Monday, February 24, 2014

Academy Award 2014 Predictions as Movie Critical Heads To Hollywood

Today marks the official beginning of Oscar Week 2014. This time of the year is always very exciting for film enthusiasts. Even if you don't consider yourself a movie buff, it is still the day when you sit down and pick your favourites to barrack for in the night of nights and discuss who is wearing what best.

It is with great excitement that we announce that Movie Critical is once again heading to Hollywood to be part of the excitement! Over the next week we will be posting photos of Hollywood Blvd. as it gets ready for the night and other exciting events. Last year we had a great time being at the centre of the Academy Award universe and we are expecting this year to be even better. We are leaving Sydney for Los Angeles today so the coming days will see lots of Oscar here at Movie Critical!

Before we leave, we can't talk Oscars without predicting who will take home the big awards on the night. Here are the nominees for each of the big awards and our predictions as to who will win these awards come Sunday night.

Best Motion Picture Of The Year

The Wolf Of Wall Street
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years A Slave

Prediction - 12 Years A Slave
Steve McQueen's haunting and confronting film about a free man who was sold into slavery, 12 Years A Slave  will be hard to beat. The film is exceptionally well rounded with a solid screenplay, brilliant performances, amazing cinematography and beautiful musical score, as well as being emotionally driven and very powerful.

Best Achievement in Directing

David O. Russell- American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron- Gravity
Alexander Payne- Nebraska
Steve McQueen- 12 Years A Slave
Martin Scorsese- The Wolf of Wall Street

Prediction- Alfonso Cuaron Gravity
Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity truly is an incredible achievement in direction. While the film really only stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Cuaron had to direct as though in zero gravity in space with the aid of CGI and mechanical apparatus'. Gravity maintained a high level of tension for the entirety of the film. An ambitious film and exceptional directing achievement.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale- American Hustle
Bruce Dern- Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio- The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor- 12 Years A Slave
Matthew McConaughey- Dallas Buyers Club
Prediction- Matthew McConaughey Dallas Buyers Club
It's shaping up to be the year for Matthew McConaughey. Although he has tough competition from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Leonardo DiCaprio, McConaughey has had a superb run with his choice of films and with Dallas Buyers Club he is at the top of his game and fans and peers alike are responding. His portrayal as Ron Woodroof was brilliant and completely intriguing.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Amy Adams- American Hustle
Cate Blanchett- Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock- Gravity
Judi Dench- Philomena
Meryl Streep- August: Osage County
Prediction- Cate Blanchett Blue Jasmine
This category has pretty much been a one woman race from the start of award season. Cate Blanchett plays an extremely unstable and disturbed character in Blue Jasmine and did so perfectly. There has been talk of late by many that her chances for the Oscar have been derailed by the Woody Allen controversy, but the Academy surely acknowledges that Blanchett has nothing to do with these happenings and shouldn't be punished for giving the best performance of the year in one of his films. Blanchett is a certainty for this one..
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Rolw
Barkhad Abdi- Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper- American Hustle
Michael Fassbender- 12 Years A Slave
Jared Leto- Dallas Buyers Club
Prediction- Jared Leto Dallas Buyers Club
Like Blanchett, Jared Leto is pretty much a sure thing to take home this award. After a six year hiatus from film, Dallas Buyers Club has been the comeback from heaven for Leto.  His performance as the transgender Rayon was incredibly natural and avoided all cliché and stereotypes. Although McConaughey was incredible and will more than likely win the Oscar in his category, Leto overshadowed McConaughey whenever he was on screen and the film was at his best when he was involved.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Sally Hawkins- Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence- American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o- 12 Years A Slave
Julia Roberts- August: Osage County
June Squibb- Nebraska
Prediction- Lupita Nyong'o 12 Years A Slave
This is the category that is presently creating the most interest as it seems to be a race to the finish for both Lupita Nyong'o and Jennifer Lawrence. Nyong'o has taken home the Screen Actors Guild Award while Jennifer Lawrence has won both the Golden Globe and the BAFTA. Yet, it seems hard to go past Nyong'o. She was heartbreakingly exquisite in 12 Years A Slave and deserves the award. However, Lawrence was certainly fun to watch and isn't far behind Nyong'o...if she is at all.


Nebraska (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 115 minutes
Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Bob Nelson
Cast: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach

Nebraska is now showing in cinemas across Australia and is distributed by Roadshow Films.

Nebraska is one of the cinematic rarities of recent days with it's perfect screenplay and cinematography completely capturing all the essence of this father-son American road trip.

While Nebraska can be harrowing at times, it is also a humorous look at family relations and human nature. Alexander Payne has wonderfully directed a brilliant screenplay by Bob Nelson, which brings startling real characters to the screen in the most interesting and endearing way as a result of some incredible performances. Filmed entirely in black and white, Nebraska heightens our senses with it's wonderful cinematography and we see the world in a new and beautiful way.

