The Rising Sun and Fallen Blades: P’s top ten Japanese films

Japanese culture has always fascinated those in the west. Ever since the first European traders brought back fashionable items of Oriental art four hundred years ago, the interest in all things Nippon has grown in influence and power. Japanese movies, in particular, have always provided something unconventional, special or just plain over the top! From the fascinating customs and orders of their feudal past to the fantastic visions of a technological future to come and of course the extreme and unrelenting violence, the Japanese directors and writers have shown the world a unique and stunning perspective of the world around us.

I have had to limit ourselves in some respects. It would be easy, for example to just fill this list with Akira Kurosawa films, or indeed samurai films in General or anime films or horror films. However to do so would be to simplify the sheer range in vision of the Japanese masters. Therefore, each genre of Japanese cinema has been restricted to one entry each, which should hopefully represent their unmentioned contemporaries. If you haven’t seen many Japanese films, then these may be a good place to start.

10. The Street Fighter (Gekitotsu! Satsujin ken, 1974)

This has nothing to do with the popular Japanese video game series. Instead this is the story of Takuma Tsurugi (played masterfully by Sonny Chiba), a martial arts master for hire getting caught up with Yakuza. The Toei company boldly decided to have Chiba as the ultimate anti-hero. After completing one job to save a man from execution, the man’s brother and sister are unable to pay for his services. He therefore beats them both and sells the sister into a life of prostitution. Containing a healthy blend of sex, extreme violence and fun, the Street fighter movies are definitely among the best of their genre. You may have seen them referenced in True Romance (writer Quintin Tarantino is notably a huge fan of Japanese Cinema). The film may be considered an exploitation film, and Chiba does seem to be channeling Bruce Lee, however the entertainment quality here is unbeatable to any fan of mindless martial arts action. Watch it for the violence, and the kick ass sound track.

09. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (testsuo, 1989)

Distinctly feeling like a music video by Tool, Shinya Tsukamoto’s baffling cyberpunk brain child is shot entirely in black and white and has menacing and gritty feel of all the classic eighties body horror flicks. The story concerns Tetsuo, a fetishist whose particular kink involves the insertion of random pieces of metal into his body. After inserting a metal rod into his leg leads to infection by maggots the man runs into the road and is hit by a car. The man driving, along with his girlfriend, dump the body in a nearby ravine only to be cursed by Tetsuo, transforming the man slowly into a walking scrap-heap. The film is very hard to watch, with brutal portrayals of self-mutilation, grainy visuals and a throbbing industrial soundtrack, however the subject is fascinating, the surreal nature of the presentation a definite drawing point and the overall presentation will definitely keep you watching until the end, for better or worse. The Japanese soon earned a reputation for extreme cinema, and with movies like Tetsuo, it’s not hard to imagine why.

08. Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart at the river styx (Kozure Ôkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma, 1972)

The Lone Wolf and Cub manga series by Kazuo Koike is a masterpiece of samurai fiction. It contains incredible attention to detail in its plot lines, setting and characters all portraying the world of feudal Japan. Some of this quality carries through into the six Lone Wolf and Cub movies made by the Toho company and it is the second film of the series that makes the list here. After the first film establishes the character of Ogami Itto and his infant son Daigoro, this sequel sees them through perhaps their most entertaining adventure. Hunted by a trio of terrible assassins, each master of a deadly samurai weapon, the father and son team continue to travel through the land, seeking vengeance against Yagyu Retsudo, the leader of the traitorous Yagyu clan, reponisible for the death of his wife. The movie is most often remembered for its gore, and indeed the sword fights are brutal and violent, however the film contains a fascinating insight into the glorified world of the Samurai, and Tomisaburo Wakayama once again provides a brilliant portrayal of the silent swordsman. Western audiences may be more familiar with the film “Shogun Assassin”, which was made be editing together footage of the first two films. However I strongly suggest you acquire a box set of the original superior movies.

07. Ringu (1998)

J-Horror has recently become something of a cultural phenomenon in the last ten years or so. This can largely be attributed to the success of the japanese movie Ringu. The film is about a video tape which kills the viewer one week after viewing. This intriguingly original concept plays strongly upon fears of modern utilities, a common theme with Japanese horror. The greatest success a horror story my have is to make you fear the mundane. And after this film, it’ll certainly make you think twice about sleeping in the same room as a television . Some may prefer the jump scares of the Hollywood remake, however the original must be seen and appreciated for it’s chilling atmosphere and contrasting simplicity. The infamous television scene is also far better when performed with the subtelty of the original.

06. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi, 2001)

Studio Ghibli is often called the Japanese Disney, an apt description as the studio Ghibli films always contain the youthful curiosity and wonder of their main director, Hayao Miyizaki. Spirited away (or the spiriting away of Sen and Chihiro) is a wonderfully cheerful film about a young girl moving house. On the way to the new family house, her parents decide to pull over and explore a nearby tunnel. On the other side they find a disused fairground which they decide to explore. However as the sun sets the fair ground is inhabited by the demon world, and her parents turn into pigs. Sen, protected by the loyal wizard Haku, must find a place to live and work in this strange world, and ultimately find a way to turn her parents back to normal and return to her world. The stunning visuals of the film, warm humour and likeable characters make this a true classic for all audiences. definitely good enough to give Disney a run for its money.

 

05. Versus (2000)

Pure, Japanese craziness. The film is directed by Ryûhei Kitamura, one of Japans more eccentric directors (which is a very long list to be on top of!) and concerns the 444th portal to hell. Two convicts escape from prison and meet with their escape team of crazy-of-the -op yakuzas, only to have them turn on them, resulting in an all out Yakuza gun fight. Only those who die in this forest, come back to life! Very quickly the film becomes a zombie movie as the Yakuza and convicts must fight for survival. However in this movie filled with surprises, it soon becomes clear that something else is going on entirely. The film’s over the top characters, absurd plot and ridiculously fun action have made it a cult classic.

04. Ichi the Killer (Koroshira Ichi, 2001)

Takeshi Miike is legendary. The director of such bizarre films as the surprisingly sinister Audition, the perversely entertaining visitor Q and the all out ridiculous dead or alive. However his greatest and arguable most extreme movie is Ichi the Killer. The plot focusses around the ultimate masochist, Kakihara and the ultimate sadist, Ichi. Kakihara seems to be looking to avenge the death of his boss, however he is really looking for the person who can inflict the perfect pain. Rape, hypnosis and mass murder ensue as the movie races towards the confrontation between Kakihara and Ichi. The baffling ending is pure Miike. Although lacking the complexity of his Triad society trilogy, the film’s plot has many twists and turns, with great acting and brilliant style. The music, direction and effects are all perfect, making Ichi the killer a thoroughly enjoyable crime drama.

03. Godzilla (Gojira, 1954)

Forget Mathew Broderick and Roland Emmerich. The original 1954 monster movie is a classic. Featuring impressive visuals, a simple yet symbolic plot and a massive killer lizard, Godzilla is monster movie perfection. During the second world war, an injury had been inflicted uniquely to Japan. The only two Atomic bombs ever used in combat were used against the japanese, killing 80,000 civilians and destroying two cities. This attack left a very unique impression on the Japanese psychology which would manifest in its culture. Fittingly, less that ten years after the attack, Godzilla arrives. The result of american nuclear testing, Godzilla rampages through the city of Tokyo, confronted by the military and Tokyo citizens. Although later movies would be more lighthearted and pit Godzilla against various wacky and colourful monsters, the original was very serious and grimly portrayed the results of nuclear testing on Japanese cities….via a massive lizard. The birth of a legend. Try and see it a cinema.

02. Ghost in the Shell (Kôkaku kidôtai, 1995)

Choosing this over Akira was extremely difficult. However ultimately I had to choose Ghost in the Shell for its ambition, intellect and concept. In the future nearly everyone has a cyber brain. These brains increase thought processes, reaction times and most crucially can connect wirelessly to the net. This allows improved conversation, greater knowledge and terrorism. This is where section six comes in. Major Krusinagi is charged with defending the country from ghost hackers, cyber terrorists and the elusive criminal known as the puppet master, who can hijack people, implant false memories and make you act to fufill his criminal will. The movie contains a great deal of philosophic content as well as impressive visuals and thought-provoking moral issues and social commentary. This was an early exponent of combining adrenaline filled action with complex ideas.

01. Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai, 1954)

Well it had to be really. Akira Kurosawa is one of the all time best directors and Seven Samurai is generally considered to be his best work, and for good reason. The 1992 film Unforgiven was largely praised for destroying the glorified concept of the western cowboy. However many of the themes present had already been explored forty years earlier by this classic samurai film. As a group of vicious bandits terrorise a village of farmers, the inhabitants collect together their grain and hire seven samurai warriors to protect their village. A plot so classic that it has been frequently reused in hollywood from the magnifficent seven to a bug’s life, the characters are all subtly fascinating without being overstated, their interaction with the villagers provides a sharp social commentary about the hypocritical and unhelpful reality of the Samurai code and it destroys the myth of the noble samurai, unwilling to break his strict code of ethics and instead provides a more human look at this legendary historical warriors. The action scenes are beautifully filmed and just as exciting as anything produced in the last ten years. The music is dramatic and brilliantly in keeping with the detailed setting. Although for many it gets by on more than enough nostalgia points, the central film itself is stand alone brilliant and just as inspiring to new generations as it was to the original audience.

P for Putaro (and Pai Pai! Hehe!)

TimeEaters: Seven Freeware Games You May Not Have Heard Of (part three)

Subterra (2001, Crystal Shards)

Perhaps it is their appeal to casual gamers, but puzzle-based computer games are something of a solid trend in popular gaming. The formula invariably starts off with the simple notion of having to collect something. Usually something precious, as these objects tend to be drawn with a slight sparkle. Things that sparkle catch the eye, and it is with a sense of satisfaction that these colourful chucks of pixel are gathered up to reach the exit. It is with no small annoyance that one stares at a corner, wherein an emerald, a diamond and a pearl sit, enclosed by some wall or another, and it takes a fiendish puzzle to rescue them. Even if you already have your needed quota of gems, this is irritating. And, as the game progresses, these instances become both more frequent and more dire as the puzzles become increasingly complex.

     However, such games can only be addictive, and time will be spent going back to that level you just can’t complete, inching closer and closer to victory every time you attempt it. But it is fun, and puzzle games can only serve to be interesting, after all. Subterra is one such game. The premise is that you are a miner collecting a certain amount of gems to complete a level. As the game progresses, the player meets several obstructions to their goal, such as falling rocks, bombs and skulls that shoot beams at you. Each level has four or five rooms, each with a puzzle to complete, and gems that come in the form of diamonds, emeralds (which are worth 3 diamonds) and rubies (which are worth 5) which must be collected. Finishing a level here is satisfying, the graphics are 0simple but aesthetically pleasing, the music is enjoyable and the controls are easy to grasp.

You will not enjoy this if: you’re looking for an RPG, a shoot’em-up or a fighting game.

You will enjoy this if: you’re looking for something engaging that isn’t hugely complicated in its set-up, and is reasonably challenging. Suitable for casual gamers.

Available from: http://www.crystalshard.net/subterra.htm

Part four next week! Same gaming time, same gaming site!

LMC

K’s Special Room 101.

If you’re not familiar with the Show, Room 101 is a ‘comedy talk show’ where celebs discus what they would like to oust from the world, developed from Orwell’s famous Room 101 from the novel nineteen eighty four. The show doesn’t have rigid categories for the celebrities choices, but we’re a little more Orwellian than Paul Merton! Some of these were easier than others. ‘Book’ was probably the hardest. Many times I have wondered about my dream room 101 (or nightmare room 101!), but this format of categorising the choices makes it all the more interesting. Enjoy.

Movie

Clerks II

I’ve seen this film twice and I hated it both times. There’s only one word to describe it and that’s ‘Stupid.’ Oh my god, a donkey, at a party, that’s HILARIOUS. Oh so, one of you talks too much and one not at all? How ORIGIONAL you are. It makes me angry. It’s not funny. Just like Little Britain it tries to take silly past slapstick and into the modern world, but something gets lost.

Runners up: The Twilight Saga, Harry Potter: The Philosopher’s Stone and The Lovely Bones.

