Sunday, 27 November 2011

A quarter of the way

I think I really need to stop pretending this is a year long challenge!! Heck I still have two (and a half) books to read from last years 50!!

After nearly six months I am a quarter of the way through, and I doubt that I will get to the end by June. I am however going to try my damnedest and get as close as possible to the target.

On a sidenote, I was having a look at the current Top100 on the IMDB list, and while there is a lot of movement up and down the list, there are only three new films coming onto the bottom (the third Star Wars, the Last Crusade and Princess Mononoke), replacing Black Swan, Up and Gran Torino. Not sure I agree about that though.

Cinema Paradiso

Nostalgia is a very interesting concept. I've spent quite a bit of time over the last few weeks and months thinking about the past, particularly as things in the present have become a little more testing of late. A few weeks ago I spent the weekend in Aberdeen with a few friends from university. We spent time reminiscing and I looked back pretty fondly of my time as a student, and in a way wished life was as good as it was then.

The problem with nostalgia though is that it requires you to ignore all of the difficulties. It requires you to wear a pair of rose tinted spectacles, and to only see the good in everything. Thinking back I do have some regrets of things that were missed of my time at uni, and part of me does wish to go back and do it all again.

Which brings me on to Cinema Paradiso. I knew nothing about this film before it appeared on this list, in fact I hadn't even heard of it. I was a little disappointed in the fact that I only got the theatrical version of the film and not the Directors cut, although on having read up on what was cut, I'm not so sure.

The film itself is very interesting, and I do love a bit of nostalgia - particularly for something with a bit of history in it. As I said previously in a post, I would loved to have been in 1920s/30s America, I think I may add 1950s Southern Italy to that category too. It's very weird, in that I don't think I want to live in a small town now, but all of my historical fantasies have me in a small community like the one portrayed in this film.

What I'm not so fixated on here is the storyline itself. I like some of the ideas, like the need to leave the town to follow your dreams, but I'm just not convinced that the dreams were ever developed before Salvatore left. I loved the relationship between Alfredo and Salvatore, particularly when Salvatore was a young boy. I just felt that overall the storyline was a bit weak for a film in the Top 100.

It is definitely worth watching, but at the moment I am undecided about its merits. Maybe after a few weeks of reminiscing I might be in a better position to decide!

Thursday, 24 November 2011


I think Inception is one of those films that you either love or you hate. I am very much in the former camp.

Alongside the Matrix I think it is genuinely one of the smartest movie ideas ever. The idea of going inside someone's dreams in order to see what their subconscious is saying, then try to make changes to it without them realising - simply ingenious. Obviously the reality of it is completely ridiculous, how in God's name could you ever invade someone's subconscious!?!?

I am still scratching my head over some parts of the movie. In fact there are new things that crop up every time I watch the movie that make no sense to me. I still have questions of how Cobb makes it back at the end, of how if there is no gravity that the lift plummets to the ground, and why no one tries to properly make out with Ellen Page!?! This time my question revolves around how Arthur knows exactly what he needs to do when they enter his subconscious, yet everyone else struggles to remember why they are there.

Having said that I do love a movie that makes you think. There are some movies out there (even one of my favourite movies, Usual Suspects) that you can only really watch once or twice, because once you know what happens in the end it loses its magic slightly. With Inception I genuinely think I could watch it a dozen times and still have questions about the film.

Christopher Nolan is an absolute genius. The cast is brilliant, and Ellen Page is totally underrated... Definitely one to watch.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


So another Western on the list, and another involving the simply sublime Clint Eastwood. Have I been converted to the joys of Westerns yet? Not even close...

I certainly prefer this film to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is surprising considering their positions on the list. What I am struggling with is an explanation of why I prefer Unforgiven.

I suppose part of it has to come down to the film containing two of my favourite actors, in Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman. If I ever get the opportunity to cast a villain in a movie it would without a doubt be Hackman, and if you need a trusty sidekick I can't look past Freeman.

In this movie however I don't think either of them are really at their best, and it is partly down to the fact that I don't think we really get to grips with why they are doing what they are doing. Why is it that Freeman decides to follow Eastwood? He seems happy in his life, he doesn't seem desirous of the money, and indeed seems to spend most of the initial meeting trying to persuade Eastwood not to go. Similarly we never really understand why Hackman is so against violence.

Reading reviews of the film you get the idea that it demonstrates the "darkness" of the genre, and the horrific-ness of Western killings. Sure I can see that, particularly Freeman and Eastwood's response when they kill the first cowboy, or the kid's response after killing the second. What I don't see is the depth of that feeling.

The final issue I have is in the rather bizarre role played by Richard Harris. Great actor, but why is he in this movie? What possible need is there for his character?? To me it seems rather superfluous.

So I'm still not a Western fan, the movie is good, acting is good, but it's not in my Top100.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sunset Boulevard

I've always thought that I would have loved to have been alive during the early nineteenth century, and that over any other period in history would have been the one for me. Over the last few months I think that is starting to change, and it is films like this that are making me think that sometime between the 1920s and 1940s would have been an absolute thrill - particularly in Hollywood.

The story itself is not the best, in fact I would say it is quite poor in comparison to others on this list, but the ideas are brilliant. The glitz and glamour, while subtly mocked in the movie, is still breathtaking and the more I read into the writing and production of the movie the more entranced by the whole thing I become.

