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The Ten Percent: Come and See (1985)

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“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Welcome back to “The Ten Percent,” a regular column where every other week K. Dale Koontz and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. So many films premiere each year, but only a very few are remembered and revered years later. That’s not a matter of genre – the Ten Percent is a big tent, with plenty of room for comedy, drama, horror, animation, musical, science fiction and many more. But admission into the tent is not easy to come by. Films in this category last because they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.

Elim Klimov’s Come and See (1985) takes its place in an unusual corner of the Ten Percent. A place for works of art that are so powerful, so honest, and so terrible that they absolutely must be seen, but which are also so psychologically and emotionally intense that they are revisited only rarely. The late Roger Ebert wrote that Come and See “is one of the most devastating films ever about anything, and in it, the survivors must envy the dead,” while Mark Cousins called Come and See “the greatest war film ever made.” Both are correct.

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Creations of Chaos: Turning Point 1997-2008

In this edition of Creations of Chaos, we’re talking photography bans, saving trees, and killing curiosity, as I delve into the Hayao Miyazaki focused book, Turning Point 1997-2008.

Turning Point

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The Ten Percent: M (1931)

1931 German poster for Fritz Lang's M.

1931 German poster for Fritz Lang’s M.

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Hello and welcome to another installment of The Ten Percent, a regular column here on Biff Bam Pop! where every other week K. Dale Koontz and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the ten percent of everything which is not crud. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that for each film or television show that gets people talking years after its premiere, there are hundreds of others that barely cleared the horizon before being (thankfully) shot down. The works that soar above the rest – well, those are the works that stand the test of time. The Ten Percent last for two reasons: (1) they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception and (2) they somehow manage to capture something fleeting and rare and preserve it for the lucky viewing public.

Fritz Lang’s M (1931) fulfills both of these criteria, and then some. The scene is late 1920s Berlin, a city supposedly gripped by fear in the wake of a series of brutal child murders (and, it is intimated, horrific sexual assault). The police are working overtime, and using the latest techniques in criminal investigation, including fingerprints, handwriting analysis, and an early form of psychological profiling – all to no avail. They are also “rounding up the usual suspects,” conducting raid after raid on known criminal hangouts and operations. Yet the killer remains uncaught. More than the first police procedural (which it is), or the first serial killer film (which it also is), M is a portrait and condemnation of German society in the late Weimar Republic.

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The Ten Percent – The 31 Days of Horror Edition: Nosferatu

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

It’s October, and here at Biff Bam Pop! that means a month-long celebration of the macabre in pop-culture, and what better place to start for a column like “The Ten Percent” — where we look at the relatively small number of pop-culture productions with rise above the commonplace to achieve something greater — than with the granddaddy of all vampire films: Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror.

Nosferatu

Max Schreck as Count Orlok, the Nosferatu.

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Man and a Movie Theatre: Roger Ebert

With Roger Ebert’s passing last week, I had a chance to think about what he’d brought to film criticism for more than thirty years. Ebert wasn’t in my stable of regular reads. I’m a bit of criticism junkie. I read far more reviews than the actual movies I see. I know my local critics well, and I have a few go-tos on the syndicated circuit, sites like The Onion’s AV Club and Salon.com. Familiarity is what makes reading critics work. I know their tastes, their peccadilloes, and I’ve developed a pretty accurate sense of when our opinions line up. I don’t have to agree with them, as long as I have a sense of why they feel the way they do. But Ebert was somebody whose writing I’d hit up when other critics let me down, when I needed to step back and get a broadly meditative opinion.
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