Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Advent 24

And so my friends we reach the end of our trail. I do not pretend that these have been the finest two dozen films ever made but they are twenty-four that are important to me. Nine have been comedies; four are epics (a designation I reserve for films over my arbitrary minimum of three hours); six are in black and white; two are musicals (if you count Mary Poppins); two are cartoons (again counting Mary Poppins); one is a documentary; two are sub-titled; three are children's films (Mary Poppins again again); nine are comedies; two are written and directed by Orson Welles which tells you what I think of him; None are by Martin Scorsese which is probably wrong but hey ho.

Toady we have the ninth of those comedies. For the very best of reasons it occupies the final page in our list. It is a fine film but above all else it is the film Sharon and I saw on our first date. This then is my Christmas present to my favourite human. Annie Hall.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Advent 23

Halliwell's Film Guide gets The Philadelphia Story spot on, "Hollywood's most wise and sparkling comedy."

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Advent 22

Only three days to go and now we're down to the really good stuff. And of course no list of films is complete without a three and a half hour documentary about American high school basketball. Hoop Dreams is a dissection of the American dream and has a twist at its end that you wouldn't believe if it was fiction. Highly recommended.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Advent 21

I'm off to the World Darts Championship tomorrow (report will follow) so I'm doing tomorrow's film a day early. It is the only musical on the calendar. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Politically correct it may not be but the singing and dancing are brilliant and as for Howard Keel, well what a dude.

Advent 20

Oooo it's nearly Crimbo and we're getting down to the really good stuff in the advent calendar.

You know how it is with cliches - there's a good reason they become cliches. It's because they contain more than a germ of truth. So Citizen Kane is great film; it is  a very great film; it is the greatest film ever made. All of these are cliches - I would only dispute the third of them and that only because I haven't seen enough movies to make that call. So for the second time in this year's calendar it's Orson Welles, Orson bloody Welles.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Advent 19

More bloody subtitles, more bloody foreigners but bear with me. This film is utterly brilliant, a mesmerising cocktail of fantasy and brutal real life. Just because you 'don't like fantasy' is no reason not to watch this. Pan's Labyrinth transcends genre and is plain and simple one of the very greatest films ever made - trust me I'm a lawyer.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Advent 18

Today another film in black and white and all the better for it. Throne of Blood is cinema legend Kurosawa's adaptation of Macbeth. Be bloody, bold and resolute and track it down.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Advent 17

This is a film about an American war in Asia made during a later American war in Asia. The locus in quo may be Korea but it was difficult back in the 70's not to view this film through the prism of Vietnam. M*A*S*H* is cynical and subversive in the extreme but pulls this off with an acerbic wit. Its influence as a film is akin to the influence Catch 22 had as a book. It really is that good.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Advent 16

I have been jokingly chided by daughter number two for mentioning her sister when I chose The Jungle Book. So this one today is for you Rachie, a film whose qualities were trumpeted by you and your sister: the brilliantly weird and equally funny Napoleon Dynamite, the film that teaches us that girls only want boyfriends who have good skills ... like nunchuck skills. Priceless.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Advent 15

And now for something completely different. Where The Railway Children is wholesome and understated, National Lampoon's Animal House is amoral and brash. But it is very funny and it inspired  a fashion for toga parties in the time of my first student incarnation, an age when we were paid by the state to be educated but dissolute. Golden days. Well some of them.

Advent 14

Today we have a film of intense warmth and fuzzy feelingness. Only the stoniest heart is not moved when the steam clears at the end of The Railway Children and 'Daddy, my Daddy' has returned. Tomorrow will be something of a contrast.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Advent 13

Chariots of Fire might I suppose get a look in but today we have what is in my judgement the very best  film about sport. Bull Durham is also bloody funny. It captures the oh so important yet inconsequential magnificence of sport and why men play it. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Advent 12

Yesterday's film and today's are both contenders for the title of greatest sequel ever made. Star Wars was good but The Empire Strikes Back is assuredly better and possessor of one of cinema's best lines ... but I won't spell it out in case you are one of those few people who've never seen it. Don't worry I'm sure it must be on over Christmas.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Advent 11

I had an educated conversation the other evening with a member of the younger generation in which we contrasted the relative merits of today's choice (Godfather Part II) and Goodfellas. Let us be quite clear, both are brilliant. Goodfellas is a fine cut jewel of a film. Very Martin Scorsese. Godfather II is a diamond in the rough by comparison but in the final analysis it is Coppola's picture which engages me more. Thus I make you an offer you can't refuse.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Advent 10