Song

Jedward’s cover of ‘All The Small Things’

Yes, they really did it. Jedward (aka John and Edward) murdered the Blink 182 classic ‘All The Small Things.’ That song defines my teenage years. How DARE you? And I like some really shocking music. (Katy Perry, Lady Ga Ga, My Chemical Romance- to name a few.) If you don’t take my word for it, watch the above link. Be prepared to swallow your own vomit.

(P.S. Why is that in every single picture of them, one of them has their mouth open! Is it to tell them apart? How annoying!)

Runner up: Anything from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And I love musicals.

Book

The Lost Book of Salem

We were actually made to read this book. They made us! With guns! …ok fine, it was only lightly suggested by our lecturer, but we take that seriously! One of the worst bits of this book is the very last page where Katherine Howe’s face is looking up at you saying ‘I’ve published a book, what have you got? Oh and I have tomato plants.’ Fuck off. The description made me want to heave. Howe uses ‘he thought’ and ‘she thought’ for any random piece of exposition, she uses ‘he looked in (wonder/amazement/sadness)’ … and that alone made me go ‘why am I reading this?’ And why was I? Cause I can’t say no to a History reading list.

Runners up: Any Celeb autobiography.

Famous Person

Konnie Huq

Just look at her face, her smiling face. Nobody (who isn’t planning the end of the world) smiles that much. Firstly, she was a Blue Peter presenter, which as we all know means not only do you have to be jolly-hockey-sticks 24/7; but you must also have an enthusiasm that can cure the common cold. Secondly, she’s engaged to all nerd girls number one crush, the Brooker. How? How did she do this? Even the man himself seemed annoyed with her when she appeared on Screenwipe. It’s also her voice. She always sounds like she’s reading from a prompter. Maybe Brooker likes her cause he will always have someone to analyse when she’s there. Like Hannibal marrying Clarice (happened in the books! READ THEM!)

Runners up: K-Stew, Russell Brand and Katie Price.

Modern Life

Constant Surveillance

If you live in London (which both P and I do) you are caught on CCTV about 100 times a day. Sometimes I never leave my house in a day, just to unbalance this stat. Today my parent’s took me somewhere using their new Sat-Nav, it scares me how accurately this thing knows where we are, how fast we’re going, if there’s a speed camera in sight. The phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’ can’t be applied any more, because even when you don’t see someone, they have been seen, on the net, on their phone, on their Oyster card, on CCTV. Johnathan Coe’s new book The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim explores this further. Buy it. Love it.

Runners up: Money, Page 3 and Velour Tracksuits.

Biggest Fear

Birds

Unfortunately, phobias can’t be explained. When you look at a bird you probably see a fumbling, flappy, harmless creature. When I look at them I see their beady eyes looking right at me, their claws draw in towards them as they get read to attack. And then they fly, and that’s when I make a noise I could never make without the fear. When I was 13 my music teacher made us watch The Birds and I cried. There’s a scene in Toy Story 3 where a pidgeon pecks at one of the toys, and I had to look away. Fear, is a crazy thing.

Other fears: The Dark, Being Alone for long periods of time, Peeing without a lock on the door.

(NB: None of the pictures belong to me and I would like to thank the kind people who un-knowingly let me use them, oh and google image search.)

TimeEaters: Seven Freeware Games You May Not Have Heard Of (part two)

Plasma Pong (2007, Steve Taylor)

Sometimes, there is nothing much you can say about a game, it is so simplistic in its visuals and mechanics that there’s nothing much to add to ‘it’s like ping-pong, except on the computer’. This is the case with the seventies classic game Pong, with its sparse visuals and simple strategies. At some point, it was state of the art technology, but, let’s face it, the years have passed and any amateur programmer can cobble together something just a bit more complex with a minimum of difficulty.

It’s true that video games have certainly moved on since then, and gaming styles are being updated all the time. But the original Pong formula, though archaic, should not necessarily be cast aside. What if, for instance, some rather more modern aspects of gaming were added, such as bright colours, some atmospheric music and a more complex physics engine. Well, then you’ve got Plasma Pong, which starts of as a semblance of the old game in its monochrome appearance. But, move the mouse and click the button, and send waves of multicolour plasma exploding across the screen. Instead of careening wildly across the screen, the ball ends up being pulled along in the flow of this viscous plasma, occasionally being sent shot across the screen by a sudden blast of the stuff. All the while, dramatic music plays, increasing speed as you gain levels by scoring goals.