Norma Desmond is a little too over the top to be comfortable, but it does fit in with what the movie is trying to achieve. A prima donna ex star falling but without any realisation that the world has left her behind, does require a certain ignorance and Swanson plays it well. Holden is the typical Hollywood masculine lead - irritating, but perhaps slightly better than how current Hollywood would portray him as.

The other nice touch in the movie is how many actors portray themselves - names that I have heard but never actually seen. The mocking of Hollywood is done in such a subtle way, that these people can play themselves without needing to resort to slapstick to get across the excessive extravagance of Hollywood. Swanson even manages to mock herself with various elements of her own past being brought into the movie.

The story is a little disappointing, but the acting, the ideas and the showing of a fantastic period of Hollywood history definitely make this worthy of its Top50 status.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Forrest Gump

I started watching this movie this evening because I was in the mood for a film that would make me laugh - I had, however, forgotten just how sad it actually is.

I always find it hard when books or films try to force their characters to become important people, to end up lucky and for everything to be great in the end, irrespective of what they are trying to do. Despite this happening throughout the movie, it is done in such an innocent way that you just can't fault it.

The blending of history and fiction is done remarkably well, and you can believe that someone like Forrest could end up having done all of those things without ever realising he has done them.

I like the movie's simplicity. I like how deep down in all of it, it is a love story, and perhaps a supporter of the idea of fate. For me it makes me sad, when I try and figure out what my fate is destined to be.

A great movie, with some great acting. Definitely Top100.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Matrix

Over the last couple of years I have had the unlucky job of teaching RME at school - not so much unlucky for me I suppose but unlucky for those who were on the receiving end of my ridiculously poor knowledge of anything religious. Moral education I can just about manage, as long as it was do the exact opposite of what I was doing... we'll see how they all get on. My favourite thing however were the discussions with one class in particular about why are we here, does god exist, do we have free will to do anything, etc, etc. The best discussion out of all of them was what was real...

Which brings me to the Matrix. I defy anyone to watch this film and not question whether or not it has a grain of truth within it. As mouse questions at one point in the film, how do we know what anything tastes like?? When we see a colour what does that colour actually look like to each individual person?

This film totally freaks me out, but it is genius.

I've been told there are Christian allegories to be made here, but as I stated above I am pretty useless at spotting anything remotely religious. It does raise some great questions about the purpose of life, and what it all means. How hard is it to imagine that we are currently all existing in some form of dream state? Hell most of us seem to believe in some form of mythical being as a reason for us being here, why can't that mythical being be our own imagination?

So far this is probably one of the smartest movies on the list. It makes you think, as well as being an action packed movie - who doesn't enjoy the shoot-out in the lobby?!

For me this is a great movie, and well deserving of its top 100 status.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

North by Northwest

Despite being a big fan of the movies I tend to stray away from the old classics. I'm not really sure why though. I mean it is not as though all of my favourite movies need the latest and greatest amount of special effects. I quite like movies that are clever, and manage to allow you to spend an hour or so totally engrossed in the story-line. To me movies are about escapism, and in the days before special effects surely they had to try much harder to get that.

So as one of the first proper old movies I have watched so far in this challenge, how did it fair?

Simply put this is a great movie.

The simplicity of the plot and the way it manages to pull you through the various twists and turns is brilliant. The arrogance of Cary Grant's character holds the whole thing together beautifully, and to me at least made the film even more believable - I could actually see this happening to him!!

What surprised me most of all though was just how racy the whole film was. The scene with Grant and Saint in the train carriage is much more explicit than I ever thought a 1950s film would be.

Clearly I have got it wrong... maybe it is time to watch more of these films?!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Back to the Future

Total coincidence, but the date that Marty goes back to is the 5th of November!! very spooky...

Anyway I couldn't quite end the evening having watched one of the saddest films on the list, particularly after such a long week. So I thought I would make it up by watching one of my favourite films from childhood. I think one of the weirdest things about it though is that I hardly remembered any of it!

As far as 'kids' films go this is one of the best.

Who hasn't dreamed of the idea of being able to travel back (or forward) in time - maybe not to nearly break your mother and father up before they have got together (although in my case I wouldn't be surprised if they would have been grateful for that!!) but certainly to just see what life was like.

The film itself is not the greatest film ever made, but I still love it. The perfect film to switch off too.

The Pianist

I'm not quite sure what possessed me to watch this film at the end of an incredibly long and difficult week. It's certainly not the most cheery on the list, or one where you can just switch off.

I had in fact forgotten just how emotional this film was, so much so that I regretted starting to watch it while my pizza was getting delivered - it really isn't the sort of film you can stuff your face during.

I've spent a fair bit of time over the last few months discussing the Holocaust, and I even went on a trip to Auschwitz back in September. Which makes this film all the more harder to watch, when you see where Szpilman could have ended up, and perhaps brings home exactly how hard life must have been for the Jewish Poles in 1940s.

The film is beautifully made. Polanski has made a film that has managed to stay away from the Hollywood cliches that have dogged many of the historical movies on this list, and indeed off this list. Perhaps my favourite thing about this movie is Adrien Brody, who is so unbelievably deserving of his Oscar - his portrayal of Szpilman is just captivating.

For me perhaps the only surprising thing with this film is that it doesn't break into the Top50, and perhaps more surprising has an Arnold Schwarzenegger film above it!?!