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Archive for March, 2012

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!

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You’re smack-bang in the middle of a movies list now so if you missed the last one, it’d be worth a flick through before reading this one. If a film you love has failed to make the list either (a) I have not seen, or possibly heard of, it, (b) I have seen it but I’m just not a fan, or (c) I completely forgot to include it! All lists like these are going to be highly subjective for personal reasons anyway.

On violence: Recently I saw two reasonably graphic¹ movies, Hotel Rwanda and The whistleblower. This list was completed before I saw them so I couldn’t think about a place for them on it. Both based on true stories, Hotel Rwanda centres on the events surrounding a four-star hotel during the 1994 Rwandan genocide and The whistleblower follows an international worker in post-war Bosnia who discovers how alive and well human trafficking really is. While we may have become desensitized to violence written about in newspapers or the internet, graphic violence has its merits in that it brings the reality closer to us, despite all the other reasonable reservations you may have. Graphic violence is an effective way of letting us into the know, and in this sense it is a call to action².

40. Police story (1985): One of Jackie Chan’s earlier movies, Police Story gives us a look at some of his best work. The opening action sequence is a lot of fun to watch, and although, like most action movies, the events are a bit farfetched, the characters present an alternative to characters of American cinema (there are no fearless heroes quipping cheesy victory puns, and people cry and wet their pants in ways that you’d expect with all those guns around). An added bonus is the addition of a bit of slapstick and misunderstanding for some comic relief between action scenes.

39. 300 (2006): I still remember when they played a scene from 300 in church to illustrate the lavishness of Xerxes (ha, oh no, I don’t remember what the sermon was about; just that we were watching a bit of 300). 300 wins for its visual power. There is a kind of persistent foreboding/brooding feel throughout the film, as if the whole world is a kind of darkness, and when this is absent there’s still a sense that existence is awaiting its moment to get back at you for being born. The coolest thing about this movie is the array of bad guys. The immortals were my favourite, but also the rhino, and I think Frank Miller, or the screenwriters, whatever, did a great job of portraying the rhino through ancient eyes (remember, also, the elephants in The lord of the rings).

38. The family man (2000): A bit of Nicolas Cage? I’ve always found his acting semi-alright… but the concept for this film was quite a nice one I thought, one that fits it as a Christmas movie: The wealthy Wall Street business man into another world wakes up without his money and freedoms, and a wife and kids instead. Although the film plays into the fantasy of having your cake and eating it too (in an obscure sense, a Kierkegaardian double movement where the knight lays down everything and receives it all back again), it’s also a tender reminder of the things that really matter.

37. 10 things I hate about you (1999): A perfect teen movie that focusses on those on the outer, rather than the status quo, the two-dimensional John and Jane Everyman who want to be popular, get laid or get into the right college, etc. This is a story of two rebels who, though they necessarily uphold some degree of the American teenage dream, they also scorn it for both lesser and greater desires. I love Kat’s reading of her poem I hate towards the end of the film, “But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you”, representing the lament at her inability to overcome her clash of desires.

36. American history x (1998): Brilliant exploration of not only racism, but also hate. Seeing the movie for the first time, I was genuinely surprised by Derek’s complete change of values following his time in prison. It’s awesome to see a cheesy theme like redemption advocated by such a hard-nosed movie.

35. Boy (2010): As with Eagle vs SharkBoy contains aspects of comedy with a much darker undercurrent (same director). It’s a kiwi movie about a boy (!) growing up in 1980s New Zealand, and it allows you to view that much darker side of life through his innocent eyes.

34. The Shawshank redemption (1994): We studied this in high school. So did everyone, so I hear. Someone once said to me that they hate when we have pull apart movies, etc and analyse them and do all that kind of stuff because it’s so ruinous to the pure art form as unadulterated by logic. Turns out it’s still one of my favourite movies, maybe even more so using the information and attention to idiosyncrasies that my amazing English teacher pointed out. This marked a time in my life when I first began to realise that movies could be understood as great works of psychology and philosophy, that they had an insight into human nature, relationships and experience. There are so many favourite moments. Probably the most indie thing that slaps me within my chest every time I see it is when Andy sends Red the blank postcard; the photo and the postmark is all that there is. Necessarily it is blank, lest it be used as evidence to find Andy and bring him back to Shawshank. But the blankness is not just that, so much more! It’s like a single esoteric gesture communicating love between two people, esoteric in that only they can experience and share in it because only they two can know just what it means, despite the audience rudely observing from the other side of the screen.

