Sunday, November 04, 2007

Top 25 Movie Highlights

This week marks my 25th year on the planet so I have decided as a self indulgent exercise to list 25 movie highlights that have stood out for me over that time. I had no trouble arriving at 25 entries, trying to put them in an order have been another issue altogether. I set no limits, other than being true to myself. It goes without saying a list of the best movie moments should include the likes of Brando in 'On the Waterfront' or make reference to 'Citizen Kane' and though I know why these are classics what I want to capture in this list are the movies that have developed my tastes and interests. I often wonder what others do with the time I spend thinking about and watching movies, but then there are few things I would rather be doing. Movies bring the best of everything together - the word, the sound, the image - it is a full experience. There will be 5 entries over the next 5 days (hopefully) so in the spirit of knowing how to count find below 25 - 21.

25. ‘The Fifth Element’

There is something slightly off centre about this film. Luc Besson, let loose with the biggest film budget France had ever witnessed and in Bruce Willis, a huge name, creates a singularly unique blockbuster despite the conventions at play. This Fifth Element is one of the best examples of an idea bandied about so often - that of being engrossed in the world created within a film. For adventure which doesn’t take itself too seriously, to still thrill with a story of a small band of people out to save the world from destruction more than merits a place here. The stand out sequence is watching Milla Jovovich tackle a gang of heavies while Willis sits entranced by a unique operatic performance. And yes I will concede Chris Tucker does make you want to gnaw your arm off. I cannot of course mention Luc Besson without mentioning ‘Leon’, a film that succeeds in finding such heart in an unconventional setting. I do believe Natalie Portman will be one of the great actresses of our generation.

24. 'Assault on Precinct 13'

John Carpenter does well directing stories with simple premises. In Assault on Precinct 13 the cast never leave a besieged police station in an L. A. ghetto for the running time of the film. Nevertheless, Carpenter also on scripting duties manages to find tension, chemistry between characters and action within the claustrophobic confines of the station. A film like this done well, has you quickly empathise with and get to know the characters so you feel their struggles all the more. This film was made for only $100, 000, (that wouldn’t have even begun to cover Ethan Hawke’s salary in the 2005 remake), the film is a testament to skilled and focused artists, a B movie classic and an example of the output that has the 70s revered as a golden age in cinema.

23. ‘Marnie’

Marnie is my second experience of Hitchcock, at least with an awareness of who he was. I have seen it only once. Firstly, I had known Connery only for Bond and it was such a curve ball to see him play such a similar character to Bond yet have solely malevolent characteristics shine through. For me though, the scene which stayed with me and literally epitomised edge of seat nervousness, was early in the film where Tippi Hedren’s Marnie is pacing slowly away from the office safe she has relieved of its cash and suddenly becomes aware of a cleaning lady mopping the floor nearby and her escape could slip away if the lady looks up. She walks slowly to the door, not looking back. True suspense.

22. ‘Body Heat’

So much of the impact of movies like ‘Double Indemnity’ and ‘Gilda’ rest in the magnetic power of their leading ladies. The femme fatale is a stalwart of movie making with everyone from Jessica Rabbit to Nora Zehetner in last years ‘Brick’ casting that magic net of power of fallible men in only the way a determined and not unattractive woman can. My introduction to the idea of film noir and a femme fatale came courtesy of 'Body Heat' and Kathleen Turner in her debut role. Arriving, donned all in white, glistening in the heat of the humid summer and delivering dynamite dialogue with her sandpaper voice (‘You’re not too smart are you. I like that in a man.’), I would have gladly stepped in William Hurts shoes and done Turners bidding. The film is both an excellent thriller and a brilliant ode to classic noir. Linda Fiorentino also burns up the screen, with some highly kinky enticements, in ‘The Last Seduction’, is an example of modern noir done well. ‘Double Indemnity’ and ‘Gilda’ though have to be my favourites of the standard setters.

21. 'A Night at the Opera'

I could and have spent the best part of some of my days reading Marx Brother quotes as well as of course watching their movies. ’Duck Soup’ is a favourite of mine but I’m going to give their entry to ’A Night at the Opera’, a film I watched a morning over the Christmas holidays a few years back. So often we are told a movie is a classic or enjoyable and go in with expectations and never get to enjoy them untainted with some view, that isn’t our own instinctive reaction. We look at cinema listings and make decisions to go based on names and the strength of advertising for fear of going to see something ’you know nothing about’ or ’never heard of’. You take a chance, on a movie like this, and you just might discover a movie that could become a favourite. I remember exactly where I was when I first saw this movie, its wise cracking racer speed humour made such an impression on me and most importantly it had me laughing out loud.

Otis B. driftwood: It's all right, that's in every contract. That's what they call a sanity clause. [Fiorello laughs loudly] Fiorello: You can't fool me! There ain't no Sanity Claus!


Pageturners said...

Great list - I'm off down to Laser like a shot off a shovel to take in those of your recommendations that I haven't seen.

CK said...

Pageturner, your comment is such a compliment, thank you. I hope none of them disappoint.