We were staying in Cornwall, Rachel still a toddler and Helen just old enough to go to the pictures. So it was that Daddy and Helen ('Big Mates' as we told ourselves) went down into Wadebridge to the proper old picture house to see today's selection. When I see or hear any extract from this film I am taken back to the queue outside the cinema and the sensation of her warm little hand in mine as we awaited admission. We had sweets and drinks and I spilt my Vimto. I love The Jungle Book.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Advent 9

I do like a good war film and this is a good war film. It is earnest but not overly so given that it reconstructs the most important events of the twentieth century. Anyway I think a bit of earnestness doesn't go amiss when it puts you in mind of my parents' generation who lived through the war, and my grandparents' generation who fought in it. Another film where the choice of black and white enhances the cinematography.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Advent 8

A man's reach should exceed his grasp. Bear that in mind when considering the huge and self-indulgent spectacle of Heaven's Gate. By all accounts Michael Cimino was utterly beyond control when filming this sprawling mess of a movie and it shows. But for all that it has a rueful splendour and a morbid fascination. I enjoy it for all its faults and frequent incomprehensibility. And I'm not at all sure that it is any more of a mess than the much more highly regarded Apocalypse Now. Just saying.

Advent 7

Now you just knew there had to be some Shakespeare didn't you. Bloody and magnificent, in fact just bloody magnificent, Julie Taymor's Titus gives gory relevance to a lesser part of the canon. I've gone on about   Titus Andronicus at length before so all I will say is that if you think Tarantino to be cutting edge then you don't know your bard - or as it happens and harking back to another post, your Orson Welles either.


Friday, 6 December 2013

Advent 6

You always remember the first film you see at the cinema. So despite Dick Van Dyke's shameful gurning, Mary Poppins has to be on my list. Not only does it remind me of my own childhood but of my children's childhoods - I enjoyed all of them. It was at the Palace in Erdington, an establishment that did not even survive my youth. They knocked it down and built a supermarket, itself since supplanted.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Advent 5

Chiaroscuro. Film noir. If you want to see the work of someone who understood these techniques and transcended them, then please watch Touch of Evil. Orson Welles, Orson bloody Welles. Far too clever for his own good.

The bravura opening shot of Touch of Evil runs for three and a half minutes in a single swooping take. What follows is equally arresting - a tempest of contrasts, of good and evil, of light and dark, of fat and thin. A famous blonde appears in a raven wig. Check the famous first scene below.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Advent 4

Black and white films - there'll be a few of them. The first is Duck Soup. The Marx Brothers remind me of the whole family round the creaky old gas fire at Holly Lane, us allowed to stay up late to watch a classic film and, if we were really lucky getting to toast bread on that gas fire. Eaten with unhealthy amounts of butter. As Groucho would tell you, everybody knows that there is no sanity clause. Hail Hail Freedonia.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent 3

And now for something completely different. No not Python but an Australian film rich in low comedy and sporting action. Ripper. Track it down if you can and enjoy with some robust antipodean red.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Advent 2

Yesterday I felt satisfyingly yuletidey. Today's efforts in the world of commerce have left me a little deflated but worry ye not for salvation is at hand. Yesterday we had a behemoth of the screen, a four hour epic. Glorious. Today we have a wee British film. Glorious.

Gregory's Girl is warm, funny and compassionate. Watch out for the scene in which Gregory attempts invisibility as he arrives late at school. Or the repeated motif of the child roaming the school corridors in a penguin costume. And remember to keep dancing, otherwise you might fall off.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent 1

I've just spent a capital afternoon with my soul mate. We caught the train into Birmingham, which, as Sharon says always feels more of a treat than driving in. We then got all multi-cultural by having a bottle of champagne at the German Christmas Market. This seeming over-indulgence was based on sound economic considerations, the full bottle price per glass being a full 60% lower than the per glass price. We don't like wasting money you know. Times are hard.

Thereafter to Cineworld and the community savouring in shared darkness of the cinematic greatness that is Gone With The Wind. A fresh new print of the film shown in its original 4:3 Technicolor. I know this film inside out but this was my first proper theatrical exposure. Everyone should do it. The official trailer is linked below. The embedded advertising for male incontinence treatment perhaps tells you the demographic they were expecting to take this golden opportunity.