A Nightmare On Elm Street

Director: Wes Craven

1984

I am a fan of horror and love scaring myself. Although I do generally end up watching horror films on my own during the day curled up with my dog for company/protection but that is mainly because nobody else I know particularly enjoys horror. I think I jumped in the deep end when it came to the horror genre because my first experience of it was watching The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin) aged about 15 or so. Since then I have watched the classics like Dracula (1931, Tod Browning); slasher films like Scream (1996, Wes Craven) and Japanese horror along the lines of Ringu (1998, Hideo Nakata) and The Grudge: Girl In Black (2009, Mari Asato) And yet the slew of horror films made during the 1970s and 1980s are definitely some of the best.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 1984 Wes Craven“Nightmare combines elements of gothic literature – the seductive villain, the terrible place, the emphasis on dreams and subjective vision – with elements of the generic slasher movie – victims picked off one by one, the indestructible killer, the resourceful and virginal female survivor.” (705, Steven Jay Schneider, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You DieA Nightmare On Elm Street is one of my favorites … and not just because it’s the film debut of the magnificent Johnny Depp. I recently watched the remake by Samuel Bayer (2010) and while it had been updated and very slightly altered, in terms of back story, it is essentially a carbon copy of the original. And yet there is something infinitely scarier about the original.

“Wes Craven’s signature film, A Nightmare On Elm Street was at once a critical and commercial success that managed to creatively combine horror and humor, gothic literary motifs and slasher movie conventions, gory special effects and subtle social commentary. And it let loose a new monster in America’s pop cultural consciousness: that wisecracking fedora-wearing teen killer, Freddy Krueger.” (705) Freddy Krueger is one of the most terrifying of those well-known slasher killers – I find him scarier than Jason (Friday the 13th, Sean S. Cunningham 1980) and Michael (Halloween, John Carpenter, 1978) I think it’s because his domain is the world of dreams and consequently his ability to manipulate everything in it.

Krueger is so iconic in that grungy striped jumper with the gnarly razor gloves. And let’s not forget his horribly disfigured face. Robert Englund will forever be associated with Krueger, his truly disturbing creation. Although I have to say I thought Jackie Earl Healy did a masterful job taking on the iconic character in the remake. The associated song:

“1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you;

3, 4, better lock the door;

5, 6, grab your crucifix;

7, 8, gonna stay up late;

9, 10, never sleep again!”

is seriously creepy as it’s usually sung by little girls. It also stays in my head for days afterwards which does not help with the whole falling asleep thing I can tell you.

Heather Langenkamp is excellent as the lone survivor Nancy. She’s strong, resilient, persistent and absolutely determined. In short an excellent role-model for young women.

“The film’s spectacular set pieces, laden with special effects wizardry and gallons of fake blood, are balanced by an anxiety-inducing score and a gripping narrative, as we feel for the intended victims in their hopeless battle to stay awake.” (705) The score is excellent and  key piece in creating the nail-biting tension of the film. It’s in the horror genre that the importance of a good score is really evident as it increases the scary nature of the images being cut together to form the narrative. A horror film with the sound turned down is far less scary than with the score playing.

 

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Oscar Winners 2013

I’ve been ridiculously slack on posting following the 2012 Oscars in February (my bad I know) but that pesky little thing called real life reared its ugly head and ripped me from my happy film bubble. Finally here are my views on the winners of the much-coveted Academy Awards. An I’m gonna start by saying that I was pleasantly surprised by Seth MacFarlane, mainly because I cannot stand Family Guy and all the rest of his body of work so was wary of his humour on the night. However I found myself chuckling away and even humming the opinion dividing “We saw your boobs” days after the star-spangled ceremony. On a side note I read an opinion piece the following day that questioned why we needed the Oscars and that with a bit of imagination the BAFTAs could be just as good if not better than the Oscars. Are the stupid? There is no way we can compete with the Academy Awards … there isn’t anywhere big enough, let alone luscious enough to host a ceremony on the same level. Ok rant over … onto the important stuff.

Once again the majority of the winners were a given before the ceremony, like Daniel Day Lewis getting his third Best Actor Award (making history as he goes!) and Amour deservedly picking up the Best Foreign Language Film. Then of course Life Of Pi swept the board in the production categories like Visual Effects and Cinematography, and saw Ang Lee collect the accolade of Best Director. I do think that it was a massive oversight not nominating Ben Affleck for his stellar work directing Argo.

Les Miserables only really garnered technical awards like Sound Mixing and Hair and Makeup with the lovely exception of Best Supporting Actress for Anne Hathaway. She really was incredible as Fantine, which is saying something as I have always found the character to be insufferable before. She had a beautiful rawness to her performance hat I just loved.

Django Unchained didn’t pick up many awards but the ones it did were ones that really counted like another Best Supporting Actor for Christophe Waltz – prove that he does his best work under Tarantino’s direction (his previous Oscar in the same category for his performance in Inglorious Basterds). And Tarantino collected the accolade for Best Original Screenplay.

Argo deservedly picked up the top award of the night, Best Picture. I really did enjoy Argo and I’m glad it won (even if a little part of me was wanting Les Miserables to take the top spot but let’s face it I’m a huge theatre geek and adore Les Miserables in particular!) My favourite award of the night however was Jennifer Lawrence picking up Best Actress for her role in Silver Linings Playbook … and not just because she fell over, which was damn adorable … but because she is incredibly talented and one of my favourite actors so I’m glad she has got recognition from the most respected awarding body in the film industry.

