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Criteria: below ten titles, only counting films and TV films, and with less than two known works (that's why you won't be seeing Heather O'Rourke here, just an example).
Of remarkable excellence
A fantastic combination between art, history and pop culture all in one video clip. Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start the Fire" represents the period between 1949 (when he was born) to 1989 (the music release) and accounts to events of which the writer describes as things his generation wasn't responsible, mentioning famous personalities in politics, arts and others to particular events such as epic films releases, presidents assassinations to the moon race and others. The clip echoes sentiments and cultural aspects but doesn't necessarily follow all that.
The music video presents the physical and cultural evolution of an American family through the course of four decades, starting as a typical "I Love Lucy" kind of family, very sitcom like, through the rebellion of the counter-culture of the 1960's and Woodstock flower children - and by this time we have the parents aging each frame goes by - to the 1980's rock/pop explosion during the Reagan era.
Joel's song was so influential and interesting that in the following years, thanks to YouTubebbers, many fans had made their compilations and versions to the song (even including updates with facts from 1990 and onwards) which includes pictures from the personalities and events mentioned in the lyrics. But this clip approach was to give a more cinematic setting and concept which revolves the transformation that happens to an American family and how things swing in several ways: the parents are running towards old age and can't keep up to new values while the youngsters grow up to rebel them and live their lives. It doesn't stick to the song entirely but maintains its concept. The execution was brilliant, and Billy appears as a background character who appears through the years in the exact same fashion: wearing black clothes and shades, using objects as musical instruments and during the song chorus appears in front of a real background image (e.g. Lee Harvey Oswald's killing or the Vietnamese captain's execution in the Pulitzer Prize winning image).
A spectacular song and an even more satisfying clip. One of the greatest of all time. 10/10
The Strokes: Last Nite (2001)
Rock N'Roll Big Bang of the 2000's
The sound of the future with a blast from the past! "The Strokes: Last Nite" is one of those moments that cannot be fully explained unless you lived back when they were one of the "rock's salvation" when the genre was about to "get extincted" but I'll try to pinpoint some facts and why I love this clip despite its simple settings.
I don't remember exactly the first time I've seen it, but I vividly remember the song playing in a car's commercial in the early 2000's and I just loved the music: loud, vibrant and catchy in an almost comic way. Cut to some time later, there was these guys playing it, in a calculated clumsy way with dropping mics or other objects, filmed in a nostalgic 1980's clip style. Something awesome was going on there. And next thing I know I'm hooked to the band.
From Roman Coppola's memorable choice for set designs - featured in other clips by The Strokes - to Julian Casablanca's remarkable presence or even the way Albert Hammond Jr. plays the guitar, everything works with its simplicity in giving us a band performing the song. What Coppola adds to the combo is a distinctive visual that echoes a few decades after the actual fact something insanely nostalgic and cool. Yes, let us consider that some (if not all) band members were born on the 1980's and they're big fans of the period, as evidenced in some of their other videos - which includes their greatest "Hard to Explain", from same album "Is this it".
Not just the video, gotta listen to the song too, one of the Rock n'Roll kicks into the 21st century, a explosion to the senses that still captures your heart and mind. The genre didn't get much better than this in the following years after "Last Nite", but at least The Strokes tried. 10/10
A sensual shock of styles
Sensual, romantic and starring two of the hottest stars of its period, this posthumous clip of "Roy Orbison: I Drove All Night" is a video classic that truly transposes the sentiment of the song into images. The idea doesn't change much from frame to frame (mostly consists of tender moments of a loving couple, played by Jason Priestley and Jennifer Connelly - both at the glorious peak of their beauty - and archive footage from Orbison in other songs made to match this song), so in order to leave it all more interesting the director used of a cinematic language already existing but perfected and explored to a whole new level with Oliver Stone at that decade's entrance (and I don't need to mention the film). Fast cuts, the use of several camera types, lenses and film stocks, an exciting delirious visual mixture of color, controlled colors and black-and-white, speed vs. more balanced velocity and so on. And there's also some "Wild at Heart" kind of vibes.
It's such a beautiful song and an even more spectacular video. Besides the loving couple concept, there's plenty of solo images of Priestley driving days and nights in desert roads, which is the lyrics idea "just to get to you...I drove all night". Connelly and Priestly had the presence and charisma as the main couple; and despite the heavy 1990 style, which doesn't appeal to everybody these days, the clip isn't all that dated. They'd still make a standard couple today, all Hollywood style and that casting decision couldn't been better. Along with "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak, this is one of the hottest clips of that decade and both feature some of the greatest music moments of all time with their unforgettable sounds and songs.