When the aging Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is found trying to leave the Montana town he lives in by foot, he is picked up by a police officer before he makes it too far. When Woody's son, David (Will Forte) arrives at the police station to pick up his father, Woody tells him that he has won one million dollars in a sweepstakes and was on his way to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his prize. David tries to convince his father that he hasn't won a million dollars and that the sweepstakes is just a scam, but Woody cannot be swayed. After he once again tries to make it on foot to Nebraska, David agrees to drive his father to retrieve his million dollars and the two set off on a father-son road trip.

Nebraska is a wonderfully original piece of work. The screenplay is just outstanding and story beautiful. Although it is so natural in it's delivery of family relations with elderly parents and of small town USA, it avoids cliché completely. You are left completely clueless as to how the film is going to end until the last scene. This is because although Nebraska is actually a very funny film thanks to some extremely amusing dialogue, it is also tinged his sadness throughout. It has a healthy mix of these two types of film and keeps you guessing as to in what direction it's conclusion will take place. It is not a fast paced film, but the ending makes the pace well worth it.

The film is also incredibly real, but the fact that it is filmed in black and white takes part of the realism away. The characters and scenarios are all so realistic. It is so interesting watching the dynamics of the characters, particularly in the way peoples behaviour changes when they believe that Woody is actually a millionaire. The relations between family members are a stand out in the film. The relationship between Woody and his wife, Kate (played by June Squibb) is brilliant. It is a relationship that won't seem too far removed from many others in such a long term marriage. They drive each other crazy, but don't know what to do when the other isn't there. Then there is also the relationship between David and his brother, Ross (Bob Odenkirk), which shows the all too familiar scenario of two brothers who grew up to be so different, but when they get together, they find their youth again. The extended family relations also ring true, particularly the scene where Woody and his brothers are all watching television together.

While making a film in black and white isn't an overly popular concept these days, it visually works to Nebraska's advantage. You honestly believe that the film's locations are more beautiful for the lack of colour. The opening scene is a terrific example of this. As the film opens with Woody walking up a road with Billings, Montana in the background, you are overcome with how beautiful the shot is, even though it is a location you would not typically associate with beauty. The black and white just brings out the true character of the locations. Colour would seem to be a distraction in this film, as with the lack of you grasp the true atmosphere of each location. You feel the chilling cold weather and the small town vibe of Hawthorne, which wouldn't be as prominent if colour was present.

Bruce Dern is superb in Nebraska. He may not say much, but you can tell so much from his expressions. He is a source of worry for the audience, as you truly become worried about him being taken advantage of and as a result he is the driving force behind the film. Again even though he doesn't say much, when he does his dialogue is so entertaining. He is heartbreaking yet subtly comical at the same time.

Will Forte does well, but is over-shadowed by Dern and also June Squibb. His role is very natural and again ahs some very funny moments. Squibb is an absolute riot. She plays the part of the irritated and frustrated wife who is fed up with Woody's antics so well. Kate is a wonderful character and is not for one moment dull with her colourful and very amusing dialogue.

There are many reasons to see Nebraska, but it is the last scene which turns it from a very good film into an outstanding film.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Endless Love (2014)

Year: 2014
Running Time: 103 minutes
Director: Shana Feste
Writers: Scott Spencer (novel), Shana Feste and Joshua Safran (screenplay)
Cast: Gabriella Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick, Rhys Wakefield, Dayo Okeniyi, Emma Rigby

Endless Love is now showing everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Universal Pictures.

If you need one word to describe Endless Love, that word would be familiar. The word familiar is chosen not only because it is a remake of the 1981 film of the same name, but also because it is a concept we have seen numerous times on the screen. The story of star-crossed lovers who's parents don't agree with their relationship is anything but new and Endless Love has no real point of difference to make it stand out from the rest of the pack.

David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer) has always had eyes for the beautiful and privileged, but extremely innocent and reserved Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) through their high school years. The two never spoke a word to each other until upon finishing school, a chance encounter at the country club which Davis works at uncovers the attraction between the two and when David comes to the rescue at Jade's graduation party, they are inseparable. However, Jane's overprotective father (Bruce Greenwood) is less than thrilled with his only daughter dating a boy with a troubled past like David who distracts her from her career path. Both their families soon find that nothing they do can keep David and Jade apart.

There is absolutely nothing original about Endless Love. Many have and will continue to question why the 1981 film even needed to be remade. You can almost understand why Shana Feste wanted to bring this tale to the screen once more, as the 1981 film hardly seems relevant or overly well known in todays society. This 2014 version has the inclusion of mobile phones playing a vital part of the relationship as is the case with relationships today, but the overall quality of the two films doesn't really differ a great deal. The earlier film wasn't and still isn't seen as a particularly critical success and neither is this film. In remaking this film you would hope that Feste was hoping to improve on the original, but the film is mediocre at best.

