Tag Archives: 1980

Top 100 Films #63 – Raging Bull (1980)


image-w1280-2#63. Raging Bull (1980)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Paul Schrader, Mardrik Martin (based on Raging Bull: My Story by Jake La Motta, Joseph Carter, Peter Savage)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Nicholas Colasanto

From a classic masterpiece to a slightly more modern one, Raging Bull is almost undeniably Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro’s shining achievement.  The bleak and often tough to watch look at the life of boxer Jake La Motta pulls no punches, but instead acts as an honest critique of the man’s life.  Raging Bull sees the aforementioned Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) as he rises through the ranks boxing in the middleweight division, his brother Joey (Joe Pesci) serving as his manager and assistant.  Jake falls in love with a teenage girl named Vikki (Cathy Moriarty), defeats the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson, being taken seriously as a legitimate fighter.  The film sees Jake La Motta’s intense jealousy over his wife Vikki, his tumultuous relationship with his brother Jake, his rise to title contention, and his very sudden and very sharp fall from grace.  The best part of Raging Bull is just how searing a look at its central figure it is – the man is rarely painted in an overly positive light.  The audience instead has to sit through difficult scenes of the La Motta family embroiled in domestic abuse, familial infighting, corruption, and serious embarrassment by the hands of fate.  Martin Scorsese’s graceful direction of the film is what makes Raging Bull special – he and cinematographer Michael Chapman shoot the movie in beautiful, but grainy, black and white.  The film’s boxing scenes are shot almost like professional ballet by Scorsese and Chapman, with each blow feeling like a true work of art.  It is Scorsese’s direction that gives Raging Bull its immense power over viewers, becoming a beautiful but disturbing look at a man who was no stranger to controversy.  The three lead performances by Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Cathy Moriarty are incredible, with each actor bringing their own take on the roles.  De Niro’s method acting techniques saw the actor gain a great deal of weight for scenes in Raging Bull’s last act, making it much more powerful and believable than prosthetics ever could.  His intense, angry performance as the jealous and violent La Motta is legendary, and earned De Niro an Academy Award for Best Actor.  Both Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty deliver more down-to-earth and level-headed performances as the two reasonable voices in the ears of Jake La Motta – Pesci being torn between feelings of loyalty and shame for his brother, and Moriarty the unsatisfied, unhappy wife of La Motta.  Worth mentioning also is the editing by Thelma Schoonmaker, which also earned her an Academy Award.  Schoonmaker experiments with slow motion and manipulation of sound during boxing scenes, making them all far more memorable and noteworthy.  Raging Bull is legendary from top to bottom, featuring the greatest modern American director in his prime, three extraordinary performances, and a hell of a script to deliver one of the most honest and painful character studies ever made.  


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Top 100 Films #65 – Kagemusha (1980)


9hjmvhq#65. Kagemusha (1980)
Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
Written by: Akira Kurosawa, Masato Ide
Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai

Kagemusha is Akira Kurosawa’s epic tale of deception within a political dynasty in Sengoku era Japan.  The film served as Kurosawa’s return to Japan after a brief excursion to Russia in order to make the equally incredible Dersu Uzala. Kagemusha’s intricate story sees Takeda Shingen (Tatsuya Nakadai), leader of the Takeda clan, save a thief from execution due to his uncanny resemblance to the daimyo.  This “Kagemusha” (also played by Tatsuya Nakadai) is taught the ways of the Takeda clan in order to serve as their leader’s double, eventually fooling even those closest to the daimyo.  After a series of unfortunate events, the Kagemusha is forced to assume leadership upon Takeda Shingen’s untimely demise, throwing the clan into chaos when their enemies suspect that something is going on.  Akira Kurosawa is best known for his intimate and action-packed samurai-era epics, and Kagemusha absolutely delivers on that front.  While it may be something of a slow burn in its first act, the story being told by the director is an intimate and delicate character study of an incredibly powerful man and his enemies.  Stories of people being thrown into positions far over their own heads are age-old, and yet Kagemusha manages to shed a new light on the classic story structure.  The titular Kagemusha is transformed from a barbaric thief to a dead ringer for the daimyo of the Takeda clan, and the transformation is wonderful to behold.  While Kagemusha is a more personal tale than some of Kurosawa’s other epics, it also features incredible, sweeping panoramic scenes of action.  While never as thrilling as something like Ran, Kurosawa’s film doesn’t seem interested in telling a non-stop thrill ride – instead it’s sure of what it is, which is a tale of deception and intrigue, and it delivers on these fronts.  The dual performance of Tatsuya Nakadai is admirable, with the actor eventually able to blend the two dynamic personalities into the transformed Kagemusha.  The samurai epic saw modest success, tying with Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and picking up an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film.  While it may not be the best introduction to those not familiar with the samurai genre, Kagemusha is a captivating, beautiful, and highly rewarding for those brave enough to give it a shot.

