Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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Rayon Vert
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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#101 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:29 pm

Abe Lincoln in Illinois (Cromwell 1940). I’d never heard about this film before, which was released by RKO shortly after the Ford film and covers a lot of the same ground in its first half, but extends the story until Lincoln gets elected as President. Raymond Massey is quite extraordinary here as Lincoln, definitely superior to Fonda, and those early portions generate their own amount of charm, including more plentiful tender scenes with Ann Rutledge. The second half is insistently dramatic and more focused on the politics while the slavery question is up and center, and this portion of the film is strong in its own way. The screenplay is really solid. You’ve also got James Wong Howe doing good, Oscar-nominated work, although the print used on the DVD transfer is quite faded. A worthwhile, overlooked film – and a Lincoln biopic I definitely prefer to the Spielberg and Griffith ones.


The New World (Malick 2005). I’m reaIly behind on Malick, not having seen anything of his this century! I watched the extended cut for this. It’s a truly creative, ambitious film that I’ll have to watch again to feel I’m really appreciating. There are many wonderful things about it – the score, the photography are two things that really jump out. One thing that struck me was how effectively, through the use of non-conventional means, like the more natural lighting, Malick and his collaborators are able to create a true sense of otherness when the Englishmen meet up with the Native Americans.

The film’s style brought to my mind certain parallels with the work of Godard in the early-to-mid 1980s, during his “contemplative-mystical” mode. On the one hand, you have a poetic style that seeks the transcendent, in and through references to nature in large part, but at the same time it works towards its objective through a similar “busyness”, i.e. the multiplicity of audio tracks, along with the somewhat disorienting fast edits, jump cuts, and other visual tricks. Personally I found myself sometimes wanting for the film to become a little quieter visually, because some of those shots were so breathtaking.

There is still something here of a strange mixture of a Hollywood commercial epic and an art film, which I thought succeeded on the whole, but that still felt a little bastardized (?). I could see why some people could find this precious, but I really liked the tone. If anything, I liked it more than some of the story elements, like the love relationship between the two leads, which was a little puerile.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#102 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:57 am

Rayon Vert wrote:The New World (Malick 2005)
It's been a while since I saw this. Until To the Wonder, it was easily my least favorite of his works, but so much of it was great, particularly the opening. For long stretches, I recall thinking this could've been a terrific silent film given the power of the visuals and the way they were strung together - I even have a vague memory of the V.O.'s sounding like they were written like title cards from the silent era.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#103 Post by knives » Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:46 pm

Massey actually initially got famous playing Lincoln on the stage and his role in that one Archers film is a nod to that.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#104 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:22 pm

Sully (Eastwood 2016). Likeable enough but very minor film, with nothing major to fault except those CGI planes. The way the story is constructed works well. The thing is the narrative is basically about finding out whether the pilot’s decision was the correct one, so that it feels like the proper scope for this would be a made-for-television film (if they still make those), rather than a major motion picture.


Frost/Nixon (Howard 2008). I thought this was entertaining, well-done on the whole, especially Langella’s performance, but not particularly meaningful or resonant, and so this feels like it was a little overpraised at the time. One irony here is that, in giving the Nixon character the arc he has in the story, the film ends up doing what the interviews weren’t supposed to, which is to create a somewhat sympathetic portrayal of him.


Breaker Morant (Beresford 1980). I liked this a fair bit. A tough, thought-provoking story and script, but it’s the way it’s superbly acted and filmed that makes it a real winner.


Zodiac (Fincher 2007). (revisit) My second viewing, a decade or so later, refreshed and strengthened the dimly remembered impression of a film that fairly wowed me when not expecting that much going in. For me this is somewhere between an extremely solid film and a masterpiece. There isn’t a bum note and I love the somewhat low-key, unflashy tone of it throughout, and especially the way the narrative takes on a second, unexpected and lengthy life after the police investigation peters out and you think the film is just about over at that point. And those early murder scenes are extremely strong – the second one by the lake is so grimly brutal and distressing you wonder why horror films can’t create scenes this powerful. And this must surely rate as one of the great Frisco films as well.


