Essential Movies – 1961 – Alternative View

For my original post explaining my criteria – click here!

For the mainstream view – click here!

Rules: Ten films which, in some way, show our history and culture reflected in film and  film’s growth and change as a medium. It can’t simply be your ten personal favourites of the year. One of your ten choices must be in the top 10 grossing films of the given year. One of the films must have been nominated for a Best Film Oscar (Best Picture, Best Foreign Feature, or Best Animated Feature). One of the films needs to appear in a renowned critic or magazine or book’s best 10 films of the year. These choices can’t overlap. 

  1. The Hustler (Best Picture Winner)

2. West Side Story (Top Grossing Movie)

3. 101 Dalmations (Best Film Critical Choice)

4. The Guns Of Navarone

5. Breakfast At Tiffany’s

6. Yojimbo

7. The Innocents

8. Judgement At Nuremberg

9. One-Eyed Jacks

10. The Pit And The Pendulum

Best Stuntwork – 1980

My Nominations: The Empire Strikes Back. The Stunt Man. The Big Brawl. The Blues Brothers. The Young Master.

What is always one of my favourite categories, because I’m a big silly action lovin’ boy, is a bit of a turd this year. There was a batch of War movies which don’t break any new ground, but the action genre was in a bit of a mire until the explosion which occurred later in the decade. With the name and plot of The Stunt Man you would rightly expect the film to contain a lot of stunts. In this instance that’s like saying The Wrestler has a lot of wrestling. There are stunts as this is the world the movie is set in, but they’re not the focus and they’re not pushing any boundaries. Still, there are a few nice car and chase gags. The Empire Strikes Back has a lot of practical action but we’re beginning to push action into the realms of gadgets, machines, and computers rather than solely having living performers putting their bodies on the line. It’s still one of the most action packed and stunt filled films of the year. In The Big Brawl and The Young Master Jackie Chan makes a few personal strides – into the US and as a director. Neither is one of his best efforts, but both features plenty of his trademark lightning fast and innovative fight scenes and acrobatic stunts. The clear winner for me this year has to be The Blues Brothers, thanks to its ridiculously excessive car chases, stunts, and pile-ups.

Incredible stunt driving in 'The Blues Brothers' 'was all real' - Chicago Sun-Times

My Winner: The Blues Brothers

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Ranking The Led Zeppelin Songs – Led Zep II!

Coming mere months after the debut, this is more than simply mroe of the same. The band cut down on the grungy blues sound and became more like what we think of today as a Rock band, packed with riffs and originals. It’s a stronger set of songs than the debut, but it also showcases the band’s burgeoning ego/don’tgiveafuckery with the always skippable Moby Dick. It’s a classic from top to bottom and contains several of my all time favourite songs. 1-5 I can’t pick between, 6 is great, 7 and 8 are the ones everyone knows, and then there’s Moby Dick. 

  1. Thank You
  2. Heartbreaker
  3. Living Loving Maid
  4. The Lemon Song
  5. What Is And What Should Never Be
  6. Bring It On Home
  7. Whole Lotta Love
  8. Ramble On
  9. Moby Dick

Let us know your ranking in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Code Orange – Underneath (2020 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Another highly rated album from 2020 to cover today, and another one I have absolutely zero knowledge of. In fact, before writing this introduction I had to check on my original 2020 post to see which publication listed this album as one of their favourites. It was Kerrang, so this must be a Metal album. At the very least an album with guitars, given that Kerrang goes after all sorts these days. That’s all I know, but maybe the artwork will tell me something.

It’s a fleshy, cyborg, alien thing? It’s a bit like if Iron Maiden’s Eddie were a nerd, but was kidnapped by a Cenobite and then placed in one of Jigsaw’s traps. It doesn’t tell me much. Is it meant to be a violent, brutal image so the album will be violent and brutal? For any new readers – I write my intro before I’ve heard a single note of the album, but by the time we jump to the next paragraph I will have listened to the whole thing multiple times. Lets get to it.

You know, that image is a fairly accurate representation of the music – it’s the sort of music a demented AI might make if the only data it had to go on was Nursery Rhymes and 2010s Hardcore Metal. On one hand it’s fairly straight screamy shouty metal – brutal vocals song by boys who are angry because mommy wouldn’t let them ‘go out with hair like that’, thunderous drumming, and crushing riffs – but on the other hand you have an album deliberately broken with audio glitches and defects. The music will cut out without warning or begin to judder and skip like a dust ridden CD, and many of riffs have been distorted to sound like they have been heavily processed through multiple rusty filters and failing laptops. It’s cool, but the effect doesn’t have the same impact on multiple listens or by the time the final track comes around. It’s probably the most notable aspect of the album and what distinguishes this from the thousands of other Hardcore albums out there, which are generally very samey. It is a cool effect, it is overdone, but at least they mix up those effects with a variety and intensity that it does catch you off guard and create a sort of unique vibe. Of course, this glitching and trickery is not exactly original – The Music’s debut way back in 2002 had plenty of these stoppy starty shenanigans – but I don’t know how regularly it has been used in Metal. I wonder if these guys are fans of The Music – there’s a moment in Autumn And Carbine which is suspiciously reminiscent of the electro beats used in The Music’s third album. That seems highly unlikely.

