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