Category Archives: Lists

5 Films Based on Remarkable True Stories

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and there are many interesting films of this or last year which are based on true stories, including Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Tesla, Hillbilly Elegy, The Dig and The Mauritanian. Crime and war films are often inspired by real stories (Catch Me If You Can [2002], The Pianist [2002]) and I previously compiled a list of 25 “Must-See” Biographical Films (see also my related list of 5 Great Films About Adventurers Based on Real Stories). Below are five films which were based on, or inspired by, real stories which, in turn, are simply remarkable.

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I. The Sound of Music [1965]

The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummermight have been a book and a theatrical musical once, but it was also based on an incredible true story. In her memoir titled The Story of the Trapp Family Singers [1949], Maria von Trapp tells the story of her family who originally came from Salzburg, Austria, but who were then forced to cross borders and emigrate to America to escape Nazi persecutions in Europe.

Even though the true story was dramatized substantially for the film, it remained true in essence. So, in reality, a young woman from a religious background did come to work in the Trapp family, but not as a governess, but as a tutor to one of the children (who were in reality ten in number, not seven as in the film). Georg von Trapp was the father in the family, and Maria (as this was the name of the woman/the author) came to love the children first (and only then the father) (source). Georg, who was in reality a much kinder person than in the film, did marry Maria, and the family eventually travelled to Italy and America, and not to Switzerland as in the film. The Sound of Music is also not the only film to be based on Maria von Trapp’s memoir. Previously, Wolfgang Liebeneiner directed a German film The Trapp Family [1956], which was also based on The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.

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3 Russian “Fairy Tale” Animations

Previously I made this list where I talked about some Russian winter animations, so today I thought I would talk about other examples from the Russian/Soviet animation history. The three animations below were all made by the Soyuzmultfilm Studio between 1947 and 1964, and are good examples of animations made for children in the USSR that are based on fairy tales.

I. The Scarlet Flower [1952]

This animation is based on a story of 1858 by Sergei Aksakov who, in turn, re-worked the tale of Beauty and the Beast . In The Scarlet Flower, three daughters of one wealthy merchant request from their father overseas presents. The eldest daughter wants a diamond tiara, the middle daughter – a mirror that only shows the beauty of a person looking in it, and the youngest, Nastenka, says that she wants the Scarlet Flower. The father gets the presents for his two daughters in his travels, and the present for Nastenka he picks in the surroundings of one strange, enchanted castle. The hidden master of the castle is so angry at the father for taking the Scarlet Flower that he demands that the father sends one of his daughters to him.

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5 Films That Were So Evidently Influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky

All art, of course, is intellectual, but for me, all the arts, and cinema even more so, must above all be emotional and act upon the heart.” (Andrei Tarkovsky)

Andrei Tarkovsky (1932 – 1986) was a Soviet director and screenwriter known for his cinematic masterpieces, including Solaris [1972], Stalker [1979] and his debut Ivan’s Childhood [1962]. He inspired generations of film-makers, and Steven Dillon, a film historian, even went so far as to say that “much of subsequent film” was influenced by Tarkovsky’s work. Always favouring long takes, Tarkovsky belonged to a group of film-makers (for example, others are Robert Bresson (Pickpocket [1959]) and Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story [1953])),that explored spirituality, the transcendental and the metaphysical on film, often focusing on morality or religion, and sometimes employing certain very vivid imagery to convey that. A list of films that were inspired by Tarkovsky’s work in some way or another will probably be never ending, but here I would like to focus on just five of them. Another thing to note is that Andrei Tarkovsky himself drew influence from such directors as Ingmar Bergman, Luis Buñuel and Akira Kurosawa, and this list is not to disparage any of the films listed, which are very good, but to simply draw similarities with Tarkovsky’s work and style.

I. Melancholia [2011] by Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier’s Melancholia is a work of beauty. Sublime and thought-provoking, Melancholia focuses on one well-to-do family that starts getting to grips with the fact that the end of the world may be near. Another planet is on the collision course with Earth and members of this family, who have a straining relationship with each other, respond differently to the news. Tarkovsky’s influence (including almost his entire filmography) can be seen or felt in almost every other shot of Lars von Trier’s 2011 work.

