Blog Archives

The 9 Best Films About Suicide

Five Great Original Film Scores I Love

When music occurs in film, as we all know, it’s either soundtrack or score. I think more focus is put on the soundtrack than one of the most important parts of the film, the score. It represents the mood and feeling of the movie, and can carry all the emotions without even speaking a word.

Magnolia by Jon Brion

In my favourite movie of all time, I could list hundreds of reasons why I love it as much as I do, but one of the top ten would have to be Jon Brion’s fantastic score. I bought the CD a few months back, and it’s been playing over and over almost non-stop. It’s easy to miss it while watching the movie, but every time I watch it now that music is in my mind; I notice it, and it affects me. It’s an almost perfect score, for a perfect movie.

American Beauty by Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman’s score to Sam Mendes’ breakthrough feature manages to be consistently soft, even when it’s in its angriest mood. The complex layer of disputing emotions conveyed through the music track the path of the characters as they are pulled along a storyline of uprising and downfall. An incredibly original, poignant and affecting score that’s enough to put a tear in your eye every time:

Mulholland Dr. by Angelo Badalamenti

The film’s reliance on music is extraordinary, and even though not all of it is composed by Badalamenti, much of it including the terrific ‘Love Theme’ is. It’s incredibly sad, moving music that lulls the viewer into the same dreamlike state of frightening dystopian disorder that Lynch does with his film. Listen to it for yourself:

Requiem for a Dream by Clint Mansell

Arguably the most well known score on this list, Clint Mansell’s score, while being overused in various advertisements and television programs, consists of much more than just the popularised, searing Lux Aeterna. The downward path of drug abuse portrayed in the film and it’s effect owes a lot to the music, which subliminally makes it seem more horrifying and disturbing, if that were indeed possible. Check out this piece from the score, which is nowhere near as appreciated as it should be:

The Fountain by Clint Mansell

The second album from Clint Mansell also features some of his best, most underrated work as a composer. While the film itself was rather disappointing and conflicted among critics, the score is an inarguable success. The track ‘Death is the Road to Awe’ is one of the ten best pieces of musical score I have ever heard, and it’s not the only one worth mentioning. So much of the album is pure brilliance.

Those are my picks. I could list more, but this is plenty of listening material for you guys for now. Hopefully you can find the time to listen to some of the tracks above… there are many more on YouTube. If there’s anything you’d like to add, leave a comment below.

20 Great Scenes from 20 Great Movies

One might be surprised to discover that my two favourite scenes of all time from movies are both from films directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. About two months ago, I revealed my favourite scene of all time and promised to try and work on a list of great scenes. Well now I’ve finished compiling the list, and here it is, unleashed. They’re in no particular order, as it would be too hard to rank them, but I’ll start off with my second favourite scene of all time.

1: The Drug Deal Scene, Boogie Nights (1997)

Everything in this scene is pitch perfect. The tension works brilliantly, with the firecrackers and nervous tics. And the soundtrack… unbelieveable. You’ve got to hand it to P.T.A., he can pick the right music for any movie and it suits perfectly. There’s also a 45-second closeup of Mark Wahlberg (6:30-7:15) that is perhaps my favourite shot in the movie. Not because I like Mark Wahlberg, but just because it’s a perfect little piece of Anderson, and it reveals so much about Dirk Diggler without saying a word. Fantastic.

2: The Goy’s Teeth, A Serious Man (2009)

A perfect example of what makes the Coen brothers so unique. They can have a long, rambling, incredibly interesting monologue with virtually no meaning and it makes sense. The scene is both fun to watch and full of anticipation. Sure, it might be a let down to discover there’s no point in the whole thing, but it’s part of life. A lot of what we go through is long, tedious and has no real affect or reason, and yet, we live through it. The truth is, some questions weren’t made to be answered, and this scene sums it up perfectly.

3: The Street Shootout, Heat (1995)

Michael Mann’s visually daring 1995 heist movie features one of my personal favourite sequences of extended violence and warfare. Imagine a gritty shootout between many men, placed in the middle of a bustling street. Might not sound like the most original idea now, but back in 1995, it sizzled.

4: The Briefcase, The Killing (1956)

Though I sadly cannot find a video for this fantastic final scene to Stanley Kubrick’s heist movie, I can assure you it is brilliant. When two thieves are getting on to a plane escaping with millions in a briefcase, the unexpected happens, the briefcase opens, and all Hell breaks loose. A visually stunning shot, that in some ways anticipated Kubrick’s whole career.

5: Gutterballs, The Big Lebowski (1998)

A perfect combination of stylistic music and sexual innuendo combined with the Dude’s love of bowling, this priceless sequence makes the entire movie worth watching and symbolises (like #2) the uniqueness of the Coen brothers. No other director/s could have pulled this off.

6: “Hello, Dimitri?”, Dr. Strangelove (1964)

If there was a top prize for awkward, subtle humour in film, Dr. Strangelove would be a definite contender for top spot, and this scene explains exactly why. It makes me laugh every single time I watch it, and the first time I saw it, I was in tears by the time it ended. Fantastic. If you like to think you have anything resembling a sense of humour, you must see this movie.

7: Alice’s Monologue, Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

This is not actually the whole scene, but it’s enough of it to get the point across. Nicole Kidman is absolutely fucking fantastic in this scene, spitting out each line perfectly in character and in a manner that almost puts the viewer into the same drug-induced trance as her. A fantastic look at the effects of marriage and human relationships, this is definitely the film’s highlight.

8: Mr. Blonde, Reservoir Dogs (1992)

There are a lot of scenes which deserve a spot on here from QT’s breakthrough debut and it was really tough making a decision, but no other scene has the raw impact and masochistic beauty of this brilliantly filmed violence overblow. QT laughs in our faces and left me gaping when Mr. Blonde exited the warehouse and everything changed for those brief few seconds. He’s a genius, and this scene is a testament to his ability.