Fun fact for those who don't know: the song was originally written for Orbison, but he didn't care much, then the writers lent it to Cyndi Lauper and a hit was born; it'd take a few more years for Roy actually providing his rendition (a lot better than Cyndi's IMHO), released on a posthumous album in the early 1990's. 10/10
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
With action and excitement, Bond enters the 1980's
And so James Bond enters the 1980's decade with this spectacular entry, one of the many greatest moments from Roger Moore as 007, and the first film directed by John Glen, previously an editor of several Bond films, who dominated that decade with all the 1980's Bond films. Besides the grandiosity usually brought and developed each episode goes by, this is a definitive work of the era and one that saved United Artists from vanishing after the huge financial losses they had with Cimino's "Heaven's Gate", so there's plenty reasons to be thankful to "For Your Eyes Only".
Moore's fifth entry in the series is an adventure following a mysterious encryption device stolen by a powerful tycoon (Julian Glover), who as usually with the series, wants to control all the powers of be. To assist 007 there's the mortal yet lovely Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) whose parents were killed by this tycoon and she wants revenge; and there's also a Greek intelligence chief (Topol) who'll help MI6 and Bond in getting the device back and get rid off of the bad guys. In between, there's a forced "romance" between James and a teenage roller-skater (Lynn-Holly Johnson), protegé of the millionaire. That last part was just lame and gladly, Bond refuses her advances in between her training for the Olympics.
"For Your Eyes Only" conquers viewers and Bond films from the get go, a magnificent opening sequence where Bond is challenged by this Blofeld-like character (they couldn't use Blofeld name due to legal reasons), inside of a helicopter whose pilot was killed and Blofeld controls the air vehicle from afar, doing all possible ways to kill James - frightening sequences and greatly filmed. But there's some changes too, good and sad. Bill Conti takes over as composer, creating a nice soundtrack and a memorable theme song sung by Sheena Easton; and on the sad factor, M character is gone due to Bernard Lee's passing a few months before shooting - instead they have a ministry as head of the operation.
Now the film: it's routine but the makers always find a way to break routine with outstanding action/adventure sequences that tops the ones presented in previous films. The bobsled chase is amazing (sadly, a stuntman died during the making of it); the underwater scenes when Bond and Melina are searching things inside the sunken ship is mind-blowing and there's even the villain's mini-submarine involved; a lethal henchman played by the great Michael Gothard (quite an ironic casting since his character here doesn't mutter a word while in Ken Russell's "The Devils" he was the loudest voice in the room, also a diabolical evil guy), who steals the show whenever he appears. And dramatically speaking this movie is quite well, specially when it comes to Melina's revenge about their parents killing, the movie never lost momentum when it came to those sequences - sometimes in other 007 flicks the drama is distracting.
The major problem was the pacing in parts, even in some action moments and the whole thing about the teenage girl, which was embarrassing to watch, not because it couldn't happen but because it doesn't have much room to be there.
Moore, as always, was a delightful class act who never missed an opportunity to throw hilarious one-liners and never failed with any of those (I think he has several during the car chase sequence). However, this has a more serious tone than some of his previous films since the producers wanted to avoid the riot and feast of absurdity "Moonraker" was - lots of fun though.
Why you should go ahead with this? Well, the fore-mentioned reasons are enough; it's entertaining, exciting, rich in greatness of action, suspense and adventure, a ridiculous body count - James did the most it -, the usual tolerable romance and Topol is a kick-ass sidekick, and let us not forget that Desmond Llewelyn as Q is also present to steal the show with his remarks and utility gadgets - the sequence where he does a profile sketch of the villain's henchman is hilarious. Bond entered the decade with grace, style, charm and lots of kills to his count. 10/10
Collective Soul: December (1995)
Great song, average video
A more than special music moment for Collective Soul with their smash-hit "December", the song didn't get much of a clip that goes in the same measure.
Black-and-white cinematography with different shades of blue, with the band performing the song inside a bar and that's it. If the idea is to just present the band and music, without getting into other kinds of distractions then the video succeeds. It's cool to look at it, and hearing it is an even greater experience.
I'm a little dry with it and I know it's not much of a plausible and acceptable reaction but I liked the video because there was nothing to dislike. Obviously that the director could invest in presenting a story, some themes instead of band performing song worn out device which every artist have at least one of those videos. The sound/song/music definitely makes it. 8/10
The Visitors (1972)
Intense, twisting nerve. Kazan's last great
Elia Kazan's last great work comes from an original script by his son Chris (his only screenplay), which is inspired by a 1969 article from The New Yorker Magazine. The article's real story was filmed by Brian De Palma's underrated work "Casualties of War"; Kazan's film is an 'what if...' kind of situation where viewers could see it as a real sequel to De Palma's film. Both are outstanding films, with high caliber performances and plenty of drama and tension, uncomfortable moments and filled with thought-provoking themes.
