Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

"50 Films to See Before you Die"

It's just me this evening - everyone else has gone to see the last Pirates of the Carribbean. I saw it yesterday, and though they said I could come too, I wasn't inspired enough to want to see it again. Just me thoughts before I get to the main feature:

Pirates of the Caribbean – an unnecessarily complex metaphor. The first one was like a great plan for a luxury manor – looks great, when can we move in? The second one was seeing it built – and the rush of euphoria you get from arriving, and admiring all those surface features promised on the plans. Alas, the third one…that’s the moment you realize the plan was fundamentally flawed. The house looks great, but built with bad foundations. All the flaws in Pirates 2 don’t seem so bad, because it’s just so fun. But Pirates 3 really suffers from having to deal with them - it’s got to solve all those plotlines, and get Jack Sparrow back before they can get on with being a film in it's own right.

I love the complex motives of these films – at times all ‘em shifting loyalties approach spaghetti western level (incidentally, anyone else spot the Sergio Leone tribute? They even had a zinged up version of the music to match), but it took me a good while to remember who was friends with who and why from the second one. And as little as I want to submit to popular opinion, Jack Sparrow is the life and soul of those movies, so my first priority would have been to get him back in the game as soon as possible. That’s not the case, instead starting on a grim and faux-rousing note. People don’t go to these films for an emotional experience. We don’t care when the characters die, and so any time trying to raise pathos for mass hangings is wasted time. It’s not that we’re all heartless sods; it’s that we’re there for an entertaining evening, and that makes it trivial – we’re waiting for Jack Sparrow to come back.

Whatever you do, never ever make your audience wait for the theme tune. Movie execs have this flawed belief that it increases the excitement of hearing it. It doesn’t – they’re just at a neutral until you get around to it. Well the triumphant Jack Sparrow theme tune is also absent until he returns, which is (if possible) a worse idea. Casino Royale also suffered for the arty, clever idea of holding the theme tune back and waiting until Bond became Bond to use it. Great on paper, but the theme tune is the Bond franchise’s one trump card. If the film starts feeling limp, then just chuck in a bawm-bawm-bi-bawm and everything’s fine again. Pulp Fiction has Misirlou, Top Gun has that-tune-whose-name-I-forget, Ghostbusters has, er, Ghostbusters. Films live and die by their soundtrack. It’s a sort of running joke in our family that we only watch Dr Who to hear the theme tune. Writers are told never to write while listening to music, because it creates false feeling – you’re stirred by the music and imagine what you’re writing is great, and when you read it back it’s actually limp. Filmmakers can use this to their advantage – they can use it to energise dull writing and instantly give a scene atmosphere with very little effort. So yeh. They needed to bring the theme tune in quicker.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad film. It had myriad inventive moments, especially when it was coming up with things to do with their characters, and the jokes (when they finally arrived) were still funny, even if the audience only ever saw fit to giggle when the monkey appeared on screen. Sadly, Ted Eliot and Terry Rossio seem to have taken on board the criticisms of the previous film – that it was too outrageously silly – which takes away some of the fun. A special nod has to go to the designers – fantastic, flamboyant costumes without a shred of political correctness. The Chinese are really Chinese, the French captain is poncy and has a tash, the ships are all designed to the specific cultures. Over the top, but it must have been wonderful fun making it all up. It’s a worthy finale to a good trilogy (if they’re brave enough to leave it at that and not try for a fourth film).

But that's not what I'm here for. Today I give you a live commentary (well, it was live when I was writing it…) on Channel 4’s “50 Greatest Films To See Before You Die. AKA – Lets Spoil The Ending of 50 Really Great Films. I’m doing this commentary to occupy my mind through the spoilery bits. I’ve really no idea why I still watch these things, because it’s people saying the generic trivia about films I’ve already seen, and seeing the end of things I want to. It’s being watched through the most terrible fuzz possible. I think the aerial has been disconnected.

