Category Archives: Classic Film & TV

Podcast: Alternative Oscars 1952

Thanks Canva, for the foolproof interface :)

Thanks Canva, for the foolproof interface 🙂

Hi Everybody,

We’re back after a slightly long hiatus. Here’s our 3rd Alternative Oscars Podcast. In each episode, we discuss the Best Picture nominees of a single Oscars year, and then we give our way better choices, other films eligible for an Oscar in the same given year. They usually comprise of a mix between films that are now heralded as classics, underrated gems, and international films. This year is no different.

You can check out our previous two episodes, Tawfik Zone’s Alternative Oscars Podcast 1950 and Tawfik Zone’s Alternative Oscars Podcast 1951 on this website or on The Tawfik Zone’s Alternative Oscars Itunes Feed.

The setting is a newer brighter relish green room. We hope that the consistency is the same, if not better. Again, I am fortunate to be joined by friends and fellow film buffs, Tawfik Zone contributor Candace Wiggins and Tia Nikolopulas. As always, musical credit goes to Kevin MacLeod of Incompitech.com.

Without further ado, here is The Tawfik Zone’s Alternative Oscars for 1952. Please let us know what you thought of the nominated films or our picks. Did we overlook any films?

Podcast: Alternative Oscars Episode 2 – 1951

Thanks Canva, for the foolproof interface :)

Thanks Canva, for the foolproof interface 🙂

Since we didn’t do too badly in our first podcasting effort and had a ball doing it, we’re back for a second episode of The Tawfik Zone’s Alternative Oscars Podcast. Joining me again are the dynamic duo, Tawfik Zone contributor Candace Wiggins and Tia Nikolopoulas.

This episode, we tackle 1951, which is a very, well, different caliber of films from 1950. What do you think of our alternative Best Picture choices? Any movies we snubbed? Please feel free to discuss in the comments section. We’d like to hear from you.

PS. I must give a huge shout out to Kevin Macleod of Incompitech for the musical jingle “Allada” that I use in my intro. He’s truly the king of royalty free music.

Obit: Maureen O’Hara

Courtesy of www.zeit.de

Courtesy of www.zeit.de

To cineastes and film scholars Maureen O’Hara, who recently passed away in her sleep at the age of 95, is best known as the woman in a number of John Ford-John Wayne westerns, whose ravishing beauty rivaled that of the wide vistas of the Monument Valley locales; and as dutiful mothers in scores of films, most famously in Miracle on 34th Street and The Parent Trap. Like many her other redhead contemporaries, such as Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming, O’Hara tended to get cast in roles that capitalized on her glamour in Technicolor rather than for her talent.

I would like to write a few words about her work in a film that hasn’t been mentioned in any of her other obituaries. One role that utilized more than her eye-candy quality was the starring role as a talented ballerina who ends up working as a stooge for a burlesque show in the oddball, but compelling dramedy Dance, Girl, Dance (1940). Directed by Dorothy Arzner, the sole remaining female director under the Code (though she fizzled out shortly after this film), O’Hara convincingly transitions her character from a docile waif to an a young woman who develops a firm backbone after dealing with various shysters from her demeaning burlesque gig and getting thwarted around like a yo-yo in the shenanigans of bored and snarky married socialites (Louis Hayward and Virginia Field).

She lucidly and forcefully delivers one of the most articulate and impassioned speeches to a crowd of unruly male hecklers demanding to be treated with respect. She is one of the few female characters who chooses her art over a man and doesn’t get punished for it. Did I mention that she engages in one of the most spirited cinematic bitchfights with a belligerent and opportunistic burlesque dancer (Lucille Ball, also excellent in an against-type role)?

Even in her more ornamental assignments, O’Hara imbued each character with sensitivity, intelligence, pathos, and heart. With her passing, we are closer to the end of the classic Hollywood era.

