Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Top 10 Films (Part II: 5-1)

To read Part I, click here.

5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

From the opening scene of this film, in which FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is jogging through the Virginian woods, I was hooked. The camera follows as she is pulled aside by two agents, and asked to accompany them to meet with her superior. Clarice has the job of interviewing the spine-chillingly intelligent Dr Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a former psychiatrist and cannibal - hoping that he can provide an insight into the FBI's number one wanted serial-killer: "Buffalo Bill". The film won the top 5 academy awards, best picture, director (Jonathan Demme), actor, actress, and screenplay. The mixing of crime and horror genres is probably not something new, but Demme pulls it off with such ease, leaving you hanging on the edge of your seat throughout the entire picture. Hopkins delivers his masterpiece performance, whilst only being on screen for something like 16 minutes (according to wikipedia). Ultimately it is a classic tale of hero vs villain - except in this film, you want the baddy to win.

4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

For those who know me well, they know that I love this movie - and how could you not! Personally, it is the greatest action film ever made; as it has some of the most mind-blowing special effects for its time, epic explosions, on top of a story that left me crying in my mothers arms when Arnie was lowered into the steel at the end. James Cameron has got to be one of Hollywood's great directors - a true auteur, Cameron wrote the story of the first two Terminator films and brought them to life. In my eyes, T2 is just a continuation of the story that Cameron showed us in the awesome The Terminator (1984) - featuring my favourite line in cinema history. It is when Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) first meets Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) as she is being confronted by death robot T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) - lying on the ground of the 80s disco hall 'Tech Noir', she looks up to the charming saviour as he lends her his hand as he offers, "Come with me if you want to live". That line is so poetic it makes me shiver. T2 in many ways copies a lot of the gimmicks from the first film, but most of these are what the terminators do - such as when Arnie says the aforementioned line. In saying that, T2 goes beyond what was possible in The Terminator, introducing a superior killing machine, T-1000 (Robert Patrick), sent back in time to kill John Connor (Edward Furlong) before he can lead the human resistance against the machines. The T-800 was also sent back, after future John reprogrammed it to protect he and his mother from the slick newer model. Basically, this movie fucking rules, and if you haven't seen it - shame on you.

Bond leaning on his Aston Martin DB5
3. Goldfinger (1964)

Ah James Bond, I love you. There is no other character as cool and collected as Bond - to read about my love for him, click here. When I first saw this I was probably about 8 years old, and as a child didn't understand everything that was happening. I re-watched it a couple of weeks ago with my dad (another member of the Bond fan-club), and I realised that this film is so well written, with such a complex plot that I wondered how I ever enjoyed it as youngster. So to have a film that is just as enjoyable, whether you're 8, 24 or 54, is a testament to the power of Goldfinger.  I won't give too much of the plot away, but it tells the typical Bond story of a villain, in this case Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) trying to employ some ridiculous scheme to become extremely powerful and rich. There are also of course bond girls, with Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) being one of the more memorable notches on Bond's belt. And then there's Sean Connery, who is by far the actor (out of those to play Bond - 6 to be precise) that is able to achieve a level of suaveness that the others lack.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

