Goldfinger poster

Popular Features

Wille and Virginia

100 Years of… Our Hospitality

1923 is the year when Buster Keaton’s run of classic feature-length comedies gets out of the blocks with Our Hospitality, which signals its intention to be different even in its opening credits, which linger on the screen far longer than those of most films of the era. Here, they say, is something to be savoured. The story is William Shakespeare via rural 19th-century America via the mind of Buster Keaton, a re-working of Romeo and Juliet crossed with the Hatfield and McCoys feud, with Buster playing Willie McKay, a guy who falls in love with a young woman he meets on the train journey back to his Appalachian homeland where he’s inherited a … Read more
Mike Meyers and Jessica Alba in 2010's The Love Guru

The Razzies – Winners Who Showed Up

One supposedly represents the best of the best and the other the worst of the worst. In theory the Oscars and the Razzies are polar opposites, yet they have something in common. Each loves a pile-on. Every year as awards season comes around again, a fog seems to descend on the members of the voting academies, groupthink sets in and some perfectly OK but largely unremarkable movies start mysteriously migrating – up to become Academy Award contenders, or down to where the Razzies await. If a bona fide celebrity is involved, the movement can be quite dramatic. Was Driving Miss Daisy really the best picture of 1990? Against, say, Do the Right Thing? Did … Read more
The Avengers

All the Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies Ranked

The good, the bad and the ugly, from the very first one to the most recent, here’s the what and the why of Marvel’s web-spinning, hammer-throwing, shield-tossing, Groot-uttering heroes and superheroes in one handy chunk Who’d have thought, when Iron Man gave birth to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2008, that more than two decades on it would still be flying and still pulling in enthusiastic audiences? Even Kevin Feige, who has produced every single one of them, cannot have expected a run of so many successful films – pushing $30 billion at the box office and counting. As I write, in September 2022, Marvel are planning releases as far as ten years … Read more
The Count and Princess Vera

100 Years of… Foolish Wives

When Foolish Wives debuted in 1922, its writer/director/star Erich von Stroheim was at the peak of his popularity, having exploited anti-German sentiment during the First World War by playing a despicable Hun doing despicable things in a series of films. “The man you love to hate,” was his moniker, one gained in 1918 in the film The Heart of Humanity, where he plays a ruthless German officer who throws a baby out of the window so he can better get on with raping a Red Cross nurse. That’ll do it. Foolish Wives works the same seam, though, the war over and the Russian revolution grabbing more headlines, von Stroheim is now playing a … Read more
Esmeralda is carried to safety by Quasimodo

100 Years of… The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Mention The Hunchback of Notre Dame to someone and the response is often a shuffling crouch, accompanied by a moaning “the bells… the bells”, in vague homage to Charles Laughton. Here’s where Laughton got it all from, 1923’s Hunchback, starring Lon Chaney as Quasimodo, the mostly deaf, half-blind unfortunate who falls for a gypsy dancer called Esmeralda, as does nearly every other man in the film. What’s notable watching this version for the first time is how Esmeralda-centric it is. This is her story, not Quasimodo’s. The title of Victor Hugo’s original novel was Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris), and it’s tempting to imagine the title nods towards Esmeralda – she … Read more
Pope Benedict in Brasil in his red loafers

Popes on Film

News that Pope Benedict XVI has decided to hang up the red papal slippers sets the mind a-wandering. Who are the great popes of cinema? Oddly, this is a harder question to answer than you might think. For starters, there are many films that feature a pope at the edge of the action but very very few are actually about a pope. Also, the pope, though held in contempt in some quarters, gets a rather easy ride in the movies, possibly because so many Hollywood films were made by Jewish emigres with first hand experience of what can happen when religion is dragged into the foreground. Either way, popes and knuckle-whitening drama don’t … Read more
Daniel Craig and Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale

James Bond’s Testicles

Have you ever noticed how James Bond is always getting his balls interfered with? The world’s most virile spy is bursting with so much testosterone that women want to get their hands on them and can’t help but fall into bed with him. Men, on the other hand, feel so threatened they want to crush him/them. Either that, or his heterosexual payload intimidates them so much that they come over all gay – again and again 007 is beset by the world’s elite effete, men with an exaggerated interest in long-haired cats and their own clothes, and who treat beautiful women with a casual disregard. Most notably there was the dual shape of … Read more
Caren Pistorius in Slow West

The Best Films of 2015

There’s a tendency among people who watch a lot of films to boost ones that stand out rather than ones that are good. This can lead to some perverse choices in the “best of” lists that proliferate at this time of year. So that probably explains the rogue nature of the list below – ha ha. If you’re expecting to find Spectre (not at all bad) or the latest Marvel movie or Jurassic World, look elsewhere. These are just the films, of the maybe 350 films or so that I’ve watched in the past 12 months, that jumped out and grabbed me. Some of them are 2014 releases. Ten Best Paddington (dir: Paul … Read more
Harold hangs from the clock

100 Years of… Safety Last!

Here’s an image so iconic that it’s recognised by people who have no idea what film it’s from, or who the geezer hanging off the clock is. Wikipedia calls it one of the most famous images from the silent-film era but it’s surely more than that – this is one of the most famous images from any era, in any medium, and ranks alongside the Mona Lisa or the mask of Tutankhamoun, right? Maybe I’m hyperventilating a bit there, but to change tack slightly, the added brilliance of this remarkable image is that it perfectly sums up in one frame what Safety Last!, Harold Lloyd’s 1923 masterpiece, is all about – hanging on for grim … Read more
Makeda and Pharaoh

100 Years of… The Loves of Pharaoh

Why this film from 1922 is called The Loves of Pharaoh in English is a bit of a mystery. It’s Das Weib des Pharao – Pharaoh’s Woman (or Wife) – in German and in every other language it was translated into (per the IMDb), the lady in question has been faithfully rendered as wife/woman/love singular. In fact the film was also much messed about with when it first debuted. In Russia Pharaoh was more of a tyrant, in the US there was more of a happy ending, whereas in its native Germany audiences got to see more or less what the director Ernst Lubitsch and writers Norbert Falk and Hanns Kräly had wanted … Read more
Rudolph Valentino as the Sheikh

100 Years of… The Sheikh

Rudolph Valentino had two big films in 1921. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by far the biggest grossing film of the year, was the one that made him a star. But The Sheikh was even more important. It made Valentino so famous that we still talk of him today, long after the auras of fellow stars like Norma Talmadge and Wallace Reid have faded. The Four Horsemen gave Valentino the “Latin lover” tag but The Sheikh made it stick, something that Valentino – striving to have a varied career – struggled against before bowing to the inevitable in 1926 with Son of the Sheikh. In an intense but short time at the … Read more
all

Roll Out the Barrel: Pubs Never Looked So Good

A collection of documentary shorts on the British pub paints a warm, comforting picture of one of the country’s most cherished institutions. But is it a true one? “There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man,” intones a voice theatrically, “by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.” The quote is from Samuel Johnson and it kicks off The Story of English Inns, the first of 20 collected documentary shorts from the archive released in June 2012 by the British Film Institute. Alas, anyone who’s ever been to a British pub will tell you that this adage conveys only half the truth. For every charming hostelry … Read more

Popular Posts