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The Waffler's ABCs of Cinema

This article is part of Mettelray's "My Movie Alphabet" blogathon. The rules are simple, match each letter of the alphabet with something you love about cinema. Without further ado, here are The Movie Waffler's ABC's of cinema.




If there's a better series (i.e longer than a trilogy) of movies than the 'Planet of the Apes' saga, I sure haven't seen it. Even 2011's series reboot 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' was quality and I can't wait for the sequel. Now read on, you damn dirty human.

When I'm not ranting about movies I can be found DJing in a Dublin bar. Much of the material for my sets comes from the soundtrack albums of seventies blaxploitation movies. They're a treasure trove for lovers of soul, funk and disco.

Half the fun today of being a movie lover is being able to read so many different opinions of any given movie. The Internet has expanded film criticism to whole new levels and while many would argue this is a negative, it's great that criticism is no longer the domain of dullards like Maltin and Roeper. Some of the most well written criticism is often from those whose opinions I can't get behind. Pauline Kael and Armond White make me want to strangle them at times but their reviews are always a great read.

I've always envied American film buffs because of the drive-in culture, something which never really took off on this side of the Atlantic. I've only been to a drive-in once, in Dublin's Phoenix Park one summer, a double bill of 'Psycho' and 'The Exorcist', and it was a magical experience.

I won't pretend his films aren't hard work, but Eisenstein is probably the most historically important of all film-makers, thanks to his development of the technique of montage. Modern film-making truly began with his 1925 epic 'Battleship Potemkin'. Prior to this, movies hadn't really been truly silent, instead using title cards to tell the story with words. Eisenstein showed how you could really tell a story with images, thanks to the power of editing opposing images together to form a narrative.

Sadly, it's days are numbered, but the medium of film has stood the test of time for well over a century and, despite what cretins like Cameron, Lucas and Jackson would tell you, still hasn't been improved on. Before cinemas replaced their film projectors with a digital equivalent, a trip to the movies had a certain romance to it. Now it's just like watching TV on a bigger screen.

While most would argue Pacino, De Niro and Hoffman, for me the most talented of the new wave of seventies American actors was Elliot Gould. A truly unique presence who could turn an everyday act like eating breakfast cereal into a moment of great cinema.

Do I really need to comment?

Some people only watch major Hollywood films, something I've never understood. At a young age I began to discover the joys of Indie studios like New World Pictures, Medusa, and Avco Embassy, even to the point where I would scour the back of VHS covers in rental stores in search of those magical holographic labels. In the same way that MGM were identified with musicals, Warners with crime and Universal with Horror, the eighties low budget studios had their own identities too. New World usually meant great cheesy monster movies, Medusa always delivered on gratuitous nudity and Avco made the best slashers.

As a teenage movie geek, I followed Carpenter the way schoolgirls followed rock-stars. It's been twenty years since his last good movie, but when you've made the greatest movie ever, you're entitled to a few duds.

Thanks to word of mouth and the power of the internet, films just don't get advertised much anymore, a shame as one of the great joys of being a movie nut is admiring the great artwork that, in days gone by, promoted the medium. TMW celebrates this with our ongoing "Great Movie Posters" feature.

Cinema's first directors. When they filmed 'Workers leaving the Lumiere factory', they changed the world of entertainment forever.

One of Hollywood's greatest film-makers. Unfairly known mostly for his great musicals, Minnelli could also make a gritty drama with the best of them. For more, check out our retrospective of his work from "Minnelli May".

After WWII, American cinema took a dark turn, resulting in a new era of crime films featuring some of the most despicable central characters ever seen. The genre was a cinematographers dream, all shadows and expressionist lighting. It also provided some of the best roles for women, often portrayed as the smartest characters in these films.

Nobody will ever convince me that CG looks better than stop-motion. Give me the jerky physicality of Willis O'Brien's Kong creation over WETA's flat digital version anyday.

Censorship only hit Hollywood full on in 1934, following the introduction of the Hays code. Before that, film-makers had free reign to explore the most scandalous subjects, and they did. For more, check out our Pre-Code retrospective from this year.

What? Who likes queuing? Well I sure did as a child. Back then a big blockbuster meant arriving an hour before it began and queuing around the block with impatient parents. Best of all was if you had a bunch of your mates with you. By the time you got to order your popcorn you had already made up an alternate plot with your predictions of the delights that lay ahead. For those of you born in the nineties: a queue was once something you stood in, not something you add your Netflix selections to.

If there's one guarantee of cinematic quality it's the RKO logo appearing before a movie. They didn't have the financial clout of the major Hollywood studios but they made up for it by churning out quality low budget productions. Among the film-makers who got their break with the studio were Orson Welles, Jacques Tourneur, Robert Wise and Anthony Mann. Some of Hitchcock's best early American films were made under the RKO banner.

How can you not like Jimmy? He's one of those rarities, a great movie star who also happens to be a great actor. There's something about Stewart that makes you instantly take his side. When he scorns you for siding with cold-blooded killers at the end of 'Rope' he makes you feel shameful. When he yells angrily at his daughter in 'It's a Wonderful Life' he breaks your heart. When he runs his hands through his hair after needlessly massacring a pack of Indian braves in 'The Naked Spur' it changes the way you view the dynamics of the western. A legend.

Everyone loves a well made serious work of art but they're sadly few and far between. To fill the gaps though we can enjoy badly made pieces of trash. I concur with Pauline Kael who said "Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them."

Though I also love Hammer, you just can't beat the original Universal monsters. Which creature is my favorite? Well, I've always had a soft spot for the Gill Man, but the Mummy series is probably the most enjoyable.

My childhood pretty much revolved around the racks of numerous local video stores. Between the ages of ten and twenty I embarked on a quest to work my way through the stock of every store I came across and I would have done it too were it not for Xtravision (the Irish Blockbuster) putting them all out of business. I can still smell that sweet dusty plastic.

Along with Jazz, the Western is the great American art form. Of all the film genres, this is the one it's most difficult to screw up. Get the sets, location and costumes right and you're halfway there. It took a long time for it to get the respect the genre deserved but now film-makers like Hawks, Ford and Peckinpah are among the most revered.

Initially brought in by the MPAA to discourage film-makers indulging in adult themed work, the X rating actually inspired many a seventies sleazemeister to take things further just to acquire the cert. It became a great marketing tool, audiences curiosity peaked whenever a trailer ended with the immortal words "Rated X".

As my movie watching progressed over the years I started to notice little indicators of quality. One such signal of good times ahead is the choice of color on the opening credits. If the credits are yellow it's usually a sign you're in for a cracking good movie. Take my word for it.

With the recent overkill in the sub-genre, it's easy to forget that once there were zombie movies actually worth watching. The pinnacle of course is George Romero's original 'Dead' trilogy. Scares, laughs and social satire make them a must see. Also worth seeing are Dan O'Bannon's spoof 'Return of the Living Dead', the Spanish 'Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue', and Zack Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' remake. Yes folks, I actually just recommended a Zack Snyder film.



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