Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Treasures of film

Right. Not enough people are making comments. You’re all being far too sensible. I’m currently devoting all my efforts to community participation, and you are going to be the victims of my enthusiasm. So here is a proper singalonga blog entry. “Join in, everyone, Kumbayaaaaa....”

I love that each of us is a little world made cunningly. I love that I and you are unique dishes, sweet or savoury, made up of the ingredients of our past, our character, our attitudes, what we have heard and read and seen, and every huge and tiny thing that has happened to us. It isn’t just love and work and living on different continents that make me what I am- it’s Annie Dillard, and my primary school teacher Miss Moore, and chocolate buttons, and Philip Larkin’s ‘Born Yesterday’ too. And for me, my sense of humour and romance and wonder has been heavily influenced by films.

B and I were watching Amelie the other night and I thrilled again at that wonderful opening, where people are introduced not by their jobs and relationships, but by what they like and don’t like doing: that sensual hand plunging into the sack of beans, the hoover nuzzling into the handbag’s grubby corners. So much more intriguing. Such potential for delighting in people’s oddities.

Is it just me? I find myself remembering (and quoting annoyingly from) films often when an incident amuses, angers or impresses me. The funny thing is, it’s not necessarily from favourite films- it’s those genius single ideas, sometimes right in the middle of a heap of old tripe. So I am going to start with ten of my absolute favourite film moments, and then I hope you will add yours in 'comments' and make us all laugh, sigh, or discover new film treasures from each other.

Heart-stoppingly romantic
The end of “A Very Long Engagement”. The only war film I have ever loved. It holds such difficult emotions and macro/ micro views together. But that final moment: “and she looked at him, and she looked at him, and she looked at him...” – I choke up now remembering it, and I only saw it once, years ago. So many war films brutalise the viewer, because that is easier; to be true to war and yet retain a sense of hope, that’s fragile and fantastic.

Most depressing
There are whole French directors’ oeuvres vying for this crown. I am going for the final death in ‘Manon des Sources’, where I very nearly managed suicide before the numerous characters did. It’s one of those films that I know I should think is brilliant, but actually has me paging through the Radio Times looking for re-runs of ‘Allo Allo’.

Vicariously satisfying
“Groundhog Day”- the insurance salesman, Ned Ryerson, played by the incomparable Stephen Tobolowsky (best ever date scene too, in Sneakers- “breakfast- shall I phone you, or nudge you?!”). Bill Murray in his endlessly repeating day, slowly developing coping strategies for Mr Infuriating, right up to the smile, the bright “Ne-ee-ee-d Rrrrrrrryerson!” and the magic fist. Ahhhhhhhh! The day the Snappy Comeback comes true.

You’ll never see reality the same (frivolous)
The tannoys at the beginning of Airplane, where the white zones and the blue zones get into a war of supremacy. Oh, and the cult members with their flowers. Oh yes, and the drinking problem. For such utter candyfloss, it has remarkable staying power. I never have seen an airport terminal in quite the same light.

You’ll never see reality the same (serious)
The night scene in Morecambe Bay in “Ghosts” by Nick Broomfield. I guess it’s hard to ignore migrant labour here in Aishalton, with our population vacuum between 16 and 40. Chinese illegal migrant workers in the UK are the tip of the iceberg. Every time I pay £3 in Aishalton for a bottle of rubbishy bargain VO5 shampoo which is 99p in Superdrug, I become more uncomfortably aware that we in the West are ripping food out of the mouths of the poorest and their children, with our subsidised lifestyle. The sad thing is that the film has no answers, and neither do I. Blame globalisation, sure, but who IS that? The buck stops on peoples graves, not in the pockets of the rich. Maybe we can’t do much, but we have to do something for somebody, anybody, or despair will cauterise us. Yes, it’s that kind of film.

Best musical moment
In Amadeus, where the brat Mozart is sparkily describing the slow movement from the Serenade for Nine Winds to Salieri, and that clarinet is followed by the oboe soaring in as if life can never go wrong again, promising to solve and satisfy and set unchangeably in order, and Salieri understands that this man cannot be outshone- he can only be crushed.

Most cringeworthy
John Clees in almost anything, but I do have a soft spot for 'A Fish Called Wanda' ’s love scene where the flat owners arrive back with their small children to find him naked, brandishing dreadful Y-fronts, and he recognises them from high society, so they chat brightly about garden parties, gymkhanas and small worlds whilst all but the children do an emperor’s new clothes. But to be fair, it’s also hard to beat the moment in ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ when she asks the Afrikaans champion swimmer sympathetically, ‘Are you black?’.

Most brilliant gift
I don;t think there's any contest for this one. 'Stranger than Fiction'- the “I brought you flours” moment, when he makes his declaration of love to the baker.

