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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.

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