Best Writing (Original) – 1967

Official Nominations: William Rose (Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner), David Newman, Robert Benton (Bonnie And Clyde), Robert Kaufman, Norman Lear (Divorce, America Style), Jorge Semprun (The War Is Over), Frederic Raphael (Two For The Road).

William Rose was the official winner this year, his screenplay for Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner showing a lighter comedic touch than his previous offerings. Altogether less subtle and light is Kaufman and Lear’s Divorce American Style which offers strong satire but feels dated now. Jorge Semprum’s nomination seems like an unusual choice – decent script but a film which few will recall now, and Raphael’s work on Two For The Road is a bold choice but deserved giving the ingenuity of the storytelling on offer. My winner though goes to Newman and Benton’s riproaring Bonnie And Clyde, one of the finest examples of twisting the truth to tell a new tale.

My Winner: Bonnie And Clyde.

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My Nominations: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. Bonnie And Clyde. Two For The Road. The Fearless Vampire Killers. The Firemen’s Ball. Le Samourai. The Shooting.

I have added a selection of four movies to my personal nominations, a mixture of satire, farce, crime, and existential drama, with my winning vote going to Polanski and Gerard Brach’s The Fearless Vampire Killers.

My Winner: The Fearless Vampire Killers

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Which movie of 1967 do you think has the Best Original Screenplay? Let us know in the comments!

May 25, 2016 at 12:27 pm 2 comments

TTT – Ridley and Tony Scott

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Greetings, Glancers! On today’s Top Ten Tuesdays List I change things a little by taking two of Cinema’s finest British exports – the Scott brothers. Both brothers achieved incredible commercial success and more often than not plenty of critical and fan acclaim. I’ve split the list so I get five films by each brother, mainly because I was struggling to select 10 films by both Ridley and Tony that I truly loved. That means of course that some great films are missing, but I still feel the 10 films below are worthy of every film fan’s time, some iconic, some timeless, others pure entertainment. I will say there are a few films I have not yet seen, namely The Martian and Exodus by Ridley and Unstoppable by Tony. But alack and alas and alarum, lets proceed with the things! Exeunt!

10: Black Rain

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A film which I almost never see on any Top List of Ridley Scott movies, this is drenched with 80s cool through and through and features decapitation – that’s two big thumbs up from the outset! I’ve always loved the look and feel and atmosphere of the movie, what starts off as a buddy cop movie soon takes a darker turn as Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia get sucked into Japan’s lethal underbelly. This one has slipped off the radar of most people who enjoy 80s (particularly action) movies, but it is worth another look thanks to the cast, the action, the sound, and the cool.

9: The Fan

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Unfairly savaged by critics and quite a commercial bomb upon release, The Fan may not be as good as the earlier (unrelated) film of the same same which starred Lauren Bacall and Micahel Biehn, but this is still a thriller which deserves better than what it got. Robert De Niro is great as the titular fan, taking his stalking to crazier levels than in The King Of Comedy and Wesley Snipes also does a good job in a rare straight role. Through in a superb supporting cast including Ellen Barken, John Leguizamo, and Benicio Del Toro and you have everything you need for a rip-roaring tale of paranoia and celeb hunting.

8: Top Gun

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As much as I watched Top Gun in my youth, I was never as huge a fan as most people. It’s difficult to dismiss it though as it is both a highly watchable piece of entertainment which will suck in modern viewers as much as those who were around first time, even if all the young, bronzed bodies and cliches are hilarious. Still, it features some of the best aerial action scenes ever captured, a number of stars on the rise gives excellent performances, and it has a number of iconic moments, memorable pumping soundtrack, and an encyclopedia of quotable dialogue.

7: Gladiator

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Ridley Scott’s 1990s movies were, by and large, forgettable flops. Indeed, by the turn of the century it seemed that he had lost his way and was out of favour with regards to the viewing public. Enter Gladiator. This film shot Scott back into the pantheon of great directors, introduced the world to Russell Crowe, and portrayed the first truly breathtaking view of Ancient Rome. It is hardly a film without flaws, but again the violence and action, the score, visuals, gripping performances, rousing speeches, and of course the engaging story all pulled together to create a massive hit and a film which is still enjoyable sixteen years later. Yikes, sixteen years. I saw this upon release as part of school trip. I studied Latin in school, and upon the advice of a fellow pupil who had already seen it several times, we were able to convince the teacher to take the class on this valuable trip. Memories.

