20 August 2009

Readers Respond-Five Favorite Films with Dr. James Brandon

Continuing with the back to school theme of this week, we have the 5 Favorite Films of a film professor.

He's a professor of theatre and speech at Hillsdale College. Along the way he has taught classes in the subjects of communication, speech, acting, directing, and film. He has directed and acted in multiple plays. He's an intellectual giant in his field, serving as an editorial board member of Ecumenica (formerly the Baylor Journal of Theatre and Performance), the Journal of Religion and Theatre,and associate editor of the Michigan Association of Theatre and Speech Journal. He even took the time to teach me a thing or two while I was in college. He's Dr. James Brandon, and these are his 5 favorite films.


Kubrick’s most controversial and uncompromising film is a beautiful and disturbing rendition of Burgess’ novel highlighted with a bravura performance by Malcolm McDowell. Featuring one of the most stylish dystopian societies ever put on film, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE skillfully encourages the viewer to both think like a teenage hooligan and learn what it means to mature in a harsh world. Renowned for its striking visuals and jarring use of familiar music, it is impossible to pick out just one defining moment in the film; but certainly Beethoven’s works and "Singing in the Rain" will never be the same.


Capra’s boisterous adaptation of the stage play strikes exactly the right tone for dark comedy. Cary Grant gives one of his best performances in this absurdly wonderful and instantly endearing film. The rapid fire dialogue and physical timing of the actors help this film to stand out in what was a great decade for American comedies.

3. FALLING DOWN (1993)

An Expressionistic and perfectly-crafted Greek tragedy set in modern day Los Angeles that follows unemployed weapons engineer Michael Douglas on an angry rampage towards his notion of “home”. Robert Duvall provides a great foil as a police detective serving his last day on the job , and there are also sublime performances by both Barbara Hershey and Rachel Ticotin. Arguably Schumacher’s best film, FALLING DOWN truly provides a cathartic experience the eloquently captures the zeitgeist of the early 1990s.

2. BRAT (BROTHER) (1997)

The signature film for both Aleksey Balabanov and Post-Soviet Russian cinema, BRAT is minutely crafted look into the staggering societal changes endured by the Russian people after the fall of the Soviet Union. Sergei Bodrov Jr.’s epic journey as a returning soldier who becomes a gangster has just the right amount of violence, philosophy, angst and betrayal, all beautifully -filmed in St. Petersburg as it makes the transition into a brave new (capitalist) world.

1. RAN (1985)

Even in a Top 5 list, it is difficult to include only one film by
Kurosawa, but his adaptation of Shakespeare’s KING LEAR into a feudal Japanese context shows the director at his epic best. Heart rending betrayal and political intrigues abound as three sons battle it out for their doddering father’s kingdom. Kurosawa’s exquisitely-staged battles, extensive use of vibrant colors, and careful mix of epic and minimalist moments make this an unforgettable and moving film, and perhaps the best adaptation of Shakespeare in the history of the cinema.

1 comment:

  1. I love Brat,,, easily one of the most underrated films of all time. But I really don't get the Arsenic and Old Lace. If you were going to pick something from that era,,, didn't there have to be something better than that?