You are being redirected - hold on tight!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Music: Flashback - The Best Albums of 1968 Part One of Two

By Noah Mallin

Continuing on our trip 40 years back into the tumultuous past, here is part one of the best albums of 1968 in no order whatsoever.

1) Aretha Franklin - Lady Soul
Most soul albums at this time were collections of big hit singles with lesser tracks sprinkled in as filler. A few performers were so good that even their minor tracks made for a great album experience and Aretha was one of them. 1967 was the year she burst onto the scene on Atlantic records after an unhappy stint at Columbia. Lady Soul includes a few of that previous year's hits like the impassioned "Chain of Fools." It also includes the groundbreaking "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman" a song described by critic Dave Marsh as an ode to the female orgasm. Even her cover of The Rascal's "Groovin" finds her in peak form with a suitably clever re-arrangement that brings out the soulfulness in the song.

2) Rolling Stones - Beggar's Banquet
The Rolling Stones made the first flop of their carrier with 1967's Sgt. Pepper's aping LP Their Satanic Majesties Request. They also found themselves at odds with founding member Brian Jones who seemed to still think himself as the band's leader despite Jagger and Richards writing the vast bulk of their original material. Beggar's Banquet was repped as their return to roots, a popular notion in 1968 (rivals The Beatles would begin recording their own back to basics album by the end of the year, the aborted Get Back which would see the light of day in 1970 as Let it Be.) It's hard to describe this as a return to the blues of their early albums because the band had utterly transcended imitation to discover their own gritty supercharged sound. Beggar's would be the first of four classic albums that represent the peak of the band's achievements. Beggar's features almost no playing by Jones, with the guitars overdubbed brilliantly by Keith Richards. The highlight of the album is arguably "Sympathy For The Devil" but "Street Fighting Man", "No Expectations" and "Jigsaw Puzzle" are just a few of the major tracks here.

3) Dr. John - Gris-Gris
Dr. John was just one of the many incredible performers who learned their trade in the music clubs of New Orleans. Starting in the late 50s he plied his barrelhouse piano skills from clubs to bars across the city. For his first album Gris-Gris he had already dubbed himself "The Night Tripper" and fused elements of psychedelia, traditional New Orleans R & B , voodoo nuttiness, and whatever else popped into his head. After 40 years as a recording artist this is still the most compelling and far-out record in his catalog with the 7-minute plus "I walk on Guilded Splinters" a particular treat.

4) Caetano Veloso – Tropicalia

The entire Brazilian music scene was in a major creative upheaval in 1968 and Veloso was at the forefront of the new sounds. Intending Tropicalia to be Brazil's answer to The Beatles Sgt. Pepper album Veloso and his collaborators jammed in pop, rock and psychedelic production flourishes to create a whole new genre that would come to be named after the song "Tropicalia." Technically the album was one of several untitled LP's Veloso would release but it is usually referenced by the name Tropicalia.

5) Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
Van Morrison cut the cord from his garage band Them with his first record for Warner Bros, Astral Weeks. The lush, long songs take folk into jazz and classical directions, expertly arranged and played. In many ways the current "freak folk" of Devendra Banhart and Sufjan Stevens can find it's roots in the expositional meanderings of Astral Weeks.

6) The Band – Music From Big Pink
The blandly named The Band earned their chops as The Hawks playing backup for rocker Ronnie Hawkins in the early 60s. When Bob Dylan wiped out in a motorcycle accident he joined them in their house in Woodstock New York, Big Pink, and laid down reels of music that later found release legit and otherwise as The Basement Tapes. Their first album as a unit defined the back to basics aesthetic that inspired many musicians in 1968, the timeless melodies and straightforward approach of songs like "The Weight" and "In a Station" suggesting tunes going back a century or more. This was heightened by the Levon Helms and Rick Danko's timeworn voices and the inventively simple instrumentation.