The Spirit of St. Louis (Wilder 1957). One of a handful of Wilders I hadn’t yet seen. This was frankly a lot better than I expected. It’s difficult to recognize a Wilder touch here, in a mostly dramatic film without any trace of irony. This was an easygoing, congenial depiction of the famous flight and the preparations beforehand, with flashback vignettes to episodes in Lindberg’s earlier life. Based on Lindberg's autobiography, the film - with its interior monologue for the long portion of the movie that is the flight, and Stewart’s performance - manages to make us feel what it’s like in the skin of the pilot on that history journey, and it succeeds in being suspenseful and moving at times.


The Miracle Worker (Penn 1962). This really is like a female Wild Child. I guess we all have moments where the contrast between our opinion of a film (good or bad) contrasts so much with the general public's impression that it produces quite a confusing, potentially alienating experience. This was one of those moments for me. When the emotional breakthrough comes at the end, there was power in the scene, but for me it clearly wasn’t enough to make up for that whole very frustrating experience of basically watching a teacher/therapist working to undo the work of the parents in having conditioned a child, through not setting any limits, into an uncontrolled pest, rather than trying to teach or heal. All this talk in reviews of “trying to reach the girl’s soul” really seems like projecting something that is not observable on the screen. The tone and style of the film were themselves hysterical (right off the bat with the mother’s screams when she discovers the baby’s condition), and the exhausting scenes where Bancroft physically battles the child go on forever, to unintentional comic effect. I could see the art film aspirations, the photography was very nice, and Bancroft was still likeable, but this was a mess.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#105 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Mar 19, 2018 10:45 am

Rayon Vert wrote:Zodiac (Fincher 2007). (revisit) My second viewing, a decade or so later, refreshed and strengthened the dimly remembered impression of a film that fairly wowed me when not expecting that much going in. For me this is somewhere between an extremely solid film and a masterpiece. There isn’t a bum note and I love the somewhat low-key, unflashy tone of it throughout, and especially the way the narrative takes on a second, unexpected and lengthy life after the police investigation peters out and you think the film is just about over at that point. And those early murder scenes are extremely strong – the second one by the lake is so grimly brutal and distressing you wonder why horror films can’t create scenes this powerful. And this must surely rate as one of the great Frisco films as well.
Also worth seeing is Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder, which is also based on a real life homicide mystery in South Korea, and it came out in 2003, well before Zodiac was made. Both films are essentially studies in frustration, and while they are completely different stories, thematically they are remarkably similar, which probably says something about the nature of any homicide investigation and the challenge of establishing guilt.

Regardless, Zodiac may be Fincher's greatest work, partly because it's his most personal film. He grew up in the Bay Area when the murders all happened, and he knows the story like the back of his hand. During one location scout at Lake Berryessa, without even referring to any of their reference materials, he correctly observed that some of the trees had been removed during the intervening years. This was the location where Shepherd and Hartnell were attacked, and according to the production designer, "when we got there, there was a little spit of land like a little peninsula that jutted out into the water. The oak trees the killer hid behind were gone. We had to helicopter in two huge oaks trees. We drilled holes in a piece of the land and hauled in some water so they wouldnt die. We set them up for 3 or 4 days before filming knowing they would only have a few days." Graysmith's obsessive and meticulous nature feels like the closest thing we have to a Fincher surrogate in any of his pictures.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#106 Post by Rayon Vert » Mon Mar 19, 2018 10:57 pm

hearthesilence wrote:Regardless, Zodiac may be Fincher's greatest work, partly because it's his most personal film. He grew up in the Bay Area when the murders all happened, and he knows the story like the back of his hand. During one location scout at Lake Berryessa, without even referring to any of their reference materials, he correctly observed that some of the trees had been removed during the intervening years. This was the location where Shepherd and Hartnell were attacked, and according to the production designer, "when we got there, there was a little spit of land like a little peninsula that jutted out into the water. The oak trees the killer hid behind were gone. We had to helicopter in two huge oaks trees. We drilled holes in a piece of the land and hauled in some water so they wouldnt die. We set them up for 3 or 4 days before filming knowing they would only have a few days." Graysmith's obsessive and meticulous nature feels like the closest thing we have to a Fincher surrogate in any of his pictures.
Thanks for that info, I didn't know that. I'd say then that Fincher's deep knowledge of the story really comes through in the film.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#107 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Mar 25, 2018 2:21 pm

The Song of Bernadette (King 1943). I definitely wasn’t as enthusiastic with this as John Shade or domino, even though on the whole I felt it was more successful than not. Call me a cold bastard but I didn’t feel all that much with Jones’ performance emotion-wise, although she certainly projects the perfect kind of innocence for the part. Then I thought this overly lengthy film started to drag once she leaves Lourdes – maybe I’m just too put off by the God-through-suffering bit to be much inspired by this part. I really liked the large middle chunk that is the substantial part of the film, though, surrounding the reactions and the politics around the miraculous happenings, and Price, Bickford, Cobb et al. were quite inspired and fun to watch. Fun to see a Marian apparition movie, though, and nice sets for the French town too, with Dalio in there to boot.