The Cream of the Crop and Bottom of the Barrel Pt 2: 10 Star Films & 0 Star Films

[Editor’s Note: This is the 2nd of a 2-part article. You can check out Part 1 here.]

By Heather Nichols, Tawfik Zone Contributor

More 10 Star Films, The Cream…

Jaws (1975, Spielberg)

It’s easy to forget now but Steven Spielberg has made some of the best, if not some of the most entertaining films of all time. Had it gone as originally planned, Jaws would have been cheesy. But using the camera and score to personify the shark, pure genius. Here are just three of the many highlights for me; starting with the opening of course. I remember seeing it when I was in the third grade and never before had I been so terrified of the water. The use of the zolly shot. That scene where Roy Scheider is on the beach and sees the shark come out of the water for the first time. And on a different level the inclusion of the Indianapolis, a scene entirely ad-libbed by Robert Shaw.

Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Kershner)

If you have to pick one Star Wars that is the best, this is the one. Though personally I find Return of the Jedi a little more enjoyable probably due in part to it was the first one I’ve seen, there is no denying this film is a masterpiece. One of the best pieces of science fiction ever produced with great set design, costuming and make up. Not only does it tell an engaging story, but it builds a world you can become fully engrossed in, where at its heart the protagonists are human and believable, one of the key elements to sci-fi.

Courtesy of decider.com

Courtesy of decider.com

Tootsie (1982, Pollack)

Picture Dustin Hoffman when he was an attractive young man and then picture him in drag. It doesn’t sound like the formula for an outstanding film and yet it’s another one of those films that just works perfectly. And it shows a young Jessica Lange before she was antagonizing everyone on American Horror Story. Not as much the everyman story as others on the list, an actor with a bad reputation unable to get work disguises himself as a woman to get a steady job acting in a soap opera. The script is clever and it brings a whole new perspective to the idea of method acting.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988, Zemeckis)

I really wish there were more films that could mix live action and cel animation so seamlessly like this one. If you read my previous article about Bob Hoskins you’ll know he is probably the main reason I love this film. His acting is so good that you think he’s actually in the room with Roger Rabbit. A fun fact, this is Jim Cummings’ first voice acing role. If you don’t know who that is, you need to go on IMDb because odds are you actually do.

Schindler’s List (1993, Spielberg)

After Steven Spielberg was tinkering with mechanical sharks and before Liam Neeson’s family kept getting taken, there was this film. Now I love Jaws more than this film just because I can watch it over and over again whereas this deals with much heavier subject matter that relates to actual history. The visuals: that this film was made in black and white as an artistic choice (something I love having to explain to people), makes this great set up for the little girl in the red coat. While I cannot comment on the historical accuracy of Schindler himself, I can tell you the film is sad, heart wrenching and a masterpiece.

Courtesy of www.sky.com

Courtesy of www.sky.com

Toy Story (1995-2010, Lasseter and various)

This series is Pixar’s single greatest achievement. Not to speak ill of their other works, this is just the best and since the original was their first film ever, it serves as a template for everything that has come since. The animation holds up well even by today’s standards. I would also be as bold to argue that each of the three films are on par with each other in terms of theme. I know some would say the second is the weakest but to that I say, the scene with Jessie’s back story and the Sarah McLachlan song, it made Tom Hanks and Tim Allen cry and if it didn’t make you feel something, I’m sorry. You clearly cannot be immersed in film on a deeper level.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996, Trousdale and Wise)

I have to put it out on the table that I love Disney films but I full well know while many are considered to be masterpieces, most just get a 9 or 9.5 by my rating system. Yes they are generally geared towards children so some issues become overly simplified and in the instance of Beauty and the Beast I’m on board with the whole Stockholm syndrome theory- though I’ve also read La Belle et la Bête, which presents Belle as shallow and the Beast much more sympathetically so maybe I’m just being picky… So here’s the thing, Hunchback isn’t really a children’s movie. Before you argue otherwise, just listen to “Hellfire,” a song that basically says if that woman doesn’t sleep with me I’m going to burn Paris to the ground. The art is gorgeous, the songs are perfect for the film- I don’t know who at Disney thought it would be a good idea to try and market a Victor Hugo novel as a children’s film, but it ended up being a masterpiece.