Hang on, I’ve spotted Pink Flamingos in the opening montage!? That’s not a natural pick for top lists. I’m laying my bets for Citizen Kane, Star Wars, Godfather I or II, Vertigo or (possibly the time has passed for this now) Lord of the Rings at number 1. But here goes…

50 - Badlands. Ooooh. I’ve got a feeling that this is going to be a really interesting list. I recorded this to watch once; turned out it’d been cancelled and we’d recorded Parenthood instead. I had a sense of humour failure after we tried recording The Wild Bunch on the same tape and ended up with Parenthood again…

49 – Secrets and Lies. Oh My Gosh. They might actually have Pink Flamingos on here. I did an analysis of Greatest Film Ever lists. 2/3 of the lists would be from the same 500-or-so great films – Chinatown! Manhattan! Psycho! – and 1/3 would be kinda more individual, with perhaps an obscure Hitchcock, or a really foreign foreign films. But still, none of them had anything approaching Pink Flamingos obscureness level.

48 – Aguirre: The Wrath of God – they’re interviewing Warner Herzog! Warner Herzog is one of our family’s running jokes – when we play movie games, me and my sister call ourselves Team Herzog. He’s taken over from QT as my Official Favourite-Director-Whose-Films-I-Haven’t-Seen-Yet

47 – Brazil – the first one on the list I’ve seen. I watched it yesterday and was blown away by how brilliant it actually is. There’s so many levels to watch it in, so much going on, and all those background details. The opening shows a man advertising ducts – it takes a few watches to realize the ducts are everywhere. The whole film is packed with steampunk nastiness, and lots of that grotesque Gilliam, that weird way his films are really grubby, and I’ve no idea why. They were made to be watched on second hand video. Brazil is the best adaption of 1984 written by someone who’s never read the book (although possibly, Gilliam’s co-authors might have done so) In a police state run by middle management, you can’t do anything without having it signed and stamped in triplicate. Fragile employee Sam Lowry is happy to conform, escaping in his mind to a world with green fields. The only hero is rogue heating engineer Harry Tuttle. Oh look, “the film’s notorious climax” is given away with infamous aplomb. Why why why why do they have to spoil it?! They evidently feel the last two minutes are central to the film. Wrong. They’re wonderful, but Brazil can be discussed very easily without reference to its end (unlike, say, Sixth Sense, Usual Suspects, the Sting etc where most of the merit and the point of the film resides in its twist. And I find the obsession with the end of Sixth Sense pretty insulting too – it would still be a good film without it.) And Sixth Sense is almost fair game it’s so well known; like Star Wars' "no, Luke...", or Romeo and Juliet. It’s not like Brazil’s finale is even that notorious…

46 – this Sporting Life. Never ‘eard of it. That is the mark of an obscure and non-cliché list. Looks a bit grim to me.

45 – Cabaret – this film annoys me, because I can never remember the complex relationship between the film, the musical and the book. They exchange the plot of one with the other or whatever. They’re going to mention Tomorrow Belongs to Me in a minute…there they go. Oooh, they’re showing my favorite moment. I gave it a nod for best scene last year (“oh screw Max!”), and seeing it again reminds me how wonderful a scene it is.

44 – Raizing Arizona – yay! An exercise in total Coen weirdness. Nobody else makes movies like they do. Mass calamity, oddball extras, lots of outrageous stupidity and that surreal edge – here, the biker from hell. It defies genre.

43 – Princess Mononoke – Yay! Personally I think its overrated compared to his other films. It’s not as good as Spirited Away, and I enjoyed Kiki’s Delivery Service much more too. Laputa: Castle in the Sky had a pretty limp story, but it had so many cool fun elements, and it was such a great kids film.