9: The German Girl, Paths of Glory (1957)

I hope you have a box of Kleenex, because you may be about to cry. The following is technically two scenes, one in which Kirk Douglas tells his boss where to stick his promotion (my favourite line in the film occurs at 0:59, listen for that one), and in the second part, in a scene that really is a testament to the heartlessness and cruelty of war, a German girl is forced to sing by a bunch of rowdy, drunken, ogling American soldiers, but the unexpected happens. Seriously, this scene… I cannot express my love for it enough, and it is one of the main reasons it’s placed so high among my favourite movies of all time. The best scene Kubrick ever directed. Ever.

10: Perfect Day, Trainspotting (1996)

Apparently, embedding is disabled so you can watch it here if it doesn’t work. What follows is an example of Danny Boyle’s great talent. He hear combines a scene where we see the protagonist Renton (Ewan MacGregor) take a “final” hit of heroin, and uses the best possible music to ironically describe the hellish levels to which he has sunk. Spectacularly depressing.

11: The End, Dogville (2003)

I warn you now, do NOT watch this scene if you have not already seen the movie. It contains spoilers that should NEVER be spoiled. It is the almost perfect, sadistic ending to Lars von Trier’s amazing stage-play filmed Dogville. It’s definitely in my Top 5 for jaw-dropping scenes. You will be stunned.

12: The Club Silencio, Mulholland Dr. (2001)

A beautiful, artistic, memorable scene from David Lynch’s amazing movie, this is a really well-done look at the thin line between dreams and reality, and how easily we can be tricked.

13: Don’t Leave, Magnolia (1999)

I know I’ve mentioned and shown this scene all over Southern Vision a few times, but if you haven’t seen it, it really is worth it. In general, I dislike Tom Cruise as an actor. But in this scene… wow, he really packs a punch that’s difficult to shake. Amazing portrayal of grief and loss.

14: Plastic Bag in the Wind, American Beauty (1999)

The scene has such emotion, and beauty, that there’s really nothing much left to say that Wes Bentley doesn’t say himself. Great background score from Thomas Newman, one of my favourite musical score composers of all time.

15: The Pool Scene, Let the Right One In (2008)

Almost poetic in its use of strewn body parts, sudden deaths, and great audio, this scene forces the audience to use their imagination which produces much more horrific results than any scary imagery. A beautiful, terrifying scene.

16: The Boardwalk Scene, A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The perfect combination of sickening violence and amazing classical music, Stanley Kubrick’s controversial masterpiece features countless great scenes of amazing direction, but this one tops them all.

17: Standing In Line for a Movie, Annie Hall (1977)

Woody Allen’s famous comedy works more like a series of hilarious sketches, and it’s difficult to pick just one, but when I watched it the first time, this scene really struck me as very funny, and has been parodied often in pop culture.

18: Lovefool, Hot Fuzz (2007)

This list would go uncomplete without a reference to the funniest of all the hilarious scenes in this Edgar Wright classic. The look on Simon Pegg’s face is hysterical.

19: The Copacabana Shot, Goodfellas (1991)

You’ll have to skip to two minutes before the actual shot starts, but it is a brilliant one. One of the most famous and influential tracking shots in all of cinema, this really pumps up the class in this Scorsese classic and is one of the many reasons it is as brilliant as it is.

20: Dreams, No Country for Old Men (2007)

A fitting way to finish off this list is with the disquieting, eerie, brilliant final scene that tops off an amazingly fantastic movie. Tommy Lee Jones leads the Coen brothers’ western-style classic to an awesome conclusion.

There, that’s my list. There’s plenty more I could add, but this is enough for now. So, what do you think? Anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment below.

5 Best Scenes David Lynch Ever Directed

David Lynch is a weird, wacky and inspired director, and almost all of his films have his own deft touch, often demonstrated within scenes or moments that are perfectly ‘him.’ Here are five scenes from his films that, had someone else directed them, they would be nowhere near as good as Lynch made them.

1: The Pencil-Top Eraser Scene, Eraserhead (1976)

From the beginning, when The Lady in the Radiator sings her song, to Henry’s head popping off and getting taken away by a boy to a pencil factory, the scene is coated in weirdness. It is the one scene that remains most difficult to decode, but it is in some strange way a piece of pure genius.

2: “Don’t You Fuckin’ Look At Me!”, Blue Velvet (1986)

For obvious reasons, I can’t include a video here but this strangely rhythmic, horrifically violent “rape” sequence is directed with an eerie comic flair by Lynch, and acted stunningly by Dennis Hopper.

3: The Monster Behind Winkie’s, Mulholland Dr. (2001)

The most difficult and out of place scene in Lynch’s masterpiece is a scene that has developed a steady cult following. It’s one you can enjoy on its own, even without the rest of the movie, and prompts serious thought into the meaning of the film.

4: Susan’s Monologue, Inland Empire (2006)

In what I’m seriously starting to consider my favourite Lynch movie, there are a huge number of scenes that rival for this list, but one of the obvious picks would be Laura Dern deep in character as she plunges into a spiteful monologue about her life. This isn’t the whole thing, but it’s some of it.

5: Susan Running, Inland Empire (2006)

Okay, so this is only thirty seconds, and to some it won’t count, but there is so much meaning in this shot, about Nikki/Susan’s lust for the spotlight, how she yearns for it and runs at it; it’s also a huge shock and really jolts you back into the movie.

Anyway, so that’s my list. Anything I’ve forgotten, or something you’d like to add? What did you think of these creepy Lynchian scenes? Leave a comment below. Thanks.

