Now for the page that will look at performers, movies and certain themes or characters. This will be done through the format of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to travel from the black and white films kind of harking back to Kansas to the glorious use of colour to represent Oz.
So along the way I’ll look at the best non-colour films, the best witches, leading ladies and so on. It’ll be a movie journey covering as many angles as I can muster!
Right, we better start at the beginning. The world of Kansas awaits and to try and fit with the brown sepia style the Gale’s farmhouse was shot in, I’ll go down that sort of road and put down some movies without colour. So now it’s time to look at five great black and white movies:
These aren’t in any particular order but are my favourite movies that utilise the lack of colour to tell their story. Also apologies from the outset as guiltily, I still haven’t seen ‘Casablanca’ or ‘Schindler’s List’ so they don’t appear here.
I’ll start with a film that jumps on the film noir trail and sets it ablaze with interesting dynamic storytelling.
Crammed full of shadows, intrigue and murky murder danger in the entangled beauty of ensnarement offered by Stanwyck’s Phyllis. The opening shot layered with the movie’s titles are enough to tell this is a vision of thriller brilliance.
A crutched Walter walks towards the camera through black and white mystery and smoke. A powerful image and the film is stuffed with them, lines representing bars entrapping Walter Neff’s life, the voice over narration that categorises the style of film noirs.
A true great thriller and to read further on this film and my thoughts, head on over to my review for ‘Double Indemnity‘.
Next up is an early film of the 1920’s. 1922 to be precise and one that still stands the test of time in horror terms.
A perfect vampire horror movie with an outstanding performance from Max Schreck as the take on Dracula called Count Orlok. The German Expressionist ways at the time of this film’s making helps in Schreck becoming the tall spindly spider like vampire.
It’s sufficient to say he looks the part and the shadowy castle he inhabits becomes an increasingly worrying place to stay for the audience and Hutter. A menacing early example of a staple horror character that didn’t need to even speak to cause chills.
What with the time of the film’s production the appearance of this German movie is very atmospheric with the extended style of objects and black crooks of floors or doors representing the depressing aftermath of Germany after WW1. The shadows in general are brilliant throughout creating a great look that identifies itself to this day.
The iconic image of Orlok making his way to Ellen after sailing away from his home on Transylvania. This properly shows the spindly animalistic feel of the vampire and Schreck’s embodiment of becoming the character helps you believe this horror all the more.
Now for a film as far removed from the horror genre as possible and far away in years also.
A modern movie with a charming dazzling beauty in black and white. The beautiful idea of creating a silent movie for nowadays must have been a daring move but it certainly pays off. It’s a sweet, funny and emotional tale at times as the rise of the talkies pushes the famous star out of the spotlight. The two leads; Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo carry this whirlwind of a bygone era with such grace and ease. Dujardin portrays a Valentino-esque humour and look in his leading man role and Bejo becomes the glamourous sidekick soaring to first lady status. It’s when they come together that the most sparks and magnitude bubble to the surface and make you smile.
Also, the dream sequence moment found within this film is inspired and a fascinating touch to the threat of sound on the career of George. From the clink of glass to the echoes of voices it’s a stirring moment that questions what the influence of a new mode of cinema may have had on people, even if in the long run it became a groundbreaking tool.
A truly great black and white film that deserved it’s Oscar success, a great twinkling score to match and great performances that make this film feel like it’s travelled forward in time to arrive here and break up the usual movie releases.
For the next film in this category, I’m going down a biopic road and looking at the effect of black and white to tell the story of Jake LaMotta.
The choice made by Scorsese to have this sporting drama in black and white is great and helps make it feel all the more real, as if we are watching a true documentary of LaMotta. The performances of course help make the film feel more realistic and De Niro is in one of his best roles as the boxer. The debut acting role for Moriarty as the character Vickie is great and she acts opposite the troubled Italian American with confidence and brings a grounded sense of the notion of home and love amongst a turbulent marriage.
The black and white also works in making the violence of boxing bouts coming across more as an impact of obsession and danger.
Read my review of ‘Raging Bull‘ to find out what else I had to say!
The fifth inclusion of this black and white list and even if it does include splashes of vivid reds, blues etc, it’s predominantly washed of colour to look grimy, stylish and seedy.
