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The Birth of a Nation

list of shame birth of a nation.

Tittle:  Birth of a Nation

Director: D.W. Griffith

Release Year: 1915

Trivia:  The film was used as a recruitment tool by the Ku Klux Klan for many years after its release

First film to be shown in the White House. To President Woodrow Wilson

In proportion to its costs, this is one of the most profitable films in history.

Runtime: 193 min


This film from the very early days of cinema was and continues to be a very interesting piece of cinema history. It is a film that I think everyone has heard who has an interest in cinema. It could be considered the first epic  movie the first block buster .An it led to a sequel which was the first feature sequel The Fall Of A Nation a lost film about the invasion of America by a European army and the subsequent revolution. .The film is a hundred years old this year. And it has not aged well .To call the film racist would be an understatement of epic proportions. But also to write the film off entirely would be a mistake .The film is divided  broadly into three the first part is the pre-war era with the idyllic south and the two families whose fortunes we will follow being introduced. The second half of the movie deals with civil war and the assassination of Lincoln and the signing of the surrender of the south .And the third part of the movie deals with the new reality as portrayed by the film of the freed slaves and why the Ku Klux Klan exists. But while I was watching the last section it is laid out like a modern super hero film. We see why he has to act we see how he gets the idea for his costume .He is the main motivator of action and saves the day not once but twice. But instead of Spiderman or batman he is a member and founder of the Ku Klux Klan.

05-The-Birth-of-a-Nation-David-W.-Griffith-Corp (1)

The film at times try’s to portray itself as historically accurate citing sources and going to great pains to explain how accurate the filmed product is. But the films portrayal of the black characters is incredible racist .The black characters by and large are portrayed as animals. This kind of propaganda mixed with real historic facts and people is a very dangerous mix of truths and falsehoods. Many of the black characters are white character in blackface with outlandish costumes. It is really telling when you can’t find someone of a particular race to play a character.


The film ends like any good film should with the devil killing masses of Sinners before the return of Christ and the bringing of heaven to earth. This is a must see for any fans of cinema for its odd quality’s alone. There are gigantic set pieces lavish sets and costumes and huge spectacles overall. And at a silent movie it never really drags it has a great pace with many point so interest. I could spend page after page detailing this epic but it really has to be seen to be believed.


metropolis cover list of shame

Tittle: Metropolis

Director: Fritz Lang

Release Year: 1927

Trivia: One of the first sci fi feature films ever created.

At the time of its release it was the most expensive film ever made with a budget of approximately five million Reich marks.

Runtime: 1 hour 50 but various cuts have different lengths depending on how much has been lost or restored in the version.


Fritz Lang is one of the giant of cinema he along with the great like Hitchcock and chaplain helped define a young art form and show the potential of the moving picture. The particular ability of film with its use of visual and audio to move people to convince to charm to enrage and audience are still discovering the power of this medium to this day .And this is one of fritz Lang’s classic films and a film that constantly appears in list of the greatest films of all time. Another fritz Lang film I have to recommend is his film M which is a master class  cinema and storytelling it follows a murder as he is hunted down .If you are watching that film be sure to watch the restored version to get the full effect  of the visual story telling. The version of metropolis I am watching is the restored version though to be lost to time  a print was found with a few of the lost film sections .It’s hard to believe that a classic film could be lost but there are a few major lost film a Lon Cheney horror film London after midnight .And of course Nosfaratu was almost a lost film when after a law suit it was ordered the destruction of all prints .It would have been a terrible loss to cinema  to have no Nosfarutu  one of cinemas horror classics .


But back to metropolis the film is really at its heart a love story told in a dystopian future .It revolves around the rich son of the ruler of the city and his falling in love with a resistance leader .She is replaced by a robot and incites revolution as robots are prone to do. That is the core of the story there are some nice sub plots playing out as well. There is really no boring breaks in the film it has a lot of story to tell and it does not waste any time in telling it Some very interesting names and concepts in the movie the power unit for the city is called the heart machine the workers live in huge underground city’s while the wealthy play in pleasure garden .There is a very obvious social message of the place of man in the modern world and the price of industrialization but this does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.

