Best Make-Up – 1970

My Nominations: Beneath The Planet Of The Apes. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. The Dunwich Horror.

No official category this year, as you well know, so you’ll have to put up with my picks scant as they are. There’s a wealth of crappy to average horror movies this year, The Dunwhich Horror just about scrapes by due to interesting ideas though it’s hackneyed and terribly dated now – decent make-up in places. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is much better and not as gory and stylized as Argento’s later efforts. While Beneath The Planet Of The Apes doesn’t really advance the work achieved in the early entry in the series, it does offer some mutants as well as the apes, and is still my choice as winner.

My Winner: Beneath The Planet Of The Apes.

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What film of 1970 would you give the Best Make-Up award to? Let Us know in the comments!

Ju On – White Ghost

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It has been quite some time since I first watched The Grudge and loved every second of it. Since then I watched the original Japanese TV movies (which The Grudge is a sequel of even though it seems like a remake) and the director Takashi Shimizu’s own US remake. I haven’t actually watched the US The Grudge 2 (also directed by Shimizu) and US The Grudge 3 (not Shimizu) partly due to bad reviews and partly due to Part 3 sounding like a straight to video mess. And of course partly because I was burned out on J Horror by that time. Black Ghost and White Ghost had been popping up on my Amazon Prime Viewer for quite some time but I’d avoided them as they sounded like even worse straight to video cash ins, but I finally relented and gave them a shot. Made to honour the 10th Anniversary of the series, these are two stories which deviate from the main plot of the main series, but are they any good!?

White Ghost, like it’s partner and predecessors has a labyrinthine plot which unravels in a deliberately non-linear fashion – events at the start of the film may happen weeks or months after events shown at the end, and vice versa, and more than that there appear to be certain elements which transcend time – echos of events which have not yet occurred. The story follows a group of characters who come into contact with a curse – a man murders his family, an old friend investigates, and several randomers are drawn into the pit. As I said in my review for Black Ghost, it is definitely worth watching each movie twice to appreciate the finer points and attempt to bring together a timeline in your head. Ironically, I fond this plot even more dense than Black Ghost but it appears to be handled more professionally. There is a lot of leaping about from time to time to character to place and back again, but it is engrossing.

There is some fairly dark stuff at work here – the murders and the curse of course, but an unsettling lump of incest, pedophilia, and suicide, none of which are shied away from. It’s unusual for a film in the Ju On universe to dwell much on the events which kicked everything off – mostly it’s shown in brief flashbacks, but here we are front row witnesses to the slaughter. This one is less atmospheric than Black Ghost, but still has plenty of tension and has more jump scares. The actual character of the White Ghost is not on par with Kayako, but her appearances rarely fail to scare to the point that you are dreading her next pop up. A few of these moments don’t quite work, and end up being almost funny, but for the most part the scares are particularly effective. That strange shimmering effect I mentioned in the other review is present here too. Again the performances are good, the soundtrack works well, and there is a grimy worn out look to proceedings. I watched Black Ghost first, but the stories don’t link together in any way so feel free to pick whichever you wish. BG has the atmosphere, WG has the bulk of the scares, but both are well worth a go for J-Horror fans.

So, who would I recommend this to? Grudge fans obviously, first and foremost. This doesn’t fill in any gaps from the main series or provide any resolution, rather it seems to be a similar story set in the same universe. There isn’t enough time to form much attachment to the characters, the plot is convoluted and non-linear, and the scares don’t offer anything new. With all that said, I enjoyed it, I was a little scared in places, and the idea still intrigues me as much as the execution. You won’t lose much by sacrificing an hour – so if you find this on streaming, give it a shot.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of White Ghost and how it compares to Black Ghost and the other movies in The Grudge franchise.

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – ”Heroes”

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Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with sexy spaceman himself today and listening to yet another of his most lauded efforts. “Heroes” is a song everyone knows and was another one of those Bowie hits I learned to play on guitar back in my teens. As for the album, I understand it is the second part of his Berlin trilogy which means it will be heavily inspired by the Krautrock and other euro music that Bowie surrounded himself with at the time. As for the other songs… I don’t think I recognise any of them so we’ll have to see. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Low and its reliance on instrumentals and ambiance so if this is in a similar vein I won’t be overly keen. If I enjoy some of the songs as much as the title track then we’ll be on to a winner. Lets get to it.

Beauty And The Beast: Noise. Piano. Boing. Building. Drums. Crash. Low voice. Fun and funky. Guitar. I can dig. My my.

Joe The Lion: More guitars, good good. Heavier edge than the glam nonsense. Funky again, with an industrial vibe – lots of noise. Like a lot of the backing riffs and how the vocal melodies intertwine. Guitar going buck nuts.

