Skip to main content

Don't call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease.

Movies on My Mind
Week Ending 3 September 2016

Lists

I do like a good list. But a good list. While it’s fun enough to see Edgar Wright’s 1000 favourite movies in string formation, I’d rather have a paragraph or two about why some of them are on there what stands out about a particular choice.  It’s why lists in the likes of Empire (or, grief, Total Film) tend to offer countdowns as the least satisfying kind of filler, with no one on the staff attempting to say anything fresh or different about the movie in question; it’s production line puff. There have been a couple of interesting super lists appearing in the past few weeks, Empire’s 7 Favourite Movies, open to anyone, and the BBC’s critics’ choice of the 21st Century’s Top 100. They tend to skew to readily identifiable persuasions, the populist and pseud-ish respectively, but ‘twas ever thus.

While I do like a good chin-rub, I’ve always leant more towards the anti-pretentious in terms of the perceived quality of movies. Aspirant ideas and noble objectives, pregnant on subtext and sometimes avowedly anti-commercial, are fine and good, but I genuinely don’t find art house or international (read: foreign language) fare more likely to be superior to that produced by the mainstream. Both are equally subject to destructive whims, it’s simply that on the one hand they derive unvarnished from the “auteur” and on the other they may be foisted on a filmmaker from without.

Which is leading up to: the BBC list is actually quite balanced between the two, even if the closest it gets to all-out commercial is Pixar and the (good, but still) vastly overrated The Dark Knight. I’ve seen about 70 of the BBC 100, and maybe 25 of them would be instantly vying for attention on my list of favourites. Relatively few are ones I’d actually express dislike for (Melancholia, Spring Breakers, Moulin Rouge!), or even indifference towards; most are of definite merit, just not such merit that they vie for classic status. In terms of my own choices, I don’t really hold much truck with the “Best” versus “Favourite” argument, albeit I understand why people would go that route. My picks are all favourites, and I wouldn’t really be comfortable throwing a garland at picture I merely classified as highly “worthy” in some attempt at flawed objectivity.

It’s heartening to see too that some “respected” critics are content to throw in the likes of Madagascar 3, This is the End and Revenge of the Sith, which is at least a sign that favourite wins out over best in some books. Although, I’m hard-pressed to accept A Pigeon Sat on A Branch Reflecting on its Navel as the best film of the past 16 years in anyone’s book (or Shutter Island nudging a Top 10, for that matter, and certainly not Death Proof).

Of the Top 25, the only one I’d contend isn’t really all that is Boyhood (although I don’t think Lost in Translation and The Master are quite up there, I certainly rated them). Which brings me to another point. It’s not such an instantaneous thing even thinking of 10 favourites since 2000; maybe I’ve just become harder to please.

Ones that could easily have been on what follows but aren’t (for this week): Apocalypto, Inside Llewyn Davis, Mulholland Drive (I like how the cited review of this one can basically only say it’s really good, wrapped up in nonsense-babble), Wall-E, Zodiac, The Fellowship of the Ring, Inception, The Royal Tennenbaums, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Amelie.

10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

9. In Bruges

8. Ratatouille

7. The Tree of Life

6. No Country for Old Men

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

3. The Prestige

2. Cloud Atlas

1. Dean Spanley


As for Empire, it’s funny seeing some of the choices, but the actual Top 15 are just what you’d expect (and none of them bad, although some require dissection – Gump – and others (Rockys and Potters) are variable.

7. The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The best western of all time? Surely. Sergio Leone’s best film. It’s that or A Fistful of Dynamite/Duck You Sucker! (which isn’t in this Top 7, but might be in next week’s).

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey

And it is a trip. This is where Kubrick peaked for me. Having pushed the envelope as far as he could on the potential, the possible and the infinite, anything else had to be a retreat, no matter how inviting/alarming/blackly comic/mesmerising his encounters with Droogs, Napoleonic wars, hostile hotels, docklands warzones and masonic rituals would subsequently be.

5. The Big Lebowski

One of those pictures that has gone far beyond cult status, and has thus reached a kind of Withnail & I level of exhaustion with its over-exposure. Nevertheless, it’s a work of genius.

4. Kind Hearts and Coronets

Still as fresh, razor-sharp and hilarious as it was nearly 70 years ago. Dennis Price and Alex Guinness were never better, and Joan Greenwood is beyond beguiling.

