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Books Features Live Action Movies

The Birds (BFI Film Classics)

Author – Camille Paglia – 2020, 1998 – BFI / Bloomsbury – £11.99

****

I immediately warmed to Camille Paglia in her 2020 introduction to the new edition of her book about Alfred Hitchcock’s avian shocker The Birds (1963), originally written in 1998, when she lambasted academic film criticism as “egregiously unhelpful, failing in the crucial humanistic mission of interpretation and enlightenment”. She talks about a shift in audiences from wanting to see film in a cinema as essential experiences in the sixties and seventies to films as one of a range of possible technological entertainments in our own time.

She then goes on to talk about her issues with #metoo and the problem of expecting great artists to live exemplary lives as a premise of Victorian moralism. And discusses in passing the one minor change she would make to the book were she to write it today. (Really? Only one?) Which is to do with interpreting one character in the film as gay.

In addition to watching the film multiple times, it’s clear that Paglia has read many of the books and articles written about the film itself of Hitchcock’s wider body of work. Robin Wood keeps coming up and there are honourable mentions for, among others, Francois Truffaut and Elizabeth Weiss.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Books Features Live Action Movies

Harryhausen The Lost Movies

There’s nothing else quite like the filmography of stop-frame animator and special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013). A new book, Harryhausen The Lost Movies, is an undeniable treasure trove for those familiar with his films, which include such gems as Jason and the Argonauts and One Million Years B.C. and incorporate fantastical, stop-frame animated creatures and additional bravura special effects into live-action movie narratives.

Compiled by documentary film maker and author John Walsh from over 50,000 items in the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation archive, this coffee-table book sets out to provide an overview of the film maker’s oeuvre through his various unmade projects, lavishly illustrated with photographs and drawings.

I review Harryhausen The Lost Movies for All The Anime.

Categories
Books Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings

The following article was written for Sussed magazine in 2001 before The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) had been screened to press.

Elsewhere on this site: a short review for What’s On In London and a longer review also discussing TLOTR trilogy for Third Way of The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

FANTASY OBSESSIVE: JACKSON DOES TOLKIEN

Jeremy Clarke explores The Lord Of The Rings and the upcoming film’s director Peter Jackson

Harry Potter might be the obvious franchise of the moment, but anyone who knows anything about the fantasy genre knows one book towers above the rest. The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien came out in three volumes: the first The Fellowship of The Ring was published in 1954. The Sunday Times review divided people into those who have read The Lord of The Rings and those who are going to.”

By the sixties, it had become obligatory reading. Most fantasy derives from it, including today’s bestsellers Terry Pratchett and J.K.Rowling. It details the archetypal struggle against good and evil, set in Tolkien’s incredibly detailed world of Middle-earth populated with all manner of original creatures – hobbits, humans, elves, ringwraiths and trolls.… Read the rest

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Books

Sam Peckinpah: If They Move…Kill ’em

David Weddle, Faber & Faber £11.99 Pbk.

*****

Published for the first time ever in Britain, Weddle’s tome is a compelling read whether one’s familiar with the movies of Sam Peckinpah (among them The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, The Getaway) or not. Like the man’s uncompromisingly violent movies, this lovingly penned sketch never soft soaps its subject. It’s as strong on roots and early upbringing as on final career years. The latter saw first booze and then (as the drug became increasingly available in Hollywood circles) cocaine addle Peckinpah’s ability to make coherent movies; ironically, the atrocious Convoy turned out his biggest box office hit.

Peckinpah’s numerous battles with the major Studios are documented in detail. Early efforts like Major Dundee is shown as a half-scripted mess that the director liked to cite untruthfully as ruined by the studio, but others like Noon Wine (a now destroyed ABC TV drama), his arguable masterpiece The Wild Bunch and late contender Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid are pulled from the wreckage and intelligently defended as great art. At the same time, Peckinpah’s often unfairly vicious treatment of technicians on the set and friends and family (including three wives) in life leave a nasty taste in the mouth.… Read the rest

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Books

The Mars Trilogy

Blue Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson, VOYAGER £15.99, Hbk.

Red Mars, Green Mars

VOYAGER both £5.99, Pbk.

As Mars is terraformed, its dusty red surface shifts through the green of vegetation to the blue of ocean waves as its north polar ice cap is melted – the three volumes in Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy being named accordingly. Although Blue Mars can be read alone, it not only continues on from where the second book left off (the Terran flood disaster of 2127 and subsequent Martian bid for independence) but contains so many references to what has gone before that one can get far more out of Blue Mars if its read following the two preceding volumes. For instance, the opening crisis as to whether the radical terrorists should or should not destroy the (second) cable elevator link with the asteroid New Clarke relates to a whole prior history, including the destruction of the original cable and the freeing of the first Clarke from orbit, with the spectacular and devastating collapse of miles and miles of cable furnishing the unforgettable finale of Red Mars.

Not that the Mars trilogy is purely for techno-geeks. Principle characters are members of 2027’s original group of settlers, appropriately named the First Hundred even though their number also includes a hidden hundred and first member, a concealed stowaway later nicknamed Coyote.… Read the rest