42 – Dawn of the Dead – last week, a very nice young man asked me if I had seen this. I had to say no. Suddenly, my Tarantino-admiring credentials went out of the window as I confessed my knowledge of zombie films went no further than Shaun of the Dead. Oh well, never mind…

41 – Manhunter – initially I hadn’t heard of it, though when I saw Mann’s name I remembered it. It’s something to do with Hannibal Lecter or something – it’s the same author I think. Nope, it’s about him. I knew it. Ah, final proof that this is a Very Serious List – all truly pretentious buffs think the commercially-successful Silence of the Lambs is inferior to Manhunter, presumably because no-one’s heard of it. It means they can use the words “overrated” and “underrated”, which makes them feel clever. They’ve just promised we’ll be terrified. I think this is one for me to avoid…

40 – the King of Comedy – OK, it took me a long time to get what people see in Robert de Niro. But you need to see a lot of his films before you realize how totally he can change from one character to the next. In this, he plays a total slimeball – scary in his own way, but miles away from the various calculating crims we’ve seen him as before. Despite all the nice touches and a “good performance”, I still found it a frustrating and unenjoyable film. We can all praise de Niro for immersing himself perfectly in a loathsome character, but it still means we have to spend two hours with him. And it’s not cinema’s special own brand of charming-loathesome either, which allows us to sympathise with killers and psychos – it’s chatty, oily loathsome with a big cringy grin. You know those people who think they’re really funny? Right, well then…

39 – The Ipcress File (dir: someone I have’t heard of and couldn’t type fast enough to note down) – here, I put the sound mute on. I’d rather not take the risk – it’s a Michael Caine film and one I want to see.

38 – Mullholland Drive – I want to see this. I’ve always felt that I’d like David Lynch. People don’t like him because his films are weird and confusing; check! Perhaps it’s interior snobbery which draws me towards films which nobody else understands?

37 – The Searchers – SOUND MUTE! This film has an ending which I have scurried around discovering for the past few years. It’s one of the few films on my want-to-see list that have been successfully kept mum, and I intend to keep it that way. This is turning into an interesting show. In the paper, I only really registered “50 best…films”. The full program name is “films to see before you die”; and the charm of this list is that it’s actually “films you probably wouldn’t voluntarily see, and won’t have heard of, but which you really should see before you die to get a respectable grasp on what cinema can do”. I’m actually holding out hope for Pink Flamingos being in there. Agh, long clip on the screen from the last scene – avert eyes! It’s more interesting than your average lists – my initial bets of what’d come top (the old, tedious chestnuts: Citizen Kane or Vertigo for a critical list, Star Wars for a voted list, Gone with the Wind for a financial list or one of the Godfathers for any other criteria going) might actually be wrong.

36 – Fight Club – here we go again, breaking the first and second rules. Now lets see, are they going to give It away? “Fight Club contains one of the greatest twists in movie history. The twist is that…” Goddam, they did it. Yes, there is well enough brilliance to appreciate the film knowing the twist, and enough to well discuss without mentioning it (though they don’t even bother talking about it, just spoil it for spoilers sake), but it’s hard to enjoy the film the first time if you’ve been told. I know I was subconsciously looking for clues, even while I was trying to appreciate it and shut my subconscious up. Your subconscious can be annoying like that sometimes…

Incidentally, this is my father’s favourite film. He’s a former desk slave, but he’s escaped now…

35 – The Ladykillers – the original, naturally…more sound mute when they start talking about the end.

34 – The Royal Tenenbaums – oooh, I wanna see this. They do not discuss it, but merely show a scene, which says everything about this movie.

33 – I knew they’d be one of the Three Colours trilogy; only question is which one. Well I had no idea which it would be, or indeed which it deserved to be, as they’re all still on the fabled Want To See list. I’m always impressed when these concepty films actually turn out well. I could come up with an idea like making three films based around the concepts of the French flag, but then making three stunning movies? Incidentally, they picked Blue.

32 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Oh. This is something of a blip. I’m expecting a really pretentious defense of this unnaturally mainstream choice. Aha, they’re mentioning the “time loop paradox complex”. That seems a bit more highbrow. And at least now I understand the Terminator joke in Wayne’s World.

