Saturday, 15 November 2008

My Top 10 Films...well 10 and a half...Okay 11!

I thought that since I'll be writing a lot about film here I should make it clear what sort of thing I'm into. I studied film at uni but, trust me, I'm well aware that a good film and an enjoyable film aren't always the same thing. So here are my favourite films, ones that make me feel good when I watch them as opposed to give me a headache as I try to over analyse them, although some of these films are amazing and are really critically acclaimed.

In no particular order.

1) The Crow
This film was one of my first obsessions. I covered my walls in posters and photos from it and still have some really rare merchandise. I also have a tattoo of the crow from the film poster on my back and Brandon Lee's Chinese name on my wrist, so it really is very important to me. It was the first film that ever 'spoke' to me. I was around 14 when I first saw it and at the time felt like a complete outsider and freak. To find a film that was dark, not really mainstream and based on a
comic book that in itself was influenced by bands like Joy Division, felt like a huge wake up call, it was what I had been waiting my whole life for! I wouldn't feel like that again for another 10 years and I heard the music of My Chemical Romance.

Brandon Lee died making the movie and there's certainly an eerie feel to the whole film, it's about a guy who comes back from the dead to get revenge for the rape and murder of his fiancee and since Lee was due to get married a few weeks after he died it colours the way you watch the film.

I really recommend you see this film but first you should read the graphic novel. James O'Barr tells the most hearbreaking love story in those pages and gives you an education in music and poetry at the same time.

2) Sunset Boulevard

Made by Billy Wilder in 1950 this may be my all time number 1. It tells the story of Norma Desmond, a forgotten about silent movie star and her tragic relationship with a screenwriter. Hedda Hopper and Cecile B De.Mille play themselves, Erich Von Stroheim has a supporting role and Buster Keaton has a cameo. If more than one of these names mean nothing to you then this might not be your sort of film. They were key players in the Hollywood that I dream of, the glamorous, golden years that spanned from the 1920's to the 1950's, where scandals were hushed up but an everyday occurance for these wild, tragic beauties.

Gloria Swanson plays Norma. She's our deluded, unstable heroine and I'm sure the character was a little to close for comfort for one or two Hollywood has-beens and the industry as a whole, why else would Lois B. Mayer declare to Wilder, "You have disgraced the industry that made and fed you. You should be tarred and feathered and run out of Hollywood."

For anyone that loves the tragedy of Hollywood this film is a must see. It's a darkly beautiful American classic.

3) The Departed
The newest film on my list. What a cast, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg (in the role he was born to play), Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin (he is unbelievable in this film) and of course, the coolest man alive, Jack Nicholson. Even without this cast it would still have been amazing because it was directed by Martin Scorsese.

A remake of the Japanese film 'Infernal Affairs', which I'm ashamed to say I still haven't watched, The Departed tells the story of the police versus the mob and the two moles from each side that have to infiltrate the other. There are twists throughout and the ending is a real surprise and VERY un-Hollywood. I'll say no more though.

Winning Scorsese his long awaited and much deserved Oscar it's a gangster movie for today. I'm a gangster film freak, I adore 'Scarface', 'Goodfellas', of course 'The Godfather' and I even fell in love with 'Casino' (I want to be Ginger, what can I say?!) but this is something different, it's a new style gangster film that both people new to the genre and die-hard gangster fans can embrace.

4) LA Confidential
Another film about Hollywood scandal! Set in 1950's L.A the film was based on the James Ellroy book of the same name, part of his L.A Quartet that also includes 'The Black Dahlia'. Dealing with a corrupt police department, scandal magazines, racism, prostitution.....the list goes on, it shows Russell Crowe at his best, and one of my least favourite actresses, Kim Basinger, give an outstanding, Oscar winning, performance.

Make sure you read the book, and while you're there read the rest of the L.A. Quartet (especially 'The Black Dahlia'), there are quite a few changes so for once it doesn't really matter if you read it after you've seen the film.

5) Hostel/Dawn of The Dead
I'm torn! I've got an older brother (9 years older) so I was bought up on horror. We used to rent a video every Friday night in my house and I'd always get some U rated crap and he'd get the good stuff, the 18's. I'd sneak into his room after mine had finished and always catch the arse-end of his gore-packed film. I was never scared, I just loved it! He bought me a box set of 'Halloween' and 'Halloween 2' when I was about 8 for my birthday and there was no going back.

Now I'm normally one for Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, they're just classic horror icons and both the original 'Halloween' and 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' film are amazing horrors BUT the film student in me has reared her ugly head and to make matters worse she can't make up her mind!

'Hostel' was something new when it came out, yes there had been torture movies like this before but never on this scale, never in mainstream cinema. Everyone saw 'Hostel', it did so well it spawned a terrible sequel but also a whole new genre of film, Goreography or gore for gore's sake. With a cast of unknowns and a director with nothing but a passion for horror 'Hostel' became something special after post-modern horror films like 'Scream' took over the cinemas for far too long. Out with the all knowing winks and nods to horrors past and in with the blood and guts! There's nothing better.

On the other hand I love a zombie. Anyone that knows me will tell you I'm actually a vampire girl but vampires aren't scary, vampires are cool. Now a zombie is scary and the king of the zombie film is George A. Romero. With make-up from Tom Savini (he served in Vietnam and used what he saw over there as reference material) Romero's zombies look pretty damn sick. You can read into the film and see it as a social commentary, how society is so consumer driven (it's set in a shopping mall) that we're nothing but zombies to capitalism OR you can just sit back and enjoy the guts and brains. I do a bit of both I must admit.

So new or old? Torture or zombies? I really don't a push I think 'Dawn of The Dead', what do you think?

