Tag Archives: cheat sheet

The Alan J Pakula Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) and THE PELICAN BRIEF (1993)

We said this in the episode announcement, but we’ll say it again: Alan J Pakula was cinema’s poet laureate of paranoia. His filmography is consumed with conspiracy thrillers both real and imagined, and sitting high atop that mountain, and high atop the canon of really all cinema, is All the President’s Men. The ink wasn’t dry on Nixon’s resignation when this film hit cinemas, and perhaps it’s that lack of perspective that helped keep it from becoming an overt rallying cry. There is not a moment of sentiment in this procedural ode to investigative journalism, and it remains the gold standard of rewatchable, engaging, relevant cinema. And look, nothing can possibly follow it, so you should probably just watch it twice. Or, alternately, take a swing at The Pelican Brief. We’re not necessarily recommending this because it’s also a great work; more because it helps define the second overwhelming sphere of Pakula’s career. The song remains the same – government conspiracies, massive cover-ups, terrifying parking garages – but the style is a world away, as Julia Roberts’s law student teams up with Denzel Washington’s journalist to run away from bad guys with guns as they shine a light on a conspiracy that goes all the way to the White House. These films may look similar if you’re squinting at a one-line synopsis, but they are, in more ways than one, chalk and cheese. And that’s exactly why they make the perfect double if you want to get your head around Pakula in one easy viewing.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen All the President’s Men, seek out The Parallax View (1974). If not for President, Pakula would likely be remembered as the guy behind The Parallax View, a brilliantly understated work of paranoia. This time we’re watching a fictitious threat, but told with the same verisimilitude as his Watergate-based follow-up. If you can’t get or have already seen The Pelican Brief, get your hands on Presumed Innocent (1990). The Harrison Ford thriller is arguably the baseline for the legal thrillers that came to dominate the 1990s; it’s very possible that Pelican author John Grisham was himself bitten by a radioactive Presumed Innocent. It’s also the first of Pakula’s ’90s polyptych of highly-stylised thrillers, and would, whether intentionally or unintentionally, set the tone for the remainder of his career.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Alan J Pakula? Then you should track down Sophie’s Choice (1982). Before you protest and claim that Sophie’s Choice is actually mentioned quite often, ask yourself this: is it the film itself that everyone refers to, or the title, which through standard pop culture overuse has become the rote go-to phrase that refers to any mildly aggravating choice, from deciding New Year’s Eve plans to choosing between sandwich condiments. If you’ve not seen it, the film is nothing like its reputation; surprisingly light and far from the unrelentlingly bleak prospect many believe it to be. Give it a spin. You might be surprised.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Alex Ross Perry talking the films of Alan J Pakula, will be released on 30 June 2018.

The Bong Joon-ho Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003) and OKJA (2017)

It’s safe to say Bong Joon-ho has never repeated himself, but if you absolutely had to divide his filmography into distinct hemispheres, you could justify labelling one basket “gritty murder mysteries in small towns” and another “high-concept, possibly involving a giant monster”. So kick your evening off with Memories of Murder, which we’ll reductively but usefully describe as the South Korean Zodiac. Inspired by the country’s first recorded serial killer, the film follows a local detective partnered with a city detective, and digs into the processes and mistakes the pair makes as they try to catch the killer. Not afraid of overselling this one: it’s easily one of the best modern police procedurals you’re likely to see. Once you’ve seen that, follow it up with Okja, The fantasy-action film follows a young girl who runs away to save the life of her beloved gigantic pig, falling in with a group of animal liberationists as they try to rescue the genetically engineered creature from the ominous Mirando Corporation. Beloved by audiences and critics, the film was nominated for a Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and is available right this second on Netflix.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Memories of Murder, seek out Mother (2009). When her son is accused of a terrible murder, a woman who sells medicinal herbs sets about trying to prove his innocence, becoming increasingly forceful as she finds herself blocked at every turn. If you can’t get or have already seen Okja, get your hands on Snowpiercer (2013), which is also on Netflix, and also features a perfectly over-the-top Tilda Swinton performance. Our world has frozen over, and all that’s left of humanity resides in a super train that travels the world. The rich and powerful reside at the front, and the poor and destitute are kept at the back, at least until a group from the rear of the train decide it’s time to mount a revolution, and begin an odyssey through the microcosmic societies that have formed down the carriage line.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Bong Joon-ho? Then you should track down Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000). Bong’s first film foreshadows a lifelong preoccupation with idiosyncratic characters, his fascination with the relationship between humans and animals, and a tendency to lean on unexpected musical cues and styles. If you’re a fan of Bong, this is an essential and little-seen piece of the puzzle.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Abe Forsythe talking the films of Bong Joon-ho, will be released on 31 May 2018.

