Archive for The Pawnbroker

Quincy Jones Interviews 5 parts

Posted in Dance, Education, Film, Literature and Books, Living, Music, Nights Out, Racism, Romance, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2009 by Richard James Clark II

A five part interview

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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My Top 100 films of all time

Posted in Controversy, Film, life, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2008 by Richard James Clark II

My Top 100 films of all time

1. Lawrence of Arabia

Where to start? As my first choice of film, the reason I pick this is my fascination of watching it, I first saw this film at the age of 8, and I was captivated, didn’t understand all of the story and it was too long for my attention span at that age, it is nearly 3 hours long. But it is beautiful to the eye to watch (The English Patient is the nearest to scenery and cinematography level in recent times), the story is engaging and the acting in it is first rate. Peter O Toole in his first major movie acting role along with Alec Guinness are two of the finest actors to ever emerge from Britain. Both of them along with Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif are outstanding. The synopsis of the film is the true life story following the struggles of T.E. Lawrence in uniting the hostile Arab factions and leading them to victory over the ruling Turkish Empire during the First World War. To be honest just watch this film as to explain the plot would be like writing a thesis.

2. West Side Story

Could this be the greatest musical ever? Absolutely in my eyes, the choreography, the songs, the scenery and the greatest romance story ever told ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The story is based on two rival gangs consisting of the Sharks and the Jets, The Sharks being Puerto Rican and the Jets being American, who hate each other, and in reality they don’t know why, they just do because they have different upbringings.

However while this rivalry goes on Tony (Richard Beymer) the leader of the Jets falls in love with Maria (Natalie Wood) the sister of Bernardo (George Chakiris) who is the leader of the Sharks, they meet at the local dance. They fall in love like two lovers do, but as the fateful tale of Romeo and Juliet nothing goes to plan. The songs from this musical written by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein are famous the world over, and to be honest not mawkish or sickly like most musicals, the rhythms are edgy and interesting mixing the cauldron of flavours of Latin Jazz along with American song. If you ever want to see a musical in your life (and trust me there is a lot of bad ones-many will feature in my worst 100 films of all time), I’d advise you to go and see this at the Cinema if it is ever on, and I have seen it like this, or DVD and so on.

3. North By Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock can be considered to be one of the best directors in the history of Cinema, to me this is the masterpiece which he came close to but never eclipsed it, not just the direction what makes this film great, the story, characters, music (supplied by one of my favourite film composers Bernard Herrmann) and amazing scenes which will stick in your mind forever. The story is of a man called Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) an advertising executive who has mistakenly been identified as a Government Agent and a murderer (unlucky guy?!?), by a group of foreign spies, nevertheless he becomes a wanted man, enemy agents want him dead, and the police want him arrested.. All this become self-explanatory when you see the film. So while he is on the run and trying to escape his persecutors he is befriended by the beautiful Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) into escaping and trying to avoid being killed or captured, however Thornhll doesn’t realise Eve is siding with the foreign spies but there is a twist to this. Now this is what makes the film clever is who do you trust and who is to help you or to hurt you, and that is why for a film from 1955 it is so ahead of it’s time, without this film, so many modern day thriller/spy movies would have never been made. I can’t tell you anymore of the plot, so again go and acquire this film, you will not be disappointed.

4. A Streetcar Named Desire

Most stage/theatre productions don’t always translate successfully onto film. This film defies that theory. Again a film from the 1950’s, 51 to be exact and again like NBNW is far ahead of its time in plot and thought. Marlon Brando is captivating on screen as the brutish Stanley Kowalski, husband of Stella who is the sister of the main character Blanche Dubois (Vivian Leigh). The synopsis of the story is Blanche comes to stay with Stella in the French quarter of New Orleans to get away from her hometown of Laurel, Mississippi, during the restless years after world war two we find out later she was ran out of town for seducing a seventeen-year-old boy at the school where she taught English.

