The best of the best

Number one is… The Philadelphia Story.

Which I really shouldn’t like at all. It seems somewhat whimsical and lightweight doesn’t it? And more to the point it’s about some upper class bods and their love lives. Not my favourite subject – and no, I have never seen a single second of Downton Abbey.

Why then do I love this film so much? A more shallow chap might just like it because of Katherine Hepburn – she’s luminous in this and it rightly resurrected what was a failing career at that point.

It might be that James Stewart plays a poor writer and I empathize with poor writers more than any other demographic.
But it isn’t any of those – It’s the script, it’s the speed of the wit. It’s dialogue.

And now that we have established all these positive things I can get back to moaning and establishing without a shadow of a doubt how I am right and everyone else is wrong about nearly everything there is to be right and wrong about.

Six of the best – Part III

The 1982 Show

What the hell was in the water in 1982? Or in 1980 when these things were green lit?
I mean, that is a stellar line up (no pun intended) for any year and then you have another think and realise that none of these were your favourite movie from that year. Close, don’t get me wrong. Every single one of these is a classic. But they aren’t number 2 on the list. That goes to.. Blade Runner.
Ridley Scott’s dystopian rendering of a Phillip. K. Dick novel and such a leap that it is reported William Gibson left the cinema in shock.
About ten minutes into Blade Runner, I reeled out of the theater in complete despair over its visual brilliance and its similarity to the “look” of Neuromancer, my [then] largely unwritten first novel. Not only had I been beaten to the semiotic punch, but this damned movie looked better than the images in my head!

William Gibson

And for me it was much the same. I stayed until the end mind you. Blade Runner came only a few years after Star Wars in cinema terms and it is vastly, vastly different in all ways except one – it changed my perception of what was possible. Not just in a cinema, not even just in a story, but in life. I was 14 or 15 years old when I saw it and as a naive young Scots lad had not entertained the notion that the future would not be bright and white and shiny and clean. Blade Runner blew all that away.
Blade Runner invented sci-fi noir as far as I’m concerned and finally gets it right with The Final Cut of the film that took away the unnecessary voice-over and the fake happy ending. Replacing it with the unicorn truth that answers the question whether or not Deckard is a replicant.

Six of the best – Part II

Number Four – The Suspect Suspects

There are very few films that can actually surprise you once you know how a story is put together. But number four in our countdown was one of those rare events where I was actually ignorant of the twist right up until they told me. It is of course, The Usual Suspects.
It is also a film that bears repeat viewing because of the nature of the twist. Yes, a lot of what takes place is utter fabrication on the part of Verbal Kint but you can’t take it all as an untruth. Verbal is our narrator and he is an unreliable one as these things go but not everything he says is a lie. There are verifiable events that he can’t avoid. I do actually enjoy watching this film just to see where the lines are between truth and reality.
It is a modern shame that this movie cannot just be enjoyed for its own merits. At least not as much as it used to be because of two contributors now mired in scandal and disgrace. I find it easy not to listen to Michael Jackson and easier still to ignore the work of Bill Cosby but when it comes to film I find it harder. Film is collaborative – what crimes have the others committed? So I will still watch The Usual Suspects and even to this day it still manages to surprise me now and then.

Number Three – Great films never die (hard)

I never even thought of Die Hard as something laudable at all until a friend of mine (D. Brown) actually quoted it as his favourite movie. Like, of all time. This must have been not long after it was released because I had only seen it once at the time. It now sits in second place on my all time watched list just behind Star Trek II; Wrath of Khan – but you have to remember that these were back in the days when all we had were VHS tapes that you rented, or bought or used to record things on the telly. We ended up watching loads of stuff over and over again. Christ, I’ve watched Koyaanisqatsi two or three times. I’ll let you look that up yourself – spoiler alert it isn’t in the top 2.
And that’s the thing about Die Hard – it’s just one of those movies that you can watch over and over again without even having to think about it. If you are browsing through the channels just before going to bed for example and you come across Die Hard, well… bed will still be there later, no? The utter watchable-ness of this film added to the fact that it has a great deal of humour interspersed with its comic book violence puts it in the top three. No bother at all.

Six of the best – Part I

A little while back I did a list of the seven worst films I had ever seen. And that was all very funny (I hope) but also negative. And what with the state of the world currently we could likely do with a little more positivity. So, following some recent questioning by folks I have decided to put up my top six films. It was gonna be five but… I just couldn’t get it into five. The clips are about three to four minutes long. In the manner of classic countdowns we’ll start at the bottom and work towards number one. So, leading us off is a classic noir and one of only two black and white films that made the list (to the surprise of many I am sure). It’s Bogey and Bacall in…

Number Six

Is Bogart good? He’s outstanding. of course he is. But it is the other characters who light up this film. The whip smart dialogue and not a weak link to be found. And Bacall…
There have only been about five true goddesses in cinema and Lauren Bacall was one of them. The others being the Hepburns, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. If you haven’t seen this film then Bogart plays detective Phillip Marlowe who is hired by General Sternwood to deal with a small blackmail problem. Which issue Marlowe handles with aplomb but then he makes the mistake of looking into another mystery – the death of one Shaun Regan. It does not go well, as you can imagine. From the novel by Raymond Chandler this is classic golden age hollywood. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this film then fix that at once. You aren’t allowed to call yourself a grown up until you have and everyone should have seen this and Casablanca by the time they hit 30. Either one of them makes an excellent date movie if you are trying to impress a person. Moving on to…

Number Five

Khan is a story in 5 acts and at the very end of the clip above we are at the turning point near the middle of the film where everything changes. The script is practically flawless and disliked only by those who will never like sci-fi no matter the quality. I place The Wrath of Khan higher up than other fantasy classics like ET because it is of the same standard but has more adult themes. If the action took place on two naval vessels and a couple of desert islands rendered in black and white it would be regarded as a masterpiece by all and sundry. The layers in the storytelling are worthy of their literary bases and it is sad only that Star Trek never quite reached these heights again. The new version of this very story Star Trek: Into Darkness tries its best but fails because it does not have the honesty of this original. Where here there is characterisation and motivation in the form of the personal hatred of Khan for Kirk the newer version has a more distant motivation for Khan – there is no connection to Kirk but just a general need to save his people. The newer film fails because it has not had the time to set up the relationships that Khan had – and also because studio films tend to place CGI and action at the top of the list instead of characters.