#279. David Fincher

Many directors in Hollywood will stick to a particular genre, mainly because their artistic style matches well with the mood of the genre. Wes Craven directed horror, Charlie Chaplin directed silent comedies, Steven Spielberg directed science fiction, Alfred Hitchcock directed thrillers. In terms of modern directors, there are very few that have tackled the psychological thriller well. Christopher Nolan falls into this category, but David Fincher succeeds in this genre as well. What’s even more interesting is that Fincher seems drawn to film adaptations of stories and books. This is the niche where he excels as a director. There are a lot of books out there that cover some pretty dark material, and David Fincher’s artistic direction certainly brings that element out on the screen. This week’s two films highlight some of David Fincher’s best works.

The Social Networksocial_network_film_poster
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 120 minutes / 2 hours

While Fincher’s filmography is not extensive (he’s only directed 10 films), his skill is quite apparent. A number of his early films have attained cult status, including Se7en (1995) and Fight Club (1999), the latter of which was an adaptation of the book of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. In terms of recognition by the Academy, within two years, he directed films that were nominated for Best Picture, as well as Best Director. His first nominations were for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), which itself was based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, he didn’t win that year, but his second set of nominations came with The Social Network (2010), which was also based on a book (this time being The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich). Once again, he was passed over for an Oscar, but I know he’ll soon be nominated again . . . hopefully claiming a win along with it.

Jumping back-and-forth between the deposition of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), and the time he spent at Harvard, The Social Network’s tagline reads, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” Zuckerberg’s first enemy was none other than Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), the girl who dumped him. Fueled by anger and frustration, he created a website that compared the physical attractiveness of women on the Harvard campus. His next enemies would be the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer), who found out that he created a popular social networking site named Thefacebook after they had asked him to code a similar idea they had. As the social media empire expanded, his final enemy would be that of Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), the close friend who helped him start Facebook in the first place. Now he’s being sued and remains a lonely, apathetic man.

Se7enseven_28movie29_poster
Year: 1995
Rating: R
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours

As I mentioned before, one of the directors who directed thrillers was Alfred Hitchcock. David Fincher has directed thrillers as well, but his style is much darker. Perhaps this is due to the types of thrillers that he has chosen to direct. From the aforementioned Fight Club (1999), to the film adaptation of Gone Girl (2014) (based on the Gillian Flynn novel of the same name), these psychological thrillers really play with the audience’s mind. Even though mystery thrillers come closer to what Hitchcock has done in the past, Fincher’s mystery thrillers are considerably more violent, merely on their source material alone. Case in point: Zodiac (2007) and the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) (based on the novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson) both examine serial killers. One of his first films, Se7en (1995) certainly set Fincher’s style, as it’s a psychological mystery thriller.

Nearing retirement, detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is reluctantly paired with hot-shot detective, David Mills (Brad Pitt). Their first case involves a pair of murders, both of which are linked to two of the seven deadly sins: “gluttony” and “greed.” At these crime scenes, there are clues to the next murder: “sloth.” It is at this point that the two of them realize the killer has been taking an enormous amount of time to set up and execute these murders. Doing some research into the seven sins, they find John Doe (Kevin Spacey), who manages to escape. Meanwhile, the detectives are moments too late to prevent the murders of “lust” and “pride”. At this point, Doe surrenders willfully, but not without a few conditions. Revealing the location of the last two murders that have yet to take place, all three of them drive out to the middle of the desert to learn how “envy” and “wrath” will die.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fantastic Fincher films

Bacon #: 2 (Being John Malkovich / Sean Penn -> Mystic River / Kevin Bacon)

#236. Lengthy Running Times

In a world that is having an increasingly difficult time sitting still for an extended amount of time, any movie longer than 90 minutes can be a struggle to watch. Especially with the ubiquitous nature of smart phones shortening our attention spans, many of us won’t even bother watching a video that’s longer than seven seconds. Part of the solution many movies have resorted to in recent years has been to split films into two-parts so that they are easier to watch, instead of sitting through a four hour film. Other solutions have been to keep the pace of the plot set so fast as to keep the audience enthralled all the way to the end credits. This latter option often includes plenty of flashy and disorienting action to keep the excitement level at a point where viewers won’t glance at their watches. This week’s two films have lengthy running times, but are worth the watch if you can pay attention long enough.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Year: 1975Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 201 minutes / 3.35 hours

