Spartacus wallpapers

Leave a comment

2 1920×1080 wallpapers for Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas.

The Italian Job HD wallpaper

Leave a comment

You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off! Here’s a couple of wallpapers for the original (and best) The Italian Job starring Michael Caine. Click for 1920×1080.

Review : The Man who shot Liberty Valance [1962]

5 Comments

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

The Savage Innocents

Leave a comment

The Savage Innocents” is largely unknown in the UK, which is odd considering its credentials and place in pop culture. Directed by Nicolas Ray (of “Rebel Without a Cause” fame), starring Anthony Quinn and Peter O’Toole in a breakthrough role – the film should be better known on these names alone. If that wasn’t enough, Bob Dylan wrote “The Mighty Quinn” in tribute of this film (made famous by Manfred Mann). The film is no masterpiece, and at times is actually pretty hammy and cliché, but its an entertaining film with a message that is innocent and pure – to be tolerant of cultural differences and perceived “savagery”. Worth watching if like me you are a fan of Anthony Quinn – just don’t expect a performance like “La Strada“.

click for full size 1920×1080 wallpaper

Tanin no kao HD wallpaper

Leave a comment

a.k.a.”The Face of Another“. A simple 1920×1080 wallpaper, based on a shot from the film and the artwork featured on the Eureka! release. A thought-provoking, philosophical, beautifully shot Japanese arthouse film from the avant-garde Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Review : The Manchurian Candidate [1962]

2 Comments

After Raymond Shaw and his fellow soldiers return from service in the Korean War, Raymond is awarded the congressional Medal of Honor, but everyone concerned is a bit fuzzy on the details. It transpires that the men were captured and brainwashed, and Raymond is now a weapon whose mind is in the hands of the enemy, just waiting for the appropriate trigger to carry out his instructions…. Frank Sinatra stars alongside Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury and Janet Leigh in this enjoyable political satire and espionage thriller.

This film came personally recommended to me by none other than Paul McCartney. Not the real McCartney, but the Paul McCartney from local tribute band “Like the Beatles“. Needless to say I respect his film tastes over the real McCartney, who would probably tell me to watch the “Rupert the Bear” movie or something. I digress. I went on to read other fan reviews only to be overcome with a veritable tsunami of praise and wonderment. Even though I don’t hold the IMDb rating system in much regard, TMC’s score of 8.3 pumped up my internal hype-meter all the way to the giddy heights of “insta-purchase” and within a few minutes I had frittered away a few interwebpounds at Amazon. I begun the interminable wait for my hairy, spaced-out hippy postman to push the DVD through the letterbox of a house which was hopefully somewhere in the region of my own.

When a man from a neighbouring county knocked on my door and uttered the familiar phrase “I think this was meant for you” I hastily ripped open the cellophane (if angrily clicking my nails over a glued corner of plastic for half an hour can be considered hasty) and frisbeed the disc into the DVD player. Frank Sinatra’s rather curmudgeonly face lit up the DVD menu and I pressed play. Had I hyped myself up too much ?

For once – no. 20 minutes later I was witnessing a flawless piece of editing and directorial work. As the camera pans round a room we see our good ol’ Yankee soldiers sitting in a hotel, patiently listening to a rather dull lady lecture about growing hydrangeas. The camera keeps turning on a pivot. As the camera turns to 180 degrees we see an audience of  old biddies taking notes and listening fervently, hanging on the every word of Mrs Hydrangea. The camera keeps turning. As the camera comes round to a full 360 in a single shot, we see the soldiers again, only this time they are not surrounded by the trappings of a flowery hotel, but are instead on a stage of sorts with pictures of Communist leaders behind them. The camera keeps turning and we now see that the floral Mrs Hydrangea is actually Dr Yen Lo, an evil mastermind demonstrating to a crowd of nameless military suits the power he has over the minds of these soldiers. The logistics of the scenery changes in a single shot are impressive enough, but it is how clearly the Director shows us in-camera the difference between the soldiers perception and the truth that is handled so deftly. From this point the scene continues to develop the idea, interchanging the backdrop, the characters and script between both viewpoints. One minute Dr Yen Lo is in the hotel, and in another Mrs Hydrangea is talking military tactics in the demonstration room. It’s an impeccable triumph of editing and direction.