The Dennis Hopper Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

EASY RIDER (1969) and COLORS (1988)

Not all filmmakers create a work that changes cinema and continues to resonate for the next five decades, and those that do rarely achieve such a feat with their debut. Dennis Hopper was no mere vanity actor-turned-director, launching Easy Rider into the zeitgeist and creating a work that served as an icon for both the counterculture movement as well as its inevitable death. Nothing but respect for my Captain America. Once you’ve finished watching that film, throw on Colors. This intense crime drama stars Sean Penn and Robert Duvall as unlikely partners, upending the cliché of the experienced elder cop and the brash young upstart even as the genre was taking root. It’s a product of its time, but it’s not dated the way it might have… or perhaps even the way it should have, given the issues it’s dealing with could easily be ripped from today’s headlines. It’s remarkably nuanced work from Hopper, who perhaps should get as many plaudits for this work as he does Easy Rider. Either way, this is a hell of a double.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Easy Rider, seek out The Last Movie (1971). It’s not exactly a beloved film, and its reputation is that of a total disaster, but the same dystopic 1970s feel that drove Easy Rider drives The Last Movie. It is a film of excess, a difficult and indulgent second album, and really worth a watch. If you can’t get or have already seen Colors, get your hands on The Hot Spot (1990). This gritty film noir set in a sun-drenched small town stars Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Connelly, and is definitely a minor classic, particularly if you’re a fan of ’90s thrillers.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Dennis Hopper? Then you should track down Out of the Blue (1980). This drama about a young girl whose obsession with music helps distract her from domestic dramas is remarkably nuanced work from Hopper, and deserves to be ranked with his best.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Noah Segan talking the films of Dennis Hopper, will be released on 31 March 2018.

The William Friedkin Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) and THE EXORCIST (1973)

It’s not a slight on William Friedkin’s later career that we picked two films from the 1970s. It’s just that, well, how do you not go with these titles? The French Connection is a procedural crime film best remembered for featuring one of the greatest and most tension-filled car chases of all time, but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s hard to think of many other films of this ilk with characters, dialogue and detail this complex, which is probably why it gets exponentially better on every viewing. Once you’ve finished watching the adventures of Popeye Doyle, pop on a copy of The Exorcist. If this is your first viewing, then we won’t spoil the surprises that are to come. You already know its reputation as one of the most terrifying and genre-changing horror films of all time, and its impact has certainly not been lessened with time. Watch these two films back-to-back and you’ll not only have the best possible night in, but you’ll gain a good understanding of what made Friedkin one of the greats.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The French Connection, seek out Cruising (1980). The film about cop Al Pacino investigating a serial killer targeting gay men was controversial upon its release, and its reputation remains contentious. But the procedural detail that drove French Connection drives this film, and it’s certainly one you can’t afford to let pass you by. If you can’t get or have already seen The Exorcist, get your hands on Sorcerer (1977). Based on the same Georges Arnaud novel that inspired Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Wages of Fear (1953), Sorcerer follows a group of men tasked with transporting unstable explosives over brutally rough terrain. If you can, see it as big and as loud as possible. And try good luck extracting your fingers from the arm rests afterwards.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of William Friedkin? Then you should track down The Boys in the Band (1970). Adapted by Mart Crowley from his own play, the film is about… actually, we’ll let imdb take on the responsibility of synopsising: “Tempers fray and true selves are revealed when a heterosexual is accidentally invited to a homosexual party.” It goes without saying that much of the content will look dated to a 2018 audience, but that’s true of all films, and should not put you off checking it out.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Andrew Kevin Walker talking the films of William Friedkin, will be released on 28 February 2018.