Endless Love is absolutely void of emotion. For a romance film to actually be successful (unless it has a comedy element to it), it has to be moving. This film is not as it just feels so weak. You feel no tension, sadness, happiness or anger throughout the film. The love between David and Jade is sweet, but not relatable or captivating. The real target audience for this film is that of teenage girls who will love the film because it will represent what they hope their first love will be like. For this audience there doesn't need to be any powerful emotions, just something that is light and fluffy and Endless Love is definitely this. The film has been released at the perfect time which is Valentines Day. So even though the audience that will get the most out of this film is younger, it will generate a wider audience who will be able to accept it's content. Whether Endless Love is a film of a high standard is almost irrelevant as it is appropriate either way for the Valentines time of the year.

There are some interesting choices in the cinematography here. There are various montages of the way David and Jade spend their time together. Some of these montages are worthwhile, but others (such as the firecracker scene) would have benefitted more from a continuous shot which would have enhanced the emotional impact of the film by understanding more about the relationship between David and Jade. This would have then led to a bigger feeling of disappointment and sadness for the two when things were not going as planned.

While not an emotionally charged film or a particularly well written film, it is actually a very well cast film. All the roles have the best actors for the part in them and it is a shame they haven't been given more to work with. The characters themselves are the best part of the screenplay as there is great character development for each one of them. Alex Pettyfer does well and gives no reason for people to dislike him. His David is very likable and you always believe the best about him in every circumstance. He and Gabriella Wilde work very well together on screen and physically look perfect as a couple. Wilde is extremely sweet and a perfect choice for the role of Jade with her angelic looks. Both Pettyfer and Wilde have moments where you feel they are on the verge of showing their true potential, but don't have the opportunity to meet that potential in this film.

Joely Richardson is wonderful as Jade's mother, Anne. She is the type of mother you would love to have in a situation you hate to see a good woman in. Bruce Greenwood is also very good as the possessive father, Hugh. He is extremely unreasonable, possessive and often emotionally detached from his family, qualities one would hate in an in-law. Yet with all these he is so interesting to watch. Robert Patrick, who plays David's father Harry, is also very good.

With Endless Love you don't get what you want out of a romance film. However, as it is a Valentines Day release, you can reluctantly accept it.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter's Tale (2014)

Year: 2014
Running Time: 129 minutes
Director: Akiva Goldsman
Writers: Mark Helprin (novel), Akiva Goldsman (screenplay)
Cast: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Eva Marie Saint, William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly

Winter's Tale is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Roadshow Pictures.

Even if you haven't read the novel by Mark Helprin, you can tell that Winter's Tale must at least a half decent book. Obviously a book does need to be somewhat of a success in order for a screenplay to be made out of it, but sometimes the film just doesn't reflect this success. Unfortunately, Winter's Tale is an example of this.

Somewhere in there is a great story to be told, but Winter's Tale doesn't do it any justice. It clearly doesn't work for the screen as well as it should and it is such a shame because it really could have been something so beautiful. There are some saving graces in some stunning visuals and some truly tender moments between some of the characters, particularly Colin Farrell's Peter and Jessica Brown Findlay's Beverly. Yet, the film forgets that it is a romantic fantasy film and focuses too much on explaining the romance and not the fantasy.

Peter Lake (Farrell) is an out of work, down on his luck orphan who has to steal from the houses in New York, where he lives in order to survive. By chance, the mansion which he chooses to steal from is not empty like he believes, but Beverly (Findlay), a sick young woman is at home. The two fall in love, but their life together is cut short when Beverly passes away in Peter's arms. However, there are stronger forces at work and this is not the end for Peter and Beverly and it isn't until many years later that Peter finds out why.

While watching Winter's Tale, you cannot help but feel that there are things you are not being told and if these things were worked into the screenplay, the film would make a whole lot more sense and be a lot more enjoyable. Director and screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman seems to want us to see Winter's Tale primarily as a romance, which it most certainly is, but the film has a large fantasy element which isn't explained clearly. With a fantasy film, details need to be crystal clear so that the audience understands exactly what is going on as nothing they are watching is assumed knowledge (unless you have read the book, which cannot be relied on). For most of the film, there is a confusion as to what is really going on in the film, which would normally be good in a thriller or mystery, but not in a fantasy/romance film. Goldsman chooses to focus more on the relationship between Peter and Beverly and the only explanation really offered about these amazing things taking place are that miracles happen. For most of the things that happen during the film this isn't really a comforting conclusion to feel, although it seems to be fine for the characters to accept.

