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Blodwyn Pigs Might Fly

Halliwell's Film Guide

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What do people think is the best Film Guide? Halliwell's used to be regarded as the bible but I found him to be snobbish and favouring the old over the young. If it was in colour, it was inferior, basically.

 

I transferred my alliegance to Steven Scheuer, while my Dad swore by Leonard Matlin. Then Leslie Halliwell died and a chap called John Walker took over (not, presumably, the NZ runner who was the first man to run 100 sub-4 minute miles), who brought the guides into the modern world while keeping the old name.

 

In these days of IMDB, does anyone really use Film Guides any more anyway? They go out of date so quickly, while IMDB never does - although it can be very unreliable and youth-dominated.

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After seeing many awful films on TV, I bought my first copy of Halliwells some years ago. Although I do not agree with just a few of his ratings, I have found it invaluable. There are a lot of very good films about from previous years that most people have not seen or heard of.

It is particularly good in rating foreign films. Now the days of DVD rental are here, it is another reference to the quality of the film, so that one does not have to rely on the rental companies reviews completely.

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Here is the link:

 

<iframe width="180" height="172" scrolling="no" frameborder=0 src="http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=bookgrouponli-21&l=st1&search=halliwell%27s%20film%20guide&mode=books-uk&p=9&o=2&f=ifr&bg1=C6E7DE&lc1=082984&lt1=_blank"> <table border='0' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='180' height='172'><tr><td><A HREF='http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/redirect-home/bookgrouponli-21' target=_blank><img src="http://images-eu.amazon.com/images/G/02/associates/recommends/default_180x172.gif" width=180 height=172 border="0" access=regular></a></td></tr></table></iframe>

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Coming soon: Geri Halliwell's Film Guide. Former Spice Girl/ambassador collates all her favourite liquid-surface menisci. ("Well, if you must." Peter Paphides.)

 

(Sorry. It's Christmas. I'm running out of ideas...)

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For me it's Maltin's every time. Not only updated with tremendous speed every year but US-based and therefore more up-to-date for UK cinema goers. Particularly good at spotting and rating cultish films, foreign films or ones that might not be so well known to the wide public. It's also refereshingly ego-free, and feels more objective than rivals like Time Out and Halliwell. My only criticism would be its tendency to give conservative ratings to the best films of recent years, presumably on the basis that they do not merit a top ranking until they have stood the test of time (though that seems a fair enough reason). Who knows how we will feel in years to come about the outstanding pictures of 2004 (21 Grams, Lost In Translation, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, The Station Agent, etc)?

 

For a wider range of opinions, though, you can't go wrong with RottenTomatoes.com which collates all the critical opinions and gives an overall rating along with snippets of comment - a great at-a-glance guide. Again it's not without problems, notably a tendency to overrate documentaries by comparison with dramas, which can lead to some odd best-of-the-year lists. But it's more than handy as a guide.

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I prefer the 'Radio Times' guide - especially the great actors cross-referrencing.

 

Thing is though, generally speaking, the classics WILL be the older films, as it tends to take a while for films to be appreciated fully. Often films slated by the critics on release will be seen in a different light a few years later. The reverse is most definately true too.

 

I DO prefer films made before 1960 (no I 'm not that old - 42 actually), mainly because I find the direction, photography quality of lighting and screenwriting better. Of couse SFX, picture & sound quality are now much improved, but at the expense of good dialogue and directors really taking the time to work with the actors. One of the few directors to do this nowadays is Mike Leigh - and it shows! Sadly, he is very much in the minority.

 

What I don't understand about younger viewers (generally) is their reluctance to watch older (esp. B&W) films. They are missing so much IMHO. ;)

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What I don't understand about younger viewers (generally) is their reluctance to watch older (esp. B&W) films. They are missing so much IMHO.

 

I've only just worked this out, really. Until recently I would just have dismissed something in black and white as "boring" and not given it a second thought.