The very first serious fictional film about the Vietnam conflict (step aside "The Deer Hunter"), the film isn't necessarily about the war but mostly about the players at a war, and the ever changing rules of the game whose outcome isn't necessarily good. Here, war seems a distant fog that somehow always finds its way to get deeper in the memories of all the five major characters from the film. Martha and Bill (Patricia Joyce and James Woods) are a nice couple, they have a baby, and they're quietly living in this small farm estate owned by her father (Patrick McVey), a war veteran from another era who now writes novels. A simple day in their lives, Bill goes out for something and when he returns, his wife tells him that two of his army buddies were there for a visit. They're played by Steve Railsback and Chico Martínez. By this part of this story, if you're not into reading plots you can only imagine that something was really wrong between those friends during their time in Vietnam, the tension cuts the air like a sharp sword and those two caustic visitors aren't there for a friendly visit. They will disturb the family's apparent peace and quiet.
Brilliantly, "The Visitors" avoids taking the usual route of turning into a horrific thriller, instead focusing on minor disturbances that permeates very quietly. Before that, we have the opportunity to see Sgt. Nickerson and Rodrigues trying to establish contacts with the couple; later on going to lady's father house - and the man adores them practically since they can exchange war experiences; then we gradually understand that Woods character is deeply concerned about their visit. Most I can tell, so you can enjoy the film, is exactly the view Martha gets from Bill about what happened in Vietnam and revolved around a court martial - but if you're familiar with "Casualties of War" you know the real deal.
With a pulsating twisting nerve, "The Visitors" is an intense film that deepens the wounds a nation weren't yet ready to get exposed, except in news media, when it comes to not only the already exhausted Vietnam conflict but also the reality of the veterans coming back home to not find much prospect of a new life. It's not like both Kazan's movie is a highly political film but the themes are there. Anguish, revenge, shock of different values and the effects of a war, it's all present in great dialogues, strong unforgettable moments. Woods and Railsback deliver knockout performances, with the latter carrying an intense gaze, lack of words but menacing effect - which he used to play many other intense characters later in his career; and the former playing a vulnerable type whose expressions are getting more and more worried, unlike anything he has ever done. With the exception of McVey, all the four main actors are making their film debut in this picture and they were all great.
My problems with the film is some settings that look implausible or fail to convince much; the guitar song that seems to announce the most awaited third act, it just doesn't work. This was a serious candidate in becoming a perfect classic of the 1970's, an era with many realistic inputs and conventions, almost similar to the Dogma movement of the 1990's with some films making use of music from original sources in the background, no new composition - in fact, it's classic songs that Kazan used as a background without no indication of let's say music playing on a stereo - which also happens later on with great pieces and to a spectacular tense effect. But when he introduces the guitar theme it just puts you off from the effect of seeing a more realistic piece of filmmaking, almost like an exciting play - and I wonder how come there's no play version of this? But Kazan succeeds in making a more intimate film, very independently, modest and somber.
And through everything presented, we wonder what the future will bring to those characters?
Disappointing effort in the crime genre
The crime drama is usually one of the top genres of all time according to many film lovers out there since it brings the best of both worlds and realities: one of which we only know through the news medias (and sometimes through life when we become part of it, usually the worst side as victims or worse, as actual part of it - not me and hopefully not you) and the dramatic aspects of it all when the characters face dilemmas, decisions and all sorts of problems. "Outrage" seemed to have all those elements combined but it failed to generate enough interest halfway through with its plot emptiness, lack of a higher purpose which criminal films tend to have and some errors on the way. Takeshi Kitano's film is a huge disappointment, worthy of praise due to its cold reality presentation in the luminous violent sequences, which puts to shame many Hollywood films in recent years. But a movie doesn't and cannot survive with just those moments.
Most of the time I like to present the movie to the readers, explain plot points and what's it all about. With "Outrage" I simply can't do that. Not because I was lost in trying to figure out who was who and what was their position in the crime syndicate presented here but it's due to confusion in seeing what was the major goal and gain the bosses had with their crime wave, which permeates the film. The people on the top of the pyramid didn't have a visible cause for all the killings that came. Stay at the top of the game and be the only source of guns and drugs in the whole place, eliminating competition at the same when they were eliminating people from their own "family"...whatever, the film didn't work since they overlook and fail to present their actual line of work. There's changes of leadership, brutal murders but it's hard to understand why they're doing what they do. I refer this to the leaders, not necessarily the henchmen or the minor individuals. Example: when one of top figure is lured into a Yakuza bar without knowing the folks behind it and he's forced to pay a ridiculously high bill, I can get that, specially the outcome that develops later. But most of the time the leaders orders were contradictory, ineffective and we were never able to see the exact difference between groups, their business deal except when they were killing each other and cutting their pinky fingers to pay due for some offense.
