Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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swo17
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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#126 Post by swo17 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 9:47 pm

Le trou begins with the real Roland Darbant telling the audience that this is his story and then proceeds to cast him in a tale of five inmates attempting a prison escape. Eligible?

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zedz
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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#127 Post by zedz » Wed Apr 11, 2018 9:50 pm

swo17 wrote:Le trou begins with the real Roland Darbant telling the audience that this is his story and then proceeds to cast him in a tale of five inmates attempting a prison escape. Eligible?
Because his character is renamed, it doesn't qualify under this list's rules (or I would have had it in my top ten).

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#128 Post by DarkImbecile » Wed Apr 11, 2018 9:53 pm

domino harvey wrote:Lists are due by tomorrow morning, but it may be a moot point. We only have five lists in so far, and I'm not bothering unless we get ten, so there may be no Biopics List after all. I've been as guilty as anyone of not participating as much as I anticipated, but I'm still submitting my ballot.
Is that count of five including your ballot?

I've completely failed to participate in this thread, but I'm putting together a list anyway. My pattern seems to be to submit lists for the projects for which I don't post anything, but for those that I do post in (the all-time list, the Fritz Lang auteur list) to then fail to follow through with an actual submission for one reason or another.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#129 Post by swo17 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 9:54 pm

zedz wrote:
swo17 wrote:Le trou begins with the real Roland Darbant telling the audience that this is his story and then proceeds to cast him in a tale of five inmates attempting a prison escape. Eligible?
Because his character is renamed, it doesn't qualify under this list's rules (or I would have had it in my top ten).
According to Wikipedia his character is accurately named, but he acted under the stage name of Jean Keraudy.

EDIT: Oh wait, I didn't realize the subtle difference between Darbant and Barbat.

It might have been interesting to do a mini-list of films that would be biopics if not for a name change. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang and Le ciel est a vous are a couple of other films in a similar boat.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#130 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:35 am

Even with a rally, we are short on lists. I'll give it an extra week for any dalliers, and if not, RIP

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#131 Post by Never Cursed » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:54 am

What does that bring us to, eight counting the people who have said they'll submit?

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#132 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:56 am

Eight lists have been received total, yes

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#133 Post by knives » Thu Apr 12, 2018 2:43 pm

Given the extension might as well place one last hurrah of posts.

Socrates
In spite of its setting this comes across as perhaps Rossellini's most christian film of his later career with the titled philosopher transformed into another St. Francis. Rossellini even gets a cute holy trinity discussion in. Though it is more through implicit means that this becomes so christian as it tells the story of a wondering traveler and clown who upsets the government through philosophical speculation that undermines their authority that ultimately results in his death. I suppose in narrative terms that sounds more like JC, but the characterization is all St. Francis right down to a well humoured crowd following him and asking questions. On this front the end of the film is left in a complicated situation that challenges the otherwise traditional christian perspective of the film since ultimately it is not the Athenians who kill Socrates, but his own will to his philosophy.

This also leads into a fairly different aesthetic. The story is set up as a series of dialogues with the court case against Socrates as the intellectual center mirroring The Flowers of St. Francis' scene with the war lord in many respects. This gives the film a fascinating oomph that is fairly different from the renaissance films which have a more bureaucratic structure. Though what for me is most fascinating is what Rossellini does in lieu of the paintings which provided the framing and lighting of those features. Instead the film seems to take a cue from the ancient Greek sculptures with a lot of blasted whites (the intense lighting here is perhaps Rossellini's most radical departure) and an increase in close ups. Even the camera does not rove all that much by comparison with a rather static sense building not unlike some of the Strub/Huillet films. I will say though, to add some minor negativity, that the score seemed out of place and the film could have been better without it.

Victoria & Abdul
Pretty great as a farce and if the film had leaned into that a bit more it would easily be Frears best of the century. As is his dramatic tendencies override a little too much. Part of it is necessary to make the central relationship work, but Frears goes far beyond what is required making some of his idiot comedy less than satisfactory. A big part of that is that this is very much a film about colonialism and how the British are the worst. This makes, though he doesn't have much screen time, Adeel Akhtar (who has been so great lately) just as valuable as Dench. He's the cynical realist who sees the British for what they are while Fazal is something of a naive idiot. He's this film's Fernandel so wide eyed as to not be able to realize he's entered into a world of overgrown children playing house with the world at stake. There's a potentially much darker take such as Iannucci would do lurking underneath through Akhtar's eyes, but seeing this through Fazal's is fun in a classically silly sort of way.