I must admit to laughing and enjoying the opening track, because all the deliberately off-putting sound, screeches, and distortion is exactly the sort of ‘experimental music’ I was making more than 10 years ago. I have hundreds (literally) of ‘songs’ like this and when I have time I add the odd one to Youtube to terrify people. That intro builds nicely – I like a long instrumental intro to build anticipation and set tone and mood, but when this happens on an especially good intro I’m internally praying ‘don’t ruin it with the vocals don’t ruin it with the vocals’. In general I’m not a fan of Hardcore vocals because they crush the individuality of the voice and enforce limitations. I can take them in short bursts but this is the genre we’re in so it should be expected and evaluated as such. The album isn’t all shouts and screams – there are minor instances of clean female vocals and the songs which deftly balance the harsh with the clean, the light with the dark, such as Sulfur Surrounding are the most successful at sticking in my memory.

That’s the greatest quandary I have with this genre and the album. Hardcore, and plenty of other metal sub genres have a lack of melody and variety; little variety of emotion, little to no variety in vocal melody, and it’s all about as many downtuned basic riffs and how much shouty shouting you can shout. If you like Hardcore, you should like this. If you’re a purist though, you might be put off b the glitches, by the synth moments, by the cleaner sections because this album does strive for variety. It employs Hardcore as its foundation, but wants to build something more monstrous and remarkable. I don’t speak from any position of experience or authority but based on the rave reviews from those in the know, the band succeeded in this respect. This album does have variety – there are memorable vocal melodies (which may take time to sink in) and there is emotional variety (at least in the grey areas between annoyed, angry, and really pissed off). Songs such as The Easy Way and Sulfur Surrounding build upon this by eschewing the tried and tested and boring hardcore route of riff, shout, other shout, solo, shout end, by adding musical and structural elements not typically heard.

Still, as someone mostly unfamiliar with this sub-genre and with no real desire to learn about it or care (it’s all a bit… skinhead, you know), I could appreciate its brutality and experimentation and can gladly chill to any of the songs while driving. A few songs would be enough for me before I’d want to move on to something else – I get enough futile tantrums at home without needing it in my music too. A handful of the better blended songs I can stick on my playlist but the whole thing isn’t one I think I’ll return to. I can marvel at the production and applaud the musical ability and desire to drag the genre into new territory, but the songwriting in itself feels somewhat flat outside of the glitches.  Like many of the albums I have already reviewed from 2020 and likely those I haven’t got to yet – this isn’t for me so I’ll leave it to the people who it was designed for. I have no doubt they’ll love it.

Album Score

Sales: 3. Seems to have done okay, at least within a genre which doesn’t really sell anymore. Seems to be theit highest selling album – but we’re talking 10s of thousands here. I could go 2 here, but lets give them some props.

Chart: 2. A hardcore album isn’t really designed to sell outside its core audience or set the charts alight. It made it onto the top 200 in US. Not as high as their debut I believe, but times have changed.

Critical: 5. Go down to a 4 if you want to include non-Metal publications, but praise has been flawless across the board in Metal magazines and sites.

Originality: 3. Normally a Hardcore album is going to get a 1 or a 2 from me here. This strives for me and generally does more. Enough for a 3 at least.

Influence: 3. I would hope that this will spur other young bands within this genre and the genres less prone to experimentation and variety to take the lead. It’s not going to influence on a wider scale so I could see a 2 or even a 1 here if you’re very harsh. Definitely don’t see this as higher than 3.

Musical Ability: 3. They can play, but we’re talking Metal here. If you can’t better than almost every other genre, you’re not going to get as high as a 3. I expect each person to be an expert in their craft. The glitches are more a case of production and ideas than musical ability – outside of that I didn’t feel enough to hit a 4.

Lyrics: 3. Naturally I had to Google the lyrics to see what they’re all about. There are bits and bobs related to changing and adapting to the modern world which fits with the music. Aside from that, all the usual Metal topics stated plainly without much poetry or invention – control, violence, anger, the usual.

Melody: 2: Only a handful of songs standout in this respect – I’ve been lenient so far in some of my scoring but if you force me up to a 3 here, I can drop Lyrics to a 2. Most of the songs don’t differ in the vocal melodies aside from the few notable ones, and even those aren’t the catchiest in the world. I won’t grumble if you go 3 here but anything higher seems like bias.

Emotion: 3. Genres like this aren’t the most subtle or nuanced in terms of emotion – there’s only so much range of emotion you can convey when your vocals are at 11 the entire time. It comes down to how much importance you place on expectation – if you expect and want anger, volume, shouting, then you can mark higher. If you are looking for a more balanced range of emotions across a spread of songs, then you mark lower. I’ll go average considering the genre. 

Lastibility: 3. While time will tell whether this was a game-changer, it seems like it has made enough impact based on its reviews to sustain itself at least until their next album drops. Metal fans are devout to their group or sub genre, and those outside the group will complain or move on to the next thing. Not enough information to say for sure, but a 3 seems reasonable. 

Vocals: 3. I’m no judge on hardcore vocals and what is good versus bad versus whatever. What I do know is that I can only take so much of it, not because it’s loud or shouty, but because it’s repetitive and dull and lacks character. Some songs offer mainly clean vocals, some songs offer additional vocals, and some songs blend clean and harsh. I didn’t have any issue with the quality of any of the vocals, more that they were mostly generic. 