Princess Mononoke (1997, Miyazaki)

Right up front all of Miyazaki’s films are wonderful, but looking at them critically I can only give two of them perfect scores. This being the first. Interesting fact, it’s actually the first time Miyazaki-san used CGI animation, he combined it with cel animation techniques and the results are amazing.

Courtesy of drafthouse.com

Courtesy of drafthouse.com

Run Lola Run (1998, Tykwer)

This one is hard for me to explain why it’s perfect; I don’t know if “it’s just so darn good,” qualifies. I saw this film my first year in film school and it just stuck with me. Its overall sense of style and the use of the medium are unique and I highly recommend it. Even if you’re “not a subtitle” person, which is really unfortunate, the story is mainly told through its visuals so I think it’s accessible to a wider audience.

Spirited Away (2001, Miyazaki)

I am fully aware I am totally biased in this choice. If you want to know my favorite film of all time and all genres, this is it. One of my favorite English teachers taught me there are basically two different types of stories told; a hero goes on a journey and a stranger comes to town… this combines both. Do yourself a favor and watch this film; it’s visually beautiful, the soundtrack is gorgeous, the characters outstanding, and the world of the story is breathtaking. If I could I would give this 11 stars out of 10.

Persepolis (2007, Paronnaud and Satrapi)

One of the more beautiful aspects of film is that it is able to show us people and places that we would otherwise be unaware of. Besides what the media reports on, I had very little knowledge of the countries that were in the Middle East. It’s just not something they covered in any of the history courses I have been in. Through the eyes of our quirky protagonist we follow Marjane’s life in Iran at the start of the Islamic revolution. It also shows us that even though we may dress differently and speak other languages, we’re all human beings with similar wants and needs. One of my favorite scenes shows her relationship with God, one of the more lighthearted moments of the film.

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And now for the bottom of the barrel, actually wait these are so below the barrel they’re cast off to the side, they’re like the filth and barnacles growing along the side. And to not even get a star means that there was clearly no heart, no soul behind the camera. Some of these are horrendous because they’re unwatchable, some are bad because they were made for a quick buck, others because they’re highly offensive and others completely lack a cohesive storyline or plot; they’re offensive to anyone who enjoys film. Have fun…

 

The Terror of Tiny Town (1938, Newfield)

An evil gunslinging midget comes to terrorize the good little people of Tiny Town. The townspeople organize to defeat him, and zany antics ensue. Guys, this is a western musical starring all little people with editing so bad, it makes Xanadu look like gold.

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959, Wood)

Aliens resurrect dead humans as zombies and vampires to stop humanity from creating the Solaranite (a sort of sun-driven bomb).

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962, Green)

A doctor experimenting with transplant techniques keeps his girlfriend’s head alive when she is decapitated in a car crash, then goes hunting for a new body.

The Incredibly Strange Creatures who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies (1964, Steckler)

Jerry falls in love with a stripper he meets at a carnival. Little does he know that she is the sister of a gypsy fortune teller whose predictions he had scoffed at earlier. The gypsy turns him into a zombie and he goes on a killing spree.

Monster A-Go Go (1965, Rebane and Lewis)

A space capsule crash-lands, and the astronaut aboard disappears. Is there a connection between the missing man and the monster roaming the area?

Courtesy of www.musicboxtheatre.com

Courtesy of www.musicboxtheatre.com

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966, Warren)

A family gets lost on the road and stumbles upon a hidden, underground, devil-worshiping cult led by the fearsome Master and his servant Torgo.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978, Schultz)

Small town band hits it big, but they must battle a nefarious plot in the music industry. Starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, it still managed to go off the rails and go oh so horribly wrong.