Most intriguing film facelift
‘The Philadelphia Story’ mutating tidily into ‘High Society’. A story of a woman with a brain and tongue like caustic soda divorcing a violent alcoholic, turned into a pretty musical with a saintly pairing of Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby. Butter would definitely not melt. Sixteen years previous, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart and Cary Grant sizzle dangerously. Post-McCarthy censorship blandified zingy hot sauce into sweet ketchup.

Best biopic
‘Il Postino’- what a brilliant ellipsis to have a biopic of Pablo Neruda where he isn’t the main character. He appears and later vanishes, leaving lives altered, but not mattering absolutely. How much does poetry really matter? Is the main character right to act on it? His wife certainly doesn't think so.

So there's some from me! Your turn!


  1. I haven't seen a lot of these! but here are mine
    Heart-stoppingly romantic:
    in 'Animal Attraction', the heroines sister has had a miscarriage after a long time trying for a baby and is in hospital. She looks dreadful, both her and hubby are devastated at losing the baby. He comes into the room, looks at her and says 'look at my wife, isn't she the most beautiful woman in the world.' Best line in the whole movie
    Depressing: I agree with yours!
    Vicariously Satisfying: the final scene in Dangerous Liaisons
    Never see the same, frivolous: The training scene in Spies Like Us
    Never see the same, serious: The self seeking corruption in prison systems, both Shawshank Redemption, and Papillion
    Best musical moment: not beautiful, but iconic-the Jaws theme!
    Most Cringeworthy: Disney's Snow White, the whole thing!
    Best Gift: The one piece of splintered wood for the door at the end of Monster's Inc. cheesy but there it is!
    Most Intriguing Film Facelift: I am not sure if this fits the category properly but the 2 Bond films with Timothy Dalton, where the Bond character was changed due to the massive AIDS scare in the mid 80's. A good clean Bond doesn't work somehow...
    I can think of a best biopic, so instead I will add my own category:
    Most Tasteless moment: Camp-fire scene, Blazing Saddles. Sorry, gotta be done!

  2. Well since you asked!

    Heart stoppingly romantic: The last scene of Before Sunset. After the criminally open ending of Before Sunrise who can resist the equally open ending of Before Sunset?! Every time I watch it, it takes me some time to get that little smile on Ethan Hawke’s face as he watches Julie Delpy dance around the room to the glorious soundtrack of Nina Simone. I get shivers just thinking about it. Thank you for that one Sarah! :)

    Most Depressing: The Black Dahlia. A stunning modern Film Noir! Set in the appropriate period with all the hallmarks of a Film Noir and just as devastating and crushing a finish as the old classics.

    Vicariously satisfying: The final scene in Stage Beauty.

    You’ll never see reality the same, frivolous: The cheating scene in Spies Like Us. I can’t picture anything else when I’m sitting in exams! I long for someone to come into the exam with an arm in plaster and an eye patch someday!

    You’ll never see reality the same, serious: The same as mum actually. Shawshank Redemption and all the corruption it shows in the system.

    Best Musical Moment: The moment that the curtain is moved and everyone sees that the source of Lina Lamonts fabulous voice is actually Kathy Seldon in Singin’ In The Rain. Pure celluloid fabulousness delivered in stunning Technicolour!

    Most Cringeworthy : I’m afraid I’m going have to lower the tone and go for the love scene in Team America. I don’t think I need to say anything else!

    Most Brilliant Gift: The flower that John Thornton gives Margret Hale at the end of the TV series of North and South. Although I’d be tempted to agree with Sarah and go Stranger than Fiction. Awesome film.

    Most Intriguing Flim Facelift: Any of the countless versions of Austen’s novels. Each one, although the same in the basics, brings something new to the novels whether I actually think they are good or not I can always cosy down with one and enjoy every carefully choreographed second.

    Best Biopic: De-Lovely, with the ever wonderful Kevin Kline as Cole Porter, a brilliant musical which doesn’t ignore all the hard things in his life but manages to stay positive using Cole Porter’s awesome music.

    Now enough of this frivolity I must finish that assignment!

  3. Primarily I should highlight that this is Sarah (stephen's wife) and not Stephen himself who probably wouldn't be so girly in film taste... Here you are!

    Heart stoppingly romantic:

    The final scenes of The Notebook.

    Most Depressing.
    Final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth. Very poignant.

    Vicariously Satisfying.
    Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn (it's got to be Gone With the Wind)

    You'll never see reality the same (frivolous)
    The Matrix. Great for absurd paranoia.

    You'll never see reality the same (serious)
    To Kill a Mockingbird. I saw it fairly young and was profoundly shaken by it.

    Best Musical Moment...
    I have hundreds of favourites, this is mean! Hmmm. Breakfast at Tiffany's: Moon River.

