Something hidden -- go and find it;
Go and look beyond the Ranges
Something lost behind the ranges:
Lost and waiting for you. Go!

-- from Guy Maddin's CAREFUL

Being a periodic meditation on some of the more obscure outlying regions of cinema;
regarding movies that are inadequately publicized and hence, easily overlooked --
and by cinema, it is meant in the larger sense of films/tv/DVD/internet --
that might be worthy of your interest, but perhaps has escaped your notice.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Desert Island Movies

       We’re in the midst of the long Thanksgiving weekend, and there’s any of a number of blog-worthy films opening right now (I’m Not There in theaters; Paprika and Winter Kills on DVD); but since this thing is most likely read by you, dear reader, during down time at work -- and not when you’re stuffing yourself into insensibility with leftover turkey sandwiches -- it seems like just the right moment to toss off an essay, rather than a full-fledged write-up; the blogging equivalent of a TV clip show. So, what I have for you here is a list of ten, count ‘em 10 Desert Island Movies. Not necessarily my ten favorite films (because favorites are sometimes so special, that they have to be held back and savored at just the right moment); nor what I would consider the ten best (because then you have to take into account a whole host of factors -- historical context, technical proficiency, quality of performance -- all important factors in the making of a film; but not necessarily what makes them watch-able). No, all I’m taking into account here is a certain constancy of enjoyment as engendered by the movies under consideration. When you’re washed up on that proverbial desert island, with only a comfy chair, a DVD player, and a 50” widescreen plasma TV -- and hopefully enough beer and snacks to keep body and soul together till the rescue ship arrives -- which ten movies would keep you the most consistently entertained -- and diverted?

       Here’s my own list (in alphabetical order) of ten movies that I’d be willing to watch over and over again till I’m delivered from my own "uncharted desert isle":

1.) AMELIE - Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s light-hearted romantic comedy never fails to delight. Unlike most ‘chick-flix’, this one has a striking visual style, a snappy editing schema, and some sophisticated -- but seamlessly integrated -- special effects. I can’t help but note that ABC’s new series, Pushing Daisies owes an awful lot to this movie -- from it’s use of V.O. and production design, to going so far as including a track from the Amelie soundtrack (”Guilty”) in the pilot episode.

2.) BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS - Those who know me well will not be surprised to find a film by Russ Meyer on this list -- hey, at least I picked the one with the rockin’est soundtrack! Scripted by Roger Ebert (yes, that Roger Ebert), BVD just seems to get funnier with age -- if you’re not quite sure of how to properly apply the word “camp” (as in, ‘a type of humor’), take a look at this movie -- it’ll straighten you out as regards that, pronto!

3.) BOOGIE NIGHTS - This film is the great post-modern rags-to-riches story -- A Star Is Born reimagined as a series of money-shots. It’s funny -- it’s tragic -- it’s got singing, dancing, and porn stars; c’mon people, what more could you ask for?

4.) CAREFUL - Guy Maddin’s 1992 feature is his signature -- and IMHO, his best -- film. It’s a little swirling snow-globe of a movie about incest, repression (sexual and otherwise), and patricide -- did I happen to mention it’s also a comedy? I love the opening 5 minutes of Careful as much as I do any 5 minute section of any other film -- E V E R !

5.) ERASERHEAD - David Lynch’s first feature-length effort is genuinely surreal and dream-like. It’s also very, very funny, -- but I think you have to watch it at about a dozen times before that really comes through -- the first ten viewings or so, you’re just scratching your head, trying to sort it all out. After that though... -- well, I won’t say it makes sense, but certain threads come through strong, and it feels comprehensible, at some level.

6.) EVIL DEAD II - Sam Raimi’s sequel to his first feature (edited by the Bros. Coen!) is a great, big, dopey JayCee’s Haunted House of a movie, and has got to be the most successful marriage of slapstick comedy antics and no-holds-barred Horror/Gore yet committed to celluloid. Also features the most entertaining use (as of yet) of the word “Groovy” in a motion picture.