Henry V (Olivier 1944). (revisit) I now find Richard III a richer and more enjoyable film, but there’s a lot to like here, especially in the constant inventiveness and the visual beauty of the deliberately artificial designs and stagings, in addition to Olivier’s high-octane performance.


The Devils (Russell 1971). Not overly impressed with this film. First off, I was surprised at how mild this actually was in terms of the controversial aspects. Maybe I’m immunized by having watched too many hardcore horror and exploitation movies. The political angle was the best element (along with the visual design of the town), and it becomes powerful in those last scenes where Grandier meets his fate. Those moments also turn the character into a stronger, more identifiable figure, with Reed being very potent here. The problem is that up until this point he’s a character who’s hard to take seriously. We can buy that he’s priest with radical ideas, but, as it’s written anyhow, he comes across as someone who just makes it up as he goes along to suit his sexual needs, rather than someone who has elaborated specific ideas.

But then Sister Jeanne is worse still - that whole dimension with the nuns was just psychologically unrealistic and silly to me from beginning to end, and when the exorcism starts the film at that point just goes overboard in a loud, chaotic and largely uninteresting way. So some good bits, thankfully at the end meaning the film leaves an impression, but at the same time that’s kind of sad because you’re left feeling it had a potential that wasn’t realized.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#108 Post by knives » Sun Mar 25, 2018 3:14 pm

Find Me Guilty
I remember when this came out the response was really negative making fun of the star and calling Lumet's direction television worthy. Now, I'm quite the Lumet skeptic myself, but the film strikes me as slightly above average for him with a fun premise that he plays straight enough to make seem all the more bizarre in its mundane aesthetic. The casting of Diesel, who now seems content to stick to a few lazy performances in a few franchises, is the lynchpin to all of this. He's disarmingly effective as a dramatic figure because he comes across as dumb muscle playing dress up. It's almost as if the whole film were reverse engineered around this casting and it succeeds when it shouldn't.

The biggest for instance of the film's goals being something that should succeed is how Lumet's script is completely honest about how horrible these people with flawed personalities, stupidity, pettiness, violence, drugs, and the whole on display. We know they're guilty and however prickish he may be the prosecutor is right. In any other film he'd be the hero probably played by Tom Cruise. The film with sincerity states this and like its lead says I bet you are going to root for these horrible people all the same because Diesel is funny. Of course Lumet is right and that isn't some shocking thing, but the plain way that the film goes about showing its duplicity is too adorable not to enjoy on some level. It's a bit of a B picture, but one that uses the whole cast and crew's talents in as impressive a way as they can muster. Hell, it's smart enough nearly a decade in advance to realize Peter Dinklage is the only traditional dramatic force a film needs and that Alex Rocco needs to play Boris Karloff some day soon.

Michael Collins
Unquestionably this is the best Neil Jordan film I've seen and quite a few other people involved (just in casting this is a real murderers row) come near that too. In particular Liam Neeson and Alan Rickman shocked me with the quality of their performances. Both are, of course, great actors, but my experience has tended toward what you see is what you get out of them. Yet in spite of the roles not being any real stretch outside their comfort zones there feels something new to me here with the expression of thought for both characters having some new quality I can't quite put my finger upon. Even Julia Roberts, who I find completely awful in general, acquits herself as aided by barely being present (which I suppose opens the film up to sexism charges, but fortunately I'm not Twitter).

I have to admit ignorance on the subject in question with '80s and '90s era problems being about all I am familiar with. My impression from this though is that it really is just a big circle with the treaty that takes up the last half hour sounding similar to what was finally decided. Still, with that ignorance in mind, this is constantly clear and engaging with the history even as there are about a million characters (which more than causes me to forgive that apparently a third of them are composites). It also does a good job of making the margins outside of the film's scope interesting so that by the end I wanted another hour or two. Rickman's extremist in particular is such a singular character that there feels like a few movies worth left in him.