A dark and bloody comic book story that uses black and white to really portray its graphic novel origins. The film does have its uses for colour but it’s in its shadows and gloomy greys and blacks that the world of Basin City becomes the dangerous murderous place it is. It’s expressionistic in its own manner with silhouettes of characters moving as if jumping from the pages of Frank Miller’s story.
A great example of how black and white becomes stylistic as the jail feels like a never ending world of bars.
The violent and gleeful nature of this ass-kicking, dirty and adult action looks all the more intriguing and special in the black and white world it’s presented to us in. The actors too are like drawn characters from a book and there’s something in their lack of colour that makes this dodgy world of sin, sex and death feel more believable because it’s not so over the top with bright confusing colours.
I have no reason for the above image, just the fact that Jessica Alba as Nancy stills looks great in black and white and here’s hoping ‘Sin City A Dame to Kill For’ will be just as great as the first.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Not part of the main list but films that are black and white and are important in their own ways to not completely slip the net of my attention and so here they are.
I don’t really like this film and to be frank in my own opinion, I find it overrated but I can understand it’s appeal to some in the stylish black and white terror of Bates and the bold move in killing off of a main character early on. I can also see that at the time of release it would have been majorly scary and different and a new step for Hitchcock to take in terms of movie making.
‘WORKERS LEAVING THE LUMIERE FACTORY’
The first moving picture of its kind and released for projection. The Lumiere brothers helped film start and this simple static documentary style short helped audiences see that a new medium of entertainment was available to make. The hurried and numerous movements of workers would have been groundbreaking for people then to see, just in the way of actually seeing people recorded. A feat of film work that kickstarted movies and these French inventors should always be remembered.
Now to pass onto a brief overview of actresses who are some of the best in the world of film. This will be put across in a top 10, though not a list as I just don’t think I could ever work out an order! This is to reflect the captivating leading lady status of Judy Garland in ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
June 22nd 1949 –
Notable Films: Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, The Devil Wears Prada, Mamma Mia
Academy Award wins/nominations: 3 / 18
Other award wins: 116
An outstanding great of film and theatre, a powerful figure of a woman who gets fully into the roles of her characters and steals the show in pretty much all the movies she appears in. A true star who can act across the board of genres.
August 20th 1974 –
Notable Films: Junebug, Enchanted, The Fighter, American Hustle
Academy Award wins/nominations: 0 / 5
Other award wins: 42
A dazzling rising star with a knack for getting her teeth into interesting characters. I can’t see it being too long until she finally scoops her first deserved Oscar as she is one of the finer actresses in work at the moment.
February 27th 1932 – March 23rd 2011
Notable Films: Father of the Bride, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cleopatra, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Academy Award wins/nominations: 2 / 5
Other award wins: 43
A proper siren and icon of the silver screen with a feisty interesting nature to match her acting presence. It was definitely her role as Martha in Edward Albee’s play adaptation that showcased how magnetic she was and her chemistry with Richard Burton was obviously electric.
September 30th 1975 –
Notable Films: Taxi, La Vie en Rose, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises
Academy Award wins/nominations: 1 / 1
Other award wins: 25
A classic actress who is superb at portraying the deeper threads of emotion with her eyes alone. She can possess sultry sex appeal one minute and flawed emotional vulnerability the next. Her later mainstream roles still come with engaging performances and she is certainly captivating all the time.
April 15th 1959 –
Notable Films: In the Name of the Father, Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee, Saving Mr Banks
Academy Award wins/nominations: 2 (1 for writing) / 5
Other award wins: 30
A barmy yet brilliant actress with the additional skill of writing great scripts. She too, like Streep can truly become a character and I doubt anyone else but Thompson could have brought some likeability to PL Travers in ‘Saving Mr Banks’. A thoroughly fantastic female performer and writer.
November 5th 1913 – July 8th 1967
Notable Films: Gone with the Wind, Anna Karenina, A Streetcar Named Desire
Academy Award wins/nominations: 2 / 2
Other award wins: 5
A beauty and classic actress from a bygone era who demonstrated the raw emotional talent that made Blanche one of the best female characters come alive on screen. A layered and hard role to start with from Tennessee Williams’ play and she took it on with conviction for the movie and she’s brilliant.
June 9th 1981 –
Notable Films: Leon: The Professional, Closer, V For Vendetta, Black Swan
Academy Award wins/nominations: 1 / 2
Other award wins: 46
Talented. Smart. Beautiful. Funny. Other positive adjective words. Portman can bring a character to life and has the acting chops for comedy or drama. Her turn in Black Swan is just dedicated finesse and her debut role for Leon is brilliance, young child star fun, sadness and confident brilliance. An actress of our time that could grow and grow.
