‘Memento’ 2000

A man juggles searching for his wife’s murderer and keeping his short-term memory loss from being an obstacle.

Memento chronicles two separate stories of Leonard, an ex-insurance investigator who can no longer build new memories, as he attempts to find the murderer of his wife, which is the last thing he remembers. One story line moves forward in time while the other tells the story backwards revealing more each time.

Memento is a 2000 American neo-noir psychological thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and produced by Suzanne and Jennifer Todd. The film’s script was based on a pitch by Jonathan Nolan, who later wrote the story “Memento Mori” from the concept. It stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano.

Pearce stars as a man who, as a result of a past trauma, has anterograde amnesia (the inability to form new memories) and has short-term memory loss approximately every five minutes. He is searching for the persons who attacked him and killed his wife, using an intricate system of Polaroid photographs and tattoos to track information he cannot remember. Memento is presented as two different sequences of scenes interspersed during the film: a series in black-and-white that is shown chronologically, and a series of color sequences shown in reverse order (simulating for the audience the mental state of the protagonist). The two sequences meet at the end of the film, producing one complete and cohesive narrative.

Critical Reception

Memento was a box office success. In the United States, during its opening weekend, it was released in only 11 theaters, but by week 11 it was distributed to more than 500 theaters. It grossed over $25 million in North America and $14 million in other countries, making the film’s total worldwide gross some $40 million as of August 2007. During its theatrical run, it did not place higher than eighth in the list of highest-grossing movies for a single weekend.

Memento was met with critical acclaim, earning a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Online film critic James Berardinelli gave the film four out of four stars, ranking it number one on his year-end Top Ten list and number sixty-three on his All-Time Top 100 films. In his review, he called it an “endlessly fascinating, wonderfully open-ended motion picture [that] will be remembered by many who see it as one of the best films of the year”. Berardinelli praised the film’s backwards narrative, saying that “what really distinguishes this film is its brilliant, innovative structure”, and noted that Guy Pearce gives an “astounding…tight, and thoroughly convincing performance”. In 2009, Berardinelli chose Memento as his #3 best movie of the decade. William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes that Memento is a “delicious one-time treat”, and emphasizes that director Christopher Nolan “not only makes Memento work as a non-linear puzzle film, but as a tense, atmospheric thriller”. Rob Blackwelder noted that “Nolan has a crackerjack command over the intricacies of this story. He makes every single element of the film a clue to the larger picture…as the story edges back toward the origins of [Leonard’s] quest”.

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‘Cinema Paradiso’ 1988

A filmmaker recalls his childhood when falling in love with the pictures at the cinema of his home village and forms a deep friendship with the cinema’s projectionist.

A boy who grew up in a native Sicilian Village returns home as a famous director after receiving news about the death of an old friend. Told in a flashback, Salvatore reminiscences about his childhood and his relationship with Alfredo, a projectionist at Cinema Paradiso. Under the fatherly influence of Alfredo, Salvatore fell in love with film making, with the duo spending many hours discussing about films and Alfredo painstakingly teaching Salvatore the skills that became a stepping stone for the young boy into the world of film making. The film brings the audience through the changes in cinema and the dying trade of traditional film making, editing and screening. It also explores a young boy’s dream of leaving his little town to foray into the world outside.

Cinema Paradiso is a 1988 Italian drama film written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. The film stars Jacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi, Agnese Nano and Salvatore Cascio, and was produced by Franco Cristaldi and Giovanna Romagnoli, while the music score was composed by Ennio Morricone along with his son, Andrea. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 62nd Academy Awards.

CRITICAL RECEPTION

Cinema Paradiso was a critical and box-office success and is regarded by many as a classic. It is particularly renowned for the ‘kissing scenes’ montage at the film’s end. Winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1989, the film is often credited with reviving Italy’s film industry, which later produced Mediterraneo and Life Is Beautiful. Film critic Roger Ebert gave it three and a half stars out of four and four stars out of four for the extended version, declaring “Still, I’m happy to have seen it–not as an alternate version, but as the ultimate exercise in viewing deleted scenes.”