Gods and Monsters
This is a pleasant little film to soon be forgotten. Not as interesting as Kinsey, but that might be due to it trying to be small. It is nearly a Bergman chamber piece and could easily be a play. I don't think the operatic style Condon engages with necessarily works to enhance the intimacy of the film which makes it seem fairly minor in the scheme of things. Still, McKellen gives an amazing performance that takes this small, television ready picture and gives some small significance to an otherwise vaporous film.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#109 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:37 pm

Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (Dieterle 1940). A Dieterle bio very much in the mold of The Story of Louis Pasteur, but with Edward G. Robinson in lieu of Paul Muni. Robinson, who does a good job here, plays Paul Erhlich, German Jewish scientist in the same era as Pasteur and a pioneer in immunology and antimicrobial chemotherapy, including creating an effective treatment for syphilis. This is roughly of the same quality as the Pasteur film, well-made, pleasant enough, but at the same time lacking some sparkle.

There is a moment in the film where Erhlich is attacked by his colleagues for hiring an Asian man in his laboratory, and the Germans are clearly painted as racists, a side-note that seems tailored to the current world political situation, even as in other ways, according to the Wiki article, Warners made every effort to keep the film clear of any reference to Jewishness or of German anti-Semitism.


The Color of Pomegranates (Parajanov 1969). Like a series of somewhat abstract, symbolist paintings, except that the images have movement. Despite reading through the whole Second Sight booklet, which enabled me to have a pretty detailed idea of the “narrative” going in, I confess to feeling pretty lost through viewing the entire thing, and only experiencing images/sounds with little meaning. Those tableaux are frequently striking and beautiful, but they didn’t enchant me enough to motivate wanting to invest further into the film.


Jesus of Nazareth (Zeffirelli 1977). (revisit) It’s a mini-series so it’s bound to be a bit more uneven, but overall it’s still a winner. The script is smart and the production elegant for the most part. There’s such a huge abundance of old-guard A-stars in the secondary parts (Mason, Steiger, Bancroft, Ustinov, Quinn, Plummer, Cardinale, Olivier in a very good and subtle performance, etc.), with most of them blending into the background and not taking the viewer out of the film because of their presence. But it’s Powell’s performance that really brings the film to another level – he brought a quite rare presence, an intensity and a charisma to the role that is key, creating a very mystically transported while still very human and sensitive Jesus, which often provides the magic needed in such a film/experience. The settings in Morocco and Tunisia are also quite lovely. Less successful are a few of the extended sequences away from Jesus, including the first hour dealing with the birth, including the magi sequence, which have a slightly Disney-esque flavor at times (although that’s a bit hard to avoid with these story elements), this despite Olivia Hussey delivering an also very good Mary, and the more Hollywood-ish Herod and Salome sequence.

---

Here are my viewing notes from some older viewings of a few other previous Jesus portrayals:

King of Kings (Ray 1961). Jesus of Nazareth as a sword-and-sandal epic. It’s a strange film in that despite its length there is so little of Jesus’ life and so much of the focus is on the political context and surrounding preoccupations and characters, like Herod Antipas and Pilate. Jeffrey Hunter is fairly vacuous and ineffectual as Christ and the film is strangely cold and unmoving, while the characters of the apostles and others are just undeveloped. It’s pretty, though.


The Greatest Story Ever Told (Stevens 1965). Strait-laced and conventional as it is, the film isn’t as bad as its reputation, though it isn’t really successful either. The Hallmark-ish title gives away some of the film’s problems. For every well-staged scene, there’s another one that’s awkward, and the rounding out of dialogue with non-biblical material, which is actually a bit fresh, is contrasted by the poor choice of Von Sydow as Jesus, mostly because of his heavy accent which hurts the humanness of its message. Artless in some places, moving in some, dull in others, it’s a bit all over the place, but the “story” still attracts its own pull.


The Messiah (Rossellini 1975). Almost everything is wrong in Rossellini’s last film, which given the topic should have inspired something greater. He chooses to go for the myth instead of a more historical approach, while keeping things simple and not too supernatural, which is fine. The problems lie elsewhere, mainly in uninspired direction (including the direction of actors), photography and a not only too talkative but much too rushed pace (especially when contrasted to the real time durée of most of his other history films) from one mythical moment to another.

