Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for allowing the first episode of the Fuds on Film podcast into your entertainment diet. We promise to provide tasty chunks of film commentary as we consider an assortment of topics, starting with our favourite films. Hopefully this will give you an idea of the sort of things that we like to see, and if that’s not too far away from your tastes, we should get on like a house on fire.
Y’know, screaming, people running for cover, calling the emergency services, that sort of thing.
Presented in no particular order, we start off with Orson Welles’ masterwork, Citizen Kane. While its inclusion will garner us no awards for originality, the message we’re trying to get across is that although it has a monstrous reputation for visionary brilliance, its story more than lives up to its technique, and that can sometimes get lost in the analysis of exactly how influential this has been. Brilliantly shot and a barnstorming central performance from Welles makes this a tremendously compelling watch, and the fact that it codifies what we think of as modern cinema only adds to what’s an already fabulous experience.
Ensemble performances don’t come any better than 12 Angry Men, as Henry Fonda’s Juror #8 refuses to condemn a young man to death without due consideration in a sweltering courthouse deliberation room. Faced against an array of jurors, some of whom are more concerned with getting home than accurately determining guilt, he lays out a case for the defence that the accused’s lawyer really should have done in an attempt to determine whether there’s reasonable doubt or not. Taking the bones of a dry courtroom procedural and transposing them into a setting where emotions can be more readily explored is a masterstroke, and the very human interactions of the cast produces great drama and tension.
There could really be any number and combination of Paul Thomas Anderson films on a list like this, but the one that’s made it is Boogie Nights, as we follow Marky Mark’s journey in the porn industry as it makes the transition from film to video. It showcases Anderson’s ability to pull out remarkably great performances from people you’d never expect capable of them, and it’s easily his most accessible film, despite the nominal subject matter. For a film ostensibly about the porn industry it’s remarkable how little titillation there is in the film, instead focusing on the human elements of the equation. A fine character piece.
Likewise, this list could have been composed entirely of Hitchcock films, including the incredible and well-celebrated North by Northwest, Vertigo, Psycho , or Rear Window amongst many, but the one that we’ve picked is the somewhat more obscure Rope. Closest to Rear Window, this adaptation of the play restricts itself to one room as two loathsome college boys murder a classmate, pop the body into a chest and proceed to host a dinner party, macabrely serving food on that very chest. Hinged on the performances of the two killers and James Stewart’s college professor that tumbles to their crime, it’s a showcase on building extreme tension from the most mundane of sources. There’s a tremendous technical element to the staging and shooting of the film that add an additional layer for those who appreciate it, but there’s plenty to admire in the base from a director who mastered the art of the thriller and who wrote the guidebook that we’re still following today.
A truly epic film next as we move on to David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, telling the story of T.E. Lawrence’s escapades during World War One as he instigates an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Taking as a subject matter one of the most interesting people who ever lived is a pretty solid start, and it’s built on peerlessly in every other element of the film. Peter O’Toole gives perhaps the best performance in film, along with perhaps the best cinematography in film, and, well, you get the idea. Expertly paced and, despite its length, devoid of any fat, watching Lawrence of Arabia is such an unparalleled treat that we wish there were more hours in the day to let us indulge in it more often.
The first animated film on our list is Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, adapted from Masamune Shirow’s manga. It’s a gorgeously realised tale of the chase of a computer hacker that’s causing political bother that turns into an exploration of the implications of artificial intelligence, cybernetics and transhumanism. While it has a number of deftly-handled action scenes, it’s the more philosophical bent that makes this something special and belies the stigma anime can suffer from of being too lightweight. While it wears its influences on its sleeves, there’s no denying that it’s also gone on to influence many science fiction films that followed it, both stylistically and narratively.
Speaking of influences, the most obvious one is Blade Runner, the next in our parade. Ridley Scott’s future noir follows a hard-boiled detective on the trail of murderous replicants attempting to find their creator and extend their lifespan. The dystopian, dark vision of the future shaped most of the sci-fi that followed it. The central narrative is arguably less important than the atmosphere that’s built, with this being one of the most remarkable pieces of world-building in cinema. With a well-publicised slew of production issues, now that we have Scott’s Final Cut and a careful restoration we can enjoy this remarkable piece as it was envisioned, and we highly recommend that you do so.
There’s plenty more where that came from, but given the running time of this podcast we figured we’d better give you a bit of an intermission. We’ll have part two with you in our next exciting episode, but until then we’d love it if you could give us your feedback, either on Twitter (@fudsonfilm), on our Facebook page (facebook.com/fudsonfilm), by email (email@example.com), or leave a comment on our site. If you’d like to help us out with a review on iTunes, we’d love you even more than we already do, which is loads.
Catch y’all for our next episode on the 1st of August!