7) The Outsiders - CQ
The Dutch are well-known for all kinds of hedonism but rocking out (Golden Earring notwithstanding) is not one of them. The Outsiders are one of the great unsung bands of the 60s, a garage band that found their own way to integrate psychedelia and even pensive folk elements into their albums without losing site of great hooks and crunchy guitars. CQ was sadly their last album and also their best.

8) The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland
Hendrix had exploded onto London's music scene in 1967 with a series of mindbending live shows and two stellar albums. By 1968 he was a superstar and looked to push his bandmates to their limits and beyond for what would prove to be their last album together, the double LP Electric Ladyland. The record is famed for the "underwater" sound Hendrix pushed for, with radical studio tricks matching his wildly fierce guitar playing. His cover of Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" was so revelatory that Dylan himself essentially covers Hendix's version when he plays it live.

9) The Beatles – The Beatles
Like the Stones, the Beatles had also received their first setback in 1967.After the huge success of Sgt. Pepper's they conceived the television film Magical Mystery Tour, released at the end of the year to a critical savaging. An ill-fated retreat with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi did have a salutary effect on the band's songwriting with each member coming back with a clutch of songs (even Ringo had two!). The Beatles a double LP popularly known as The White Album after the stark white sleeve, showed the unwillingness to whittle down what each songwriter had. In fact the band had become backing musicians to whoever's song was being recorded on a particular day. This led to their most varied and for some most fascinating record yet. A young Jann Wenner described it as encompassing the whole of popular music up to that time and with heavy proto metal like "Helter Skelter" jostling with the gorgeous psych-folk of "Dear Prudence", the Beach Boys pastiche of "Back in The U.S.S.R." and the 30s style "Honey Pie" the band's reach seemed limitless.

10) Silver Apples – Silver Apples
Every electronic music artist from Kraftwerk through Suicide on down to Daft Punk and Aphex Twin owe a huge debt to this pioneering new York duo who first fused pop music sensibilities with the electronic experimentalism of the musical avant-garde. Though far from popular the droning shifting oscillations and pulsing beats of their debut album held enormous influence and still sounds contemporary and riveting today.

Film Review: Fine Performances All There is to See in ' The Lookout '

Review by Noah Mallin

Screenwriter Scott Frank's debut in the director's chair The Lookout suffers, oddly enough, from a screenplay (by Frank) that isn't as clever as it thinks it is and leisurely editing by Jill Savitt. On the plus side of the ledger are some excellent performances all around, most notably by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who seems just a few roles away from a breakthrough.

Gordon-Levitt plays a self-satisfied high school jock who plows his convertible into a combine through sheer lunkheaded recklessness killing two friends and badly wounding his pretty girlfriend. The accident leaves him with one of those brain injuries beloved by noir screenwriters and rare anywhere else. He has difficulty remembering things and has particular trouble with causality. Jeff Daniels plays the blind man who lives with him in a sort of disabled persons half-way home. Daniels is a welcome presence, finding just the right amount of wryness and concern. Carla Gugino shows up all to briefly as a counselor.

As the film unspools Gordon-Levitt becomes entangled in a far-fetched bank-robbery scheme by creepy Matthew Goode and naively sexy Isla Fisher. It's one of the more interesting underdeveloped points that through the eyes of these characters who remember him from high school, Gordon-Levitt seems like something of a conceited asshole before the unintentional lobotomy.

Unfortunately this turns out to be no Memento despite Gordon-Levitt's habit of labelling things and making notes to himself. Rather it takes on the quality of an afterschool special designed to encourage people who've suffered brain trauma to engage themselves in seedy neo-noir situations as a means of therapy.

The aforementioned editing makes things worse by squelching whatever surprise and tension there is -- the film itself seems to be in a sort of stupor. Here's hoping that Gordon-Levitt, like his character, finds a better class of people to run with next time.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Culture: Comic Actor Harvey Korman Dies

An Appreciation by Noah Mallin

Harvey Korman, one of the stars of Carol Burnett's long-running TV variety show and of numerous films, died today. On Burnett's show, Korman could often be seen cracking up at the antics of co-star Tom Conway. The two became a duo, flying around the country in recent years to perform together.

