The huge international success of Rashomon in 1950 had cemented Akira Kurosawa‘s reputation as the most famous Japanese filmmaker in the world, and given him an enormous amount of clout for his future projects. Having had great success with that period piece, Kurosawa decided to make a true samurai film, something he had never done before, and so was born Seven Samurai, the most expensive and technically ambitious Japanese film ever made at the time. Despite going massively over schedule and over budget, the nightmare of its production eventually paid off with probably the best film of Kurosawa‘s career, and one of the greatest films ever made.
Hall of Fame
Blade Runner was a genre-defining film. Made at a time when the world’s technological capabilities were increasing quicker than our ability to use them all properly, it tapped into all those futuristic dreams (or anxieties) that characterised societies across world. Even the futuristic-sounding musical score by Vangelis was carefully crafted to add to the fantastical atmosphere of the film. More than that though, the film broke visual and narrative boundaries, combining dystopian cityscapes, outlandish costumes, an esoteric but poetic script and a whole bedrock of sedimentary layers of sub-text and meaning. It touched on issues to do with the anxieties of urban sprawl, the nature of artificial life, corporate power, social stratification and the very nature of life and death.
During the tail-end of his career Alfred Hitchcock began to dabble in the horror genre and over the course of a few years developed two of the finest examples going. In 1960 Psycho was released and became one of his most popular and enduring works, then 3 years later he developed what could ostensibly be called a ‘monster film’ in The Birds.
Following from the success generated from his debut film Bottle Rocket, director Wes Anderson created a film that would give him a more globally recognised level of success from which his entire early career would be built. Rushmore really heightened his notoriety and helped to establish him as the unique film-maker he is today. It also represented the first film of future long-time Anderson-collaborators Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, the latter of whom had found a niche in his later career as an independent film star.
United by a common affliction: youth, John Hughes‘ iconic The Breakfast Club presents a cliché of teenagers from all corners of the social spectrum trapped together, who only reach an understanding of one another during an 8 hour Saturday detention. The criminal (Judd Nelson), jock (Emilio Estevez), prom queen (Molly Ringwald), weirdo (Ali Sheedy) and geek (Anthony Michael Hall) establish in just a few hours that their social standings in high school aren’t as rigid and unyielding as they initially thought.
Rocky is one of the most iconic sports films of all time. A sleeper hit, it became the highest grossing film of 1976 and won the Oscar for Best film, as well as a writing Oscar for star Sylvester Stallone at the 49th Annual Academy Awards. It has spawned numerous sequels, all starring Stallone and is arguably the most recognisable sports film franchise of all time. Loosely based on a combination of real boxing stars careers, like Rocky Marciano, Chuck Wepner and Joe Frazier Rocky is the rags to riches story of a down-and-out boxer who unexpectedly gets a shot at the World title.
Amour is the latest film from Austrian writer / director Michael Haneke. Like many of Haneke’s most successful movies, such as Hidden and The White Ribbon, it is set in France rather than his native Austria and features a French cast. Amour is a small-scale, claustrophobic film, set almost entirely in a single apartment – that of Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva). This couple are in their eighties and are retired music teachers. At the beginning of the movie we see them going about their daily lives and they give the impression of two lives inextricably intertwined, comfortable together in a familiar routine.
The New York Times crossword is an American institution and is completed by millions of players every day. To most, it is just an easy way to pass some free time and how well they do is not important. To others however, the speed of completion and how this compares to others is incredibly important – enough in fact to have spawned the sport of competitive crosswording. While the idea of competitive crosswording may be new to most, as Patrick Creadon’s excellent 2006 documentary feature Wordplay explains, it has been around for many years and shows no sign of stopping.
Martial arts films had been big business in China for decades, but they never really caught on in a big way overseas until relatively recently. The Matrix drew a great deal of influence from the style of Hong Kong action cinema, and proved fairly conclusively that there was a market for these sorts of films in English speaking countries; and so a new wave of martial arts epics targeted at the foreign market was produced to capitalise on their new-found mainstream appeal. The first, and one of the best, of these was Ang Lee‘s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The decade of the 1970s was a hotbed of experimental, ground-breaking and now classic horror films. The Exorcist was the first of the genre ever to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was sweeping the US like a plague, while Italian Dario Argento was creating giallo (Italian word for yellow, which was the colour of the pages of the Italian paperback crime thrillers on which the horror film sub-genre were based) films like Suspiria and pushing the boundaries of gore. In Britain, film-maker Robin Hardy decided to insert Pagan rituals into a small island community in the classic film The Wicker Man.