Heroes“: Well, not much to say about this. Immortal riffs, lyrics, melodies. My favourite part has always been the main riff going into the chorus. And of course when Bowie starts belting out the chorus. Good start to the album so far.

Sons Of The Silent Age: Slower. Drunk Dazed. Are we back in space? That riff sounds an awful lot like Pink Lady Lemonade by Acid Mothers Temple – seriously, compare them. This is more good stuff, hazy, crazy, drifty.

Blackout: Weirdness. Guitar weirdness, drum weirdness. Stabilizing. Collapsing. Piano. Vocal weirdness. Dancing. Breakdown. Guitar still going crazy like it’s in the wrong song, I always love it when guitar parts are like that.

V-2 Schneider: Phasing. Military drums. Bass. Noise. Assuming instrumental. Still, it’s good. Not much else to add. Now singing the title. I hear ‘Schneider’ I think ‘Buffy’.

Sense of Doubt: Ominous. News organs. Scary. Something coming to get me. Not a lot to this, but I like it, very good.

Moss Garden: Wind. Distortion. More instrumentals. I’m generally not a fan of instrumentals, but he’s got it right on this album. Japanese. A nice bit of calm after the previous unnerving stuff. Like wading through an ethereal pool of water and cloud.

Neukolln: This is making me hungry. Or I’m already hungry and it’s making it worse. Drippy toilet noises. Sax disaster. Honk. HONK. Weeeeeeee!

The Secret Life Of Arabia: Echo stubbed guitar. Cowboys. Drums. Singing. More nice funky disco rocky stuff. Ugh, not claps. A good ending.

So, a significant step up from Low in my opinion, which of course is worth less than nothing. The album doesn’t exactly lose its way in the second half, but instrumentals as a rule have to be exceptional to grab my attention alongside vocal pieces. These instrumentals are very good, but I prefer the first half. The harsher rock feel is more palatable for me when compared with Bowie’s glam work, meaning this is another one I’ll listen to again. Let us know in the comments what you think of “Heroes” and if you have any particular memories and opinions of it!

Ju On: Black Ghost

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It has been quite some time since I first watched The Grudge and loved every second of it. Since then I watched the original Japanese TV movies (which The Grudge is a sequel of even though it seems like a remake) and the director Takashi Shimizu’s own US remake. I haven’t actually watched the US The Grudge 2 (also directed by Shimizu) and US The Grudge 3 (not Shimizu) partly due to bad reviews and partly due to Part 3 sounding like a straight to video mess. And of course partly because I was burned out on J Horror by that time. Black Ghost and White Ghost had been popping up on my Amazon Prime Viewer for quite some time but I’d avoided them as they sounded like even worse straight to video cash ins, but I finally relented and gave them a shot. Made to honour the 10th Anniversary of the series, these are two stories which deviate from the main plot of the main series, but are they any good!?

Black Ghost focuses on a young girl who has some sort of seizure and ends up in hospital. Her mum and dad have marital problems and the nurse looking after the girl begins to see, hear, and experience spooky things. In the grand Ju On tradition, this is only one piece of the puzzle and the film is split into interweaving chapters centering on a specific character. Each chapter may only be a few minutes long, generally less than 10, and as the movie progresses the overlapping becomes more pronounced. What does and will continue to put viewers off the series is its unwillingness to assist the viewer through the non-linear narrative; there is no Present Day marker, followed by 2 Months Earlier or any indication of date – the story jumps around and the clock keeps ticking, leaving it up to the viewer to work out the true sequence of events. Indeed, there may not be one true sequence as we have seen in the main stream of films that time itself is a loose notion and the sound of a dying character may be heard an investigated by that same character hours, days, or weeks before it actually happens. This lends a certain replay value to the movies – it is confusing and disorienting first time around, but a second watch smooths a lot of the edges while also serving to immerse you even more fully in a plot which doesn’t try or need to make sense – death is coming and there is no escape.

Discussion of plot aside, most will want to know if the film is scary. This sort of thing is subjective, but if you were creeped out by the originals then I don’t see why you wouldn’t at the least find unsettling moments here. The series has always relied on jump scares and atmosphere and we get both of these in the opening moments thanks to a school kid and a window. Black Ghost is more atmosphere heavy than laden with jump scares – cameras straining at some shadow just around the corner, something moving under a blanket or behind a curtain, and of course a soundtrack of gurgles, cries, and death rattles. The old familiar sound returns and while it still chills the bones, it doesn’t have the same impact without Kayako clawing her way towards the screen. In essence it is a retreading of the same old scares, but they are still effective especially if you are susceptible to such things, as I am. Adding to this atmosphere are a couple of notable additions – the performances are all strong, real, which is important given the actors don’t have a lot of screen time, though an argument could be made for there being too many characters for such a short running time. Finally there is a strange effect or glitch on screen in certain scenes; I assume this was not a fault of my streaming but a deliberate choice similar to the film glitches in The Ring. In some scenes there was a weird wavering around the edges of the frame akin to a mirage or some atmospheric refraction. That’s the best way I can describe unfortunately, a shaking around the edges as if something was trying to break through into our reality – there wasn’t any consistency which I could pick out – I assume it was added to make things more ominous or warn of an upcoming scare, but sometimes it happened when two characters were talking – no scare or sense of tension. oh yes, there is one truly excellent make-up/special effect towards the end.