Coherence: 4. I’m happy going high on this category because the band seemed committed to their idea for their sound, and did everything possible to make a coherent product. The glitches and electronic (for lack of a better term) sound carries through to the end.

Mood: 3. I could agree with an argument for a 4 here as the coherence lifts the mood, but given the lack of emotion and feeling I generally get from this type of music I’m not confident that any mood the band is trying to communicate would not translate to me.

Production: 4. Another strength, everything is clear and the various components are nuanced in the way that the emotions are not. Most notable aspects being the glitches and future shock soundscapes which are handled with both taste and bluster. 

Effort: 3. I always dread scoring this category because effort is sacred and sacrosanct. It feels disingenuous to score low when artists, especially in these genres, put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into their creation. I have no doubt the band did everything they could to write, record, and produce this album – but so does every other band if they’re serious about their craft. I don’t see or I’m not aware of anything over and above what other bands do. 

Relationship: 2. When I was younger maybe I would have felt different, but even when I was younger and more accepting of most Metal subgenres such as this were at an arm’s length. I love melody, and emotion, and shades of colour. I also love being heavy and angry and skilful and fast, but there are tonnes of other albums and artists who do those things while also speaking to me on a personal level. 

Genre Relation: 3. Sure… it sounds like most other albums in this genre that I’ve heard. But it also goes further and tries more. Then again, not my area of expertise. 

Authenticity: 4. Metal artists often live or die based on how authentic they are. If your fanbase feels you’ve sold out or moved to far away from what drew them to you, they’ll bugger off and let you know. Again, I don’t know much about it but it seems authentic, committed, and they believe in what they’re doing. 

Personal: 3. I’m honestly closer to a 2 because I know I’ll never listen to it again, but I also know it’s a better album than what a 2 would suggest. This score is all about your personal feelings so you can put all of you bias into this score – if an album sells in the millions, tops the charts, gets rave reviews, but it’s Country and you hate it – give it a 5 in those other categories but give it a 1 here. This is a low 3 for me, but the belief and the novelty of the glitching is enough to stop it dropping to a 2.

Miscellaneous: 2. I could go 3 here, but there’s not enough in the artwork or the surrounding info of the album to really nail down that score. 

Total: 61/100

That’s a lower score than most I’ve reviewed so far – but remember it’s only a 7 point difference between Ungodly Hours which is an album I did enjoy much more on a personal level. It may take something special to break that 70 mark!

Anneke: Live In Europe

*Originally written in 2011

Live In Europe | Anneke van Giersbergen

Although Anneke had released a live album the previous year with Danny Cavanagh, this is her first solo live release. An accomplished live performer whose energy, passion, and voice is as strong on stage as in the studio, this was undoubtedly an album to look forward to for fans when it was announced. The main issues to overcome with these sorts of albums are whether the songs selected will please as many fans as possible, whether the songs selected transfer well to a live performance, and whether it feels like a cheap cash-in or a genuine, love-filled release.

‘Intro’ is a mixture of applause and guitar noise from The World alongside other assorted backing sounds, building up the crowd nicely.

‘The World’ opens the gig, an opener that I’m not 100% convinced by – it has a nice build up, but isn’t an immediate crowd pleaser or one which will whip the audience into a frenzy. There are a number of other tracks in the Anneke canon, even on In Your Room which I feel would work better as an opening track to a live show, but regardless it is performed well, has an edge, and gets things going.

‘My Girl’ comes in straight after the first track with no time for catching you breath in between. The focus seems to be on the heavier side of Anneke’s tracks so far, with the distorted guitars giving this one a bit more bite than the studio release. Anneke enjoys herself here, in particular belting out the ending ‘ooh-ahhs’.

‘Who I Am’ is, as Anneke explains, a song written with Mr. Devin Townsend – a figure Anneke continues to partner with fruitfully. This is a fun song, with bouncing rhythms, catchy verses, and eventually a fantastic chorus which lets the vocals soar. A highly enjoyable song which I’d love to see get a studio release.

‘Day After Yesterday’ is one of my least favourite Anneke songs, and even though it is played and performed well here, I don’t think it translates well to the live setting, at least not how it is arranged here. Perhaps an even slower, colder, ghostly version, with a backing choir would convince me otherwise.

‘Hey Okay’ on the other hand is one of my favourite Anneke tracks, although it sounds a little flat here, not really picking up until the guitar solo comes in. Anneke sounds a little breathless singing here, and I’ve heard better live versions on YouTube.

‘Fury’ is my highlight of the album, an awesome, up tempo rock song with nice guitar work and excellent vocals. It’s another that I’d love to see a studio release for, thanks to its brilliant chorus and impactful verses.

‘Beautiful One’ is another strong track (and a better opener in my opinion) which is given new life in the new setting. The song lends itself to a variety of potential arrangements, here going for a much more bombastic chorus with crashing guitar work and angelic vocals.