Godzilla (1998, Emmerich)

An enormous, radioactively mutated lizard runs rampant in Manhattan. Now there are some bad Godzilla films… I’d rather marathon them all back to back then watch this film or even acknowledge its existence. Don’t fuck up my kaiju origin story, not cool Matthew Broderick.

Psycho (1998, Van Sant)

A young female embezzler arrives at the Bates Motel which has terrible secrets of its own. Shot for shot remake, with terrible acting; now in color and featuring Vince Vaughn in a dress…

Catwoman (2004, Pitof)

A shy woman, endowed with the speed, reflexes, and senses of a cat, walks a thin line between criminal and hero, even as a detective doggedly pursues her, fascinated by both of her personas.

The Grudge 3 (2009, Wilkins)

A young Japanese woman, who holds the key to stopping the evil spirit of Kayako, travels to the haunted Chicago apartment from the sequel, to stop the curse of Kayako once and for all.

Courtesy of www.denofgeek.com

Courtesy of www.denofgeek.com

The Last Airbender (2010, Shyamalan)

It follows the adventures of Aang, a young successor to a long line of Avatars, who must master all four elements and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water Tribes and the Earth Kingdom. So this time instead of making his own mess, Shyamalan decided to take a dump on a beloved children’s cartoon.

Arthur (2011, Winer)

A drunken playboy stands to lose a wealthy inheritance when he falls for a woman his family doesn’t like. Totally lacking the charm of the original Dudley Moore version. Go home Russell Brand, you’re drunk… and it’s not working!

Jack and Jill (2011, Dugan)

Family guy Jack Sadelstein prepares for the annual event he dreads: the Thanksgiving visit of his twin sister, the needy and passive-aggressive Jill, who then refuses to leave. Starring Adam Sandler and Adam Sandler, and poor Al Pacino, killing his career with this one.

That’s My Boy (2012, Anders)

While in his teens, Donny (Adam Sandler) fathered a son, Todd, and raised him as a single parent up until Todd’s 18th birthday. Now, after not seeing each other for years, Todd’s world comes crashing down when Donny resurfaces just before Todd’s wedding.

Movie 43 (2013, This piece of trash has 13 directors…)

A series of interconnected short films follows a washed-up producer as he pitches insane story lines featuring some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Made to be funny, but it’s ultimately offensive and unwatchable. Using the names of its stars to draw an audience, this cash cow doesn’t even deserve to be on Netflix, which it totally is.

The Cream of the Crop and Bottom of the Barrel Pt 1: 10 Star Films

By Heather Nichols, Tawfik Zone Contributor

 [Editor’s Note: This is the First of a 2-Part Series]

Now I will admit I’m probably a more lenient critic than most because I know how much money goes into these movies. Even if a movie is god awful and terrible, if there was something in there that shows someone in the creative team cared enough about what they were doing, they’ll still get a rating. When I write the review I like to think of it as a film school critique-  by the way it’s so hard to make a student film. But often times when a film is flawed it’s somewhere in its execution so my job and responsibility as a critic is trying to understand what this film was trying to do.

For a film not to get a zero ranking it has to pretty much look like no one was trying. On the flip side it is very hard for me to give a 10 star rating because a movie has to be darn near flawless, which is not easy to do, making it special and deserving of such high praise.

Films that are so bad they are good do not count because they would not earn either rating. Keep in mind these are only from the films I have seen (like The Shawshank Redemption, I will see it one day I promise) so I am not trying to intentionally snub a film in hopes of being pretentious.

So here we go…  starting with my 10/10 stars. I’ll list these in chronological order. Sequels will be one listing in the event that multiple films in the same cinematic universe are eligible. And to preface a little bit of my general criteria, it breaks down into three main categories. On a technical aspect: framing, lighting, visuals, sound, and editing. Secondly, accessibility; is the story good, are the characters believable, is this something the casual movie goer and the film critic can both enjoy? The third basis is unique for each film; how the film relates to others within its genre, sometimes how it compares to the director’s other works, and anything else that could be counted as a standout factor.  These will be relatively spoiler free, just some basic plot information given in act 1.