Unfortunately this is where – for me – the film took a very slight wrong turn. McCarthy-era political satire aside, the film is presented and paced as mystery, and I couldn’t help but feel that this (awesome) reveal was shown to the audience too early. From that point, you know exactly how the crew were brainwashed, what the triggers are, and the only mystery is exactly how the Communists are going to use their new subserviant weapon. When you do find out late in the film, it does lead to a very satisfying and exciting climax, but aside from a few moments mid-plot the wait does feel like… well.. a wait. It’s kind of like an episode of “Columbo” – you see how the crime happens in the first few minutes, and then you just watch as Columbo tries to figure it out for himself. In itself this isn’t a bad thing but the setup in this film  just screams for a traditional mystery angle – where the audience find out the clues with the main protagonist. This doesn’t hamper the film at all, but just suggests to me that retaining some mystery could have made this great film even better.

There are still a few surprises along the way though along with a few red-herrings and audience misdirection which leaves you thinking perhaps you have been fooled all along. Unfortunately there are also a couple of unintentional laughs. Frank Sinatra’s big martial arts scene is more Ralph Macchio than Bruce Lee and hindered further by some stilted and over-rehearsed fight choreography (although Sinatra did break his finger for real – he waxed on when he should’ve waxed off). This can be forgiven though – I assume this is one of the earliest representations of martial arts in American cinema. Then there is a scene where Raymond is accidently exposed to the brainwash trigger, and jumps in a lake after hearing a barman suggest the idea to someone else. I actually laughed out loud but the tone suggested drama. Laurence Harvey is also one of the most laughably bad screen drunks I have ever seen.

On a techical and production level the film is exemplary- with unique camerawork highlightnig the action onscreen. The reveal scene described above sets a near-unattainable bar but the film maintains energy and momentum with expressionistic flair. The camera movements match the tone and emotion of the characters with tilted off-kilter angles, free movement and focal changes. The style changes to a frenetic, rapid, shaky feel for the exciting climax, heightening the sense of tension and fear.

The cast are excellent aside from a few moments of histrionics from Laurence Harvey. Sinatra carries out his duties with a sincere conviction and I was impressed with him throughout. This was my first Sinatra movie but judging by this performance I don’t think it will be my last. Angela Lansbury plays the sinister, plotting mother of Raymond to perfection, despite only being around 3 years his senior in real-life.

Overall this was an excellent, well-paced thriller, which in my mind could have benefited from leaving a few stones unturned earlier in the film. Great performances, biting satire, impressive direction and a fantastic concept all contribute to what is a high quality, hugely enjoyable film.

4 / 5

HD wallpapers for classic films #1

3 Comments

Click here for the entire list

It’s pretty easy to find a nice high-res wallpaper for the latest blockbuster. Unfortunately fans of older, classic, or more obscure cinema are woefully under-served in this department. So, in the first of what I hope will be an ongoing feature, I have made some high-resolution wallpapers for some classic film, using only shots from the DVD’s themselves and Gimp’s own tools.

As you are about to see, I’m no graphic designer, but I enjoyed making them and learning to use Gimp, and beggars can’t be choosers!

At the moment they are tailored for my 1080p TV screen, so they are all 1920×1080. If you would like one in a smaller resolution or non-widescreen aspect ratio, please let me know in a comment below the post and I’ll try to accommodate. Would also welcome any requests for the next round of pictures.

Please let me know what you think if you decide to use any of these! Click the image for full 1920×1080 resolution.

Hadaka no shima [1960]

First up is Kaneto Shindô’s Hadaka no Shima (aka Naked Island). I have made two wallpapers here because in my mind it’s one of the greatest pieces of film ever made and deserves more recognition.

Metropolis [1927]

Next up are 2 slightly different wallpapers for the epic masterpiece Metropolis by Fritz Lang.

M [1931]

Another Fritz Lang masterpiece now – M – the director’s first talkie.

Nosferatu [1922]

Murnau’s creepy and incredibly influential retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Nosferatu.

The Third Man [1949]

Finally Carol Reed’s fantastic noir tale The Third Man –  If only I could embed the zither score into the image!

I know they are basic, but hopefully fans of these movies now have another option to spruce up their desktop. I am currently working on another 5 to add so check back frequently for more, or better yet – subscribe and get mailed as soon as I post!

Update:

Seven Samurai [1954] by coolathlon

Many thanks to reader and whatthemovie fellow coolathlon for contributing a wallpaper for Kurosawa’s seminal Samurai action epic, Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai). Looks great coolathlon! Click for full 1920×1080. Coolathlon can be contacted on twitter and his profile on whatthemovie .

Older Entries