Korman also shined in films where he specialized in deeply demented authority figures, not unlike another tall comic actor from across the pond John Cleese. This can best be seen in two outstanding performances for Mel Brooks -- as Hedley Lamarr in the Western spoof Blazing Saddles and as Dr. Charles Montague in the Hitchcock takeoff High Anxiety.

In Saddles Korman got mileage out of his character's name ("It's HedLEY, HedLEY!") and delivered this priceless rejoinder to the idea of killing the town of Rock Ridge's firstborn sons,"Too Jewish." In Anxiety the seemingly buttoned down Doctor goes gaga for Cloris Leachman's dominatrix Nurse Diesel.

Korman did a great deal of television in addition to his stint with Burnett. This includes doing the voice of The Great Gazoo on The Flintstones as well as appearances on The Munsters, F-Troop, The Love Boat, Ellen and on ER. He also played Bud Abbot in the TV movie Bud and Lou and appeared on the now notorious Star Wars Holiday Special.

On the Burnett Show, Korman was very very funny but also took such evident delight in his fellow performers. The famous clip of Burnett as Scarlett O' Hara is that much funnier for Korman breaking up as Rhett.

Design: Flashback 1968 -- The Best Automotive Designs of 1968

By Noah Mallin

I know haters -- some of you love the design stuff and some of you loath it. Especially the car designs, but hold your noses because here are the best of 1968.

1) Pontiac GTO

Pontiac's 1968 GTO introduced the soft plastic-sheathed "Endura" front end, allowing for a smooth seemingly bumper-free front. This would become crucial for GM styling as federal law toughened bumper standards in the ensuing decade. Though mid-sized at the time, this was a huge car with flowing, tapered lines. Note the pillarless window openings.

2) Dodge Charger

The second generation Charger was a design icon, as well as a Hollywood star appearing in the movie Bulitt and TVs Dukes of Hazzard with a very un-PC Confederate Flag on the roof. Nevertheless with the tunnel style rear window and handsome sculpted lines its easy to see why so many people caught "Dodge fever".

3) Chevrolet Corvette

The radical 1968 Corvette design is synonymous now with hairy chested men wearing aviator sunglasses and polyester sport jackets who wink at "chicks" in the next car over before burning rubber as the light turns green. Is it just me? Chevy kept the basic shape in production until 1983 and every Vette since has paid homage to a design that itself was derived from the sensational mid 60s Mako Shark showcar. The sinuous fenders and pop-up headlamps were the apogee of space-age styling at the time and the simpler unadorned first year models still look terrific.

4) Aston Martin DBS

The DBS saw Astons getting bigger and more Grand Touring oriented, mixing sport and luxury together. Though it's taken longer to become a classic than it's DB predecessors the bluff chiseled exterior is perfectly judged. The body formed the basis of Astons well into the 1980s.

5) Ferrari P6 Concept

Pininfarina has long enjoyed its status as Ferrari's favored design house. The P6 concept was both of its time, particularly in the roof louvers, and a window into future Ferraris. The sculpted side indents would find their way onto models like the 308 in the late 70s and the front end shape was echoed in the Berlinetta Boxer in the early 70s. The smooth wedge shape hinted at the importance aerodynamics would begin to play over the following two decades as well.

6) Ferrai 365 “Daytona”

One of the most popular Ferraris ever, the 365, also known as the Daytona, is a perfect sinuous coupe. The convertible became very hot as a collector car in the 1980s thanks to TV's Miami Vice (which ironically used a cheap replica). This lead to a spate of dingalings chopping the roofs off of the gorgeous coupe to pass them off as factory convertibles. Mores the pity as the coupe is far better looking. The radical plexi-covered front fascia was replaced with more conventional pop-up headlights in the US due to outmoded regulations.