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North Bay Film Festival (Day 2 – September 30, 2016)

Day Two of the North Bay Film Festival marked the first full-day of the fest, bringing with it four feature films, some excellent short film submissions, and a wonderful gala full of classic movie props, scripts, and costumes.  With a full day of films came the inevitable passion for the arts, excitement of the audience, and one incredibly memorable experience I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.  For more information on the North Bay Film Festival, you can visit
www.northbayfilmfestival.ca for schedules and programming, or you can like them on Facebook at North Bay Film.  Without further ado, here’s what I thought of the programming on Saturday, September 30, 2016:

maggies_plan_posterMaggie’s Plan (2016)
Directed by: Rebecca Miller
Written by: Rebecca Miller
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph

A brilliant and independent woman named Maggie (Greta Gerwig) plans on having a baby on her own until she unexpectedly falls in love with a married man (Ethan Hawke).  Fast forward several years later, and things haven’t worked out quite as expected.  A regretful Maggie sets a plan in motion that may see her husband once again fall in love with his own ex-wife.  Maggie’s Plan is Rebecca Miller’s strongest film to date, combining hilarious and witty writing with a Woody Allen-esque plot and cast of characters.

What I Liked:

  • Greta Gerwig and Ethan Hawke have terrific on-screen chemistry, especially when they alternate playing the “neurotic” part of the couple.  Both give great, subtle performances.  Ethan Hawke truly shines in the last half of the film, bringing some much-needed emotional weight with him.
  • The script is sharp and hilarious in the vein of classic Woody Allen films.  It borders on shocking in some moments, to family-friendly in others.
  • The supporting cast of Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, and Travis Fimmel all give wonderfully charming performances, giving the audience something to look forward to when their characters come into the picture.
  • There’s an extended scene at a snowy French-Canadian lodge that is absolutely wonderful, perhaps one of my favorite movie moments of the year so far.

What I Didn’t:

  • While it doesn’t detract a great deal from the film, Maggie’s Plan is quite formulaic and predictable in its last act.  While the ending is still very satisfying, I don’t think it’s going to surprise even the least experienced moviegoers.
  • Julianne Moore’s eastern-European accent is atrocious, giving what I’d call the most puzzling performance of her career.

While Maggie’s Plan may not be an entirely original or unique take on the romantic-comedy genre, it has a heck of a lot to offer.  Very good performances from most of the cast, a truly funny script, and some very memorable moments makes Maggie’s Plan a real gem.  It comes recommended from me.

Tickled (2016)tickled
Directed by: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve
Written by: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve
Starring: n/a

Tickled is the story of a horrific discovery by New Zealand TV personality David Farrier. His discovery is the underground world of competitive endurance tickling, which is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds.  Unfortunately for Farrier and his partner Dylan Reeve, what they find when they delve deeper may change them forever.  This dark, bizarre, and at times hilarious documentary is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, making me roar with laughter at times, and then almost immediately make me sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation.  Tickled is unique and wonderfully weird, which is something every festival film should strive for.

What I Liked:

  • Tickled just might be the most intense documentary I’ve seen in quite some time, especially in its final act.  The filmmakers tail the ringleader of the dark underground world of competitive tickling, and the conclusion is fully satisfying.
  • The editing, filmmaking, and narration all work perfectly together, creating a sometimes frantic, always energetic documentary film that never feels stale or unoriginal.
  • The timeline of events are delivered clearly, and no loose ends are left by the end of the film.  Everything that is explored is eventually given a proper conclusion, so the film feels satisfying by its finale.
  • The crowd was left completely silent after the credits rolled.  No applause, no commenting, almost no sounds at all.  It really speaks to how effective the ending of the film is.

What I Didn’t:

  • There’s a point in the film where Farrier and Reeve visit a tickling fetishist, which is very funny, but adds nothing of substance to the film as a whole.  Instead it slows down the pacing somewhat, as I just wanted to get back to the mystery at hand.