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 90% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 70 reviews, with an average score of 8/10. The film also holds a score of 80 based on 20 reviews on Metacritic. The film was ranked #27 in Empire magazine’s “The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema” in 2010. The famed “kissing scene” montage at the end of the film was used in an episode of “Stealing First Base”, an episode of The Simpsons that aired on March 21, 2010, during its twenty-first season. The scene used Morricone’s “Love Theme” and included animated clips of famous movie kisses, including scenes used in Cinema Paradiso as well as contemporary films not shown in the original film.

 

‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ 1975

A newly engaged couple have a breakdown in an isolated area and must pay a call to the bizarre residence of Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

While driving home during a rain filled night, straight-laced lovebirds Brad Majors and Janet Weiss end up by chance at the castle of one Dr. Frank-N-Furter and his strange and bizarre entourage, and find that he’s having a party. This is no ordinary party, no ordinary night. This is the unveiling of the doctor’s latest creation: Rocky Horror, a man-made Adonis that will give absolute pleasure. Over the course of the night, Frank seduces both Brad and Janet, Janet and Rocky become biblically involved, and Dr. Everett Von Scott arrives looking for his nephew Eddie (whom Frank killed earlier in this film). This is an exceedingly grand visual and musical camp satire of the golden days of the B-movie horror and science-fiction genres. Projected along with a musical soundtrack to give audience participation a new meaning in dimension, time and space, this shall be a night that both Brad and Janet will remember for a very long time in the sexually kinky, rock ‘n roll, rock-opera world of a gender-bending scientist – and his time warped plans.

Critical Reception

Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert noted that when first released, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was “ignored by pretty much everyone, including the future fanatics who would eventually count the hundreds of times they’d seen it”. He considered it more a “long-running social phenomenon” than a movie, rating it 2.5 out of 4 stars. Bill Henkin noted that Variety thought that the “campy hijinks” of the film seemed labored, and also mentioned that the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Wasserman, who had liked the stage play in London, found the film “lacking both charm and dramatic impact”. Newsweek called the film “tasteless, plotless and pointless” in 1978.

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 80% based on 41 reviews. A number of contemporary critics find it compelling and enjoyable because of its offbeat and bizarre qualities; the BBC summarised: “for those willing to experiment with something a little bit different, a little bit outré, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has a lot to offer”. The New York Times called it a “low-budget freak show/cult classic/cultural institution” and considered the songs featured in the film to be “catchy”. Geoff Andrew of Time Out noted that the “string of hummable songs gives it momentum, Gray’s admirably straight-faced narrator holds it together, and a run on black lingerie takes care of almost everything else”, rating it 4 out of 5 stars. Dave Kehr of Chicago Reader on the other hand considered the wit to be “too weak to sustain a film” and thought that the “songs all sound the same”.

In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”

‘All That Jazz’ 1979

Choreographing and picking dancers for his current show whilst editing his feature film about a stand-up comedian is getting to Joe Gideon. Without the chemical substances, he would not have the energy to keep up with his girlfriend, his ex-wife, and his special dancing daughter. They attempt to bring him back from the brink, but it’s too late for his exhausted body and stress-ravaged heart. He chain-smokes, uses drugs, sleeps with his dancers and overworks himself into open-heart surgery. Scenes from his past life start to encroach on the present and he becomes increasingly aware of his mortality.

Critical Reception

In his review in The New York Times, Vincent Canby called the film “an uproarious display of brilliance, nerve, dance, maudlin confessions, inside jokes and, especially, ego” and “an essentially funny movie that seeks to operate on too many levels at the same time… some of it makes you wince, but a lot of it is great fun… A key to the success of the production is the performance of Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon… With an actor of less weight and intensity, All That Jazz might have evaporated as we watched it. Mr. Scheider’s is a presence to reckon with.”