The Robert Wise Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) and WEST SIDE STORY (1961)

There wasn’t any type of film Robert Wise couldn’t make. His first six films included two horrors, a period drama, a thriller, a courtroom drama, and a crime noir. He was a polymath long before he’d even dipped his toe into science fiction or musicals, and he conquered those genres as comprehensively as he did the others. Your evening kicks off with The Day the Earth Stood Still, an enduring classic and easily one of the most influential science fiction films of all time. It’s pulp with heart, a fascinating angle on the alien invasion trope that turns the spotlight on humanity with such brutality, it feels like it was made for audiences from Klaatu’s home planet. There’s no better cautionary tale about the morality of human beings, and we guarantee you’ll be pretty wary of them after seeing this film. Once that’s done, switch gears and pop on West Side Story. This film feels like the musical genre’s missing link, bridging the gap between the classic MGM musicals of the Freed Unit, and the more modern, less sanitised genre it eventually became. As an update of Romeo and Juliet, it’s inspired. As a commentary on the American Dream and systemic racism, it’s years ahead of its time. As a musical, it’s one of the greatest of all time, with music by the legendary Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by an offensively-young Stephen Sondheim. As a film, it is a certified classic, beautifully shot and perfectly choreographed. Watch these two films back to back and you’ll be a confirmed Robert Wise fan before the night is over.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The Day the Earth Stood Still, seek out The Set-Up (1949). This is one of the earliest examples of a film running in real time, beating High Noon to the screen by three years. An aging boxer refuses to throw a fight, despite the threat from gangsters trying to put the fix on. It’s one of the greatest boxing films of all time, and a personal favourite of Martin Scorsese in case our recommendation isn’t enough for you. If you can’t get or have already seen West Side Story, get your hands on The Sound of Music (1965), that other legendary Robert Wise musical about a girl named Maria. This film oscillates between its reputation as cornball sing-song and Nazi-flag-ripping meme, but there’s a reason it endured long after musicals fell out of vogue. If you only know the film from a few melodic snippets and one Austrian helicopter shot, clear an evening and sit down with one of the seminal works of cinema history.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Robert Wise? Then you should track down Audrey Rose (1977). Anthony Hopkins stars as a man who believes that the daughter of a New York couple is his own daughter reincarnated, and that’s all we’re going to say. It’s tense, dramatic, and constantly surprising; the biggest mystery is how it’s managed to elude classic status for so long.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Eloise Ross talking the films of Robert Wise, will be released on 31 January 2018.

The Maurice Pialat Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

NAKED CHILDHOOD (1968) and UNDER THE SUN OF SATAN (1987)

Maurice Pialat’s first feature film, Naked Childhood, was released in 1968. It was considered by critics to be a social commentary, but Pialat disagreed. His beautiful debut about foster children trying to fit in with their adopted families deliberately avoided the fraught political arguments of late 1960s France, and instead concentrated on the real lives of the French working class. It showcases the stunning naturalistic performances that would become a hallmark of Pialat’s work, and immediately cemented him as one of France’s best emerging auteurs. The film was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and was awarded the Prix Jean Vigo in France. At a pacey 83 minutes, it’s the perfect film to kick off this double, which continues with his 1987 film Under the Sun of Satan. Gerard Depardieu stars as a zealous rural priest determined to save the soul of a young woman, played by the extraordinary Sandrine Bonnaire, who has shot dead her lover. It is a deeply religious film clearly made by a self-professed atheist, and is a starkly beautiful and chilling masterpiece. It was the first French film in 21 years to win the Palm d’Or at Cannes, a decision that was met with some controversy, as you’ll hear on the show. Watch these films back-to-back and you’ll not only have a perfect evening of film viewing, but you’ll come away with a firm grasp on the filmmaker Pialat was and the filmmaker he became.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Naked Childhood, seek out To Our Loves (1983). The screen debut of frequent Pialat collaborator Sandrine Bonnaire, the story of a family threatened by the bourgeoning sexuality of their daughter is unforgettable and intense, and even features Pialat on screen as the family’s patriarch. And he’s a damn good actor. If you can’t get or have already seen Under the Sun of Satan, get your hands on Van Gogh (1991). Vincent Van Gogh is a passion subject for so many filmmakers, and Pialat had been preoccupied with the artist his whole life. The film covers the final 67 days of Van Gogh’s life, and is unsentimental and beautiful at once, concentrating more closely on his personal life than his work. Most of Pialat’s films ran close to the 90 minute mark, but Van Gogh comes to an epic 158 minutes, and every second of it is earned.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Maurice Pialat? Then you should track down The House in the Woods (1971). Long before renowned auteurs like Jane Campion, David Fincher, Susanne Bier and David Lynch moved from cinema to short-form TV, Pialat directed this seven-part TV series for French television. Written by Rififi co-screenwriter René Wheeler, the series follows the citizens of a small village during World War One. It ranks alongside Pialat’s best work, with some surprisingly funny moments and unexpected diversions. The extra room suited him well, and he doesn’t waste a moment of the extended running time as he takes us deep into the lives of his characters.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Luca Guadagnino talking the films of Maurice Pialat, will be released on 31 December 2017.

