Sunday, August 17, 2008

Day Seventeen - Appreciative August


I suspect that today's topic will generate as much discussion and passionate objections as the music-themed blog did.

Today's topic originally started with a few carefully movies we have on DVD that would probably pass the 'taste muster test' for most of you. Cinematic classics, films that feature on most nerds' or IMDB 'top 200 of all time' lists, those written about in books like 'The 1000 Movies you must see before you die' (yes, we own it), the ones that foppish chaps in bowties regularly wax lyrical about, blah blah blah..... but where's the fun in that?

I've long been annoyed by perpetuating ponces who merely parrot the same handful of 'best of/favourite/of all time' films out of fear of stumbling off the well-trodden critical path and getting bogged in the bush of banality. As if Citizen Kane, A Space Odyssey and Gone with the Wind (except for Blakkat) are actually regularly watched, loved or enjoyed by most functioning human beings.

The rise of DVDs in popularity and the decrease in their price has seen me reject my old haunt, the CD bargain bin, to instead rummage in the DVD one instead. "But Love Chunks, it only cost $2,99, it has Tim Robbins in it..... OK, sure, it does star John Cusack and it isn't his best work, but it was produced by one of the Monkees and has a very young Courtney Love showing her acting skills by playing a retarded groupie..."

To Gen Y-ers, some of my most treasured movies are likely to produce reactions of derision, scorn and perhaps much curling of upper lips. My only comeback is, like the dodgy, over-played and incessantly annoying FM songs, they were truly wonderful, unique, hilarious, touching, thought-provoking or sad when first seen and still often provoke the same response in me today. Each movie listed here could become a separate blog of its own (if only to defend my choice) but for the sake of brevity and to keep boredom at bay I'll just add a line or two.

The Deer Hunter - Starring Christopher Walken, Robert DeNiro and a young Meryl Streep. This utterly shocked and scared the hell out of me and taught me more about PTSD and Vietnam than late 1970s and early 1980s education was ever allowed to. Still does.

The Sure Thing - This is the best Rob Reiner movie bar This is Spinal Tap with the hilarious 'insane hitchhiker' scene by John Cusack being the sole reason I fell in love with him.

When Harry Met Sally - Witty writing, clever Noo Yawk characters and even though I own the movie, if it's on TV I still seem to sit there watching it - especially the scene where Harry's in the middle of baring his soul about his divorce yet can still get up to do the Mexican wave during a baseball game.

The Gods Must be Crazy - when I first saw the tribe fighting over the magic Coke bottle from the sky from the darkness of the Trak cinema in the early eighties, I nearly wet myself laughing. So unique - how many African comedies can you name apart from this one and its sequel?

This is Spinal Tap - for the first half hour of seeing this (again at the Trak) in 1986 with my then-boyfriend who was deep into heavy metal, I honestly believed this was a real doco. David St Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, Derek Smalls and the destined-for-death drummers live on. Their songs - especially written for the film, didn't help me get any wiser: "I'm working on a sex farm; ploughing through your bean field; pokin' your hay." See, you can understand why I was fooled, can't you?

Dead Poets Society - Cried my eyes out when the boys stood on their desks and did the 'Captain, my Captain' salute to their departing teacher, Robin Williams (taking his first steps out of deranged comedy). Robert Sean Leonard was a stand out as Neil Perry, the happy-sparky guy at school but the frightened and conflicted son at home who dared to try acting over medicine.

To Kill a Mockingbird - The 1964, black-and-white version starring the one-and-uber-only Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. *The* closest thing to a perfect celluloid depiction of a wonderful, classic book.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - I dunno, I just like it as the perfect depiction of teen comedies circa 1986 and featuring quite a few of the Brat Pack at the time (ironic that Charlie Sheen plays a drug addict). "Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Gallipoli - This 1981 Peter Weir movie still makes me cry, and not because we're seeing a young, beautiful (and hopefully not yet anti-Semitic, insane or alcoholic) Mel Gibson, or due to the very dated ping-ping synthesiser soundtrack or the senseless decisions and deaths. Why don't we make movies like this any more instead of crap like 'Hey Hey It's Esther Blueberger' or 'Praise' ?
Fiddler on the Roof - my one musical, which is not bad coming from a child who had to see every single pharrrking show that the Murray Bridge Players put on every year (Mum was always one of the stars and their costumer). This one has stirring songs, a message that doesn't involve Annie getting a gun, navigating the mists of Brigadoon, surviving a Trial by Jury or living in Oklahoma. Instead it offers sadness, hope and tradition. Topol is magnificent as Tevye.

