(kr) wrote: A lot of blaxploitation classics stand-up mostly because of their soundtrack, and not necessarily because of the quality of the films themselves. I'm thinking specifically of SUPERFLY and SHAFT, both of which feature incredible, iconic soundtracks, but haven't aged well at all as movies. BLACK CAESAR features a soundtrack by James Brown that is little-discussed by comparison, but perhaps its because it compliments what is a very strong film so well that it doesn't stand out due to everything around it being weaker by comparison. BLACK CAESAR is one of the very best the blaxsploitation genre has to offer, it has a tight script by Larry Cohen, who brings his natural ear for dialogue and his keen eye for action to the direction as well. James Brown's soundtrack enhances every scene, and Fred Williamson is an imposing lead. Essentially what Larry Cohen did was take the formula of the Warner Bros. gangster movies from the thirties like LITTLE CAESAR and PUBLIC ENEMY and inject black culture into it, creating an homage to the genre while at the same time making a great movie for a black audience. BLACK CAESAR doesn't get a lot of discussion when people think of blaxsploitation, which is a shame, since it's a lot better than the films people often hold up as icons of the genre.
(ca) wrote: Alicia Vikander's ascension into stardom has been meteoric. She captured the praise of critics and audiences alike with an excellent performance in 2012's "A Royal Affair," working steadily until she reached a 2015 that saw the release of seven films, many of which featured interpretations of star-making allure. She boasted her ability to be a mainstream leading lady in would-be blockbusters ("Seventh Son," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."), and proved that, at twenty-seven, award worthy characterizations were nothing short of effortless ("Ex Machina," "Testament of Youth," "The Danish Girl"). This February, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in "The Danish Girl," which will, years from now, act as the piece of praise that catapulted her to the status of one of film's finest actresses. Vikander's time in the industry has been short, but her brief career has already begun to remind one of Isabelle Adjani, Catherine Deneuve, and Romy Schneider, being a celestially beautiful woman capable of giving performances that stir the soul with unwavering brio. And "Testament of Youth," based on the memoir of the same name by Vera Brittain, contains the sort of emotional devotion Vikander will soon be renowned for. A war film cut from the same expansive cloth as "Far From the Madding Crowd" and "Atonement," the movie is default by nature (it was produced by BBC Films, whose output mostly consists of sweeping historical works) but combatively incandescent thanks to Vikander's impassioned portrayal. In "Testament of Youth," she embodies Brittain with gutting commitment. Beginning in 1914, the film follows Brittain, a nervy, expressive heroine, from the beginning to the end of World War I, a period that changes her life immeasurably. A burgeoning Oxford student at its start (a bold endeavor for the time), we watch in agony as Brittain briefly abandons her dreams of writing to become a nurse on the battlefield, a traumatic job that shakes up everything she thought she knew about herself. As the years go by and things only get worse, Brittain is forced to remain strong as she mourns the deaths of those closest to her, as she loses her innocence and is forever scarred by the brutal nature of battle. The real Vera Brittain, a respected novelist, pacifist, and feminist during an era where most women were not taken seriously as any one of those things, was heralded as the voice of her generation after she published "Testament of Youth," which was released in 1933 to universal acclaim. Unread by me (though my curiosity is loud), this film adaptation is everything we could want a page-to-screen transition to be - invoking characters of benevolent three-dimension, we become infatuated with Brittain and her most important relationships. And because she loses so many of them as a result of the war, "Testament of Youth" is all the more poignant; Vikander's performance, so raw, so dauntless, allows for us to feel the weight of Brittain's anguish, and the film proves to be much more impactful than a mere recounting. While secondary characters are not as spotlighted, its Brittain's individual connections with them that gives them in-the-moment magnitude. As a whole, "Testament of Youth" is not much different from the majority of war films - its romance, though based in reality, is conventional, and a lot of its drama, deriving from the age-old focus on a headstrong heroine who never let anyone get her down, is familiar - but the astonishing Vikander makes it heartrending and painstakingly worthwhile. What a magnetic star she is.