Sunday, 8 May 2011
Blogathoning..... A Life In Movies
Hello all! Here is my (rarely long and painfully late) attempt at Fandago Groovers Movie Blog's blogathon! So I planned on spending every minute of spare time this week rewatching all the movies I hadn't seen in years to write proper reviews of everything on this list so I could put hyperlinks instead of writing a summary, but for some inexplicable reason I got distracted watching Get Him To The Greek over and over again and only managed to watch a few of the films on here. You could say my extreme fondness for Russell Brand is a secret predilection, but it's obviously not that secret because I'm saying it here. It's an affection born out of the fact I entirely not a fan before he moved into stand up; in fact when he was a presenter I thought he was outright crap' now I'm a born again hardcore fan because I love to be surprised by people.
With that in mind, the following are summaries of the movies I love and why I love them, with in depth reviews for most to follow in the next couple of weeks. I'm also starting some themed rolling articles -
Making a Statement? Interpretive Narrative, Allegory, Symbolic, Magical Realism...
The Enigma of Star Quality - Featured Actors
The Horror Movies of Wes Craven
Satire, the rarest genre.
Romantic Comedies That Don't Suck
Time Travel Movies – should you watch them in order? And what order do you pick?
Now, onto the movies, with honourable mentions of the others I love in that year cos it's just so hard to choose:
1982: First Blood. The first Rambo film is one of the best examples out there of the strength of sticking to one strong purpose of the story and making that powerhouse, and the focus on simple but effective violence makes you wince better than any slasher with 200 gallons of corn syrup blood thrown around in production. An unforgettable film, and satisfying in a way that makes me question myself.
Runners-Up: The Thing, Poltergeist.
1983: The Dead Zone. Right from the opening seconds of the beautiful score and hypnotic title design, you know you're dealing with something special, both for a Cronenberg fan and a plain old cinephile. A masterful film made after Videodrome and Scanners (and those tongue in cheek venereal disease movies), before The Fly. Like The Fly, it's biggest strength is the restraint Cronenberg employs with it, but with far more heart and sorrow to it than The Fly. Unlike some of his body horror work, here Cronenberg needed a cast that could effortlessly mesmerise you in the tense, terrifying or visually arresting scenes, but also break your heart, and in Christopher Walken he had his perfect leading man. One of the better King adaptations, even the smallest details are perfect, right down to the sweaty effect on Walken's skin during his burning house flash, his recoil when he touches someone (gained through actually firing a gun each time to genuinely shock Walken, on his suggestion) or Martin Sheen and Gexa Kovacs' performances as the pivotal characters of a future of evil.
Runner-Up: Trading Places.
1984: A good year for timeless classics, but I'm going to go with an unpopular choice.
Body Double. Very much a personal preference, to many it is a horrible insult and a bit of a shambles that De Palma has such a tendency to ape Hitchcock. In my case when he does it so unabashedly and entirely, I love it. It does help that many of the surrounding production values are excellent. The performances in Body Double might be fluffy but there's a delicate balance of hamming it up you can smile at, hamming it up that you outright pee yourself laughing at and just plain giving an enjoyable performance. I adore Gregg Henry in it, Melanie Griffith is adorable, and Craig Wasson does a great job of taking all of the silliness on his shoulders. In essence it's nothing more than a bit of Psycho and a whole lot of Vertigo and Rear Window, as well as plenty of other references that weren't a deliberate neon sign saying I Love Hitchcock. And yet there's a freshness to it. The movement of the camera, the delightful musical number in the middle, Pino Donaggio's sublime score, and the modernisation of the story so that the characters so there is less of a patriarchal feel is always fun.
Runners-Up: The Terminator, Stop Making Sense, This Is Spinal Tap, Ghostbusters.