31 – Scarface - another one I want to see. It apparently contains over 200 f-words. "If you have’t seen this movie, then you haven’t lived” a talking head tells us before showing us the end and removing the need. Nah, I don’t mind, I kinda knew and it’s not a film where it matters. Some films it just doesn’t – I’d certainly count Reservoir Dogs as one. It depends on what’s important in the film. If the film’s all about the plot then let the plot go and the film’s lost it’s trump. The more points it scores back on character and atmosphere, the less it matters.

30 – All About Eve – well I’m putting the mute on just in case for this. It’s not worth it.

29 – Pink Flamingos – it’s here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wow! Oh my gosh…this is a very special unusual lsit. Pink Flamingos is a camp-cult classic about two groups of people vying for the title of “vilest people on earth”. I haven’t seen it, so I only know That One Fact that anyone knows – the drag-queen-eats-dog-poop bit. Apparently it’s at the end of the movie, which is always a pity – if you know only one fact, then you’re subconsciously waiting for it. Touch of Evil’s That One Fact is the tracking shot, which I believe comes at the start; Un Chien Andalou's That One Fact is almost instantaneous. That was something of a relief when watching it at the Tate Modern. It was quite uncomfortable though, as there were quite a few kids. The Godfather’s That One Fact is also blissfully near the beginning.

28 – Fanny and Alexander – they’re showing scenes from the film, but they’re really dark so the grainyness means I can’t see anything.

27 – The Breakfast Club - OK, I want to see this film now. It looks really fun.

26 – Hero – YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Zhang Yimou is wonderful and Hero is my favourite of the wushu set – Flying Daggers is let down by the last scene which feels a tad contrived, and while Crouching Tiger is nice, I missed something there.
I was swept off by the trailers, yet fortunate enough to be in England to see it in the cinema. Wonderful – it just picked me up and dragged me off. I cried almost all the way through, and Broken Sword is a total dude. Apparently Curse of the Golden Flower wasn’t great, but I want to see it anyway – me and Friend 4 saw the trailer on another massive screen in Dublin. Even if the plot’s somewhat amiss (and to be honest, who watches these wushu films for their plots? Insane levels of melodrama and tragedy, and death tolls that R+G’s Player King would really approve of), the spectacle will be worthwhile.

25 – ah, I recognize that description: “Kickstarted the 90s and it’s British”. It has to be Trainspotting. Yup, I knew it. This is a good film. Hear the opening music and that’s that, you’re there. I love Renton’s opening monologue, because it’s very similar to a rant I keep giving to people about GSCEs being the first step towards ending up with two kids, a car, a mortgage – a “f**ing big television”. It’s great because it’s not preachy, and it’s not afraid to say that actually, drugs are great and there’s a reason why people do it. And then they throw in the overdose and cold turkey sequence to remind everyone there’s that other, very big reason why it’s not such a good idea. And it uses the song Temptation by Heaven 17, and Perfect Day, and Lust For Life... Ewan McGregor contributes an interview, which is good of him. It really annoys me when stars won’t return to their roots, it always seems rude – because fans ultimately love them for their films. Have Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi ever done anything better than Reservoir Dogs? I don’t know, but I do want to know what they were so busy with which was more important than contributing interviews for the DVD. The wonderful thing about the Rosencrantz special features is that Richard Dreyfuss, Gary Oldman and Tim Roth all make time for a tiny little arthouse pic they’d made thirteen years ago, which they could have easily forgotten all about.

Incedentally, they’ve just shown that great Skoda advert where they make a life-sized cake car.

24 – Erin Brockovich. Nothing to say.

23 – Night at the Opera – yay it’s the Marx brothers! These films are absolutely hilarious; they just had to pick one I hadn't seen. Even though the first time I watched through them my family somehow managed to be insanely annoying – they’d talk through all Groucho’s speeches, and then run out of things to say in time for the slapstick or musical numbers. I always feel sorry for the fourth brother, whose name nobody can remember. They manage to show a whole host of clips from the film, without using a single funny one.

