10. Almost famous (2000): When you’re passionate about music in high school, you look at the guys who influenced the guys you like, who influenced those guys, who influenced those guys, all the way until you get to the sixties and early seventies. Almost famous is a look at rock and roll when “it’s over”. As the character Lester Bangs (who has some killer quotes) continues, “You got here just in time for the death rattle, the last gasp, the last grope”. In this sense the film is essentially a eulogy for something my generation can only experience at a distance, but it somehow sells to you the fantasy of actually being there, especially in the scene on the tour bus when everyone, putting aside previous enmity and misgivings, unites in a impassioned rendition of Elton John’s Tiny dancer. You can also find Zooey Deschanel in the movie (see last-last post with Elf). She makes me want to have an older sister.
9. The Bourne trilogy (2002, 2004, 2007): From the moment I completed watching the first Bourne movie I knew I’d just experienced something quite awesome, but I never figured out why until I had a conversation with some Germans in Hamburg concerning the awesomeness of the trilogy. They in part convinced me that the films’ key defining factor, that sets them apart from other action movies, is the the setting: Europe. Europe is immediately richer. It’s history is ancient; there’s a different country every couple of hundred kilometres; and not everyone speaks English. Bond films utilise the European setting (among others) in this sense, but they fall short in other areas. Especially in The Bourne identity, this can be seen, taking us through the snow in the countryside, the metropolitan area, and the sunny promises of a small Mediterranean island.
8. Pirates of the Carribean (2003): My excitement for when this first came out was admittedly a little stilted by its hugely favourable and ‘mainstream’ reception. What else could I expect? Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow is freaking timeless, and he had a heavy influence on my character development in high school drama classes. I’m not sure if Geoffrey Rush is scary enough to play Barbossa, but I nonetheless love his work, and the twinkles in his eyes when he recounts to Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) the struggles of being a pirate in his particular predicament, “Too long I’ve been starving to death and haven’t died. I feel nothing… not the wind on my face nor the spray of the sea, nor the warmth of a woman’s flesh. You best start believing in ghost stories Miss Turner… You’re in one!” Despite Barbossa’s relative unscariness, I think the film does an all-round good job of being generally scary. One example is in the opening scene with the mist as the ship comes across another that has been ravaged by pirates. You don’t see the pirates but you know that they’re never too far away, and it’s in not seeing them that the fear comes. Also appreciable is the use of ‘Pirate English’ throughout the movie, summed up by Sparrow’s ever returning, “Savvy?”.
7. The notebook (2004): I saw this just last year. There was one night when I had a couple of dudes over and I heavily suggested it because I hadn’t yet seen it, but they wouldn’t have a bar of it so we watched 300 instead. I ended up watching it not too long after. Everyone’s meant to cry at the end, because it’s really emotional or whatever, but the thing that got me was Allie and Noah’s awkward reuniting after not seeing each other for years. The two are passionately involved in a summer relationship before opposing forces pull them apart. The years go by and Allie becomes engaged to a lawyer, while Noah hits the drink and a few casual relationships. The two catch up as if to say goodbye once again, but a lot remains under the surface, until Allie cannot help but burst out, “Why didn’t you write me?” There’s no planning involved. She doesn’t pick the right time to ask. Instead, she’s overcome by the past and needs to express it. Also notable is the almost-sex-scene, which, when shielding my eyes, my flatmate said, “No Camo! They don’t actually do it!” (they don’t end up doing it because Allie doesn’t feel it’s right yet). Hahaha. What was so beautiful about this scene was that it didn’t seem lustful at all. It was a complete overflowing of their love for each other. It seems a bit perfect really.
6. Shaun of the Dead (2004): Too many good reasons. A clear one is the take on comedy Shaun of the Dead and it’s two stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost give. Simon (Shaun in the movie) also co-wrote the film. He’s awesome. Check him out on the British comedy Big train if you get a chance. Shaun kind of epitomises the modern hero. He’s got a deadend job, his long-term girlfriend just broke up with him because he didn’t make an effort to make something of their relationship, and he spends every night of the week going to the same pub. But against all this, he leads all his friends against the imminent zombie apocalypse.