‘Adore’ again is one of my favourites, and it’s great to see it here as live shows and special re-recorded albums never feature my favourite tracks. This one I imagine isn’t the easiest to sing with its diving and rising melodies, but Anneke does a stellar job on it. It isn’t too different from the studio version, a few less instruments and less complex, but a few added vocal flourishes.

‘I Want’ also translates well to the live arena, with bouncing rhythms which threaten the crowd into jumping along. Another fun song, there isn’t anything complicated here, or much I can say to criticize it.

‘Laugh It Out’ is an interesting one in that it never stays in my memory long, but I always enjoy it thoroughly when I hear it, having forgotten all about its existence. More great verse and chorus work, another one with a fast pace, this one sees Anneke shouting goodnight to the crowd towards the end – another one which it would be nice to see a studio version of.

‘Witnesses’ seems on paper live a totally bizarre choice for a live release, but it surprisingly works well. It’s a raucous recording, I enjoy her pronunciation of ‘universe’ and it has an extended, bruising ending.

‘Shrink’, while obviously being the closer to Nighttime Birds seems like an odd choice of song to close this album with, given that the rest of the songs were on the heavier, louder, more distorted side. It’s a little jarring for this to be thrown in at the end, being such a soft, slow song. And although the rest of the band come in and try to do something a little different with it, those changes don’t always work, and within the context of the album, they don’t save it from being a strange closing track. I’ve never heard a legitimate heavy version of the track, maybe they should have went all out and done a full on rawk version, although that could have been a failure.

An essential release for Anneke fans, albeit let down by a short running time, the absence of some great songs (subjective of course), and a fairly average recording quality – there is a lot of  hissing and extra distortion in the background, the vocal mic seems much too loud and at times the volume isn’t consistent. That being said though, these are mostly minor complaints – what we do have is a great bunch of songs performed with relish, a few nice exclusives, and another worthy purchase. There isn’t a lot of audience interaction, and I don’t hear much noise coming from the crowd between tracks, though again that would be subjective and something I enjoy hearing on Live records that others may hate. Hopefully we’ll get a much fuller live release in the future, one with a stronger production, and hopefully an accompanying DVD!

Essential Movies – 1961

Greetings, Glancers! Welcome back to my series of posts examining those movies intelligent people call Essential – and whether the rest of us should agree.  Check out my explanation post for more info, and have a look at my 1961 Oscars posts if you have additional time to waste. Onwards!

A Raisin In The Sun

Why It May Be Considered Essential: One of the first films to feature a predominantly African American cast including Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier. Preserved by the USA National Film Registry.

Why It May Not Be: Dated even though still topical, no-one remembers it, didn’t do huge business.

What I Think: Even Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds will likely miss out on this one, probably essential for Fans of the cast.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Blake Edwards, one of the most iconic Romances of all time. Top 15 grossing movie that year. Won two Oscars, nominated for three others. Moon River. Preserved by NFR.

Why It May Not Be: It’s old?

What I Think: One of the most obviously all around Essential Movies of the 60s. You don’t get to be a Critic, Film Nerd, or Film Fan without seeing this. Casuals and Careless will know it and should see it.

Fanny

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture and Actor.

Why It May Not Be: It has an unfortunate name. Most people won’t care about the cast. It wasn’t successful. I don’t think anyone remembers it outside of devout stage fans.

What I Think: Essential only if you’re determined to see every film nominated for Best Picture. No-one else needs to seek this out, as enjoyable as it may be.

Judgement At Nuremberg

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Preserved by NFR. Top 15 Grossing film that year. The most famous film about one of the most important Court Cases ever. Stanley Kramer directs. Spencer Tracey, Burt Lancaster, Max Schell, Judy Garland, William Shatner, Marlene Dietrich appear among others – some of the biggest names in Hollywood History. Nominated for 11 Oscars with Schell winning Best Actor.

Why It May Not Be: It’s old and modern audiences may not know all of the historical nuances.

What I Think: Essential for Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds. Should be essential for Film Fans – a must see for Courtroom Drama fans or fans of the cast. No-one else will be interested in finding it.

Last Year At Marienbad

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Directed by Alain Resnais. Masterpiece of surrealism. Influenced David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, nominated for an Oscar two years after release.

Why It May Not Be: Surrealism is a tough self and this is ambiguous as films get. There are no easy answers and most people like a beginning, middle, and end with clear structure.

What I Think: Essential for Wannabe Critics. Film Nerds should give at least one Alan Resnais film a go, so why not this. Surrealist Fans should see it. No-one will care.

La Notte

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Antonioni, Mastroinanni, Jeanne Moreau.

Why It May Not Be: Who?

What I Think: A dense Italian drama about a collapsing relationship – not going to be an easy sell to a modern audience. Wannabe Critics should see it, Film Nerds should try, if you’re not a fan of Antonioni or the cast you’re not going to chase it down.

Lola

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Jacques Demy. Anouk Aimee.

Why It May Not Be: Again, who?

What I Think: If you’re not a fan of Demy or Aimee, or a devotee of the French New Wave you won’t care.

Lover Come Back

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Nominated for an Oscar. Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Screwball comedy in an world of Executives.

Why It May Not Be: Old, dated, corny, not well remembered.

What I Think: Only essential if you like the two stars.

One Eyed Jacks

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Directed by and starring Marlon Brando.

