Thursday, 20 September 2007

Joseph Wren Reviews His Ten Favourite Films, Part 3

Raging Bull
USA 1980
Director:Martin Scorsese
Screenwriters: Paul Schrader & Mardik Martin
Running Time:129 Minutes
Certificate: 18
DVD Distributor: MGM

Martin Scorsese’s canon of greatness usually consists of the same five films, but of that group, Raging Bull is the one Scorsese film that encompasses all that makes him a master filmmaker. The technical brilliance of the iconic boxing scenes, the single shots of which Scorsese himself storyboarded before filming; the use of different speeds of film to bring the viewer in on the drama inside the ring. Let alone the standout editing by Thelma Schoonmaker, which is a virtual masterclass on screen. Robert Deniro’s gross physical transformation and explosive performance remains as the benchmark of method acting. Ugly has never looked so good.

Nobody knows how to film New York like Martin Scorsese, and the era of the city that Martin Scorsese grew up in is behind us, but films such as Raging Bull remind us of how we got to where we are. There is a time and place that the movies tend to bring us to that we don’t know, but can fantasize about, and we usually enjoy that. But the New York that Scorsese shares with us is personal and realistic, with an authored authenticity that makes his vision so special. And to this day, Raging Bull remains the greatest Oscar snub in history. Who the hell remembers Ordinary People?

Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worry and Love the Bomb
UK 1964
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenwriters: Stanley Kubrick, Peter George, & Terry Southern
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Certificate: PG
DVD Distributor: Columbia TriStar

It’s a pity that Stanley Kubrick has left us with only one comedy, but that single comedy is a monumental work of political satire, and remains as fresh and relevant today as it did in the 60s – some place between the Marx Brothers and Borat resides Dr. Strangelove. With Strangelove, Kubrick managed to make the end of the world funny and poignant.

Aside from having the best movie title of all time, Strangelove is full of iconic characters and scenes. Peter Sellers performances as President Merkin Muffley, the Third Reich reject Strangelove, and the polite British Captain Mandrake, is a cross-cultural trifecta for the ages. Seven years before taking home Oscar for his General Patton performance, George C. Scott played a different type of general for Kubrick, and his doomsday-machine coveting Buck Turgidson is absolutely riotous.

The Cold War may be over, but Kubrick has tapped into something deeper and more universal than a single historical period – the anxious notion that we are all controlled by crazy bastards, and we may want to pay a little more attention to what they’re up to.
Read Part 4 tomorrow!

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