22 – Heavenly Creatures – SOUND MUTE! Nope, no way I’m sitting through spoilerwatch for this one. For the last few years of my life, my parents have been looking at me and my friends sideways and clucking “hmmm Heavenly Creatures…”

21 – Come and See. This is a film I am never going to see. Ever. The impression one always gets is two and a half hours of civilian death and misery, people being shot and burned in barns and on and on. I don’t like films about real life, especially depressing ones. And I don’t feel comfortable with innocent characters getting hurt – this is probably why I like only a slice of crime films. Cops and robbers are fair game, gangsters mostly deserve it, but I can’t take serial killers. It’s probably subconscious self-preservation (if I were in a film, I’d either be an innocent bystander or a screaming blonde killed in my underwear)

20 – The Player – SOUND MUTE. Does it have a killer twist? I dunno. I dunno anything about this film, I’m proud of the fact and I don’t want to until there is a copy of the dvd in my warm mits. Savvy?

19 – Boys N the Hood – “The pivotal moment comes when…” SOUND MUTE. Though again, as this is about grim real life, it’s unlikely to cross my path.

18 – Black Narcissus – I’ve seen the end of this; it struck me as a film where the atmosphere builds up and thus needs to be seen from the start.

17 – Walkabout – never heard of it! Mum and dad’s back, and they fix the TV so it’s not fuzzy any more. Now they’re back, I remember how these shows are usually watched – the TV announces the name, and then everyone else talks over the talking heads and contributes their own opinions and memories of the film. Ach, they give the end all away, and I can’t keep sound muting now because they’re back.

16 – Touch of Evil – if you haven’t seen this film, then you may at this point choke “TRACKING SHOT!” I discover it’s 3 minutes long, and I’m anticipating the end being revealed. I’ve started reading my words as I type to filter sound I don’t want to hear out.

In the summer, we have a screen put up on the beach for films. Last summer they showed Jaws and Blues Brothers (alas, I was on holiday and missed both). Mum’s got a list of the films voted this year. They are: Top Gun, Shrek, Finding Nemo, Happy Feet, Casino Royale, Dirty Dancing, Cars...Garn…I feel sick…

15 – Pulp Fiction – I’m actually surprised to see it here. They show all the bits I watched, er, earlier this evening. They discuss the music and dialogue, naturally.
Apparently, it’s “the ultimate 90s movie”, which is funny because a few minutes ago Trainspotting was “the ultimate 90s movie”. Samuel L. Jackson kindly contributes. And Tarantino. Wow, that’s wonderful of them both. Although they could be archive interviews, you never know…

14 – Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India - Never heard of it, although one of these days I fancy a “Once Upon a Time” marathon. We can watch Mexico, China, India, America, the West and the Midlands all in one glorious party. Put the phrase into imdb, and the marathon stretches to include Europe, The East, The Desert, The Hood, High School e.t.c. I wonder which was the first? From looking at the list, I reckon it was Once Upon a Time in the West which started them all off. I’m constantly reminded how little I know about cinema. I know a lot, but never enough. I don’t know anything about silent film, or German Expressionism, or British film and while I’m pretty clued up on Oriental cinema it’s only as much as any western audience who’s never made a real effort. And I’ve never ever seen a proper Bollywood film (Monsoon Wedding doesn’t count), despite it being a massive industry. Shamed…but actually, when I think about it, I’ve only scratched the surface and seen the obvious candidates of any given area of film.

13 – Shawshank Redemption – for this one they only give the end away.

12 – Lost in Translation – apparently, this is a film that you’ll either love or hate. I hated, though at the time I was jetlagged and bored on a plane, so watching a film about jetlag and boredom wasn’t the best choice. I would like to see it again.

