Manic Mondays – 21st May 2018

‘The world is full of refugees /They’re just like you and just like me’

The Everlasting

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Nightman Listens To – My Fair Lady – Original Broadway Cast (Top 1000 Albums Series)

Oh, dear Lord, no. This is one giant WTF and should not be on a Top 1000 Albums list. Yes, yes, I haven’t heard it yet, but I already know what it’s going to sound like. I’ve seen the movie, hell, I even kind of like the movie. But musicals, in general, suck balls while simultaneously sucking the life out of me. Musicals… you’re lucky if you get two or three good songs, usually at least one centrepiece. My Fair Lady, as far as movie musicals go, has a few songs which the general public will know even if they haven’t seen the movie, but none of the songs are outstanding. Lets just get this over with.

What Do I Know About My Fair Lady: Musical, based off book, which later became a hit movie. Audrey Hepburn is awesome. She’s not here though.

Overture: It’s frantic and fast. It’s a textbook overture. You already know what you’re getting here. There’s about four seconds here to differentiate it from any other musical.

Why Can’t The English: Ridiculous talky singy. There’s only person who should be murdered here, and it’s YOU. This is just an embarrassment for all concerned. Fine in a film musical – pure torment in literally any other form.

Wouldn’t It Be Loverly: Starts horrifically. Gets gradually worse. At least this one has a memorable main line. The backing vocals are shocking. Some of Julie Andrews’ notes are ear cancer too.

With A Little Bit Of Luck: One of the things I hate most about musicals is singing with forced accents. Which means I’m basically buggered where this album is concerned. It’s so false and theatrical – I want my music, in most cases, to be honest, not acting. Of course, this is a musical so I get it’s meant to be the other way around – but as I’m listening with no visuals it just doesn’t work. The song needs to be extraordinary to get its point across. This is tripe. As far as accents go, Cockney is near the top of the list of ones I can’t abide. YOU SOUND LIKE A COCK.

I’m An Ordinary Man: More talking. I don’t care. You may as well be describing the peristalsis which occurs in your anus as your squeeze one through. Posh rapping. Women, eh, amirite? You’d prefer the Spanish Inquisition to letting a woman into your life? Hardy har. I’d prefer you and everyone you’ve ever met being skinned and set on fire than listen to this for another millisecond.

Just You Wait: Oh fuck off.

The Rain In Spain: Abortion.

I Could Have Danced All Night: I don’t mind the ‘chorus’ of this one. All else is pain and two minutes too long.

Ascot Gavotte: Noises. Marching. Then the singing starts and we all wish we were dead.

On The Street Where You Live: This one would be fine without the terrible vocals.

You Did It: Nice flutey opening descends into farce. And not good farce. The sort of farce where you’re trying to get somewhere on time but you can’t find your keys, then the car won’t start, then you get stuck behind eight cyclists who CYCLE IN A GROUP BESIDE THE FUCKING CYCLE LANE, then you get by them only to meet a tractor, before an ISIS appears in the backseat and beheads you.

Show Me: More travesties.

Get Me To The Church: Nope.

A Hymn To Him: Unlistenable.

Without You: Every single song and every single vocal delivery is identical.

I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face: Starts with ridiculous aplomb. It’s all words words words spoken in the same dumb way. Once we finally get to the ‘good’ bit it’s too little too late.

What Did I Learn: I’m fairly competent that several thousands brain cells died while listening to this.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Are you seriously asking me that with a straight face? Every copy of this wank should be wiped from existence.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 559.

Yeah, don’t even comment. In fact, forget I even mentioned it.

Train To Busan

By now if you haven’t seen Train To Busan you’ve probably at least heard of it – breaking box office records and hearts at a furious pace. If indeed you haven’t seen it, you need to set aside a couple of hours, right now, and watch it – Train To Busan is the horror movie of the year and shows that there is still plenty of life left in the shambling undead genre providing you have the right people behind and in front of the camera.

Train To Busan gets right what many horror films get wrong – character. Too often character is sacrificed for plot, or worse, for kills. I love a good beheading or stabbing as much as the next horror fan, but sometimes we want more – more substance, more feeling and care. Cannon Fodder is all well and good, but the impact when someone we actually like, or actively dislike bites the dust is more powerful and the memory of their death and the associated emotional weight stays with us longer. There’s an old belief/saying/remark that I generally accept as containing a lot of truth – that the best horror films are often made by people who don’t make horror movies. While that’s not true across the board, it does sometimes take a person outside of the genre to bring something truly unique or horrifying to the butcher’s table. While Yeon Sang Ho was no stranger to dark material, it would be difficult to classify his previous work as strictly horror – his debut animated feature The King Of Pigs an unsettling look at violence, class, bullying, masculinity, and the follow up The Fake is an equally divisive, unflinching depiction of religion and abuse of power. Train To Busan was the director’s first Live Action movie, and although he filmed it alongside the animated prequel Seoul Station, it depicts a level of character building and command of genre usually reserved for the greatest directors.

