And This Is Spinal Tap can be recited nearly word-for-word by almost everyone who has ever worked with or performed as a musician.
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Sometimes even a huge mainstream film has a sub group of particularly devoted followers. Star Wars may be the most popular film of all time, but within its general popularity is a hard-core of devotees. While I think this is a fascinating incident, so much ink has already been pressed on Star Wars I felt it more practical to devote entries to lesser-known films. Conversely, enormous passion attached to a film can be disproportionate to the number of viewers; ie very big love from a very small crowd.
There are films so rarely seen they are more myth than masterpiece, particularly controversial films more often discussed than actually viewed. I illustrated this by including the film The Day the Clown Cried. Likewise I hope you will think of some personal favourites whose absence annoys you. In doing so, you are well on your way to defining your own cult criteria and building your personal list. Like so many cult films, this production was initially considered a box-office failure. Its cult popularity grew by word of mouth and the advocacy of American ubercritic Pauline Kael.
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This is a brilliant and lively spoof of the sci-fi superhero genre. Visually and aurally rich, it bears multiple viewings, yielding fresh surprises each time. And it has Jeff Goldblum dressed as a cowboy. He also has his own quasi boy-scout organisation: The Blue Blazers. The film opens with team Banzai preparing to launch a rocket car in the desert flats. Unfortunately, test pilot Banzai is missing, off recruiting a top surgeon Jeff Goldblum.
I can dance. The jet car is launched at break-neck speed directly at the mountain. A blue beam from the car zaps the mountain and, rather than crash, the car appears to be absorbed into the mountain.
The hero and his jet then rematerialize on the other side of the mountain, unharmed. The rest of the film involves an alien species, called Lectroids, who inhabit the eighth dimension. Black Lectroids, who appear to humans as Rastafarians, are good, while the bad Red Lectroids appear as typical white males.
Christopher Lloyd and Dan Hedaya also turn up in hilarious performances as two of the aliens John Bigboote and John Gomez respectively. Lizardo is on the loose on Earth, they threaten to wipe out the entire planet. They give Buckaroo 24 hours to capture or kill him lest they be forced to annihilate the earth. It is so rich with quick, odd bits of detail that you sense that each hints at a richer story.
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The only way to pack so much into a minute movie, is to simply discard structure and continuity. It is smart, energetic, infectious, truly odd fun. I first saw it on video release in and, for reasons I still cannot explain, I watched it five times in a single weekend. I think much of sci-fi is dependant on heroes who embody a specific ideal. The attraction of the Buckaroo character is that he embodies the ultimate fantasy: of simultaneously being everything at once. I only wish it had been produced.
The entire genre of Japanese Anime is a cult unto itself. I hesitate in limiting the inclusion of Anime entries to a thousand films, let alone one. As no list would be complete, I simply give you the undisputed classic: Akira. Set in a post-holocaust Japan, a repressed society begins to uncoil, governmental psiops programs are in progress, and two motorcycle gang members and an escaped young boy become the catalysts for a new world order. Gang leader Kaneda and his friend Tetsuo battle a rival gang.
Tetsuo is seriously injured and taken to a military hospital, where he becomes the subject of a secret army experiment in ESP that renders him able to destroy anything by sheer will. The plot can be too complicated for its own good, becoming somewhat entangled in the ideas it is juggling, with too many subplots and minor dramas to maintain focus.
If you want to fully appreciate Akira, I suggest you watch it at least three times so you can fully piece together all the elements. This rarely happens. The animation is stunning — burning from the neon of NeoTokyo, where giant advertising hoardings float over huge skyscrapers and bustling street markets while motorbikes paint streaks of light across the motorways. Akira is the true spirit of cyber-punk — anarchic, intense, dark and virtually crackling with sheer energy. One of the things that stands out in this movie is the detail.
The texture on buildings, realistic lighting effects and constant movement in the background make the film extremely atmospheric. A superb soundtrack by Shoji Yamashiro reinforces the effect. The characters move fluidly and realistically.
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Likewise, elements of dialogue and emotional subtext really are lost in the bare-bones translations. It brought the anime genre into the mainstream. It had a deep stylistic influence not just on animated action features, but also on sci-fi generally. The resemblance between Akira and The Matrix is not coincidental. The creators of The Matrix , the Wachowski brothers, have enthusiastically cited Akira as an influence. This film is a glorious risk.
The audacity of vision, and the cost overruns to achieve it, represent a gamble that independent filmmakers rarely approximate. Timely in its releases, and enduring in popularity for 20 years, Apocalypse Now is a series of overwhelming images underscoring complex themes. How is it that a big budget classic can attain cult status? Some films can attain mainstream popularity while maintaining a devoted cadre of aficionados.
Apocalypse Now carries a certain resonance in American pop culture. Even its complicated production history has achieved near mythical status, spawning a popular documentary about the making of the film, Hearts of Darkness Further, the excitement that surrounded the Apocalypse Now Redux release affirmed its cult status, with a devoted audience expanding their experience of the film. Captain Benjamin L.
A renegade officer, Colonel Walter E.
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Kurtz Marlon Brando , is conducting a personal war with his own army outside the boundaries of operations in Cambodia. Corman G. Kurtz must be terminated. With extreme prejudice. Along the way, he has many encounters that make him realise the insanity and horror of Vietnam. The helicopter raid sequence is perhaps the best fifteen or twenty minutes ever committed to film.
An atrocity committed against a Vietnamese fishing boat is reminiscent of My Lai. The best equipped army cannot defeat a nation armed with the deepest conviction and no army can defeat an opponent who understands them completely. The horror and savagery lie not in the jungle, but in American culture. In this regard the movie is both beautiful and horrific, surreal yet authentic.