7) Jaguar XJ8

A truly gorgeous machine the XJ6 would stay in production with a few updates through 1986. The flowing bodywork has heavily influenced all subsequent Jaguar sedans for better or worse, but none have captured the elegant simplicity of the original.

8) Lamborghini Espada

Lamborghini could be counted on for original and sometimes oddball styling in the late 60s and this fits both descriptions. A long 2 + 2 that appears even longer thanks to it's low height and planed roofline. The body tucks under radically at the sides, complimenting the side glass angle above.

9) Opel GT

General Motors design was in the last stages of its golden age in the late 60s, not just in the United States but in Europe as well. The GT, made by their German Opel subsidiary was a tiny sport coupe subtly reminiscent of the much bigger Corvette. There are also elements of an aborted mid 60s Pontiac project called the Banshee. The proportions are exquisite, building on their clear Lotus inspiration into something original.

10) Lincoln Continental Mark III

Pimps need cars too. Until the Lincoln Continental Mark III they had to make do with Cadillac's Eldorado. The Mark III however sported then novel "retro" styling, baroque and over the top yet somehow still elegant. It would be a few years before the oval cutout windows would show up in the C-pillars but when they did the pimpmobile was born.

11) Oldsmobile Cutlass

The Cutlass was Olds family car, though the fire breathing 442 model was not to be trifled with. This was the best looking of GM's new intermediate bodied cars for 1968. Long, low and wide, they met the standard for typical Detroit design at the time but added great detailing like the hood and tapered rear deck and headlight clusters.

12) Bertone Carabo

Not to be confused with the awful Phoebe Cates film Princess Caraboo, the Bertone Carabo concept was Italian design at its most radical. Silly yes, but breathtakingly so. Again we have louvers like the comparatively restrained Ferrari P6 concept but here they are all over the rear like the Batmobile in safe mode. The wedge design is the ultimate in edgy and the scissor doors had not yet become cliche.

13) Bizzarini Manta

As you can see, louvers were big stuff in 1968. Design superstar Giorgetto Giugiaro penned his first independent design for this Bizzarini showcar. The wedge was also big but the elements here are handled with a light and deft touch, less in your face then Bertone and not as delicate as Pininfarina's Ferraris.

Film: Eddie Murphy Returns To The Well For More 'Cop"

Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy block out a scene for the new Beverly Hills Cop movie somewhere in the digital future...

By Noah Mallin

After revivals of 80s franchises Indiana Jones and Rambo Eddie Murphy has thrown his hat into the idea exhaustion ring and will lead a revival of the moribund Beverly Hills Cops films. The original film was retooled from a Stallone actioner to a Murphy action comedy and was one of the big hits of 1984. It also insured Judge Reinhold and Bronson Pinchot would have decade lasting careers but we can forgive it for that. The sequel featured a Bob Seger's song "Shakedown" and that's all there is to say about that. The law of ever-diminishing returns was in full effect with the third sequel released in 1994.

For the new one we can presumably expect Eddie to play his usual character of Axel Foley as well as taking over Reinhold's role of Billy, the role of the tough as nails police chief, the role of a Rastafarian informant, and the main villain -- a 300 pound black woman bank robber with Lee press-on nails.

Seriously though, Brett Ratner will be adding his own special whiff of eau-du-turd as director. Apparently he got confused and thought the title was Rush Hour 4.

So kids, feel free to play the home game: Gremlins 3? Breakin' 3: Electric Boogalee? No tapped out franchise is too dumb to be revived!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Film: Actor/Director Sydney Pollack Dies

By Noah Mallin

Sydney Pollack, best known for the big budget star-studded films he made as a director, has died at age 73. He was also a welcome presence as an actor throughout the world of film and television, appearing memorably in his own Tootsie, Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives, Michael Clayton and on the programs Will & Grace and The Sopranos among many others.

