Tom Shone

  • TWO THEORIES OF TIME TRAVEL

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, July 15th 2015

    “Back to the Future” celebrated its 30th birthday earlier this month—or so they claim. Time is always a little elastic when it comes to this movie. Thirty years is the amount of time Marty McFly travels in the first film, from 1985 to 1955, inadvertently messing things up for his parents and putting his own existence in jeopardy. And it’s the amount of time that Biff Tannen travels in the second film, from 2015—yes, 2015!—to 1985, in order to take over Hill Valley. The idea that “Back to the Future” was not released in 1985 at all, but put there by time-travelling movie executives eager to plant the idea of a four-quadrant summer hit—a movie, that is, which appeals to Marty McFly, his sister and both parents—in our collective movie-going subconscious cannot easily be discounted. 

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  • SCORSESE’S PASSION FOR POSTERS

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, July 1st 2015

    Collecting movie posters has always been among the more socially acceptable of cinema-related perversions. Above my desk hangs a 5ft Polish poster of Jonathan Demme’s 1986 film “Something Wild”, featuring a geometric rendering of two parted female legs by the acclaimed designer Andrzej Nowaczyk. I bought it not because I speak a word of Polish but because I have always wished for my writing career to proceed from a point equidistant between the knees of Melanie Griffith.

    “It was part of this urge or impulse to possess the cinema experience,” Martin Scorsese has said of his own collection, begun in the 1970s and now numbering some 3,000 posters, 34 of which are currently on show in “Scorsese Collects” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The posters range from Raoul Walsh’s silent classic “Regeneration” (1915) to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). But the great majority hail from the 1940s and 1950s, when Scorsese was a teenage movie fanatic, marinading in flicks like Joseph Lewis’s “Gun Crazy” (1950) or King Vidor’s “Duel in the Sun” (1946), which he remembers for its “bright blasts of deliriously vibrant colour, the gunshots, the savage intensity, the burning sun, the overt sexuality.” He was, at the time, just four years old, an age when most of us are taking in “Bambi”. And you wondered why “Raging Bull” is a little intense.

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  • AN INEFFABLY TENDER FILM FROM PIXAR

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, June 15th 2015

    An animated feature for kids acknowledging the cognitive importance of sadness? It has to be a Pixar movie. One day our children will ask us what it was like to be able to roll up and see the new Pixar film the same way we asked our grandparents what it was like to put down a dollar for “Snow White”, “Pinocchio”, “Dumbo” or “Bambi”. Pixar have already matched Disney in the 1940s with a running flush of their own, which includes “Toy Story”, “The Incredibles”, “WALL-E”, “Ratatouille” and “Up”, although there were rumblings of discontent over “Cars” and “Brave”. But good news: the studio’s new film, “Inside Out”, runs the full gamut of emotions we’ve come to expect from Pixar—joy, sadness, anger, fear—with one crucial difference: Joy, Sadness, Anger and Fear are also its stars.

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  • IAN McKELLEN IN ISOLATION

    At the Cinema: how do you follow Gandalf and Magneto? With a Sherlock who is 93 and fighting off senility. Tom Shone is on the case

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  • JAWS: A TRIUMPH OF COWARDICE

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, June 2nd 2015

    This year you can’t move for movie birthdays. “The Sound of Music” is 50, “Toy Story” 20, “Goodfellas” 25 and “Back to the Future” 30. Jaws turns 40 this month, and celebrates with a talk by its star, Richard Dreyfuss, at Connecticut’s Maritime Museum, and a Writers Guild event in Los Angeles with its co-screenwriter, Carl Gottlieb. But delivering the biggest Proustian kick is a limited-edition design of the old, 1975-era Narragansett beer cans crushed in the film by the shark-hunter Quint (Robert Shaw), so that you too can #CrushItLikeQuint.