The film is frankly a must watch it has stunning set design a very interesting and ground breaking vision of the future. There are so many interesting effects and visuals that it would be hard to single any one out the film. Huge vast sets massive crowds really sell home the smallness of man in this machine world .The film has what we might consider clichés a mad scientist with a robotic hand underground city’s but this is of course the originator in cinema at least. There is some debate whether the film is in the public domain or not but there are versions freely available on YouTube .If you have a few free hours and want to see a classic movie there are worse things you could watch. And what happens with the evil robot the revolution and the underground city or the heart machine well you will have to watch it yourself to find out.

Life Is Beautiful

list of shame duck soup cover
Tittle: Life Is Beautiful
Director: Roberto Benigni
Release Year: 1997
Trivia:Guido’s wife, Dora, is played by Roberto Benigni’s real-life wife, Nicoletta Braschi.

Roberto Benigni says the title comes from a quote by Leon Trotsky. In exile in Mexico, knowing he was about to be killed by Joseph Stalin’s assassins, he saw his wife in the garden and wrote that, in spite of everything, “life is beautiful”.
Runtime: 116 min



A film that seems to pop up from time to time on the best films of all time along with most of the other films on my own list of shame. And this film is one of the most recent being released in 1997.The film is divided into two parts the first part  follows the falling in love of Roberto Benigni as Guido and Nicoletta Braschi as Dora  there early courtship and the second half follows  what happens to them during world war 2 because of they are Jewish. It is a film full of joy and life the early portion of the film where we are introduced to Guido is fantastic harking back to some of the great physical comedy of early cinema  .

His performance is a highlight for me of the film he has amazing timing and displays a virtuoso gift for physical comedy. One stand out moment during the early part of the film before the war is a series of things he has set up and observed .This allows him to make it seem on his date that he can call upon the virgin Mary to make his wish’s come through. The first part of the films does have foreshadowing of the war racist propaganda and the bureaucratic  nature of the young fascist state. This also allows some comedic moments where he asks a shop owner his political alliance and he tells his two small boys named Adolf and Benito to sit down. The films then jumps forward five or six years to the middle of world war two. At this point they now have a son named Joshua played very well by Giorgio Cantarini.


Even though the latter part of the film takes place in a concentration camp they find a way to make it light hearted and humorous by the father lying to his child and telling him that it is a game to see who can win a tank with a thousand points. It shows even in the darkest of times people are still good and there is always hope even in the bleakest of places. There is a dark sinister undertone to the camp which the film more alludes to than outright shows. This film could have been a utter disaster much like the unreleased film about a clown in a concentration camp called The Day the Clown Cried .Which even the director Jerry Lewis said the film is embarrassing .

But this film manages to handle the subject mater with class and the tonal shifts don’t detract from the movie as a whole It is very well written and acted film and it does make me want to go out and find other films by the director and the actors .A modern classic of international cinema with a strong cast and script expertly delivered by everyone involved a must see

Five Easy Pieces

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I’m way behind writing up my thoughts on Five Easy Pieces since I watched it God knows how many months ago, but here goes…I knew very little about the film except for the famous diner scene in which Jack Nicholson’s character Robert Dupea simply wants a piece of toast, but finds there’s no easy way to obtain it:

Going by this scene, I think I had expected a movie high on drama and black comedy, but it’s actually a rather meandering story trailing along after Dupea as he avoids settling down in any way, whether it’s back home with his wealthy artistic family or with his sweet but “trailer trash” girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black).

Dupea with his country star wannabe girlfriend, Rayette.

