“Trees and people used to be good friends” | My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Japanese animation turns 100 years old in 2017. The art form initially flourished in 1917, as animators including Oten Shimokawa and Seitarou Kitayama produced short comedic films that ran for only a few minutes each. While the vast majority of those early animated shorts are now lost – due variously to time, humidity, earthquakes and ...

“Something new can come into this world” | John Carter (2012)

Mention the name Edgar Rice Burroughs to many people and they’ll immediately recognise him as the creator of Tarzan, the popular pulp hero of novels and film who endured throughout the 20th century as one of the world’s most popular fictional characters. Less well known that Tarzan, however, is John Carter. This Virginian Civil War ...

“This is true love” | The Princess Bride (1987)

‘As a writer,’ said William Goldman, ‘the only book I really like is The Princess Bride.’[i] Goldman’s original take on the classical fairy tale was first published in 1973. It was his eighth novel, although despite beginning his career as an author he had already made significant head-roads into writing for American cinema. Goldman’s first ...

“It’s a thousand years to Christmas” | Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

An audio version of this essay is available here. From the late 1970s the Walt Disney Studios went through a particularly bleak period. Their family films were not finding the success in cinemas that they used to enjoy. Their animated films were in a creative doldrums as the studio’s aging animators started to retire, and ...

“Well of course we talk, don’t everybody?” | Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

An audio version of this essay is available for download here. ‘There are no auteurs in musical pictures,’ said actor/director Gene Kelly. ‘It’s impossible. You have to have music and arrangements, a choreographer, a director and so forth.’[i] It would seem that good musicals require good partnerships to succeed, and if that is true then ...

“A fuzzy blue Charles Dickens” | The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

In 1843 Christmas in England was undergoing a process of change and re-evaluation. Its core purpose as a Christian festival remained central, however it was rapidly developing a broader significance as a commercial and family-oriented holiday. The tradition of placing a Christmas tree had only just gained popularity in Great Britain, following its well-reported use ...

“Kill da wabbit” | What’s Opera, Doc? (1957)

‘What’s Opera, Doc is one many Europeans adore,’ said animated film director Chuck Jones. ‘They call that my “masterpiece,” which it may or may not be; I didn’t think about it at the time.’[1] It’s not a surprise that Jones didn’t dwell excessively on What’s Opera, Doc (its title includes a question mark at the ...

“Something in the blood” | 28 Days Later… (2002)

When is a zombie movie not a zombie movie? It’s a question that quite a lot of critics and viewer may have asked themselves when they saw Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later…, released in the UK in October 2002 before opening internationally over the subsequent twelve months (the USA got it in July 2003, Australia ...

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled” | The Usual Suspects (1995)

A group of convicted felons meet each other at a police line-up, and agree to undertake a violent robbery. They then find themselves in the grips of the anonymous gangster Keyzer Söze, and are blackmailed into undertaking a near-suicidal mission. The Usual Suspects is a cleverly constructed puzzle of a film, and as such any ...

“Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit” | The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

In 1898 the British government commissioned a railway bridge to be built across Kenya’s Tsavo River. A large crew of African and Indian workers were supervised by the Irish engineer Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson. Over the course of the year, however, one worker after another were taken in the night. Before long the source ...

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