I Love Ya Frances McDormand, but EMILY WATSON WAS ROBBED! And Five Other Best Actress Travesties

A recent re-watch of Lars von Trier’s fantastic Breaking the Waves starring Emily Watson in a lifechanging, career-best role prompted the question, “How the Hell did Frances McDormand win the Oscar over her?” Don’t get me wrong, I love Fargo, and I thought McDormand was brilliant in her role, but when you compare it to Watson, it’s nothing. So, before I write a list of five other Best Actress choices that IMO were completely wrong, I invite you to vote in a poll, the second poll I’ve posted in two days. If you haven’t seen both films, don’t vote. Watch them. Particularly Breaking the Waves, which I’m planning to make the next Weekly Movie Challenge movie which I’ll post in a few days. But if you’ve seen ’em both, then tell me, who was better? McDormand, or Watson?

Thanks for voting, and if you didn’t, go watch both movies!

Now, for five Best Actress Oscars awarded to the wrong person:

1960: Elizabeth Taylor (Butterfield Eight) over Shirley MacLaine (The Apartment):

Okay, we all know Liz Taylor was a fantastic actress, and I’m not denying it, but in this particular instance MacLaine played her respective role in Billy Wilder’s masterpiece a million times better than Taylor ever could. She carried the right mood of sadness, regret and melancholy. Terrific when contrasted against Jack Lemmon’s infinitely optimistic lead role.

1976: Faye Dunaway (Network) over Liv Ullmann (Face to Face):

First of all: Network is one of my favourite movies of all time, and talking of Lumet, I prefer it to 12 Angry Men. But Dunaway was merely a supporting role in comparison to the huge, lumbering force that was Peter Finch. Not insulting Dunaway at all. And Ullmann was so deserving of an Oscar ever since Persona, so it was great to see her nominated, and she was fantastic in Face to Face, and giving her the Oscar for that might’ve been a decent atonement for the Persona, Shame and Cries and Whispers snubs.

1980: Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner’s Daughter) over Mary Tyler Moore (Ordinary People):

I’m sorry to say it, but I can’t stand either of these actresses. Moore is annoying, and Spacek has struck me as freaky ever since Carrie, but you’ve got to admit Moore’s turn as the ignorant, possibly uncaring, self-occupied mother in Ordinary People, a brilliant film is much more powerful, is a fantastic example of talent in Hollywood, a performance no-one expected.

1987: Cher (Moonstruck) over all the other nominees:

Just kidding. This one doesn’t count. Or does it?

2000: Julia Roberts (Erin Brock0vich) over Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream):

This is probably the one I feel most strongly about. Burstyn was fantastic; at the top of her game in a role that was MADE for her. She went through Hell to make the movie, and sacrificed a lot of sanity by really sinking her teeth into a heartbreaking role, and all Julia Roberts did was promote feminism and sue a lot of people (not that that’s bad, it’s just not as good as what Burstyn did.)

2001: Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball) over Naomi Watts (Mulholland Dr.) [not nominated]

I don’t know if this one counts because Watts was never actually nominated, but her performance as the angelic Betty (whose darker side is revealed in the film’s powerhouse finale, one of the best twists of all time) is one of my favourites of the decade. It’s nothing short of fantastic, and why she wasn’t even nominated is beyond me?

Agree? Disagree? What other actresses do you think were snubbed/ignored, or wrongly chosen for the Oscar? Let me know down below in the comments. Thanks for reading.

A Life In Movies

This is a post where I’m going to give a film for every year of my life. I got the idea from Red at Anomalous Material (read his post here), who in turn got it from Fandango Groovers. Let’s get started!

1987: Full Metal Jacket

Stanley Kubrick’s penultimate film is undoubtedly one of the best and most well-created war movies in film history. Lee Ermey, Vincent D’Onofrio and Adam Baldwin give the best performances of their career in this fantastic film.

1988: Spoorloos (The Vanishing)

George Sluizer’s flawless adaptation of Tim Krabbe’s fantastic novel The Golden Egg is also one of the most engaging films about kidnapping and the human mind and its reaction to grief. How much would you risk just to find out what happened to that inexplicably missing person, even if you couldn’t change their fate? A shocking ending left me breathless.

1989: Sex, Lies and Videotape

One of the most impressive and shocking debuts from a director is a champion of independant cinema and a film which deeply surprised me and shocked me with its brutally honest treatment of human emotion and relationships. James Spader is fantastic.

1990: Goodfellas

What else could I choose? Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece of gangster cinema is high up on the list of best films of the 90s decade, let alone the year. There’s not much more to say that hasn’t already been said about this Scorsese classic.

1991: The Silence of the Lambs

Jonathan Demme is a filmmaker who doesn’t get nearly enough respect as he should. I very rarely hear people talk about him, despite the fact he directed two of the greatest films ever made: Philadelphia and this. The definitive cat-and-mouse cop vs. criminal thriller, it crossed all boundaries into an area of its own.

1992: Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino’s first film is probably, all things considered, my favourite heist movie ever made. The dialogue is snappy and excellent, the plot structure is quick and perfectly paced and the acting is stunning, as well as a usual Tarantino soundtrack that is difficult to beat. What’s not to love?

1993: Short Cuts

Simultaneously my introduction to Robert Altman, the first Criterion DVD I ever owned and the beginning of an unending and continuous love of films with multiple storylines (see also, 1999 below), there were so many exciting and engaging elements to this great film.

1994: Three Colours: Red

Because this is such a tricky and expectant year, I thought I’d pick a film that no one else would pick. Kieslowski’s final film, and the conclusion to his fantastic Three Colours trilogy, this brilliant analysis of human behaviour, curiosity and relationships is simply stunning. And let’s not forget the astonishing ending. Watch the whole trilogy. Now. Please.

