What follows is possibly a list of my twenty most favourite movies, although I don’t think I’d ever know myself well enough to create such a list, or otherwise the whole ‘list’ idea oversimplifies the enjoyment and meaning we acquire from the silverscreen.
20. The pursuit of happyness (2006): Another Will Smith film, not altogether different in feel from Seven pounds. Excuse my optimistically post-feminist reading of the movie, but I appreciate the exploration of male weakness, in that the film focusses on a father left to fend and provide for his child, rather than the much more common (in real life, although this is based on a true story) mother left to fend and provide.
19. Man on fire (2004): I think this is one of those bad American action-thriller movies that is actually good. Like it’s actually good. John Creasy (Denzel Washington) is hired as a bodyguard to protect Pita (Dakota Fanning), who incidentally is typecast, surprise surprise, as an intelligent young girl. If I remember rightly, they threw in a few nasty facts about the kidnapping business as it really goes on in Mexico City.
18. The good, the bad and the ugly (1966): Despite the fact that I fell asleep last time I saw this (after heartily recommending it to those in my company), The good, the bad and the ugly will always be one of my favourites. The famous lo-fi soundtrack, for a start, is so killer! Quentin Tarantino thinks it the best film ever made. Some memorable moments include Tuco, the Ugly (pictured), being on the end of a rope for his indefatigable list of crimes, which are being read out to the crowd; he sneers at a prim and proper female bystander, evidently disgusted and somewhat frightened by the spectre before her. Tuco’s footing is removed and he dangles for some seconds before the Good (Clint Eastwood) shoots his rope and frees him. What is also awesome about the film is the American Civil War backdrop against which the action plays out, a backdrop which seems almost a world apart from the vigilante small-town Wild West scene.
17. East of Eden (1955): Based on John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name, which, in turn, is loosely based on (/inspired by) the biblical story of Cain and Abel. James Dean plays the broken and flawed Cal, who throughout the film continually strives and fails to impress his father, in contradistinction to his brother Adam. Dean, who died before his 25th birthday, plays an important role in that his character and struggles somewhat mirror his own in real life, and allow some degree of solidarity for the audience growing up in Dean’s generation (with a little help, all generations), as a person who grows up in the world yet is never properly equipped to deal with growing up in the world, one full of emotional needs and desires which demand to be fulfilled yet reality bars this possibility.
16. Across the universe (2007): Yay! Another musical! Across the universe need not worry about any fancy score though; it just includes some awesome covers and interpretations of already brilliant Beatles songs. The film is not only a tribute to The Beatles, but also to love. It’s cool how it loosely follows the events of the The Beatles’ lifetime: their humble origins, their enthusiastic coup d’état of the American music scene via British invasion, their narcotic enlightenment, the political tensions and opposing directions that eventually tore them apart… etc.
15. Once were warriors (1994): Before you heard Jango Fett with a Kiwi accent, know that Temuera Morrison made his mark on the world in Once were warriors. “Cook me some eggs”, as horrible as its origins may be, has become a staple imperative among New Zealanders wanting eggs for breakfast. The film explores the vast shortcomings of Jack ‘the Muss’, who fails to show his love for his family amid his violent and alcoholic nature. The sequel What becomes of the broken-hearted is also an important one to watch.
14. Children of men (2006): For my appreciation of this film I am somewhat indebted to Slavoj Zizek’s appreciation of it, who re-sold an already decent movie to me. Rather than being a post-apocalyptic, Children of men is more of a pre-apocalyptic or almost-apocalyptic examination of a society who can no longer reproduce (imagine the implications for contraception companies!). I like it because a man who is happy to get on with his life despite worldwide corruption, crisis, uproar, turmoil, etc, can no longer turn a blind eye and must confront some of the evils before him (wow! I really didn’t expect my analysis to sound that cliché. You’d be much better off (a) viewing the film and (b) looking at Zizek’s analysis).
13. Ong Bak (2003): If you’re a fan of martial-arts eye candy, don’t miss your chance to see Ong Bak. After a short conversation with a guy at church on Sunday night, I learned that Tony Jaa (the actor who plays the main role) does all his own stunts. The most compulsory-to-watch part is where, after a nice street chase, he finds himself cornered in an alley by the people pursuing him. To escape, he jumps onto one and then runs across their shoulders as if across ground. Another feature of this movie is that it’s set in Thailand, so it’s maybe a style you haven’t been yet exposed to.
12. Despicable me (2010): Seriously can’t wait for the sequel. An old flatmate shouted me to see this film in 3D at the theatre. Yes! Pharrell’s opening song of the same title is too cool for a kid’s movie. My flatmate pointed out that when Gru goes to the Bank of Evil, it subtly shows “formerly Lehman Brothers”, a real life American bank that went bankrupt in 2008. Vector is also the coolest bad guy. Ever. He wears orange and invents a squid gun. I love it how he says “Oh yeah!” all the time, sometimes bordering on sexual allusions. This scene is one of my faves.
11. Into the wild (2007): Reading Goethe recently I came across this quote, “You say that my mother would like to see me kept occupied, which made me laugh. As if I were not occupied now; and does it make much fundamental difference whether I count peas or lentils? The affairs of the world are no more than so much trickery, and a man who toils for money or honour or whatever else in deference to the wishes of others, rather than because his own desire or needs lead him to do so, will always be a fool”. For me that pretty much sums up the film as well as Christopher’s cynicism (the philosophy, rather than the common definition of cynicism). I think this film is powerful in that it can remind us of what’s important and take our focus off the superficial things in life. I was somewhat inspired to spend a night in the Port Hills after watching the movie. It was cold. The danger in taking inspiration from any movie like this is that people so often hold it at a distance, as a nice idea, but they never put the dream into practice. It’s time to quit your job and do something real, guys. However, another thing that I think the film doesn’t emphasise enough is the individualist nature of Chris’ call. Although it is something at the root of his being that he absolutely must do, it costs not only himself everything but the peace of his mother and father, and even his sister, whom he is very close to, probably made worse by his eventual untimely death.
I know it’s naughty that you kind of thought I was going to show all twenty because I kind of led you to believe that, although it wasn’t the title’s fault… I realised that as I continued with the list, my comments were getting a lot longer so I’ve decided to split this one into two (a last minute decision!). But this does mean you get a cool picture with every one on the list!