Courtesy of www.silentera.com

Courtesy of www.silentera.com

Broken Blossoms (1919, Griffith)

Now I know, D.W. Griffith fans, you expect the film he’s more known for, The Birth of a Nation. Here’s my issue with that film and it’s not the one you’re thinking. It’s nearly three hours long, which I know is not comfortable for most people to sit through. Also people don’t tend to realize that it’s the story of the civil war told through the loser’s perspective and get caught up in thinking it’s just all racism. This is what I like about Broken Blossoms. Sorry America, we’re terrible… in most early cinema the Asian was cast as a drunken, lecherous idiot. This film presents him as a hero, though it is done with yellow face, the message in the film is clear and it’s an apology from Griffith and it asks the audience for tolerance.

Sherlock Jr. (1924, Keaton)

Full disclosure, I like Keaton more than Chaplin. This is not to say Chaplin’s films are not worthy of 10 stars, I’ve just only seen maybe one or two of his films versus many of Keaton’s. I also really enjoy Steamboat Bill Jr as a close second and at the risk of having a dozen Keaton film’s I’m just going to include this one. One of the most impressive facts about Keaton though is he did all his own stunts, and this was before the days of advanced special effects.

Sunrise (1927, Murnau)

How can you compare the silent era to today’s films? Truth be told, the fact that they could do so much without spoken dialogue is in itself incredible. The story is simple. A farmer is unfaithful to his wife, his mistress tries to convince him to kill her, he then finds he’s really not happy with anyone but her and they fall in love again. I’m completely oversimplifying this and not doing it justice. Just trust me, it’s a great film.

Metropolis (1927, Lang)

Meanwhile in Germany… one of the greatest works of science fiction ever made was born. A film so innovative for its time it nearly bankrupted Germany’s film industry, it’s fantastic. Unfortunately we may never see it in its entirety since pieces have gone missing. If there’s only one flaw it’s that the two predominate females present in the film represent the laziest archetypes of the virgin and the whore… but at the time that was often the way it was.

Courtesy of jeezjon.typepad.com

Courtesy of jeezjon.typepad.com

The Wizard of Oz (1939, Fleming)

There’s a reason they play this film numerous times on television and back in the days before DVD and VHS when this film was played on television it was an event. Yes the story is simple but the message is such a reflection of the times; there really is no place like home. I believe this film will continue to enchant for generations to come.

Citizen Kane (1941, Welles)

To be honest I’m more afraid of a mob of film students showing up outside my house with pitch forks if I omit this film. Yes, it’s a great film but I don’t know if I can call it “the best film ever made.” The camera work, the fact that they used cheesecloth to create a ceiling in a shot, and all the other behind the scenes technical aspects are brilliant. The two issues I have with the film are essentially irrelevant to its brilliance. One being if Kane died alone in his bed, how did anyone hear his last words? The second being I completely missed “Rosebud” the first time around and at the end was like “Wait, where was that in the film?” If I needed the metaphor explained I imagine others did as well.

Double Indemnity (1944, Wilder)

Film Noir is one of those genres that is starting to re-emerge slowly into mainstream story telling. It’s a basic formula that can be cliché at times but when executed correctly can be absolutely brilliant. Of the film noirs I’ve viewed this is by far my favorite. With stars Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck directed by Billy Wilder, it’s a formula for success. What younger audiences might not be as keen to pick up on is the introduction to Stanwyck’s character, Phyllis. Without dialogue, we know she’s a bad girl and she’s out to get what she wants no matter what it takes, all through the use of a towel and Venetian blinds.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, Capra)

We’ve all been at a dark point in our lives where we’ve pondered if the world would be better off without us. This film doesn’t shy away from answering that question and it’s beautifully wrapped up into a Christmas film. If you think about the juxtaposition, I don’t think you could have a more appropriate pairing considering the holidays are a time of depression for many. The message still holds up today because it’s another everyman type story- the world isn’t significantly different without him there, but the people who never met him don’t have the joy in their lives that he brought to it because he was never born. It shows us to appreciate what we have. Also it stars Jimmy Stewart who is possibly one of the best actors of all time.