3. The 'Burbs

If The Big Lebowski burst the cult barriers, Joe Dante looks set to remain entirely safe in his offbeat bubble, the aberration that was Gremlins aside. This is the picture that has grown most in devotion since his heyday, however, and rightly so. Tom Hanks best performance (controversial?) but it’s Bruce Dern who rocks the most.

2. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Brazil will forever be Gilliam’s triumph in the eyes of those anointing general acclaim, but this is the picture that most reflects his unquenchable spirit, vaunting ambition and over-extending imagination. And for a film with mortality constantly on its mind, it might just be his most positive work.

1. The President’s Analyst

James Coburn ranks as one of cinema’s great underrated stars. With his silver locks and tooth-bound grin, he appeared in a string of classic roles (Duck You Sucker!, Cross of Iron, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Hudson Hawk) that ought to overshadow his better known parts (Our Man Flint, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape). Best of all is this very much of its era but simultaneously timeless satire of culture, counter-culture, Cold War politics and pressurised presidents. 

The Mandela Effect

So did C-3P0 always have a silver leg? Did Dolly from Moonraker once have braces? Did Forrest’s mother always say life was like a box of chocolates? In the case of the latter, and without really wanting to trawl back through the movie to check, I’d be minded to suggest the confusion arises from Gump’s momma telling him it is like a box of chocolates at one point and his recounting it at another.

But the silver leg thing… I don’t remember that. And it does make much more sense for Dolly to have braces because… well, Jaws has braces. I mean, she’s adorable either way, but it was an instant signal they were simpatico.

And if they're genuine anomalies, symptoms of the Mandela Effect, does this mean the Hadron Collider is messing with out reality(ies)? With trifling trivialities such as these, ones that inevitably leave some of us askance and others putting it all down to age, faulty memories, or not paying enough damn attention in the first place? Anthony Daniels has said C3P-O definitely had a silver leg from the get-go, but as someone at the heart of any reality warping, he’d presumably have to be able to directly affirm it. Can we ask Oliver Stone if JFK’s car had four seats or six? I know he wasn’t there (well, I don't know, maybe he was, now), but if anyone has an opinion on it, he should. I don’t pay enough attention to cars to have a strong opinion on that one; I was just going back and to the left as instructed. And Does the lion lie down with the lamb in Isaiah 11:6 or does a wolf do the job instead?

Answer: Like Darth’s “Luke, I am your father”, it appears to have forever been a popular misquote. Much as I love a conspiracy, and doubt very much the Hadron Collider is doing anything commendable (at very least, a bunch of “whacky” science nerds are play-human sacrificing in carparks, a double-double bluff if ever there was one), the biblical quote suggests one of those repeated memes that has become the established form, rather than a CERN-complicit charge satanic conspiracy to change sacred scripture. Alternatively, if you want to keep a conspiratorial theme running, it could be latest distracting psyop.

Which doesn’t mean CERN isn’t heaving with Satan-worshipping scientists enacting their latest version of a  Babalon Working, just that these glitches in the matrix do seem to tend to elicit the skeptical/not really that crucial response. The problem is, which isn’t to doubt others wholly invested in this, that you read enough cumulative references to reported pop culture anomalies in songs, movies and TV (and deaths) and it leads the initially intriguing to become less than transfixing.

But the Hadron Collider. Still a bad thing. Quit with the human sacrifices, guys. Even the fake ones.

Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I think I’m Pablo Picasso!

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) (SPOILERS) I get the impression that, whatever it is stalwart Venom fans want from a Venom movie, this iteration isn’t it. The highlight here for me is absolutely the wacky, love-hate, buddy-movie antics of Tom Hardy and his symbiote alter. That was the best part of the original, before it locked into plot “progression” and teetered towards a climax where one CGI monster with gnarly teeth had at another CGI monster with gnarly teeth. And so it is for Venom: Let There Be Carnage . But cutting quicker to the chase.

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.

Are you, by any chance, in a trance now, Mr Morrison?