11 – Alien. Hah, I recognized this from a tiny clip because I’ve seen the cat-bit repeatedly for my film studies coursework. I actually found it disappointing. I lost the significance of playing around with perceptions of who would survive, because now everyone knows which character will make it through fivehundred sequels. It “created the conventions of horror or something”, which means it now seems clichéd in light of its imitators. I can pick up on the cinematic tricks which make it claustrophobic and great, but not appreciate them. Apparently it caused people to vomit and faint when they first saw it, which seems somewhat extreme. Empire voted the chest-burst bit their most extreme 18-rated moment. And despite being one of the most easily scared people ever, the film didn’t really affect me at all. Not so Aliens, which I had pretentiously assumed I’d like less, which was a lot scarier and more effective for it.

10 – Manhattan – pfeugh, nothing to say. The most romantic film ever made about falling out of love.

9 – Donnie Darko – Oh yeah! And they’re showing that wonderful tracking shot through the school. And the girl who plays Gretchen is being interviewed, and she’s gorgeous in real life. She’s wearing a grey hat that really brings out her eyes.

8 – A Bout de Souffle - “at the film’s climax…” – luckily, I already know what happens here…from another program of this ilk which believed it should trudge out the revitalized-cinema-French-New-Wave and then spoil it.

7 And today’s best Hitchcock is North by Northwest. End sermon.

6 – 2001:A Space Odyssey – wonderful, and proof that my argument that a good film needs sympathetic characters and an emotional core is actually tripe. 2001 has neither, but it’s the dictionary definition of well directed. It has no cheap tearjerk moments, but it still stirs the emotions – six hours of 100% wow. Well perhaps not quite six. Feels like six at times. They’ve got a comment from Steven Spielburg, but I recognize the interview – it’s the same archive footage of him talking which they trudge out every time. It’s like they got him in that one room for a week and asked him every conceivable question about life, the universe and everything, so they’ve always got a soundbite, whatever the occasion. “And now here’s director Steven Spielburg and his opinion on cheese…”

5 – Sexy Beast – nevereard of it, but it looks very very good.

4- Chinatown – well, I’ve sound muted just in case, and I’m now anticipating a clip of the That One Fact, and somebody informing us that actually yes, the director is the guy with the knife, while we smile as if we didn’t know. I’ve been directed to look away, so that’s what I’m doing. Dum di dum. Seems like we’re not going to get a mention of the nose after all, which is quite curious really…

3 – City of God…they make up for it by reminding us that yes, he hired his cast from deprived areas. I’ve sound muted again, this time at the request of me dad, but it looks like a right barrel of laughs.

2 – The Apartment – so we’re almost at the end. It’s gotta be Spielburg, surely? Dad reminds me that we’ve already seen a snippet of Apocalypse Now. Spoil the surprise…this film is on Total Film’s list, and as I haven’t seen it, I’ve nothing to say.

1 – Apocalypse Now. I was a bit ho-hum towards this when I saw it last year. I rewatched it a few weeks ago and blown away. It’s crazy, and by the end you feel crazy too. “We’re all mad here…” the Mad Hatter tells Alice, and the slow journey downriver is similar to hers, with a cast of supporting characters who are variously crazy, insane, batty and missing a few upstairs. And then there’s Kurtz, who we’re told has gone mad. No suprises there, but then at times he seems like the sanest person of the lot. Is this the best film ever made? Obviously not, there’s no such thing. But it’s a fair candidate for the shortlist.

Films seen: 15 and a half (Black Narcissus, although arguably I also deserve a point for having seen some Marx brothers, as they are all pretty samey)

Snippets sound muted: 8. Funny, it felt like more. Praps my counting is out.

This is definitely a list I would like to watch through - the ones from the list I've seen are all worthy to be there, and I'd recommend to anyone; of the ones I haven't, they seem universally intriguing. Just because lots of people think a film is good, doesn't mean they're wrong. But the lack of predictable choices makes this a better list, because you don't get the sinking feeling of deja vu when you realise The Godfather's going to win again. I adore it, but oh do I get bored.

