Why A Clockwork Orange is My Favourite Film…

For a film studies class, we had to write up our top 10 films and give explanations for all. My favourite film is ‘A Clockwork Orange’ – steeped in controversy throughout its career, Kubrick withdrew its distribution in the UK and Mary Whitehouse was rumoured to have walked out of it. So why do I like the controversial, cult, pop-culture classic? Read on…

A Clockwork Orange is my favourite film for many reasons. The main reason why I love this film so much is because of how I heard of it. I’d heard of it when I was 12, atschool, we had to dress up as movie characters in films, and somebody dressed up all in white, with a bowler hat, cane, and made sure one eyelid was lifted up by some mascara: he was dressed as Alex from A Clockwork Orange. I’d heard that it was a dark film; at the age of 12, the ’18 certificate’ (which Clockwork has) holds this mythical status because you can’t watch it and only adults can. As with most 18 films which are banned, controversial, or are dubbed: ‘shocking and sick’ – when you’re 12, you go to see them for these reasons:

1)      You want to see how ‘sick’ it is

2)      You feel rebellious because you’re watching something which only adults can watch

In simple terms, A Clockwork Orange is the greatest ‘youth movie’ ever made.

Before I saw it, I read the book first because I couldn’t get a copy, the book was also banned in some schools and dubbed ‘controversial’; however, unlike films, books don’t have the equivalent of the BBFC or the MPAA, so I could read it. Reading the book made me love the film further because I understood Alex as a character even more. The book involves a Russian-english slang called ‘nadsat’ which the writer, Anthony Burgess, invented; as you read through the book, you learn the nadsat. The nadsat is also used in the film, I imagine if I watched the film without reading the book, I wouldn’t grasp the dialogue very well, however, because I’ve read the book, I understand the nadsat, making the film more coherent, therefore, perhaps more enjoyable.

The first time I watched it was downstairs at 10pm on ITV. My mum was on the sofa asleep, my thumb pressed on the ‘change channel button’ just in case she woke up. It was a thrilling watch because I was felt so rebellious. I’d only managed to watch the first five minutes of it, because mum unfortunately woke up. However, I can safely say that those five minutes of film were the most impactful five minutes I’d ever felt. I remember going up the stairs that night, and thinking that I had to watch that film which was being shown on ITV. Around 2 weeks later, I found a website which showed it, and even on a small, smudged and scratched laptop screen, A Clockwork Orange managed to bring across its magic.

Another reason being that its power never fades away, every time I watch it I always feel disturbed, always laugh, always feel guilty for laughing, always feel frightened. Every time I watch it, I notice something else, it feels like a different film each time I watch it because there’s so much to it. The film grows on me each and every time I see it. For example, the first time I saw it, I didn’t know whether to like it or not because I felt that it promoted rape and violence due to the fact Beethoven and Rossini played in the background in these scenes. However, on a second viewing, I realised that I was meant to feel disturbed by Alex’s actions as the music makes his actions seem more disturbing. I realised that we’re supposed to dislike how Alex treats his victims and how Alex is treated by the state, as Kubrick thought that it was about how far the state is willing to go to prevent crime and overcrowded prisons.

Also, A Clockwork Orange is one of the few films which has changed the way I view films entirely, it has showed me that films don’t have to be made in a default straightforward way, they don’t have to create realism. In this film, Kubrick has been incredibly imaginative in terms of its unique ‘look’, the korova milk bar in terms of its set is so original and unique: the manikins, the words written on the wall, the intense white lightbulbs – all make this set-piece to be a memorable and arresting piece of imagery.

However, even though A Clockwork Orange is disturbing in places, it is incredibly funny in others. The humour is black and very absurd. There are many absurdly humorous elements in the film: Alex killing the ‘catlady’ with a sculpture of a penis (LOL!!), the fast motion sex scene in time to the finale of William Tell Overture. It’s this emotional manipulation which makes this film so impactful, Kubrick is a true puppet-master, one moment I could be terrified, and the next I’d be laughing. This is perhaps why the first time I watched it, I didn’t know whether to like it or not as I didn’t know how to feel, however, after repeated viewings, the film became clearer, and I understood it more, meaning that each time I watch it the film has more impact on my emotionally.

Like most of Kubrick’s films, the film poses questions rather than answers. The main question being about free-will and state control: is it right for the government to strip away criminal’s free-will to make them ‘good’, even though goodness comes from within (to turn them into ‘clockwork oranges’)? Even though Kubrick thought of this film as a fable rather than a forecast, I still feel that the question: ‘is this our future?’- is more relevant today than it was when A Clockwork Orange was released in 1971. We hear of rapes and murders happening frequently on the news, and with the London riots occurring, surely this is a ‘fable’ worth listening to?