So, who would I recommend this to? Grudge fans obviously, first and foremost. This doesn’t fill in any gaps from the main series or provide any resolution, rather it seems to be a similar story set in the same universe. There isn’t enough time to form much attachment to the characters, the plot is convoluted and non-linear, and the scares don’t offer anything new. With all that said, I enjoyed it, I was a little scared in places, and the idea still intrigues me as much as the execution. You won’t lose much by sacrificing an hour – so if you find this on streaming, give it a shot.

Best Cinematography – 1970

Official Nominations: Ryan’s Daughter. Patton. Airport. Tora! Tora! Tora! Women In Love

Some good picks this year, but Lean’s film is really the only choice with Freddie Young picking up the official win for giving Americans false ideals of what Ireland looks like on an average day. The other movies are each fine efforts and each look great, but they don’t stand a chance here.

My Winner: Ryan’s Daughter

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My Nominations: Ryan’s Daughter. Patton. Tora! Tora! Tora! The Conformist. Little Big Man. MASH. Zabriskie Point.

It’s a close one between Freddie Young and Vittorio Storaro. In the end, Ryan’s Daughter simply isn’t unique enough – while it looks great, it doesn’t do anything new – The Conformist takes its visuals to the next level making them an indelible part of the story and is unique. Storaro also did The Spider Stratagem and The Bird With The Crystal Plumage this year – the man is a beast. I add MASH and Little Big Man, but they have no hope of winning – the only other possibility being Zabriskie Point with Alfio Contini’s stunning work deserving of praise.

My Winner: The Conformist

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Let us know in the comments which film of 1970 you think has the Best Cinematography!

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

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British Televsion comedy can be excellent, unfortunately it’s usually the dregs like The Office or Little Britain which reach a wider audience, while classics such as People Like Us, Look Around You, The League Of Gentlemen, or Alan Partridge get overlooked. The character of Partridge has been a beloved figure here for decades now, but it’s only recently that he made his big screen debut. Does it succeed in translating to the movie format where so, so many have failed before?

Yeah, pretty much. Partridge as character is both strong and established enough to fit any medium – radio, TV, stage, and film. Coogan and Iannucci have been writing and performing this guy for decades and still find ways to keep things (my most hated word) fresh. Keeping things up to date is easy when you have someone like Partridge – he isn’t a product of a decade or a flash in the pan – he’s just some bloke who has lived and grown as all humans do – we just happen to have seen it happen. That’s the key factor in the movie being a success. On top of that, the writing is as sharp as ever, the performances are just as good as on the small screen, and the plot is cinematic and over the top without being overblown or reaching into silly excess. There is no need for globe-trotting or apocalyptic villains or endless celeb cameos. It’s just Partridge in an unusual, but not unexpected, hostage crisis.

As you would imagine, Partridge is the architect of some of what happens. His job at North Norfolk Digital is at risk after a buyout by some larger corporation so when he hears that it’s either him or fellow DJ Pat who will be axed, he does his best to save his own skin. Later, a disgruntled Pat enters the Station armed with a shotgun and demands his job back. Soon all manner of awkward Partridge antics ensue as Alan tries his hand at negotiating, surviving, scheming, DJing from within the hostage situation, and making sure he comes out on top.

Like the best movies based off shows, this feels like an extended episode which both respects and expands the show’s mythology/universe. The humour will be familiar to fans of the show, as will most of the faces – most of the series regulars show up here, from long suffering Lynn and Geordie weirdo Michael, to Mid Morning Matters co star Simon. Plenty of gags in the script which will reveal themselves with multiple viewings, and plenty of laughs from the more physical side.The movie never tries to cater for a new audience my going to extremes of action or casting, and is more than comfortable in its own skin – if you like any of the Partridge or Coogan shows, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this. Newcomers should find an easy blend of comedy and action, but I have a feeling that the audience will continue to be mostly British – it’s not as immediately universal as something like Mr Bean, though once you understand the characters and his quirks it should sell anywhere.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Alpha Pappa and if you think it does a good job of both advertising and expanded on the series!