 

Then I got tempted in to watching "Harvey" - I was just intrigued by the description - a man who's best friend is a 6 foot invisible rabbit....I mean, what's that all about :confused: And it was wonderful - enchanting and absorbing and thoughtful and funny. Just wonderful.

 

So now I'm looking at my previous opinion, "All B&W films are boring" - and thinking that I must have been mad. What a ridiculous viewpoint :rolleyes:

 

My observation, with Harvey, is that the story telling was less frenetic than many modern films. There was less focus on having a fast-moving story packed with action and twists and turns and complications. It was told more simply, and as a result, there was much more space for the characters to develop more depth which made it very satisfying to watch.

 

Is that a reasonable summary of how earlier films differ?? It's not based on a huge sample, as you can tell! What does anyone else think. I'm keen to see more older films now, that's for sure.

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It does, doesn't it :rolleyes:

 

And it would certainly never occur to me to think that any book written before a certain date would be boring, just because of it's age :rolleyes::rolleyes:

 

At least I've seen the error of my ways now - I'm a reformed character :D

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Been thinking about this a bit more....

 

I think the "Black and White is Bad" thing stems from being a kid. When I was a kid, almost everybody had colour tellys - but one or two had black and white ones - and of course, given how lovely and kind kids tend to be - we all poured massive amounts of scorn and derision on them :rolleyes: - because, obviously, watching stuff in black and white was BORING compared to colour.....

 

But to wrench this thread back towards books again, we've got, "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" - and I'd recommend it. Clearly it's not comprehensive, and there are some annoying omissions, but it's really good for browsing through, getting ideas for what you might fancy from the video shop - and there's room for much more info per film, than something like Halliwells.

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I love film guides and my favourite is Radio Times, they are very good for satisfying that irritating 'where have I seen him before'. Of course they go out of date but I will always prefer to have a hard copy to hand, its easy to just pick it up during the film and satisfy that niggle.

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Black and White movies are better than colour because it means that more attention is paid to lighting and creating shadowing effects, as well as the actors having to work hard to make their character convinving. I pray that old movies will never be forgotten.

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Yes, but in the future today's films will be regarded as old movies, so what will that do the old movies?

 

I suspect that in that same future, when you look back to now, the chorus of Bob Dylan's My Back Pages (an old song) may revolve around your head, Dr S. ;)

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Old movies aren't necessarily real 'classics' I know there were a ton of rubbish films made back then. Movies from around now, I think will be regarded as CGI experimental rubbish, think of how advanced things may be when I am an adult. It's just I don't think actresses and actors now have the same sort of status as many of the older movies stars.

 

And sorry to sound like an ignorant fool, but I have never heard a Bob Dylan song all the way through.

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I think films are very much like books. If you tried to write a novel now in the style of Dickens you'd never get published (unless in the deliberate imitative genre), yet many people still read him. The style is utterly different from what we read in modern books, but we appreciate such work as classic fiction understood in the context of its time.

 

Many black and white films are enjoyed today simply because they are darned good films, monochrome or not. Sometimes the fact they are black and white unquestionably adds to the atmosphere, such as film noire or Lean's superb evocations of the Kentish marshes or Satis House in Great Expectations; mostly they are simply well told and beautifully acted.

 

Empty CGI films certainly won't stand the test of time. Lucas's CGI-obsessed Star Wars prequels will be surpassed technically and the weak scripting/acting will doom them to the broom cupboard, the original trilogy proving far more enduring. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, on the other hand, is outstanding for many reasons other than its cutting-edge effects and will be loved for decades into the future as a definitive moment in cinematic history.

 

The storytelling is always what shines through, not the medium. That has always been what defines endurance.

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And sorry to sound like an ignorant fool, but I have never heard a Bob Dylan song all the way through.

 

The repeated line from the chorus goes, "Oh but I was so much older then / I'm younger than that now."

 

So what happens when you hear a Bob Dylan song? Do you suddenly leave the room, or cover your ears singing "La la la la la la la la" loudly to yourself?

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