May 12th 1907 – June 29th 2003
Notable Films: The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, On Golden Pond
Academy Award wins/nominations: 4 / 12
Other award wins: 26
A name synonymous with movies though being honest I haven’t ever got round to seeing a film with her in though of course I know of her and have seen clips where she possesses the gift of acting with ease. A star of that time and her fame and name still stand true nowadays.
July 26th 1945 –
Notable Films: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and her Lover, Elizabeth I, The Queen
Academy Award wins/nominations: 1 / 4
Other award wins: 20
A mature actress who comes with the amazing stage trained background, the theatrical edge that lifts a lot of her roles. Immersing herself as the Queen of England to the Shakespearean characters seems to come easy to her and it’s true to say there’s still a glint in her eye as she appears in films to the present day.
November 22nd 1984 –
Notable Films: Lost in Translation, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Avengers
Academy Award wins/nominations: 0 / 0
Other award wins: 11
She may not have the high up award recognition as the others but I really believe Johansson is an actress that lights the screen up when she comes on. She comes with ultra sex appeal, a look and movement that adds dimension to the characters she plays and for example in The Girl with the Pearl Earring she brings subtly, beauty and held back emotion to a quiet yet interesting persona.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: I could so easily add a great many more actresses to this list but I wanted to keep it as streamlined as possible, but what follows are a few more leading females who can’t not be mentioned in terms of acting, star quality and fame.
I could easily go on but then I may as well have created a top 20. It’s so hard to whittle it down to a top anything when you give yourself that target. I could still easily put Grace Kelly, Isla Fisher, Carey Mulligan, Nicole Kidman and others on here…but I won’t. I’ll mention them and move on!
After the songbird spotlight from Garland and ‘Over the Rainbow’ we best move onto the whirling tornado that sweeps into Kansas. What better way to represent this change in the weather of the 1939 movie than to look over disasters and natural devastations highlighted in films.
It seems like a tornado featuring as the main threat of a film doesn’t work to great effect. It does what is says on the tin but aside from that it’s just escapist silly fun to see characters fleeing from a funnel of deadly wind.
You have the 1996 film ‘Twister’.
Starring: Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, Cary Elwes
Directed by: Jan de Bont
Moving on to a more recent offering you get the completely barmy ‘Sharknado’!
Starring: Tara Reid, Ian Ziering, John Heard
Directed by: Anthony C. Ferrante
Outrageous B-movie fun with a the title truly giving you what it says, so stupid and cult like now it is that a sequel is on the way later this year.
Tornadoes in films – 4 perhaps 5 out of 10. (They don’t really hold the film together and it makes the movie sink from the outset to a stupid lounging out movie to watch, a popcorn flick natural disaster)
Clearly the idea of a volcano can make for a hugely tense and threatening set of events and it’s also one disaster that proves entertaining for some reason even if the story feels weak the spectacle of a volcano in movies is always great.
There’s nothing more clear than with the most recent example starring Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow.
Starring: Kit Harrington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland
Directed by: Paul W S Anderson
A silly lump of cheese plot that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt if there’s any chance of swallowing the nonsense within, at least there’s some degree of cool in seeing Vesuvius blow its lid.
Then you have the more crisis evasion story of Jones tackling the flow of lava in the 1997 film of the simply titled film, ‘Volcano’.
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Don Cheadle, Anne Heche
Directed by: Mick Jackson
It didn’t pick up any nods for the production values but it still stands the heat in some ways as a fun exciting model of cheesy blowout disaster movie making.
I think I’m some trend here that natural disasters in movies make for causes of cheesiness, it just happens. Maybe the next theme can buck that trend.
I think we’re onto something here, as with these two examples at least we have some causes of real interest, heartbreak and genuine non cheesy film work.
Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor
Directed by: J A Bayona
A stunningly wrenching movie of emotion and distraught odds taking in the impact of the tsunami in Thailand. With Watts’ powerful performance and award nominations left right and centre this film proved that natural threats in movies can be taken seriously.
Starring: Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
A thought provoking and eco warrior stance on the biblical tale with some true dark moments and some interesting CGI columns of Godly rain that sends the ark on its way. Click NOAH to read my review.