Yet you can tell that Goldsman really wanted this to be an amazing film. No director wants their film to be anything but amazing, but Winter's Tale truly believes that it is more important than what it actually is. The dialogue is very pretty to the ears and does absolutely help add to the romanticism of the film. You do feel a sense of purity and sweet sincerity when it comes to the relationship between Peter and Beverly. However, there is still a complete lack of emotion overall, which is disastrous as there are so many scenes which could have called for tears. Some of the visuals are also completely stunning. In particular the contrast in the scenes in the snow with the black star filled sky is very effective and these shots are probably the most magical thing about the film. However, some of the special effects are not particularly life like and the editing in some of the scenes with Peter and Beverly is really quite mediocre.

Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay do not give particularly ground breaking performances, but they do work well together. The two do have great on screen chemistry and seem very natural in their love, even though they are in love after only one brief meeting as Peter feels like he has known Beverly for a thousand years (again not explained how). Farrell does do well in the emotional scenes he is given, particularly in the library scene with Jennifer Connelly's Virginia.

Russell Crowe is fine as Peter's arch nemesis, Pearly Soames. Again, this is a character that isn't given too much background and would be a lot more interesting if he was. Crowe himself is interesting in this film and his adapted accent is quite intriguing to listen to. Will Smith plays the Judge and is extremely miscast in this role. He really can't be taken seriously in the role and the lines he delivers when he is trying to be scary are unfortunately laughable.

Winter's Tale delivers as a romance, but forgets about everything else around it. A film with all the unmet potential in the world.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Last Vegas (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 105 minutes
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Writers: Don Fogelman
Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrera

Now showing and distributed in Australia by Universal Pictures.

Las Vegas has changed in the last half a decade, there is no doubt about that. Movies about Las Vegas have obviously changed with the times and your typical film set in Las Vegas will more than likely feature male characters in the age bracket of 21-35 years old.

That is where Last Vegas breaks through the mould. It is a Las Vegas film that doesn't fall into the stereotypical pool, but is a stereotypical film about four middle aged men trying to find their youth again. Yet it loses it loses it's stereotypical status once these four enter Sin City. What results is a film which may be predictable, but is still enjoyable and often very funny. The combination of Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline is an absolute winner by all accounts.

When Billy (Michael Douglas) proposes to his girlfriend while giving a eulogy at a funeral, he rounds up his life long best friends, Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) for a bachelor party in Vegas before he ties the knot with his much younger girlfriend there. Archie and Sam also invite along Paddy (Robert De Niro), who was also once best friends with Billy but had a major fall out with him over him missing out on Paddy's wife's funeral. When the four arrive in Las Vegas, they find it a very different town to the one they visited years before and the town will make all of them realise the things they need to admit to themselves.

Last Vegas really gives you no surprises. The middle-aged light comedy genre is proving to be a very predictable genre these days with it's characters always having some kind of epiphany directly related to the stage of life which they are at. There is really nothing wrong with this as it is what a lot of people want to see and what the target audience can relate to. You just know what you are walking into and you know how it will end up. However, once you take this film we have seen before and make it into a Vegas film, it feels like a film we haven't seen before. The location of Vegas seen through the eyes of these men actually makes the city look fresh and therefore makes the film feel far more original than it would be otherwise.

Even if though Last Vegas may not be the most innovative screenplay, it does absolutely carry some very funny highlights. The scene in the club where Freeman's Archie has his first Red Bull is very funny. The best thing about the screenplay is that it doesn't try too hard to be funny. It is true that it is predictable and simplistic, but it is this simplicity that works for the film. It does have it's tender moments, particularly when it comes to Paddy discussing his late wife, yet it is not overly emotional. It doesn't need to be as you feel an instant connection with each of the characters due to some marvellous character development. You have a bucket full of information about the characters backgrounds so you have an emotional connection with each of them. It's not an extremely in depth connection, but a connection nevertheless.

Each of leading men are great fun in their roles. Michael Douglas does well, but it doesn't seem like a particularly complicated role for him and seems like it is just a matter of Michael Douglas playing Michael Douglas. Robert De Niro probably has the most challenging role as his Paddy is both cynical and standoffish at times, but he also earns the audience's sympathy without any trouble with his soft and tender side. Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline are the two that provide most of the comedy relief through the film. Kline is especially funny as he plays the comfortably out of vogue man and his performance is just a lot of fun.

Last Vegas may not be the most original piece of work we will be seeing on our screens, but it is still creative in it's own way and a bit of fun.


Friday, February 14, 2014

The Best of Old Hollywood on Film

Photo by Richard Lund
The Golden Age of Hollywood has always fascinated both young and old. Hollywood itself holds a strange fascination within society as the lives of the rich and famous create an uncanny interest in young and old.