At just under 2 hours, Train To Busan covers a lot of ground and gets off the ground within moments – we meet the ‘bit of a dick’ protagonist – a divorcee who apparently cares more for his job than his young daughter. As her Birthday present, she wants to visit her mother in Busan and her dad reluctantly agrees to take her. As they get on the train we pass by several other characters – a working class tough guy with his pregnant wife, a superior wealthy business men, estranged elderly sisters, and a school baseball team with their own interconnected dramas. Just as the train is setting off, a young, sick, injured woman collapses into one of the carriages and the fun begins as she decides to take a chomp out of one of the train workers. The way the ‘virus’ spreads here is more akin to 28 Days Later where a serious bite will result in death and ‘turning’ in a matter of seconds. Within minutes the train is in chaos, with factions being formed, people being slaughtered, some hiding, some fighting, some locking others away to their doom, all while the train scurries along to its final destination.

The pace with which the virus spreads is matched by the plot pacing and direction. There is rarely a moment to breath or relax without some new twist or threat emerging. The characters from different backgrounds all react to the carnage differently, yet all want to survive. The arguments here are of course reminiscent of NOTLD and Day Of The Dead with each voice and ego demanding to be heard and refusing to accept any other opinion as valid. There are a number of terrific set pieces, from scrolling beat-em up fight scenes through zombie filled carriages, to white knuckle tension filled moments as one group tries to lock out another, to the seeming safety of arriving at another station only to find it completely overrun too. Indeed, most of the excitement and scares of the film come from the pacing and the character driven plot, rather than jump-scares or gore.

While the film has its bloody moments, it isn’t overly gory or off-putting for newcomers. Seasoned horror fans will enjoy the action and invention, while new fans will likely be sucked in by the story which is frequently heartbreaking. The performances from top to bottom are great, something vital when you are relying so heavily on character, and most of the writing is on point too. You’ll have fun guessing who, if anyone, will make it to Busan, and the energetic nature of the film will have you thirsting for a rewatch. This is a highly entertaining, game-changing zombie film which reinvigorates a genre bloated by the procession of Walking Dead episodes and clones and frequently equals the heights that the best of the genre has to offer while encouraging those unfamiliar with these types of movies to get on board.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Train To Busan!

Best Actress – 1973

Official Nominations: Glenda Jackson. Ellen Burstyn. Marsha Mason. Barbra Streisand. Joanne Woodward.

Glenda Jackson won this year for A Touch Of Class – an entertaining farce basically about two horn-bags trying to have sex, then continuing an on-off affair. The main problem I have with the film is that the main characters are, well, dicks. The affair is slapstick stuff but eventually settles into a more typical relationship with all the guilt and jealousy you would expect. Still, Jackson is good, shows a talent for comedy, and deserves the nomination. Ellen Burstyn is the tortured mother in The Exorcist, helplessly clutching for some sort of salvation for her daughter. She comes across as cold in the early parts of the film but once the vomit hits the fan she is the concerned, terrified parent watching unimaginable trauma inflected on her child – Burstyn is the winner, no other choice.

Martha Mason earns her first of four nominations for Cinderella Liberty. The cynic in me looks at her marriage to Neil Simon who just happened to write most of the films she was nominated for, but that’s not the case here. She’s good here but there’s something too showy or theatrical about the performance? I don’t know. The film itself is a strange one too – good cast, decent drama, but forgettable. Barbra Streisand is Barbra Streisand, so you know exactly what you’re going to get – lots of scenery chewing and arm waving, while Joanne Woodward is a weird choice in a weird movie. It’s the requisite veteran vote, but she’d already won an award previously. Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams feels like a Bergman movie – even the title sounds like one, and isn’t a film anyone is ever going to seek out. It’s actually a genuine, accurate portrayal of depression and I think there is a great movie in here somewhere – it just doesn’t come off very well.

My Winner: Ellen Burstyn

My Nominations: Ellen Burstyn. Sissy Spacek. Julie Christie. Margot Kidder. Raquel Welch.

