Cinema classics: War Horse

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War Horse (2011)

Directed by Steven Spielberg 

Who’s in it? Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis

What’s it about? Steven Spielberg’s War Horse is a modern epic which follows the inspirational and unlikely journey of a horse named Joey as he whinnies his way miraculously through the emotional ravages of World War I, touching the hearts of just about everyone on the way. The most hardened of critics included! Beginning in a small country town in England, we follow our equine hero from his first clumsy canter across the idyllic Devon countryside in the company of his best friend and trainer Albert, to the bloody trenches of France where he engenders a spirit of hope among the hopeless. War Horse is everything an uplifting film about the unlikely survival of an infantry horse in the First World War should be; cheesy and melodramatic but sincere and uplifting.

Memorable moments? With a nod… click here to read whole article and make comments


Are the Oscars a reliable guide to artistic quality?

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The first thing to understand about the Oscars is that, as a measure of the aesthetic value of films, they are completely unreliable. To understand why this is the case, we need to know what exactly “The Academy” is and how it operates.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, established in 1927, is an invitation-only honorary society made up of people who work in the film industry, mainly in Hollywood. The Academy has several branches: one for actors, one for editors, one for executives, and so on. Memberships, once gained, do not expire.

The Academy was originally formed as an organisation that could deal with the internal politics of Hollywood, such as labour disputes, but also to enhance its external reputation.

While cinema itself has been wildly popular in America since its beginnings, Hollywood quickly gained a reputation as a hotbed of vice and… click here to read whole article and make comments


Philip Seymour Hoffman: a rare breed of actor

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I can’t remember exactly when, and which film it was that first introduced me to the acting talents of Philip Seymour Hoffman, but for a long time now I have considered him to be one of the most underrated actors of his day.

When I first heard the news that he had died of a drug overdose I was shocked. Not simply because this was the loss of a truly great acting talent, but also because he had effectively prophesied his own demise several years ago during an interview when he commented on his decision to give up drinking at age 22:

“I think I would have drank myself to death, literally, if I didn't just stop, once and for all when I did. I am not ever going to preach to anyone about drugs or drinking. But, for me, when they were around, I had no self control.”

Sadly,… click here to read whole article and make comments


No sweet nostalgia in the Coen brothers’ take on folk music

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Inside Llewyn Davis     
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Who’s in it? Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman

What’s it about? Winner of last year’s Grand Prix at Cannes, the Coen brothers’ latest takes an introspective look at the soul of the contemporary singer/songwriter, reflecting a universal awareness of potential unfulfilled; that nagging sense that we could finally do what we’re meant to if only we could catch a break. A sort of O Blues Brother, Where Art Thou? type journey that doesn’t necessarily go anywhere in particular but encourages you to appreciate it all the same. Llewyn - apparently inspired, at least in part, by the memoirs of 60s folk singer Dave Van Ronk, essentially the guy who wasn’t Bob Dylan - isn’t a particularly sympathetic character but that’s evidently part of his appeal. He’s the underdog’s underdog. Featuring cameos from Justin Timberlake and Marcus Mumford (Mumford… click here to read whole article and make comments


Cinema Classics: The General (1926)

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The General (1926)
Directed by Buster Keaton 

Who’s in it? Buster Keaton, Marion Mack

What’s it about? A lukewarm reception for The General upon its release in 1926 meant independent actor/director and silent era icon Buster Keaton was strongarmed into a contract at MGM due to a poor return on the film’s US$750,000 budget (a colossal amount back then). Nevertheless the film undoubtedly fed a legacy that would eventually earn him an honourary Oscar. In one of the greatest u-turns in popular American film criticism Keaton’s The General is now rightly acknowledged as a marvel of modern ingenuity, one of the greatest films of all time and a sheer delight from start to finish. Keaton himself stars as engineer Johnnie Gray, who must rescue his beloved locomotive ‘The General’ from a band of run away Union soldiers. If you watch one silent film in your life make sure it’s this one:… click here to read whole article and make comments


Dreams do come true

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty    
Directed by Ben Stiller    
Written by Steve Conrad based on the story by James Thurber   
Starring Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Patton Oswalt, Adam Scott   
116 minutes  