It still might not be particularly interesting for anybody looking for something more serious or complicated. It is still just pong, just with bright colours and a decent soundtrack.

You might not enjoy it if: you are after something particularly story/character based or complex.

You might enjoy it if: you want something simple, with a good sense of tension and a mild sense of nostalgia.

Available from:  http://download.cnet.com/Plasma-Pong/3000-2099_4-10511143.html

Check back next week for part three!

LMC

TimeEaters: Seven Freeware Games You May Not Have Heard Of (part one)

The world is full of games and gaming is quickly becoming a very important part of modern life and a global past time. This has made the industry one of the most profitable in the world, with hundreds of companies competing with each other for your attention. However not all games costs money. Some games can be played completely for free over the internet. These are called freeware games. There are a few freeware games you may have probably heard of, such as Cave Story, La Mulana or Nifflas’ work, so I won’t cover them here (if you haven’t heard of them, I suggest you look these up, first). However, for those who want something different to waste their time with, the deluge of free games out there can leave one spending more time wading through them to find something decent to play, and by the time you’ve found something, you’re bored of the whole thing. Of course, we’re lucky that there are so many free video games out there, but it’s good to commemorate some programmers who have really done a decent job. This is what I will be doing on Nerds get bored over the next seven weeks. This is by no means an ultimate list; just a small selection of the better games out there.  I hope you enjoy!

Eternal Daughter (2002, Derek Yu)

Inside a temple, beneath a statue of a revered deity, a priestess holds her newborn daughter, only to be interrupted by several soldiers of an evil race (the Dungaga) bent on taking over the peaceful land of Lorian (not affiliated with Lorien, Middle Earth). The woman is taken to be the unwilling wife of the leader of the Dungaga, while her baby daughter Mia is sold into slavery, and grows up to work under her half-breed half-brother Hume. This is the basis story for the game, Eternal Daughter, a sweet-looking 2D game with RPG elements. Our heroine, Mia, is on a quest to find her father, as well as liberate her mother and her people. She’s a cute little girl who you wouldn’t want to cross. The same duality can be applied to this game in a way. It is set in a colourful world with cuddly animals and super-deformed characters and yet you will be biting your knuckles and whining before you’ve even reached the 10% mark.

Metroidvania refers to the gaming styles of classic franchises Metroid and Castlevania, and it is in this style that Eternal Daughter’s gameplay follows. You guild Mia through the rooms of the game; these rooms are invariably filled with enemies to kill and power-ups, ammo and health to pick up. Metroidvania games are not linear as such, but tend to have a sandbox aspect to them, and the player can go back and forth between rooms as they need to. Platforming also plays a large part here, also, with many a jumping puzzle with the risk of being knocked down, possibly either to Mia’s death or back to where she started.

Eternal Daughter is a pretty game with retro graphics, twinkling music and cute characters, but do not be lulled into a false sense of security.

You will not enjoy it if: you are looking for something quick and simple to pass ten minutes or so, or you are looking for something realistic and gory.

You will enjoy it if: you like retro style graphics, old-school high difficulty levels and RPG-like story-telling.

Available from: http://www.derekyu.com/games.html (Scroll down to find it)

Check back next week for my next freeware game you may not have heard of.

LMC

We’d just like to thank: Our favourite best picture winners

Film nerds often get fairly psyched up about the Oscars. For many of us, it’s the closest we get to sports and the best picture award is always the highlight of the night. We have our picks and we support our favourites and as the results are read out we all shout, scream and hiss as, once again, the academy has managed to pick out the blandest, clichéd and uninteresting films of the year. Films that were nominated but did not win best picture include Pulp fiction, the Shawshank redemption, Brokeback mountain, lost in translation, the pianist, Good will hunting, Fargo, Goodfellas, Dead poets society, E.T., Apocalypse now, Taxi driver, The Exorcist, and a clockwork orange. In short, the most iconic and acclaimed films ever made. Some of the winners include: Titanic, the English patient, Braveheart, Shakespeare in love, Slumdog millionaire, around the world in eighty days and fucking Chicago! All too often what happens is that the academy think “Huh, remember when we didn’t give an Oscar to this guy for his first amazing film, or his second brilliant film, or any of the amazing films since. Well we better make up for our retardedness by giving it to him for whatever he’s done this year!” Hence the departed wins. But every now and then they get it right. And this is our list of the top ten best winners of the academy award for best picture. If the last few selections reek of desperation on our part, let that talk for the true nature of the academy. Dicks!

