Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Succumbed at Last

I have so far avoided participating in the blog past time of listing my prejudices which are referred to as memes, a title that bears little resemblance to the cultural phenomenon identified by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. But as I, from time to time, pontificate about movies here I thought that Morgan’s Movie Meme which I happened across at I Am Woman, See Me Blog is appropriate in so much that my movie prejudices will give those who read my pontifications an understanding of where I am coming from. And consequently be able to accept my ramblings as gospel or reject them as the ravings of a demented ratbag.
So without further ado, into the deep end.

1. The last movie you saw in a theatre, and current-release movie you still want to see.
For me the cinema, hard top, theatre, call it what you will, is the best place to view a movie, preferably seated centre in the first few rows right down the front, so close that my peripheral vision is filled with the action. I picked up this habit at the first Star Wars movie were being last in at a sell out screening it was the front row or stand. Being that close the opening sequence was amazing. I was hooked and have been ever since, it is just the best place to lose yourself in a movie and the noise of lolly wrappers is almost unheard. At live shows, my preference is centre in the six rows from H to N, that’s where the director and the designers usually sit when putting the finishing touches to the show.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was the last movie I saw in a cinema and its saving grace was Johnny Depp. Depp is without doubt a damn fine actor with some remarkable performances under his belt, Edward Scissorhands, Don Juan DeMarco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Pirates without him would have been a totally forgettable film, Jack Sparrow was a wonderful character who Depp made very believable in an otherwise ridiculous movie.
The current crop of new releases leaves me pretty cold.

2. The last movie you rented/purchased for home viewing.
As an actor Clint Eastwood is Clint Eastwood is Clint Eastwood but as a director he has produced some interesting films. From High Plains Drifter, Mystic River, Unforgiven, The Bridges of Madison County to the most recent to be added to my collection, Million Dollar Baby. When he is directing and acting, Eastwood puts the film first and allows his co-stars to steal the scenes and the awards and Morgan Freeman does that whenever they are together in MDB. Though I do feel that Unforgiven was more deserving of a Best Picture Oscar than Million Dollar Baby. MDB’s final scenes were just too predictable.

3. A movie that made you laugh out loud.
John Cleese is a comic genius who can draw laughs with both his words (written and spoken) and his actions. His writing and performances in TV’s Faulty Towers still leave me out of breath after repeated viewings as does A Fish Called Wanda. From the black humour of an animal lover inadvertently killing an old lady’s pet pooches via the verbal jousting between the psychopath and the anal retentive lawyer to the visual escaping in all directions at once when confronted by the psychopath are so well done that the laughs escape even when you know its coming next.

4. A movie that made you cry.
I am an Aussie Bloke and consequently I don’t cry at the movies. If pushed I will admit to getting the odd lump in the throat that requires a clearing cough or two during poignant scenes like wanton destruction of the buffaloes in Dances with Wolves.

5. A movie that was a darling of the critics, but you didn't think lived up to the hype.
Sofia Coppola is not in the same league as her Dad but it is still early days for her. Her Lost in Translation is pretty much summed up by its title. Bill Murray looked uncomfortable in his role of the aging and bored movie star a not too dissimilar role to that he played in Groundhog Day with great aplomb and Scarlet Johanson as the neglected newlywed didn’t have the screen presence to carry the role. The idea was interesting but the visuals didn’t do much to help the screenplay which was heavily dialogue driven.

6. A movie that you thought was better than the critics.
Stanley Kubrick is amongst the mighty of movies with a string of films that are house hold names, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut but his most beautiful movie Barry Lyndon is virtually forgotten. This film version of Thackeray’s novel is a visual masterpiece, scenes evoking Gainsborough paintings come to life on the screen, often lit only with candles and using a specially made camera lens these scenes are like no others in their breath taking beauty. This film is a feast for the eyes and the story whilst not outstanding is strong enough to last its 3 hours.

7. Favorite animated movie
It has been some years since I last saw the 1940 version of Fantasia but it lingers in my memory like no other movie. The music and visuals are so in tune with each other that they become a perfect match. Even that bloody sanctimonious mouse finds a role for which he is suited. I haven’t seen the 2000 remake but think it would be hard pressed to improve on the original.

8. Favorite Disney Villain.
I am not a great fan of Disney movies. They are too saccharine for my taste and more often than not they murder childhood favourites with their dumbing down approach, especially their treatment of AA Milne’s wonderful characters, grrrrrrr. That being said the water bucket carrying broom in Fantasia certainly does piss off the mouse, whether an animated inanimate object can be a villain is a moot point.

9. Favorite movie musical.

Whether All That Jazz is a musical I’m not sure, it certainly has musical numbers but they are dance orientated rather than show tunes. I suspect it is more of a fantasy bio pic of how Bob Fosse would like to be remembered. He did make the more conventional musical Cabaret which for my money has to be one of if not the best musical ever made. Although set in the 1930’s and made in the 70’s there is a timeless quality to it that makes it just as relevant today, perhaps even more so considering world events. It confronts head on issues that are still alive and doing well today and extols one to become involved as the lyrics from the title song say “What good is sitting alone in your room, Come hear the music play”.

10. Favorite movies of all-time (up to five).
Oscar Wilde said “We are all in the gutter but some of us look at the stars” and this sums up the Werner Herzog film Fitzcarraldo. The first time I saw this movie I walked out of the screening with hope in my heart and an exhilarating feeling of joie de vivre. If a man cannot move mountains he can at least drag a steamboat over one. Add to that a score that features recordings from Enrico Caruso, the greatest tenor to ever open his mouth.

It is inconceivable that I could watch a movie so many times and not tire of it, but such is the case with The Princess Bride. A fairy tale of romance, action, adventure and parody, lots of parody that puts the viewer in an imaginary world that seems real. It reaches out to the kid in us all and feeds the adult with a dry humour that fits the action and the story like a favourite pair of jeans.

There is only one word to describe Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, masterpiece. A stunning adaptation of Joe Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with lines from Eliot and Kippling poems it is a movie to be experienced. Unsettling and inconclusive as it is it has the ring of truth to it along with some scenes that have become hallmarks in movie history.

When the patient cures the doctor you have something special on your hands. Such is the case with romantic comedy Don Juan DeMarco. With Johnny Depp playing against Marlon Brando it is an intelligent and witty film. Doctor: ... why do you think Dr. Mickler is Don Octavio de Flores? Don Juan: Why do you think Don Octavio is Dr. Mickler?

Bob Fosse only directed 6 films with Cabaret being his best known. But his fictional, fantasy bio pic of his own life All That Jazz is a much more interesting flick. Having had more than a passing association with show biz I suspect there in lies its appeal for me. It has some of the best dance sequences I have ever seen on film with the final number being a tour de force in both its imagery and intention.

Thanks to Lizza for bringing this to my attention. And the following has nothing to do with movies except that I like it and it is a break from all these bloody words.

1 comment:

Lizza said...

Wow! Cool, Henry! I like your choices...especially Johnny Depp and A Fish Called Wanda. And yes, I think that an inanimate animated object can be a villain. ;-)