Movies with running times above 3 hours have been around since nearly the beginning of cinema itself. Many of these films were merely adapting the tenets of the theatre. With its plays and musicals, many theatre productions included overtures and intermissions. These plays and musicals were quite long, easily spanning several hours. This is why many lengthy films also followed suit by including overtures and intermissions for audiences to get up and stretch. While the latest notable film to have an intermission was made in 2001 (Pearl Harbor), quite a few films from the 1960’s and 1970’s had intermissions, even if they were cut out in home media. That being said, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) does not have an intermission, or fast-paced plot, or any exciting action. It merely has the life of a homemaker, revealed in near real-time.

Life as a single mother can be a regular series of events, repeated ad nauseum. For each of the three hours of this film’s running time, we get a glimpse into three days of Jeanne Dielman’s (Delphine Seyrig) life. There is cleaning to do, dinner to cook, and a bedroom “job” to perform to keep her and her son living comfortably. However, when the small details start to go awry, we see Jeanne slowly succumb to the stress she hides right beneath her stoic surface. Whether it’s the countless hours spent alone in the house or the exceptional standards of homemaking that she holds herself to, the subsequent days definitely show that she is almost at her breaking point. Finally, on the third day, Jeanne has a sudden release with one of her “clients”. Perhaps as a result, she cuts her session short in an unforeseen outburst of violence.

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Year: 2003The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Rating: PG-13
Length: 201 minutes / 3.35 hours

If there’s one thing that the Academy Awards likes, it’s a long movie. Often, the nominees for Best Picture are regularly over 2 ½ hours long, and will sometimes even break the three-hour mark. Additionally, some films of a particular series might have different release dates, but are considered as one, complete film when placed back-to-back. In these cases, franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings all could be considered singular films with running times at or over 12 hours long! In regards to the last series of the aforementioned list, which won Best Picture in 2003, the fact that it was shot all at once with the same actors gives credence to the thought that all three films are actually a single film split into three parts. With the “extended editions” of these films considered to be the true film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings story, get ready for a half-day movie marathon.

The third installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King follows Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) as they complete the final push into Mordor to destroy Sauron’s ring of power. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the Fellowship (established in the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)) bolster their forces to take on Sauron’s army. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) gains alliances of kings, both living and dead, and battles his way to Sauron’s front door. Having traveled a very long way and endured numerous obstacles and struggles, Frodo and Sam wearily make their way into Mount Doom, the source of (and therefore only way to destroy) the ring of power. As the battle heats up between good and evil, Gollum (Andy Serkis) sees his last chance to obtain the ring for himself. Will Sauron win in the end, or will Frodo be able to rid Middle Earth of the ring once and for all?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 movie marathons

#229. Terry Gilliam

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about animators after many years of viewing their work on YouTube, amongst other places, it’s that they are perhaps the most dedicated and artistic people around. Anyone can paint something, but when you have to paint that same thing over a million times, you make sure you know precisely what you are doing and what you want to do. And while there are plenty of amateur animators out there, the classically trained ones tend to stand out. Because animation can give you the flexibility to view things in whatever way you want, sometimes the best animators are the ones who have been educated in film so that they know the rules of traditional camera angles and shots and will then know how to obey or break those rules in their animation. While this week’s two films are not animated, they were directed by former animator, Terry Gilliam.

BrazilBrazil
Year: 1985
Rating: R
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

Very early on in his directing career, Gilliam set his artistic style and has stuck to it ever since. Perhaps due to his extended time working as an animator, many of his films are quite fanciful, filled with bizarre settings and characters. Even the most mundane of occupations can suddenly be given an artistic theme to differentiate it from an even more imaginary world. It’s easy to animate these crazy realms, but to achieve the same effect in live-action can be a bit more difficult. Nevertheless, Terry Gilliam has shown that it can be done with such films as Time Bandits (1981), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), 12 Monkeys (1995), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). This being said, while adhering to his style, his most controversial title was Brazil (1985), mostly due to the director’s vision not matching up with what studio executives wanted to release.