Starring: Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters
Directed by: Ronald Neame
Another film that came with award nominations and a feat of natural disaster making that created hugely special visual effects. The updated version with Kurt Russell may obviously look more polished but it’s by no means better or as good. This 1972 original is just great and is one of the all time disaster movies.
Maybe we’re heading back into over dramatic fare with this next one but in places it works in playing on the fear of a world we recognise becoming terrifyingly bleak.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Emmy Rossum
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
It perhaps uses too much effects but there are some chilling moments within and the whole idea of a world becoming lost to deadly climate changes is a worryingly real one, if not far fetched at times.
It seems then that when movies use dramatic style natural disasters to fill their stories that something silly or nonsensical stirs up, visuals may look great and ideas may be alright but they’re more popcorn entertainment fodder than serious explorations of work, bar the case of ‘The Impossible’ and ‘Noah’ both truly in the flood realms.
COLOUR IN FILMS
To get from the whirling tornado of Kansas to Oz sees the world of the 1939 movie awash with colours of the rainbow so what better way to comment on this next step in the classic musical by looking at the use of colour in films from then to now.
We may as well start with ‘The Wizard of Oz’ the first big movie of its time to employ the progressive stages of Technicolour to really sell the world Dorothy lands in. In Frank L. Baum’s book Oz is described with every colour imaginable and this film needed the introduction of colour to make the land come alive, otherwise what would have been of the yellow brick road to travel along?
It just looks impressive as a set and to have witnessed this switch from the gray of Kansas to the dazzling colourful introduction of Munchkin Land when the film was first released must have been something else! Apparently the production team for this movie spent over a week deciding on the final shade for the yellow brick road, the arrival of colour was to be taken seriously it seems!
How dull would the above image have looked if the film had been released before the rising trends of using colour? From the necessary yellow to the needed green to paint Emerald City this film wouldn’t live like it does without all the colour. Not only does the colour make the change from her farm house more impressive it started showing that films could work using colour for the majority of its running time. Yes the film didn’t do great box office and only thrived thanks to the influx of TV arriving in the late 50’s, but seeing this world of Oz in 1939 must have been a lot to take in as it was so different.
The final proof of colour that has become an iconic prop/costuming image for all time. The classic red ruby slippers that adorn Garland’s feet after accidentally killing the Wicked Witch of the East. These would have been some boring dark grey without Technicolor and not the glittering scarlet shoes they have become in movie/pop culture.
Not only did the colour for this film start showing how it could be used for future releases it helps show the link to what this all is for Dorothy in the end and how the land of Oz is a bright new world for her to explore and find herself in after the usual familiar place of Kansas. The colour becomes a tool to mirror her incredible fantastical quest.
Travelling quite a distance in time backwards from this MGM movie we find ourselves seeing a short film by George Melies in the year of 1902.
The French silent film, ‘Le Voyage Dans La Lune’ or ‘A Trip to the Moon’ was predominantly released by Star Film Co. as a black and white feature but there are versions that are coloured so imagery throughout is seen with characters wearing colourful clothes are the flames around the moon itself being red and yellow instead of shades of black and gray.
You can see the difference in the lower picture seeing the ship as a coppery brown with the boarding ladies waving bright yellow hats that wouldn’t have had any glowing impact in the standard black and white format. It’s all the more impressive that a short film of so long ago, not too long after the medium of film came along that colour was being experimented with and used.
The colour itself was achieved by hand drawing over prints of Melies’ work and that took a lot of time and effort working under hot lights to see the clips needed for painting. It’s a colour version that could have been lost entirely after Melies tried burning the black and white negatives of this short movie in 1923 making people fear the colour one could be lost forever. 70 years after that they managed to find the colour print in Spain and restored it from its damage over time.
Well worth the watch to see a first use of colour and dedication to tell a short story and one of the initial sci-films to ever grace screens too.
The first use of colour for animation was only a couple of years before ‘The Wizard of Oz’ came along and it of course is a Walt Disney picture.
The first feature film for animated storytelling told with cel-animation; hand drawn storyboards and filled with colour to emphasise the now iconic rosy red lips and cheeks of Snow herself and of course the same deep red for the poisoned apple.
The first of its kind and where would the movie world be now without the kickstarting methods of animation and colouring found in this 1937 all time Disney classic.
The well known and used formatting of Technicolour in films was growing in popularity and it became a hugely used thing for musicals to really push home the bright razzle dazzle feel of these types of genre movies. It was a dye transfer process that was used to insert colour into prints. This method started dying out, (no pun intended) around the 1960’s and the last movie released with said method involved was an all time gangster favourite in 1974.