Through most of the ordeal in watching "Outrage" all I kept thinking was that the murder/death sequences were amazingly done - the dentist torture scene managed to erase my "Marathon Man" trauma, it was a lot worse - and like where's the great dialogues, the spectacular dramatic moments? It went on and on without much gain for me. Around the same week I saw "Gommora" (which was also an entry at the Cannes Film Festival, different years however), a multi-layered hyperlink film about crime society in Italy and despite some confusing aspects and problems with its structure, I find it a better film than "Outrage". You could understand how the system worked, why people were killing each other, selling arms, stealing it, doing drugs or selling toxic waste...that criminal pyramid was real and even the action/suspense sequences were amazing. With "Outrage", I couldn't like much of anything. It was dry, empty, lacking in purpose and lacking in art and entertainment values. And I won't even bother mentioning the plot holes that appeared along the way.
I'm amazed that there were sequels to this thing which I'll pass. I was starving for a higher purpose throughout the picture and was left hungry for more. Not a good sign, so you can easily skip it. You won't miss much. 5/10
A Promessa (1973)
Intriguing and Inspired
A powerful drama with intense touches of a thriller, "A Promessa" ("The Vows") is one of the most interesting Portuguese films ever made that combines a simple storytelling with a fine artistic mode. António de Macedo's film is about a couple of fisherman who rescues an injured gypsy man and the conflict that comes with this helpful act. Maria and José (played respectively by Guida Maria and João Mota) have a story of their own: in this place by the sea, filled with old traditions they made a chastity vow right after their marriage due to a certain event is best not to be revealed and they went along with it just fine. But with the sudden appearance of a group of gypsies who enter their lives bringing a group member (Sinde Filipe) who was stabbed and was really hurt, Maria begins to rethink about the vows when a certain approximation from the injured man causes that feeling of wanting a closeness and form a family since she knows her husband is strong about keeping their vows.
Another characters and situations are introduced along with this dilemma: Maria's brother, the blind Mario (J. Rodrigues de Carvalho) who takes of their invalid father; the other two gypsies (Fernando Loureiro and Luís Barradas) who keep running schemes of selling "relics" to the town's people, which consists of mostly devoted religious people, and halfway through the movie those guys will rape and kidnap a relative of the main couple, in one of the most dramatic sequences of the film; and there's the town's priest who isn't so favorable about Maria's wishes to renounce her vows because he knows how the people will react to it.
"The Vows" discusses the power of vows and promises; the power and effect of faith; and the life's events that truly test all of those, whether to make or break. Macedo's slow pace helps to create a deep sense of curiosity towards the film which perfectly matches with the environment created (though he makes us confused in knowing about the story's settings. For a moment I thought this was story in the 19th Century then after almost an hour motor vehicles popped in and changed it all). But the place seems mystical, far from any closer period, sad, desolated but with people in complete union with each other. And the story never went into predictable ways, which made it far for more interesting. Surely you can sense that things will go wrong in certain parts but not the final moments, which revolves around a desperate climax.
Except for some inconsistencies and plot holes, the film conquers from the very beginning, with a great cinematography and provided solid acting from the cast - but I didn't like how the lead gypsy kept whispering most of his lines, which made it all incomprehensible despite the good idea of selling this character as a no good individual who is a master in fooling everyone. The whole whisper thing works for such idea but it's hard to understand what's he saying at times. But the film left me intrigued and excited through it all, I couldn't keep my eyes off of it. 8/10
Joy Division: Atmosphere (1988)
Possibly the greatest official tribute video ever made, "Joy Division: Atmosphere" was directed by a close friend of the band, then photographer now turned film director Anton Corbijn, who went on to direct several other clips (U2 mostly) and "Control" which tells Ian Curtis and Joy Division story, a perfect homage to one of the greatest rock bands of all time. With this clip, released a few years after the group dissolution in 1980 due to Curtis death, Corbijn delivers a clip tribute to the band, introduces a beautiful song to new audiences and creates a more conceptual visual clip than Joy Division's previous clip effort, which was "Love Will Tear us Apart", back when Ian was still alive and it's just a band performing the song.