People think of Carrie when they think of Sissy Spacek’s breakout role, but the makings of her illustrious career can be found in Badlands – acting as both narrator and lead. As a slightly more passive character she is in danger of being overshadowed by Martin Sheen, but manages to more than hold her own. Julie Christie finds herself in a similar position in Don’t Look Now but her quiet turn to obsession is just as unnerving as what happens to Sutherland’s character. Margot Kidder gives perhaps the most impressive performance of my nominees in a dual role in De Palma’s Sisters while Raquel Welch appears this year in both The Last Of Sheila and The Three Musketeers – either of which is worthy of a nomination.

My Winner: Ellen Burstyn

Let us know in the comments which Actress you think deserves the Award this year!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1963

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

10: Dementia 13 (USA)

9: The Pink Panther (USA)

8: 8 1/2 (Italy/France)

7: The Sword In The Stone (USA)

6: Cleopatra (USA)

5: The Haunting (UK)

4: From Russia With Love (UK)

3: Jason And The Argonauts (UK/USA)

2: The Birds (USA)

1: The Great Escape (USA)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of The 1950s

*Note – I accidentally messed up my count when writing out the mini-reviews, leaving out my number 1st time around, hence this list being eleven instead of ten. More fun for you!

Greetings, glancers! Hopefully you have all been enjoying my Top Ten Lists by each year, keeping in mind that these are more representative of personal preference than quality. Now that I have completed each year of the 1950s, I thought I would give a quick overview of my Top Ten of the decade and maybe see if any particular year stands out.

11. Marty (1955)

10. Rebel Without A Cause (1955)

9. Godzilla (1954)

8. The Thing From Another World (1951)

7. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (1956)

6. Throne Of Blood (1957)

5. Dial M For Murder (1954)

4. Vertigo (1959)

3. Rear Window (1954)

2.  Seven Samurai (1954)

  1.  North By Northwest (1959)

As if there was any doubt, Kurosawa and Hitchcock owned the 50s. They make up the top six positions, and any one of those can be shown to someone who has never seen a Hitchcock or Kurosawa film before, and they’ll be converted. Maybe Throne Of Blood doesn’t quite fall into that category, but it’s a great one to show Kurosawa fans who haven’t yet experienced it.

Marty I saw in my late teens, and it’s probably a film I would not have bothered with for a long time, if not at all, had it not been for my brother’s love of Airwolf. He would seek out any movies or shows featuring the stars of Airwolf and in those early Internet days it wasn’t so easy getting a hold of those. Marty was one of the easiest as it was an Oscar winning film, compared to something like Damnation Alley. Ernest Borgnine of course won an Oscar for the film, well deserved too. It’s just a very sweet, underdog romance, with an unlucky in love guy and gal meeting each other and… you know the rest. It’s like Rocky, but without the fights.

Rebel Without A Cause is James Dean’s most famous, most iconic movie – it’s one of the films you kind of know all about before you ever watch it thanks to the pop cultural imagery. It’s arguably the first, and maybe still the best film about the generation gap as seen primarily from the youth’s POV. It’s basically about three messed up kids who end up in a police station together and we get to see what they’ve done, examine why they may have done it, and then we get all these classic scenes of 50s American teen life – school, fights, car races – almost every cliche in the book comes from this movie. Only the most iconic movies get banned or create a public outcry – this one seeing concerned groups freaking about their children (or neighbour’s children) becoming juvenile delinquents. Only the most iconic films have their own unique curse – stars Dean, Mineo, and Wood all dying in excessively tragic or mysterious circumstances. Throw in Dennis Hopper, Nicholas Ray directing, and it’s a film everyone should see, preferably at the age depicted.

Godzilla is Godzilla. Again, even if you haven’t seen the original, or any of the four million sequels or remakes, you know what it is. There are a lot of iconic movies this year, but the cool thing is that people are always surprised by how good they are when they watch for the first time. Godzilla is of course Japan’s answer to King Kong, with added nuclear paranoia thanks to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and while both films look clunky now when you first see the creatures, the quality of the direction and storytelling quickly makes you forget and sucks you in. I saw this when I was young, and like many people who see Frankenstein when they are young, I sided quickly with ‘the monster’. It take a hell of a lot of skill to make you sympathize with a hundred foot city crushing dinosaur.

The Thing From Another World is not quite as iconic as others on the list, primarily due to it being overshadowed by Carpenter’s definitive version. You probably shouldn’t go showing The Thing to kids but Nyby’s version is a fantastic introduction to  sci fi and horror for kids. Again, you quickly forget the age of the film and get pulled in by the plot, the claustrophobia, and the tension.