    Most Cringeworthy:
    The Hangover. I think of myself as wolf without a pack. and now you can be in my pack. ARRRRGH! (the urge to scream and break the tension was unbelievable)

    Most brilliant gift:
    Notting Hill. The portrait by Chagall and the two wonderful lines: "Happiness isn't happiness without a violin playing goat" and: "After all... I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her."

    Most Intriguing Film Facelift:
    The new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Depp as Willy Wonka; having grown up with the old version. Weirdly wonderful and far truer to Dahl.

    Best Biopic:
    Walk the Line, Johnny Cash. I don't know how faithful it was but I really enjoyed it and I sincerely doubt how faithful any film/documentary/biopic is to the truth anyway...

    Hope you're well, lots of love

    Sarah xxx

  4. right... Well, this is stephen for real this time, and therefore the film choices will be less girly (I hope!)

    Heart stoppingly romantic:
    I am going to be terribly dull I'm afraid and agree with Fab 1, A very long engagement.

    Most depressing:
    The ending of the International, Where both the lead characters pass through torment and despair and it makes no difference whatsoever

    Vicariously Satisfying:
    I Robot, the epitome of the I TOLD YOU SO moment.

    You'll never see reality the same (frivolous)
    Airplane, for so many reasons...

    You'll never see reality the same (serious)
    I would put shawshank I think, but almost everyone else has, and so I think I will put the Usual Suspects, with the ever fantastic Kevin Spacey in the lead. I don't know if it quite classes as serious, but it is certainly unique.

    Best Musical Moment...
    Possibly the final credits of the Return of the King, which capture all that is bitter-sweet about the ending and bring me to the brink of tears every time.

    Most Cringeworthy:
    I think I am going to have to be boring, and agree with my wife, although for me it was the Chinese guy in the Hangover that made me cringe!

    Most brilliant gift:
    really stuck at this one, but I think I going to go with the granting of Godlike powers to Bruce, because it is hilarious and eventually teaches a moral lesson, what more can you want!!

    Most Intriguing Film Facelift:
    The new vs old Battlestar Galactica. A really interesting transformation from a film to a tv series. The old being a wonderful late 1970s sci-fi and the new being a slick re-imagining which, in a totally nerdy way, I could get very into! (must not buy resultant TV series'...)

    Best Biopic:
    Downfall (Der Untergang) which is a fabulous depiction of the final 10 days of Nazism, and a particularly accurate depiction of Hitler.Also Man on Wire, which is almost, but not quite, as loony as the book! (If I was going to cheat and have a TV show, I would also add Band of Brothers here, which is the most accurate depiction of World War 2 I have ever seen, is amazingly produced and had a budget which most films would be envious of.)

    There we go, well I should really get back to the ever barren UK jobs market.
    Lots of love

  5. Well here goes, it has taken me a long time to think this through, so here it is....
    Although it maybe seen as cheesy the moment in Notting Hill when Hugh Grant's character realises he passed up the chance to be with his real love and the chase through London that follows.

    Most depressing...
    I have difficulty here because I tend not to watch depressing films, although for a moment that took my breath away as being unexpected the twist near the end of Pay it Forward, watch it if you haven't seen it!!!!

    Vicariously satisfying...
    Have to agree with Steve and go for I, Robot

    Again most agree with Steve, Airplane, but that's not important right now!

    The Shawshank Redemption

    Best musical moment....
    The Producers, that moment on the roof top singing "Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop"

    Most brilliant gift...
    Again Steve beat me to it here, with God giving Bruce his powers

    Film Face lift...
    The change that takes place from the original Italian Job to the new one is interesting to say the least!

    I think that for me Martin Scorsese's film that reveals the reality of Mafia power in NY in the 60's and 70's Good Fellas, which is based on the life of a real ex Mafia hood is a real eye opener

    Well there you have it, my considered opinion, although I am drawn to Esther's added category and the movie she added Blazing Saddles, what more can you say!!!!

  6. Off the cuff, ...Romantic - hmm, Merchant Ivory's Room with a View an old favourite, also really liked the quirky, unusual love story in Le Gout des Autres, it has a lot of charm and humour, subtle end scene after a huge falling-out where she sees him in the audience and realises...ahhhh..of course, The Princess Bride "As...You...Wish!"...and from the early 90s 'Jack and Sarah', very sweet.

    Music: Three Colours Blue for the Zbigniew Preisner score (I remember Jess liked this film but it wasn't your cuppa!); also loved the music for the film Sense and Sensibility, and the Marianne Faithfull song "Who will take my dreams away?" in Girl on the Bridge. Love this film.