Filmed in black-and-white, containing still photos of the band - but mostly Ian, this is truly a tribute to him - the main image of the film consists of monk like characters (black and/or white robe, hoodie covering their faces and they're always distant from us) walking in a beach, carrying a strange object or a gigantic picture of Ian Curtis, one of the several iconic photographs Corbijn took from him and the band. As background, the melancholic yet powerful sound of music, Joy's most beautiful and peaceful song ever. The sound is poetic and the video goes the same way. Pure poetry in motion. It's hard not to feel moved by it. A spiritual and visual meditation of the senses which makes you feel at ease, completely relaxed and in a pure state of enjoyment and calm. No other clip has ever done such effect on me during all these years. 10/10
Azyllo Muito Louco (1970)
Gotta be total nuts to enjoy this trash
From the series embarrassing ourselves in Cannes again. Brought on by the same director who provided the equally frustrating and awful "O Amuleto De Ogum", Mr. Nelson Pereira dos Santos creates in "Azyllo Muito Louco" ("A Crazier Asylum") one of the most excruciating films of all time, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. This free adaptation of Machado De Assis work "O Alienista" (the book is regarded as a classic but it's one of his few I couldn't even finish, or maybe I did and don't remember) is a mess from the very first minutes but as a hopeless viewer who believes in a film all the way towards its conclusion I sat through it all and it didn't get better. It's no use to call it a junk or trash or ridiculous. It's pointless using those words. But trust me, it's terrible.
The psychedelic was so trendy back then in music, literature and films that Mr. Santos seemed to provide such input with this thing but he didn't gave us a purpose for it. Brazil, 19th Century and this is the story of Father Simão Bacamarte (Nildo Parente, excellent character actor in many TV series but he's the lead in this film) and his administration of a wrecked church of a coastal town and whose first initiative is to develop an asylum for the mentally ill people of the region. However, his definition for insanity and crazed acts expands the more he gets acquainted with the town's people and he conducts the arrests of more and more people. One clear dumb example: there was this black guy who inherited a fortune from a relative and he decided to give it to those who ain't got much in their lives. He was sent to the asylum. And when a relative of his, her nephew I guess, explains the whole ordeal, trying to defend him she also gets committed to the place. Simão's place consists of brainwashing, in this case, a system where he chants repetitive words to make the "patients" truly believe they're insane and no longer responsible for their acts. But the game will turn on him...
Well I wonder...If the idea was to tell us that people of authority in Brazil were corrupt, perverted and crazier than the average respectable citizen but they're the ones in charge, so basically they can do whatever they want, I respect that idea and I believe in it. This is truly what's this all about. True then during the final days of monarchy and it's even more true now during our current political crisis revolving impeachments, new governments and absurd laws which doesn't favor the majority. If that's the idea...which means the deeper message, the whole background is marvelous, specially if we consider this was done during the military regime and the people in charge of the nation failed to see it, with no censorship at all and went sent this film to Cannes, a more intellectual audience who knew exactly the excrement that was going on in here. However, the foreground of such idea is terribly, miserably and awfully executed; it doesn't conquer viewers, it arranges detractors.
This is first class torture, being the soundtrack the most stupid and painful experience I've ever heard. Santos uses scary noises in between dialogues, music scratches from scene to scene, dragging on and on at times while trying to create a suspense effect, and the film fails to decide if it's a drama, a comedy or pure satire. It fails on all accounts. The priest is deranged from the get-go, abuses of power though he firmly believes he's curing people and saving them from worst destinies. Problem is: he's not doing any of that, he can't do anything like it because his views on mental issues, insanity or whatever, is too narrow minded. In one scene, he simply explains that one factor alone contributes for a person to be committed to an institution, something like without morals, ethic or similar and the person is simply crazy. If the line between sane and insane is that thin, well boy, we're in deep trouble. And who gets to constitute such laws? A man drenched in religious ideas and one who doesn't want to convert people to his basis, and he just want to have power over simple individuals. And I'm not saying such idea isn't worthy of view because it is, it feels real. The problem complicates because the writers and the director make a mess with this material, without appeal or anything interesting, one sequel replaces the other in a purposeless manner, it's all very detached, with no life to it.
My whole experience with it was as if I'm not feeling anything except pain, boredom, weariness, as if was looking to something repulsive, lacking in artistic qualities and the ones allegedly existing were poorly delivered or pretentiously presented. The film title though written in an odd fashion (Azyllo instead of Asilo) which seems to indicate an error, therefore we think of it as a comedy, isn't written wrongly. Azyllo - means asylum - was the original Portuguese language of the word back in the 1800's where the story takes place, with an Z and two L's. Well, if this was a comedy I'm definitely wasn't laughing. Avoid it all costs unless you're into inexplicable experiences. 2/10