” for a wallpaper, with just a slight contrast tweak. Click for full 1920×1080.

Recent and upcoming movie round-up

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Quick post – stream of consciousness ramblings on some of the films I have seen at home and in the cinema in the last couple of weeks, that until now I could not get motivated to write about.

Modern Times – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0027977/

The last of the essential Chaplin films I had to see. Hilarious, with some great set-pieces, and a great demonstration of Chaplin’s ability to weave a strong political message within the laughs. A pro-socialism, anti-greed sermon that is still as relevant today as it ever was, if not more so. Despite this genius, it lacks the emotional clout of “The Kid“, “City Lights” and “The Great Dictator” and due to this is my least favourite of the “big four”, but that’s a bit like saying <singular awesome thing> is my least favourite <of all awesome things> it’s still an <awesome thing>. The new bluray transfer is beautiful. Hope to see Gold Rush and The Circus soon.

In the Heat of the Nighthttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061811/

Sidney Poitier in a racially motivated thriller. Who’d have thunk it? Seriously though a great film. Terrific soundtrack, Poitier is excellent as ever. Works on its own as a standalone crime mystery, and the gimmick of a black police officer in the deep south against his will, heaps on the tension. Manages to balance the prejudice of both white people and black people to a certain extent, without becoming preachy. A buddy movie with dark overtones (pun sort of intended).

The Expendableshttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1320253/

Utter toilet. I wanted to like it so much – being brought up on 80s action flicks – and all the ingredients seemed there. Despite a couple of laughs though, it took itself way too seriously for such a cheesy plot and payoff. It says something about a film when Jason Statham is the best actor (I would say Rourke but he gets about 10 minutes screentime). Needed more over-the-top action, less awful dialogue, and more in-jokes (the Arnie “he wants to be President” line was great). Special effects were also surprisingly bad. Might have pulled it off, if its tongue was dragged from its gormless, saliva covered chin, and pushed way into its cheek. Sly Stallone is basically a walking vein.

Piranha 3Dhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0464154/

A little embarrassed to admit it but I loved it. Basically a modern day exploitation gore-fest, which is just a huge homage to trashy horror schlock. Unlike “The Expendables” it knew it was trash, and pushed it to the limit, all while nudging you in the arm, winking, and saying “bet you didn’t think I would sink THAT low!”. The centerpiece of the film is a piranha buffet of scantily-clad women, and seems to have more boobs and dismembered limbs than the sum of the film’s lines of dialogue. Opens with an inspired Richard Dreyfuss cameo (one of the many references to Jaws). If the idea of a giant 3d dismembered penis and 3d vomit doesn’t instantly turn you off, then you are the intended audience. Terrible, trashy, but great fun if you take it for what it is. Cinephiles need not apply.

Scott Pilgrim vs the Worldhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0446029/

Geek nirvana! A video-game movie that isn’t based on a video-game. 8-bit music, boss-fights, enemies which explode into coins when defeated and assorted videogame soundbites. Essentially a 2 hour episode of the awesome “Spaced. Highlights – the vegan police, the bass-off, the stuntman stand-in battle, and the dazzling pyrotechnics of the twin battle (reminded me of my favourite moment in Kung-Fu Hustle). The video-game motif starts to wear a little thin by the end – could have perhaps done with losing a few filler scenes. Really great though, and a bit sad to see it underperform at the box-office. Sincerely hope the figures don’t turn Hollywood off Edgar Wright – this man has so much more to say.

Kick-Asshttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1250777/

Enjoyed it in the cinema, not so much the second time round on bluray. Not a film that stands up to repeat viewings. The score and soundtrack was as good as I remembered though, and it’s still Nic Cage’s best role and performance in many years (am yet to see Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant though).  Still got chills in Hit Girl’s strobe battle.

Looking forward to :

Over the next week or so, Lebanon, Rio Bravo, Stagecoach, and The Man who Shot Liberty Valance.

Powell & Pressburger – Received the P&P 11 disc collection today (hence the “Matter of Life and Death” giveaway and other upcoming contests). Looking forward to many of the films, particularly “Colonel Blimp” and “The Tales of Hoffman” which seems to share a common ground with The Red Shoes.

David Lean – also received the 10 disc David Lean Centenary collection. Most looking forward to Brief Encounter, a film which has somehow eluded me over the years.

Over and out.

m00ch

Win “A Matter of Life and Death” on DVD

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CONTEST CLOSED : For details of the winner, click here.

Calling all classic movie fans! Due to reasons too dull to mention, I have in my possession a spare region 2 copy of the excellent Powell & Pressburger film “A Matter of Life and Death” . David Niven stars in this spiritual (or is it psychological?) wartime drama, as a rare clerical error in heaven leaves him pleading his case to continue his life on earth. Industry leading set design, tongue in cheek humour, and an oh-so-British stiff upper lip make this a great introduction to the work of The Archers.

All you have to do to win this copy is subscribe to this blog by email! On the menu on the right enter your email address to subscribe. Make sure you use a valid email address or I will not be able to contact you should you win. Once subscribed you will be sent an email, click the link, and the following button to confirm your subscription. Current subscribers are also eligible to win, no need to do anything extra. You will need to stay subscribed or I will not have access to your details when the contest closes. Once the contest closes you are free to unsubscribe should you choose.

CONTEST CLOSED : For details of the winner, click here.

  • Some important notes.
  • Only people who can play Region 2 / PAL discs should apply, but the contest is not limited to geographical location.
  • The contest will remain open until the 16th September, when I will select at random a winner from the current blog subscribers.
  • I will obviously need the postal address of the winner to send the DVD to. If you are at all paranoid or concerned about this then please do not enter. You can trust me. I’m too lazy to do any damage with it. This address will only be required once I have selected a winner, so other than your email address no information will be collected by me until this point.
  • I personally promise your email address will not be used outside of this contest, or passed to any 3rd parties. I don’t have any way of proving this, you will just have to trust me. If you are concerned, don’t enter.
  • I can accept no liability once I have posted this DVD. I will get a receipt that I can provide as proof-of-postage, but for financial reasons am unable to send it registered delivery. If the winner doesn’t get the DVD, blame the mail service.
  • This is meant to be a fun, informal exercise. All correspondence in both directions should be taken as informal and not legally binding. I forfeit any costs or liability above and beyond postage of the prize.

Words of doom aside, I hope everyone can take this in the spirit it is intended, and wish you all good luck!

CONTEST CLOSED : For details of the winner, click here.

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