The trouble with Rossi’s Jesus is not that he’s simple, he’s just too ordinary and flat, with nothing mysterious, charismatic or noble about him – so all that we’re left with are the words (and Rossellini justly focuses on the law of love trumpeting Moses’ law, as in Acts of the Apostles) – while the Italian dubbing is even more agitated. Its approach is stuck badly in the middle somewhere between Pasolini’s quasi-historical/political take and Zeffirelli's near-contemporary, frequently moving and awe-inspiring Jesus of Nazareth, but one feels it could have been better if a greater level of care had been put into it.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#110 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 06, 2018 11:09 am

Hey everyone, lists are due by Wednesday. Did you know that? Now you do!

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#111 Post by swo17 » Fri Apr 06, 2018 12:53 pm

zedz wrote:Wanda Gosciminska - Weaver (Wisniewski) - Phantasmagoric portrait of the title character, who is played by the woman herself, but again, this is no documentary. Or, to be more precise, it's like no documentary - or fiction film - you've seen.
I don't know if I'm on board with calling this a biopic, since she herself is in it. But this does make me wonder what people think of Makhmalbaf's Moment of Innocence...

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#112 Post by John Shade » Fri Apr 06, 2018 4:01 pm

Similar to Rayon Vert, and partially inspired by him, I watched some Christ portrayals during Easter. Because it's almost time to vote, I'm going to try and get a few more posts in with very brief summaries of my recent viewings.

The Passion of the Christ: I last saw this during its initial theatrical run and my thoughts on it haven't changed. This is a difficult film to sit through. Many Christians who defended the film--and I'm paraphrasing--defended it saying something like, "Well, this is how it really was." Ok, but if we're going to go for a "realist" depiction of the Passion, do we also need countless slow motions? The call-back sequences seem to only exist to soften the blow, again sort of stifling the main defense for some of the film. I understand that Christian art for centuries has been graphic, but there's a big difference between Gibson and the Great Masters...

Jesus of Nazareth: I hadn't forgotten about this movie, but I didn't think of it as something for this project until Rayon Vert's post. I agree with most of his very apt summary of this movie, including certain bits that should be cut out, and Powell as perhaps the best Christ performance on film. I also like the atmosphere; compared to Gibson, the passion sequence works much better here too.

On a different note...

The End of the Tour: I really liked this movie and it seems to have come and gone without much fanfare, or maybe I missed something? It's kind of like My Dinner with Andre only with young semi-literary stars and some envy thrown in. We need more of these light, humane and conversationally driven movies. Also a big Eisenberg defender--I remember for a while the internet wasn't so keen about him. Anyway.

Catch Me If You Can: I wanted to rewatch this sooner and post about it to make a strong defense. I am likely going to put this in my top five; had I voted on films of the '00s it would also be in my top five there. I really love Spielberg's movies from the early '00s and I genuinely think this might be his best movie, well my favorite at least. A number of things work well in tandem here: we have Spielberg's knack for directing in a kinetic fashion which suits the story so well. The Atlanta section remains my favorite. Leo comes off as cool as he should...and then as lonely as he's supposed to be and as Frank Abignale was (I saw him give a public speech once on all this). The high paced story plays off well against Spielberg's typical themes of fatherhood, abandoned sons, with some great moments thrown in from Christopher Walken. Hopefully some of you will give this film another chance even as my write up seems poor compared to my love for this...

Andrei Rublev: Also a top 10, but maybe it doesn't need as much explanation. This is the type of movie that you can only really watch every now and then. It's slow and some scenes make for difficult viewing, esp. the raid sequence. The boy and the bell remains one of the greatest segments in cinema.

The New World: Maybe I posted on this already but the recent Criterion edition of this film has added to my appreciation. My favorite Malick because his style works so well with familiar, mythic material, which he brings down to Earth. Only Malick would investigate bird sounds of early 17th century Virginia...well, maybe others would, but it seems so Malick. The opening and the ending are tw of my favorite scenes from this century.