Walter Mitty, the dependable and serious manager of Life magazine’s photograph archive, is a daydreamer living a featureless existence. He dreams of being a hero in epic adventures and of winning the heart of Cheryl Melhoff, a colleague he is to shy to court. But when the magazine is taken over by another company, and the print edition is about to be closed, even Walter’s quiet way of life is at stake. But life is going to call him to an unexpected adventure. When the picture negative for the last Life print edition cover is missing Walter decides to go and find the photographer who shot it. It is… click here to read whole article and make comments


Cinema Classics: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Directed by Charles Laughton 

Who’s in it? Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish

What’s it about? Number 71 on Empire Magazine’s 500 Greatest Films list and influential for maverick directors like Terrence Malick, Martin Scorcese and David Lynch, the brooding menace and undeniable power of Charles Laughton’s brilliantly bewitching thriller is all the more palpable in this brand new digital restoration. When Robert Mitchum’s enigmatic and beguiling scripture-spouting serial killer, Preacher Powell, comes to a small southern town in search of a hidden stash of stolen cash, the innocence in the children of the family he adopts mingles like oil on water with the seemingly sincere and ruthless rigour with which his pitiless predator plays the pious preacher, with an eye on an altogether more worldly prize. Nearly seventy years after deliberately discomforting its first American audience, the film, adapted from a novel of the same… click here to read whole article and make comments


Cinema Classics: All About Eve (1950)

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All About Eve (1950)
Dirrected by Joseph L. Mankiewicz 

Who’s in it? Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter

What’s it about? Based on the short story "The Wisdom of Eve", which first appeared in a 1946 issue of Cosmopolitan, All About Eve sees the immortal Bette Davis (The Little Foxes) as an ageing Broadway star and Anne Baxter (The Magnificent Ambersons) as the bright eyed and bushy tailed newcomer threatening to steal her waning limelight. Including a brief cameo by a young Marilyn Monroe in one of her first screen roles, All About Eve was nominated for an unprecedented 14 Oscars, winning six including Best Picture, and is still the only film ever to receive nominations for four of its female stars; one Best actress nod each for Davis and Baxter with co-stars Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter recognised in the Best Supporting Actress category,… click here to read whole article and make comments


Cinema Classics: La Belle et la Bete (1946)

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La Belle et la Bete (1946)
Directed by Jean Cocteau 

Who’s in it? Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parely

What’s it about? The classic tale of a young girl taken prisoner by a pitiless beast when she sacrifices herself to save her father, is a universal story about recognising the beauty, and struggling against the beast, within. Better known to the world as the critically acclaimed and technically groundbreaking 1991 Disney musical Beauty and the Beast, Jean Cocteau’s take on what Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) called “the most perfect cinematic fable ever told” is a captivating study in the ‘realism of the unreal’. The Les Enfants Terribles director delves deep into the haunting reality of the beautiful and the beastly within every human heart, the capacity for good and for evil we all posses and the choices which form our character and reveal our true personality.

Memorable Moments? The immortal shot of… click here to read whole article and make comments


Top 10 inspiring biopics to see this holiday season… or any time of the year

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Christmas is always a special time for me. It's not just another holiday, as there is someone's birth I am celebrating for His gift to humanity. So as we celebrate the birth of our Lord, it'd be most appropriate to focus on the theme of inspiration. The word itself came from the Latin word inspīrāre which means 'to breathe upon or breathe life into.

inspire (ɪnˈspaɪə) — vb to exert a stimulating or beneficial effect upon (a person); animate or invigorate

Certain films have a power to inspire us, especially those that are based on a real person. Of course Hollywood often takes creative license with the films, but so long as the essence of the story is there, it can still very much inspire us. Note that I'm limiting the list to films from 1980s and up just to help narrow things down. So without further ado, here are 10 biopics I have seen so far that… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Popcorn is MercatorNet's funky blog about what's hot and what's not in the world of cinema. Feel like contributing? Contact us at Feel like commenting? Sound off beneath the posts. 

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