Friday, 26 September 2014

Fifteen Films

OK, so I was nommed (I believe that's the appropriate contraction of nominated; do let me know if I've got that horribly wrong) by Jason to list 15 films I like.

As per the usual disclaimer, this is by no means my absolute favourite Desert Island Discs top fifteen of all time, but a bunch of fillums off the top of my head (OK, after a full day of agonising) that I like, or have liked. There's a mix of blockbusting summer smashes that you'll all know, a few Christmas in front of the telly favourites, a smattering from my formative years that had an impact on me at the time, and a sprinkling of la-da-dah silent/black and white/furrin movies to prove that I'm a right proper cineaste. I did an evening class about mise-en-scène and everything.

Unlike some list websites I could mention, you won't have to keep clicking NEXT past endless ads to get to the goodness. It's here in one glorious chunk, just for you.

And to have my cake and eat it, I'll also be name-checking similarish films as I go along. So Kirsty, let's start with my first choice…

Safety Last (1923)

Hooray for Harold Lloyd! This is the one with him hanging off the clock face halfway up a building (a stunt he performed with a below average number of fingers and thumbs), but to be honest I could've picked any number of other Lloyd's classics with similar high-rise antics. Chaplin might have the popular rep and Keaton the critical appreciation, but Harold Lloyd's silent Peter Parker adventures are my favourite.


Metropolis (1927)

It's very very old, black and white, silent and German, but hang in there! Oh, it's also very very long, especially now they've released the unearthed fuller length version, discovered in an abandoned bunker in Santiago or something. The sets and modelwork are beautiful, straight out of Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories, and there are so many incredible scenes - the workers toiling at the giant dials, the factory becoming the face of Moloch, the decadent dance of False Maria at the Yoshiwara club and of course the iconic transformation of proto-Threepio machine into woman. Make sure you watch the longest possible version for the recovered Thin Man and devil footage.

Touch of Evil (1958)

Written, directed and co-starring Orson Welles, it's no Citizen Kane game-changer, but just watch that opening 200-second tense tracking shot and soak in the goodness. Ignore Senor Heston's OTT brownface makeup and enjoy a grotesquely padded Welles as the corrupt cop and Marlene Dietrich's drawling fortune teller. And watch out for the naughty lesbian biker, played by The Exorcist's voice of Pazuzu. For another uber-long opening shot, see The Player by Robert Altman

"He vas some kind of a man."

It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

I could have easily chosen Monte Carlo or Bust, The Great Race of Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. I love those all-star comedy films of the 60s. They all smoosh into one film in my mind, probably starring Tony Curtis, Eric Sykes and Phil Silvers.

"It's buried under a big W."

The Great Escape (1963)

Representing all my favourite war films from The Longest Day to Kelly's Heroes, what's not to love? It feels about 5 hours long, but not a moment is superfluous. Who can hear the tragic strains of Elmer Bernstein's theme for the doomed 'mole' Ives and not choke up? And am I the only one to have spent far too much time trying to figure out a way for Steve McQueen's motorbike to get over that bloody wire fence?

"Two hundred and fifty?"

Jaws (1975)

Though I could have picked Raiders of the Lost Ark as another of Spielberg's gems. A perfect movie. And so rewatchable. I still can't watch the 'head in the boat' scene though.

"Show me the way to go home…"

Excalibur (1981)

Hey, like the Arthurian legends, opera and men fighting in exceedingly shiny armour? Fancy seeing her from Prime Suspect in next to nothing, doing magic? Want to see Captain Picard, him from Taken and him from The Usual Suspects all in one film? What about the bestest Merlin ever (sorry Knight Riders) in his shiny shiny skullcap?

"A dream to some, a nightmare to others!"

Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

Thumping John Carpenter soundtrack? Awesome chop-socky action from stunt gods Al Leong and Jeff Imada? Kim Cattrall in fancy Chinese makeup? The immortal David Lo Pan with lights coming out of his face, Thunder blowing his top, the Hell of the Upside-Down Sinners and Kurt Bloody Russell? Check, check and check again. Highly quotable, highly watchable. Keep your Romancing The Stones and your High Road To Chinas, this is my favourite adventure romp of the 80s.

"You ready Jack?" "I was born ready."

Aliens (1986)

Yeah, I know you're supposed to prefer Ridley Scott's original Alien, but this is where it's at for me, especially if you were a teenager as I was when it came out on video. Endless fun revelling in the marine's bravado and watching their rescue mission to the rain-soaked colony planet go down the acid-dissolved drain. Nothing tops Ridley + Loader vs Alien Queen.  Watch the extended version for a cameo by Red Dwarf's Captain Hollister. And some cool machine gun sentry things.

"Game over man!"

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

One of those films best seen with a bunch of friends, aged about 15, on a third generation pirate videotape. Love how it shifts tone abruptly two thirds of the way through and transforms a harrowing horror story into a glorious 'victim fights back' splatter fest. Gotta love Bruce Campbell.


Reservoir Dogs (1992)

The original Tarantino masterpiece and never equalled. With an unforgettable soundtrack and iconic movie moments (the slow walk, Blonde's little dance, the dog story), I took some convincing to eventually get down to the Picketts Lock Odeon and catch it (thank you , Messrs Over and Twine), but it was worth the effort.

"You gonna bark all day, little doggie?"

Chasing Amy (1997)

More plot than Clerks, less goofy than Mallrats, more restrained than Dogma, this one is my favourite Kevin Smith film. Jason Lee's irritable comic book 'tracer' Banky, Joey Lauren Adams' husky voiced Alyssa and Ben Affleck's conflicted Holden, plus of course Jay and Silent Bob. Not enough comic references but hey J

"Archie was the bitch and Jughead was the butch. That's why Jughead wears that crown-looking hat all the time."

Memento (2000)

He's got no memory! And is covered in tattoos! And the film is show completely out of chronological order! Genius. As a rule of thumb, watch anything with Joe Pantoliano in it. Also features Trinity from The Matrix being very naughty. My favourite scene: when amnesiac Leonard 'comes to' whilst running - is he chasing someone? Or being chased? For more running scenes, see Run Lola Run.

"Now.. where was I?"

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Torn between this and Shaun of the Dead (but not World's End). I think Fuzz just edges Shaun out for sheer rewatchability, from the bogus Chinatown plot to the recurring swan gag, to the foreshadowing to the meaningful surnames to the greatest bromance scene ever filmed. Watch every single commentary on the DVD.

"I'm a slasher… of prices!"

The Avengers (2012) or Marvel's Avengers Assemble if you're the sort of person who gets John Steed and Captain America easily confused

The culmination not only of a decade-long movie arc to bring Marvel's biggest (non-mutant) superteam to the screen, but also many a comic lover's childhood fantasy of seeing all their heroes in a movie that didn't suck (I'm looking at you, 1997's crappy Justice League of America). Any film where a CGI Hulk upstages lovely Loki Hiddleston has the right stuff. I fear the inevitable backlash  from whichever Marvel movie finally breaks this glorious run of interlocking blockbusters, but am enjoying a golden age of comic movies for as long as it lasts.

"Puny god."

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