FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| John Ford |||
John Ford

One of the art form's grand masters of all time, Ford is responsible for influencing the seminal directors of generation after generation. Strongly associated with the impressive body of work created over a lifetime with collaborator John Wayne, it is nearly impossible to choose just three… but here it goes.

This powerful winner of the Best Picture Academy Award is set in Wales at the turn of the 19th century, and tells the story of a family of miners, whose lives are filled with danger and repression. The film is beautifully crafted, lovingly depicting the gut wrenching sacrifices and light-hearted moments that are elemental to family life, making this film a true representation of the craft that is unmistakably John Ford.

This film is told in flashback as James Stewart, after a long absence, returns home for the funeral of a friend who saved his life from a sadistic outlaw. This classic covers every essential element required to qualify as a western epic from unlikely friends to the girl who comes between them, to the enemy they both despise, but handle with extremely different approaches, to Fords signature cast of supporting characters, all combine to make this a staple for every fan of this uniquely American genre.

This romantic comedy seen through the eyes of John Ford has John Wayne ( an American-raised boxer) go to Ireland to the village of his birth, fall for feisty Maureen O'Hara, and fight with town ruffian Victor McLaglen in one of the all time classic screen brawls. This is an exceptionally fine romantic movie that with Ford’s capable bravado manages to be a film that any man’s man can openly enjoy.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (BrianOrndorf)

By BrianOrndorf

November 18th, 2005

Harry Potter returns in his most successful feature to date, “Goblet of Fire.” An unusual choice of director was made with Mike Newell, but his care with actors shines throughout the picture. The darkest of the series to date, “Fire” earns its PG-13 rating. However, the maturation of the saga recharges the creative batteries, setting this franchise off in a new, interesting direction.

Looking for a trouble-free year at Hogwarts for a change, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) finds himself unwillingly entered in the brutal TriWizard competition, up against a fellow Hogwarts student (Robert Pattinson) and two others from visiting schools. With the assistance of loyal friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), Harry seeks to reveal who has put him in harm’s way yet again. As Harry struggles to stay alive during these brutal contests, his investigations and dreams lead him to Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), who is making new efforts to rise again and exact his revenge.

“Goblet of Fire” is the crucial transition film for the Harry Potter franchise, taking it from a story of childhood wonderment to a tale of destiny. Transitions also take place behind the scenes, with some major changes in important artistic roles. Instead of demoralizing the series, the alterations to the Potter fabric reinforce the material, making “Goblet of Fire” the strongest entry to date in this powerhouse fantasy franchise.

In the last installment, 2004’s “Prisoner of Azkaban,” director Alfonso Cuaron took the series to gloomy reaches, far away from the more lighthearted, magical take on the material that filmmaker Chris Columbus trusted. New helmer Mike Newell takes the reigns of “Goblet of Fire,” and his difficult job is to juggle between the two moods, as the story for the film certainly is the darkest yet of the series. At first glance, Newell is an odd choice, spending his career making character dramas (“Donnie Brasco,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral”) and mostly forgettable fare (“Pushing Tin, “Mona Lisa Smile”). He would’ve been one of the last names associated with a monster-budgeted, effects-filled franchise film like this, yet the producers knew something the prerelease hype didn’t. Newell’s calm direction is a huge asset to the success of “Goblet of Fire,” along with his accomplished work with actors and production design.

Newell guides the film gracefully, and manages to keep his head above water with this elaborate story. A massive book trimmed to a 157-minute film, “Goblet of Fire,” like the other “Potter” films, take huge leaps in storytelling, trying to cherry pick the best set pieces of the book and build an organized narrative around them. Returning screenwriter Steven Kloves deserves massive credit wrestling the J.K. Rowling world into semi-coherent films, and “Goblet of Fire” represents his best work to date. Using the TriWizard championship as the core of the story, Kloves is allowed to branch out and assist the characters’ needed maturation, while still being able to return to the excitement of the wizardry and action with enormous scenes of immaculate Hogwart’s mayhem. As a non-reader of the books, I’ve become used to keeping one step behind the story, trusting that fans of the page are drinking in every last detail. However, while the climax gets a little punch drunk, Newell is still able to keep the muggles as invested in the story as the fans, which wasn’t always the case in the previous films. “Goblet of Fire” is easily the most confident of the series, with the production finally comfortable with the demands of the divided audience, and not afraid to please both.

The highlight of the film is a mid-movie ball sequence where crucial moments of teenage lust and cruelty are showcased, finally giving the series an accurate portrayal of adolescence. Since the theme of the film is transformation, Newell gives time for the three leads to grow into awkward teenagers, complete with self-conscious behavior and bickering. Newell and Kloves use the ball as a setting for Harry, Hermione, and Ron to begin confronting their newly thorny friendship, and to a smaller degree, their burgeoning sexuality (also seen in a moment with Harry in a bath while Moaning Myrtle comes on to him). The sequence is also a rare chance for the story to take a breather and enjoy the characters and the surroundings, without having to breathlessly cram exposition into every frame (which crippled “Azkaban”). It’s an unusual moment of pageantry for the series, but it elevates the characterizations away from the gee-wiz level they were stuck at, and lays the groundwork spectacularly for the hormonal trouble that lies ahead for the trio.

Also new to the series is the PG-13 rating. If the first three films were enhanced by their sense of awe, “Goblet of Fire” signals that now the story is heading into darkness and unknown dangers. The picture opens with a snake slithering slowly out of a skull, signaling clearly that Newell is upping the scare factor this time around, building on Cuaron’s subtle shift in tone. “Goblet of Fire” isn’t a gratuitously violent film, but it’s creepy and potentially disturbing to younger viewers, along with being the first “Potter” film to have a sizable body count. Harry’s challenges in the tournament might be unsettling to some, but that’s really kitten play once Ralph Fiennes enters the picture as Voldemort. Fiennes hisses and rages as evil incarnate, providing enough of a reason for the new rating with his menacing scenes alone.

Rejuvenated by an epic score from Patrick Doyle (who abandons the expected John Williams themes) and teeming with luxurious, detailed CG images (including a huge Quidditch stadium, underwater danger, and dragons), “Goblet of Fire” easily overcomes the stinging absence of beloved characters (Alan Rickman’s delicious Professor Snape merely cameos here) and an overall sunny disposition. “Goblet of Fire” is certainly the most satisfying Harry Potter adventure to come down the pipeline, and if the final, bittersweet moments of the film are any indication, the complications and threats awaiting Harry in the future should make for dazzling cinema.

My rating: A-