There’s a cringeful clash of worlds when Rayette follows Dupea back to his family home and dying father, and they are both worlds which Robert now wishes to escape because, as he admits to his now mute father, he’s always “getting away from things that get bad if he stays”. You find yourself piecing together reasons for Dupea’s behaviour and his need to keep moving on in life; certainly there seems to have been tension between himself and his father, who no doubt would have expected his son to pursue his musical gift (it turns out Dupea was a very talented piano player). Then there is the simple fact that there are people in the world who are just not suited to family life, fatherhood or marriage, all of the things that those around Dupea want him to embrace. Those hoping for a nicely wrapped up ending will be disappointed, yet the film surely stays true to Dupea’s character right down the closing credits. Unless he himself decides to put down roots, nobody else is going to make him do so. This is a movie definitely worth a look if only for Nicholson’s great performance. You will be humming Tammy Wynette songs for days afterward however. All together now: “Stand by your man…”

On the Waterfront


Tittle:  On the Waterfront

Director: Elia Kazan

Release Year: 1954

Trivia: The only film that wasn’t a musical for which Leonard Bernstein wrote the incidental music

Sam Spiegel forgot to pay for rear-projection equipment, hence the reason why the cab where Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger play out the film’s most famous scene has blinds.

On the Waterfront (1954) is widely known to be an act of expiation on the part of Elia Kazan for naming names to HUAC during the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s.

The film won eight Oscars

Runtime: 108 min


I could have been a contender I could have had class .One of the most famous and oft parodied lines in cinema if  you have not seen on the waterfront I would be hard to avoid those lines .They seem to crop up in the strangest of places. The film directed by Elia Kazan follows Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy from his involvement with the murder of by the mob. We follow Brando as he sees the errors of his ways falls in love with Eva Marie Saint as Edie Doyle the sister of the man he helped to be killed and finally stands up to the mob. A very important supporting character is Karl Malden playing Father Barry he gives a wonderful performance as the priest who is trying the help the workers break the cycle of corruption on the docks.

The film itself feels like a mix between neo realism and a gritty noir we see a non-idealised view of working class conditions the bars are sad and seedy with revellers in various states of intoxication. And we see first-hand the powerless felt by the poor working class in the face of the mob .Some of the dialogue is really pulpy one line by the priest he says “You know who the pistols are “a great line another that stands out is when Brando is talking about keeping his pigeons safe and he says the city is full of hawks. It is not much of a jump to take pigeons for the people who inform on the mob as that is a common term for informants. And the hawks being the mob that prey on everyone picking the meet clean from the bone of the working class people. The film has a positive message about overcoming the odds and beating the gangsters.


Of course the scene in the car is very effective a heartfelt discussion between two brothers who are now on different paths .But another scene stands out to me as a major moment in the film a very eloquent and heartfelt speech next to the body of a murdered dock worker in the hold of the ship. Given by the priest who was trying to get the man to inform. After he has given the last right he speaks from besides the corpse to the assembled dock workers and to the mob who watch from there perch.

 But it is very hard to watch this film about overcoming oppression with what happened with the director Elia Kazan he informed during the communist witch hunts tarnishing his name and reputation .When he got a life time achievement award he was booed at the ceremony he was a strange choice for the honorary Oscar as he had two best director Oscars already. In the film Marlon Brando is described as a rat but is the hero because he is ratting on the bad guys and bringing back justice to the docks .But there is a big difference between the mob murdering innocent dock works and the people Kazan informed on who happened to hold political views that were not in step with the climate at the time. The film is a classic and well worth a watch 

8 1/2


Tittle:  8 1/2

Director: Federico Fellini

Release Year:1963

Trivia: The title refers to the number of movies Federico Fellini had directed up until that point – six features, two short (1/2) films and “half a picture” (Variety Lights (1950) his first, co-directed with Alberto Lattuada), for a total of 7 1/2. So this one is number 8 1/2.

Federico Fellini attached a note to himself below the camera’s eyepiece which read, “Remember, this is a comedy.”

Often cited by Federico Fellini himself as one of his favorite films ever, even considering other directors’ works.

Runtime: 138 min


The history of  Italian cinema is varied from high art to low end sleaze  one filled with beautifully shot murders  as in the Giallo pictures to the everyday lives of people captured in interesting and provocative ways as in the neo realism movement with films like bicycle thief and other classic .It would be hard to look at the host of classic Italian  films  made in the last 100 years without having to come across one man’s name time and time again .Of course fedirno fellinin has a large accomplished filmography with different theme and idea’s  expressed .