1985: Back To The Future. Knowing me in the next couple of weeks I'll do a big piece about the whole trilogy. Suffice it to say, perfect cast chemistry, special effects perfect, score and soundtrack perfect, script perfect. Everything's perfect! Trivia – a recent study of the emotional peaks of narrative in relationship to the body's biorhythms proved that Back To The Future is the only film that almost perfectly matches the body's natural peaks and ebbs, and is therefore the most satisfying narrative to experience. And a video:
Runners-Up: Re-animator, The Purple Rose of Cairo, The Sure Thing
1986: Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Isn't Broderick just gorgeous? Well, despite how you feel about that, between Broderick, Alan Ruck and Jennifer Grey in a role that was nothing like Baby, this is a great movie to make you smile, whilst also also introducing the concept of using a winning personality, savvy use of a home computer and a hype machine that gets out of hand to get you just about anything (in this case not getting into trouble for another day off and a campaign to save his life), which at the time was not in anyone's thoughts. If the movie was made now, the ending would also include Ferris getting home to discover that not only is he not in trouble but someone started some kickstarter and Care2 accounts and in record time not only beaten the target amount needed to buy him a kidney, but a HBO deal to track his experience during the transplant.
Runners-Up: Manhunter, The Fly, Stand By Me.
1987: Full Metal Jacket. It's probably not my favourite BUT I'm a huge Kubrick fan, and you have to love the performances in this film. An oddly disjointed member of Kubrick's back catalogue but thoroughly provoking.
Runners-Up: Raising Arizona (see future blog on Satire) Radio Days, The Princess Bride,
Moonstruck, Withnail and I, The Witches of Eastwick, The Serpent and the Rainbow (see future blog on Horror Movies of Wes Craven), The Untouchables.
1988: Die Hard. Like Indiana, a classic, thoroughly enjoyable, thoroughly re-watchable, which I do practically everytime a new Bruce Willis film comes out. Will probably be doing a Bruce Willis bit re: my obsession with actors. Die Hard is one of those action films you name when you're having an argument about how action films in the past decade are not better just because they raise the stakes, you still need good actors, good dialogue, a solid story, obstacles that make sense, like walking over glass without shoes, and often the only solutions that work are so out there they implicitly teach you to sit on the edge of your seat, like throwing a dead body onto a cop car to ruin the terrorists perfect entry point camouflage.
Runners-Up: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Hairspray, A Fish Called Wanda, School Daze
1989: Do The Right Thing. Made straight after School Daze, Do The Right Thing is an improvement on some of the same ideas and issues but more confident and less disquieting, and a powerhouse cast as a bonus. A thoroughly entertaining film you leave it with a powerful impression, largely due to the brilliant portrait of the imperfect characters in imperfect situations finding imperfect resolutions.
Runners-Up: Heathers, The Abyss, Born on the Fourth of July, Back To The Future 2, Bill and Ted.
1990: Jacob's Ladder. What can you say about Jacob's Ladder? Those faces are creepy as hell. The voice of Mirage in The Incredibles doing naughty things with a mythical creature on the dancefloor. The soothing voice of Danny Aiello hinting that maybe Tim Robbins should think about why all the weirdness is happening. Director Adrian Lyne might have done some junk before he got to this, and plenty after but this was an inspirational example of interpretive narrative, unreliable narrators, and the re-watch factor.
Runners-Up: The Grifters, Tremors, Total Recall (only for the scene with the bead o sweat scene. Oh and for this: Getting To Mars) and Back To The Future 3.
1991: JFK. One of Costner's lead parts where he
Runners-up: The Last Boy Scout, Bill and Ted.
1992: Reservoir Dogs. For all the obvious reasons.
Runners-Up: Strictly Ballroom, Unforgiven, Bob Roberts, Hard Boiled, My Cousin Vinny, Delicatessen, Batman Returns.
1993: Naked. Mike Leigh is not typically a filmmaker I like, but the brilliant performances and uncompromising meanness, not to mention the fantastic introduction to David Thewlis as our leading man, makes Naked an exception.
1994: Shallow Grave. When I first watched Shallow Grave I thought (and continued to think until I rewatched a few months ago) that the only thing that was truly commanding about this film was Christopher Eccleston's performance as the mild mannered, repressed numbers man transitioning to an unhinged obsessive. Then I realised this year how much of an impact the design, the characters and the editing has had on me. Probably my favourite aspect is the inclusion of the malevolent scenes of the disquietingly underdeveloped criminals tracking them down, leading you down the garden path towards thinking that the suspense is directed towards what will happen when the criminals meet our protagonists. But then the sucker punch comes in.