All in all the night didn’t really hold any surprises, although I will admit that I thought Lincoln would win more than it did, but I can’t say that I agree with all the decisions. I would have liked to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey or Avengers Assemble win something, but that’s just me.

Best Picture – Argo

Best Actor – Daniel Day Lewis

Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor – Christophe Waltz

Best Supporting Actress – Anne Hathaway

Best Director – Ang Lee (Life of Pi)

Best Original Screenplay – Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay – Argo

Best Animated Feature – Brave

Best Foreign Film – Amour

Cinematography – Life of Pi

Editing – Argo

Production Design – Lincoln

Costume Design – Anna Karenina

Makeup & Hair – Les Miserables

Best Original Score – Life Of Pi

Best Original Song – Skyfall

Sound Mixing – Les Miserables

Sound Editing – Zero Dark Thirty; Skyfall

Visual Effects – Life of Pi

 

 

Argo

Director: Ben Affleck

Nominated: Best Picture; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Supporting Actor; Editing; Best Original Score; Sound Mixing; Sound Editing

Argo Ben AffleckI was a bit surprised by Argo in that I didn’t expect to become as involved in it the way I did. The cinematography is excellent … I particularly like the way they recreated, almost exactly, images taken during the real event and the use of handheld vintage cameras. It created a really interesting aesthetic for the film.

Alan Arkin and John Goodman are a brilliant pairing with a real if cynical view on Hollywood. They provide a strong and credible support base for Tony Mendez, portrayed superbly by Ben Affleck. They also provide a much-needed platform for humour that lightens the tone of an otherwise extremely tense film, especially with their catchphrase “Argo fuck yourself”. And on the subject of Affleck he is clearly back on form as an actor, and is quickly shaping up to be a clever, and talented director who understands the strength of subtlety in filmmaking. Affleck gives a blinding performance with the quiet strength of character necessary for someone in the precarious job that Tony performs as an extractor for the CIA. It’s one of his best performances in a long time and marks a turning point in his career.

Argo captivated me and not just because there is a bit of an insight into the process that goes into getting a film up and running. What I really found interesting was the fact the film is based on an extraordinarily bold (and most importantly successful) rescue attempt following the fall of the Iranian government in 1980. Yes there has been the inevitable Hollywood treatment to the truth of the story in that they reduced the support given to the fugitive American diplomatic personnel by both the British and New Zealand governments, instead focussing on the efforts of the Canadian government in their successful extraction. However for me that didn’t really cause much concern as I have learnt to take any film based on a true story to come out of Hollywood with a pinch of salt as it will invariably have been altered to present the most sympathetic view of America possible. And that’s not necessarily just an American trait.

The casting is outstanding with almost everyone cast bearing an extremely strong resemblance to their real life counterparts. The film is fraught with tension befitting the terrible situation these people find themselves in. As I had no prior knowledge to the outcome of this event I was on tenterhooks throughout the entire film. From being one of the films nominated that I had resigned myself to watch but was not really expecting to enjoy I can happily say that Argo turned out to be one of the most powerful and intriguing films to come out of 2012.

Django Unchained

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Nominated: Best Supporting Actor; Best Original Screenplay; Best Picture; Cinematography; Sound Editing

Django Unchained Quentin TarantinoI’ve found with Tarantino that you either love him or you hate him … he’s very much a Marmite person. I happen to love him and hold his early work to be some of the best films made. And Django sees him starting to return to that brilliance. I say starting because while it’s an excellent film I found that it was still missing that spark of brilliance he had in Pulp Fiction (1994) and Reservoir Dogs (1992).

Jamie Foxx is awesome as the eponymous Django (the d is silent!) cutting a mean yet sophisticated figure of a freed slave. He is, as Schultz says, a natural at the bounty hunter business that becomes his means to rescuing his wife, Broomhilda, played by the stunning Kerry Washington. A man of few words but when he does use them he uses them to full effect, managing to talk his way out of almost anything.

Samuel L. Jackson is back on form – he does his best work with Tarantino (with the exception of Nick Fury) – and hysterical as the cantankerous Stephen. He has a very unusual relationship with his owner, Candie, which makes the film all the more interesting to watch. It’s almost as if he has forgotten that he himself is black, and for the most part is treated almost as an equal with Candie listening to his advice and observations.

On the subject of Candie it’s yet another outstanding performance by Leonardo DiCaprio in a career packed with such performances. He’s sumptuous in his affluent lifestyle and slightly eccentric mannerisms but then all the best wealthy people have a bit of insanity in their personalities. DiCaprio is definitely getting better with age.Django Unchained Leonardo DiCaprio Candie

Christophe Waltz is another actor who does his best work under Tarantino’s guidance. His character, the fast-talking bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz, is the one that is most like Tarantino himself. A brilliant performance and definitely worthy of his nomination. I like the fact that he has a very different outlook to every one else in the era and sees Django as an equal rather than a slave. He frees Django and actually treats him as a freed man, doing everything in his power to help Django on his quest to free Hildie.

The film was a bit on the long side for me but packed full of all the things that make Tarantino’s films instantly recognisable … particularly a very dialogue heavy script delivered in a fast paced, almost frenetic manner. And for all his reputation for creating violent films I didn’t find this one so bad. I think the fact that the blood and wounds were so exaggerated lessened the credibility of the violence. I mean you literally had bodies exploding in blood from gunshots, not the most realistic of his films. I still find the infamous ear-cutting scene from Reservoir Dogs more disturbing to watch then this was. I really enjoyed Django Unchained and love the fact that Tarantino appears to be on the track to recreating the genius of his early films.