33. Moonraker (1979): There are so many Bond films, and I’ve seen enough once, twice, thrice or more growing up that at least one of them needs grace the list. I remember reading that Moonraker was the Bondmakers’ response to Star Wars.  In Moonraker, Bond, not only gets to farewell his antagonist amid the stars, but he also gets some out of this world action, hint hint (I will here avoid the very bad pun he makes at the end of the film regarding this). One magical moment is when Bond and his female accomplice escape and crash through a conveniently placed 7-up billboard, a beautiful irony that endorses a product only to destroy it. I also love the appearances of Bond’s formidable enemy Jaws in this movie, especially when he finds a lady-friend who is made out to be someone who finally understands him. If you’ve seen it, she somehow reminds me of Mr Bean’s girlfriend, yes? No?

32. Jurassic park (1993): One day it will be possible. When I was tiny we tried recording this over a video we had of Disney’s Robin Hood. Turns out that only the video but not the audio was recorded, which makes for hilarious viewing when T-Rex is eating someone on the toilet amid casual remarks about lunch.

31. I am Sam (2001): That awkward moment when you’re watching this with your nana and trying not to cry… A handicapped man fights for custody of his daughter. It was miserably beautiful.

30. Gladiator (2000): Russell Crowe actually does alright. Naww, he’s not that bad (It’s worth getting a look at Romper stomper, an American history x a little closer to home, both movies courtesy of a former flatmate)! You could say that historical actions are a lot more appreciable than modern-setting actions, devoid of all that big-brother-is-watching conspiracy stuff that allows viewers to trust their mistrust to the Hollywood. Yet Gladiator is a conspiracy in the real sense, a classic conspiracy disguised in the historical, of a man who loses his life gains in status, wealth and relationship to a cold-hearted subtle-usurper. I love how the film gives the bird to the typical story arc, where the main character does not completely triumph in the end (compare Braveheart, where William Wallace, although tortured to the point of death still triumphs in spirit; somehow Maximus’ end spar appears a lot less triumphant). I also enjoy the visual representations of Elysium, the Roman afterlife, which appeal to a common desire for life after death.

29. The adventures of Milo and Otis (1986): A live action film involving a kitten and pug as the main characters. I still have nightmares about the bears.

28. The dark knight (2008): There should never be any denying that Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the nihilistic Joker was completely aweinspiring. The well-known pencil scene will not have to wait long before being included in lists of top movie scenes, and Joker’s oft-imitated “Why so serious” is yet to find an imitator who can actually pull it off as well as did Ledger.

27. The lord of the rings (2001, 2002, 2003): Ignore the Tolkien fans; let the rest of the world speak. Peter Jackson more than succeeded in his visionary interpretation of Tolkien’s novel. Not only that but many people over the world who have seen the films associate the beautiful New Zealand landscape with these films, something we have access to just over our back fences. I have not yet watched all three in a day (I’ve missed out on two opportunities to do so), but it definitely seems like the right thing to do, some day.

26. Up (2009): Kids movies are getting cooler. The persistent surreality and optimism of Up are a refreshing appeal to the more mature viewer. The opening montage is at once a heartwarming and heartbreaking insight into the human condition, a tender rendering of lacrimae rerum. You may find it worthwhile to also have a quick look at the real life Up house.

25. Inception (2010): It was good to see DiCaprio back on the screen beyond his prime (remembering Titanic and Romeo and Juliet fifteen years earlier), although he doesn’t look old, but more like a young guy with an old face. Inception is one of those films which you can subtly puff yourself up with by making intelligent conversation which shows your understanding of it. I like how it appeals to my sense of desire for power, by giving people unlimited control over their environment depending on how committed they are to that desire, or whatever, like The matrix?