Working in the bureaucracy of the most banal of government positions, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) often finds himself daydreaming, imagining a more classical world where he is able to save the archetypical damsel in distress. When he is put on task to fix a mistake that led to the unintended death of an innocent man, he runs across Jill Layton (Kim Greist), the very same woman he had been fantasizing about. Even though they have never met, Sam knows they are meant to be together, even if she is hesitant. Transferring to another governmental position, Sam now has the access to Jill’s records and an opportunity to learn more about her. Unfortunately, the government soon comes after her, confirming her fears. Sam comes in and saves the day, but they are soon captured and tortured. While Gilliam’s ending is a bit depressing, the two do manage to escape, even if the reality is false.

Monty Python and the Holy GrailMonty Python and the Holy Grail
Year: 1975
Rating: PG
Length: 91 minutes / 1.52 hours

I have written earlier of Terry Gilliam’s work in animation, so I would be remiss if I did not mention his work with Monty Python. Those who have seen the television show, Flying Circus, will recognize Gilliam’s work in the oddball cut-out animations that often act as scene transitions between skits. When the comedy troupe made the transition to the big screen, Terry Gilliam was right there with them, co-directing Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) with fellow Python player, Terry Jones. While his iconic animation appears at a few points in the film, the traditional story of Arthurian legend was put on its head in the most amusing of fashions. Perhaps this was why, years later, Gilliam decided to direct another film based on stories from childhood, The Brothers Grimm (2005). Needless to say, Holy Grail stands as Monty Python’s crowning achievement.

King Arthur (Graham Chapman), riding alone with his squire, Patsy (Terry Gilliam), sets out to gather knights join him at Camelot. After collecting a handful of men, he dismembers the Black Knight (John Cleese) and arrives home, only to reconsider when he realizes that it is a “silly place”. At this point, heaven opens up and God commands them to find the eponymous Holy Grail. After an unsuccessful attempt at a French-controlled castle, the group splits up to cover more ground. As each member faces the challenges of the Knights who say Ni, a Three-Headed Giant, an Amazonian castle filled with women, and an unwanted wedding in Swamp Castle, they soon find they are no better off than before. Reforming the group, they find Tim the Enchanter (John Cleese) and proceed to face a deadly rabbit, Beast of Aaargh, and a perilous quiz before finally coming upon the Grail in the French castle again.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 terrific Terry Gilliam titles

Bacon #: 2 (Monty Python and the Holy Grail / John Cleese -> The Big Picture / Kevin Bacon)

#228. Robert DeNiro

We all know that Robert DeNiro’s acting career is practically synonymous with the films directed by Martin Scorsese. Films like Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), and Casino (1995) all helped establish Robert DeNiro as a de-facto mafia character actor. While he has used this to his benefit, the acting skills of DeNiro are much more varied than a flat, archetypical Mafioso. And while his career has followed a somewhat similar path to Christopher Walken, in that he had more serious roles earlier in his career, only to now play in more slapstick comedies, both men have been successful in their own rights. This week’s two films highlight some different roles Robert DeNiro has performed apart from the classic mobster roles: from stoic to silly.

The Deer HunterThe Deer Hunter
Year: 1978
Rating: R
Length: 183 minutes / 3.05 hours

The heyday of Robert DeNiro’s career was definitely in the mid-1970’s to early-1980’s. By the time he appeared in The Deer Hunter (1978), he had already won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather: Part II (1974). Before he was nominated for Best Actor in the 1978 Best Picture winner, he was also nominated for Best Actor in the aforementioned Taxi Driver (1976). And while he has received nominations for Best Actor in Awakenings (1990) and Cape Fear (1991), as well as Best Supporting Actor in Silver Linings Playbook (2012), his only other win has come through his long-time collaborator, Martin Scorsese. Raging Bull (1980) saw DeNiro acting at his best and Scorsese directing at his best. Still, The Deer Hunter was an important step for Robert DeNiro to eventually claim that gold statue.