6. The Hunger

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Tony Scott is often remembered more for his flair than his storytelling. Visual flair is of course a way of telling stories and with The Hunger the visuals and the atmosphere they create are often what are solely remembered. David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve (what a pairing) are the eternal couple of vampires who engage in a love triangle with Susan Sarandon – a Doctor who studies the correlation between sleep and aging. It’s a highly stylized, highly sensual, and quite violent vampire movie, arguably the first of the modern era to truly show these creatures as overtly sexual and able to exist in the 20th Century.

5. Blade Runner

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Speaking of visuals, it would be hard to argue against Blade Runner being one of the most visually influential movies of all time. Rain-drenched futuristic cities, trash-ridden and neon-laden and populated with hunched shouldered denizens who weave in and out of crowds, between starbound vehicles and Asian marketplaces, surrounded by towering monuments to commercialism, power, money, and soullessness. Luckily there is an enigmatic story too, one with rambling philosophy and existential crisis, and at the heart, if there is a heart, a number of fine performances from Harrison Ford, Darryl Hannah and Rutger Hauer.

4. Thelma And Louise

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Any of the top five movies could be number 1 for me, but it’s these top four which have had the longest lasting impact. Thelma And Louise is a flawless tale and sadly a film the likes of which we have seen all too rarely. I love its blend (and twists) on the road movie, camaraderie, action, comedy, and its performances. It’s rare to have a cast this good all being this strong together and for the film to churn out memorable moments and dialogue throughout.

3. True Romance

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I often wonder what this would have been if it had been directed by Tarantino himself, but I don’t think it could have been bettered. Tarantino’s dialogue is of course one reason to recommend the movie, and when coupled with Scott’s stylish direction we have a pseudo road movie which is one of the finest ensemble pieces of the decade. It’s difficult to think of any movie with a more impressive cast – Joining Slater and Arquette as leads we have the likes of Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Samuel L Jackson, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Saul Rubinek, James Gandolfini, Chris Penn, Michael Rappaport etc etc. There are so many great scenes in this movie, from the Sicillian speech to the final shootout, and the pacing is breathless and energetic without being frantic (I’m looking at you, Domino). And at the core it’s all about love.

2. The Last Boyscout

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I’ve of course spoken about my love for this film elsewhere on the site, but it’s one big macho, quotable sensation which never fails to have me laughing my nuts off. Highly recommended, but I also appreciate that many will simply find it too dumb or too offensive to enjoy.

  1. Alien

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My number one (as I’ve said) could have been any of the previous few films, but I feel that Alien remains the best out of any of the films which the brothers have made. Of course it’s a personal favourite – how could it not be? A nightmarish vision of the future, an all too realistic approach to science fiction, and the first film of the modern era to make people genuinely believe that somewhere up there, there could be a creature lurking around with acid for blood and a tongue like a piston, ready to snap us in half. It plays sublimely on main of our fears – the unknown, the dark, being helpless, claustrophobia, sex, disease, even technology, and the cold and detached atmosphere broken sporadically by howling sound or shocking bouts of horror and violence create a spectacular sense of tension and unease. The creature itself is glorious, the effects hold up today, and the cast is wonderful.

What are your favourite movies by Tony and Ridley Scott? Obviously there are quite a few big films I haven’t listed, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

May 24, 2016 at 1:16 pm 2 comments

Anorexic Rodin

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Ok. 3: Good. 4: Great

The Manics return to the theme of the tortured artist using a real life past example as their template, similar to La Tristesse Durera. This is easily one of the best B-Sides of ‘recent’ Manics albums, ticking all of the boxes which made me love them in the first place – fast, heavy, melodic, emotional, and literate. It certainly is not a complicated song, following a rigid verse /chorus formula, but the opening minute ranks among my favourite the band has ever written, with crunching guitars and a scorching Bradfield vocal performance. There isn’t much for Nicky or Sean to do here, though Sean does get to tumble through the chorus in some style.