The second in the ‘Godfather’ trilogy and this Sicilian family with the added backdrop of Vito Corleone as told by Robert De Niro has it’s bold moments of sepia tones to emphasise the necessary murky gangster tones of this feature by Francis Ford Coppola.
To journey along quite some distance we find ourselves in 1993 with the mode of colour now being used as a motif to the story.
I’ve never seen any of the films from this ‘Three Colors’ trilogy but I have heard of the set and want to get round to watching them all to see how the use of colour is handled.
It now shows that film is no longer using colour to just have it but colour has taken on its own life and is being used for themes and ideas to put across to the watcher.
A more recent film that uses colour a lot is ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’.
This is a great film and highly disturbing at times concerning the weird tendencies of Kevin but it works so well in picking a colour and using this as repetitive image to discuss inner thoughts and feelings relating to the characters. This colour is red and obviously it symbolises the twisted blood like nature of Kevin’s evil but there can be warmth and romance to it also and you kind of get that now and then in this film. From jam to tomato soup cans and from paint to blood the red theme connects as a tormenting blot of colour that Tilda Swinton’s character can’t get rid of.
Another film that takes on a colour and runs with it is earlier than the above and the first in a trilogy of sci-fi films.
A lot of ‘The Matrix’ is heavy with green which is very apt for a sci-fi and builds up that technological feeling but further under the surface it can feel cold and alien adding a sense of dread and illness threatening the plot of the 1999 movie.
It is sufficient to say that colour rules how we see film and after looking it as only a fascinating new invention it can now be utilised and studied as a process of deeper meanings and ideas. I wonder where else the world of colour may lead us and the army of filmmakers to after it being introduced nearly 75 years ago.
Upon her dramatic entrance to the Technicolour world of Oz, Dorothy is shown that her Kansas farmhouse has landed on and squashed someone, but no worries. Don’t panic, it’s just a wicked witch and joyous rapture proceeds as it’s a blessing and a heroic thing that this girl has done in her floating house having killed someone. On this theme I think it’s best to look at the iconic imagery of houses used in movies.
ICONIC LEVEL: 10/10
OCCUPANTS: 1 sinister motel proprietor and his mother?
WELCOME LEVEL: Stay the hell away!
WHAT’S IT WORTH?: Maybe £500’000 for twisted buyers, highway investors or your life if you’re a young blonde.
MOVIE: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
ICONIC LEVEL: 7/10
OCCUPANTS: Leatherface and good ol’ Grandpa.
WELCOME LEVEL: Also stay away unless you’re evil and hungry for human flesh.
WHAT’S IT WORTH?: Probably less than £350’000, it’s out of the way and think of all those bones you have to chuck out.
MOVIE: Home Alone
ICONIC LEVEL: 7.5/10
OCCUPANTS: Kevin, his mum, dad, two brothers and two sisters.
WELCOME LEVEL: Homely and grand unless you happen to be an inept burglar.
WHAT’S IT WORTH?: $1.58 million it was actually sold for.
MOVIE: American Psycho
ICONIC LEVEL: 6/10
OCCUPANTS: 1 deranged investment banker.
WELCOME LEVEL: Not too high unless you are a prostitute or someone who appreciates Bateman’s music collection.
WHAT’S IT WORTH?: Well over £10 million if pushed though actually, that’s none of your business, but I can assure you, it certainly wasn’t cheap.
MOVIE: First seen in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
ICONIC LEVEL: 8/10
OCCUPANTS: The Weasley Family.
WELCOME LEVEL: Open arms, sit down and have a tea, unless you’re invited to a wedding there then perhaps say you’re busy.
WHAT’S IT WORTH?: Who knows in Muggle money but it’s a family home and that’s all that should matter.
MOVIE: Monster House
ICONIC LEVEL: 5/10
OCCUPANTS: Nebbercracker and his wife, ‘woooo-oooh’.
WELCOME LEVEL: Sort of okay unless you’re a child.
WHAT’S IT WORTH?: A personal build so maybe would have been quite a lot but not anymore!
ICONIC LEVEL: 9/10
OCCUPANTS: 1 crotchety old man wanting to travel.
WELCOME LEVEL: Good after you make time to fly to Venezuela and fight off a traveller and a pack of dogs with him.