The titular Deer Hunter is none other than Mike Vronsky (Robert DeNiro), a young man who lives in Pennsylvania with his two friends, Nick Chebotarevich (Christopher Walken) and Steven Pushkov (John Savage). Mike holds to the hunting mantra of “one shot”, and kills a deer with a single bullet on a hunting trip before the three friends are shipped off to the Vietnam War. Years later, they find themselves in a prison camp where the guards force the prisoners to play Russian roulette. In a risky move, Mike plays a round with three bullets and manages to take down his captors and escape. Another few years pass and Mike finds that Stephen has returned home, but Nick has not. Tracing Nick’s whereabouts, Mike ends up in Saigon right before its fall, finding Nick playing Russian roulette for money. Unfortunately, “one shot” is all it takes to settle things between the two of them.

BrazilBrazil
Year: 1985
Rating: R
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

While some actors can take their craft very seriously, Robert DeNiro seems to have fun with it. Of course, with as many violent and intense films as he has been in, it is refreshing to see him in some minor, bit parts that don’t revolve around the mafia. One such example is that of “Captain Shakespeare” in the 2007 fantasy film, Stardust, wherein the flying pirate puts on a tough exterior for his men while hiding a sensitive, sophisticated, and intelligent inner core. These roles are often funny, playing on DeNiro’s dry comedic timing, no doubt enhanced by the plethora of mobster roles he has had to perform in the past. In the case of Brazil (1985), DeNiro actually wanted a bigger part, but was rebuffed into a smaller role because the character he wanted to play was already promised to a long-time collaborator of the director.

Archibald Tuttle (Robert DeNiro) is a heating engineer who works by his own rules. Unfortunately, this leads to him being labeled as a terrorist by the government. Through a mistake made by a misprinted form, a Mr. Archibald Buttle is taken away and Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is sent to investigate the error. While there, he runs across Jill Layton (Kim Greist), a woman who bears a striking resemblance to the damsel in distress who regularly appears in Sam’s daydreams. It is around this time that Tuttle appears and helps Sam escape two agents from Central Services. Things spiral out of control for Sam as he tries to learn more about Jill. Because of his misuse of his position, Sam is strapped in a chair and tortured by his friend, Jack Lint (Michael Palin) until Tuttle arrives and saves him. Of course, as the film ends, the audience finds that not all was as it seemed.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 delightful DeNiro roles

Bacon #: 1 (Sleepers / Kevin Bacon)

#215. Digital Backlot

With the increasing capabilities and power of computers, Hollywood has started to forego traditional sets in favor of a digital backlot. There can be many reasons for this, including cost, the fantastical setting of the film, or even a particular artistic style that is being recreated. Not everyone is convinced that this technique is a good thing. Because the backgrounds are inputted separately from the actors, it can be an obvious distraction to the audience. However, some of the better digital backlots will appear to seamlessly integrate everything together for the desired effect. Of course, with Moore’s law doubling the computing power available to filmmakers every 18 months, these digital backlots will only get better with time. This week’s two films highlight some examples of digital backlots and how they are used to achieve a desired effect.

Sin CitySin City
Year: 2005
Rating: R
Length: 124 minutes / 2.06 hours

Adaptations of graphic novels can be difficult, not only because the source material may be prolific, but because the artistic style of these works can be challenging to recreate. The works of Frank Miller have been prime examples of using digital backlots to recreate the original style of the artist. Movies like 300 (2007) and The Spirit (2008) use the digital backlot to mimic Miller’s art, mainly because massive amounts of post processing would need to be done to have the movie seem like it was pulled straight off the pages of these graphic novels. Of course, the Miller film that revealed how well digital backlots could be done was Sin City (2005). Not only did The Spirit use the same techniques when it was made, but the sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) did as well. Due to the mixed success of these films, it’s hard to tell if digital backlots will continue to be used in this way.