1995: Se7en

One of the first true thrillers I ever really loved, David Fincher’s famous cop vs. crim psychiatric thriller is gritty, ugly, but brilliant. Great writing, splendid acting and fantastic cinematography (Darius Khondji, we salute you), all lead up to a snappy and shocking ending which in itself demands required viewing.

1996: Fargo

“I guess that was your accomplice, in the woodchipper.” This was the first R-rated film I ever saw, and it has had a huge impact on the way I view films (especially thrillers). The amazing, subtle comedy and witty observations of Minnesotan attitude (“Minnesota Nice”) are key factors in the enjoyability of this clever movie.

1997: Boogie Nights

Paul Thomas Anderson catapulted himself to “big, bright shining star” fame with this two and a half hour long analysis of a rapidly changing industry, the key players involved and the little nuances of a changing time as the seventies became the eighties and everything changed. That’s right.

1998: The Big Lebowski

The second but not the last Coen brothers movie on this list, this endearing, funny story of mistakes, money, White Russians, Shomer Shabbas, Walter Sobchak, The Dude, The Jesus, floor-carpet urination and its unintended consequences, rich men and Mozart’s Requiem, Logjammin’, and of course, bowling is one of the cleverest films in terms of humour, ever made.

1999: Magnolia

If you’ve read my blog, 1999’s spot should be no question. A three hour masterpiece of interconnected storylines held together by stunning writing, flawless direction, a sweeping camera, great acting, epic music, and an ending of biblical proportions, it’s no question why this is my favourite movie of all time.

2000: Dancer in the Dark

Björk is fantastic in her acting debut as Selma, a near-blind woman saving up to save her son from the same hereditary fate. Lars von Trier, ever ready with a tool belt of DV cameras, a colourful imagination and swingin’ tunes, paints a touching, beautiful portrait of a life for the lesser fortunate, and a series of bad accidents which can lead to disaster. Warning, bring your hanky, this will make even the strongest of men cry.

2001: Mulholland Dr.

If someone asked me what the most accessible inaccessible movie ever made, I would complement them on the imagination of their question, and reply quickly with Mulholland Dr. It’s a simple enough storyline of a budding actress who moves to Hollywood and becomes caught up with a woman who can’t remember her past. The story moves along nicely, introducing more characters, and leading up to a finale which completely tricks you and beats any Christopher Nolan ending. Ever.

2002: Irreversible

Following his excellent film I Stand Alone, Gaspar Noe made another risky move, but turned the risk factor up to eleven. Graphic and extended rape and an equally graphic revenge sequence are part of the decoration of this Memento-like masterpiece which concludes with an uneventful but hugely emotional final scene on the grass in the park which is one of my favourite scenes of all time. Le Temps Detruit Tout: Time Destroys Everything.

2003: Oldboy

Quick action, a blindingly clever plot, and live squid consumption are just three of the many exciting and alluring things to be found in this excellent Korean thriller.

2004: Shaun of the Dead

A refreshing comedic break from the seriousness of this decade’s previous choices, Edgar Wright’s clever, observational ode to British humour and lifestyle, not to mention countless Romero zombie movies, is a smart and surprisingly hilarious film. The quick pace and delivery of the dialogue is a typical trait of British comedies (the early films of Guy Ritchie, particularly Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, are brought to mind) and is one of the various clever things which tie this rom-zom-com together.

2005: Caché

One of the strongest, most gripping, shocking and evocative thrillers ever created, Michael Haneke’s Caché is his masterpiece. It is the consequence of a career full of films examining secrets, violence and human behaviour. This film knocks all three out of the park with its spectacular observations of human jealousy and secrecy. Haneke’s directing is stunning, also, with countless stationary shots which continuously trick and deceive the viewer as well as a simple but thought-provoking ending.

2006: Babel

Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu wins us over yet again with the third and final in a trilogy of excellent films examining human behaviour through the usage of multiple storylines. Proceeded by the equally excellent Amores Perros and 21 Grams, it is a beautiful and emotional conclusion to a series of films which have skilfully examined racism and hatred, among other things. Those two are the main focus of this film, which is riveting for the entire run time of 130-ish minutes.

2007: There Will Be Blood

Undeniably and beyond a shadow of a doubt the best film of the decade, all things considered, Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic tale of greed and self-destruction is portrayed through the innocent eyes of Daniel Day-Lewis, whose eyes turn scarily guilty as he plays a man whose inevitable path to pure hatred and selfishness is simultaneously shocking, riveting and absolutely breathtaking. Kudos also goes to Robert Elswit, whose Oscar-winning cinematography is a mighty and deserving feat indeed. I’m finished.

2008: The Wrestler

Darren Aronofsky strikes back after a softer turn with 2006’s The Fountain and reconnects yet again with that inner cycle of human emotion. This time he conveys it through the usage of an awesome Mickey Rourke, whose portrayal of an ageing wrestler is heartbreaking, sympathetic and distancing, all at the same time. Thanks also, Darren A, for the perfect Bruce Springsteen song played in the end credits.

2009: A Serious Man

A film that grows on me even more with each viewing, the Coen brothers’ much-awaited film about Jewish life, existence, meaning and feeling is their most realistic one yet. Each Coen film exists in a warped universe of its own, but this is the first to really be… earthly, for lack of a better word. We look at this film and see the world around us, in a way none of us were expecting. Forget plot, forget excitment, forget fast-pace. This is a film about humanity and the imperfections we all possess, and how, in the end, it never really matters in consideration of the bigger things yet to come.