Yeh. That's it. What do you lot think of it as a list? The title is so wide that you can't point to omissions in the same way you can a "bestofs" list. All that's left to say is Oxfam were selling Young Guns II, The Game, The Fisher King and Undercover Blues as 2nd hand videos. I'll leave you to wonder why I was so desperate to get me hands on a copy of the latter until we watch it...


Will said...

You really should watch Three Colors when you can, they are great films. And I would suggest seeing them pretty close together. And pay attention to the main characters reaction/emotions and such at the end of each film.

Catherine said...

I was watching that last night as well. Anything to avoid studying...

I'd only seen very few of them, but I was delighted that my favourite was there, All About Eve. I tried to stay up to watch Apocolypse Now, but it was too late and I ended up crawling into bed just after the Wagner scene. I'm planning to rent it later on this week when school's finished for the summer.

Don't lists like this just make you feel very unknowlegable about film? So many films to watch..

Rob said...

Not a bad list, though lacking in Scorsese (GoodFellas, Raging Bull or Taxi Driver show his range better than KoC).

48. Aguirre: The Wrath of God - Should be higher. I saw this when I was eight and it scared the bejeezus out of me. I've seen it six or seven times since. On a list like this, Fitzcarraldo should perhaps take its place. It goes down a river too AND it drags a boat over a mountain. Search out a copy of either, both are brilliant. Make sure you don't see the dubbed version of Aguirre though, it's nearly unwatchable.

47. Brazil - certainly deserves it place too. I much prefer this to Twelve Monkeys which I was slightly disappointed in. Gilliam's non-MP stuff is a bit of a mixed bag. Jabberwocky was terrible, Time Bandits wasn't much better, Tideland was very interesting but had a terrible ending and Fear and Loathing was great.

44. Raising Arizona - Not sure about this one. I thought RA was great and everything but over Fargo?

42. Dawn of the Dead - Excellent choice, though I would have expected Night of the Living Dead to be above it, as it really started it all.

40. King of Comedy - I mentioned this one before and I stand by what I said. It's a great movie but certainly not as influential as some of Scorsese's other work, and perhaps more indicative of his range rather than his talent.

38. Mulholland Drive - A little overrated, but I should probably give it another watch. Eraserhead is amazing though. Easily in my top three movies. MD was my first David Lynch and it was a good introduction but hunt down Eraserhead and see it in the quietest and darkest environment you can. It's phenomenally good.

36 & 35. Fight Club and The Ladykillers - Both good choices, the former more so. Ladykillers wasn't quite as hilarious as I hoped it would be but was still a decent romp and my only Ealing so far.

33. Three Colours Trilogy - I only ever saw Blue, which was a major letdown. I have seen two others of Kieslowski since then: A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love. These are both 70-ish minute movies cut from footage of the Dekalog. The latter is decent but the former is fantastic.

32, 31, 30. Terminator 2, Scarface & All About Eve -
I haven't seen T2 for years but I remember the kid being whiny and most of the movie being pretty darn swell. Scarface is a magnificent piece of trashy over the top cinema. Al Pacino gives one of his best performances, his best loud one at any rate. A companion piece somewhat, though this doesn't do it justice, is the criminally underrated Carlito's Way. Sean Penn is wonderful and Luis Guzman is in it and that's always a plus. All About Eve I only saw a few weeks ago. A must see, the dialogue is marvellous as are all the main actors. Marilyn Monroe has a great cameo in it too.

29. Pink Flamingos - This is the only film that I say should be on every "Films before you die" list. Anyone who claims to love film should be forced to sit through this to understand what the medium can create. It's nearly impossible to call it art but it's essential viewing. The uncut version, which is what I saw, is banned here and you can almost see why.
An extreme close up of an injection into a lady's parts, a chicken being killed on screen during a sex scene and one fellow lip-synching to a song using his...uh....outhole.
It also contains some hilarious dialogue, most of which doesn't seem funny mainly due to the mood it creates. This is film is only seen for one reason and it certainly isn't its technical merits. Just make sure you have a strong stomach. Oh, and for the record, the eating of the dog turd is easily not the worst thing in the movie.