Why It May Not Be: Other than the above, there isn’t much to recommend it to people.

What I Think: An interesting curio and essential for Brando fans. Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds should be aware of it and therefore should see it, but wouldn’t class it as essential for them.

One Hundred And One Dalmations

Why It May Be Considered Essential: It’s Disney. Cruella De Vil. Spawned a Live action sequel or two. Top 10 Grossing Film of the year.

Why It May Not Be: It was during a dark period for Disney where their films were not doing so well, critically or commercially and suffers from being a little dull. The songs aren’t great.

What I Think: Even though Disney films were not great during this time, this one proved they could still make a lot of money on a small budget. Aside from the wacky and dark story, it’s quite a plain story but as it is a Disney animated movie it should be considered Essential for almost everyone. The Casuals may have seen it when younger or if they have kids of their own, and same goes for The Careless – not as vital as some Disney movies, more important than others – so somewhere in the middle.

Splendor In The Grass

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Natalie Wood. Warren Beatty. Elia Kazan. Top ten grossing film of the year. Won one Oscar and nominated for another.

Why It May Not Be: Teen drama from an era long gone. Most modern audiences won’t care about the cast. Stupid name?

What I Think: A fine school-based drama with good performances and timeless arguments, but a setting and style and period which will not resonate as easily with modern viewers. Only essential for fans of the cast, not essential for Film Nerds and not high up the must see list for Wannabe Critics.

The Exiles

Why It May Be Considered Essential: One of the first films of its kind, a pseudo-documentary, but based mostly on the lives of young Native Americans who have left their reservations and moved to the big city.

Why It May Not Be: See above. No-one has ever seen it.

What I Think: I have no idea.

The Guns Of Navarone

Why It May Be Considered Essential: 2nd highest grossing movie of the year. Gregory Peck. David Niven. Anthony Quinn. Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Score, Writing, and others and won for Best Visual Effects.

Why It May Not Be: In the pantheon of great war action movies, this one has maybe been overshadowed by some others. Modern audiences looking for action aren’t likely to look so far in the past.

What I Think: One of the finest WWII era action movies and a perennial seasonal British favourite. Essential for Film Nerds more than Wannabe Critics, but both groups should see this. Essential for War fans, interesting enough that channel surfers may catch it and be drawn in by the cast and the action.

The Hustler

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Paul Newman. Piper Laurie. George C Scott. Nominated for Best Picture and 8 other Oscars, winning for Set Decoration and Cinematography.

Why It May Not Be: Old and Black and White?

What I Think: One of the best Sports movies ever with some iconic performances and characters. Essential for Wannabe Critics, Film Nerds, and fans of the cast. Fans of Pool and Snooker should consider it essential. Likely too distant now for Casuals or Careless to go looking for it.

The Innocents

Why It May Be Considered Essential: One of the finest ghost/haunted house movies ever, dense and gothic.

Why It May Not Be: Old, BW, not many obvious scares, and probably too stodgy and sterile for modern audiences.

What I Think: A classic in the British horror genre, but a slow-burner which only certain horror fans will appreciate. Essential for Wannabe Critics, less essential for Film Nerds and horror fans, not essential for anyone else.

The Ladies Man

Why It May Be Considered Essential: A Jerry Lewis comedy.

Why It May Not Be: Not many modern viewers will care about the above.

What I Think: Only essential for Lewis fans.

The Misfits

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Miller. Huston. Gable. Monroe. Arguably more famous for the Production issues than the end result. 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why It May Not Be: Monroe may remain a household name, but how many modern viewers have actually seen one of her films? If they have, it’s not this one. A flop on release.

What I Think: Filmed as Miller and Monroe were separating and Huston was drinking heavily. Monroe was in rehab during production. Gable died days after filming finished, Monroe a year later. An interesting film to be aware of due to its troubled history, so Essential for Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics. Essential for fans of the cast due to strong performances. Not essential for anyone else.

Through A Glass Darkly

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Bergman. Won Best Foreign Film Oscar. Harriet Andersson. Max Von Sydow. 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why It May Not Be: See above.

What I Think: Bergman, so again if you want to be a critic or call yourself a Film Nerd, you have to have seen a few Bergman films. This one is a good mixture of accessibility, art, and heavy themes. Essential for Bergman fans – no one else will give a damn.

Viridiana

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Bunuel. Won the Palme d’Or.

Why It May Not Be: See above.

What I Think: Same as Bergman – you need to see some Bunuel and this is as good a place to start as any. Again, no-one else will care.

West Side Story

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Best Picture winner, top grossing film of the year, won Oscars for Best Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and six more. One of the most famous and popular musicals of all time.

Why It May Not Be: Musicals. They’re balls.

What I Think: Arguably the end of the traditional epic Hollywood musical – what more could be done after this? If you’re going to watch one, it may as well be this. Essential for Film Nerds, Wannabe Critics, and Fans – Casuals and Careless will be aware of it and may as well see it but depending on preferences may not seek this out.

Yojimbo

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Kurosawa. Mifune. Swords. Basis of A Fistful of Dollars. One of the best Samurai movies ever. Influential.

Why It May Not Be: Old. BW. Foreign.