    Satisfying - Little Miss Sunshine of course, especially the 'dance' scene at the end! (another wonderful score, by DeVotchka); agree Dangerous Liaisons (the Malkovich / Close / Pfeiffer version) is astonishingly good on so many levels; the end of 80s "Working Girl" where Melanie Griffith tells Sigourney Weaver to get her bony ass out of her office...

    Best Gift - Sarah Jessica Parker's present of a photo to Diane Keaton at the end of The Family Stone, touching and appropriate after an entire film of cringey gaffes and personality clashes...

    Reality-altering, for imaginative power, anything by the anime director Hayao Miyazaki, especially "Spirited Away" and "Howl's Moving Castle", also Pan's Labyrinth (though I know you weren't keen on it)...also David Mamet's mesmerising but rather dark 80s "House of Games". His wife played the lead and she divorced him later, I'm sure the casting had something to do with it.

    Cringe-worthy, anything with Hugh Grant, or directed by the cloyingly smug and sickly Richard Curtis. Most romcoms fall into this category - love the idea, but very few actually work, must be a chemistry thing with the leads. Agree French films can be totally depressing as well as brilliant (though Ridicule by Patrice Leconte is a charming and wonderful exception!)- for most depressing / romantic definitely The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - and worst film ever is "Germinal", so depressing, set in a depressed oppressed French 19th century village where it is always raining. After killing their feudal overlord, everyone falls down a coal mine and dies. Come to think of it, Lars von Trier isn't a happy bunny either.

    Most annoying - Ralph Fiennes abandoning Kristin Scott Thomas in the desert - "Don't leave her in the cave, you berk!" in The English Patient, and, generally, the abomination that was Moulin Rouge, and anything with the eminently punchable Jude Law.

    Something different that made me laugh, years ago, and Sylvia too years later when I got the DVD - "Les Visiteurs" starring Jean Reno - yes, I have a simple sense of humour! Gentle balance of suspense and comedy, love the main theme, unusual and endearing.

  7. and from Ruth who is at Esther's computer having not yet worked out how to comment:
    most romantic has to be Strictly Ballroom or the Ken'n'Em Much Ado. Always leaves a goofy grin on my face
    most annoying well the list is VEEERRRYY long. I'll go with The English Patient for now
    Cringeworthy: is it still raining? I hadn't noticed! at the end of the ghastly Andie's tart in 4 weddings
    Reality altering: Men in Black (1) not the most serious but still, one of the few films I reach the end of and wish there was more. And no, MIB 2 isn't as good.
    Best gift - will get back to you. Loving the Monsters inc wood chip but hate not to have an idea of my own.
    Satisfying: sliding doors. I like cheese too.
    Depressing: Manon and Schindlers list, tho the latter has the merit of being deliberately rather than gratuitously awful.
    Romantic: Room with a view
    One Not To Watch With PARENTS: Good Will Hunting
    Just brill: Catch me if you can. The Terminal.

  8. Erm. I was already aware that I had seen almost no films in the last four years (two harry potters, Juno and Nightmare before Christmas in 3d... hang my head). I hadn't realised that I've forgotten almost everything about the ones I have seen.I might have to reboot my brain before I can contribute to this. Or wait until I've seen some more films. Oh dear.

  9. OK, here goes:

    Heart-stoppingly romantic
    It's not strictly speaking romantic, but the scene at the end of Lost in Translation when Bill Murray whispers something into Scarlett Johanssen's ear in the street. A lovely way to end a lovely film.

    Most depressing
    Quite a lot of 1984 (the film, not the entire year). The system always wins in the end.

    Vicariously satisfying
    Yep, loved Groundhog Day. I'm not sure I can improve on this suggestion.

    You’ll never see reality the same (frivolous)
    Ah yes, the amazing Airplane. Surely you can't be serious.

    You’ll never see reality the same (serious)
    A recent film, so I don't know whether it has made it to the Aishalton Multiplex yet, District 9. On the surface it's about aliens living in a slum in Johannesburg. Essentially it's about apartheid, and about dispossessed people generally.

    Best musical moment
    The title song from Fame, when they are dancing in the street. I can't help grinning from ear to ear after watching that scene.

    Most cringeworthy
    I was beaten to it, but "is it still raining? I hadn't noticed" was just soooo awful.

    Most brilliant gift
    Howard's End, because she understood what the house meant.

    Most intriguing film facelift
    I'm kind of stumped on this one. It is rare for a new version of a classic to work in the same way (recent examples include Planet of the Apes, The Italian Job, The Taking of Pelham 123 - none of them lived up to expectation). Ah, got one. The new Star Trek film, which really has revived the franchise I think

    Best biopic
    I haven't seen it for many years, but Ghandi made a big impression on me. Must watch it again.

    Well done Sarah on getting people to put their thinking caps on. Apologies for the drought of comments recently. I will try to get back into the habit :o)