Bright Star
I feel as if I should have more to say on this, but outside a basic appreciation for its emotion, craft, and perspective I don't have much. As has been said it really is a major benefit that this isn't about 'the great artist', but rather the character of the people and times that molded him. It seems almost the same thematic goal as Rossellini's histories, but told entirely unlike him (which should be obvious). It's nice and successful in that way with Cornish doing a spectacular job. My appreciation doesn't go any further than this academia though which I am a bit disappointed about.

Loving
This is unquestionably a good movie, but it would likely be a better film if it was ever so slightly less a Nichols one. This especially rings true in the first act which while smartly brief is almost Brechtian whereas the film seems to be aiming for clear dramatic tones. Given Nichols' love of Faulkner and Sam Shepard I have to assume that some of this is deliberate. Still, that doesn't make it excusable as highlighted by how Faulkner didn't write Sanctuary in the same style as As I Lay Dying.

Still there is so much that is done right and this method of telling the story matches the nature of its leads so beautifully that it is hard not to love it. So many of the moments are effective because they are played in as ordinary a tone as possible. Particularly after the first act the film gets smarter and smarter on how to deliver itself with the two leads' support providing a nervous set of eyes with which to experience this alien reality. Even just the little look Negga and Edgerton give each other when they move is more genuine an expression of this grief than in any of the recent films to tackle race in any sense I can think of. Mostly the film is about Nichols pet themes on masculinity, but they adapt well to the problems of racism.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#134 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 3:27 pm

swo17 wrote:Le trou begins with the real Roland Darbant telling the audience that this is his story and then proceeds to cast him in a tale of five inmates attempting a prison escape. Eligible?
That scene is memorable for me as well, mostly because Darbant unfortunately bangs his head on the bonnet of the car he was looking into before he starts his speech! After seeing that, I can never un-see it!

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#135 Post by zedz » Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:35 pm

I happened to watch another biopic last night:

Every Picture Tells a Story (James Scott) - Fine portrait of the childhood of the filmmaker's father, the artist William Scott. Its low budget shows, but it's all very well done. The most striking thing for me is that it has a practically identical structure to Jacquot de Nantes: a free-flowing, episodic reenactment of the artist's formative years, punctuated by flashes of their mature art that comment on elements of their early life, and flashes of their aged, documentary selves. The major difference is that Scott also uses (sparingly), his father's narration, though it's not spoken onscreen. Varda's version is a lot more cinematic, but this is nevertheless a really good film, though it wouldn't have made my list.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#136 Post by zedz » Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:41 pm

And I mentioned it early on, but didn't go into any detail:

Pirosmani (Shenegelaya) is a great artist biopic, especially remarkable for being shot in the style of the artist's naive paintings, giving it a really distinctive look and infusing the entire movie with its protagonist's artistic vision. Note the wonderful use of mise-en-abyme, with Pirosmani artworks featuring within the Pirosmanian compositions.

Image
Image

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knives
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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#137 Post by knives » Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:56 pm

I saw that for this list, but thought it didn't stand up well against similar artist through their style films like Colour of Pomegranates. It works out okay, but in a lot of ways seems like typical Soviet miserableness.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#138 Post by Rayon Vert » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:20 pm

domino harvey wrote:Eight lists have been received total, yes
I didn't feel many people participated in this project, but looking back through the pages I was surprised to find 18 (!) people posted in this thread. Surely more than 8 of them intended to present a list? Would it be too much work or bad forum etiquette to PM those who posted here who haven't sent in a list?

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#139 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:39 am

I would prefer people submit of their own volition. If we can't get a couple more ballots with the deadline extension, this just wasn't meant to be. It was bound to happen eventually!

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#140 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Apr 13, 2018 3:20 pm

Yeah I’m fine with that if that’s what happens. Just surprised given the actual number of people who posted write-ups or opinions about films here.