The Roman Polanski Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) and THE PIANIST(2002)

We demand autobiography from auteurs. As soon as we grant adjective status to an artist – Hitchcockian, Bergmanesque, Spielbergy – we begin combing obsessively through their work in order to cunningly infer insight into their personal lives. Few filmmakers have met this requirement as forcefully as Roman Polanski. His horror film Rosemary’s Baby is either an all-time classic or an embarrassing clunker depending on who you ask, with the film dividing cinephiles like few other canonised works. The story of a pregnant woman who comes to believe that she is the subject of occultist manipulations made s aplsh on its release, but took on a whole new meaning when, the following year, Polanski’s pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson Family cult. Once you’ve watched that, continue your evening of biographical tourism with The Pianist, Polanski’s 2002 Holocaust drama. Although it is a biography of Polish-Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman, it is set in a time and place that Polanski himself experience as a child, and so there is a palpable verisimilitude to the aesthetics and detail and drama. Details from Polanski’s childhood colour the film, details from his life repurposed and merged with Szpilman’s. Both Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist are two essential stories, not just because they adaptively relate key parts of Polanski’s life, but because they are enduring works in their own rite that bookend a career, presenting the filmmaker he was in the 20th century, and the one he became in the 21st.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Rosemary’s Baby, check out Chinatown (1974). Arguably the best film in his canon, Chinatown is an enduring exemplar of the gumshoe genre, grittier and darker than its Hayes Code-curbed antecedents could ever afford to be. If you can’t get or have already seen The Pianist, check out Carnage (2011). Latter-day Polanski has displayed a repeated interest in adapting single-location stageplays to the screen, irising in on the human drama of people bottled in a confined space. Carnage is arguably the best of the lot, as two couples (Jodie Foster & John C Reilly and Kate Winslet & Christoph Waltz) poke and prod at one another over the course of an afternoon.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Roman Polanski? Then you should seek out Knife in the Water (1962). It’s strange to suggest a renowned filmmaker’s debut film is somehow “hidden”, but with so much of the conversation around Polanski’s filmography beginning with his arrival in the United States, the early work is often pushed to the background. His first feature, shot on location in Poland, tells the story of a wealthy couple who invite a hitchhiker to join them on their yacht. Tensions, as they often do, escalate. It’s a remarkable entrance, skilled and confident, and leaves little doubt as to why his career took off with such sudden force.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Emma Westwood talking the films of Roman Polanski, will be released on 30 November 2017.

The Jean-Pierre Jeunet Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN (1995) and AMELIE (2001)

These doubles that we program for you always work best when a filmmaker has two or more distinct phases to their career, and when each of those phases contains at least one work of total genius. In that spirit, Jean-Pierre Jeunet may have provided us with the material for our greatest cheat sheet to date. Your evening kicks off with The City of Lost Children, the dark futuristic fairytale that Jeunet co-directed with his long-time collaborator Marc Caro. This film about a scientist kidnapping children so he can capture their dreams is terrifying and beautiful and hilarious and one of the most startlingly original works of the 1990s. Once you’ve watched that, follow it up with Amelie. Jeunet was now flying solo, and created this modern magical romance about a woman who takes it upon herself to improve the lives of everyone around her. In anyone else’s hands, this film would be overly twee and painfully quaint, but Jeunet is far too clever for that. Amelie may be sweet and sentimental, but it is decidedly unselfconscious and unafraid to engage with the darker aspects of life and humanity. And it’s perfect.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The City of Lost Children, check out Delicatessen (1991). The first feature from Jeunet and Caro was a post-apocalyptic black comedy that remains as romantic as it is cannibalistic. Dark, funny and original, it remains an absolute must-watch. If you can’t get or have already seen Amelie, check out A Very Long Engagement (2004). Whereas Audrey Tatou’s Amélie was consumed with creating mysteries, her Mathilde is all about solving them. Following an almost impossible series of clues, Mathilde is determined to discover what happened to her fiancé, thought killed in the trenches of World War One. It’s slightly more full-on than Amelie, but retains the beauty, delight and tangents that made the former so successful.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet? Then you should check out Micmacs (2009). If “quirky” hasn’t become something of a derogatory term, that’s the word we’d use to describe this film about a man with a bullet stuck in his head who falls in with a group of misfits, and with them takes down a pair of international arms dealers. Jeunet himself described it as a cross between Delicatessen and Amelie, so it could also be the perfect film to watch if you only have time for one.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Adam Elliot talking the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, will be released on 31 October 2017.