A Clockwork Orange works on every level: an emotional level (audience manipulating: disturbing, frightening and funny), a technical level (the camera work and music) and a philosophical level (the questions it poses). It’s a damn horrorshow film.

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Armageddon Quotes

Michael Bay is loathed by critics, partly because his films are over the top, cliched and the editing is just ridiculous. However, other reasons include his ‘trademark’ cheesy dialogue. Here’s 10 quotes from his most ridiculous film: Armageddon.

Here are the quotes:

1) Chick: I never told anybody this before, but I hate flyin’. So it would be an awful shame to die now.
Rockhound:
That’s easy for you to say. I owe 100 grand to a fat-ass loan shark which I spent on a stripper named Molly Mounds.
Chick:
Boy, that’s bad.

2) President: We didn’t see this thing coming?
Dan:
Well, our object collision budget’s a million dollars. That allows us to track about 3% of the sky, and beg’n your pardon sir, but it’s a big-ass sky.
(NOTE TO SELF: Since when was the sky classed as ‘big-ass’?)

3) Karl: Sir, I’m retired navy, I know all about classified. But one more thing. The person that finds her gets to name her right?
Dan:
Yes-yes that’s right, that’s right.
Karl:
I wanna name her Dottie after my wife. She’s a vicious life-sucking bitch from which there is no escape.

4) Rockhound: Guess what guys, it’s time to embrace the horror! Look, we’ve got front row tickets to the end of the earth!

5) Colonel William Sharp: United States astronauts train for years. You have twelve days.

6) Grace Stamper: First time I got my period, Rock had to take me into Tai-Pei for Tampax. And then he had to show me how to use them, Harry.
[off Harry’s stern look]
Rockhound:
Ho-ho. I ju- No I-I told her how to use it. I didn’t show her, Harry.

7) Karl: Get my phone book, get those names of those guys from NASA.
Dottie:
Excuse me? Am I wearing a sign that says “Karl’s slave”?
Karl:
[shouting] Go get my goddamn phone book! Get the book! Get the book! Get the book!

8) Bear:
What’s up, Harry? Did NASA find oil on Uranus, man?
(hahaa! ‘Uranus, man’! What…errr…mature humour?…)

9) [getting arrested by a policeman after a strip club brawl]
Rockhound:
You are SO messin’ with national security right now, man! You are FIRED tomorrow morning, I’m tellin’ ya! I’ll get the CIA and the FBI, you’ll be workin’ security at Toys R’ Us!

(oh welll…could’ve been Debenhams.)

10) Rockhound: Why do I do this? Because the money’s good, the scenery changes and they let me use explosives, okay?

(Pretty well somes up Michael Bay: money and explosives).

Top 10 Movie Cliches

Hollywood and Michael Bay are responsible for the downfall of cinema as we know it. Cliche after cliche and predictable plot device after predictable plot device has led to audiences being dumbed down so much that they think this mind-mashingly, ear-deaffeningly loud trash is ‘good’. It isn’t. I, and you, want cinema that’s good. Cinema that shocks, surprises, and entertains. We want cinema that if not all of those, is at least: original.

But not anymore, it’s not about quality, it’s not about originality, it’s not even about artistic merit, it’s about money, and money, as you well know, corrupts.

Here are 10 cliches which I think represent the same old material used over and over and over and over…and over again…

1) Phew!…Just missed that explosion…

Oh…by chance, they’ve just missed a random explosion by running away from said explosion even though the speed of which highly flammable gas travels at is probably faster than the rate at which your legs can move your body, and also the fact that the heat that the gas would give off would probably cause severe burns to the body, and the sound the explosion would give off would probably deafen the people running away from the explosion, yet they never consider putting their hands to their ears to prevent their ears from going pop. But hey, it’s a film, let’s suspend our disbelief. Above the fucking solar system.

2) Bullet dodging…

Quick, run away from around 100 men all with AK-47s! Phew, thank god we didn’t get shot, even thought there were 100 guns which probably shot thousands of bullets by soldiers who have probably been taught how to aim and shoot a target. It’s as if soldiers can’t kill people…(in movies).

3) Bad guys

Why is it that the bad guys are either english or german? Why is it that the bad guy always has a russian sidekick? Why is that the bad guy will kill one of his henchmen for failing, yet all of his other henchmen are still loyal?

Why is it that when the bad guy captures the good guy, he’ll spend five minutes lecturing the good guy on his plans to destroy everything, (plus: times, dates and addresses), just in time so that another good guy can sneak up behind the bad guy and kill the bad guy without being seen?

Why is it that when the bad guy’s dead, he never is? (Usually involve one or at the very most three resurrections). Oh, and why the hell do all bad guys have white fluffy cats?

4) Quick, we’re being chased. Oh look, a helicopter…

Around 100 black-op style bad guys are chasing you, all with machine guns. Fortunately, there’s a helicopter in front of you, and you’ve been trained in how to use a helicopter…ten years ago. You say to your co-worker (whilst he’s shooting at the bad guys) “I haven’t used one of these things in ages!”