2010: Black Swan

If The Wrestler was about the inner truths and frustrations of the male psyche, Black Swan deals with the female one. Sense is senseless and sanity is moot in this brutal, explicit tale of jealousy, greed, anger and personality. It’s something Aronofsky does well, and it’s a shame he didn’t get the Oscar. Portman gives her career-best performance, haunted by mirrors wherever she goes and shadowed by a fractured personality. Excellent.

So there it is. A film for each year of my life. Whew. I wonder what 2011’s will be. That remains to be seen, but I think it’s safe to say each of these films is, in my opinion, the best of its respective year. But opinions change, and everyone’s is different. Leave a comment below with what you thought of my choices, and let me know what some of yours are.

Thanks for reading.

Ten Movies That Define Me

The following list is ten movies that ‘define me.’ These are movies that changed the way I looked at cinema, and helped to craft my perspective on film in general. These are not necessarily my Top Ten favourite films, but one or two from that ten will be present.

In no particular order:

There Will Be Blood

From the moment I first saw Daniel Day-Lewis in In The Name of the Father, I knew I was looking at one talented man. Then I saw this movie, and I was blown away. This is one of the few movies that actually caused my jaw to drop at its aching perfectness. A masterpiece.

Citizen Kane

Proclaimed repetitively the best movie of all time, Citizen Kane may not be that, but it is breathtaking in its painfully honest portrayal of greed and heartlessness, the carelessness and ignorance of the human soul. It was the first film ever to touch upon issues such as this in the manner which it did, and coming from a twenty-something man, that was something rare indeed.

A Serious Man

Admittedly not my favourite Coen brothers movie, A Serious Man is nevertheless a vitally important reason why they are so great. Though I’m not a Jew, this movie spoke to my inner emotions and frustrations. I think of myself as a very different man to Larry Gopnik, though his distraught plight and repressed dislike of his own selfish situation is brutally honest and without mercy.

Dancer in the Dark

From its unique opening of various collaborations of beautiful art pieces as a fantastic score plays in the opening, to the depressing ending which I’m not ashamed to say is the ONLY film ending that has ever made me cry, Lars von Trier’s dogme-influenced musical masterpiece is a unique event that manages to capture something more than a camera could convey.

Magnolia

You probably know that this is my favourite film of all time. It’s an achingly hard decision to make, but all things considered, I’ve NEVER felt the way I felt while watching this movie. Every single tiny aspect of the way it was made was life-changing for me, and helped to confirm the suspicion that I was destined to watch and love movies.

Persona

A lot of movies have changed the way I look at films, but Persona changed the way I looked at “cinema.” There is a difference. Bergman reminds us we’re watching a film, and the film itself features some stunning acting and breathtaking cinematography, all thanks to Bergman, Sven Nykvist, Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson, as well as everyone else involved. No one had the brains of Bergman, and it’s due to his creative vision that films are made like they are today.

Eyes Wide Shut

An often ignored and hated Kubrick film, Eyes Wide Shut is actually a feast for the senses, and contains important messages about society, living, marriage, jealousy, hatred and discovery. Whether its Nicole Kidman’s brilliant (no, fantastic) adulterous monologue or Gyorgy Ligeti’s creepy piano theme whose notes play with a striking tune like a slap in the face, this slow-paced masterpiece which seems to go nowhere is actually a film to be re-examined and thought about.

Mulholland Dr.

Lynch’s most famous and probably his best film, this strangely scary and atmospherically surreal 150-minute masterwork is a strange, puzzling riddle with disturbing thematic echoes of the heartless mouth of Hollywood, rejection, sexuality and emotion. It’s a real ride.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Often mistakenly filed away as ‘long’ and ‘boring,’ Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi is in reality a beautiful analysis of human evolution, the creation and existence of life, and possibilities for the daunting spectre of the future, as well as alien existence and extraterrestrial intelligence. Embrace your inner Star Child.

Paths of Glory

If I had to pick a war movie that ‘defined me,’ I would scan through all the possibilites, but they all lead to Paths of Glory. It is a moving, determined and no holds barred awesomely truthful analysis of war and the tumultuous toll it has on its survivors, as well as the people who watch and run it all. Very powerful.

There you go. Ten Movies that Define Me. Some interesting picks there, I’m sure you’re thinking. Please, leave a comment with your thoughts and tell me what your ‘defining’ movies are.

Thanks for reading.

Preaching to the Lynch Choir

Anyone who’s read a considerable amount of my posts or taken a schmooze at my Favourite Directors page might notice I have a slight obsession with the film catalogue of David Lynch. I’d like to talk to you– and hopefully not bore you –with a little explanation about why he is one of the greatest minds in the art of film at the moment and what makes him special to me.

David Lynch was always interested in art, and in the mid-sixties he spent $200 to finance a short artistic ‘picture,’ entitled Six Men Getting Sick. He won an award, and was approached to create another feature. His next was called The Alphabet, and is among my Top 10 Horror Movies even though strictly speaking, it’s not a horror. It’s a short film based on a nightmare that his wife’s niece had. Watch it for yourself and tell me you’re not creeped out:

This is a perfect example of the madness in David Lynch’s head. Many of his shorts were like this, including two that followed it: The Grandmother and The Amputee.

After those two came Eraserhead, his first feature length film and his weirdest.

But I’m not here to catalogue his whole career (that you can see on the banner at the top of this post). I’m just here to help some people to come to grips with this man and perhaps make peace with the weirdness he produces.

Many have had problems with his films, and if you’re not into big, confusing, think-about-it narratives, then I suggest to stay away from Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and INLAND EMPIRE. Thankfully, he has made some more accessible films, such as The Elephant Man, Dune, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, and The Straight Story.