24. Good Will Hunting (1997): Matt Damon receives a lot of undue hassle, a result of Team America, so I’ve heard. On the contrary, he plays some awesome roles, like Will Hunting in said movie. Not only that, but he and Ben Affleck (whom I don’t share as much enthusiasm for) co-wrote the film. I love the movie for many reasons. Will is overly-able in most areas of his life, yet he finds it difficult to function properly in a range of standard human relationships. His over-abilities also lead him to make a mockery of those around him because he is familiar with their ideals and practices, yet he scorns them. The climax of the movie comes in a last session between Will and his ongoing therapist Sean. Sean, after having tried everything and continuing to fail counselling Will, proceeds to simply repeat to Will, “It’s not your fault”. Will, aware of what Sean is doing, reacts almost violently before breaking down into Sean’s arms. Will always knew that his past sufferings were not his fault, but he somehow needed to hear them from someone else to believe it.

23. Elf (2003): I realise I’ve actually a few Christmas movies on the list, possibly because they roll around almost every season and just stick in your head, or maybe because you just watch more films around Christmas because there is more on TV. You may notice I’ve neglected to include Jingle all the way (Arnold Swarchenegger), Die hard, and The grinch who stole Christmas, ad infinitum. Elf somehow cracks me up so much, and I think this role is one of Will Ferrell’s most fitting. Zooey Deschanel is also exceptionally pretty (and she sings!).

22. The road (2009): Based on a not-too-long-ago-written book of the same name, The road stands out from all the other in vogue post-apocalyptic films being released this last decade. The going is heavy and dull, and I found it especially scary (there are cannibals!). The film also explores the tension between looking out for one’s own and one’s self against vulnerable others in a hostile world.

21. The lion king (1994): Out of each on the list, I’ve definitely seen this without a doubt the most times more than any other film. We had it on VHS, and made sure that when we sold it at the garage sale, when all our other videos went for $1, this one went for $2. I’m sure my sister watched One hundred and one dalmatians at least once for every dalmatian too. There are countless good things to say here. The soundtrack will forever have a place in my heart. My favourite scene would have to be either when Timon and Pumba do their diversion dance in front of the hyenas or when Simba and Nala “ditch the dodo” through song and Zazu ends up under a rhino. I actually faintly remember seeing this at the cinema, which involved a wee short with Pluto preceding the film (like the Pixar shorts that they have before some of their features).

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¹Reasonably graphic according to my little experience in movie watching. I have no interest in anything like Hostel or SawHotel Rwanda is not so graphic in what we do see, mainly the many dead bodies, but the suggestive nature of the film is graphic in itself.

²A pun.

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Movies are generally good. When you watch a movie, you often think to yourself, “This is good”. The goodness of movies has somehow then therefore inspired me to write about how good some of them actually are.

A couple of notes before starting: (a) I try to use the words film and movie interchangeably, for a better reading experience; (b) some of the highly intelligent comments I make concerning the movies (or ‘films’) may only be understood in combination with prior viewing experience so if it’s a popular film that you haven’t seen then you may elect to make note just of the rank, title and year, rather than reading the words that follow in non-bold type.

60. Finding Nemo (2003): If you’ve read (or seen Disney’s adaption of) 20,000 leagues under the sea then you’ll know that the name Nemo is a reference to the captain of the submarine in said book. You’ll also find that the almost-cruelly named Dory can be bought from the local supermarket and fried up for a feed. The coolest character in this movie is by far Gill, who lives in the same tank as Nemo but doesn’t make an appearance until later on. He stands in as a kind of older version of Nemo, and the relationship is mutual: Gill has the experience and strong character which Nemo needs to take upon himself, while Nemo is the determined youth whom Gill needs to pass on his blessing, a kind of heir. I managed to get a close-up of Gill in Phuket. He’s a lot more timid in person.

59. Goodbye pork pie (1981): A classic must-see for all kiwis, including anyone who wants to construct more thoughtful or ‘evidence-based’ stereotypes of New Zealanders. Somehow it portrays the ideal kiwi roadtrip, lawbreaking and all.

58. Grease (1978): This was re-released during my primary school years. It turned out I was the only kid in the class that hadn’t seen Titanic, but mum took me to see Grease at the cinema and that was all that mattered. Grease requires you to watch it over and over again so you can learn all the words and get all savvy with the dance moves; only then can you be a true partygoer. Frenchy, one of the more pleasant of the Pink Ladies, is probably my favourite character, and her positive approach is delightful. “Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck!” Her reaction to Frankie Avalon singing Beauty school drop out is indicative of her character: She is mildly shocked by the tone of the lyrics but refuses to acknowledge that Frankie is insulting her; in saying that though, perhaps his monopoly over the female heart in part contributes to this.