Your friend shouts back some inspirational advice (usually just “c’mon, we’re being shot down here, why don’t you try pressing all the buttons”), and god knows how, but…it works (in movies).

5) The best days of your life…

In scenes involved in a school (or in a school drama), there’s always a new kid at school, there’s always a bully who picks on a the weak kid for dinner money (the bully is usually being very fat). The bell usually rings halfway through a sentence the teacher is saying and there’s always a locker (somehow) big enough for a nerd or a wimp to be shoved into by a bunch of (‘jock’ rugby player) bullies

6) “It’s gonna explode!……..”

Oh no, there’s a bomb with lots of wires going around it, and in a few minutes (usually 2 minutes or five minutes) time, it’ll explode and you’ll die. Fortunately, you have a pair of wire cutters with you…but oh no! which wire do you cut?

“Blue wire…wire…or red wire…or yellow wire…”

Quick think! One minute left…

“It’s the red wire, it’s always the red wire…”

A few seconds of unredeemingly pointless dialogue…

You cut the red wire just in time (and everything’s rainbows and unicorns), yet why is it always just in time? Why does the ‘good guy’ character always stop the massive explosion from occurring a millisecond before the bloody device blows up? Mainly, because the directors trying to grip us at the edge of our seat (and fails), that’s why.

7) Guns never run out of ammunition

A classic cliche of practically every movie – and obviously action/thriller flick – ever made. Guns never ever run out of ammunition. Unless used as some pathetic plot device where the hero faces a dead-end between him and the villain, who so happens to be foreign (of course).

Also of note is the fact that when the villain runs out of bullets, he’ll throw his gun away, but when the hero does, he’ll usually just find another one.

8) All heroes have split up with their girlfriend/ex as some form of a ‘backstory’

Action heroes have usually already divorced their wife as ‘backstory’ (note: later on in the film, they’ll probably get back together with their ex to provide that cheesy ‘feel good’ factor for the film). The fact that this happens is essential as a plot device, usually the ex will be held at gun-point, or purely just so that the hero can try to win her back throughout the entire movie as a ‘filler’. Just watch the greatest action film ever made: Die Hard.

9) “Quick! To the bridge!”

You’re being chased by a bunch of vicious tribe members who’ll probably cook your genitals to form a broth, or just slice you into several pieces as a christmas dinner substitute. What to do? Run across the bridge!

Baring in mind there are two dangers:

1) The bridge is very old, therefore meaning that one of the wooden slats will fall down (with you on them) into the bottomless pit

2) The tribesleader will bring out his trusty sword and hack away at the rope (preferably as slow as possible) so that the bridge collapses with you on it.

See Indiana Jones for further details…everything else has copied off it (not the eyeball soup though).

10) Women…

Hollywood loves to be sexist, and as a result portrays all female characters as either: vulnerable, thick, or purely there to ‘look at’.

Or all of these. 

When a woman enters the vicinity of a room the villain is, she will always scream. When terrified, women will shove their fists in their mouths. Women always have perfectly shaved legs and armpits, even in caveman movies. Women will always end up slapping somebody round the face. Pregnant women’s water will break in the most unfortunate of circumstances (like in a lift when there are a bunch of evil zombies outside…as you do). In a slasher flick, the ‘dumb blonde’ character will always die. The ‘strong woman’ character will usually be a middle-aged mother, bitchy and masculine.

Yay. Aren’t films sexist?

Now that’s a note to end on!…

Why is The Shining so Scary?

***CONTAINS SPOILERS OF THE SHINING***

This question has been cropping up on horror-related message boards since horror-related message boards began. It’s such a common question that it’s perhaps almost as popular as the questions: “How Gory is Saw?” and “Will I vomit at The Human Centipede?”

When asked this, people always go: “Oh it’s Danny riding the tricycle down the creepy hallway.” But that doesn’t really answer it; after all, I’ve seen kids riding bikes, and I’ve never been terrified (albeit, if one was riding towards me carrying an axe whilst saying “come and play with me…come and play with me…”).

The main reason why this question is difficult to answer is mainly because the film is the most unconventional, unorthodox, un-horror-movie-like horror movie ever made. After all, it’s a horror movie with barely any clichés; It’s a horror movie in the day time.

Anyway, I’m rambling, below I have listed some of the main reasons why this psychological horror gets under most people’s – especially my – skin…

1) The Music

What first whips the fear detectors is not what hits your eyes, but what hits your ear drums. The opening scene is basically a bunch of shots showing the car journey the Torrance’s take to get to the hotel. During this, the main soundtrack purrs away in the background, and we feel that something’s not quite right…and as the long, intense, cinematically-perfected shots glide on, the music stays in the background. It’s effortlessly disturbingly creepy from the beginning right throught to the end, because the music is constant.

