Our (Belated) List of Favorite Movie Directors

1. Martin Scorsese- It may seem unimaginable that nearly three years ago director Martin Scorsese had yet to hold an Academy Award in his hands, but it is the disappointing truth. The once would-be Catholic priest entered the film making world with hits like Boxcar Bertha and Mean Streets which put him at the forefront of New Hollywood with his violent, audience-specific films. Though Francis Ford Coppola felt he was unfit to helm The Godfather: Part III, Scorsese quickly overshadowed Coppola to become an icon of his own, creating films filled with themes related to violence, machismo, Italian-American identity, immigration, Catholicism and New York City. Five decades of classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Departed, Scorsese set a style of quick editing, rock and roll soundtrack and frequent collaboration with actors and editors who claim Scorsese to be a living encyclopedia of film history. The film that did it for us: Though he’s created modern epics including a personal favorite, Gangs of New York, Scorsese’s talents are most apparent in Taxi Driver, a film with some of the most carefully constructed technical detail and powerful themes of isolation, violence, sex and how they are related and lead to destruction.

2. Stanley Kubrick– One of the unprecedented visual artists in all of cinema, it’s hard to not love movies when Stanley Kubrick makes them.  His gift for telling a compelling story is aided by those infamous distant shots, able to encompass the idiocy in The War Room (Dr. Strangelove) or gravity-defying in the great beyond (2001: A Space Odyssey).  He never told the same story twice, but each film carries with it his distinct visual flair,  helping him to create some of the most fully realized worlds the movies have ever seen.  Kubrick is one of the biggest influences on American cinema not only because of his artistic genius, though.  His ruthless dedication to his vision of the material led to feuds with his actors and the writers of the source material (both on The Shining.)  Perfectionism is costly, but with it he created many things that are, in fact, perfect.  The film that did it for us: There’s never been a more beautifully filmed comedy than Dr. Strangelove, and there are few as horrific.

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REVIEW: Robin Hood

Robin Hood
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Russel Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, William Hurt

This happens just about every time an Academy Award winning team gets together to update a classic story into a big commercial success. It was the same sort of thing that happened with Alice in Wonderland earlier this year and the same sort of thing that will continue to happen when our favorite directors and actors take on a familiar unoriginal project. Disappointment. Continue reading

REVIEW: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Linda Woolverton (screenplay) Lewis Carroll (books)
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway

Burton, the genius imaginateer behind Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Sweeney Todd along with a list of other brilliant works, teams up for the eighth time with star Johnny Depp to recreate a classic childhood fantasy in the likes of their 2005 effort Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The story is more of a sequel than a remake, combining elements and characters from Lewis Carroll’s 19th century books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. It starts with Alice, now 19 and soon to be wedded to a freckled face boy who suffers from digestion issues and happens to now own her dead father’s trading business. The trouble is Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has no intentions of marrying him or living a life where everything is decided for her. When asked to accept her fate of no longer being able to accept her fate, Alice rushes away and follows the white rabbit into a whole where she returns to Wonderland although not remembering having been there before.

In Wonderland Alice is told that she must rescue Wonderland from the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) by slaying the Jabberwocky with the sword of the Red Queen’s sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). With direction from many of the realm’s bizarre characters, including a delightfully peculiar Mad Hatter (Depp), Alice is taken on a journey where she and only she can decide the fate of herself and of Wonderland.

In other versions of Carroll’s story, the story and realm which he creates is more linked to our world, with commentary on villainous Victorian aristocracy, 19th century breakthroughs on philosophy of the self, self-absorption and even perhaps the sad end to world anglo-manifestation. Of course these messages are far above the heads of children, but make great observations for adult audiences. In Burton’s version, this dimension of the story is slightly written out in favor of a more Disney approved feministic theme about being able to make your own decisions and do what it right. It’s not total fluff though, and it’s written into the story quite nicely, with Alice’s real world reflecting her Wonderland world. Burton cleverly has characters in both worlds imitate each other and even mimics his scenes to draw the comparisons. Continue reading