WHAT’S IT WORTH: If you can get to it then maybe a lot for it’s unique flying function.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The Silence of the Lambs
MAGIC IN THE MOVIES
As Dorothy is now in Oz and has had her feeling of not being in Kansas anymore she sees and hears movement but before those li’l guys and dolls enter the fray she meets upon the Good Witch of the North – Glinda.
At this point Miss Gale finds out that only bad witches are ugly, that she now owns a new pair of shoes from said bad ugly witch and to get home she should really follow that spiralling yellow brick road that luckily starts right where she lands in Oz.
To try and mirror this introduction of the decked in pink fairy/witch protector of Dorothy I shall look over the use of magic in movies from magical characters to moments of magic in film.
The White Witch/Queen
Appears in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Played by Tilda Swinton
Possesses a truly wicked sense of badness in wanting to keep Narnia caked in snow, her desire for endless winter leaves her hating the other magic folk and specifically Aslan. Uses magic to turn good characters into stone statues, can magic up a delicious gift of Turkish Delight too.
Appears in all the ‘Harry Potter’ movies
Played by Emma Watson
A mudblood but that makes no difference as she proves to be one of the best determined students at Hogwarts. Has brains and wits to come up with ideas and uses magic to help her friends. A bright and talented witch with only good on her mind.
Appears in ‘The Prestige’
Played by Christian Bale
A tricky and intelligent lower class man with a knack for magic. Fares well in magic rivalries, especially when up against Robert Angier. Always looking for the next big thing he finds some impressive stage act with his transporting man routine. A clever magician with something big up his sleeve.
Appears in ‘Carrie’
Played by Sissy Spacek
Carrie doesn’t possess a trait of magic per say but her TK (Telekinesis) does the same powerful job. Can shift objects with her mind mostly when in times of personal anger. Don’t get on the wrong side of her or fear the bloody wrath that she can muster up.
Moving onto moments of magic in films where certain characters use their power or gift at a specific time.
Appears in ‘Matilda’
Played by Mara Wilson
This moment stands out because of the significance involved. Matilda has had hints of her magic powers but now she knows for sure she’s gifted and this fun giddy scene showcases her magic properly and captures that child-like wonder of discovery and amusement brilliantly.
Appears in all of the ‘Harry Potter’ movies
Played by Daniel Radcliffe
This true humongous feat by Potter features in the third of the HP franchise, ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ and involves in the time turner aspect of the narrative. It’s Harry’s biggest step up in protecting and it’s a bold brave move for him to make and the image of his patronus is a big visual. A powerful moment of magic for sure.
Merlin and Madam Mim
Appear in ‘The Sword in the Stone’
Voiced by Karl Swenson and Martha Wentworth
The impressive moment where the two magical characters face off and duel with the rule of turning into animals to try and defeat one another. The animation is amazing and demonstrates the vs. of good and evil and brains vs brawn to great effect. The transformations are epic and range from goats, snakes, dragons and germs!
Appears in ‘Bruce Almighty’
Played by Jim Carrey
There is too many moments of power mixed with stupidity to mention throughout this film but this soup-tastic discovery is a highlight. Nolan has found out he’s been handed the magic like qualities of God’s power and now explores this righteous gift with responsibility….no of course he does what a lot of us would do and has a bit of fun first!
Bruno from ‘The Witches’ turned into a mouse
Bilbo from ‘The Hobbit’ with the magic sword Sting
Elsa from ‘Frozen’ constructing her ice palace
‘Pans Labyrinth’ in just possessing that fantasy magic quality as a film
Next on the ‘Wizard of Oz’ agenda is tackling those musical guys and gals of the Munchkins and their fondness for speaking through song. Musicals are clearly the way forward for expressing emotions through lyrical behaviour though other films can be just as fun with a burst of song/dance thrown in for good measure. Here I shall look at some of the best examples.
A great harmony of comedy and classic barbershop style singing that arrives with the Brick ‘I love lamp’ Tamland stamp of approval.
500 DAYS OF SUMMER
A funky awesome dance sequence of the morning after great love-making! Joseph Gordon Levitt walks the city streets with great pizazz and the Hall and Oates tune is always a hit.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
One shocking use of song but delightfully so in making a classic song feel twisted and evil. The Gene Kelly musical number becomes unnerving and frightening and sets the tone of silly fun that Alex likes to have through violence.