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  • GOODFELLAS AT 25: OUTSIZED FUN

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, April 28th 2015 

    Up on stage at the Beacon Theatre in Tribeca last weekend, Ray Liotta (above, left) basked in the love for Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”, which had just screened in a new print as part of the film’s 25th-anniversary celebration. Afterwards, the author Nicholas Pileggi (on whose book the movie was based), Liotta, Robert De Niro and other cast members took to the stage to swap anecdotes, some well known, others not—such as the time Liotta got a call to meet Henry Hill, the mobster he was playing, at a bowling alley in Los Angeles. A somewhat scared Liotta came to the appointed place, only to have Hill walk up to him and say, “Thanks for not making me look like a scumbag.” Liotta couldn’t believe his ears. The film had shown Hill bludgeoning a neighbour with the butt of his gun, sinking into cocaine addiction and ratting on his friends. “Did you see the movie?” he asked incredulously.

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  • INSIDE THE PIANO WITH NILS FRAHM

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, April 22nd 2015

    Encylopedias regularly hem and haw over whether the piano is a string instrument or a percussion instrument. In the hands of the German classical pianist Nils Frahm (above), it is both. In 2011 Frahm made an important discovery. Recording late at night and trying to do his neighbours a favour, he damped the sound of his piano with a thick layer of felt and placed his microphones so deep inside as to be almost touching the strings. The results were quite literally breathtaking: on the subsequent recordings, released on his 2011 album "Felt", you can hear not only Frahm’s breathing but the creak of floorboards beneath his feet, together with the delicate rustle and scrape of ivory against wood, wood against felt, felt against steel—the secret sonic life of the piano revealed.

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  • I KILLED THE MOVIES

    At the Cinema: today, the movie business is the superhero business. Tom Shone blames the kids of the Seventies, like him

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  • THE AFTERLIFE OF BLADE RUNNER

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, April 1st 2015

    So many great American movies were flops upon first release—“The Wizard of Oz”, “Bringing Up Baby”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Night of the Hunter”, “Citizen Kane”, “Vertigo”—that critics are frequently tempted to put it down to that old bogeyman, the Ignorance of the Masses. In the case of “Bringing Up Baby”, certainly, the public had to catch up with the film, whose scatter-brained comedy required refraction through the age of Freud and Gloria Steinem. In the case of “The Wizard of Oz” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” it seems more a case of straightforward mistaken identity, wherein films destined for status as popular classics were, at first, denied it, a mistake soon rectified with the advent of television and reruns. Not so “Citizen Kane”, a chilly masterpiece destined to be as broadly unloved as Kane himself: one’s approach to that film should feel as lonely as a visit to Kane’s mausoleum. As for “Night of the Hunter”, well, there is a film so spooky and enchanted that it can still feel as if you are the only person ever to have laid eyes on it.

    Ridley Scotts “Blade Runner”, which is being re-released by the British Film Institute this week, is different, if only because eyes are so integral to the plot: it tells the story of how it would one day be watched. A flop on its release in 1982, taking only $14.8m, “Blade Runner” then disappeared from screens, only to see its designs show up everywhere from Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” to the stage sets for the Rolling Stones’ Steel Wheels tour. When laser discs appeared on the market in 1989, the film became a best-seller, and didn’t budge. Here was a movie you went back to, a maze to get lost in, much like “Star Wars”, whose layer-cake of details seemed to cry out for replay. But where “Star Wars” had demanded the big screen—it is, like the Millennium Falcon, fast junk—something in “Blade Runner” seemed happiest at home, in the privacy of the video den and man-cave, where fans could pore over it at their leisure. A film of a million tiny details, it is possible to watch “Blade Runner” pointillistically too.

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  • YEARNING TO BE YOUNG AGAIN

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, March 23rd 2015

    The sanctification of youth in our culture is so absolute, its centrality so assumed, that the laughter inspired by Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young”, a brisk, biting comedy about the heartbreak attendant on middle-aged infatuation with the young, has something of the explosive force of newly-liberated taboo. That gentle mooing you hear is the sound of sacred cows being led to the slaughter. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play Josh and Cornelia, a couple fending off the encroachments of middle age in Brooklyn’s comfortable Cobble Hill. Josh is a documentary film-maker, although the documentary he has been labouring over for the last ten years defies his every attempt to explain it, let alone edit it into releasable shape. It isn’t so much a job, let alone a hobby, so much as a dark suck-zone barring him from embarking on any other activities, such as going on holidayor trying for a baby.

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