Anorexic Rodin: 4/Great

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May 23, 2016 at 1:05 pm 1 comment

Manic Mondays – 23rd May 2016

‘Here is oblivion bathed acid red/Mute oily discolour, skin cancer, calories’

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Facing Page: Top Left

May 23, 2016 at 12:28 pm Leave a comment

10000 Zombies

*Based on a free copy provided by Amazon – buy it here
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I was hoping for a lot more from this- more coherent stories for example, but given that there are thousands of different ways to open and close your tale, as well as all the good stuff in the middle, it would be difficult to make any of them coherent. This is just a bunch of easy fun wrapped inside a few thousand rotting corpses. The zombies are impressively detailed and kids will spend hours creating their favourite characters and possibly delving into their own dark imaginations to produce their own fevered stories of blood and chaos. Wisely the illustrations are given a page all of their own so that there is a full page impact, while the stories appear on the other leaf. Each creation is split into three so if you turn the top third of a page you will be decapitating one monster and giving birth to a new one- likewise with the legs and torso. So, obviously this isn’t the sort of book you will pick up and read through, it’s more of a game, partly like those ‘you open the door- turn to page 49’ books of my youth.
Parents shouldn’t worry that there is anything too graphic or offensive or terrifying here, it’s all good clean gruesome fun- the sort which kids lap up. Horror ‘maestro’ Alex Cox narrates while we get a foreword from undead metal legend Rob Zombie, so chances are that is geared more towards ‘adult’ zombie fiends rather than the youngsters. It’s cheap and worth a look if your child is showing an interest in the dead side of life.
Have you read 10000 Zombies? Let us know in the comments!

May 20, 2016 at 4:11 pm Leave a comment

New Art Riot

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Ok. 3: Good. 4: Great

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The lead song from the band’s first official signed release is a delicious slice of latter day punk. The first thing to notice is the sudden leap in quality between the early demos and singles and what we have here. The production is limitlessly better obviously, but the songwriting on display is much more mature to the point that the band actually sound marketable here, and both the vocals and playing sound professional – it sounds like The Manics in other words.

The punchy song is a stuttering attack on the spiritless music of the time, harmful politics, stuttering musically as drums and guitars form a dual attack which pounces and retreats like a military skirmish. Both drums and guitars are superb, metal style machine gun thumps and frenetic soloing, the lyrics are the angry sloganeering which caught the attention of the press with most lines hitting the mark. The vocals are a little too soft and mellow compared with later, live versions of the song (which of course I listen to more so the original always sounds a bit odd to me – can’t find any on Youtube though), but again that adds a different charm. It’s a superb introduction to the world, and a fine starting place for anyone interested in learning more about the band.

New Art Riot: 4/Great

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May 20, 2016 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

Chart Music Through The Years – 1996

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here – https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

Assuming you’re not interested, here’s a brief recap: Chart music is generally crap, but was it any better in the past? And although I’m always curiously biased against banal, trending, emotionless, money grabbing crap, I will say honestly whether I feel a song has any merits or not. So, I’m going to go back through the years and look at the Top 10 of a particular week in October (just because October is the month I happened to look at in my original post). I was originally going to go back year by year in descending order but I think I’d get bored if I did that so I’ll probably just hop about at random. Naturally, information may be scant from the early days so I’ll have to be creative. 

Apparently the UK singles chart started in 1952 but there were various competing charts until the 1980s, so there may be a challenge in keeping to what was official. In any event, I’ll likely just pull whatever information I can find via the first list I find and go with that.

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The year I will be focusing on today will be revealed after the following dots… 1996! You are almost certainly asking yourself ‘what was I doing in 1996’? Well, I’ll answer you, by pretending that you are me. In 1996, I was a few years into secondary school and still reeling from the death of Kurt Cobain. It was in these years that I put away all my Nirvana stuff and began looking for a replacement, a new thing to love, a new thing to speak to and for me. Behold! It was in 1996 that Everything Must Go by The Manic Street Preachers came along, becoming probably my favourite band of all time, and one of my favourite albums. Ironically, the lead single from the album – A Design For Life – was released almost two years to the day after Cobain’s death. I had heard some songs and things from the band previously, but didn’t really pay attention to them until A Design For Life. For those two years I wandered in a haze of chart music and old habits of metal. One of my best mates was turning towards cheesy Dance music, and others I knew who had also been into Nirvana were moving on to cooler, more commercial stuff, or diving directly into Britpop. Apparently that’s called growing up, something I didn’t, and still don’t want any part of. I was the only person I knew who was listening to the Manics, and that was just fine.

