Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Muhammeds Ansigt

Jyllands-Posten
Twelve caricatures of Mohammed were published by published by Jyllands-Posten in 2005 under the headline Muhammeds Ansigt. They have subsequently caused riots, protests, and even murders around the world.

Several new Mohammed cartoons have been published in expressions of solidarity with Jyllands-Posten, in: Weekendavisen, France Soir, The Guardian, Philadelphia Daily News, Le Monde, Het Nieuwsblad, Charlie Hebdo, The Daily Tar Heel, Akron Beacon Journal, The Strand, Nana, International Herald Tribune, Gorodskiye Vesti, Misselijke Grappen, and Harper's. Mohammed even appeared in (but was censored from) South Park.

Many publications have reprinted some or all of the original twelve images, with Kurt Westergaard's caricature being the image most often reproduced. Some of them appear in the books Blasphemy and L'Affaire Des Caricatures.)

PDF

Monday, 30 October 2006

Deia

Deia
Two days ago, the satirical Spanish magazine Deia published a collage of Spain's King Juan Carlos, showing him drooling victoriously after shooting a bear which had been subdued with a barrel of vodka. The image is a reference to an alleged hunting incident in which the King apparently killed a drunken bear. Legal proceedings have been instigated against the magazine, and it may face charges of lese majeste.

Sunday, 29 October 2006

Blasphemy

Blasphemy
Blasphemy, by S Brent Plate, is the first-ever full-length study of blasphemous art. It begins with a lengthy, though generalised, account of the Mohammed cartoons controversy, and is profusely illustrated (including small reproductions of a few of the Mohammed caricatures, though none of the subsequent cartoons inspired by them).

Most of the illustrations, though, are not really blasphemous. Several, such as works by Jake and Dinos Chapman, Marcus Harvey, and others, have no relation to blasphemy at all. A chapter on flag desecration seems extraneous (and the subject, along with modern American examples of artistic blasphemy, was discussed in Steven C Dubin's excellent book Arresting Images).

Potentially blasphemous art representing Jesus as sexually active (such as The Last Temptation Of Christ) or tumescent (such as Terence Koh) are glossed over or excluded. The author explains that he has concentrated solely on visual art, though I'm still surprised that he didn't find room to even briefly mention the novel The Satanic Verses or the poem The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name, which are perhaps the most famous examples of blasphemous art in the UK.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Horror

Horror
Horror: The Definitive Guide To The Cinema Of Fear is a new book about horror cinema. Not just any book, mind you, but the Definitive Guide (or so it proclaims). Any book with the word definitive in its title is asking for trouble, because the author's idea of definitive may not be the same as the reader's.

In this case, the authors are James Marriott and Kim Newman. Or rather, Marriott is editor and principal contributor, Newman wrote introductory essays to each chapter, and six others wrote reviews and shorter essays. It's rather misleading that Marriott and Newman are the only names on the cover, especially because they are not credited as editors - the cover implies that they are co-authors, which is not strictly true.

Newman is, I think, one of the very best writers on horror cinema, and his essays in this new book (overviews of the genre in each decade) are excellent. (He wrote Nightmare Movies, a comprehensive study of the modern film, and was also a contributor to Contemporary American Cinema.) It's a shame, therefore, that he didn't write any of the chronological film reviews which make up the bulk of the book.

Besides Newman's decade-by-decade overviews and the corpus of reviews, there are also short essays on various horror themes (vampires, zombies, cannibalism, ghosts) and styles (gialli, slashers, and urban paranoia which they call "Urbanoia"). These featurettes are an improvement on the capsule articles in the encyclopedic though superficial BFI Companion To Horror (edited by Newman).

Fittingly for a guide to horror cinema, the book is vampiric: it drains the blood of others. Specifically, its format is very clearly modelled on Horror: The Aurum Film Encyclopedia, edited by Phil Hardy. Hardy's book also concentrated on film reviews in chronological order, punctuated by overview essays introducing each decade. Marriott and Newman don't acknowledge their debt to Hardy (even though, or perhaps because, Newman contributed many reviews to Hardy's second edition). Indeed, they have no bibliography at all.

The Hardy volume is the real Definitive Guide to horror cinema, taking an internationalist perspective more than ten years before the excellent Immoral Tales, Mondo Macabro, and Fear Without Frontiers. Also, Hardy's book reviewed 2,000 films whereas Marriott and Newman's manages only 300. True, the reviews in the new book are longer than Hardy's, though only slightly. Hardy's second edition covers horror cinema up to 1992, so this new book is at least more up-to-date, offering reviews of films up to and including the recent Land Of The Dead.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

The Top 100 Movies Of All Time

The Top 100 Movies Of All Time
Readers of Total Film magazine have voted for The Top 100 Movies Of All Time, as follows:

1. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
2. Fight Club
3. Pulp Fiction
4. The Lord Of The Rings III: The Return Of The King
5. The Shawshank Redemption
6. GoodFellas
7. The Godfather
8. The Lord Of The Rings I: The Fellowship Of The Ring
9. Jaws
10. Donnie Darko
11. Star Wars IV: A New Hope
12. The Usual Suspects
13. The Matrix
14. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
15. Seven
16. The Godfather II
17. Gladiator
18. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
19. Aliens
20. Sin City
21. The Lord Of The Rings II: The Two Towers
22. LA Confidential
23. Taxi Driver
24. Die Hard
25. Batman Begins
26. Back To The Future
27. Schindler’s List
28. Spider-Man II
29. The Big Lebowski
30. Heat
31. Reservoir Dogs
32. Blade Runner
33. Terminator II: Judgment Day
34. Alien
35. X-Men II
36. Annie Hall
37. Leon
38. Casablanca
39. Apocalypse Now
40. Memento
41. Jurassic Park
42. It’s A Wonderful Life
43. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
44. Monty Python & The Holy Grail
45. The Third Man
46. The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
47. Toy Story II
48. A Clockwork Orange
49. Moulin Rouge!
50. The Apartment
51. The Wild Bunch
52. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
53. Trainspotting
54. Raging Bull
55. City Of God
56. Stand By Me
57. The Thing
58. Scarface
59. Airplane!
60. The Silence Of The Lambs
61. Blue Velvet
62. Seven Samurai
63. Citizen Kane
64. 2001: A Space Odyssey
65. Shaun Of The Dead
66. Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
67. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
68. Lawrence Of Arabia
69. Halloween
70. The Searchers
71. Rocky
72. Once Upon A Time In The West
73. Platoon
74. Kill Bill I
75. Magnolia
76. The Deer Hunter
77. The Shining
78. American Beauty
79. Fargo
80. Chinatown
81. Saving Private Ryan
82. Vertigo
83. King Kong
84. Goldfinger
85. The Wizard Of Oz
86. Dawn Of The Dead
87. Requiem For A Dream
88. The Terminator
89. Psycho
90. Brokeback Mountain
91. Dr. Strangelove
92. The Bourne Supremacy
93. The Incredibles
94. Some Like It Hot
95. Spirited Away
96. Rear Window
97. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
98. This Is Spinal Tap
99. Forrest Gump
100. The Exorcist

This list follows the magazine's previous list of 2005, the difference being that the earlier selection was chosen by the magazine's writers whereas the new list was voted for by the magazine's readers.

There are more sequels and remakes in this new list, and fewer world cinema titles. It's depressing that King Kong is the Peter Jackson remake, not the original. Similarly, Scarface is the remake instead of the original. Some Like It Hot is the 1959 comic masterpiece, not the obscure 1939 comedy.

Monday, 16 October 2006

Cars

Cars
Cars is the latest computer-animated film from Pixar, the studio who pioneered feature-length computer-animation with Toy Story. John Lasseter, who directed Toy Story, also directed Cars.

There is some extremely realistic animation, especially the Route 66 background landscapes and the gleaming car chassis. The plot is entertaining enough, though it's nothing more than the traditional Disney morality tale of a self-centered character (in this case, a racing car named Lightning McQueen) who must learn the value of friendship and community.

Sunday, 8 October 2006

Shaun Of The Dead

Shaun Of The Dead
Shaun Of The Dead has defined a new film sub-genre: rom-zom-com (romantic zombie comedy). It's directed by Edgar Wright, who previously worked on UK TV sitcoms such as Spaced. The lead actor (and co-writer) is Simon Pegg, who was also a Spaced cast-member.

Pegg plays Shaun, whose dull life is interrupted by a plague of slow-moving zombies (a la Dawn Of The Dead). However, because he's so used to seeing drunks and beggars on the streets, he doesn't realise that they are actually zombies. Several scenes show people going about their daily lives in a state of somnambulistic catatonia - are the undead zombies really any different from these mindless commuters?

Saturday, 7 October 2006

100 Landmark Films

Radio Times
The 2007 edition of the annual Radio Times Guide To Films includes a list of 100 Landmark Films, as follows (in chronological order):
  • A Trip To The Moon
  • Life Of An American Fireman
  • The Birth Of A Nation
  • Intolerance
  • The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
  • Nanook Of The North
  • Nosferatu
  • Battleship Potemkin
  • The Gold Rush
  • Metropolis
  • The General
  • It
  • The Jazz Singer
  • Napoleon
  • Un Chien Andalou
  • Man With A Movie Camera
  • Frankenstein
  • M
  • Scarface
  • Ecstasy
  • 42nd Street
  • King Kong
  • The Private Life Of Henry VIII
  • L'Atalante
  • Becky Sharp
  • Triumph Of The Will
  • The Story Of A Cheat
  • Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • Gone With The Wind
  • The Rules Of The Game
  • Stagecoach
  • Fantasia
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Cat People
  • Rome: Open City
  • It's A Wonderful Life
  • Song Of The South
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • Rashomon
  • M. Hulot's Holiday
  • The Robe
  • Les Diaboliques
  • On The Waterfront
  • Rebel Without A Cause
  • The Court Jester
  • Vertigo
  • Breathless
  • The 400 Blows
  • Psycho
  • Victim
  • Dr No
  • A Fistful Of Dollars
  • A Hard Day's Night
  • Blow-Up
  • Persona
  • Bonnie & Clyde
  • The Chelsea Girls
  • In The Heat Of The Night
  • The Graduate
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
  • Easy Rider
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Get Carter
  • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
  • Deep Throat
  • Pink Flamingos
  • The Poseidon Adventure
  • The Exorcist
  • Mean Streets
  • The Godfather II
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • Jaws
  • Nashville
  • Picnic At Hanging Rock
  • Rocky
  • Annie Hall
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope
  • Halloween
  • National Lampoon's Animal House
  • Superman
  • Alien
  • Blade Runner
  • ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Tron
  • This Is Spinal Tap
  • Blue Velvet
  • Withnail & I
  • Do The Right Thing
  • Jurassic Park
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Toy Story
  • Ring
  • The Celebration
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • The Matrix
  • Shrek
  • Brokeback Mountain
Note that The Maltese Falcon is the John Huston version, which is actually a remake of an earlier (and inferior) Roy Del Ruth film; Frankenstein is the superior James Whale version, not the Thomas Edison silent version.