 

10. Crash

Crash: probably one of the films on this list that many of you haven’t seen. I have it. You can borrow it. If I were to write the top ten most moving scenes in film history, there is a scene in this I would put somewhere near the top. If you’ve seen it, you will know what I’m on about, if not, I wont spoil it for you. Crash effectively tackles issues of race and racism without being ‘preachy.’ This picture boasts a wide variety of cast members, all of different walks of life and yet all connected. Named ‘crash’ because it begins and ends with car crashes, Don Cheadle, playing a black detective, also implies that we ‘crash into each other’ because people are so separated in day-to-day life. And perhaps if people weren’t so separated by life they wouldn’t hold prejudices. I highly recommend this movie. Crash also won Best Screenplay and Best Editing.

 

9. Forest Gump

An epic story of overcoming diversity and experiencing life to it’s fullest. Forest  manages to combat being a cripple, gives Elvis a dancing lesson, becomes a star American footballer for his propensity to run, meets a fella with a huge bottom lip, saves countless lives in Vietnam, is a star ping pong player, shows the president his arse, blows the whistle on Watergate, becomes a millionaire from his shrimp fishing company, runs across the world, invents the smiley face logo and the phrase ‘shit happens’ but by far his biggest achievement is managing to love that junky chick. Now their son get’s to enjoy the delights of those two gene pools! The film is however very rightwing. Private enterprise comes up over and over. The shrimp boat. The Apple-Mac investment. The slogan and smiley face. There’s the idea that one person can have such a profound impact and yet value obedience and routine. The negative portrayal of anti-Vietnam war protesters. Anti-drugs. Pro-God. And of course the American dream within the reach of even a hard working retard. Ultimately the film is pro-American and everything that implies.  A retard can make good but only an American retard….a white American retard.

 

8. Gladiator (2000)

Ridley Scott has been having a bad century. After a pretty much universally panned sequel, Hannibal, he had a briefn success with the action filled black hawk down before once again plunging into a Orlando Bloom shaped hole of crusading despair. Recently we’ve had a dull gangster movie and a robin hood movie which completely missed the point, so to speak. Now he’s returning to his original masterpiece and directing an Alien prequel. Enthusiasm is understandably low. However he did start off the noughties well. Gladiator is a sword and sandal epic with a Shakespearean plot and impressive action. Despite the historical inaccuracies (which we shall save for a later article) gladiator was a highly entertaining action movie with just a little bit more soul that the rest. The film revitalized the genre and may well be responsible for all the historical epics we have around these days…despite that we’re putting it on the list.

 

7. The Godfather part 2 (1974)

The first edition of Francis Ford Coppola’s classic mafia saga also won an Oscar. But there is a very significant camp (containing us) which finds the second movie to be far more epic in its scope, more significant in its message, more developed in its characters and just generally more entertaining to watch. The saga is about the life of fictional gangster Michael Corleone. The trilogy tracks his progress through life as he is forced into a life of crime by his obligations to his family and in the process he slowly looses everything he cared about. The second film simultaneously builds to Michael’s greatest sin and reveals the story of his fathers rise to power, reflecting the differences in thier motives, one striving to protect his family and neighbours, the other fuelled by anger and vengeance. The film features two powerful performances by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, exhibits masterful direction and a brilliantly crafted plot.

 

6. Return of the King

Since starting this website I have been looking for an opportunity to mention this story. We (K and P) went to a LOTR all-nighter at the BFI Imax for one of our birthdays. I was excited. I was an all-nighter virgin. But what made me nearly pee my pants? Ian Mckellen was there. He gave a speech in which he said that Peter Jackson (sorry, SIR Ian Mckellen and SIR Peter Jackson) had shot the first scene (of the fellowship) and the last scene (of Return) next to each other, and apparently Jackson had said something like ‘basically, act like you’ve been through a lot together.’ And that they had. I’m not about to engage in an explanation of the entire plot of LOTR, suffice to say that this is a film that really deserves the label ‘epic.’  Probably one of the most anticipated films of all time, winning Best Picture for the last of the trilogy represents the success of the whole series. You just need to look at LOTR’s fan base to see how many people really love the movies.  If you haven’t seen it I suggest you do so, as all three films will be referenced again. And again.