27. The Breakfast Club - Probably my favourite teen movie, although I don't have huge experience with the genre. Hilariously dated in some respects but still a great watch.

26 & 25. Hero and Trainspotting - I don't have much to say on either film. Hero I saw on a big screen and was great. Trainspotting was decent but I had huge expectations for it and was a little let down.

23. A Night at the Opera - I've seen a few Marx Brother's films and this one is towards the bottom of the pile. Far too many irrelevant musical numbers. Duck Soup is incomparably better, as is the hugely underrated Monkey Business. I saw them when I was only just breaching double digits and thought both were hilarious. As I got older I began to get the slightly dirtier jokes and gained a greater appreciation of the Marx Bros. humour.

15. Pulp Fiction - For me: Reservoir Dogs > Jackie Brown > Pulp Fiction > Kill Bill: Volume 1 > Kill Bill Volume 2. Although I liked all of them, there were only moments of interest in KB:V2 and could never really sustain any momentum.

13. Shawshank Redemption - The slickest cineglossing ever put to celluloid. Wonderfully entertaining, however.

11. Alien - I need a rewatch. I saw it in cinema during the Director's Cut Re-release but that was years ago when I was much younger and all I remember is the chestburster.

10. Manhattan - Terribly pretentious but still great Allen. The last shot is one of my favourites and is right up there with others like City Lights as my favourite closing shot.

9. Donnie Darko - Another film I had great expectations for and on most fronts delivered. I remember having a few problems with it when I saw it but I can't remember what they are now, so I should probably slot it in for a rewatch

7. North by Northwest - Classic Hitchcock, though not even in my Top 5 of his work (That being Rope, Psycho, Vertigo, The Wrong Man and Shadow of a Doubt. All the key moments are so engrained in general pop culture that the effect of things like the cropduster and the Rushmore chase are nearly lost. In general "must see before you die" terms, Psycho should have taken this spot.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey - My favourite Kubrick film. I had the luck to see the film on a big screen with the actors who played the astronauts in it (Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood) and also attend a Kubrick exhibition a year or two ago which had original props like HAL and the monkey suits.

4. Chinatown - Another classic. I'll take L.A. Confidential over this any day of the week but this is much more iconic.

3 & 2. City of God and The Apartment - Another pair of small disappointments, although I do plan on giving the latter a rewatch. Sunset Blvd. still takes pride of place as my favourite Wilder but The Apartment certainly had its merits. CoG was easy to respect but much harder to enjoy. It was an ugly movie, intentionally so, but still - it was hard to find anyone to sympathize with.

Finally, 1. Apocalypse Now - Again only a recent view but its made its impact. I saw the REDUX and can agree with nearly every critic in saying that the French plantation scene adds absolutely nothing to the movie and maybe even detracts from the whole experience. The last bit may be on of the greatest scenes ever made.

27/50. Not a bad effort. If you haven't seen any Herzog try and track down Aguirre. You won't regret it.

Ninquelosse said...

Catherine ~ dude, if you haven't seem Apocalypse Now, get it as soon as poss! It's currently my vote for "best film ever made" after seeing it again recently.

48. What? And deprive Herzog as his position of favourite-director-whose-films-I-haven't-seen?!

47. I saw 12 Monkeys first, when I was quite young and didn't know what to expect. It really blew me away. I felt a bit unsatisfied with it when I rewatched the first half recently though...I had to switch it off - there's nothing worse than falling out of love.

44. I was very young when I saw Fargo, so I really didn't appreciate it. I would like to rewatch it though, as it is supposedly great. I think this list was trying to stretch the limits of what most people would have seen - Fargo has a pretty average set up (you've probably seen films a _bit_ like this before...), whereas Raising Arizona...well, come on...

33. I meant to watch Dekalog over the summer holidays...haven't got around to it yet

15. I agree with you pretty much exactly on the tarantino. Actually, actually exactly (but I haven't got around to seeing KB2 either.). Good call!

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