Pollack essentially straddled two worlds as a director. Like Sidney Lumet and John Frankenheimer he had cut his teeth directing for television before moving to film in the 60s but Pollack's specialty was the "prestige picture" -- usually big stars set against an inherently dramatic backdrop. The prestige pic was more often associated with an older generation of Hollywood director like Stanley Kramer. This didn't always lead to great cinema as Pollack was the first to admit. Films like Random Hearts, The Interpreter and Havana demonstrated the bloat that crept in too easily on this type of film.

On the other hand the harrowing dance-a-thon They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, the spectacular Robert Redford thriller Three Days of The Condor, the anomalous Dustin Hoffman comedy Tootsie, and the sudsy Oscar-bait romance of Out of Africa were memorable high points. His other film's include his first -- The Slender Thread in 1965 which starred Sydney Poitier as a suicide hotline operator, a well-known uncredited stint on the Burt Lancaster film The Swimmer (1968), both mountain man drama Jeremiah Johnson (1972) and Barbra Streisand romance weepie The Way We Were (1973) with frequent star Redford, The Yakuza (1974) with Robert Mitchum, a 1995 remake of the classic Sabrina and his final film, a documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry in 2006.

Though it's as a director that he's been best-known and most rewarded for Pollack initially started his career as an actor, and its as an actor that he has most consistently excelled for me. He can be slimily sinister or amoral (as in Micheal Clayton or Changing Lanes) uptight (Tootsie), a keeper of wisdom who may not be entirely trustworthy (Sopranos, Eyes Wide Shut) a flawed but lovable best friend or father figure (Will & Grace, Husbands and Wives). He was one of those actors who immediately made whatever scene they are in that much better. He was utterly believable in every role he played.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Music: Weezer Vid is Net Pleaser

New Weezer album cover or Village People 2.0? Emo Scarface Guy, Dweeb, Puny Cowboy and Tattoo Enthusiast

In the last post I whined, as I so often do, about record companies that don't understand that music videos are advertisements and ought to be embeddable by anyone. Along comes Weezer to prove the point by cleverly producing a video that asks (maybe too hard) for viral love.

Oh Weezer, how can I say no? With a catchy melody hewed from pure power punk goodness and hilarious and poignant cameos from the Chocolate Rain dude, the numma numma kid, Chris Crocker and a bunch of other YouTubers "Pork and Beans" is a must to display here. Lets hope the rest of the new album manages to put memories of their last two to rest...

Oh, and nice 'stache Rivers...

Music News: Guv Lets Slick Rick Slide -- Patterson Pardons MC Ricky D

By Noah Mallin

Old-School rap legend Slick Rick, aka MC Ricky D, Ricky Walters, Tha Ruler, etc. has been pardoned by New York governor David Patterson. Slick Rick had been convicted and served time for murder stemming from an early 90s incident and the Department of Homeland Security had been trying to deport him to Great Britain based on the charges.

Rick had a platinum album in 1988 with the groundbreaking The Adventures of Slick Rick, which featured hilarious tongue-in-cheek rhymes over clever samples delivered in Rick's ripe British accent. There are also some thoughtful moments that suggest a more serious view of sex and violence.

I'd love to show you an official video but the idiots at Universal Music still seem to think that disabling embedding on YouTube somehow helps them sell music. Somebody shake those morons awake and tell them that music videos are promotional tools, not product. Gee, I wonder why they have to resort to suing their customers to sell records?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Limited Posting This Week

Even bloggers need vacations, and I'm taking one, so posts will be limited through Saturday the 24th.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Film: The Best War Movies Ever

By Noah Mallin

My good friend Cletus and I put our heads together this week and other than coming away with grease in my hair I also came away with this list of the best war movies ever, in time for Memorial Day here in the United States. They are in no particular order. Cletus argued for 10 films, I argued for 20 and we settled on 15 plus one more for extra value.

1) Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Steven Spielberg's epic was a big Summer hit, coinciding with a generational re-examination of the Second World War at a time when what's been dubbed "the greatest generation" was thinning considerably. The first twenty minutes rank with the best cinema has to offer, a harrowing re-creation of the D-Day landing at Normandy Beach that uses hand-held cameras, washed out cinematography and inventive sound design to pummel the viewer into a state of mute horror. The rest of the flick has a hard time grabbing the viewer's attention after the bravura opening but taken on their own there are some incredible scenes and fine performances, led by Tom Hanks and Jeremy Davies as a combat shy language expert. Essentially an homage to the films that originally honored these men, it's a moving and sometimes breathtaking work.

2) Paths of Glory (1957)
Stanley Kubrick's tough, impassioned anti-war film cuts deep. The story set during World War I concerns a group of French soldiers, led reluctantly by Kirk Douglas, who balk at joining the carnage. The overall battle ends in defeat and the higher-ups decide to make an example of this small group to shift the blame for the failure. Absolutely searing.

3) Sergeant York (1941)
Legend has it that real-life World War I hero Alvin York requested three things from the producers of this film before he would sell them the rights to his life story. His wife shouldn't be played by a typical Hollywood starlet, the heroics had to be told straight and without embellishment, and he would have to be played by the everyman actor of the day Gary Cooper. All accounts have Director Howard Hawks sticking to this agreement, delivering a rousing film about heroism that is inspiring while also being though-provoking. York was a pacifist who tried and failed to obtain conscientious objector status and was drafted. A crack shot, he had to be convinced to take part in combat. When a force of Germans mow down several of his unit members, he personally killed 25 of the enemy, while capturing 132 of them.

4) M*A*S*H (1970)
M*A*S*H was set during the Korean War, but it was clear to audiences that this was a sharp satire of the then-current war in Vietnam. The film was a huge hit, establishing director Robert Altman and stars Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland as avatars of a new Hollywood elite. Altman would never have a hit as big again, but many of his innovations are here most notably his flair for ensemble casts, his overlapping dialogue and sound, and his flaunting of genre conventions. Some of the humor comes of as sexist now but this is an uproarious iconoclastic war comedy. Those who only know the television show are in for a treat.

5) The Great Escape (1963)
Based loosely on a true story, The Great Escape is a rousing adventure that also contains much of the tragedy of war. Set during the Second World War, it has a brilliant ensemble cast including Steve McQueen, James Garner, British director Richard Attenborough, and Charles Bronson planning a daring operation to flee the German POW camp that holds them. Includes a famous motorcycle chase with McQueen.

6) Bridge on The River Kwai (1957)
One of the greatest films of all time, David Lean's epic explores issues of duty and honor and offers no easy answers. Alec Guiness won an Oscar as did Lean and the blacklisted writers. Guiness is simply unforgettable as the leader of British officers in a brutal Japanese POW camp. At first he resists camp commander Sessue Hayakawa's edict that the British prisoners build the titular bridge. After a brutal solitary confinement he agrees, believing that the British will prove their superior engineering and building skills to the Japanese. William Holden is haunting as an American officer who escapes the camp but is coerced to return.

7) The Dirty Dozen (1967)
In it's own sly way, as incendiary an anti-Vietnam film as M*A*S*H would prove to be only disguised even better for mass consumption by director Robert Aldrich. World War II set film concerns a band of dead end criminal soldiers forced into a brutal mission with very little chance to survive. Lee Marvin is outstanding as their commander and the cast including Telly Savalas, Ernest Borgnine, John Casavetes, Robert Ryan, and Jim Brown is top-notch.

8) The Thin Red Line (1998)
Terence Malick came back from a long absence to direct this film set in the Pacific during World War II. Criticized by some for it's incredible lush scenery, the fecundity surrounding the soldiers is the point of the film. The rich life around them in these islands acts as a rebuke to the brutality the young soldiers experience and are asked to perpetrate. Fantastic cast including John Cusack, Nick Nolte, Jim Cavaziel and Woody Harrelson and stunning cinematography.