One of  his films I would have to mention as a must watch for film fans is La Dolce Vita (the good life) another of  Fellini films masterful story telling with a brilliant eye for character. I had heard of 8 ½ before but had somehow managed not to see it till now .The story follows a director who is preparing for his next film while also recuperating in a spa .It is in no mean an easy film to watch its run time is over two hours and it is full of symbolism and interesting ideas. Then realm of the dramas and the fantasy of the director character meld together and flow into the everyday life of pre-production.


Of course as the subject are a director and the film making process it would be hard not to compare the character to the director himself. It seems to be very self-referential and the dialogue with actors especially will give anyone who has directed a bit of a laugh as it is so over the top and pretentious intentionally . The story is much fractured mixing dreams and fantasy together with the real world of the film. The visual are strong and the score worked great with the film .The dialogue  does have the very dubbed effect even for the Italian actors the whole film sounds like it was dubbed by different actors than on the screen this is done in post-production that is not that strange but could throw off people unfamiliar with the style.

Overall it is a very interesting film but at time s does feel over indulgent in some of the fantasy scene. Also the narrative of the films pre-production the anchor the rest of the madness revolves around is poorly done .It jumps around and is not very linier one day he is in the spa the next the costume designer is in one of the suits and this sets are being build. This of course could be the directors intention to throw off the audience and make them feel the same disorinatation as the director as he hurtles towards his next film project. I though with  the subject I would really enjoy this film but it was a very mixed bag for me .But never the less worth a watch Fellinni is undoubtedly one of the masters of cinema and in this he  is given free rein to explore.

Saturday Night Fever

I swear if Simon Cowell says something mean I will cry

I swear if Simon Cowell says something mean I will cry

After watching Saturday Night Fever I realised two key things:

1) John Travolta was a lot less creepy when he was younger and skinnier and;

2) I want to build a time machine and go to a disco. Not an Irish ‘disco’ (or ‘hop’ as my grandfather once tried to call it) but a real bonafide disco complete with disco floor, disco ball, dance-offs, and flares.

My first revelation led me to enjoy the film a lot more than I thought I would. Travolta is entertaining as the petulant 19-year-old Brooklyn native, Tony Manero, whose life revolves around dancing and Saturday nights spent his local disco.

After spotting the talented Stephanie on the dance floor one night, his life soon starts to revolve around her, in particular, around trying to persuade her to pair up with him for a dance contest. Stephanie has one foot in Brooklyn but her sights set on Manhattan, and while prattling on about how she is bettering herself, shows up everything Manero chooses to ignore in his own life: his bickering parents, boring job, and pack of immature friends who bring him more trouble than good.

Look Ma, no hand.

Look Ma, no hand.

What’s interesting about the film is how it fits into where we are now as a culture. Tony tells Stephanie he doesn’t need to be aspiring, he’s only 19, and listening to him, I couldn’t help but agree. In 70’s Brooklyn, a 19 year old in a dead end job, living at home, whose only focus is dancing, hanging out with friends, and trying to get with girls on the weekend, might have seemed unambitious. Now it just seems like – you know a 19 year old who knows what he wants to do with his life, really!? At least Tony can dance (boy can he dance!) and he’s passionate about it – to the extent that he wants to acquire acclaim, not for belonging to the certain race but for having the right moves. He may not be dreaming big enough by setting his sights on a local contest, but at least he’s focused on something other than the shortcomings of the world in which he lives, hoping his achievements will transcend it.

However, while Tony tries to escape into dancing, it’s his friends who drag him away from the sparkle of the disco to face harsh reality. As the dark side of the film emerges, it becomes apparent that Tony has control over his carefully choreographed moves on the dance floor, but little else.

Saturday Night Fever reveals a kid who doesn’t know who or what to take his cues from when the music stops playing. Living a deadbeat lifestyle with a dream isn’t such a bad thing, but acquiring your principles piecemeal from the people and life that surrounds you is. And I suppose that’s a message relevant even today.

PS: even if he is less disturbing, there are too many lingering shots of Travolta in his underwear in this film.

PPS: the Bee Gees are great.


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