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10 Great Films Based on Plays

Did you know that classic film Casablanca [1942] was based on an unproduced play titled Everybody Comes to Rick’s? by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison?; or that film Moonlight [2016] was based on another unproduced play titled Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney? Many a great film first originated in a play, and because of this origin, these films often rely much on performances and have certain “intimacy” to them not found in other films. I previously reviewed such plays-turned-films as Prelude to a Kiss [1992], Carnage [2011], It’s Only The End of the World [2016], Marjorie Prime [2017] and Una [2017], and other notable films in this category include Seventh Heaven [1937], Brief Encounter [1945], Steel Magnolias [1989], Glengarry Glen Ross [1992], Meet Joe Black [1998], Closer [2004], Doubt [2008] and August: Osage County [2013]. Below are ten great films that first originated in plays (excluding Shakespearean adaptations).

I. The Seventh Seal [1957]

Play: Trämålning (Wood Painting) [1954] by Ingmar Bergman

This well-known masterpiece of a film by Ingmar Bergman stems from a one-act play by Bergman himself. He wrote a play titled Trämålning (Wood Painting) and it was initially supposed to be a play to be performed by students. In the story, the country is suffering because of the Black Death pandemic and a young Knight with his Squire have just returned from the Crusades. The land is in panic, and, unwittingly, the Knight joins a wagon of travelling performers. Death is also their follower, challenging the Knight to a play of chess. What will be the outcome? Philosophical, visually-striking and full of symbolism, The Seventh Seal is an uncanny portrayal of the Middle Ages and an iconic film in the history of cinema.

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3 Most Underappreciated Songs in Animation

I. You Know Better Than Ifrom Joseph: King of Dreams [2000]

This song, written by John Bucchino and performed by David Campbell, is from the straight-to-video animated film Joseph: King of Dreams. The song is inspirational and feels very personal. It is sung by Joseph when he finds himself near to despair and at the lowest point in his life. He has to start from the very beginning again and build his life anew. The faith and trust in God enable him to do that. The animation is often compared negatively to the great animation The Prince of Egypt [1998], but the comparison is a bit unjust and Joseph: King of Dream should stand on its own as that that has many strong points, including the amazing dream sequences and this wonderful song.

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7 Great Films About Pianists

My last review focused on a cellist who was forced to abandon his chosen profession and resort to a more undesirable one. This got me thinking about musicians in films, and I am presenting below seven great films that focus on pianists, their lives and struggles. While some pianists below are completely fictional, such as Ada in The Piano or Tom in The Talented Mr. Ripley, others are based on real-life people, including David Helfgott in Shine and Mozart in Amadeus. In no particular order:

I. The Piano (1993)

It is one of those rare movies that is not just about a story, or some characters“, said once film critic Roger Ebert, “but about a whole universe of feeling“. Set in the 19th century, Jane Campion’s very fine film tells the story of a psychologically-mute Scottish woman Ada who travels to New Zealand with her young daughter Flora after an arranged marriage. Ada’s passion for music and for hand-crafted piano is touching in the film as she has to face strict social conventions in a foreign land while also longing for the love that is genuine and freely-chosen. The film also has one of the most beautiful soundtracks ever, composed by Michael Nyman.

II. The Pianist (2002)

This film is based on the autobiographical book The Pianist (1946) that tells the story of a Holocaust survivor, pianist and composer Władysław Szpilman. Masterful and unforgettable in every way, the film by Polanski is all about one Jewish man hiding in apartments across Warsaw as the Nazis brutal, evil regime is set to hunt down and kill every remaining Jewish person in the city. The film emphasises the sheer beauty of the piano music, and how it has the power to transcend life, bring out the best in humanity and unite it.

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5 Films That Centre Around Film-Making

Last week we saw the release of a tease trailer for the new film by David Fincher Mank (2020). This film is written by Fincher’s father Jack Fincher and is about “screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his battles with director Orson Welles over screenplay credit for Citizen Kane (1941)”. Films that portray other films, Hollywood or deal with film-making in general are curious since they provide an insight into their own industry. In this vein, we can recall Fellini’s 12 (1963), Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1988), Hazanavicius‘s The Artist (2011), Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks (2013), Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! (2016), and, more recently, Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). In the list below, I am focusing on 5 similarly-themed films that usually escape this categorisation on the Internet. In no particular order:

I. A Star Is Born [1954]

Arguably, this film showcases Judy Garland’s phenomenal acting ability the best. Here, Esther Blodgett (Garland), later, Vicki Lester, finds her desired career of a singing actress skyrocketing after she meets already almost forgotten, disillusioned and alcoholic movie star Norman Maine (James Mason). The film by George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story (1940)) clearly demonstrates the pitfalls and disillusionments associated with wanting and trying to be an actress in a movie industry, as Blodgett/Lester tries to navigate tricky behind-the-scenes action and movie studios’ unscrupulous management, being torn between hope and despair, love and hate.

