Week Six: A Hero – Pure and Simple

Ellen Ripley is a bad-ass.  She was a bad-ass in 1979.  She was even more of a bad-ass in 1986.  In the world of Epic Bad-Asses…. Ellen Ripley is QUEEN!

“In 2011, Total Film ranked her first of their top of the 100 Greatest Female Characters. Ripley has been selected as the eighth greatest hero in American cinema history by the American Film Institute, as 5th coolest hero in pop culture by Entertainment Weekly, the 9th greatest movie character ever by Empire (the highest-placing female of the list), and the eighth best movie character of all time by Premiere, In 2011,
John Scalzi called her “Clearly the Best Female Character in Scifi Film”.

On June 8th, Prometheus opens.  Considering that it is a movie built with Alien‘s DNA, it just makes sense to catch up before this summer block buster comes out.

The last box set calls it the “Alien Anthology”.  Alien (directed by Ridley Scott) in 1979, Aliens (directed by James Cameron) in 1986, Alien 3 (directed by David Fincher) in 1992, and Alien Resurrection (directed by Jean-Pierre Jeune) in 1997.  I’m sorry but I am not counting AVP (Alien Vs Predator directed by Paul W.S. Anderson) because… I just can’t.

You can call it Horror, you can call it Sci-Fi, you can call it Thriller.. it really doesn’t matter.  It’s good storytelling.  It’s good film making.  It’s good acting, directing, set design… hell it’s good gaffing.  These are good films.  Genre films, sure, but at their core they are simply good films.

Nota Bene:  Alien co-starred Ian Holmes and John Hurt.  Sir Ian’s career spans 44 years; Sir John’s 50.  And the more I look at these gentlemen’s work, the more I think… yeah if they are in a film, I should probably watch it.

This week’s film list:

1. Alien (1979)
2. Aliens (1986)
3. Alien 3 (1992)
4. Alien Resurrection (1997)

Discussion questions:

1 – After Ellen Ripley, who do you think is the greatest film heroine?
2 – Do film series improve or degenerate with the loss of the original director?  (give arguments for and against)
3 – What genre do you classify each of the Alien films?

Week Five: The Work of Dame Helen Mirren

She is an amazing actress.  Her record speaks for itself.  She has won an Academy Award for Best Actress, four SAG Awards, four BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, four Emmy Awards, and two Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Awards.  On top of that there is this picture from 2008…. She’s 63 years old here.  Beat that with a stick.

Inline image 1

This is how you age… with grace and dignity served up with a side of fierce.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Mirren

Side note of vague importance… It’s better to be a Dame than a Lady.  A Lady gets her title from her marriage.  A Dame earned it on her own.

This week’s film list:

1. Age of Consent (1969)
2. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
3. Gosford Park (2001)
4. The Queen (2006)

Bonus films:

5. Excalibur (1981)
6. Painted Lady (1997)
7. The Passion of Ayn Rand (1999)
8. National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)

Discussion questions:

1 – Do you think that Dame Helen would have the same long and illustrious career if she were American instead of British.  If not, why?
2 – Does growing older mean that an actor or actress should trend towards more sedate roles or should they have as much fun as they can?
3 – In a knockdown drag-out fight, who would you put your money on… Helen Mirren or Judi Dench?

Week Four: The Boys or How to correctly use testosterone to create a classic!

There are notable and successful films with large female ensemble casts (Cukor’s The Women and Steel Magnolias come immediately to mind).  But in the 1960s there were a series of action films made with exceptional / star studded male casts.

Magnificent Seven is now seen as a classic but it was not originally received as such.  The film from which it was adapted (Seven Samurai) was a huge success becoming Japan’s highest grossing movie at the time.  Despite its mixed reception the following years delivered a few more action films crammed with talent actors.

Action / Western, Action / War…  It all starts with the action.  And the cast.

There are a great many ensemble comedies (Airplane, The Player, American Graffiti, It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, etc)  but fewer ensemble action films.  This is most likely due to the fact that comedies by and large cost less to make than action films and therefore can earn back more money.  That being said these are some of the best or at least the most well known male ensemble films.

You’ll see familiar faces in each of the first three films.  Hollywood has always liked to keep its stars working.

Side note – I don’t think a single film on this lists passes the Bechdel Test ( http://www.feministfrequency.com/2009/12/the-bechdel-test-for-women-in-movies/ )

That doesn’t make them bad or wrong but it is an interesting thing to note.

And now for this week’s film list.

1. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
2. The Great Escape (1963)
3. The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Bonus films
5. Seven Samurai (1954)
6. Silverado (1985)
7. The Expendables (2010)

Discussion Questions –

1 – Are you more or less inclined to watch a movie with an all male cast?  Would it make a difference if it were an all female cast?
2 – These films do not have explicitly happy endings.  Do you think that has more to do with the gender influence or the genre influence.  Is it possible to separate the gender influence from the genre?
3 – Do you think these are message films or just escapist fluff?