Runners-Up: Quiz Show, Muriel's Wedding, Speed, Ed Wood, Shawshank Redemption, Swimming With Sharks, Bullets Over Broadway.
1995: Casino. Though much maligned, I enjoyed the constant narration of Casino, and one of my alltime favourite moments in cinema is when past tense turns present tense for Pesci.
Runners-Up: Seven, Murder in the First, The Doom Generation, Twelve Monkeys, Showgirls, Underground.
1996. Since this is the age when I started trying to devote a lot of time to all types of film, not just whatever came out in the cinema, I'd like to say something like Microcosmos... But I'm going with The Frighteners and Mars Attacks! Cos that's how much I love Michael J Fox.
1997: Jackie Brown. I personally find Jackie Brown slightly addictive, in no small way because of the nuanced and identifiable performance of Pam Grier, and applicably to several others alongside Grier, Tarantino's habit of casting Actors who haven't had the continual success they should have.
Runners-Up: Mad City, Boogie Nights, LA Confidential, As Good As It Gets, Wag The Dog, Titanic, Scream 2, Grosse Pointe Blanke, Private Parts, Funny Games (Original).
1998: After Life. I'm a big fan of Asian Cinema, but since I tend to like mostly horror (except for the trilogy that defies labels, Vengence) or the totally mental (Visitor Q, anyone?) I thought I'd leave that for a themed post.
But Afterlife is an exception, the little modest Japanese film standing as an example to all filmmakers out there. The production had to be cheap and resourceful, and in a stroke of genius the necessity is woken into the narrative, about the Department of Death if you will. The team that greets the newly dead who are going to Heaven and processes their Heaven. We learn that instead of being effortlessly magical and celestial etc, the processing and administration of Heaven is run down and lacking in resources; they discuss with you what moment from your life was your happiest, and that they will 'recreate' the moment for you and that will be your Heaven. Only you don't stay in it for eternity, they dress up a set and film it for you, with whatever items they can use for props. For a man who wants a moment of flying a plane to be his memory, they use cotton wool for the clouds.
But it's not the kitsch and novel approach to Heaven that grabs you. After Life is an incredible little film that can move you in many ways as the team meet different people and learn what they held dear in life, some funny, some uplifting, some heartbreaking.
Runners-Up: Bulworth, Ringu, Gods and Monsters, Run Lola Run, Buena Vista Social Club, Rushmore, Pleasantville (See in future Magical Realism), There's Something About Mary, Pi.
1999: Fight Club. One of the few films that takes what's best in a good book, changes mostly include the ending, but instead of making the ending suck by playing it safe and conventional they make it more edgy and offensive. I could write pages and pages about the socio-political subtext of this film but I'll leave that for now and just say – Helena Bonham Carter singing the tune from Valley of the Dolls = awesome.
Runners-Up: The Talented Mr Ripley, Audition, Magnolia, American Movie, Election, Galaxy Quest, The Insider.
2000: Wonderboys. Usually when I realise a story is going to be about excellent stories and wonderful, world renowned writers I get this hesitance, this dread that it's going to be so embarrassing if the writing of the writer about the best writers is really crap. Wonderboys though stays away from trying to show whether they are all great writers and instead just gives you a right good story, which you then realise would be a book good enough that you might have read it. Which, ahem, I should have...
Runners-Up: Almost Famous, Shadow of a Vampire, Ginger Snaps, Best In Show, Memento, Requiem For A Dream, Snatch, American Psycho (see future blog on Bret Easton Ellis Movies), O Brother Where Art Thou?
2001: The Royal Tenenbaums. Stella cast, one in which
Runners-Up: Dogtown and Z-Boys, Mulholland Drive, Tape and The Believer.
2002: In lieu of the first of the Vengeance trilogy I'll say Capturing The Friedmans. If ever there was a film (documentary or otherwise) that encapsulated the complicated nature of human nature and perception it's this one. I'm sure one of the reasons I found Catfish to be weak if it's a documentary or a fictional story, is because the makers of Capturing the Friedmans got there first (on the casual footage that then becomes contextually essential and starts the ball rolling on an evaluation and study documentary) and did it better (on an everything sense, since Capturing the Friedmans is masterful in every way). It's easy to start watching the film thinking you'll get a satisfactory summary of the family dynamic, and maybe enough evidence to decide if more than a few disgusting people might have enabled the criminal acts, but you have so much to think about regarding human bias and the weakness of perception and self evaluation at the end it makes your head spin.