Courtesy of drafthouse.com

Courtesy of drafthouse.com

Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Donen and Kelly)

I confess I have a soft spot for films about film. But this one is extra special because it presents cinema in a way that explains the transition into talkies in 103 minutes versus a semester of film history. The songs are good and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Gene Kelly perform. There’s also something just so very special about Technicolor.

Rear Window (1954, Hitchcock)

I might be in a minority thinking this is superior to Vertigo. The film has a limited set compared to many other Hitchcock films, with all the action happening in a confined space. In this way we’re almost forced into the wheelchair of Jimmy Stewart as he watches his neighbors day by day until he witnesses something out of the ordinary, a murder committed in a neighboring window. The staging is great, the suspense palpable, a film that really puts you into the shoes of its protagonist.

Some like it Hot (1959, Wilder)

I’m sorry, I haven’t seen Sunset Boulevard which is why it hasn’t shown up here. But you want a classic director look no further than Billy Wilder. This is quite possibly the best comedy that has ever been made. It has three of the greatest stars who ever lived headlining it. Also it deals with subject matter that you have to stop and think was kind of risqué for the time, especially that closing line, “well, nobody’s perfect.”

Psycho (1960, Hitchcock)

I will say most Hitchcock films can be ranked incredibly high on my personal favorite list. There are just so many reasons this film deserves the love, first upon release it was completely snubbed by critics. Oh yeah and this was after Hitch gave up almost everything to get the film made. The studios thought the idea was too vulgar, a toilet shown on camera! Heaven forbid. So it was up to him to work with what he had to get it produced, to the point he almost lost his house. Did I mention this completely redefined the slasher genre? And it’s one of the few films that gives you a heroine to follow and then kills her off, forcing you to identify with Norman Bates… yeah creepy.

Courtesy of www.imdb.com

Courtesy of www.imdb.com

The Graduate (1967, Nichols –no relation)

A film that even today’s audience might be able to relate to. A disillusioned college graduate finds himself drifting through life. Maybe less relatable in the storyline about being seduced by an older woman but finds himself torn when he falls in love with her daughter. If you turn this into a metaphor of wanting to stick to what is older and more familiar with embarrassing new changes in life it might make a little more sense. Mrs. Robinson might be one of the more complex and sympathetic females (yes I said sympathetic) to ever grace the screen.

The Godfather Parts 1 and 2 (1972-1974, Coppola)

So fun fact, I’m half Italian and a distant cousin of mine was up against Al Pacino for the role of Michael Corleone; but that’s not why this film is special to me. First off, what an ensemble cast and everyone brings their A-game. Visually it’s candy for the eyes with brilliant choices in framing and lighting. But even if you’re not a cinephile there’s a great story to go with it that can captivate you for six hours and fifteen minutes (let’s face it, you’re going to watch both in one sitting). At its root part one is about a father who leads a life of crime and his sons, one of whom has evaded the streets, even becoming a war hero. Then slowly he’s pulled into the world of crime and the hero turns into a monster. The scene where Michael says “I’m with you now,” and Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) has a single tear fall, is all the audience needs to know that this is the beginning of the end. Some argue part two tops its predecessor because Coppola was given more artistic freedom, personally I don’t think you can have the second without the first but at the same time part two embellishes part one which is why both are works of perfection.

Tune in next week for more of Heather’s 10 Star Films as well as her 0 Star Films.