Blanche explains her unexpected appearance on Stanley and Stella’s doorstep as nervous exhaustion.. This, she claims, is the result of a series of financial calamities which have recently claimed the family plantation, Belle Reve. Suspicious, Stanley points out that “under Louisiana’s Napoleonic code what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband.” Stanley, a sinewy and brutish man, is as territorial as a panther. He tells Blanche he doesn’t like to be swindled and demands to see the bill of sale. This encounter defines Stanley and Blanche’s relationship. They are opposing camps and Stella is caught in no-man’s-land.

But Stanley and Stella are deeply in love. Blanche’s efforts to impose herself between them, only enrages the animalistic nature inside Stanley. When Mitch — a card-playing buddy of Stanley’s — arrives on the scene, Blanche begins to see a way out of her predicament. Mitch, himself alone in the world, reveres Blanche as a beautiful and refined woman. Yet, as rumors of Blanche’s past in Laurel begin to catch up to her, her circumstances become unbearable.

So you see for a film in the 1950’s this must have been very forward thinking and this is why I appreciate this film as Elia Kazan took a huge risk of putting this on the screen, if this was remade properly it could be quite gritty, but this is what makes this film timeless, and for me Marlon Brando and Vivian Leigh shine in this film.

5. On The Waterfront

Another Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando production from 1954, plus Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Maldon (He loved playing priests or Good Samaritan type of characters) makes this film extremely poignant and interesting. The synopsis is Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) is a dock worker who dreams of being a prize fighter, and tends his pigeons and does errands at the docks for Johnny Friendly the corrupt boss of the Dockers union. Terry is inadvertently involved in the murder of co worker Joey Doyle orgainised by Johnny Friendly (not really that kind is he?) along with other illegal dockside activities. The other person who is involved in the murder is Terry’s brother Charley (Rod Steiger), unfortunately Terry falls in love with Edie (Eva Marie Saint) who is the murder victim’s sister. She sees something in Terry more then he sees in himself and decides he wants to clear his conscience of any wrong doing, however the Waterfront Crime Commission is about to hold public hearings on union crime and underworld infiltration. As workers are turned against each other, Terry is confused and frightened where to go and meets Father Barry (Karl Maldon) who urges him on to reassesses his past and begins to regain responsibility for his actions.

This conflict of Terry is a very engaging plot narrative and it keeps you embraced throughout the film, this is a great film and deserves the praise it gets.

6. The Matrix

A film at the turn of the 21st Century was a revelation for all moviegoers everywhere. Maybe to most people this is not a classic but to me this has everything in the sense of the term. A story/film which poses an interesting question, all just before we go into the 21st Century ‘Is this world real?’ The acting is not amazing, granted, but for the genre (I don’t think a single genre can be singled out into this film) and context of the film it is done very well.

For me watching this at the cinema at the time was mind-blowing, it has the same Cinematic experience as watching an old epic movie and puts it into a new context for the new millennium. For a start the idea is so original that it must have been carefully thought out, the Wachowski brothers did themselves proud. The synopsis of the plot is as follows, Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is apparently a normal person, with a job at a computer software company… But in the night he is a hacker, nicknamed Neo (A rewording of the ONE get it). He searches for someone he has heard in rumors. Someone that knows something?. Something mysterious enough to keep him wandering: WHAT IS THE MATRIX? Finally, that someone finds him. He is Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), the man who has the answer to Neo’s doubt and questions. Considered a terrorist by a group of government agents, led by Agent Smith, Morpheus will take Neo into taking the hardest decision of his life: find out the true reality… in which he isn’t living. Neo will then discover the shocking truth of the world, the real world. The one that he believes to be living isn’t such: it is a huge computer simulation, a sophisticated virtual reality taking place 200 years ahead in the future to which human race is connected, just to keep it unaware of the hardest of all truths… Joined with Morpheus and the rest of his team, including brave Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss), Neo will start a crusade to bring down the oppressing system of the Matrix, finding out in the way he’s far more important than what he believes to be.