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Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#141 Post by movielocke » Fri Apr 13, 2018 4:43 pm

I can submit a list, it’s just going to be a pain because I’ll be saying “how did i forget about such and such!” Many many times when the final results are posted.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#142 Post by swo17 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 4:48 pm

I was reminded of enough worthy titles to fill out a list just by reading through the recommendations made in the thread. But if anyone voted for anything that isn't listed here, I can't help ya.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#143 Post by movielocke » Fri Apr 13, 2018 5:32 pm

Well my primary strategy was going to be snooping through this thread and googling letterboxd lists so I’m in good company it seems

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#144 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Apr 13, 2018 5:55 pm

I literally went down the "List of Biographical Films" entry on Wikipedia, noted every film I'd seen that seemed list-worthy, weeded out those that didn't meet the qualifications, and had about 55 candidates to pare down to a final list.

What this exercise really illustrated was that I haven't seen enough pre-1990s biopics and really should have invested some time in participating based on some of the suggestions in the thread (I've got a handful to check out this weekend in hopes of submitting an updated list); that said, the mid-century candidates I have seen are disproportionately tough sits, and I did wonder if anyone else's list is heavily tilted toward more modern films even if they've seen a more evenly distributed group from all eras.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#145 Post by swo17 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:46 pm

My list was really dense with '60s and '70s films, including 6 of my top 10.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#146 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:09 pm

The bulk of mine are in the 60s to 90s (peak decade 6 in the 60s), with comparatively little before and after

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#147 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Apr 15, 2018 1:12 pm

Some films I ran out of time to watch, but that I predicted as unlikely to make my list…

Barabbas (Fleischer 1961). I don’t know to what extent this would have been eligible or not since the film starts with the passion but the rest of the story imagines the character’s life after Christ’s death. It’s a Dino DeLaurentiis Italian co-production so there are stars like Silvana Mangano, Vittorio Gassman and Valentina Cortese along with Quinn and the other American ones (Cortese, Quinn and Borgnine all later appear in Jesus of Nazareth), but their performances are largely uninspired, like pretty much everyone else here. I was surprised this gets so many appreciative reviews and comments as a biblical film because to me this was mediocre at best. In what seems like a rip-off of Spartacus, Barabbas eventually becomes a slave, then a gladiator, and we’re eventually treated to a (much more modest) Ben Hur-style chariot scene in the Coliseum. That sequence is actually good, I’d say the only really good one, though, in part because Jack Palance is so insanely gleefully sadistic as the top gladiator who’s ready to mow down all the other ones. Despite the effort that went into the Coliseum set, I thought the film was also quite ugly-looking on the whole, although I was seeing this on a somewhat below-par DVD transfer.


Viva L’Italia (Rossellini 1961). (revisit) In retrospect this is a bit of dry run for his television films, with the focus more on imparting history than creating a strong dramatic piece, especially in terms of the characters. Unlike the later films, it’s less about communicating ideas than coordinating action (though the action is definitely wholly inspired by ideals), and it moves a bit more quickly. It’s not as good as the best of the television history films but it has its qualities. Chief among them is the photography and the settings. The great majority of the scenes are exterior scenes, whether in the countryside or in towns, they’re shot and lit with a wonderful naturalness, with often handsome surroundings, and even in the interiors there’s never a studio feel.


The Founder (Hancock 2016). Conventional but entertaining. Ray Kroc’s is a good if fiendish tale, and it’s fun seeing the start of the franchise and how it developed, including the recreation of the early restaurants. I like the way the film pulls no punches in that the character is largely sympathetic despite his all-consuming ambition but we’re suckered into finding out, as the narrative progresses, to what extent he has no soul. Michael Keaton is good in these kinds of roles.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#148 Post by movielocke » Mon Apr 16, 2018 3:24 am

i wasn't able to get Visconti's Ludwig finished over the weekend, it would have been close to my list.

for the most part I tried to go with films with a strong biographical component, films that would probably make the list if I tried to make it again (since any list selection has an element of randomness to it) were:

127 Hours
everlasting moments
made in dagenham
king's speech
milk
chihwaseon
taking of power by louis xiv
social network
prisoner of shark island

I've a big soft spot for dr. ehrlich's magic bullet, which was one of the first films I saw randomly on TCM twenty years ago, but without a revisit, I don't think it fits on the list much.

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#149 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:28 pm

I like Barabbas quite a bit, but it wouldn't count here, as it's all made up to fit one line from the Bible

Good news, everyone: We have ten lists in. I'll give lollygaggers 'til Thursday morning to submit, but we will have a final list at that time!

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Re: Biopics List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#150 Post by knives » Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:39 pm

Yay.

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