What I Think: Essential for Film Nerds, Wannabe Critics, and Kurosawa fans. Like Japanese movies? Then this is essential. Casuals and Careless will not care unless they happen to like old Samurai movies.

Let us know in the comments which movies of 1961 you feel are Essential viewing – feel free to borrow my categorizations or choose your own definitions!

Best Visual Effects – 1980

My Nominations: The Empire Strikes Back. Altered States. Flash Gordon. The Fog. Superman II.

This year there was no official category, but Empire won a Special Achievement award. If there had been a category, Empire likely would have been the winner. There’s the argument that it doesn’t do too much over and above what was set up in A New Hope but when you consider the scale of Hoth and Bespin as well as all of the space battle stuff the foundations laid out three years earlier have been built upon tenfold. Altered States is a movie which takes a theoretical scientific approach into other states of consciousness as prompted by drugs, sensory overload and depravation etc, and as such the need to accurately convey these states on screen is vital for the film’s success. The effects are as dated as anything else from this time, but powerfully aid the film’s nightmarish quality. I’m loath to include effects as dated as those seen in Flash Gordon, but I guess a lot of kids would have been enchanted by them back in the day. With The Fog, less is more and the ever spreading fog and flashes of what lies within lead to a gripping atmosphere and plenty of suspense. Superman II doesn’t up the ante from 2 years earlier, but more of the same is good enough for a year like this.

Strawberry Dragon Project: Film Review: The Empire Strikes Back

My Winner: The Empire Strikes Back

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Ranking The Led Zeppelin Songs – Led Zep 1!

The argument for what is the greatest Rock debut album is one which has always, and will continue to rage on. No matter what, Led Zep’s debut has to be in to mix. As much as the band borrowed from Blues standards, they did more to enhance those than the likes of The Rolling Stones ever did. To borrow one of modernity’s most annoying phrases ‘they made it their own’. There’s not a duff song in the bunch, though I do skip many of the songs if they appear in my shuffle just because of over familiarity. Several songs are cultural touchstones, and the whole package introduced us to probably the best Rock and Roll band ever.

  1. Communication Breakdown
  2. How Many More Times
  3. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
  4. Good Times Bad Times
  5. Dazed And Confused
  6. Your Time Is Gonna Come
  7. I Can’t Quit You Baby
  8. Black Mountain Side
  9. You Shook Me

Let us know your ranking in the comments!

Nepotism In The Film Industry

*Originally written in 2019

Nepotism. Once reserved only for Kings and Politicians, it gradually became so ingrained within the movie industry that it’s even less likely that you, glancer, will ever break into the family, should you so desire. Dreams are hard enough to chase without people born with silver spoons in their ass cutting four million places ahead of you in the line. For every kid with stardom in their eyes and a red carpet for a tongue, and for every writer with original ideas flushing from their brain, there’s a Coppola or a Redgrave or some other niece or nephew from one of Hollywood’s dynasties just waiting to stand on your neck and vomit down your gullet. There always seems to be another Fonda, another Willis, another Smith… it’s enough to make you throw it all away and become a murderous incel instead. Except, that would be a dick move, just like the dicks forcing their ofttimes unworthy glitz and glam spawn upon us.

I’m being tongue in cheek of course – many of the kids born into acting or directing or writing families are so surrounded by talent, so involved in the industry that it kind of almost makes sense that a lot of it will rub off on them and that they make the next generation of quality entertainment. On the flip side… these people are growing up with absolutely zero idea of what the real world actually is, and the stories they tell and the characters they play often bear no relation to a real human being. There’s a reason why the best movies and performers and writers and directors often come from the working class or from non-industry backgrounds. I say there is room for both, but more and more often it seems like those small parts, tailor made for a new voice, are being taken away by daddy’s little princess or mummy’s special little guy. With the calls for diversity and equality, rightly sweeping all areas of Entertainment, Sports, Business, and life in general, worrying about something so seemingly trivial as this feels like I’m pouring fuel on an already foul fire and that I should be placing my efforts towards Gender or Race Equality. Once again, I do support those things wholeheartedly, because it is only fair that everyone gets a fair shot regardless of background – and more interesting results always come from diverse opinions – whether we’re talking movies, music, politics, whatever.

I’m not outright calling Film Nepotism as something truly horrific, even if it can be, even as unfair as it is.  Some of the best people had famous industry parents, and many of the best movies would not have happened without Nepotism. I’m not saying the children of actors are going to deliver bad performances or unoriginal material – they might – but I am saying that there are issues that need to be addressed. I am saying the phenomena shows no signs of slowing down – if anything it appears to be getting more prevalent. I’m asking how many other performers out there never had a chance because they lacked the family connection? How many films never got made with a specific vision, or at all, because the person with the vision didn’t have a famous name? I’m saying – you have an audition down to two candidates for a role, and one of them is just some kid with great potential, while the other is the son of an Oscar Winner? 99% of the time, they’re going to go for the connection – keeping the family connections safe and secure, patting each other on the back, leaning on the marketing of such a name, and remaining inside an impervious bubble. Smart business, right? I’m saying, not just Hollywood, lets give someone else a shot. Businesses live and die nowadays based on diversity, and it’s not only skin colour, age, sexuality, and race we should be considering (though those are more important).