Runners-Up: Bus 174, 28 Days Later, Road To Perdition, Rules of Attraction, Irreversible, and Punch Drunk Love (the tone of which some people get confused about. Is it sweet? Is it worrying... you have to wonder how they would react if they left this (NSFW) scene in...)
2003: I had the strongest urge to be naughty and name my coblogger/boyfriend/kidney donor Ant's films, Things Best Left and The Most Boring Woman In The World :p One of them is award winning, but I know that's no justification.
I guess I'd say Finding Nemo, because within the first two minutes I cried. That's getting the tone right, that's what that is.
Runners-Up: Fog of War, American Splendor, A Mighty Wind, Oldboy (soon to be in Vengeance post), Big Fish.
2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So many films can't even make you care about people really dying, and here Spike manages to get you to care about the death of just the memory of someone. Additionally, the movie stands as a impressive example of mastering narrative design, not just by what he chooses to show, but what he doesn't. He omits Winslet's experience during the process, which lends itself to the viewer imagining all the comparitive qualities of her struggle.
Runners-Up: Donnie Darko, Mysterious Skin, Hotel Rwanda, Hustle and Flow.
2005: Pretty Persuasion and Hard Candy. Hard to
choose, both display effortlessly commanding performances
from the leads, and the delicate nuances in both movies leave
you realising subtle details long after you've watched them,
and forgo a reliance on popular soundtrack (mostly in Hard Candy, entirely in Pretty Persuasion) prefering instead to
create the tone of a private universe. And again, both endings
are haunting, in their own special way, although as always I admire the interpretive touch to Hard Candy.
Night and Good Luck.
2006: Stranger Than Fiction. A sweet,
slightly magical vehicle for Will Farrell, or a fabulously multi-layered pondering on the story
of Jesus' sacrifice? Will probably embarrass myself with a long post on the magical realism
in this quite soon...
Runners-Up: The Departed, Children of Men, The Host, Little Miss Sunshine and When The Levees Broke.
2007: Tough year; all the following – Hot Rod, Ratatouille, REC, Walk Hard The Dewey Cox Story, For The Bible Tells Me So, Hot Fuzz, The Mist.
2008: In contrast, just one – WALL-E. God, I'm happy for kids today that they have Pixar, but super jealous as well. When I was a lil girl we had The Little Mermaid... the story of a bored girl so in love with some guy she agrees to no longer speak so she can fit into his social circle, great. As far as I'm concerned WALL-E is the most emotional film ever made. At least I cried for almost all of it so that must mean something right?
2009: Another tough year, but easy to pick a winner - Moon. Easy because it's my favourite film of all time, even though it's too sad to watch much. Ant made us go see this as soon as it came out, and like so many small minded dickheads I went into with the word 'ZOWIE' bouncing around my skull, but after that we went to see it three more times. Jones' direction exceeds the word perfection, Clint Mansell's score is brilliant, and in some parts so emotional I personally think it should be legally banned from being accessible to anyone diagnosed with depression, and Sam Rockwell's performance doesn't just deserve the Oscar he didn't get, it deserves an award to be made for him that is officially recognised as one better than an Oscar.
As you can see, I might be classifiable as sycophantic about this particular film. Other films I loved this year are I Love You Philip Morris (absolute pure genius on every level, and best biopic ever made) and the coolest of cool District 9.
And back to Moon, here's a cute link for anyone as intense as me:
Runners-Up: Exit Through The Gift Shop = proves that Banksy is inherently some sort of genius regardless of artistic approach. And Barry Munday, coming out of left field that turns into one of the loveliest romantic comedies in the world.
And finally, I know this year shouldn't count but as a Franco fan I feel I must mention Howl. As in, it's good, he's marvellous in it, people should see it.
So, now I'm sufficiently embarrassed by the length of this thing, I will say only
Hope you're not too miffed, Byee!