7.) THE INCREDIBLES - Brad Bird’s first pairing with Pixar is also -- as a matter of almost general agreement amongst both critics and the public alike -- the best film either has produced. If you have a child under the age of ten you’ve undoubtedly seen this, and if you haven’t... well, you should. A pitch-perfect "Hollywood” movie and every second is a joy to watch -- who cares if it’s animated? It’s as entertaining as moviemaking gets...

8.) MILLER’S CROSSING - Any Coen Bros. movie is a treat (with the unfortunate exception of this one), but Miller’s Crossing holds up particularly well to repeated viewings. It's a gangster movie; and a sort-of remake of 1942's The Glass Key -- which in itself was an adaptation of the novel by Dashiell Hammett. Every one of the Coen Bros. films has so many rich details to admire -- but this one, more than most, I think.

9.) MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 (series as a whole) - Yeah, I know -- adding a TV show that has about 175 separate episodes is decidedly cheating -- but it’s my blog, and I guess I can break the rules without getting arrested, so... Why is it on this list? Well, how can you not love a show that manages to reference Mannix, William S. Burroughs, and Cheez-Whiz, all within the same two-minute period -- and if you don’t -- well then, you are dead to me, sir and/or madam.

10.) EL TOPO - Alejandro Jodorowsky’s bizarre, allegorical, and down-right trippy “Western” is definitely dated -- but it’s also unique in world cinema - and strangely fascinating, even moving, at times. Good to watch when you want that vague “am I high?” feeling -- without the week-long depression that usually follows an actual drug experience.

       Feel free to list your own Desert Island Movies in the comments section below; whether it be ten -- or even just one.

Next post -- 11/30/07


Rich said...

10 Desert Island Movies
1) Lady from Shanghai (Welles)
2) Mickey One (Penn, Beatty)
3) "It's In The Bag" (Fred Allen, Jack Benny)
4) Seconds (Frankenheimer, Rock Hudson)
5) Phantom Lady (Siodmak)
6) Plan 9 from Outer Space
7) Force of Evil (Polonsky, Garfield)
8) D.O.A. (Mate, O'Brien)
9) Robot Monster
10) "Golden Dawn" (the only American musical that includes the IMDB keywords "human sacrifice" "Prisoner of War" "Whip" "taboo" and "2 Strip Technicolor"

Rich said...

What kind of idiot hits the "publish" button TWICE?? Oh...wait a minute...ahhhh....never mind.

grigorss said...

Hey Rich -- I went ahead and deleted your accidental re-post; but some cruel streak in me is preventing the deletion of your acknowledgment of the fact you mis-posted; What can I say? It's just the capricious whim of this here blogmeister...

I am embarrassed to say that I have only seen six of the ten movies you list, -- and all of them would make fine additions to my list, should I actually "set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert Isle" -- maybe the Professor could whip up a DVD player out of some bamboo and coconuts.

For that matter, I can't quite explain why I didn't add Robot Monster to my list as well; I watch it (and enjoy it) as much as any of the any films I listed above... For the record, the films you mention that I haven't seen are:

Mickey One -- which I've heard about for ages, but just haven't got around to tracking down yet; need to fix that soon...

It's In The Bag -- a film I know you've told me about, and it sounded great -- yes, indeedy, I see that a trip to Eddie Brandt's is in my immediate future.

Phantom Lady -- this sounds really familiar... but I'm drawing a blank.

Golden Dawn I GOTTA' SEE THIS!!!

Chris said...

Raising kids beneath 12, when it comes to movies, is kind of like being stuck on a Desert Island: You end up watching them over and over and over. So, a slight modification of the rules, my 10 favorite movies for the tiny ones (that parents wont go crazy watching over and over and over)

1) Totoro
2) Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the were-rabbit
3) Babe
4) Incredibles
5) Spirited Away
6) Nightmare before Xmas
7) Toy story 1 and 2
8) Emperor's New Groove. How such a smart ass fun movie got made by Disney is hard to fathom. Other than the name, its one great movie
9) Kiki's delivery service
10) Monstors Inc

grigorss said...

This is a fine list as well, Chris, and despite the fact that I have no kids whatsoever -- I nonetheless actually own seven out of the eleven films you mention on DVD. I've also seen all of them except The Emperor's New Groove; which more than one person has told me is a really enjoyable romp. I'll have to add that to the Queue!

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