6) Cabaret

If you don't love Liza Minelli I can't be your friend, sorry but she's brilliant. Okay, so Judy Garland was better but the fact that she was once inside Judy Garland makes her uber-cool if nothing else does. When I heard her sing on the MCR song 'Mama' I nearly wet myself! It just so happens that Liza played Sally Bowles in one of the best musicals EVER, the only musical to feature Nazis, abortion, a bisexual millionaire and love, 'Cabaret'.

The fact that it was directed by Bob Fosse and stars Michael York and Joel Grey just adds to everything else it has going for it. Fantastic costumes, great dancing and witty songs sung with pure class. There's only one word to describe this film and it's a word I use far too much but here it is - Dark. I could also use a Sally Bowles word actually - Decadent. I'll call it darkly decadent I think.

*Sings* ' is a cabaret old chum, come to the cabaret...'!

7) Gattaca
I don't think I know anyone else that likes this film let alone loves it. It was received well by critics but never really took off with the general public. The film centers on the Ethan Hawke character of Vincent. In a time of genetic engineering, some time in the not to distant future, Vincent is an invalid who, with the help of Jude Law's valid Jerome, fakes his identity to become an astronaut.

There are two things I love about this film, the first is the production design. Although set in the future there is a classic retro (often 1950's sometimes 1920's) feel to the whole design. Sleek and clean but warm at the same time. I know nothing about design but I know what I like when I see it and this film just looks nice. I think it's the lighting but I probably need to watch it again to be sure.

The second thing I love is Jude Law....actually it's the character he plays, Jerome. I'm not going to give the plot away but the character of Jerome is so well written. He's flawed and troubled but essentially a good man. The last shot we see of this character is perfect and so moving.

8) Great Expectations
This is the second Ethan Hawke film on my list and I don't even like him that much to tell the truth, however this film is great, well I say great, I adore it, everybody else hates it and it received pretty rubbish reviews. Despite a really strong cast, a gorgeous Gwyneth Paltrow (I normally find her very plain), a brooding Ethan Hawke, a crazy Anne Bancroft and the always outstanding Robert De Niro, as well as one of my favourite directors, Alfonso Cuaron, at the helm it just didn't work for a lot of people.

You've probably noticed I like overly visual film, the script can be rubbish and the acting terrible but if it looks good I fall in love. Score is also so important to me. This film just appeals to all my senses, in a similar way to 'Gattaca' actually. Plus it's a love story and I'm a sucker for a love story. I'd really love to know what other people think of this film.

9) The Breakfast Club

I love the 80's. I love the fashion, the music and most of all the films. Nothing sums up 80's film like John Hughes and the brat-pack....well maybe high concept but no high concept film I know of had Molly Ringwald in it and she was Queen of the 80's!

I could have chosen 'Pretty in Pink' and I'm still tempted to change this but I won't and that's because although 'Pretty in Pink' has Andrew McCarthy and James Spader (even at about 6 or 7 when I first saw it I was in love) 'The Breakfast Club' has Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall and of course Molly Ringwald. That's nearly all of the brat-pack!

It's a great teen movie that knocks down the stereotype, or maybe it reinforces it, I've never quite decided but more importantly they all dance for no reason in the middle of it! Classic. It went on to influence films like 'The Faculty' and if you threw a modern soundtrack over it it would work just as well today as it did then. It also contains the worst make-over moment in movie history. Ally Sheedy should steer clear of Alice bands and eye-make-up remover at all costs.

10) Edward Scissorhands

I could never compile a list of favourite films with including a Tim Burton film. He's my favourite director and I was lucky enough to meet him and tell him he was my idol a few years back at the 'Planet of the Apes' premiere. I could have put 'Sleepy Hollow' in here, or even 'Sweeney Todd' or 'Beetlejuice' but no other Burton film makes me cry like 'Edward Scissorhands', no other Burton film has quite as much other Burton film has Vincent Price!

When I started at uni they asked us to write an essay on any film we wanted just to see how much we knew about film, I choose 'Edward Scissorhands' and I realized how much effort had gone into set and costume design, how colour is used so cleverly and how much of a fairy tale it really is.

To any teenager the character of Edward is appealling, the outsider who is thrust into the world and no matter how hard he tries just can't connect. Of course it's love that is all that matters in the end and I still sob at the end of the film everytime I see it. The soundtrack is so pretty and enchanting and trust me, one you've seen this film, you'll never look at snow the same way again.
So I've got this far and realized I've missed off a real favourite of mine so I've had to include a number 11! Sorry, I know this is the worlds longest blog entry but I just can't miss it off.

11) Marie Antoinette
This film was slated by the French and I think it was a real love or hate thing for most people. Personally I think it's a masterpiece. It doesn't show Marie Antoinette's death but that's not to say that you're not made very aware that her life is about to end near the end of the film. As the mob storm Versailles I actually had goosebumps and a lump in my throat.

The costumes and set pieces are breathe-taking (and Oscar winning in the case of the former). The sneaky shot of a Converse and of course the modern soundtrack just hightlight how Marie is really just like any teenager, it's just she's also a Queen. Sofia Coppola has a very cold feel to all of her films that I can't really put my finger on, it's very evident here but that's not to say that you can't emerce yourself in this world.

I really think in a few years this film will have a lot more fans. I also recommend you watch 'Lost in Translation' and 'The Virgin Suicides' they follow similar themes of isolation and coming of age that make them a perfect trilogy.


  1. I love your choices - with the potential exception of Marie Antoinette. I do wish Halloween had snuck in there too though....

  2. Watch Marie Anoinette again, it's a grower I swear.
    And Halloween got plenty of mentions, Michael Myers would be proud :)