The Passion of Joan of Arc: I haven't rewatched this. Maybe I'll just bite the bullet and pick up the new Criterion before this Wednesday? Using this as a placeholder, but if I don't come back to edit, well...this is one of the best films ever made and most posters here are probably aware of that regardless of what I'll add.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#113 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Apr 08, 2018 11:08 am

Eros + Massacre (Yoshida 1969). Formally and stylistically this was very pleasurable. There are marvelous Scope composition from beginning to end, in addition the original and striking framings. It was more of a mixed experience for me when it came to the story elements and the characters. The modern youths reminded me of 60s Godard’s protagonists – the playfulness, the radicalism, even the prostitution -, and they’re intriguing to watch, though you’re kept at a distance from them as people. Curiously I thought the same was a bit true of the rest of the characters, whether intentionally or not, especially the figure of Osugi; it was hard to feel you knew him or care about him or his ideas much. The women, Noe and Itsuko, principally, were stronger and more interesting characters, and passionately played. The scenes between Noe and her husband Tsuji had a psychological depth that made them particularly interesting, and more appealing to me than other scenes like the film’s last moments with the different re-imaginings of the assassination attempt on Osugi.


Malcolm X (Lee 1992). (revisit) For some reason I didn’t remember if I’d seen this. It’s a conventional, history-lesson biopic but I was surprised at how good the film is. There isn’t a weak moment through the 3+ hours, in a tale that really carries the viewer through radically transformed worldviews. Denzel is outstanding and I cannot see why he wasn’t nominated for his work here.


12 Years a Slave (McQueen 2013). I won’t go on about this because I’m probably the only one on this forum that hadn’t seen this yet. It was even better than I expected. An engrossing, moving and extremely well-crafted film that leaves you with the feeling of having caught a glimpse of the actual horror of slavery.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#114 Post by knives » Sun Apr 08, 2018 12:25 pm

Given how close this is to the end I want to give a real shout out to Mangal Pandey which has grown the most in my estimation of the film's I saw for this list. It's a really under explored era of history from a point of view that hasn't really been loud in the past so from a historical point of view the film is very interesting. Fortunately it is also really well made using familiar story beats about the British occupation against the prevailing narratives in a way that is pointed without getting lost in the politics leaving a narrative that is also straightforwardly enjoyable. If anyone is looking for last minute watches it is definitely the secret treasure I'd point to.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#115 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Apr 08, 2018 12:52 pm

domino harvey wrote:Hey everyone, lists are due by Wednesday. Did you know that? Now you do!
I gather we have until the end of the evening on Wednesday to send our list?

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#116 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 08, 2018 12:55 pm

You really have til like 9 AM EST Thursday morning

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#117 Post by Feego » Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:28 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:Denzel is outstanding and I cannot see why he wasn’t nominated for his work here.
He was nominated, but he lost to Al Pacino in what was basically a career-achievement win for Scent of a Woman.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#118 Post by Rayon Vert » Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:38 pm

Feego wrote:
Rayon Vert wrote:Denzel is outstanding and I cannot see why he wasn’t nominated for his work here.
He was nominated, but he lost to Al Pacino in what was basically a career-achievement win for Scent of a Woman.
Ok, thanks - I was looking at the wrong year.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#119 Post by Rayon Vert » Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:35 pm

The Better Angels (Edwards 2014). By and large this didn’t work for me. I appreciate the intention of creating a more poetic, rather than fact-laded, evocation of Lincoln’s youth, but I didn’t feel transported in time. I don’t know if the problem is that there weren’t enough elements to link this boy’s life to Lincoln’s childhood rather than any other child of the period and place, but I couldn’t shake the impression of watching contemporary actors portray contemporary people in period clothing. Also, the transcendental style and tone that is apparently due to Malick’s influence, as knives alludes to in his write-up, made the whole thing feel too airy, despite the hardships portrayed, so that the end result diminished rather than created potential emotion.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#120 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Apr 10, 2018 3:45 am

domino harvey wrote:For some reason I always confuse Shadowlands with Carrington. There were just a lot of these kind of movies floating around in the early to mid 90s!
Including Angels & Insects!

I am finalising my list and sorry for not having been able to contribute much this time around. I wanted to put out a couple of titles that I have not seen mentioned here (which may or may not be biopics!). I am not too big a fan of Oliver Stone's biopics, but I do really like his unafraid to be grungy and off-putting (I guess what is charitably called 'pragmatic') portrait of photojournalist Richard Boyle in Salvador, which is a central role that allows for re-creations of a number of other notorious historical events going on around him.

Rayon Vert's post writing up Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth reminded me that his earlier film Bandit Queen was eligible too. I don't know if The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is eligible as a biopic, but I think I am going to vote for it!