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My 5 Favourite Films of 2018

This is my list of five favourite films of 2018, and most of those below I also consider to be the best films of 2018. Please note that I have not yet seen Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma”, Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” or Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book”. There is a big chance I would have equally enjoyed either or all of them.  

the favourite posterI. The Favourite (2018)

Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster” (2015), “The Killing of A Sacred Deer” (2017)) is one director who does not shy away from shocking film displays or enigmatic and displeasing film content. This time he is not a screenwriter and is rendering a period drama in his own style. “The Favourite“, which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, subverts one’s expectations about what a period drama should be, while it also makes one think deeply about the kind of characters that could exist in the world governed through ruthless power and self-interest. The unbelievably powerful performances from three leading ladies (Colman, Weisz and Stone) ensure the film’s high quality, while its unusual, curious camerawork has all the trademarks of its experimentally-minded director. Everything revolves around Queen Anne (Colman) here, and the story just loves to ridicule the excesses and extravagance of the royal court, as well as the fierce competition for one kind of “power” among the ladies closest to the Queen. The film works brilliantly as this exaggerated satire, which sometimes slides into deliciously-morbid and fascinatingly-obsessive character portrayals. I would have preferred the ending to be clearer in its message, but otherwise this film was just great as it is. My score: 9/10   Continue reading My 5 Favourite Films of 2018

Russian* Winter Animations

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, and I would like to wish all my readers and followers a very Happy New Year! It is that time of the year when one would like to come home, make a hot cocoa, switch on the TV and cosily tuck themselves under a duvet. Then, what better way to spend winter holidays than by watching some wonderful winter-themed animations? Below are three classic Russian-language animations from the Soyuzmultfilm Studio.

Snegurochka Poster2I. Snegurochka (The Snow-Maiden) [1952]

Drawn from the Russian folklore and based on the opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (previously also based on the play (1873) by Alexander Ostrovsky), this is the tale of Snegurochka or the Snow-Maiden, the daughter of Spring Beauty and Grandfather Frost. The Snow-Maiden, who has to shun direct sunshine because her natural abode is winter and frost, decides that she wants to spend some time in the company of humans, and is adopted by Bobyl-Bakula and his wife. What follows is the Snow Maiden’s life in a rural village among people there, and one can glimpse from that Russian traditions as the tale of one stunning beauty unsettling the whole village unfolds. The Snow-Maiden meets Lel, a youth with a talent for music, and is wooed to marriage by a reckless man Mizgir, previously a fiance of a local girl Kupava. The animation stands out because of its beauty and music (magnificent vocals). Most elements of this animation-opera are exquisitely drawn, especially the background. The story is sad, but also rather moving as it tells of the Snow-Maiden’s desire to experience/feel love at whatever cost; see the animation here Continue reading Russian* Winter Animations

10 Films You May Not Know Were Based on a Book – Part II

Metropolis Book CoverI. Metropolis (1927) 

Metropolis” is a famous German expressionist science-fiction film by Fritz Lang. However, some may not know that Lang’s wife – Thea von Harbou – actually first wrote the book “Metropolis” which then became a movie. Von Harbou wrote the book with the intention for it to become a movie, but this does not detract from the fact that once “Metropolis” was a book. The production was along the lines of – the novel – the script – the movie, giving strength to the idea that all great things flow from books.

Requiem for a Dream Film PosterII. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Requiem for a Dream” is an infamous in its depressing content and visual presentation film by Darren Aronofsky, which follows a number of lives in Brighton Beach. In this film, drug addiction and hopelessness fuse, and the soundtrack by Clint Mansell stressed the never-ending-drug-loop and the illusion of happiness. However, the script is actually based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr. The book and the movie should be viewed as being even more chilling since Selby drew from his own traumatic past experience, including his relationship with drugs, when penning his book.  Continue reading 10 Films You May Not Know Were Based on a Book – Part II