However, it is the Hollywood that was from the 1920's through to the mid-1950's that creates the greatest intrigue. Just why is that? Well, the main reason for this is simply because many of us were not around during these years and even fewer were in Hollywood then. The movie business first came to the southern California neighbourhood of Hollywood in the early 1910's and within a few short years the town became known as the place to be if you worked or wanted to work in film. When people think about old Hollywood, the word that firstly comes to mind more often than not is glamorous. We often think of the beautiful and classy stars of the golden era and of the days when Hollywood Boulevard was all lit up in lights and the epicentre of all that was glamorous.

The Hollywood of today is a far cry from the Hollywood of the golden age, both in culture and in attitude. Many would argue that the Hollywood of old is superior to the Hollywood of today, but that period was also not without it's problems. Although 60 years have passed since those days, interest in the golden age hasn't been quite as fleeting. Many of the stars from then are still household names now and thousands flock to Hollywood Boulevard each year to see sights such as the Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel just to get a flicker of the feeling of what it would have been like to live in those times.

For those of us who long to be part of Hollywood's golden era but will never be able to witness, the next best thing to seeing it with our own eyes is seeing it recreated on film. Hollywood still maintains a love affair with itself from that time and there are countless films that have been made over the years that are set in old Hollywood. The best of these films represent old Hollywood with the utmost accuracy in regards to the culture, locations, historical figures and events. Again, there are many, many films made about both true and fictional events that took place during the early years of Hollywood, but there are nine films we have chosen that we believe do this better than others and gives us a real glimpse into what the early years were like.

In determining the following films, Movie Critical is honoured to have Lisa Malouf aboard to help us out. Lisa is a film reviewer for both The Limerick Review and Graffiti With Punctuation and an expert in everything old Hollywood. The trivia supplied for each of the following films comes courtesy of her and her love for the golden age of Hollywood.

Year: 1997
Director: Curtis Hanson
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, James Cromwell, David Strathairn

Based on James Ellroy's novel of the same name, L.A. Confidential isn't your typical film about Hollywood's golden age, but must be featured on this list as it completely captures Los Angeles in the 1950's and also of the less romantic side of Hollywood experienced by those who miss out on seeing their name in lights. This film about corruption in the LAPD is a fictional tale, but is mixed with real Hollywood figures such as Mickey Cohen and features the relationship between his right hand man, Johnny Stompanato and Lana Turner (who both feature in the funniest scene of the film).

What this film shows which many films about old Hollywood don't is the unglamorous side of Hollywood. While we so often think about the bright lights of Hollywood and stars dressed to the nines for their movie premieres, we forget that even in the 1950's there were hundreds if not thousands who came searching for fame and fortune and didn't find it here. There was also the dirty and sleazy side of Hollywood as seen here in L.A. Confidential by the call girl ring where women are made to look like movie stars for their clients (eg. Kim Basinger's Lynn Bracken is their Veronica Lake). There were also those looking for stardom and come into contact with the wrong people who are the cause for their untimely deaths. The film completely captures the atmosphere of 1950's Hollywood seen by those in the film and reminds us that like today, with Hollywood doesn't always come the glitz and glamour.

Trivia-  Three of L.A. Confidential’s stars got their starts in Aussie soap operas:
* Russell Crowe (co-lead) was in Neighbours in the late 80s. This film was one of his first high profile U.S. roles. He went on to receive Best Actor Oscar nominations in three consecutive years, including a win for Gladiator in 2001.
* Guy Pearce (co-lead) started out in Neighbours and Home and Away. This  was his first big U.S. film. He went on to many high profile films, such as Memento, and has won an Emmy and been nominated for a Golden Globe.
 * Simon Baker (minor role) started out in E Street and Home and Away, and made his big screen debut in this film. He went on to star The Mentalist, which regularly pulls over 15 million viewers per week, and to receive two Golden Globe nominations.

Year: 1950
Director: Billy Wilder
Cast: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson

Sunset Blvd. is considered by many to be among the best films ever made. Considering it was made during the time period which we are looking at and is about Hollywood in that time, the locations are authentic and although the story is fictional, the themes were extremely relevant to many in Hollywood. Sunset Blvd. is about a screenwriter, Joe Gillis (William Holden) who by chance comes across the house of silent film star, Norma Desmond (unforgettably portrayed by Gloria Swanson) and is swept into her world of madness before he has enough time to realise what is happening.

The switch from silent film to sound was a major development in Hollywood in the late 1920's and early 1930's and affected many who made their career in the silent era. Sound marked the end to many silent film stars who couldn't make the switch for various reasons. It was a change which many couldn't come to grips with and who couldn't get used to not being able to have the life they once had. This is a theme we will see again over again in these featured films as it marked such a historical turning point in film and in turn, the culture in Hollywood. Norma Desmond is a scary character, but she is the perfect example of a silent film star who was huge and cannot come to grips with the way Hollywood had changed and as a result, goes quite mad. As she says in one of the classic lines in film, "I am big, it's the pictures that got small"

Visually, the film gives you a perfect view of what Hollywood was like in 1950, particularly on Sunset Blvd. This film is the one to watch if you are interested in seeing the architecture in Southern California of the times.