You probably know most of the aforementioned Hollywood families, but most people don’t realize just how prevalent this activity actually is. Here are some people who “only” got into the industry because of their famous family. Snowflake alert – I have no doubt that these guys are talented, but lets not pretend you got here on merit alone. Making it in any business is 5% talent, 10% hard work, 50% luck, and 90% who you know. I should know – my Maths teacher told me. This will be the first of several posts on the topic, alerting you to some of the people who may not realise had a leg up from birth.

Note – everything above and below this paragraph. was written in 2019 – 2020. I never bothered posting it because I wanted to expand the list to at least 10 entries. I got bored after the seven below and never came back to the idea. In recent weeks I’ve come to it but with a slightly different idea in mind. In my future posts on this topic, I’m either going to pick one or two of my favourite movies of a particular year and go through the entire cast to see just how many of them had a leg or two up based on their family connections, or I’m going to pick a random movie which has recently been released and do the same. Till then, try to enjoy my original post. Please. Please?

Maggie And Jake Gyllenhaal.

With a family name spreading back to Swedish nobility of the 1600s, their family members have included Ministers Of Justice for Sweden, Barons, Socialites, and various high ranking Army types. Bringing it to the 20th Century, Maggie and Jake’s father Stephen is a TV and Film Director who has worked on Family of Spies, Twin Peaks, Girl Fight, while their mother Naomi is an Oscar nominated Screenwriter for Running On Empty. With that sort of family it would be more surprising if you weren’t a worldwide success.

Julia Roberts/Eric Roberts/Emma Roberts.

Julia, Eric, and Emma are the daughter, son, and granddaughter respectively of Betty Lou Bredemus. While it’s true each of them has exceeded the matriarch in terms of fame, they probably wouldn’t have got far without her backing. She was a stage actress who worked alongside Rance Howard (more on him later) and though she kept out of the limelight, she worked on local TV and created an acting and writing workshop with great success, tutoring the children of Marin Luther King.

Ron Howard/Clint Howard/Bryce Dallas Howard/Paige Howard

If you thought the Howard clan started with Ron, you’d be ron (wrong). Rance Howard began acting in the late 40s but ironically got his major success because he starred alongside his young children Ron and Clint in hits such as Gentle Ben and The Andy Griffith Show in a weird example of… reverse nepotism? Naturally, the Matriarch was an actress too, appearing in many of Ron’s movies. Rance shows up in films such as Cool Hand Luke, Chinatown, many of Ron’s movies, Ron begat Paige and Bryce, and I’m sure they won’t be the last.

Gwyneth Paltrow

With a name like Gwyneth, you just know your parents were famous eccentric types (Apple and Moses, I’m looking at you). Yes, old ‘how the hell did she win an Oscar’ is daughter to Blythe Danner – Emmy and Tony Award winning actress that you may know from those focking Fockers movies or Futureworld or The Prince Of Tides or any number of TV movies. As if that wasn’t enough, her father was director and producer Bruce Paltrow, known for St Elsewhere and The White Shadow. Oh yes, Gwyneth’s brother Jake has directed Boardwalk Empire and NYPD Blue, her uncle Harry is an opera singer and actor from Ally McBeal and The Wedding Planner, her cousin Katherine has appeared in The L Word, Ray Donovan, and other cousin Gabrielle is an Arizona Politician. Some families spread like a disease.

Jennifer Anniston

One of the true 90s Sweethearts, Anniston was a breath of fresh air (hair?) when we first saw her as Rachel in Friends. A new talent, she…. wait a minute, wasn’t she in Leprechaun? And wait, wasn’t she in Mac And Me? Man, I love that movie. Turns out Jennifer’s entry into Hollywood was through an already open door, rather than the slammed and bolted shut way us normies face. While hardly a dynasty like some others already mentioned, and while she was discouraged from a career in Cinema, her mother nevertheless was an actress – Nancy Dow appeared in various movies and TV series in the 1960s, while her Greek immigrant father John Anniston is a popular TV and Soap actor, most famous for over 2500 episodes of Day Of Our Lives. 

Joaquin Phoenix

Note – when I began writing this, I didn’t have any set format in mind. I wrote the first draft a good year before returning to it, and when I did return I decided to take a different approach. So the next names I’m looking at are recent Oscar Winners and Nominees – just to see their family connections (ha! Either that or recent releases or my own personal favourites. Or all three. Or more likely none). Joaquin Phoenix is undoubtedly one of the most revered performers of his generation. It’s a little disingenuous to include him here – his parents were not performers – but it was his mother’s work as a secretary for NBC that ensured a talent scout spotted her children and their potential. While Joaquin and River have had the most success out of the five siblings, it is only sisters Summer and Liberty who have had children of their own. There’s every chance those kids will extend the Phoenix legacy in the future.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Another child actor turned Hollywood Heavyweight, DiCaprio had a minor edge over the competition given that his father was an established writer with many acquaintances in the 70s Underground. While hardly a deal-breaker, his father’s experience in these circles undoubtedly helped Leo become the star he is today.

Let us know in the comments if you have any obvious or minor examples of Hollywood nepotism and your own thoughts on the phenomena!