9) The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
The true story of war reporter Ernie Pyle, beloved by the troops for telling it like it was in his dispatches. William Wellman's film shows incredible contrast between the downtime and the battles and Burgess Meredith was never better as Pyle. Robert Mitchum became a star on the strength of his portrayal of the caring, hard-bitten Commander who has to see his unite depleted as he receives unasked-for battlefield promotions. Pyle was felled by a sniper's bullet shortly before the film's release.

10) The Deer Hunter (1978)
Michael Cimino's epic tragedy was one of the first Hollywood films to deal with Vietnam directly. Though it's harrowing war scenes may have been divorced from reality, they pack a punch, especially when contrasted with the scenes depicting life before and after the experience of the young men who go off to war, played beautifully by Robert DeNiro, John Cazale, John Savage, and Christopher Walken. The controversial Russian roulette scenes in a POW camp are indelible.

11) Apocalypse Now (1979)
Avoid the overhyped Director's cut and seek out the tighter original version which stays on course without a some lengthy pointless digressions. Coppola aimed for a masterpiece but like the Vietnam war he was depicting, he ended up biting off more than he could chew in this troubled production. There are some incredible sequences, particularly involving Robert Duvall who nearly steals the movie as a surf-happy air cavalry man. The ending featuring Brando was as anticlimactic and depressing as the actual wars denouement.

12) Platoon (1986)
For better or worse, the film that put Oliver Stone and Charlie Sheen on the map. Kicking off a wave of Vietnam films in the 80s this was a surprise hit. Bombastic, over-the-top, and reductive, it's still a helluva film. Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe are standouts in career-making roles.

13) Stalag 17 (1953)
Billy Wilder's pitch dark drama is shot through with moments of levity but the cynicism of its worldview is as inescapable as the POW camp the characters are stuck in. William Holden, in an Oscar winning performance, plays the sardonic king of the cynics in the Nazi camp. He's trusted by no-one, just as he trusts nobody. The Nazi's deftly play the interns against one another, especially when it appears that there is a mole in their ranks.

14) Das Boot (1981)
The six-hour TV miniseries version of Wolfgang Petersen's submarine-set film is a bit much to take but the theatrical film version is nail-bitingly good. Told from the point of view of the crew of a Nazi u-boat, it's impossible not to sympathize with them. They are as much victims of Hitler's brutality as the Americans they are pitted against. The claustrophobia and fear of their lives underwater is palpable throughout.

15) Patton (1970)
Star George C. Scott saw Patton as a critique of war but Franklin J. Shaffner walks a delicate line, allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions from Patton's megalomania and military genius. Scott was never better and the Academy agreed, awarding him Best Actor which he refused to accept. The film also won Best Picture and its sweeping scope and intelligent screenplay make it timeless.

16) The Big Red One (1980)
Director Sam Fuller made a number of lean low-budget Word War II flicks in the 1950s but all of his work would lead up to this, based on his own combat experiences. Originally compromised by an inelegant studio cut, film critic and historian Richard Schickel assembled a longer version after Fuller's death based on his original screenplay and using leftover footage. The result was a revelation, showing the full sweep of unexpected juxtapositions of beauty in the midst of carnage. A lost masterpiece.

Culture: Will Elder, Brilliant "Mad" -man, Dies

An Appreciation by Noah Mallin

Will Elder, the graphic artist who stuffed his panels full of sight gags and wordplay for Mad Magazine and Playboy died today. He was 86 years old. After attending high school with future Mad founder Harvey Kurtzman and fellow Mad artist Al Jaffee, Elder helped draft maps for the Normandy landing on D-Day during World War II.

At Mad Elder pioneered a style that influenced the entire magazine as well as the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker creative filmmaking team behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun and even the non-sequitur filled design of the much ballyhooed Spy magazine in the 1980s.

He would go on to create and draw the strip "Little Annie Fanny" for Playboy magazine, filling it with his bawdy humor and dynamic action.