57. Home alone (1990): Home alone was a kind of transitional film for me. It helped prepare the young Camo for more dangerous movies, those of the adult type, where the invaders have guns and knives and are more than mere thieves. The caricature of the common criminal is in this sense somewhat empowering for the uninitiated young viewer. The juvenile is led to believe that, given the right circumstances, they can overcome the intruder. I remember doing ‘stranger danger’ in primary school. The standard answer for me, even if the teacher didn’t acknowledge it, was ‘kick him in the balls’ — the decided response to any dangerous stranger, because, clearly, in the mind of a kid, that’ll be the end of that. In the disillusioning adult world where eating the right food gives us the perfect body, driving the right car makes us the perfect man, and wearing the right lingerie… Home alone starts us off young.

56. Oceans 11 (2001): But the soundtrack is so cool! And I heed not what naysayers say concerning the sequels; I still think they’re somehow also awesome. The lesson in Oceans 11 is that all boys, regardless of where they come from and what makes them who they are, etc, want to get together sometime to do something dangerous, stupid, and fantastically successful. Yes!

55. Mickey and the beanstalk (1947): Of Disney’s adaptions of fables and folktales, I’d put this one on the top shelf. Hey Snow White, Beauty and the beast, they’re cool, but you need Mickey! Mickey epitomises the hero, acting lovingly and with wit, in contrast to the rash, selfish and irritable (by virtue of these, lovable) Donald. I actually didn’t realise how old this was. And it’s only half an hour so it’s kind of just like watching tv!

54. Iron man 2 (2010): Superhero movies don’t always hit the mark. Consider the 90s’ Batman movie with Arnold Swarcheneger as Mr Freeze, and in descending order of averageness: Spiderman, The Hulk, Daredevil, Superman. Robert Downey Junior and friends, however, do a beautiful redemptive work here. The villains are still a little two-dimensional/cliché, but Tony Stark’s bad-boy character makes up for this, notwithstanding his dependable antithesis, Pepper Potts (Gywneth Paltrow) whose relationship with Tony is of interest. Tony is a little unorthodox. When the attractive young Natasha Romanova (Scarlett Johansson) delivers a message for him, he gets her to have a go in his boxing ring and after watching her says to Pepper, “I want one”.

53. Super Mario Bros. (1993): Seriously, this is an awful film, according to another rule: Don’t make movies based on video games. But it’s necessary to see for all Mario fans (especially pre-N64 fans).

52. The rocky horror picture show (1975): My mum loves this movie and everything about it. In the wider sphere, the words “Let’s do the time warp again” indicate the inclusion of a classic dance number at any party. This is a movie about the filthy side of rock ‘n’ roll, coupled with another consequence of the fifties: science fiction and horror B-movies. The opening song is worth listening to just for the range of references to other movies it contains. Rob Muldoon (a former New Zealand prime minister) played the narrator in the New Zealand theatre production.

51. The descendants (2011): The newest movie on the list, I saw this a couple of weeks ago. It’s quite gloomy, but in the best kind of way. And somehow it tricks the viewer into believing that everything resolves when really it doesn’t. You have to be there when Matt (George Clooney) enthusiastically kisses the wife of the man whom his wife cheated on with; she was just expecting a goodbye.

50. Twilight (2008): Ok, I’ll make this quick. Something about Edward and Bella’s interactions in this movie just captivated me. They have a full-on passion for each other, an almost miraculous transition made from Bella’s initial disgust of Edward and rejection of her new life. Call everything cheesy like the super-fast running, the glitter, the funny-looking werewolves, but there’s something about their passion and interactions that can’t be quickly overlooked.

49. The blues brothers (1980): The blues brothers is not just a film for those who love The blues brothers; it is also a movie for those who love the blues. James Brown, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin are easy to pick out, but look a little closer and you’ll also see John Lee Hooker. With a musical, it’s usual to record the song in a studio and then lip sync to it in the filming of the scene. John Lee Hooker and Aretha Franklin especially, having not had formal training in music, sang their numbers differently each time they played them, at once making reference to the organic roots of real music and rendering it difficult to do do a scene based on their recording. If you watch Aretha’s lips when she sings in the movie you’ll see how her singing really doesn’t fit with the movements she’s making.

48. Seven pounds (2008): It became clear to me not that long ago that almost any film with Will Smith in a leading role is worth watching. Seven pounds raises many ethical questions around suicide and also philosophical ones around altruism. It is naytheless inspiring as it points us back to the meaning of love that goes beyond merely romantic designations, one of complete selflessness where other people’s lives are more important than our own, and that fact being for no gain on our own part. The little romance that Ben (Will Smith) does develop is not one originally by him intended, yet he realises that Emily is not one to see love limited by romance, someone who would one day eventually understand that true love transcends all relationships, romantic or non-.

47. Terminator 2: Judgement day (1991): “I’ll be back”; “Hasta la vista, baby”. This film puts the cool back into eighties movies (note that it was necessarily made in the nineties). The idea of the unstoppable force against the immovable object, or a battle among the gods is depicted well as two semi-invulnerable machines fight it out. And the cool materialises in one of those machines donning sunglasses, a leather jacket, riding a motorbike and carrying a shotgun. That’s so unnecessarily awesome. Although the sentiment has cheesy origins (ie. a terminator film), it is, regardless, insightful: The terminator and John Connor hang about while Sarah stocks up on weapons. Two children are fighting each other in the distance with toy guns. John begins “We’re not going to make it, are we? People, I mean”.

46. The patriot (2000): Mel Gibson is a bit of a bro, but the real star of the show is Colonel William Tavington, played by Jason Isaacs (who also plays Draco Malfoy’s dad in the Harry Potter series — so awesome), the ruthless British colonel who uses underhanded tactics, like attacking civilian targets, to destroy the morale of the American rebels. He is not a weak evil, one taken by too many sensual pleasures and self-indulgence, but a positively strong evil: One who objectifies everything to reach the ultimate goal, with a hint of schadenfreude. Take his inspiration when playing Age of empires or Risk.

45. Amélie (2001): How many indie kids have been inspired by Amélie’s little quirks? My favourite was the idea of using household items (like floor cleaner) to disguise gifts (like a bottle of wine). Watch out though; there is a bit of booby.

44. Whatever happened to Baby Jane? (1962): Despite the antiquity of the film, it’s still scary today. One jealous woman, who was a popular star as a child, becomes increasingly sinister towards her weaker older sister. It is, however, a creative jealousy, one that culminates in serving her sister her dead pet bird on a platter.

43. Eagle vs shark (2007): Another kiwi film worth watching if you need to work on your stereotyping. One thing that kiwi comedy seems to do well is the awkward laugh: The film is in many parts funny but alludes to a dark underside, as if to say “Hey life’s a bit crap, but that’s cool”.

42. Fight club (1999): Never had I seen this until recently. The greatest irony in the film is expressed in the second part of Tyler’s famous monologue:

“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

By some mistake of being born a movie, Fight club perpetuates the very spirit one of its main characters puts the smackdown¹ on. If any of its serious fans put aside the empty promises of consumerism and the entertainment industry yet set up Fight club as their new law then they have failed to overcome. The message must not be: Become like Tyler (or, on seeing the ending to become like the main guy), which can easily be deduced from watching the film. It must be: Become that which your fight against existence produces you to be².

41. Shrek (2001): Shrek succeeds in keeping adults entertained who take their kids to see a movie in the school holidays. The humour, story arc, characters and soundtrack all make for any overall feel-good watch. Did anyone else recognise the sly reference to the Book of Numbers, with Donkey, among other fairytale characters, being probably Balaam’s talking donkey of the Old Testament…? My favourite scene is definitely Shrek’s wrestling match with Lord Farquaad’s soldiers. And Donkey’s words, “In the morning I’m making waffles!” are ones that require continual reference to be made to on all sleepovers and camps and all that.

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¹If you ever played Pokémon and participated in that beautiful opportunity to nickname your pals, and you ever used a Nidoking in battle, you would then be able to identify with me when I say that Smackdown is the perfect name for a Nidoking.