5. Fists of fury (1972): If you’ve never seen a Bruce Lee film and you wonder why everyone raves about him then this is the place to start. It’s one of his earlier ones, before there was too much strong Hollywood influence on the Hong Kong cinema scene. Admittedly a bit slow at times, for martial arts action I don’t think it gets much better than this. Before they had special effects and complex stunts they had Bruce Lee. The scene where he takes on a dojo with his nunchaku is almost too awesome for words. And the reactions that the consequently smitten defenders give are enough to make me think that the scene was real (with some nice comic-book style sound effects). Having done some research on the internet, I can’t yet discover exactly how real it is, but judge for yourselves. Another bonus of this film is its very bad dubbing. Mandarin doesn’t quite translate into English that easily, especially when you’ve got a bunch of American movie opportunists who want to get the feature out asap. The mismatches are worth a few laughs.
4. Muppet treasure island (1996): So I’m guessing right now that this one will probably be the most contentious addition… Firstly, the idea of pirate movies is so timelessly awesome; secondly, so are The Muppets; thirdly, Tim Curry is the most perfect actor to play Long John Silver, and I think that he would do the job well even if this movie was a bit more serious. He embodies the perfect dichotomy of someone you can trust and befriend with someone who is deeply sinister. If you missed out on The Muppets’ most recent film, then you didn’t just miss out, but it’s a whole lot more than that (I think the new film has a much better approach to song; Muppet treasure island has some very cheesy numbers). There are so many memorable moments in this. A few of my favourites include: Billy Connolly’s last words, “Beware!” “What? The one-legged man?” “Aye! But also… beware running with scissors or other pointy objects”. Gonzo empathising with Jim Hawkins, “I hate my life”. “I hate your life too”. And near the end of the film, Sweetums, clearly the coolest Muppet, starts fighting for the good guys as if he was one all along, “Are you kidding? I love you guys!”.
3. The mission (1986): You’d be surprised how many people (including much of my former self) have never heard of this one, considering it’s got both Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons in it. To be a real boring sucker, the main reason I really heavily enjoy watching this film is because of the ethical questions it raises. I don’t want to give too much of the story away because I’m assuming a lot of the readers wouldn’t have had seen this one, but basically it shows a South American rainforest tribe, whom the Jesuits (a monastic order — I think, although they may not be an ‘order’, like are Franciscans an order and Jesuits aren’t? Or the other way around? Etc?) convert to Christianity a little while before the piggery of empire turns up to wrest their land and take them up as slaves. The newly converted tribe, along with the Jesuits who stand by their side, struggle with whether they should resist with violence or love. I also like how the story can be a bit of a thorn in the side to Protestant soft-theology surrounding repentance. Mendoza (Robert De Niro), a slave-trader dealing in the natives, kills his brother in a duel after finding his brother making the best of his (Mendoza’s) fiancee. Father Gabriel meets with Mendoza, who is at the end of his tether in depression. But instead of offering mercy, Gabriel challenges him to repentance. It’s so forceful and real, so necessary! And it’s just what Mendoza needs. Yet, he knows repentance doesn’t mean offering a few heartfelt words. Mendoza is accepted into the Jesuits, and dedicates his life to the betterment of the Guarani people.
2. Tais-toi! [Ruby and Quentin] (2003): We originally went to see this because one of the leading characters, Quentin, has the same name as my dad. This is seriously the most funniest comedy I have ever seen, and probably the fact that it’s French helps a lot. The film is full of misunderstandings, hapless slapstick and hopeless misattempts to do what needs to be done. You probably wouldn’t watch the movie for any other reason than a good laugh (like the rolling on the floor type, as I’ve experienced) but there’s the consolation of a little bit of action, as the story follows two criminals, and the tender relationship they develop over the course of the film.
1. Life is beautiful (1997): So, here we are. And the top two are foreign, like I’ve got this obscure sense that films in another language are automatically of a more noble breed, like the grass is greener or etc. Incidentally, what initially led me to watch this one was because we had a poster of it in my high school drama room. La vita è bella (it’s Italian name, because it just sounds better and it’s what at least two (three?) Italians have said to me when I’ve mentioned I like this movie) starts off very light-hearted in a small Italian town. It follows the story of Guido, an optimistic lover of life who falls in love with and woos a local school teacher. They get married and have a boy. As things heat up in Nazi Germany, Italian Jews are rounded up for the camps. In keeping with the film’s namesake, the overall feel does not change a lot. Guido’s charismatic and upbeat influence persists even into the new hostile environment, where he convinces his son that they’re actually playing a game to win a tank. The whole movie is really heartwarming and all that kind of thing, and definitely worth reading subtitles for.