Ten Things I hate about you - my foray into nineties teen comedy. Clever, funny and cute. Even in this it was obvious that Heath Ledger was destined to become a major talent.

High Fidelity - the second best conversion from kick-arse book to movie (see TKAM for number one) even though it moved from England (book) to the US (movie). John Cusack is made for the role of Rob Gordon and opened the movie talking directly to us, the viewer: "What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?" And everyone asked, 'Who is THAT guy' when Jack Black appeared as another music obsessive. Everything Jack's been in since has been limp.

Gladiator - Russell Crowe may be a right old tool in the real world, but in this he IS Maximus. Sure it's violent but done so bloody well (see what I did there) that it's exciting, gripping, engrossing, unable to tear your eyes away-ish; all the usual cinematic cliches. Plus, add the acting, scenery, historical context and the music (so underrated but extremely important) to the mix and it makes this movie one that I can watch again and again. Check out the opening battle in Germania in the snow for the sheer spectacle.

Big - Love Chunks introduced me to this one. Funny, touching and sad. When a very young Tom Hanks cries on his mattress in a flophouse hotel out of fear, it's very real. Sapphire likes it too, but we still skip the one and only love scene where Josh tentatively reaches for the boob of the love interest played by Elizabeth Perkins.....

American Beauty - Now now, don't go all snobby and arty on me and say that Todd Solondz's 'Happiness' was so much more edgy; I just love this. Everything about it. Exaggerated yes, ugly side of America yes, but enough in it to make me tear up (the plastic bag scene) and have scenes resonate with me for the next twenty four hours.

Brokeback Mountain - "Why can't I quit you?" So heartbreaking for the two men and the women in their lives. Such a small patch of happiness in a time that was so pitiless and ignorant. *Sob*

About a boy - Another Nick Hornby novel that works as a cracker of a movie. This was a role made for Hugh Grant and the music by 'Badly Drawn Boy' is superb.

Cold Mountain - I know, I know, Nicole Kidman and Jude Law? Playing Yanks? Making a movie from Charles Frazier's divine book? Well get over it - they did, it was brilliant and I love it. As does LC - it's a saga that leaves you utterly exhausted at the end. And with a handful of soggy tissues (no double entendres intended).

I won't go on about the sheer luck of being a parent in the age of Pixar, some Dreamworks (especially the tragically overlooked 'Spirit') and Aardman - the pearls are all photographed here and we love seeing them as much as Sapphire does. At the very least, rent 'Toy Story II', 'Spirit - Stallion of the Simarron' and 'Eight Below' and get back to me with your comments.

Finally, my guilty pleasures. Clueless, Jude Law's version of Alfie (Gasp! NOT the 1960s version starring Michael Caine); early-career Gwyneth in Emma, Dirty Dancing (mind blowingly hot in 1987 but I'll admit that since finding the DVD in a bargain bin about seven years ago I've yet to bring myself to watch it again in case I scorn myself to tears); In Good Company (love Topher Grace); King Kong (so there), Master and Commander (the tool again, almost as good as Maximus); Planes Trains and Automobiles, Napoleon Dynamite, Notting Hill (nothing wrong with a chick flick now and then), Muriel's Wedding (no explanation needed); Serendipity and Tapeheads (John. Cusack.); Spiderman (just the first one because I feel sorry for his geeky little life) and So I Married an Axe Murderer (for the drunk Scottish dad at the wedding).
Oh and for no other reason, rent a copy of 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. It's from the late 1980s and is terribly dated, but seeing Steve Martin playing 'Ruprecht', Michael Caine's fake step-brother still makes me laugh.