Anneke Van Giersbergen – Everything Is Changing

* Originally written in 2012

ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN - Everything Is Changing - Tour 2012

Anneke’s 4th studio album is all about change; the album title suggests as much at first glance. Not long before the release Anneke abandoned the Agua De Annique moniker after admitting that it wasn’t the easiest or most recognizable name. Musically there are more changes, though fans should not be apprehensive as there is nothing drastically different- longtime fans will know what to expect. This is largely another melody driven, guitar laden rock album which moves from outrageously catchy commercial moments to tear-jerking quiet moments and with plenty of pace and power in between.

‘Feel Alive’ is the lead single from the album, one with another buoyant video and excited delivery. With this third release, and with the band name changing from Agua De Annique to simply Anneke’s name, we see a confident performer now blazing her own trail and free to explore whatever ideas and sounds she desires. This excitement and freedom is clear in every note and lyric in the song, an upbeat song with a nice build-up so a soaring payoff chorus; A jubilant declaration of love.

‘You Want To Be Free’ is another upbeat track, this time more of a rock song than the lighter first track. Another love song of sorts, it speaks of the indecision in relationships and sounds like the advice of a friend. There are a couple of standout moments here, the bridges, the main riff, and the ‘yeah yeah’ middle section, though the chorus and verses are not the most memorable.

‘Everything Is Changing’ is a softer, slower, piano driven song with stuttering, yet ethereal verse vocals. As the title track it isn’t as epic as you would expect, with a decent chorus but doesn’t catch the ear. It’s an ok song, well sung of course, just a little bland.

‘Take Me Home’ quickens the pace again, another decent rock/pop crossover with piano and guitar riffs merging as well as some studio magic to give the impression of a wide-ranging wall of sound style production. This one is catchy enough, with another good chorus, but may lack the all-important killer ingredient.

‘I Wake Up’ opens with an unusual drum loop and synth section which pulls in and out in a tidal fashion. This one always gives me the impression of a lost Pet Shop Boys song, but with all the camp removed. Anneke sounds like she is very close to the listener’s ear for the verses on this one, and the chorus is another good one – a slightly eerie feel to it.

‘Circles’ may be Anneke’s strongest song yet, a teary piano led ballad with emotive lyrics about loneliness, hope, and of course the circles of our lives. Again, there is an eerie nature here, but that is overcome by the gorgeous, emotional vocal performance. With a massive chorus, exquisite middle section, and glorious close as the violins join in, this is the true centerpiece of the album.

‘My Boy’ has a tough act to follow, but it’s arguably the best straight rock song Anneke has written so far. With a classic snare intro and simple, but awesomely effective riff, this is a mid-paced guitar, drum, bass driven song with beautiful verse melodies. There is also some studio trickery as the song progresses, but the best moments are the build up to the wonderful chorus – bridge and chorus are both perfection, blending together and building to a climactic eruption (more like the build-up and scoring of a winning goal than what you’re thinking about). My favourite bit though is the ‘even though I’m crazy about my boy’ section, beautifully belted out and adding an extra level to an already euphoric chorus.

‘Stay’ is a fairly heavy song as Anneke goes, with loud, bouncing Led Zep style riff, and delightfully vicious lyrics. It’s another one where the verse, bridge, chorus all meld together wonderfully, building and bleeding into each other. We even get that killer ingredient, after a short instrumental interlude, as Anneke adds a final, different bridge right at the end.

‘Hope, Pray, Dance, Play’ has the appeal of another single with its big intro and sing-along chorus. It’s another decent track, but it doesn’t have that touch which makes it click with me personally, especially coming after a killer trio of songs.

‘Slow Me Down’ is a fast paced rocker, fueled by muted chords in the verses and lifted by a fist-pumping chorus. Nice, quick shooter lyrics, another effective middle section, and a few moments of vocal brilliance (aside from the usual expected brilliance of course) ensure this is another one to put on repeat.

‘Too Late’ opens with another crushing riff, a lighter Pantera, allowing Anneke to spit out some further angry lyrics. Vocals and guitars work particularly well here, with the sudden stuttered guitar blasts punctuating and mirroring Anneke’s words.

‘1000 Miles Away From You’ closes the album, a choice which I’ve always seen as an odd one. I’ve always felt that the closing track of an album should be instantly memorable, a slam of a door that you will want to open again. For an album that has mostly been on the heavy side, this one has an epic feel, again calls back that eerie, angry tone, but doesn’t stick in my mind as much as others for some reason. Listening again with a pseudo-critical ear, it is slow, without being plodding, veering between quiet and loud pieces, but the middle interlude doesn’t work, sounding an awful lot like a similar section in The Gathering’s song ‘Home’. Rather than going out with a bang though, it drags its heels for the final minute.

The heaviest album Anneke has made since leaving The Gathering, this is a great rock record with a superb production. There is a wide scope in the theme of the songs, allowing Anneke to sing with a greater range of emotion than she usually does, from a lyrical perspective. There are introspective moments, and there are moments of rage; there are dedications and warnings, apologies and consternation. While there are less standout commercial tracks here, there is still a handful of songs which deserved to shoot up the charts in any country, while the rest are weighed heavily in the cult or fan favourite character, rather than the album filler one. Ultimately, it’s another vital release for fans, and contains a number of songs which would certainly win over new fans if they had the opportunity to hear them.