Tickled is a completely original and unique take on an undiscovered territory for documentary films.  It’s enjoyable throughout the entirety of its brief runtime, and may even make you rethink the weird world we live in.  It’s absolutely one of the year’s best, and an experience you shouldn’t miss out on.  Tickled is highly recommended.

love__friendship_posterLove & Friendship (2016)
Directed by: Whit Stillman
Written by: Whit Stillman
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Chloe Sevigny, Stephen Fry, Tom Bennett

Any year with a new film from the always high-quality Whit Stillman is almost certainly going to be a special one.  His latest, Love & Friendship, based on the Jane Austen novel Lady Susan, is perhaps his strongest work yet.  Starring Kate Beckinsale as the titular Lady Susan, and featuring a cast full of veteran character actors, Love & Friendship is everything that is right about independent film.  A period piece about a woman pursuing a man who is originally intended for her daughter shouldn’t be nearly as fun as it is, but that’s exactly what makes Stillman’s film so special.

What I Liked:

  • Kate Beckinsale is tremendous as Lady Susan Vernon, bordering on unlikeable and despicable for the majority of the runtime, everything she comes into contact with invariably goes awry.
  • Tom Bennett’s turn as Sir James Martin is the highlight of the film.  He’s hilarious in every single scene, single-handedly stealing the show and bringing life to what could have been a cold and dreary affair.
  • Whit Stillman’s direction is fluid and energetic, bringing a great deal of flair to the usually dry costume drama genre.
  • The intertitles between scenes introducing the cast of characters are brilliant and set the tone for the rest of the movie.

What I Didn’t:

  • It does take some time to really become something memorable, the screening experience a few walkouts early in the film due to the pacing of the first 10-15 minutes.  Once it gets going, there’s no stopping it.

Love & Friendship will very likely go down as one of my favorite films of the year.  It brings the class and high-drama of typical costume dramas, but Stillman injects it with his trademark sense of sly, unblinking humor and turns it into the sort of thing worth revisiting over and over again.  I adored it, and I think most everybody reading this will too.  Love & Friendship is highly recommended.

The Shining (1980)the_shining_poster
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd

North Bay After Dark’s special presentation of The Shining is something I will always treasure as a movie fan, as it was truly a memorable experience.  Young and old alike came out with beers in hand to see Stanley Kubrick’s classic take on Stephen King’s The Shining. While it’s not a film I love by any means, seeing it on the big screen really made its imagery and more suspenseful moments that much more effective.  It’s not a film you have to love to get some enjoyment out of, as it has a little bit for everybody.  After all, who doesn’t love watching Jack Nicholson chew the scenery as he stalks his family around the atmospheric Overlook Hotel?

What I Liked:

  • Scatman Crothers’ Dick Hallorann is always a treat, especially his interactions with young Danny.  Hallorann’s bachelor pad got some pretty great laughs, which lightened things up a bit.
  • Jack Nicholson’s performance in the first 90 minutes.
  • Shelley Duvall’s performance in the final 30 minutes.
  • The Overlook Hotel is even more beautiful on the big screen, and I really admired the effort Kubrick put into designing the set.  The Shining’s production design is truly something special, probably owing to Kubrick’s obsessive and perfectionist nature.
  • The scares (the twins, room 237) still work wonders, especially with a pounding sound system and a huge screen at our disposal.
  • Kubrick’s camera is always moving and bringing the audience along for an adventure through the hotel grounds.

What I Didn’t:

  • Jack Nicholson in the final hour of the movie.  He goes from subtle and scary to just plain over the top, which is always too jarring for my liking.
  • The first hour of the film is very, very slow.  It sets the mood and builds atmosphere for the rest of the film, but by the time something actually happens I just don’t care anymore.
  • The final act with Dick Hallorann returning to the hotel and Danny running into the maze just comes off as an anti-climax for me.  I don’t know how I’d change it personally, but I know that I certainly don’t find it to be a compelling conclusion to this spooky tale.

The Shining is a love it or hate it cult classic, but there’s no doubting the artistry at hand.  After all, it is one of the greatest American directors in history directing the work of one of America’s greatest writers.  Somewhere along the line it loses me, but it obviously works wonders for others.  It’s scary, atmospheric, and a ton of fun.  I don’t adore it, but I do absolutely appreciate it and admire its place in horror history.  The Shining is recommended.

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