The dark, black and white world of Sin City is occasionally highlighted by a splash of color. Usually, this color is the red blood of a murdered Customer (Marley Shelton), a victim of a cannibal named Kevin (Elijah Wood), or an undercover police officer (Benicio del Toro) killed in a misunderstanding. Of course, in this town filled with vice, all the cops are crooks, the prostitutes band together as a violent gang, and the politicians make sure that everything runs as corruptly as possible. Few saviors remain against these odds, not the least of which is police officer John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), the romantic roughneck Marv (Mickey Rourke), or the protective prostitute Gail (Rosario Dawson). Each life affects another in this entangled world of violence and debauchery, made all the more impactful by its visual style.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Year: 2004Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Rating: PG
Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours

Because of the new and unique settings proposed by the genres of fantasy and science fiction, it often becomes easier to construct these worlds on a digital backlot. One of the best films to use digital backlots successfully was that of Avatar (2009). The alien world of Pandora was made much more realistic because half of the actors were digitally integrated into the film by using advanced motion-capture techniques. In doing so, director James Cameron removed some of the dissociation between the digital backlot and the actors: blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Similarly, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010) adaptation had very few actors, but a plentiful amount of digitally created characters to fill out the trippy, Lewis Carroll imagery. And yet, the film that helped launch digital backlots was none other than Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

While most digital backlot films were mostly independent, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was the first to be widely distributed (by Paramount). Scientists have started to go missing and newspaper reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) is on the case. As she secretly interviews a doctor who thinks he is next to disappear, robots sent by Dr. Totenkopf (Lawrence Olivier) attack and mortally injure the doctor. The savior of the robot attack is “Sky Captain” Joe Sullivan (Jude Law), who has Polly tag along to his air base since she might have some useful information. As more robots attack, it is found that the signal controlling them is coming from Nepal. Joe and Polly make their way there and discover Totenkopf’s lair, an island filled with a variety of creatures and rockets. What is the illusive Totenkopf’s ultimate plan?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 synthesized settings

#214. Frank Miller

One of the most misunderstood artistic mediums is that of the graphic novel. The majority of the uninformed will lump these pieces together with comic books and merely assume that they are childish. While the home of superheroes has definitely paved the way for darker and more serious works, graphic novels have only just recently begun to gain a public understanding. Movies like Watchmen (2009) and V for Vendetta (2006) have shown the world that graphic novels have some very poignant things to say. While the two films just referenced were works of Alan Moore, another staple of the graphic novel format has been Frank Miller. Sure, both men started working with the superheroes we all know and love, but neither painted a halcyon picture of them. This week’s two films are adaptations of Frank Miller’s graphic novels.

300
Year: 2006
Rating: R
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

When you think of a graphic novel, you don’t expect a history lesson. Of course, history is full of violence, and the Battle of Thermopylae is no exception. Based off of The 300 Spartans (1962), which Miller had seen in his youth, 300 was written and illustrated by Miller in 1998. What’s somewhat impressive with the film adaptation is that it is almost a shot-for-shot recreation of the source material (with some additional plot added in to pad out the 5-issue miniseries). Perhaps it’s no small wonder that Zach Snyder directed this film, considering his eventual work on Watchmen (2009). Working backwards, this was merely the gateway to other comic book adaptations such as Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and The Justice League (2017, 2019). After all, he probably wouldn’t be able to direct these superhero movies if he hadn’t handled Miller’s work so well.

Threatened by the oncoming Persian army, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) takes a stand against the god-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) by kicking his messengers into a well. As he and 300 Spartans head out to face the impossible odds against them, he leaves Sparta in the hands of his Queen, Gorgo (Lena Headey). While Leonidas and his men fight against the swarms of Persian soldiers, Gorgo is fighting against the leader of the corrupt Spartan Council, Theron (Dominic West). The Spartan men use every technique at their disposal to dispose of the Persians while Gorgo reveals the treachery of Theron to the Council. By the time that reinforcements are sent to the 300 Spartans, it is too late. The overwhelming force of the Persian army, despite taking heavy losses, still managed to slaughter the Spartans who fought against them.

Sin CitySin City
Year: 2005
Rating: R
Length: 124 minutes / 2.06 hours

In Japan, the graphic novel is known as “manga”. The main difference between the Japanese and American graphic novels is that the latter is filled with color, whereas the former is generally done in black and white. That being said, the noir films of the 1940’s were usually set in the high-contrast black and white that we would associate with manga. However, in order to mimic that noir style, Miller’s earlier work, Sin City, was done mostly in black and white. Starting in 1991, Miller would work on a variety of different stories in this eponymous town for most of the decade. Since the majority of the pieces were monochromatic to match the detective/noir style, he could use a splash of color to really emphasize something. In 2005, Miller directed his first film: an adaptation of a few of the stories he wrote for the Sin City series.