I won’t tell you the rest what happens and you need to see the sequels for the story to fully make sense, for myself this is the best trilogy ever, beats Star Wars, Back to The Future all of them, and I can’t wait to keep seeing this until I get old as it is a film which will continue to interest generations of movie goers.

7. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

This may surprise you but one of my main tick points, I love in Movies is visual imagination and this by far is one of the most imaginative films ever put to screen. The technique of using animation mixed with real life has been tired before and has had varying success to disasters such as Tron and Cool World ( I like that film critics weren’t so keen). What I love mainly about this film is a satire on the original detective films from early 50’s and the way this is brought to Technicolor life. The synopsis is mainly based around Roger Rabbit who is a cartoon character who (along with many others) exists along side of real humans. Eddy Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is a private eye who has seen better days and has been on the skids since the death of his brother at the hands of a Toon (cartoon character). Rogers’ boss A K Maroon hires Eddy to see if his sexy wife (voiced by Kathleen Turner) has other male interests, but things get out of hand as Roger is framed for murder of Marvin Acme, the owner of the Acme Company and of Toontown. Now with all the fingers pointing to Roger Rabbit, a Car’Toon’ star at Maroon Cartoons he unfortunately needs the only person who can prove Roger’s innocence and that is Toon hating Eddie Valiant, a washed-up, alcoholic private detective who is reluctantly forced into helping when Roger hides in his apartment. It’s up to Eddie to clear Roger’s name and find the real evildoer before the villainous, power-hungry Judge Doom goes on a mission to bring Roger to justice!

This film is 20 years old now and still stands up surprisingly compared to other 1980’s films but for me it is the one-liners, which make this one of the wittiest films in Cinema history, and also the most visualising experience you can see.

8. The Pawn Broker

A film from 1964 starring the wonderful Rod Steiger in this dramatic portrayal of Sol Nazerman operator of a pawn shop, and a concentration camp survivor faces a horrid internal conflict. Being engulfed in a New York ghetto Environment, Sol suffers flashbacks. The flashbacks juxtapose concentration camp treatment with ghetto neighborhood treatment. His internal conflicts between submitting to the same injustices he and his family suffered or resisting the injustice a peak at the end of the film
This was one of the first films to deal with the effects of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps on their survivors. For a powerful film with a great script, interesting direction and a moving story I would highly recommend this.

9. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Peter Sellers best film and my favourite Stanely Krubick film. A comedy about an accidental nuclear attack, One that ends with total annihilation, thermonuclear apocalypse? The synopsis is U.S. Air Force General Jack Ripper goes completely and utterly mad, and sends his bomber wing to destroy the U.S.S.R. He suspects that the communists are conspiring to pollute the “precious bodily fluids” of the American people. The U.S. president meets with his advisors, where the Soviet ambassador tells him that if the U.S.S.R. is hit by nuclear weapons, it will trigger a “Doomsday Machine” which will destroy all plant and animal life on Earth. Peter Sellers portrays the three men who might avert this tragedy: British Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, the only person with access to the demented Gen. Ripper; U.S. President Merkin Muffley, whose best attempts to divert disaster depend on placating a drunken Soviet Premier and the former Nazi genius Dr. Strangelove, who concludes that “such a device would not be a practical deterrent for reasons which at this moment must be all too obvious”. Will the bombers be stopped in time, or will General Jack Ripper succeed in destroying the world?

10. To Kill a Mocking Bird

Another film I watched from a young age about the age of 8 years old and always try to watch this film every year. The story is told through the eyes of “Scout,” a feisty six-year-old tomboy, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD carries us on an odyssey through the fires of prejudice and injustice in 1932 Alabama. The tale is at first as a sweet reminiscence of events from her childhood, the narrator draws us near with stories of daring neighborhood exploits by she, her brother “Jem,” and their friend “Dill.”

Maycomb is (“a tired and sleepy town”) with a cast of eccentrics which finds itself the venue of the trial of Tom Robinson, a young black man falsely accused of raping an ignorant white woman.

Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), Scout and Jem’s widowed father and a deeply principled man, is appointed to defend Tom for whom a guilty verdict from an all-white jury is a foregone conclusion. Juxtaposed against the story of the trial is the children’s hit and run relationship with Boo Radley, a shut-in who the children and Dill’s Aunt Rachel suspect of insanity and who no one has seen in recent history. Cigar-box treasures, found in the knot hole of a tree near the ramshackle Radley house, temper the children’s judgment of Boo. “You never know someone,” Atticus tells Scout, “until you step inside their skin and walk around a little.”

But fear keeps them at a distance until one night, in streetlight and shadows, the children confront an evil born of ignorance and blind hatred and must somehow find their way home.

This film illustrates film-making at its best due to the pacing and the famous quotes which make Movies from being good to classics. If you haven’t seen this film, and I’d be surprised if you haven’t then I would highly recommend this.

11. The Party

This is one of my favourite comedies of all time and Peter Sellers steals the screen like he does in Doctor Strangelove but more on a subtle ideal. The film is quaint and has a good feeling surrounding it but the timing is very much reminiscent of the silent movies, the dialogue is also quite minimal, most of the film is based on improvisation techniques and was the first to use playback (to great annoyance of Blake Edwards and a wonderful tool to the perfectionist Sellers). Sellers is the character Hrundi V. Bakshi an Indian actor who screws up royally during the filming of a costume epic. He then gets fired from the movie but accidentally gets added to the studio head’s guest list for a party instead of the ‘Fired list’ never to work in Hollywood again perhaps. He appears there and everyone assumes he must belong here-during the film the other characters clearly realise he doesn’t, but that is what makes the film interesting, it is like you know what will happen and events become bigger, this is a great film to watch to cheer you up. Blake Edwards uses every gimmick from the drunken server to pot-smoking musicians to set the mood. Bakshi continues about the party and explores the gadgets and gimmicks while making friends with several wonderful (albeit stereotyped) characters. This creates many great sight gags and misunderstanding gags are played out at the party where the rest of the film takes place. Bakshi tries endlessly to cope with the high-tech, high society around him from 1960’s Hollywood and yet makes a shambles of everything.

12. The English Patient

Unfortunately Anthony Minghella has now passed away after finishing the No 1 Detectives Agency, a drama/comedy special for the BBC. However his legacy lives on and this is his best film and visually one of the most interesting in the last 10-15 years from a cinematography view. In the Easter holidays of 1997 I went to see this at the Cinema on my own, after a lot of talk (hype) about how great the film was, and I wasn’t disappointed, I always tried to watch movies on my own after so many years of watching awful films with friends. The story is set before and during the Second World War, The English Patient is a tale of love, misunderstanding, fate, healing. The film is told in a series of flashbacks but broken into two main chorological phrases.

The first phase is set in the 1930’s the main character Count Laszlo de Almásy (Fiennes) is co-leader of a Royal Geographical Society archeological and surveying expedition in Egypt and Libya. He and his English partner Madox are academics with limited sophistication in the swirling politics of Europe and North Africa.

During the beginnings of the film both are joined in their expedition by a British couple, Geoffrey and Katherine Clifton (Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas) who become part of the exploration party. The Count is taken with the gorgeous and refined Katherine. When Geoffrey is often away from the group on other matters, an affair takes place.

The final months before the war’s onset bring an archeological triumph: the Count discovers an ancient Saharan cave decorated with “swimming figure” paintings dating from prehistoric times. Within this time period the romance between Katherine and the Count rise to a sensuous peak and then seemingly fade.

The fall of 1939 and the war bring all excavations at the cave to a halt. The Count and Madox have to go their separate ways. Geoffrey Clifton meanwhile has pieced together the outline of the affair, and seeks a sudden and dramatic revenge: crashing his plane, with Katherine aboard, into the Count’s desert camp.

The wreck kills Geoffrey instantly, seriously injures Katherine, and narrowly misses the Count. He manages to take Katherine into the relative shelter of the swimming figure cave, leaves her with water, a flashlight, and a fire, and then begins his scorching three day walk back to Cairo and help.