What else was happening in 1996? Close to home, the IRA was up to their usual antics which included bombing London and Manchester, injuring over 200 people in Manchester alone. Meanwhile the RUC and Orange Order were up to their usual antic in the popular annual event at Drumcree Church. Elsewhere, Dolly The Sheep was born, OJ Simpson went on trial, the N64 was released in Japan, the Summer Olympics made their way to Atlanta, while England hosted Euro 96 with the Czech Republic being cheated out of glory. In the music world, Tupac Shakur released All Eyez On Me only to be killed a few months later, Jarvis Cocker lives up to his name by acting like a dick at the Brit Awards, Alice In Chains recorded a show for MTV Unplugged, The Spice Girls appear, Michael Jackson embarked on the HIStory tour, and Eminem released his first album. But none of that matters, what we’re hear to do is of course listen to me rant about the shitty quality of chart music by listening to the top 10 songs of a particular week in October. Are you excited? If you said ‘no’, well, you really should be. If you said ‘yes’, go outside and cut yourself a stick from yonder tree and for me to come over there and give you 20 stiff lashes with it.

1: Spice Girls: Say You’ll Be There

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Looking at the name I couldn’t remember which one this was, but I remember it, and the video after the first few seconds of listening. It’s the sort of upbeat fluff they were good at, but it certainly has nowhere near the same impact and craft as Wannabee. What’s most amusing (and which I’m sure I understood at the time, but have forgotten since) is what terrible singers the girls are, even on record. usualy if a performer is selected for their looks and personality rather than musical ability, a good producer and team can still make them sound okay in the studio, but here it is laughably bad. Each girl gets a few solo lines and they’re all poor, with the exception of Sporty. The chorus isn’t so bad, somehow the voices work well together. It’s about sex.

2: Boyzone: Words

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Oh Budda, not this shat. The original wasn’t great in the first place, but here it’s made incalculably worse by having Ronan’s warbling through it all, backed by some sociopathically empty piano and strings. I’m not sure why the other four blokes are there – none of them, not even the kneecap-able elfin one, get a line for themselves. In fact, they are barely even there as backing singers. Completely unnecessary, like going to the doctor for a regular check-up and having him amputate your face, or something. It’s about arguments and meaningless words.

3: Faithless: Insomnia

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One of the very few obvious dance tracks of the era that I actually like. It wasn’t about sex or love or some other crap (although there were references to shagging), it actually sounded grandiose, intelligent, and fucking creepy. It’s not perfect though, the drum sounds in the early verses are weak and those ‘woo’ sounds are silly. Plus, it’s over the halfway mark in the song that the bit you all know kicks in. Still, good stuff. It’s about insomnia.

4: Cast: Flying

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A lot of indie an unkempt bands of the 90s pissed me off to no end, with their gaping mouths, unwashed hair, and generally ugly appearance, along with a lazy drawl in the vocals. Cast were as guilty of this as anyone – they, and a hundred other bands basically sounded like Oasis rip offs. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was an Oasis song – it has those vocals, that swagger, but there’s more of a West Coast 60s feel to this one. It’s a decent song, thirty songs longer than it needs to be, catchy, okay riff, and well suited to being a jingle for BA or Virgin or Easyjet.

5: Celine Dion: It’s All Coming Back To Me Now

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I had a lot of fun with this one back in school, but I’m not sure why. Probably because of Dion’s distinctive voice, and I imagine I probably made a show of myself doing impressions of her singing it. I think the Meat Loaf-esque video of laughable operatic death also had something to do with it. Still, it’s rare nowadays to get epic in scope songs like this in the charts. Ah yes, it was line ‘there were nights of endless pleasure’ that I used to parody to the delight of at least one other person. Tough crowd. I would only parody something with such glee though if I appreciated it in the first place. If I don’t like something, then I’ll just ignore it. Until these posts of course. Still, good cheesy fun with big notes and choruses, so I’m happy. It’s about missing sex.