Four storylines intertwine themselves to create a picture of a city full of black and white, but mostly black. First, we find that “The Customer is Always Right” when The Salesman (Josh Hartnett) kills a woman who has paid him to do so. Next, John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is a good cop fighting against corruption while pursuing rapist Roark Junior (Nick Stahl). Now the story turns to Marv (Mickey Rourke), a rough man who was framed for murder by the Roark family. Because of this, he’s out to avenge the woman who he supposedly killed, leading to “The Hard Goodbye” he must now make. Finally, we find Shellie (Brittany Murphy) and her new boyfriend become entangled in a prostitution ring with “The Big Fat Kill” of a police officer now on their heads. To conclude, we once again find Hartigan up against Roark, who is now “That Yellow Bastard”. Bookending the whole film, The Salesman has one last kill.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Miller masterpieces

Bacon #: 2 (Sin City / Elijah Wood -> Beyond All Boundaries / Kevin Bacon)

#023. Purposely Black and White

There are some people out there who wonder, “If color film has been around for so long, why would you ever shoot your movie in black and white?” Now, these people would probably ask the same thing of the 2012 Academy Award for Best Picture, The Artist, and its (almost) complete lack of sound. Those of you who have been following along from the beginning know that I briefly touched on movies that either use the addition of color or the separation of color and black and white to help the filmmaker tell a story. However, this week I’d like to examine films that were made entirely in black and white for a purpose. And while the purpose of making a film in black and white may vary from artistic direction or as an homage to films that had no full color options, there were still valid reasons that they should be filmed in this fashion.

Raging Bull
Year: 1980
Rating:R
Length: 129 minutes / 2.15 hours

While not entirely shot in black and white, Raging Bull does stand out as a great example of a movie that almost needs the monochromatic treatment. There have been a few ideas as to why this film needed to be shot in black in white. One thought is that the color of the boxing gloves didn’t look quite right to director Martin Scorsese, which led him to make the whole movie in black and white. Another thought is that since boxing can be a very violent sport, the excessive amount of blood involved with making this movie wouldn’t have allowed it to be released, which led to the decision to shoot in black and white. At the very least, Raging Bull was definitely shot in black and white for a reason.

I certainly consider this to be Martin Scorsese’s best film (of many great films). Raging Bull chronicles the life of Jake La Motta (Robert DeNiro). Throughout the film, we watch Jake’s rise through the ranks of middleweight boxing. We also get a look into his tumultuous personal life, in conflict with his wife (Cathy Moriarty) and brother (Joe Pesci). Stylistically, this movie is beautiful, shot completely in black and white (for the aforementioned reasons).  Somehow, this style intensifies the fights in the ring, producing some incredible fight sequences. But even with all of his success, Jake ends up working a nightclub, quoting Marlon Brando’s famous speech from On the Waterfront.

Young Frankenstein
Year: 1974
Rating: PG
Length: 106 minutes / 1.77 hours

On the flip-side of the black and white coin is a film that takes the route of the homage. Those who are familiar with Mel Brooks films know that most of them take a particular genre and create a comedy based on that theme or style. Young Frankenstein is just one of those movies. The choice to go with black and white for this film was because the original set of films (Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Ghost of Frankenstein, and House of Frankenstein (1944), etc. etc. etc.) were all shot in black and white because it was the easiest medium to film in at the time they were made. In order to more fully mimic their style, Young Frankenstein kept with tradition and filmed in black and white as well.

The story of Frankenstein is certainly timeless, which is why Mel Brooks can poke fun at it so easily. Gene Wilder plays Dr. Frankenstein, but not the one originally famous for the re-animation experiment. No, he’s the grandson of that Frankenstein. When he inherits his grandfather’s castle, he goes up to check it out. Inside he finds an array of odd characters including a hunchback assistant named Igor (Marty Feldman). Even though he passed off his grandfather’s experiment as crazy, he eventually ends up doing it himself anyways. Taking bits and pieces from all the classic Frankenstein movies, Young Frankenstein is almost a Frankenstein monster of itself, but a laugh riot and a must watch nonetheless.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 monochromatic masterpieces