I had just got out of pre-school one day. My mom and my uncle stood outside, waiting to pick me and my brother up. “We’re going to the movies!” she says. My eyes lit up in excitement. Then she asks me, “Do you want to see Shark Tale or The Incredibles?” After four-year-old me thought long and hard, I decided on The Incredibles. I am still glad that I knew even at such a young age, that a Brad Bird Pixar movie about superheroes was miles better than Will Smith as a fish.
The Incredibles was only Brad Bird’s second movie. His follow-up to The Iron Giant (1999), arguably one of the strongest directorial debuts ever. Bird then made a movie that even surpassed the Iron Giant in story. Re-watching this movie today, I realized just how brilliant the writing is. The exposition never feels forced. And everyone talks like normal people. The plot runs swimmingly and includes great voice performances from Craig T. Nelson, Jason Lee, Holly Hunter, and of course Samuel L. Jackson. (“Where’s my super suit?” It also has the ability to be enjoyed by kids and adults. The comedy can be adult sometimes (not in the raunchy way) and at other parts it has some great action. I don’t know many other films that are this well put together.
The Incredibles was also the movie that helped Pixar perfect humans. Up until 2004, whenever humans were shown in a Pixar movie. They always looked…odd. Like take for example, Andy’s family and Sid in Toy Story (1995). They still looked like people, but in an uncanny valley sort of way. Boo in Monster’s Inc. (2001) showed improvements but that was because she was the only human in that whole movie. When The Incredibles also has a unique look, something that will never look dated. It doesn’t try for realism but more of a cartoon look.
And coincidentally, I am writing all of this on the day after The Emoji Movie comes out. A movie that has been hailed as one of the worst 3-D animated films ever made. Now, I myself cannot say that as I have yet to review it. But my recommendation would be to see something that is timeless, something that set the standard in it’s genre, and something that was made with passion, not to cash in on a trend.
This is the list of all the movies that are in my “Great Films List”. I tried to do something along the lines of what the late Roger Ebert did with his list of “Great Movies”. The only criteria is, that before I consider adding a movie to this list and writing about it, it just needs to have been viewed by me at least twice and one of those viewings has to be right before the film is added. Films added also have to be at least five years old to qualify.
The year was 1967, the counter-culture movement was at an all time high. The Summer of Love had just happened and Mike Nichols’ The Graduate was released in December of that year. The movie was a hit, on a budget of just three million, it made over thirty times what it cost to produce. It also is so undoubtedly part of that era of America. The cars that the characters drive, his parents and the Robinson’s respective houses, and the Simon and Garfunkel filled soundtrack.
So many things could have gone wrong while making The Graduate. Anne Bancroft was only six years Dustin Hoffman’s senior. But, through makeup, they made Bancroft look like someone in her forties rather than her real age of thirty-five. Hoffman was reluctant to audition for the role because he did not feel like he fit the part well enough. In his 2015 interview about the making of The Graduate, he recalled that thought Robert Redford fit the role much better than he did. (At least how the novel described Benjamin Braddock) Luckily, Hoffman was eventually convinced by director Mike Nichols to come and audition. On the musical end, Simon and Garfunkel were supposed to write new material for this movie but when approached by Nichols about the music they had, all that had was their now popular track “Mrs. Robinson“. The rest of the soundtrack was music from their newly released album Sounds of Silence. BBC film critic Mark Kermode has mentioned that the movie has an “accidental soundtrack”. And somehow songs like “The Sound of Silence”, “Scarborough Fair”, and “April Come She Will” have become synonymous with The Graduate and it is hard to think of a world where these songs existed before this film was released.
The gorgeous and colorful cinematography certainly helps the Graduate. A scene I always find myself re-watching is the scene were Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) and Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) first sleep together at the Taft Hotel. “The Sound of Silence” starts playing as we see the characters continue their affair as Benjamin drifts in the pool then “shuts the door on his parents” metaphorically before he sleeps with Mrs. Robinson again. The music ends and “April Come She Will” begins to play in the background as a way to direct the scene. The placement of the song is to show how much time is passing by. This time, the music ends with the transition of Benjamin jumping onto a raft which cuts to him jumping into bed with Mrs. Robinson.
The ending of The Graduate has the camera linger of the faces of Benjamin and nearly-wed Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross) on the bus they catch after they run away from the church where Elaine was to be married at. Their smiles eventually dissipate. Did they make a mistake? If so will they admit to it? The ending it then followed by a third use of “The Sound of Silence” possibly representing what is to come in the future of Elaine and Ben’s relationship.
Other than Citizen Kane (1941) is there any film that shaped modern cinema more than Fritz Lang’s M (1931)? M is not only magnificent for it’s terrific use of sound but for the gripping story that comes along with it.
The subject matter, child murder is still a controversial and disturbing topic to cover in film. M addresses it through themes such as the morality of man, through the questioning of what to do with someone such as the antagonist of the film, Hans (Peter Lorre). The streets of 1930 Germany could not look more authentic than they do in M. The camera pans to a birds-eye shot as we look at the empty barren streets. Emptiness gives M it’s perfectly eerie vibe. It provides suspenseful buildup whenever Hans is near any children or when other characters chase him through the city of Berlin. The very look and feel of M is what inspired the film noir of the 40s. The long trenchcoat and fedora became a staple for movies like Double Indemnity (1944) and The Maltese Falcon (1941).
Not only was the look of M influential in cinema, but also Lang’s use of sound. M was Lang’s first film with sound. Rather than to be used gimmick, Lang used it as a way to build atmosphere as well as a way to deliver important lines of dialogue. The chilling whistling of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” let’s you know a child is about to be murdered by him. Through this technique, Lang demonstrated that sound was not just a way to deliver exposition in cinema, but opened up a whole other dimension for artists to experiment with.
Fritz Lang’s M is simply one of the greatest films ever made. Every person interested in cinema needs to watch this movie, especially if you want to make movies. The movie also couldn’t look any better thanks to the Criterion restoration of it in 2000 which means there is no reason to not be watching Fritz Lang’s M.