6: Babybird: You’re Gorgeous 

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Babybird… remember them? No, neither do I. Another atrocity. I should in some ways appreciate this for its piss-take of music and money and all the rest of it, but ever since I heard this song when it first came out I have despised it. For reasons unknown to anyone currently housing a brain in their above-shoulder region, this was a hit. It must have been the sleazy lyrics and the sleep-inducing vocals. Of course, it’s an easy chorus to sing along with, but it was so vastly overplayed that even hearing it now makes me want to plug up me ears with my eyes. It’s about preying on impressionable girls – sex in other words.

7: Deep Blue Something: Breakfast At Tiffany’s

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This one on the other hand I do have fond memories of, though I’m sure it probably went through a bout of overplaying. It’s a super infectious song, one of quite a few one-off singles that blended acoustic pop and gentle melodies with a post-grunge era electric edge. It’s a very easy one to play on guitar and have people instantly recognise it, no matter how badly you play it. It’s still a crowd-pleaser to this day, just a silly slice of fun that is both timeless and a product of its time. It’s about sex.

8: Suede: Beautiful Ones 

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This became one of Suede’s most successful and well-known songs, instantly recognizable from the opening seconds and with a superb verse and chorus combo. Not much else to say about this one as I don’t really have any memories specifically tied to it – great tune, and I’m not sure why Suede weren’t bigger than they actually were.

9: Donna Lewis: I Love You Always Forever 

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Looking down the list of songs here, this is the only one that I couldn’t remember simply by looking at the artist and name (yes yes, i know I couldn’t remember precisely which Spice Girls song number 1 was, but I knew that I would know it..). So, I have zero recollection of this song, but we’ll soon find out if I’ve heard it as I hit play in 3, 2, 1…. no, I don’t remember it. Not yet. The voice sounds familiar, but likely because she sounds like someone else. There is something familiar though…the verses I don’t remember at all, but I do vaguely recall the chorus. I’ve no idea then if I’ve heard the whole song, or if the chorus appeared in some advertisement. It’s a little bland and overly soft. The chorus is okay I suppose, not much of a melody, not much of a voice. It’s about sex.

10: Beautiful South: Rotterdam

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I’ve never been a fan of the Beautiful South, and not even songs like this which I sorta kinda didn’t mind could convert me. It’s a band that simply rubbed me the wrong way – the hair, the faces, the voices, the fact that everything sounded so twee. This one certainly sounds twee, and it certainly has vocals that annoy me, the lyrics grate on me too. I must be an awful person to be near, listen to, read. It’s catchy sure, the chorus is sure to batter away at you for hours, so I can understand why many will enjoy it. It’s fine. White bread with the crusts cut off. It’s about everyone and everywhere being shit.

So, a list of songs hitting my ears at what most would deem to be their most absorbent musical period – between the age of 10 – 20. It isn’t a great list, but there are some songs I still like and am happy to hear again. What does this chart tell us about 1996 in music? That Britpop was still riding high in various guises, that boy and girl bands would fight them off to remain chart-toppers, and that dance tracks, operatic ballads, and one-hit wonders were still in vogue. In a stunning result, the highest selling singles of the year were a one-hit wonder, an operatic ballad, a britpop classic, a girl group hit, and a dance track! Are these songs indicative of the quality of music released in 1996? Well, we had some classic releases in 1996 – All Eyez On Me, The Score (The Fugees), Boys For Pele (Tori Amos), Come Find Yourself (Fun Lovin’ Criminals), The Coming (Busta Rhymes), Moseley Shoals (Ocean Colour Scene), 1977 (Ash), Everything Must Go (Manic Street Preachers), Morningrise (Opeth), The Great Southern Trendkill (Pantera), Antichrist Superstar (Marilyn Manson), and many more.

Finally, as I know you all value my opinion as Gospel, here’s an alternate list of 10 great songs from 1996 that you should listen to in no particular order:

1: A Design For Life: Manic Street Preachers

2: Sugar Water: Cibo Matto

3: Hey Jupiter: Tori Amos

4: How Do U Want It: 2pac

5: Scooby Snacks: Fun Lovin’ Criminals

6: Roots Bloody Roots: Sepultura

7: MMMbop: Hanson

8: The Day We Caught The Train: Ocean Colour Scene

9: Girl From Mars: Ash

10: Nutshell: Alice In Chains

Which of any of the songs above do you love/hate? What are your fondest musical memories of 1996? Have I missed any important songs, albums, or artists? Let us know in the comments!

May 19, 2016 at 1:43 pm 2 comments

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