Thursday, August 05, 2010

More of My Cult

A bit back I wrote about some of my favorite movies. Wasn't that something? Looking back, it seems I left out a few, so here's a new installment. More might follow. Ya-hoo?


Mike Leigh, baby! I've tried to watch some of his other movies—most notably Life is Sweet—but never really cared as much about them as I have this dark little oddity. In 1993 this movie played at the 3 Penny, a shitty little theater that is no more. I had the experience of seeing this film there and then, and, as I walked out the nasty, sticky, humid theater, I found that I had no voice. People were talking about the film ("Brilliant," "Too dark," "Too angry," "What the fuck was that?"); some turned to me for my thoughts. I had nothing to say. What could I possible say about the movie? Yes, it was (is) dark and Johnny, the protagonist, boarders on being irredeemable, but it is not, as has been said, nihilistic. When Johnny mentions god to Brian, the overnight security guard with whom he engages in a, um, spirited discussion, Brian accuses him of not believing in god. Johnny responds: "Of course I believe in god." Sure, he goes on to describe god as a nasty bastard who despises his creation, but the very belief in something outside ourselves negates any criticism of nihilism. So there.

Go back and watch the film, but before you do so, read this interview: It makes it seem all the more amazing. There is no doubt in my mind that David Thewlis 's performance as Johnny is the finest acting I'll ever see in a movie. It just can't be topped.

Heavenly Creatures

Another one that silenced me. I was already familiar with the work of Peter Jackson when this hit the big screens. As a result, I expected something like Bad Taste or Dead Alive—both great films if you have the stomach for them (Bad Taste has a scene that makes me turn away)—but this was nothing like those. Though there are no zombies or aliens, and the blood is at a minimum, the movie is pure Peter Jackson pre Lord of the Rings. I remember one of my friends saying that this movie was the equivalent of having a bone ground into your skull. I never knew how to take that, but it seems apt. While far from lurchingly paced, the film movies at its own speed, paying off in ways that continue to surprise me. That bone is forced into your head in a relentless manner that leads you to an inevitable, painful conclusion. That's filmmaking! Seriously, everything about the film, even the computer effects, feels organic to me. I don't get the impression that anymore exists. I've never watched this DVD, though if I did I would not want to see any special features. Often the extras ruin movies for me. I still think of movies as magic, and I don't always want the secrets revealed. Any cut scene, any "this is how we did that," any interview with the cast, any comparing and contrasting of the story with the truth would kill it.

The Third Man

The link from the first on this list and the second was the fact that both films left me speechless. The link here is clear if you've seen Heavenly Creatures, as the characters go to see The Third Man and then see Orson Welles following them home. From the moment I first saw this to the last time I watched it I have been convinced that it is better than most else. It has been suggested that the whole thing works as a metaphor for American vs. European attitudes, especially post WWII, which I am willing to accept. Most folks will direct you to Welles's famous "cuckoo clock" speech, but for me the whole thing centers on Joseph Cotton, a hack writer of Western novels, trying to field a barrage of questions about modernist literature from Austrian intellectuals. It shows him in over his head and somehow managing to swim. That's a lot of the movie right there.

What else? The look of the thing is incredible. The story, the characters, the acting, all top notch. Even the music is perfect. It is funny, dramatic, has a love story, crime, murder... you know all reasons why we watch movies.

Time Bandits

For a long, long time, this was my "favorite movie" though that was replaced by Big Trouble in Little China during a rather unproductive summer in front of HBO. I wanted to be Kevin, simple as that. I wanted to travel through time and get in adventures, only I might have been more apt to steal then Kevin was, and I didn’t want my parents to end up the way his did, although to this day it remains my favorite film ending—up there with Chinatown. Watching this recently, I was amused by The Supreme Being's answer to the question about why we need evil in the world. "I think it has something to do with free will." Thank you, Mr. Gilliam.