Whew. I'm done. If sure that if you ask me this same question next week the movies, rankings and selections are likely to be very different. Lord of the Rings, Parenthood, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, 21 Grams, The Commitments, Horton Hears A Who.......


Naomi said...

oh was seriously into Patrick and Dirty Dancing!

And my animated movie of choice would of course be....Mulan!

Anonymous said...

"As if Citizen Kane, A Space Odyssey and Gone with the Wind (except for Blakkat) are actually regularly watched, loved or enjoyed by most functioning human beings."

I would suggest that these are considered the best movies in the same way that automobile experts would consider the Bugatti Veyron the best car ever built despite the fact that most functioning human beings will never drive one, let alone own one (we just watch them drive it on Top Gear instead).


Kath Lockett said...

Naomi - yep, Mulan nearly made the list. It certainly makes Sapphire's.

Anon/BS - c'mon, tell me what your guilty pleasure DVDs (clean ones) are...?

PG said...

good stuff. my rack is mostly inhabited by Disney/Pixar offerings.

River said...

Two movies I can watch over and over, as well as Dirty Dancing and Parenthood, are Project X and Baby Boom. Another thing I watch constantly (not a movie, but a series) is Stargate SG1. Watching it right now as a matter of fact. I also love Farscape (series) and Firefly (series).

Naomi said...

We were only talking about Parenthood the movie yesterday!! That quote in there about having to have a licence to own a dog but not to have children!

Anonymous said...

OK, movies I can (and do) watch many times include Phantom Of The Paradise, Fahrenheit 451, Excalibur, All Night Long, Battle of Britain, Catch-22, Tommy, Up The Down Staircase, Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Seven...

Hey, I never said I was a functioning human being :-)


franzy said...

I'm sure you're expecting me to weigh in here ... and I will!
I'm the first the admit (proudly) that I have almost as poor a taste in movies as I do in music. Favourite movie and first DVD purchase?
Terminator 2
But for so many more reasons than just the movie. Like you, it's all about the zeitgeist and the context.
If it's got action, explosions, shooting, car chases and smarty-pants oneliners, done well - I'm there. See Transformers. Or don't. Really. Please avoid it at all costs.

I've probably spruiked him before, but I can't remember what you said: Hiyao Miyazaki? Studio Ghibli? It's known as the Disney of the East But Better. Go to Alpha Video on Magill Rd and ask for them, Sapphire will love them and you will too. They are like Disney, but not made for moronic Americans.

I'm with you High Fidelity. Ber-rilliant. I loved the book too for entirely different reasons and I believe they stand strongly either together or apart.

Maybe I should have just written my own blog ...

ps. I'm still giving great consideration to the "Single Sentence September" blog.

Kath Lockett said...

Franzy, I liked Terminator 2 as well. In fact, we have the 3-DVD box set! And I will seek out the Hiyao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli offerings at Alpha - probably with Sapphire in the next school holidays.

Anon/BS - wow, that's quite a varied selection there - agree with you re Catch 22, but am embarrassed to admit that I've never seen 'Battle of Britain', 'Magnificent Seven', Fahrenheit 451' or 'Tommy'

delamare said...

Oh - so many of my faves here too, including obscure numbers like The Sure Thing and So I Married an Axe Murderer. I also have a life long love for John Cusack, and I think Cold Mountain is wonderful too. Really. Nicole was perfectly cast.

myninjacockle said...

we bought a dodgy copy of Cold Mountain in Thailand - the blurb on the back reads 'terrible and slow moving, kidman and law lack chemistry.' I laughed for a week.

After all these years I still chuckle when I think about Planes, Trains & Automobiles. 'We're going the wrong way? How do they know where we're going? They're drunk!'

Kath Lockett said...

But have you watched your dodgy Thailand copy of 'Cold Mountain' yet, Myninj?

...or the "My hands are resting between two warm, soft pillows" scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. If you like that, you must rent 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' just for the Ruprecht moments.