Trivia-The character of the First Assistant Director in Sunset Blvd makes the comment that Norma Desmond 'Must be a million years old'. Norma is in fact meant to be fifty, which was the real age of actor Gloria Swanson. Though there's no denying that both in Old Hollywood and now there's an unfair disparity between what's considered 'old' for female and for male actors - and there's still a huge way to go in terms of changing attitudes and closing this gap - it's still hard to imaging that in 1950, fifty was considered seriously 'ancient', when we think about some of today's female actors (eg Laura Linney and Helen Hunt who are both 50, and Juliette Binoche and Sandra Bullock, who turn 50 shortly) and many of the roles they play.

Year: 1952
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell, Gloria Grahame

Like Sunset Blvd., The Bad and the Beautiful is a film that is filmed in Hollywood about Hollywood in the time which it was made. Unlike L.A. Confidential, this film perfects the glamorous side of Hollywood in the 1950's. It is materialistically glamorous, yet does also show the ugly side of fame and fortune. Portrayed by Kirk Douglas, Jonathan Shields is a ruthless film producer who does whatever he has to do to be successful and that includes using whoever he can to his advantage. A film director (Barry Sullivan), writer (Dick Powell) and actress (Lana Turner) are all among the unlucky and tell their side of the story in which Shields in the main character in all.

The Bad and the Beautiful is a snapshot of the film industry and it's players in the 1950's. There is a great deal to be learnt about inside the business in old Hollywood from this film, but a lot of it is still relevant today meaning that there are still people like Shields who use who they have to do to get ahead in the world. Yet, visually it is all old Hollywood. You get to see the set of an old Hollywood film, the amazing parties you associate the times with and of course, the fashion and some very classy automobiles.

Trivia- The Bad and the Beautiful holds the record for the most Oscar wins for a film not nominated for Best Picture. Its five wins were for Supporting Actress (Gloria Grahame),  Story and Screenplay, Art Direction (Black and White*), Cinematography (B+W) and Costume Design (B+W). Kirk Douglas (Michael's dad) was also nominated for Best Actor, but lost out to Gary Cooper for High Noon.
[* There was a time in the Academy's history (from 1940 to 1967), when separate awards were given out for colour and black and white films in some categories].

Year: 2011
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller

The Artist is an extraordinary film. Set in the late 1920's and made in 2011, it is made using the techniques of the silent films such as black and white film and although it is not completely silent, uses very little sound. George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin) is the biggest star of the silent screen and lives a comfortable life of luxury. When sound is introduced, he believes it is just a fad and sets out to prove that the silent can still be just as successful as sound. However, Valentin must somehow realise before it is too late that the silent era is over and that sound is here to stay.

Once again, The Artist is another film about the switch from silent to sound in Hollywood and provides a wonderful slice of Hollywood history. It captures this moment in time with such beauty and romanticism and is extremely nostalgic of the time period. Yet, as beautiful as it is, it doesn't neglect the heartbreak that sound bought to so many silent film actors and workers. It gives a clear distinction of the change in the way film was perceived by the public as it changed and suddenly became something so modern for its time. The locations used and the fashion are also a wonderful representation of what life was like in Hollywood at this point in time.

Trivia-There's an exquisite scene in The Artist where Poppy Miller (Bejo) wraps herself in Valentin's coat. She slips her arm into his sleeve, and brings the coat 'to life', so that it appears they are in an embrace. This beautiful little scene is a nod to the silent film Seventh Heaven (1927), when Diane (Janet Gaynor) wraps herself up in Chico (Charles Farrell)'s coat. She's seated in a chair that the coat is hanging on, and lovingly wraps the 'arms' around her and nuzzles into the fabric. Diane and Poppy even slide their arms into the same sleeve (right), though Diane uses her left arm, and Poppy her right.

Year: 2004
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda

Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator helps with our knowledge about old Hollywood in many ways. Of course the life of Hughes is intriguing to begin with, but Hughes' presence in Hollywood from the 1920's till the 1940's is not the only thing we learn and grasp about that age from the film. Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) made his presence known in Hollywood not only for his direction, but for his ability to catch some of Hollywood's most beautiful and successful women. His aviation ventures also made him a household name as well as his well known phobias and obsessions.

Scorsese perfectly captures the 1920's/30's in Hollywood and picks the perfect place to showcase this, The Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel. The Cocoanut Grove was one of the most popular places for the rich and famous to be seen and the atmosphere of this club is perfectly captured here as you feel the energy of the club in each of the scenes it is featured in. In The Aviator, the silent era comes to a close while Hughes is directing Hell's Angels and the extravagant film maker copes with this by putting his silent film back into production after it has finished in order to make it a sound film. The film also shows how Hughes dealt with censors for The Outlaw, when he was questioned about how revealing Jane Russell's clothing was. This is also an important part of learning about how the restrictions that were placed on films during this era and how directors such as Hughes got around them.