²The non-Christian alternative to following the Spirit

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Being an adult means you can lick your plate and wear your socks outside; it means you don’t always have to eat your veges and you can stay up all night playing Nintendo; you can let the lawn grow indefinitely and, if you choose, you can even start incorporating swear words into your personal idioms. Being an adult is a move from dependence to independence, with which follows new freedoms.

But being an adult also means that if you hit a guy who’s being a dick, you’re not going to get in trouble from mum and dad but the fuzz won’t be too cool with it; you may get in a serious relationship and even marry (possibly allowing you to give up¹ a lot of the aforementioned freedoms, but for good reason); and of course you have to get a ‘job’ (which may be inextricably linked to getting a ‘haircut’) and you have to pay ‘taxes’… It’s a bitter-sweet symphony this life; trying to make end’s meet, you’re a slave to the money then you die. Or, I don’t care too much for money; money can’t buy me love. Pop music speaks the truth.

This is beautiful. Underneath is a picture of a dog.

* * *

In my twelfth or thirteenth year mum and dad decided that the home I’d spent most of my childhood in was a bit small so we needed to find another one. In the space of about a year I left the primary school I’d spent most of my life at, moved from my childhood home and suburb, my parents divorced and I forgot the meaning of happiness… (haha, I made that last bit up for its poetic import; there were still actually things to be happy with). My external circumstances forced me to move on from the securities and normalities of childhood, to face a world where big changes are the norm, a world where things won’t be the same forever.

But the loss of childhood wasn’t an instant transition; rather it was something that happened over many years, and to some extent is still happening now. Just a wee while ago, I finally realised that the James Bond movies which had aweinspired my kiddy-years were actually not that good. The stories were reasonably cliché, the acting was meh (bar Judy Dench) and the whole deal was lacking that key feature some of us call reality. A little bit further on I realised that though once Christmas had been all about presents, stuff didn’t matter so much to me any more. The once winkless Christmas Eve, dreaming of the infinite goods Santa would bring the next day became just another night, but emptier, in that I should be feeling this great excitement that just wasn’t there. Just on the side, this Christmas just been was probably one of the best Christmases ever (best ever!) as I was away from home for the first time and spent it with family I’d never met before.

The Hurunui according to Google Images

But probably the most crushing coming-to-terms-with-coming-of-age for me was our family holiday spot, the Hurunui river. We used to all camp there when the parents and aunties and uncles had time off. The river was fast and dangerous, but there were awesome swimming holes and lots of walks to do around the farm, with so many things to discover like bullet shells, abandoned cars with 10c coins in the glovebox, pinecones, rabbits, beehives and sheep carcasses. But as I grew up, it was difficult to get the whole family off at one time. We returned to the river but all of our swimming holes had dried up. People, also, other people, had found out about the place and stolen our favourite spots. The following is a poem exploring this, using imagery from Banjo Kazooie, a Nintendo game I was attached to when I was younger:

I went back the other day,
padding through the sand
past a pool where we
used to swim, now
it comes up to your ankles.

Along a familiar track,
now overgrown with broom.

Although rotten or rusted,
the marimba is still there.

Remember that time we ran
through all the notes,
then climbed to the top
of the lighthouse
and dropped them all off the edge?

Treasure Trove Cove in Banjo Kazooie was a symbol for summer and freedom in my childhood.

* * *

Life is the double embrace of things new and old. If we ignore everything new that comes up we become immature and incapable of living properly. Adulthood is our new childhood. Adulthood is a taking on of new things and claiming them again as a child; it is the creative childhood, that which creates its own childhood. Though there is greater responsibility up here, there is also greater freedom. I hate to sound all soppy-populist, there-is-some-simple-meaning-in-life-ish, but sometimes those experiences and ways of doing life which have defined us for a time need to be put aside so we can keep growing, so we can keep moving forward. Although sometimes we need to forget and move on, there is also value in holding onto those things ‘close to your heart’, which, like adulthood, are thrust upon you: when you’re cleaning some old boxes and trinkets from the past pop up, or taking the wrong sidestreet in a race through town happenchances you upon that old familiar street.

* * *

¹I had here the words ‘possibly voiding a lot of the aforementioned freedoms…’ I think ‘allowing you to give up’ is more in keeping with the ideal of marriage.

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