Sort of bad but sort of funny, a forced karaoke scene from a brilliant movie. ‘Shaolin Soccer’ comes with visual feasts of fighting and football and comedy to rival American films.
Clearly a musical but this song lets the two lovers express their feelings of fondness through pop songs. Vocals are on point and the medley is one that builds to a great crescendo.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S
A soothing beautiful song sung with class and beauty by Audrey Hepburn. A moment of music that lets Paul fall in love with Holly Golightly.
A stunning film in general and the relationship between Theodore and Samantha is expressed with grace and touching tenderness through ‘The Moon Song’. A connection of man and technology that is utterly believable and this song helps that along.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Scarlett Johansson again showcasing her singing chops to hint at the beginning attractions of her and Bill Murray’s Bob. Cute, sexy and through the fun vibing Tokyo scene of karaoke it’s clear to see how these two lost individuals are connected.
THE CABLE GUY
Jim Carrey playing the demented annoying Chip who brings down the house through this awkward yet funny version of ‘Somebody to Love’ by Jefferson Airplane. That odd shaky echo vibrato is priceless. This song also works in being like some trip for Matthew Broderick’s character to experience getting lucky with Chip’s lady of the night.
A case in point of music bringing people together. Elton John’s well recognised song is used to masterful effect to see the tour bus united after a rift of sorts. All of them singing does bring about a case of the ol’ goosebumps.
Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel in ‘Elf’ singing in the shower room.
Mike Myers and friends headbanging to the rock supreme song of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in ‘Wayne’s World’.
Jason Segel and Walter kicking off the fun Muppets movie of 2011 with ‘Life’s A Happy Song’. Bonus points for Amy Adams.
Ariel singing ‘Part of Your World’ expressing the desire she has to see how humans live.
Michael Cera awkwardly performing ‘These Eyes’ at a strained house party in ‘Superbad’.
Songs truly do a lot to help lift the mood of a film and also let us in on character’s feelings at that specific point. Whether it is a musical or not, having a person break into song can be odd but it can also be a lot of fun and express emotions that would be too forced into exposition through dialogue otherwise.
That brilliantly loyal terrier Toto is such a furry ball of nice isn’t he, well actually played by a female Cairn Terrier named Terry shows how that old rule of never work with children or animals doesn’t always ring true. A number of films actually include a lot of animal work that helps the film soar ever higher. I shall look over a few differing animal actors in the following.
FILM: I Am Legend
Animal: German Shepherd dog
This dog takes a huge percentage of the emotional welly behind this ok zombie feature. A loyal protective dog looking out for Will Smith’s Robert Neville who comes into some dizzying sad story conflict that packs more punch than the climax of the movie itself.
FILMS: Babe & Babe: Pig in the City
A fun animal movie, or at least in the case of the 1995 first offering. Their uses of CGI with the farmyard gang but you can tell when real and cute piggies are being used and Babe is a great central star proving its worth as a sheepdog.
FILMS: Lassie Come Home, Courage of Lassie, Lassie’s Great Adventure, Lassie and more
ANIMAL: Collie dog
An iconic heroic female dog that is part of televisual and filmic history as the smart and helpful animal coming into lives of others and saving the day. A dog with a name that will forever stand the test of time.
FILMS: Free Willy and three unnecessary sequels
A great yet sad and dark tale is told throughout this 1993 film between a runaway foster lad and a theme park attraction killer whale. Keiko the orca who was Willy in this movie is literally a huge star with people going to his grave honouring the animal as the famous creature he was.
FILM: Racing Stripes
Obviously not a great movie and trying to emulate the style of ‘Babe’ in having a talking animal succeed at something unexpected but still fun and real zebras were used on set actually being ridden by Hayden Panettiere to tell the film’s racing story.
FILM: Born Free
FILMS: The Harry Potter franchise
ANIMAL: Snowy Owl
(technically CGI but forgive me as the tiger helped increase the quality of the film!)
FILM: Life of Pi
ANIMAL: Bengal Tiger
NAME: Richard Parker
Aside from a plentiful section of animated movies that like to position fun animals as the leads such as ‘Bolt’, ‘Dumbo’, ‘101 Dalmatians’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and more, it goes to show that including a real life animal of some description can actually pay off if you utilise their wiles wisely. A dog is always the safe bet as demonstrated nicely in ‘The Artist’ but other animals can be trained to film star status also and leave us with a talented critter to watch perform on the big screen.