Yet, it is the characters in The Aviator that give us a glimpse into the world of Hollywood's golden age. As well as DiCaprio's amazing performance as Hughes, the film also features Cate Blanchett in her Oscar winning role as Katharine Hepburn, Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner, Jude Law as Errol Flynn and Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow. Reminiscing about old Hollywood always involves dreams of the true stars like these mentioned and all of the actors give incredibly realistic performances of each of these iconic stars.

Trivia- The Aviator was director Martin Scorsese's second of five collaborations with Leonardo DiCaprio, after Gangs of New York two years earlier. They would go on to work together again on The Departed in 2006, Shutter Island four years later, and most recently The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013. An impressive number of collaborations, but well behind Scorsese' nine with Robert De Niro.

Year: 1937
Director: William A. Wellman
Cast: Janet Gaynor, Frederic March, Adolphe Menjou, Andy Devine, Lionel Standler

Since its first production in 1937, A Star Is Born has been remade twice and is on the verge of being remade again with Beyoncé as the lead. The thing about A Star Is Born is that its concept has been relevant since Hollywood's beginnings and will continue to be relevant for it's whole existence. Esther Blodgett (Janet Gaynor) is a small town girl with dreams of being a movie star. She packs her bags and moves to Hollywood where nothing seems to go as planned for her, including the fame and fortune she had so much wanted.

A Star Is Born is almost a cautionary tale for those young hopefuls who make the journey to Hollywood seeking their moment in the sun. In 1937, this was perhaps the first many people heard of what Hollywood was really like for young hopefuls. It wasn't the place where dreams always come true as they had been led to believe, but a place where everyone is competing for the same thing and the dreams of many are diminished. Then if you achieve a career in the pictures, it isn't all as wonderful as you may believe it would have been. The film is also just a glimpse into the process many young women went through as part of the studio system. Esther Blodgett is turned into Vicki Lester and has stylists tend to her to decide what she should look like. Even her marriage to Norman Maine is in the hands of the studio. While these days celebrities have their managers and publicists to help them out, back in the days of old Hollywood all the moves that stars made were controlled by the studios.

Trivia- In a scene in A Star is Born, Gaynor's Esther Blodgett can be seen looking at the hand and footprints in the cement pavement outside the Chinese Theatre. In real life, Gaynor herself was one of the first stars to leave her imprints. The first star impressions were dated April 1927. Gaynor was the fifteenth star, in May 1929, some eight years before A Star is Born. As of early 2014, nearly 300 stars have left their impressions.

Year: 1992
Director: Richard Attenborough
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Hopkins, Geraldine Chaplin, Paul Rhys, Milla Jovovich

It is impossible to talk about old Hollywood and not mention the great Charlie Chaplin, so Richard Attenborough's biopic, Chaplin must feature in this group of films. The film, featuring Robert Downey Jr as Chaplin himself, is largely based on Chaplin's autobiography and David Robinson's book, "Chaplin His Life and Art". It chronicles Chaplin's life from his beginnings where he was born into poverty in London with a mentally disturbed mother (played by Chaplin's real life daughter, Geraldine Chaplin). With his creation of The Tramp, he became one of the most recognised names in the world and the biggest name in showbiz. His private life was constantly thrown into the spotlight, particularly the details of his four marriages.

Chaplin's story is the ultimate rags to riches story that so many hope to achieve, but it is obvious from the film and it's accuracy that Chaplin was born with talent and came to Hollywood exactly the right time. It is impossible to be a film student and study that period without Chaplin's name coming up and this film is first and foremost a great education on the man. Unlike many others, he was able to be a huge star in the silent films and although reluctant to switch to sound, he was still able to bring out two highly successful mostly silent films before making the switch to sound successfully. A few more names which come up when talking about old Hollywood royalty are Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, and as Chaplin was in business with the two and best friends with Fairbanks, these two also feature greatly in the film.

Trivia- Robert Downey Jr.'s performance in Chaplin is magnificent, and there are are so many key scenes that could be singled out for attention. There are, however, three Charlies roles in the film, and all three are strong: in addition to Downey Jr.'s adult Charlie, there's Thomas Bradford's playing the great man as a young teen, and Hugh Downer portraying him at age five. Special mention should be made of Downer, who is absolutely delightful in a scene very early in the film: where he sings and dances  on stage, turning around an angry crowd. The cherubic young kid with the fluffy hair is full of charisma and stage presence, giving an preview into the skills his adult incarnation would employ to bring laughter to millions

Year: 2006
Director: Allen Coutler
Cast: Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins

Whether we admit it or not, everyone loves hearing about a Hollywood scandal. Old Hollywood scandals are even more intriguing than the scandals of today as they are seeped in mystery from a time long ago. Hollywoodland is one film that has taken an old Hollywood mystery to the big screen in a way that perfectly captures the time period and maintains suspense the whole time. The centrepiece of the film is the death of Superman, George Reeves (played by Ben Affleck) which was ruled a suicide, but many suspected murder. Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) starts to look into the case further than the police dared to and finds himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position as a result.

Visually, Hollywoodland shows only one or two of the glamorous old Hollywood parties which are great to see, but this film is another that also shows the Hollywood away from the glamor. The scenes set in the apartments which Simo is living in and working from are extremely reminiscent of 1950's Los Angeles scene. While much of the way that this film is presented is by speculation, there is an interesting piece of old Hollywood history here in the form of MGM's Fixers. The Fixers, Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins) and Howard Strickling (Joe Spano) where the men who were in charge of what found it's way to the press and what didn't. If something they didn't like happened to one of their stars, they found a way to fix it. Did The Fixers have something to do with George Reeve's death? Who knows, but it is interesting to learn about them.

Trivia- In Hollywoodland Ben Affleck plays a the man who plays Superman, and in an interesting twist, he's slated to play Batman*, opposite Henry Cavill's Superman, in Zack Snyder's upcoming Untitled Superman-Batman Project. In the film, the two superheroes will apparently face off. So Affleck's character will in fact be fighting against a character he played a decade earlier (based on the latter film's projected 2016 release date).
[* Affleck's casting announcement caused a Twitterstorm when it was announced in 2013, with many fans unhappy with the casting choice].

Year: 1952
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds

Even though the historical movement from silent to sound in motion pictures has appeared more than once on this list of films, when talking about the best films about old Hollywood there is no way you can forget about Singin' In The Rain. Gene Kelly stars as silent film star, Don Lockwood who has made a successful career as part of an on screen couple with Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). When the studio wants to make the transition to sound, Don is able to make the move fairly smoothly, while those around him struggle, particularly Lina.

Considered by many to be the best backstage musical of all time, the film offers a refreshing look at the silent to sound movement in 1927 Hollywood. Unlike the other films here which see the dark side of this move, Singin' In The Rain is presented in hilarious fashion. It shows why so many had problems with talkies as you had the actors like Lina who's voice did not suit film at all, and then the film makers also had problems with marrying up sound and image. The film supplies a completely enjoyable and hilarious way of seeing this period in old Hollywood, which is a change from many of the other films about old Hollywood films which rely on drama more than comedy.

Trivia-There's much debate as to how the rain in the film's titular scene was created. Some film historians claim that Donen* and Kelly had the crew add milk to the stage rain, so that it would appear to show up better on camera. Others claim that this is an urban myth, and that the rain was actually backlit and Kelly and the others in the scene were front lit. Whatever the truth, the rain looked terrific, and the whole scene is just magical.
[* How exciting to hear that Donen (who turns 90 in April 2014) apparently has a new project in the wings that he's looking to direct (co-written with Elaine May, with Mike Nichols slated as producer), over 65 years after his co-directorial debut (On the Town, also co-directed with Kelly, three years prior to Singin' in the Rain').

Year: 1994
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Sarah Jessica Parker, Martin Landau, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette

Now for a film which is completely different to the other films featured here. Biopics have a habit of focusing on the greats and while Ed Wood may not focus on one of the great film directors, it focuses on the man many classify as the best worst director of all time. Set in the 1950's, Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) made some of the worst movies of all time, but have remained B grade classics. The film has a look at Wood's Hollywood career and his strange, but intriguing friendships with those around him including Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau).

Made mostly in black and white, while Ed Wood almost feels like a fairy tale at times, it captures the essence of old Hollywood in a big way but from a different perspective. It is quirky and shows the strange side of Hollywood, but is a delightful look at the time. The locations used throughout the film are also authentic to 1950's Hollywood. The scene in Boardners, which is a Hollywood bar still in operation today, was shot on location and still feels like it is stuck in old Hollywood.

Trivia- Vincent D'Onofrio, who plays Orson Welles in Ed Wood, would play the Citizen Kane actor/director/et al again eleven years later in the short (30 minute) film Five minutes, Mr. Welles, which he also co-wrote and directed. Viewers got to hear D'Onofrio's real voice in the latter film, but he was dubbed in the former.

Also, Ed Wood was the 2nd of (to date) 8 Tim Burton / Johnny Depp collaborations.
1990 Edward Scissorhands
1994 Ed Wood
1999 Sleepy Hollow
2005 Charlie & Chocolate Factory
2005 Corpse Bride
2007 Sweeney Todd
2010 Alice in Wonderland
2012 Dark Shadows