But I think the real talent lies in those tricky mythological mazes of deception and disturbance. It is within those labyrinths of destruction and terror that true entertainment and artistic value lies. The first time I saw INLAND EMPIRE only a few months ago, I was utterly bamboozled and kind of annoyed that it made almost no sense to me at all. Yet… I strangely enjoyed it. Even the completely frustrating and annoying parts had artistic value and entertainment within them. Sometimes it comes from the writing, and sometimes it comes from the acting.

The point I’m trying to make is that no-one can really be 100% satisfied when they reach the end of a Lynch film, because often, they don’t get what they’ve just seen. But it’s not about getting it… its about enjoying it. And you might find, as I did, that if you mull over what you’ve just seen and think about it for a few days, a light bulb might go off and you might finally get it. Lynch himself has said that he doesn’t like to explain his films because he believes each movie should have its own interpretation to the viewer.

Of course, there’s no reason you should have to listen to me, I’m no expert, I haven’t even seen all of Lynch’s movies (The Straight Story still eludes me and I’m trying to finish Season 2 of “Twin Peaks” before I watch the movie). It’s just… I’ve heard too many people say they’re fed up with Lynch that haven’t really given him a proper chance. A person I like to refer to in this case is Roger Ebert. He gave Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart and Lost Highway all bad reviews, but then he gave Mulholland Drive and INLAND EMPIRE the most positive reviews you could have hoped for. Here was a man who had given up on Lynch (well… almost) but who radically changed his mind when finally something clicked.

Oh… listen to me. I’m full of crap. I’m rambling, and I’m sorry, but hey! Hopefully you’ve learned something. Now go watch INLAND EMPIRE.

Thanks for reading.

100 Things I Love About the Movies

Recently, John at The Droid You’re Looking For made a sequel to his hugely successful “100 Things I Love About the Movies” post, and being a fan of both posts, I’ve decided it’s about time I did my own. It was a very inspirational and thoughtful post, and if you read it yourself it might just make you want to do one of the same. For now, here’s mine:

1: Hi-hi-hi there, at last we meet.

2: The shaking fence in Evil Dead.

3: A rape depicted through the clever usage of a silent movie in Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her.

4: Qantas never crashed.

5: Whatever you want, Leo Getz.

6: The stunning ending to Lars von Trier’s Dogville.

7: Dave. Stop, Dave. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it.

8: The best movie cut of all history in Lawrence of Arabia.

9: The theme that plays when we see the man with the Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West.

10: Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me…

11: The abrupt ending of Bonnie and Clyde.

12: I’m a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star. I’m a big bright shining star. That’s right.

13: The final perfect five minutes of Irreversible…

14: …and how The King’s Speech stole the music!

15: Ellen Burstyn’s monologue in Requiem for a Dream.

16: The hand emerging from the water in Deliverance.

17: The final half-hour of Audition.

18: Jimmy Schtewart.

19: The emotion and raw energy with which Kirk Douglas delivers this line in Paths of Glory: “I apologise to you, sir, for not informing you sooner that you’re a degenerate, sadistic old man, and you can go to Hell before I apologise to you now or ever again!”

20: John C. Reilly shining his flashlight into the camera in Magnolia.

21: Blood Simple to True Grit and everything in between.

22: Hello… Hello, Dimitri? I… I can’t hear, could you turn the music down? That’s great, you’re coming through fine. I’m coming through fine, too, am I? I agree with you, it’s great to be fine. Now then, Dimitri. One of our generals… he went a little funny in the head… you know, funny. And he went and did a silly thing.

23: Tracking shots. All of them.

24: The Monty Python movies (“I fart in your general direction!”)

25: Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit crushing game shows, stuffing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life.

26: Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar.

27: Steve Martin in The Jerk.

28: Isabella Rossellini begging Kyle MacLachlan in Blue Velvet (“Hit me!”).

29: In Heaven… everything is fine.

30: Did You Know You Can Use Old Motor Oil to Fertilise Your Lawn?

31: That lucky occasion when you come across a really, really good TV movie (Indictment: The McMartin Trial)

32: Get away from her, you BITCH!

33: I am Death. I have long walked at your side.

34: The most striking and disturbing use of colour in any film, that of Sven Nykvist’s brilliant cinematography in Ingmar Bergman’s fantastic Cries and Whispers.

35: NOT LOVELY, LOVELY LUDWIG VAAAANNNN!!!!

36: The slow-paced and slightly comic final duel in Barry Lyndon.

37: The deadly silent arrival of Martin Sheen into Colonel Kurtz new jungle home, rudely interrupted by an obviously high Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.

38: The first six or so minutes of Persona.

39: This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun.

40: The haunting piano music that plays throughout the latter half of Kubrick’s fantastic Eyes Wide Shut.

41: A surprise cameo from the greatest stand-up comedian of all time in a non-comedy role in Lost Highway.

42: Tom Cruise’s finest hour:

43: The perfect opening shot of Apocalypse Now.

44: Bernard Herrman’s shrieking violins.

45: Black and White movies in the era of Colour.

46: The nameless dystopian city in David Fincher’s Se7en.

47: Uncomfortably casual nudity in Short Cuts.

48: Marge Gunderson.

49: Nobody fucks with the Jesus.

50: Bring Out the Gimp.

51: Norma Desmond’s delusions of grandeur.

52: The drug deal scene in Boogie Nights.

53: I only got two things in this world: my balls and my word. And I don’t break em for nobody.

54: Robert Downey, Jr. in Natural Born Killers.

55: The “train going into the tunnel” at the very end of North by Northwest, a clever albeit overused sexual metaphor.

56: Ricky Gervais. Always. Always.

57: A movie set entirely within one room (i.e. Buried)

58: Rob Brydon’s cameo in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

59: Nothing’s wrong with it, Tommy. It’s tip top. I’m just not sure about the colour.

60: I am Jack’s _____ ______.

61: Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, oh, and while we’re at it…

62: 80s high school movies. All of them.