The Doors (1991) (SPOILERS) Oliver Stone’s mammoth, mythologising paean to Jim Morrison is as much about seeing himself in the self-styled, self-destructive rebel figurehead, and I suspect it’s this lack of distance that rather quickly leads to The Doors becoming a turgid bore. It’s strange – people are , you know, films equally so – but I’d hitherto considered the epic opus patchy but worthwhile, a take that disintegrated on this viewing. The picture’s populated with all the stars it could possibly wish for, tremendous visuals (courtesy of DP Robert Richardson) and its director operating at the height of his powers, but his vision, or the incoherence thereof, is the movie’s undoing. The Doors is an indulgent, sprawling mess, with no internal glue to hold it together dramatically. “Jim gets fat and dies” isn’t really a riveting narrative through line.

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Fifty medications didn’t work because I’m really a reincarnated Russian blacksmith?

Infinite (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s as if Mark Wahlberg, his lined visage increasingly resembling a perplexed potato, learned nothing from the blank ignominy of his “performances” in previous big-budget sci-fi spectacles Planet of the Apes and, er, Max Payne . And maybe include The Happening in that too ( Transformers doesn’t count, since even all-round reprobate Shia La Boeuf made no visible dent on their appeal either way). As such, pairing him with the blandest of journeyman action directors on Infinite was never going to seem like a sterling idea, particularly with a concept so far removed from of either’s wheelhouse.

I can do in two weeks what you can only wish to do in twenty years.

Wrath of Man (2021) (SPOILERS) Guy Ritchie’s stripped-down remake of Le Convoyeur (or Cash Truck , also the working title for this movie) feels like an intentional acceleration in the opposite direction to 2019’s return-to-form The Gentleman , his best movie in years. Ritchie seems to want to prove he can make a straight thriller, devoid of his characteristic winks, nods, playfulness and outright broad (read: often extremely crude) sense of humour. Even King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has its fair share of laughs. Wrath of Man is determinedly grim, though, almost Jacobean in its doom-laden trajectory, and Ritchie casts his movie accordingly, opting for more restrained performers, less likely to summon more flamboyant reflexes.

Five people make a conspiracy, right?

Snake Eyes (1998) (SPOILERS) The best De Palma movies offer a synthesis of plot and aesthetic, such that the director’s meticulously crafted shots and set pieces are underpinned by a solid foundation. That isn’t to say, however, that there isn’t a sheer pleasure to be had from the simple act of observing, from De Palma movies where there isn’t really a whole lot more than the seduction of sound, image and movement. Snake Eyes has the intention to be both scrupulously written and beautifully composed, coming after a decade when the director was – mostly – exploring his oeuvre more commercially than before, which most often meant working from others’ material. If it ultimately collapses in upon itself, then, it nevertheless delivers a ream of positives in both departments along the way.

I’ll look in Bostock’s pocket.

Doctor Who Revelation of the Daleks Lovely, lovely, lovely. I can quite see why Revelation of the Daleks doesn’t receive the same acclaim as the absurdly – absurdly, because it’s terrible – overrated Remembrance of the Daleks . It is, after all, grim, grisly and exemplifies most of the virtues for which the Saward era is commonly decried. I’d suggest it’s an all-time classic, however, one of the few times 1980s Who gets everything, or nearly everything, right. If it has a fault, besides Eric’s self-prescribed “Kill everyone” remit, it’s that it tries too much. It’s rich, layered and very funny. It has enough material and ideas to go off in about a dozen different directions, which may be why it always felt to me like it was waiting for a trilogy capper.

Madam, the chances of bagging an elephant on the Moon are remote.

First Men in the Moon (1964) (SPOILERS) Ray Harryhausen swaps fantasy for science fiction and stumbles somewhat. The problem with his adaptation of popular eugenicist HG Wells’ 1901 novel isn’t so much that it opts for a quirky storytelling approach over an overtly dramatic one, but that it’s insufficiently dedicated to pursuing that choice. Which means First Men in the Moon , despite a Nigel Kneale screenplay, rather squanders its potential. It does have Lionel Jeffries, though.

I’ve crossed the Atlantic to be reasonable.

Dodsworth (1936) (SPOILERS) Prestige Samuel Goldwyn production – signifiers being attaching a reputable director, often William Wyler, to then-popular plays or classical literature, see also Dead End , Wuthering Heights , The Little Foxes , The Best Years of Our Lives , and earning a Best Picture nomination as a matter of course – that manages to be both engrossing and irritating. Which is to say that, in terms of characterisation, Dodsworth rather shows its years, expecting a level of engagement in the relationship between Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston) and his wayward, fun-loving wife Fran (Ruth Chatterton) at odds with their unsympathetic behaviour.