I really love Wong Kar-Wai's The Grandmaster but strangely not so much for the biographical aspects (the run up to Bruce Lee stuff) as for the texture and tone of the world and the romance. So I don't know if I can vote for it purely in 'biopic' terms. The same for Aguirre, Wrath of God: Carlos Saura's El Dorado film from 1988 covering the same ground is perhaps a better biopic (full of ironic moments, such as that one of the first boat getting launched and immediately sinking!), but Aguirre: Wrath of God is the better film, if that makes sense!

zedz's mention of the wonderful Jacquot de Nantes being eligible reminded me of the Bergman-written biographical films The Best Intentions (originally a mini-series, like An Angel At My Table) and Sunday's Children.

On politics, I want to put in a word for Margarethe von Trotta's film of Rosa Luxemburg. And in terms of biographies of artists, I also want to note the 1997 film on the life of Artemisia Gentileschi, called just Artemisia.

And I am going to throw in the 1948 Babe Ruth Story on the bottom of my list, if only because it is hilarious! (Especially the moment when Babe Ruth causes a sick child to walk again!)

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#121 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Apr 10, 2018 9:46 am

colinr0380 wrote:
domino harvey wrote:I am not too big a fan of Oliver Stone's biopics, but I do really like his unafraid to be grungy and off-putting (I guess what is charitably called 'pragmatic') portrait of photojournalist Richard Boyle in Salvador, which is a central role that allows for re-creations of a number of other notorious historical events going on around him.
Is this film eligible though? I didn't know Boyle was an actual person, but reading up the Wiki page, I'm left wondering if the events on screen, which are about five years before the film came out, things that actually happened and in which he was actually involved in covering? If Richard Boyle was an actual photojournalist but he just helped write a screenplay about events in which he wasn't involved, I'd argue that doesn't count.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#122 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Apr 10, 2018 9:48 am

colinr0380 wrote:zedz's mention of the wonderful Jacquot de Nantes being eligible reminded me of the Bergman-written biographical films The Best Intentions (originally a mini-series, like An Angel At My Table) and Sunday's Children.
These wouldn't count as the characters have been partially renamed. (Similar situation to Ford's They Were Expendable).

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#123 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:02 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:If Richard Boyle was an actual photojournalist but he just helped write a screenplay about events in which he wasn't involved, I'd argue that doesn't count.
I researched this a bit and it is definitely based, in part at least, on his actual presence and work there, so it is eligible and I will have to revise my list to include it!

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#124 Post by domino harvey » Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:19 pm

Lists are due by tomorrow morning, but it may be a moot point. We only have five lists in so far, and I'm not bothering unless we get ten, so there may be no Biopics List after all. I've been as guilty as anyone of not participating as much as I anticipated, but I'm still submitting my ballot. Here's one last film I managed to sneak in, and which several of you have already been talking about:

Malcolm X (Spike Lee 1992)
It is always nice to be reminded that for a time, Spike Lee was making exhilarating and ambitious films like this. There’s some rough edges here, and even at 200+ minutes, Lee still cuts corners here and there to fit more biographical details in. But it’s the grace notes here that make the whole endeavor shine. We get the usual greatest hits reel we might expect, but also asides that don’t necessarily need to be there but which enrich the whole film. Sometimes these are show-offy moments of camera tricks and blocking (a make-out session that films the convertible car with a more sexual eye than those embracing within; the opening long take following Spike Lee and his zoot-suit through half a block of Harlem; a depiction of solitary confinement using only the light streaming in through the small sliding holes for food), but just as often they are moments of luxuriating in characters, small and large, the same thing that makes Do the Right Thing more than a Message Film but instead a Great Film. I don’t think this one is up there with Do the Right Thing, but it has fun getting where it’s going all the same. Denzel Washington gives the performance of his life (and he lost the Oscar to Pacino giving one of his worst) in the title role, and Al Freeman Jr turns in memorable work as well as the would-be prophet with all too human failings. There are also some fun cameos ranging from known counterculture lefties like Peter Boyle to Reverend Al Sharpton. The film is long but never feels it, and while it is a bit on the nose, I found the classroom Spartacus finale unexpectedly moving. Highly recommended.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#125 Post by Rayon Vert » Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:49 pm

Mine wasn't much of a write-up, so thanks for giving this film its due. I never thought of Denzel as this much of a great actor before seeing this.

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