63: The epilogue of Pink Flamingos.

64: Clerks. ‘Nuff said.

65: Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you fucking stupid bastard!

66: Silencio.

67: Earn this. Earn it.

68: The final shot of the rat at the end of The Departed.

69: Extended Director’s Cuts.

70: I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!

71: The inability of Jack Lemmon to be able to watch Grand Hotel in The Apartment.

72: Memorable last lines in Billy Wilder movies.

73: We’re a loving couple that doesn’t touch.

74: Sunday nights, where I put aside a few hours to rewatch one of my favourite movies, no matter what it is or how many times I’ve seen it.

75: The creepy hidden camera shots in Michael Haneke’s Cache.

76: Amelie’s strange games with random people in the film of the same name.

77: Go round mums, deal with Phillip, grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for all this to blow over.

78: Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure: “In the water, I’m a very skinny lady.”

79: Sidney Lumet. Rest in Peace.

80: The final shocking moments of Planet of the Apes.

81: The meaning of Roger O. Thornhill’s middle initial.

82: Martin Scorsese’s cameo in Taxi Driver.

83: Gregory Peck’s powerful courtroom monologue in To Kill A Mockingbird…

84: …and the uniquely different but still subtly similar version presented by a suprisingly good Matthew McConaughey in A Time to Kill.

85: Dustin Hoffman’s moving turn as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy…

86: …and the eerie subtle similarities between Jon Voight’s character in the same movie and Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights.

87: Mr. Jingles.

88: I just wanted to hold the little baby.

89: You mean the man who inserted rubber fist in my anus was a homosexual?

90: The stunning revelation at the end of Spoorloos (The Vanishing).

91: How quickly a director can take my interest, and how stunningly tight their grip remains on me within the shortest of times, and how it can last seemingly forever, as evidenced by my recent delve into the films of Ingmar Bergman.

92: Hit Girl.

93: Bill Murray waking up to the same nauseatingly repetitive jingle every morning in Groundhog Day.

94: Reese Witherspoon humiliating a disfigured Kiefer Sutherland in Freeway.

95: The little bit of low-budget masterpiece that was Sex, Lies and Videotape.

96: Dogme 95.

97: The Criterion Collection.

98: The little things in movies that so few directors really think to care about.

99: How movies affect my everyday life, the way I do things, the little idiosyncrasies that people rarely notice, and how I think and perceive things.

100: “I’m finished.”

The 10 Best Films of the Decade (2000-2009)

Before I begin this list, I would like to quickly note that most people consider the last “decade” to include 2010 (well, a large number of my friends do). This is correct, except when you consider that, technically looking at the Gregorian calendar, the “decade” began on January 1, 2001. Most people struggle to accept this and include 2000. Because I don’t want to confuse people, I’m including the year 2000, too, but 2010 movies don’t count. That’s a different list entirely. So anyway, let’s count them down, the Ten Best Films of the Decade.

10: Hot Fuzz (2007)

 

Edgar Wright’s follow-up to the smash-hit Shaun of the Dead has since become known as one of the best cop movies ever made. In my opinion, the best. Simon Pegg is hilarious as Sgt. Nicholas Angle Angel, a tough, experienced cop who we can easily see is good at his job, from his determined strut in the first take to guns blazing in the final half hour. He is good at his job. Too good. So good, he’s making everyone else on the force look bad, so he’s being transfered to the countryside before he can say “still a bit stiff.” In the town of Sanford, things seem to be uneventful and normal, but in reality there is trouble brewing. He is teamed up with Danny (Nick Frost), an obese but determined police officer who despite his poor fence jumping skills nonetheless enjoys his job and dreams of the action he sees in Michael Bay movies. As usual, Edgar Wright hits the mark, employing the same tactics he used in his previous film, and expanding his imagination in ways we could never have thought possible. Well done!

9: A Serious Man (2009)

One of the most honest, true and… well, serious movies of the decade is one of the Coen brothers’ best, even better than their Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men. Revealing the true way of life of many people, and discussing life’s problems and how we deal with them in an interesting way, the Coens provide a thought-provoking analysis of suburban existence, like a Jewish American Beauty, whilst still staying flat, grounded, and keeping the humour dry. Witty acting performances from a cast of mostly unknowns as well as superb cinematography, music and overall presentation are all factors in the undeniable greatness of this modern classic, which must be viewed more than once. Stuhlbarg is excellent in his leading role and the Coens prove that even after twenty-five years of filmmaking, they still have the golden touch for originality, subtle humour and truthful observations of real humanity.

8: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

A controversial choice for some, but there is no way I could exclude this masterpiece from Darren Aronofsky. It’s a dodgy film with my friends: some like it, some hate it, some love it, some despise it. I am one of those who love it, and its not just for the way it tells its terrific story. Well, actually, it is. I’ve written an article about the music used in this movie, but I’ll sum it up by saying it works amazingly. The cinematography by skilled Oscar-nominated Matthew Libatique is top-class. Aronofsky knows how to set the mood, too, and this is another category where the music comes in. The film might seem a little too fast-paced for some, but the fast pace works effectively because these people are on drugs which make their lives fast-paced. There are so many ways in which Aronofsky communicates to the viewer what it feels like to be on drugs. At first, everything is fine, but quickly, things begin to go awfully wrong. I can’t easily think of anything scarier than the penultimate ‘meltdown’ scene, with God only knows how many cuts and music so awfully terrifying that we feel like we are in the Hell that drug abuse must be. And the final scene, oh! What a work of art! If ever a movie scene has made you cry, this has to be it. Requiem is a terrifically depressing film, but it must be seen.