Five years later and we get another sci-fi classic of paranoia and tension in Invasion of The Body Snatchers. It’s my least favourite of the film versions (excluding The Invasion because it is balls), but it’s still fantastic – showing how strong the 70s and 90s versions are. Cinematic sci-fi hit a peak this decade as technology began to catch up with ideas – it wouldn’t be till 1977 till the next major leap took place. In this version, which is by far the most hopeful, a Doctor keeps having patients who claim that their relatives and friends have been ‘replaced’ by someone else, even though they look the same – Capgras Delusion. What is initially dismissed as a group hysteria becomes more sinister as the evidence stacks up, and a silent invasion seemingly spreads throw the city. It’s a little on the nose at times, but it’s great fun and another fine introduction for younger viewers.

Throne Of Blood, as mentioned above, is fantastic. It’s shocking. It’s Shakespeare, but not as you know it. It takes the loose plot of Macbeth, transports it to some point in feudal Japan history, and features one of the all time great death scenes. Seriously, every single time someone who hasn’t seen that moment sees it, their mind is blown. Even though Toshiro Mifune is awesome here (he always is), it’s Izuza Yamada as his wife who steals the show – she is utterly terrifying.

Dial M For Murder is underrated. I feel like when critics and fans talk about Hitchcock’s best films, they always leave this out. Maybe because it isn’t as experimental groundbreaking as some of his other works, but few beat it on sheers thrills and tension building. It’s a familiar enough story, but wrapped around multiple double-crosses that by the end you’ll be tied in knots. In classic Sherlock style, it all takes a Wiley detective to unfurl the mess for us and it’s utterly compelling. Grace Kelly and John Williams are superb and it’s dripping with Hitchcock’s trademark wit.

Vertigo is one of the greatest films of all time. I’ve said it before, that there are four films that tick all the boxes from cultural impact to importance to money making to critical and fan acclaim that no others come close to – Star Wars, The Godfather, and this. The other just happens to be on this list too. These are, in my opinion, the four most important films ever made. Where do you begin with Vertigo? It’s probably Hitchcock’s greatest achievement, bearing in mind he also has three other films on this list, and also made the likes of Rebecca, Psycho, The Birds. The film concerns a detective (James Stewart) who retires after his fear of heights causes the death of a fellow cop. He takes on some freelance work from an old friend, tasked with following the friend’s wife around as the friend suspects she is in danger. Maddie, the wife, meanders around San Fransisco, making various deliberate stops before eventually, apparently trying to kill herself. Stewart rescues her, and falls in love with her, but love quickly becomes obsession, deception, death, rebirth, and a whole bunch of other crazy stuff happens. It’s another film which is great fun to watch with someone who knows nothing about it – like all of Hitchcock’s best movies, they keep you guessing, and second guessing – but you’ll be surprised at every turn.

Rear Window makes it three in a row for The Master. It’s a perfect film, a technical marvel, a sign of a man at the height of his powers and craft, a twisting, yet simple story laid out bodies on a slab, and stars Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter – three of the all time greats. You’ll hear people say that films from so long ago couldn’t possibly affect them, scare them, make them laugh – this will do all of those and prove them wrong.

I mentioned the four most important films ever earlier? Seven Samurai is the other one. Has there ever been a three plus hour black and white movie, in Japanese, that rattles by so quickly and holds your attention so closely? Hell, few modern 90 minute Hollywood movies can manager that today. When people are listing their favourite films, it’s easy to gush on about plot but the truth is that even the most complex plot can be boiled down into one or two sentences – Seven Samurai is as simple as it gets – a bunch of bad guys are antagonizing and hurting a bunch of peasant farmers, so the farmers group together and request that (insert title here) protect them and get rid of the bad guys. You’ve seen that movie a hundred times in a hundred different way, but never as good as this. It’s the characterization, the stylized fights which range from chaotic and fast, almost anti-cinematic and anti-Kurosawa, and therefore more realistic, to the ultra-slowed wide shots to show just how badass the Samurai are. You feel each death personally and by the end you look at the time and wonder if you can squeeze in another watch before bed.

What could possibly top all of those movies? Hitchcock doing Bond, before Bond was a thing. North By Northwest is one of those movies which has it all – drama, romance, thrills, laughs, action, suspense – every genre worth covering is covered. The plot is your standard Hitchcock ‘innocent man in wrong place at wrong time’ movie, and sees Carey Grant on the run for a crime he didn’t commit, and while the cops try to catch him and the criminals try to kill him, he just wants to clear his name and if he’s lucky, fuck Eva Marie Saint. Spoiler Alert – the train does enter the tunnel. There’s just so much to love here, mainly stemming from the script and the way the top drawer cast relishes it. You also have the iconic cornfield chase, the iconic Mt Rushmore fight, and a high octane pace that today’s action directors can only dream of.

Let me know in the comments what you think of these movies, and your reasons for not seeing any of them yet!