2) The Camera

As I mentioned earlier, people always say that it’s Danny riding his tricycle that makes it scary. It’s not that. It’s the fact that the camera’s following him; what’s creepy about The Shining is the fact that it’s filmed in Kubrick’s trademark ‘detatched’ style. The camera’s watching the events unfold. The camera is the hotel watching them. The camera is the evil spirit watching them, watching Jack’s mind slowly deteriorate until he picks up an axe, batters the bathroom door down and he says the film’s most famous line.

3) You never know what could happen next…

Like most Kubrick films, it’s never straightforward and nothing is ever predictable. Events happen randomly and unexpected: snooker balls rolling down corridors, two girls randomly appearing and speaking at the same time in high-pitched voices, a naked woman kisses Jack and then turns saggy and green (as you do). It’s like the average dreams of hallucinogenic crossed with a schizophrenic. Very weird – yet, very disturbing. Which, makes it even the more genius…

4) Building tension

The film is over two hours in length and is meticulously slow-paced. Events flow on one after the other, and as I watched this film for the first time, I was (scuze the cliché) at the edge of my seat, sweating. The slow building of pace adds to the excitement, adds to the intrigue, and I became more and more engaged with the characters, and more engaged with the film, meaning that each and every shock in the film effected me deeply and profoundly.

5) It hits you where it hurts (or rather stabs with an axe)

There’s something about it that hits you right from the beginning, perhaps it’s the mystery it creates, it lodges something in the unconscious where no other horror film lodges something. Perhaps it’s the visceral, arresting images: the long hallways, the snowy maze axe-holding Jack travels across to try to find Danny. No other horror film works like this one. Halloween only works once because you know what happens next, yet with this, you just give up, and let it work on you again.

Maybe it’s the concept: the idea that a husband and father is going to kill his son and wife. You can see, I’m struggling for answers here, the thing about this film is, I can pick it apart, dissect how it works, yet the fact of the matter is that it still works no matter what. It has something that you can’t place your finger on. Or in other words, perhaps it’s so ambiguous, so mysteriously atmospheric, that it creates a disturbing feeling, because it’s so unnatural, and you never know what could be passed each corridor…

But for me anyway, what’s most frightening about The Shining, is the fact that I don’t know why I’m so terrified whilst watching it. I just am.

My Top 10 Films…

1) A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick)
2) The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont)
3) The Color Purple (Spielberg)
4) Fight Club (Fincher)
5) Back to the Future (Zemeckis)
6) Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick)
7) Pulp Fiction (Tarantino)
8) Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino)
9) 12 Angry Men (Lumet)
10) Airplane! (Abrahams, Zucker)

**Directors names are in brackets**

A-Z of Film…PART THREE

J is for Jungle Book

The last animated masterpiece to be overseen by Walt Disney himself. A fun family flick which is enjoyable for children as well as for parents. Jungle Book follows the adventures of Mowgli, and his friends Baloo (the bear) and Bagheera (the panther) as they go deep into the forest and are almost led astray by King Louie and face danger from Shere Khan.

K  is for The King’s Speech

A film that claimed immediate media and public attention, and deservedly so: because it’s bloody brilliant. Colin Firth plays King George VI, who faces the world with a dilemma: he has a stammer…and a couple of months time, he has to make a speech on live radio to millions of people across the globe. Problem, much? No method to cure him of his harsh predicament has worked. However, along comes an Australian speech-therapist named ‘Lionel Logue’, played by Archie Rush, whose methods  are unorthodox to say the least. As the movie progresses, their friendship develops. A heart-warming and funny tale, with moments of ecstatically casual swearing.

L is for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Spot the influence: Quentin Tarantino.

This is the British Pulp Fiction: it’s got a labyrinth plot, fast-talking gangsters, and sharp, acid-tongued dialogue. What more could you want in a fast-paced crime-caper?…otber  than, the ball-squeezing, violent and Inglorious Basterd that is Vinnie Jones. Eddy plays poker against violent fat-man, gambler and porn king known as ‘Hatchett Harry’. Harry cheats and Eddy is £500’000 short. Harry then sends ‘Barry the Baptist’ to tell Eddy that if Eddy n his gang don’t deliver the £500’000, he will chop of the fingers of his friends. Day by day.

M is for Memento

A film told backwards, literally. Christopher Nolan directs a mind-mashingly complex masterpiece about a man called Lenny suffering from a memory disorder where he can’t form and remember new memories. Baring this in mind, Lenny is attempting to find out who raped and murdered his wife, by taking pictures, writing notes, and tattooing his body so he doesn’t forget the clues that he uncovers.

N is for The Night of the Living Dead

The original zombie movie, and indeed: the best. Need I say anymore?