 

5. American Beauty (1999)

1999 was one of the best years film has ever known. Tom Hanks walked the Green mile. Keanu Reeves jacked in to the matrix. John Cusack crawled into a small door and came out in John Malkovich’s head. Edward Norton joined the Fight Club, Woody and buzz had a second toy story and Bruce Willis was a ghost all along. This was of course all balanced by the phantom menace. Good year for Karma believers. But not such a good year for academy members. How do you choose a film from this list? However the clear winner of the year was a little slice of Sub-urban America in which Lester Burnham faces the boredom of his bourgeois existence and decides to do something about it when confronted with a representative for all his primal desires and a long lost remnant of his teenage love for life. The film examines the attitudes of several different characters and compares their priorities and actions to create a fascinating insight into suburban life. All the while the film manages to be funny, moving and generally enjoyable throughout.

 

4. Schindler’s list

Schindler’s list won seven Academy Awards. Seven. I was sad when I found out Liam Neeson’s performance, as Schindler wasn’t one of them. When I first saw this film I turned to my mother at the end and said ‘That guy looked like Liam Neeson’ which is either testament to his performance or my incompetence, let’s go with the former. A few films on this list have made me cry (and by a few I mean over half), but this one really got me going. For anyone who has been living in a hole for the last 17 years: Schindler is the owner of a factory in Poland. Beginning the film as rather hard and emotionless, he is deeply touched by the plight of his jewish workers and tries to rescue as many Jews as possible by spending much of his fortune, insisting he needs them for factory work. Schindler’s character development makes this film; watching a man cry is something that always makes me well up. Unless it’s after sex…actually especially after sex. Dedicated to the six million Jews that died between 1939 and 1945 this is truly one of the best historically based films ever made.

 

3.14. Annie Hall

Annie Hall is a romance. Annie Hall is a comedy. However, Annie Hall is not a Rom-Com. It is a romance about comedy and a comedy about romance. Woody Allen does romance like no other. Woody Allen does comedy like no other. Romance and comedy. Comedy and romance. (You get it yet?) Annie Hall is fundamentally different to other Romantic Comedies in that the two lead characters find happiness, but not necessarily with each other. This movie always makes me smile, because despite it’s apparent pessimistic realism it’s a real hope-giver.

 

3. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Clint Eastwood is quite possibly the greatest surprise in movie history. At the start of his career all he had to do was show up, talk gruffly and then blow people away with his .44. He wasn’t considered to be much of an actor. Yet in 1992 he directed Unforgiven, a film that completely subverted every trope one might associate with the classical western. He satirised his entire western career in this movie but did so in a beautiful and truly remarkable way. Since then Eastwood has made a new name for himself as a talented director. Following closely on the heels of his critically acclaimed grim masterpiece Mystic River was the grimmer and deservedly more acclaimed Million Dollar Baby. The movie is about a run down boxing trainer who lives out life in an old gym training small time boxers and maintaining poor relations with his daughter. This is until a young female boxer enters his gym and demands training. He refuses but her determination and gusto slowly brings him round. The movie is essentially rocky with a chick until one sudden, violent and shocking twist that changes the entire direction of the movie, leading to a tragic conclusion. The film is beautiful and should be considered as one of the greatest films of a very impressive career. However despite the masterful direction, it’s Hilary Swank who shines through here. Her performance as a sweet yet energetic young boxer with desire for glory and an escape from her working class roots is provoking and beautiful, forcing emotional investment in her rise to glory and terrible fate.

 

2. Silence of the Lambs

This picture didn’t just win Best Picture, but also Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Very few films win all of the top five. This fact alone is testament to the brilliance of the whole film. Adapted from T. Harris’ novel of the same name, this thriller-horror-crime movie boasts one of the best villains in film; Dr Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) who has to be one of the creepiest characters in a movie, ever. Jodie Foster also provides a perfect female protagonist in the form of Clarice Starling, a not-so-easily-scared FBI agent in training. The real beauty of this film lies in the relationship between these two character. Because of the help that Clarice seeks in Lecter (to catch ‘Buffalo Bill’) she has to adopt new ways of dealing with the dangerous villain. If you haven’t seen this film, watch it promptly, with the lights off. Dare you.     