7: Amelie (2001)

It has gained an enormous following and earned great fame, and rightly so. Jeunet’s La fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain (did I get that right?) is a masterpiece. It is a very funny film, and almost all the laughs are just observations of contemporary life and how disturbingly easy it is to shake things up. That’s what the eponymous Amelie (Audrey Tatou) does. She sees the people around her, all with their own separate, different lives, and decides to change them. The results are arguably some of the most amusing consequences we could’ve hoped for. Amelie herself is searching for love, a love that when found, she is reluctant to accept. She is an intriguing character and Tatou plays her with grace, skill and knowledge. Whether she is helping or hindering the situations of her acquaintances, she is either way changing their lives, in some cases forever. Jeunet is clever, and inserts his vision into this engaging, thought-provoking film.

6: Amores Perros (2000)

A fatal car crash is the one intersection between three completely different, but thematically harmonious lives in this amazing, beautiful film from Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel). His two later films (just mentioned) also share some of the emotions and the general message that different people can affect the lives of others. 21 Grams featured a car crash, too, and Babel dealt with racism in a visceral, ugly way which stems from this original film. The three stories told all involve dogs (the title translates roughly to “Love’s a Bitch”) and they play key characters in the lives of the characters. A man enters his mutt into dangerous illegal dogfights to save up money and run away with his girlfriend. A vain supermodel is put in a wheelchair and cannot save her small dog who is trapped under the apartment. A strange, loitering man walks with many dogs across the street, observing. But via a car crash, all three lives change. The story is brutal, but brilliant. It is filled with emotion, and left me on the verge of tears at its end. This movie must be seen. The best foreign film of the decade.

5: American Psycho (2000)

“Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you f**king stupid bastard!” So screams Christian Bale’s chilling, unforgettable serial killer in the first half of this sick, twisted, brilliant thriller. He is talking to Paul Allen (Jared Leto), a business rival, as he murders him brutally with an axe in a darkly comic, disturbing scene. Patrick Bateman has since become a well-known name in the annals of movie psychopaths, and is in my opinion, equivalent to Hannibal Lecter or Darth Vader… in fact, perhaps even scarier. Bateman speaks bluntly and hatefully of the people around him, and indulges in violence, sex and drugs often. Murder is his way of releasing energy, and he does it in various sickening ways, such as his “rampage” toward the end. He says earlier on that he believes his “mask of sanity is about to slip,” and slip is what it does. He murders, both creatively and plain disgustingly, as we are frequently introduced to a darker, scarier side of the shark-in-a-suit image we’re so often greeted with in movies. The business card scene is a funny and interesting scene in which Bateman and his colleagues compare business cards, and Bateman is angered when he is intimidated by those of his acquaintences. Everything in this movie is something that can set off Bateman into a killing spree. We are shown a true glimpse into the mind, body and soul of a serial killer. And it is marvellous.

4: INLAND EMPIRE (2006)

I’ve already reviewed this film here, but I’ll say a couple of sentences: Laura Dern is brilliant in her role as a disorientated and confused actress plagued by the curse of a film in which she is starring. A magnificent, epic masterpiece, but not for everyone.

3: Caché (2004)

 

Michael Haneke has always been one of my favourite directors. From Benny’s Video to Funny Games to The Piano Teacher and now, to this, a film which betters all its predecessors and completely changes the way we look at surveillance in movies and surveillance in general. The English title of this Cannes smash-hit is Hidden, which refers to various things in the film, most perceptively the concept of the hidden camera which films the outdoor surroundings of a wealthy family’s apartment. The camera sits stationary, filming their house as various people pass by in cars and on cycles, and as the family man (Daniel Auteuil) leaves and comes home from work. He is disturbed by the tapes, as is his wife (Juliette Binoche), but he believes that he knows who is responsible. The film is slow-paced and uneventful, but these tactics work brilliantly in making the movie the masterpiece that it is. There are some shots in which barely anything happen (the opening and closing shots come to mind), but these shots are pivotal to watch carefully and think about afterwards. The film asks a barrage of questions and will leave the viewer thinking for days afterwards. Any film that can do this (yes, Inception counts) is worthy of my favouritism (usually), and this film towers above the rest. A must-see.

2: Mulholland Dr. (2001)

I’ve already reviewed this film here, but I’ll say a couple of short sentences: Mulholland Dr. is David Lynch’s masterpiece. The director has made so many great films (including Lost Highway, which I’m proud to announce I finally get!) but MD really sums them all up: dreams. It’s about dreams. It’s clever, manipulative, thought-provoking and engaging, everything a Lynch film should be, and more. The scene where Rebekah Del Rio sings Roy Orbison’s Crying in Spanish is forever engrained in my memory for so many reasons.

1: There Will Be Blood (2007)

“If you have a milkshake, and I have a straw…” I think you know where this is going. Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is, simply put, the greatest film of the decade. He tells a breathtaking epic of a tale in which a great oil tyrant, to put it lightly (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to rob his friends and enemies and turn everyone away from him. He descends on a power-hungry trip of madness, murder and sick glee. He is terrifying and brilliant. Meanwhile, Anderson stands behind the screen examining and telling a tale he’s really been waiting his whole career to tell. I’m probably overusing the hyperboles, and this probably isn’t my favourite Anderson movie (if you’ve read my posts, you should know what that is), but the film is worthy of the excitement I hope I’m giving you about it. I was careful about watching this because it was a long movie about oil, but boy! Was I proven wrong! All the films on this list need to be seen, but There Will Be Blood is undoubtedly and arguably the best.

Honourable Mentions (in no particular order): No Country for Old Men, Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Shutter Island, Memento, Irreversible, The Departed, Shaun of the Dead, Donnie Darko, Traffic, Dancer in the Dark, Borat, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The White Ribbon, Inglourious Basterds, and countless others.

Thanks for reading.