The Sylvester Stallone Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

ROCKY II (1979) and ROCKY BALBOA (2006)

If you’ve never seen a Rocky film, this double still works surprisingly well in isolation. Rocky II, like nearly all the Rocky films, kicks off with a Previously On montage, so you get a good idea of what you missed in the previous film. Stallone wrote all the Rocky films, but II was his first entry in the franchise as director, and he doesn’t venture too far from the style that John G Avildsen established in the original. There are some differences, and these differences highlight Stallone’s interests: he’s clearly influenced by vérité of New Hollywood, and yet these are still films about ordinary people becoming extraordinary. Throughout the big fight, Stallone lowers the camera so the fighters go from humans to heroes, towering above us. It’s deft work from Stallone so early in his career. When you’re done with Rocky II, put on Rocky Balboa. This was the big comeback for both Stallone and his character, 16 years after the series had seemingly wrapped up. For a film that’s all about a boxer from the ’70s coming up against a boxer in the ’00s, it has the feel of a director from the ’70s trying to hold onto what worked once before in a Hollywood that’s long-since moved on to greener pastures. But the film works; Rocky’s still got it, and so does Stallone.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Rocky II, check out Paradise Alley (1978). This was the first film Stallone ever wrote, and after the phenomenal success of the first Rocky, he was given the chance to direct it. The story of a low-rent hustler who convinces his brother to become a wrestler so they can make some fast cash is a pretty fascinating entry in the Stallone canon. If you can’t get or have already seen Rocky Balboa, check out Rambo (2008). In a two-year period, Stallone revisited his two most iconic characters with unsentimental postscripts. The lack of Roman numerals suggests that, as with Rocky Balboa, this was designed to be the final entry. There’s not as much solemn introspection in Rambo, but that makes it all the more profound: Rocky’s world may be long gone, but John Rambo’s remains. The conflicts of the past take on new yet similar guises, and those who try to help are quickly forgotten. But most importantly, it’s crazy violent yo!

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Sylvester Stallone? Then you should probably check out Staying Alive (1983). Chances are you’ve forgotten that Stallone directed the sequel to Saturday Night Fever (1977) – yeah, the BeeGees film with John Travolta – because it’s one of those facts that seems impossible to grasp onto, regardless of how many times you’ve heard it or even seen the film itself. But it happened. And if you want to see Stallone directing something that doesn’t involve high-stakes combat sports or the graphic shooting of faceless bad guys, this is something you really need to see.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Michael Ian Black talking the films of Sylvester Stallone, will be released on 30 September 2017.

The George Miller Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981) and BABE: PIG IN THE CITY (1998)

How do you pick two films that satisfactorily summarise the career of someone like George Miller? It’s not easy, but we think we can do it, and we’re gonna do it with sequels. Your evening kicks off with Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, the film that obliterates the ambition of every other sequel in history by casually pointing out that there was an apocalypse at some point between the first film and the second. That brazen move is enough to make this a must-see, but it’s also one of the greatest Australian films of all time, one that helped redefine an entire nation’s cinema. Max is an anti-hero for the ages, a road warrior reluctantly enlisted as saviour by a group of desperate survivalists. Once you’re finished this dystopic action film, follow up with that other George Miller sequel set in a familiar yet distant reality, Babe: Pig in the City. Considered a disaster on its release, the film has since been reassessed as a modern classic, a dark fairytale that feels like something the Brothers Grimm would make if they were filmmakers. It’s got heart and there’s a morality lesson, but there’s also a lot of very strange and disturbing stuff you don’t normally see in a family film. Which is part of the reason it works so well.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, get your hands on the original: Mad Max (1979). It may be slightly eclipsed by subsequent entries, but the pre-apocalyptic ur-text is still an all-timer. If you can’t get or have already seen Babe: Pig in the City, track down Happy Feet Two (2011). Like Pig in the City, this is another sequel ostensibly aimed at kids, but refuses to walk the same ground as its predecessor as it leans hard into a bleaker tale for its heroes.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of George Miller? There aren’t that many to choose from given every film he’s made holds an important place in the canon, but it appears that Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) may have slipped a little out of the general consciousness recently. And that’s a shame, because the only outright drama that Miller made is as deft and compelling as his genre work, a tear-jerking true story about two parents giving up everything to find a cure for their son’s disease.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, in which we discuss the films of George Miller, will be released on 30 August 2017.