The mood in British-controlled Egypt has shifted since the film’s beginnings and the dazed and dehydrated Count, with his non-English name, is unable to coherently explain to officials the plane crash and Katherine’s plight.

He loses his temper during questioning and is thrown into military jail. By the time he is able to escape and return to the cave (with German help), Katherine is dead. And in all but a physical sense, so is the Count.

The film’s second phase shifts to Italy and the last months of the war. The Count by now is an invalid, having been horribly burned in a plane crash of his own not long after Katherine’s death. The Count is wholly dependent by this time on morphine and the care of his French-Canadian nurse Hana (Juliette Binoche), detached from her medical unit and established in a battered but beautiful Italian villa.

The villa becomes focal point for more plot threads, some new and some unfinished from the North African phase, all themed around love, chance, and the backdrop of the war. Hana has seen a fiancé and a nursing friend die in the Italian campaign, and is left to wonder if her involvement with a British-Indian lieutenant will break her cycle of love and grief or simply continue it.

A visitor to the villa named Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe) at first believes he has simply found another source of morphine for his habit, but then realizes the disfigured Count played a role in his own ill-starred time in Egypt and Libya. For Caravaggio unwittingly stumbled into the wreckage of the Count-Katherine-Geoffrey love triangle, circa 1940-42.

Caravaggio went through a grisly interrogation at the hands of the Nazis, and has since hunted down and killed those he believes responsible for his fate. He believes the Count was part of a web of desert spying and intrigue, confronts him with news of Madox’s suicide, and posits that the Count killed the Cliftons. Only a full recounting at the villa of the Cliftons’ crash and the Count’s map dealings with the Germans to recover Katherine bring Caravaggio to understanding and forgiveness.

This is clearly not a straight forward film and to explain is very complex film but when watching it, the epic unfolds before your eyes in every sense; you will see the beauty surrounding this glorious piece of cinema. It is not predictable at all and realistic for a film based in the era, I believe this film would have higher regard if it was made in the 1960’s and would be a classic on everyone’s mind, for myself this film is a classic in that the way the film and story pans out is beautifully done and visually the film is stunning..

13. ET

Now obviously this being one of the most famous films ever in the world, it has a double edged sword problem, you either love it or loathe it; I am not part of the latter. In fact this is my favourite solely Steven Spielberg film and only five others he has been involved in as a director or producer I enjoy and don’t dislike. Well this is one of the first films I saw from memory apart from the silent films of the 1930/40’s and Disney films.

The story is of Elliott a normal boy who finds an alien who has been left stranded after his group from another planet has visited earth. The little alien finds himself all alone on a very strange planet. Fortunately, the extra-terrestrial soon finds a friend and emotional companion in 10-year-old Elliot, who discovered him looking for food in his family’s garden shed. Elliott takes the alien in the house to look after him and he names the alien ET (Dot, Dash in morse-code) and works with ET to try and communicate with him, E.T. slowly gets acquainted with Elliot’s brother Michael, his sister Gertie as well as with Earth customs, members of the task force work day and night to track down the whereabouts of Earth’s first visitor from Outer Space. The wish to go home again is strong in E.T., and after being able to communicate with Elliot and the others, E.T. starts building an improvised device to send a message home for his folks to come and pick him up. But before long, E.T. gets seriously sick, and because of his special connection to Elliot, the young boy suffers, too. The situation gets critical when the task force finally intervenes. By then, all help may already be too late, and there’s no alien spaceship in sight.

Now again most people have seen this film but why I consider this film great is the interaction of the characters and the story has a lot of dramatic scenes within it, and obviously when ET and Elliott fly is one of cinemas greatest scenes of wonderment. But the subtext in this film is subtle and though it is considered a children’s film there is a lot of techniques and storyline depth for adults to enjoy, hence why the film was so successful and will continue to be in the near future and for generations to come.

14. Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin is one of my favourite comedians, my mother tells me stories how I used to watch him on BBC 2 in my cot as a baby and youth and re-in-act his stunts.

For comic timing and the imagination of Chaplin at his best I would recommend this and also to point out Chaplin used to Write, Star, Arrange, Direct and Produce his film work and write the music as well . He was light years ahead of other directors and he didn’t have the technology we have today. Hence why I think Charlie Chaplin should be highly regarded and as the pioneer in the highest order in film history.

Modern Times is Chaplins last ‘silent’ film, filled with sound effects, a daring film due to no dialogue, all action plots against all the ‘talkies films of that Era’. but the message here of people going to work and being part of a machine and trying to find work is reflective of it’s time (during the great depression) but also a dig at western corporation culture. Chaplin was a very poltical film maker-and especially when he addressed the issue of the rise of the third Reich in ‘The Great Dictator’. The synopsis of Modern Times is Charlie turns against modern society, the machine age, (The use of sound in films?) and progress.

Firstly we see him frantically trying to keep up with a production line, tightening bolts. He is selected for an experiment with an automatic feeding machine, but various mishaps leads his boss to believe he has gone mad, and Charlie is sent to a mental hospital…

Cured after his breakdown, he is arrested when he picks up a red flag that has fallen off the back of a lorry, and runs down the street to return it, exactly the same time as a left-wing demonstration comes round the corner. He meets ‘The Gamine’ (Paulette Goddard) in the back of the police van, who has also been arrested for stealing bread. From then on the theme is about two nondescripts trying to get along in modern times. “Smile, though your heart is breaking. We follow Charlie through many more escapades before the film is out

The idea of the film was apparently given to Chaplin by a young reporter, who told him about the production line system in Detroit, which was turning its workers into nervous wrecks. In the film, Charlie becomes literally trapped in the machine and, in one of his finest patches of comic invention, is battered and buffeted by an automatic feeding machine introduced by his bosses to save time and money.

15. One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest
16. Forest Gump
17. Planet Of The Apes
18. Chaplin
19. Harvey
20. Mary Poppins
21. The Sting
22. As Good As It Gets
23. Falling Down
24. The Kid
25. 2001 Space Odyssey
26. Vanilla Sky
27. Fantasia
28. Bedazzled
29. Matrix Revolutions
30. The Jungle Book
31. Wizard Of Oz
32. Beetlejuice
33. Bullitt
34. The Color Purple
35. The Abyss
36. AI
37. Singing In the Rain
38. Science Of Sleep
39. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
40. Kind Hearts And Coronets
41.An American In Paris
42. Carmen Jones
43. Mo’Better Blues
44. Trading Places
45. The Great Dictator
46. Matrix Reloaded
47. Rebel Without A Cause
48. Doctor Zhivago
49. Do The Right Thing
50. Blade Runner
51. Back To The Future
52. Vertigo
53. Team America
54. Angels With Dirty Faces
55. Whale Rider
56. The Fugitive
57. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton)
58. American Beauty
59. She’s Gotta have It
60. Gandhi
61. Dr Zhivago
62. Terminator 2
63. Enter The Dragon
64. Arsenic and Old Lace
65. The Devils Advocate
66. Kung Fu Hustle
67. Of Mice and Men
68. The Band Wagon
69. The Truman Show
70. Short Eyes
71. Cape Fear
72. The Birds
73. She Hate Me
74. Being There
75. House Of Flying Daggers
76. Superfly
77. Angel Heart
78. Spirited Away
79. In The Heat Of The Night
80. Nightmare before Christmas
81. Akira
82. The Valley Of The Dolls
83. The Pink Panther
84. Kramer Vs Kramer
85. Rain Man
86. The Fisher King
87. Get Carter
88. The Cell
89. Kids
90. The Odd Couple
91. Ben Hur
92. Psycho
93. East Of Eden
94. Giant
95. Cleopatra
96. Alexander
97. American Psycho
98. Alice In Wonderland
99. Akira
100. The Devils