Variety described it as “a self-important, egomaniacal, wonderfully choreographed, often compelling film” and added, “Roy Scheider gives a superb performance as Gideon, creating a character filled with nervous energy… The film’s major flaw lies in its lack of real explanation of what, beyond ego, really motivates [him].”

TV Guide said, “The dancing is frenzied, the dialogue piercing, the photography superb, and the acting first-rate, with non-showman Scheider an illustrious example of casting against type . . . All That Jazz is great-looking but not easy to watch. Fosse’s indulgent vision at times approaches sour self-loathing.”

Film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film two-and-a-half stars (out of four) in his 2009 movie guide; he said that the film was “self-indulgent and largely negative,” and that “great show biz moments and wonderful dancing are eventually buried in pretensions”; he also called the ending “an interminable finale which leaves a bad taste for the whole film.”

Upon release in 1979, master director Stanley Kubrick (who is referenced in the movie) reportedly believed it to be the “best film I think I have ever seen”. In 2001, All That Jazz was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The Academy Film Archive preserved All That Jazz in 2001. In 2006, the film ranked #14 on the American Film Institute’s Greatest Movie Musicals list.

The film would be the last musical nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture until Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) and the last live-action musical nominated until Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001).

‘Paris is Burning’ 1990

A chronicle of New York’s drag scene in the 1980s, focusing on balls, voguing and the ambitions and dreams of those who gave the era its warmth and vitality

This is a documentary of ‘drag nights’ among New York’s underclass. Queens are interviewed and observed preparing for and competing in many ‘balls’. The people, the clothes, and the whole environment are outlandish.

Paris Is Burning is a 1990 American documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it. Some critics consider the film to be an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, and a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America.

In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Critical Reception

Upon release, the documentary received rave reviews from critics and won several awards including a Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, a Berlin International Film Festival Teddy Bear, an audience award from the Toronto International Film Festival, a GLAAD Media Award, a Women in Film Crystal Award, a Best Documentary award from the Los Angeles, New York, and National Film Critics’ Circles, and it also was named as one of 1991’s best films by the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, Time magazine, and others.

Paris Is Burning failed to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature that year, adding to a growing perception that certain subjects and treatments were excluded from consideration for Oscars, and leading, in part, to a change in how documentaries are nominated for the Academy Awards.

More than two decades later, Paris Is Burning remains an organizing tool for gay and trans youth; a way for scholars and students to examine issues of race, class, and gender; a way for younger ball participants to meet their ancestors; and a portrait of several remarkable Americans, most of whom have died since the film’s production.

Some people have criticized Paris Is Burning. In Is Paris Burning?, bell hooks questioned Livingston’s depiction of the drag balls, arguing that it reduces them to mere spectacle: “Much of the film’s focus on pageantry takes the ritual of the black drag ball and makes it spectacle. Ritual is that ceremonial act that carries with it meaning and significance beyond what appears, while spectacle functions primarily as entertaining dramatic display… Hence it is easy for white observers to depict black rituals as spectacle.” hooks, a feminist writer who is not LGBT-identified, also questioned the political efficacy of the drag balls themselves, citing her own experimentations with drag, and suggesting that the balls themselves lack political, artistic, and social significance. Judith Butler based some of her book, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”, on this film.

 

‘Animal House’ 1978

Faber College has one frat house so disreputable it will take anyone. It has a second one full of white, anglo-saxon, rich young men who are so sanctimonious no one can stand them except Dean Wormer. The dean enlists the help of the second frat to get the boys of Delta House off campus. The dean’s plan comes into play just before the homecoming parade to end all parades for all time.

‘The Graduate’ 1967

Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has just finished college and, back at his parents’ house, he’s trying to avoid the one question everyone keeps asking: What does he want to do with his life? An unexpected diversion crops up when he is seduced by Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), a bored housewife and friend of his parents. But what begins as a fun tryst turns complicated when Benjamin falls for the one woman Mrs. Robinson demanded he stay away from, her daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross).