"Your God gave you the gift of the Gun. The Gun is good. The Penis is Evil." - Zardoz
Sick of honoring Saint Patrick's Day by celebrating your Irishness or affinity for Irish culture by going out to drown your innards with copious amounts of Irish spirits? Stay indoors, save some green money, tuck into your own whiskey stash while marveling at the natural beauty of the Emerald isle as framed by British filmmaker John Boorman in such films as Excalibur(1981) and Zardoz (1974) -- could two films made in the same location, directed, produced and written by the same person be more different? I think not.
Gabriel Byrne and Nichol Williamson as Uther and Merlin in Excalibur
And yet one gets the impression that even in within the context of Boorman's adaptation of Arthurian legends the sword Excalibur represents a goodness not unlike that of Zardoz's "God-given gun" while the "evil" penis serves naught but to wreak havoc upon Camelot's carefully constructed peace what with all that adultery and incest going 'round the round table. But Zardoz is one of those films that I find myself thinking about more than I probably should, perhaps that's because no matter how many times I've seen it it completely freaks me out. It is such a strange film that it's almost impossible to believe it actually exists.
Sean Connery in Zardoz
It does exist, of course, and looking past Sean Connery's adult diaper-looking red short-shorts, matching bandoliers and thigh-high leather boots costume -- not to mention the plenitude of naked women that flesh out the cast -- to digest the core of the penis vs. gun debate in this most extravagant of dystopian science fictions is only half the fun. But I digress, and I really shouldn't attempt to mold Excalibur to its freaky, art house contours. Though both of these films were made in Ireland, largely filmed on Boorman's own estate (must be nice!), Zardoz doesn't pack the same atmospheric punch that Excalibur does, but then Excalibur isn't trying to sell viewers on the concept of giant stone God heads that fly around distributing arsenals of firearms to the people down below by ejecting guns by the dozen from it's gaping mouth-hole. Excalibur's magic is a softer, more subtle stuff. Personally, I think it's the best movie of it's kind ever made.
Nicholas Clay and Cherie Lunghi as Lancelot and Guenevere in Excalibur
There is a seemingly excessive use of green lighting used to fantastic effect throughout Excalibur, highlighting what I've always assumed to be the suggestion of magical elements at work within the story (see the green glint on the sword pictured above), and spotting the use of unnaturally green light throughout the film seems worthy of a drinking game. Unlike Zardoz, Excalibur's more unbelievable moments are enveloped within an oft-told mythological narrative so well known that when when the audience is presented with, say, an awkward, huffy-puffy sex scene between a nude actress (Boorman's own daughter, Katrine as Igrayne of Cornwall) and a fully-armored knight (Corin Redgrave as Cornwall, or is that Gabriel Byrne again?) it's not all that surprising. Shocking? Maybe a little, but plausible. Just about as plausible as the Lady of the Lake (featuring Boorman's other daughter, Telsche), whose scenes not only make an argument for her existence showcase some of the more beautiful of Excalibur's Irish locations.
Nigel Terry as King Arthur approaches the Lady of the Lake
All in all, there are plenty of other fantastic fantasy films made in Ireland (Princess Bride is a standout favorite) so if you're stuck inside the house this St. Paddy's Day, or are just plain loath to go out and mingle with the greenery, get a little Irish film fix with either of these Boorman classics. Also, be on the lookout for the Excalibur documentary, Behind the Sword in the Stone, currently in production and featuring interviews with Boorman himself and many cast, such as Nigel Terry, Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Cherie Lunghi and Charley Boorman who played young Mordred in this so-called "Boorman family picture." Check out the trailers for both Excalibur and Zardoz (if you dare) below.
At the beginning of documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, we’re introduced to the titular character when the misanthropic elderly man bashes his biographer in the face with a cane. Filmmaker Jay Bulger gets out of the car to show us his bloody nose, and from there we’re whisked back through not only the story of Ginger Baker, famed drummer for Cream, but also the story behind the creation of the film.
Bulger bills himself as a writer for Rolling Stone in order to get an interview with the reclusive Baker — this is a lie. However, the article Bulger comes up with once he meets with Baker in his South Africa compound does get published in Rolling Stone, providing the catalyst for the film. The brash Bulger, and his interactions with Baker, become a hilarious side story to that of Baker, the red-headed wild man who helped pioneer rock drumming as a member of Cream, with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. Baker’s unique, African and jazz-influenced style would go on to be widely used in hard rock and heavy metal in years to come. But Baker’s personal life is beset by drugs, family issues, several wives and money problems.
However, Beware of Mr. Baker is no predictable “VH1 Behind the Music” story, nor is it a sob story. It’s more a celebration of a life thoroughly lived, and of a character whose lust for life and for drumming supersedes his ability to live normally and care for anyone else. It’s riveting viewing, even (and perhaps especially) for those unfamiliar with Baker. The film’s editing, full of animated bits, stock footage and interview footage, jump-cutting and fading with psychedelic aesthetic, is nothing short of brilliant. It also includes enlightening, often funny interviews with the likes of Clapton, Steve Winwood, Carlos Santana, Lars UlrichandNeil Peart.
Noir City, the most popular film noir festival in the world, is BACK! Defying media reports regarding the demise of repertory cinema and 35 millimeter film, the 11th edition of the Noir City film festival (at the Castro Theatre from January 25th - February 3rd) will present its most expansive schedule yet! Over ten days, Noir City will screen 27 films, including three brand new 35mm restorations funded by the Film Noir Foundation and the noir-loving moviegoers of San Francisco!
This festival kicks off with a tribute to special guest star Peggy Cummins, legendary for her ferocious performance as carnival sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr in Gun Crazy (1950). Ms. Cummins, traveling all the way from her home in London, will be interviewed onstage by host Eddie Muller following a screening of the film!
As always, NOIR CITY will present both celebrated classics and wonderful rarities: some newly rescued from extinction and presented in glorious new 35mm prints, others screening for the first time in gorgeous 4K digital restorations. Opening weekend will feature the world premiere of two of the Film Noir Foundation's latest film restoration projects Try and Get Me! (1950) and Repeat Performance (1949).
But that's not all! The hugely popular Noir City Nightclub returns on Saturday night, February 2, 2013. Partiers will time travel to 1949 for an extraordinary evening of scintillating music, sexy striptease, dancing, and drinking ($5 cocktails— beat that price!), all in a new vintage venue, the Regency Lodge (1290 Sutter Street at Van Ness). This year's show, emceed by "Czar of Noir" Eddie Muller, includes the sizzling jazz of the Dmitri Matheny Group (unveiling its "Crime Scenes Suite"), the sultry pop-noir stylings of Erin Brazill and the Brazillionaires ("The Hitchcock Suite"), the return of international striptease sensation Evie Lovelle, torch song temptress Laura Ellis, and the uniquely soulful and sinister serenades of El Radio Fantastique! Best of all, festival screenings are arranged so NOIR CITY attendees can attend the soiree without missing a single film!
It’s still December 2012, but there’s plenty to get excited about heading into the new year, music- and movie-wise. Check out the preorders we have available below.
In addition, new records hitting shelves early in the year include new records by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Spring), the late, great Broadcast (The Berberian Sound Studio [Soundtrack], Jan. 8), Frightened Rabbit (Pedestrian Verse, Feb. 5), Unknown Mortal Orchestra (II, Feb. 5), Azealia Banks (Broke With Expensive Taste, Feb. 12), Veronica Falls (Waiting for Something to Happen, Feb. 12), Beach Fossils (Clash the Truth, Feb. 19), Iceage (You’re Nothing, Feb. 19), Girls Names (The New Life, Feb. 29), Johnny Marr (The Messenger, Feb. 26), The Mary Onettes (Hit the Waves, March 12), Low (The Invisible Way, March 19), Wavves (Title TBA, March 26), The Knife (Shaking the Habitual, April 9) and, of course, Guided by Voices (English Little League, April 30). My Bloody Valentine are supposedly releasing their long-awaited follow-up to 1991’s classic Loveless, the favorite album of many a music nerd, as they’ve just announced via their Facebook page that they finished mastering their new album. Any MBV fan knows that recording, let alone mixing, let alone mastering a new album by the shoegaze titans is a painfully long and arduous process at best, so this is very exciting news! Though supposedly the record will come out on their website first, we’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything about a new, physical My Bloody Valentine LP.
In celebration of the recent release of The Dark Knight Rises on DVD and Blu-ray, I decided to go back and explore Christopher Nolan’s filmography, rewatching bits or all of the films, as I usually couldn’t stop myself from watching the things all the way through once I started. Nolan has directed and written or adapted eight films (not including his short films) in the past 14 years, making him not only one of the best (or arguably the best) of directors of the 21st century, but also one of the most prolific.
Starting from the bottom and working up to the best, this is my personal list of favorite Christopher Nolan films.
(All of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies are available in a box set, on DVD or Blu-ray.)