 

 01.  No Country for Old Men.

If a top ten list of best directors should find its way on to this list, then the Coen Brothers would find their way pretty close to the top. For the last twenty six years these two have been bringing us amazing movies consistently, with only the odd slip up here and there. There are two features of Coen Brother movies. One is a very strange sense of surreal humour, often based on strange characters and bizarre situations. The other is deathly serious and grim portrayal of reality. Some of their best films combine the two, such as Fargo or a serious man. Others exclusively focus on either the comedy, such as Hudsucker proxy or burn after reading, or the reality such as No country. This film is a masterful portrayal of the end of life, both naturally and otherwise. The movie contains no music except that which occurs naturally in the film (on radios, etc.). The pace is very slow, with long lingering moments of silence. This serves to build tension as we find our characters trapped in a slowly escalating nightmare all provoked by one decision to try and better his circumstances. We have clever cowboys, cold deadly killers and a world weary old sheriff, who has lost the country he used to know. The movie is definitely a strong contender for the best of the last ten years and maybe one of the best ever made. In a year of strong contenders such as there will be blood, Juno, Atonement and Michael Clayton, this was always the undoubted winner and refused to be overlooked.

 

This article is in honour of all the amazing movies that never won an Oscar. We hope their makers and stars realised how little difference this makes. You know what else won an Oscar? Chariots of fire. Heard of it? No. No one has. What lost to it? Raiders of the lost ark. Think about that, Boyle!

K and P

Forest Gump section written by JR, JPH and Sparky.

Girly nerd or nerdy girl?

Writings on by the Lesser Spotted Nerd-Girl

“You don’t seem like the nerdy type…”

This is a statement I’ve heard a lot. It generally comes after my partner in the conversation has brought up some sort of video game/anime/comic/etc he (always he; I’ve never had this said to me by a female) has been playing/watching/reading/etc. I imagine the response he was expecting was nothing along the lines of a vague nod or ‘hmm-mm’, followed by a giggle and a ‘I really don’t know much about that, haha.’ Actually I don’t, if I’m honest, but the fact that I know anything at all seems to put me on some sort of nerd-tier, anyway.

This does not offend me, since the effect is not one of immediate disparagement but in fact of heightened interest in my company. Eyes light up and several titles and franchise names zip past my ears. In conversation, I grab one that’s familiar and run with that. Of course, this inevitably leads to me becoming more knowledgeable about these things, thus leading me to reach genuine nerd-status, instead of mere girl-nerd status.

Girl-nerd status seems to be slightly different than nerd-status. You are a girl-nerd if you are a girl who knows anything at all about any sufficiently nerdy subject, since it’s apparently unusual for girls to like that sort of thing. This is incorrect, of course- even the Nerds Get Bored blog right here is testament to that; of the four articles on Nerdiness, at least half of those have been by girls now, myself and K, who is also the co-owner of the blog. It’s also illogical, because since nerdy pursuits are generally media based, and we are exposed to the media, so it makes sense that we’re just as likely to develop interests in such things. There are, of course, a few possible reasons why the girl-nerd-tier exists, however. Firstly, there is the idea of ‘girly’ things, and ‘boyish’ things, and ‘nerdy’ things are inevitably ‘boyish’ things, and if there’s an absence of cuteness and glitter, then why would girls be interested? Although, there are girls with obviously boyish interests, which leads me to my next theory: there is a stereotype for ‘girl’ nerd, it’s just that I don’t fit it. Of course, it’s never obvious how I don’t fit it, just that I don’t.

As I said, however, this is no bad thing, as it seems to bring out a side of a person that you wouldn’t normally see; it’s the side that yearns to talk at length about its interests with rapid tones and glittering eyes and a sort of joy you don’t usually find in small talk. That, or I’m being evaluated as a possible brood-mare for some kind of nerd breeding programme, the products of which will eventually be used to hijack technology on a global scale and take over the world.

Contributor: LMC (light machine….cupcakes)