In an essay by film critic Roger Ebert, he postulated that 2001 could very well be a silent film, as it only uses dialogue (the first piece coming at the 25 minute mark) as plot cues for the viewer to follow the story - I couldn't agree with him more. Visuals and music are the true heroes of this film, the other being us. We are the ones that are watching the movie, and partaking in this evolutionary journey that Stanley Kubrick takes us on. From the opening scene in which we hear classical music from Richard Strauss's Thus Spake Zarathustra, showing the Earth, Moon and Sun in perfect alignment - to the Star Child looking over the Earth with the same tune, we are transfixed on the the events that are unfolding before us. The film opens with the 'Dawn of Man', showing apes sitting around a water hole drinking. A leopard kills one of them. The next day a black monolith appears, with perfect edges and a shiny surface, obviously not from nature. The apes go ape over it, creeping up to touch it and quickly backing away. The next day we see an ape sitting next to some bones, looking at them, thinking, learning. It picks one of them up and starts to move it from side-to-side, increasing the force of the movements, and eventually bashing it into the ground with great power; these scenes being inter-spliced with animals falling dead - they had learned to kill. Cut to the year 2001 and we see a space craft moving through the universe. The majority of the film takes place on the spaceship Discovery, as Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) along with one awake crew member, 3 in hibernation, and one on-board computer (HAL 9000), are on a mission to Jupiter. Even though there's not much dialogue, I think the best is between HAL and Dave; from playing chess to discussing a broken(?) part of the ship. We learn along with Dave that HAL is not to be trusted from a human point of view, and therefore must be disconnected. As Dave is disconnecting HAL, a pre-recorded video is played explaining that 18 months earlier another black monolith was found on the surface of the moon (which we saw), that was 'unexplainable' except for a beam of radiation directed towards Jupiter. The film ends with the memorable 'star gate' sequence in which Dave is taken through a wormhole somewhere beyond Jupiter, and ending up in an antique room only to watch himself decay into an old man. The last scene shows a third monolith, this time in Dave's bedroom, and as he reaches for it Kubrick cuts to the famous Star Child in a bubble. But what does it all mean??? I think when people say, "Did you get it?", in regards to a film, there are two ways you can take it. The first is understanding the plot, which is one thing; the second is to understand the themes and to interpret them however you wish. I do understand the plot, as I've seen 2001 a few times. As far as the themes go; evolution, time travel, aliens - a discussion of those goes beyond this top 10 list. In saying that, next time you see me, mention this film, and I can talk for hours.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Yolanda: [about to rob a diner] I love you, Pumpkin. 
Ringo: I love you, Honey Bunny. 
Ringo: [Standing up with a gun] All right, everybody be cool, this is a robbery! 
Yolanda: Any of you fucking pricks move, and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya! 

I would have to say that whenever I quote a movie, 85% of the time it is from this one. The reason is that this film is just so damn quotable! Quentin Tarantino has a knack for witty and catchy dialogue in his repertoire of films, and his talents are on perfect display in his 1994 Palme d'Or winning masterpiece Pulp Fiction. Tarantino defined his own genre in this film, it combines elements of comedy, drama, noir,  action - all intertwined into a beautiful movie massage. John Travolta made his comeback into "good" films (after a string of camp Look Who's Talking flops), as the gangster Vincent Vega, gaining him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Samuel L. Jackson plays Vega's crime equivalent, Jules Winnfield, in a role that pretty much typecast Jackson from that moment on (a typecast he seems to have embraced!). The plot is presented out of chronological sequence, disorientating the viewer whilst drawing them in. When I think about Pulp Fiction it's hard to define why exactly I love it so much, but I guess that's where my love comes from, it is so different to anything I've ever seen. There can be no prequel, no sequel - it is every bit an independent film as it is a Hollywood blockbuster. It is loved by many for being so true to itself and not being in the slightest bit pretentious. Film buffs and occasional movie-watchers fall in love with it's charm for different reasons, meaning that it appeals to the masses whilst still has a cult following. Thank you, Quentin.

- Russell


  1. Solid list man! You made me want to watch Goldfinger. Do you have it?

    Surprised but pleased to see Silence of the Lambs in there. That night vision scene is so creepy.

    Pulp fiction and T2 were givens.

    2001: I don't know if I'll ever understand that movie. Only seen it once but like you say its complexities run deep. Maybe when I'm a dying old man I'll finally understand its meaning and become a Star Child

  2. thanks dude! yeah I've got it, we can do a dvd swap for LOTR trilogy ;)

    To be honest, I don't fully understand 2001 either, well at least the themes anyway, the plot like I said takes a few viewings.

    Yeah I saw Silence of the Lambs on the tv the other day and it reminded me how much I loved it - it was always hovering in my 10 but when I had a good ole think about it 5 was it's rightful seat.

  3. I love me a bit of Tarrantino! (sorry just my Penrith side coming out) One of my dreams is to find a place exactly like jack rabbit slims and have a five dollar shake!

    I would never have guessed silence of the lambs would be in here, but you're right it is a great film and I should probably re-visit it, as I think I've only seen it once.

    I think I might have mentioned before the prejudice I have against James Bond as I just object to the character on principal, but I think I might be able to stomach the older movies as they're a product of their time, so maybe I'll give goldfinger ago.

  4. OMG my mom was sooo watching Pulp Fiction last nite and the rabbit slims scene was and Mia fully ordered a $5 shake and I totally wanted one toooooo!!!! Isn't that soo funny!!

    As I cbf making a milkshake, I made a milo instead mmmm millloooo