Okay, not entirely true. I took a break from revising Of the Night to help celebrate Sherron’s parents’ 50th in southern Manitoba. The weather was terrific and just about the entire clan was present. Great people, lots of laughs. Sherron and her sister Kathy even talked me into writing a short tribute to the guests of honour, which I managed to carry off without making an arse of myself. First public speech or performance I’ve given in ages and it probably showed.
Congrats to Kendi and John, who surprised everyone by getting married (why do things halfway, eh?) the night of the formal supper. What a weekend! Thanks to everyone involved, especially Kathy and Donna, who served above and beyond the call of duty. See y’all again soon…
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In one of my recent posts I provided a reading list, a roster of the books that have had a lasting impression or influence on me.
This time around, I want to acknowledge some of the movies that have meant a lot to me. My writing—its structure, in particular—owes much to the cinema and it’s no small accident that there are a couple of movies based on my work currently in development. My fiction is ideally suited for adaptation to the large or small screen.
Anyway, to the list:
Citizen Kane….All-time greatest? Hard to argue when you’ve got a creative triumvirate that includes Orson Welles, Herman Mankiewicz and Gregg Toland
Brazil…………Terry Gilliam at his very, very best
2001: A Space Odyssey…finest SF flick ever. A powerful and cerebral experience. We won’t see the likes of Stan Kubrick again
Reservoir Dogs/Pulp Fiction….thank you, Quentin, thank you, thank you…
Naked.….David Thewlis’s performance the best in film history. A staggering achievement and, concurrently, one of the bleakest movies I’ve ever seen
Henry V.….Kenny Branagh’s Agincourt speech still brings tears to my eyes (fuck the purists who insist Olivier did it better; this Henry is the one I prefer)
Chinatown...might be the perfect motion picture: script, direction, acting are all sublime. One for the ages.
Casablanca..…..need I say more? Ingrid Bergman is radiant—no wonder Bogie can forgive her and fall in love all over again
The Third Man….Welles again (acting); literate, authentic, intelligent; from the pen of Graham Greene (directed by Carol Reed)
Reds...……..Storaro again & super-intelligent script, terrific, under-stated (for a change) performance by Jack Nicholson as Eugene O’Neill
Godfather (Trilogy)………Part I, half of Part II, burn Part III
The Long Good Friday….one of the best gangster flicks of all time. Bob Hoskins will scare the mortal piss out of you
Mean Streets/Raging Bull/Taxi Driver….Scorsese’s masterpieces. Note to Marty: start making good films again
The Professional.…Luc Besson has been slumming it ever since–Gary Oldman’s portrayal of a bent, homicidal cop is electrifying
Miller’s Crossing……best of the Coen Bros. so far—awesome ensemble cast
The Big Lebowski….Coen Bros. again; hilarious performance by one of the finest actors in the biz, Jeff Bridges
Straight Time…….Dustin Hoffman’s best role; an under-appreciated minor masterpiece, directed by Ulu Grosbard
Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels/Snatch...Good God, what happened to Guy Ritchie? Makes two fantastic flicks like this, then starts knocking boots with Madonna. Next thing you know, everything he touches turns to shite. Too bad…
Eraserhead/Blue Velvet….and then David Lynch died and went to Hell
The Fly/ Videodrome.…Cronenberg knows what you’re afraid of; James Woods is a marvel in Videodrome
The Exorcist….still the scariest movie of them all. Give credit to director William Friedkin and a solid cast for giving power and intensity to such a dopy, implausible concept
The Thing (1982)….John Carpenter, another guy whose career has dropped down the toilet. Wonderful performance by Kurt Russell and a supporting cast of veteran character actors. (Best line: “I don’t know what’s in there but whatever it is, it’s weird and pissed off.”)
Paperhouse….a little seen Brit nail-biter, genuinely spooky and atmospheric; directed by Bernard Rose
Lawrence of Arabia….epic with a brain and O’Toole is magnificent in his film debut
Out of the Past…..quintessential noir; Mitchum and Douglas; Jacques Tourneur directs
Crimes & Misdemeanors….I’m not a fan of Woody Allen’s any more but this film is an important reflection
on morality and responsibility. Martin Landau is particularly good
City of Hope/Matewan…..John Sayles is one of those writers I envy and admire with every fiber of my
being. He’s occasionally preachy but his dialogue and his ability to portray characters from other
cultures and races sets him apart from almost anybody else
Withnail & I.…the funniest movie of all time. Richard E. Grant’s acting in this film is an amazing thing to behold.
They Might Be Giants.…hard to find but a truly lovely addition to the Holmes canon
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother…hard to find too; haven’t seen it for years but I recall it with much fondness and affection; the combination of Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman…delightful
Modern Times/The Gold Rush……Charles Chaplin. Timeless!
Public Enemy/White Heat….James Cagney, what a man. These are my particular faves but just about all of his movies are worth searching out.
Duck Soup/A Night at the Opera….The Marx Bros. Anarchic and brilliant.
Spun……..astounding Jonas Akerlund film; unflinchingly depicts the horrors of crystal meth addiction; a harrowing experience
Salvador….Oliver Stone scripts and directs his most effeective film; James Woods is nothing short of astonishing
Sorceror.……great soundtrack by Tangerine Dream, strange and surreal. Based on Clouzot’s Wages of Fear, many critics savaging it, saying it didn’t hold a candle to the original. I disagree–but it tanked and director William Friedkin paid a heavy price for its failure
Thief………..Michael Mann’s first film; a great caper flick and character study. James Caan, Jim Belushi and Robert Prosky head the cast.
Narc……….bravura performances by leads Ray Liotta and Jason Patric; intense, to say the least. Complications regarding financing nearly closed down the production but the cast and crew worked for reduced wages to save it; directed by Joe Carnahan
Syriana….saw this one recently and found it compelling and convincing. Horrifying torture scene and (I’m happy to report) no shiny, happy ending to tie things up
Lord of War….best American flick I’ve seen in yonks. Cynical, downbeat. And check out those opening credits!
Monty Python’s Life of Brian/Holy Grail…seen ’em both at least 30 or 40 times and they still make me laugh. That tells you something.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again….the dentist…ha ha…the dentist scene…ha ha
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon/ The Searchers/True Grit…I’m my dad’s son: I enjoy Westerns & war flicks. The Duke looks like he was born on a fucking horse. “Fill your hand, you sonofabitch…”
The Long Riders…..the last great western (1980); directed by Walter Hill
Alien I, II, & IV.……only David Fincher could fuck up a concept as great as this
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan…yes, yes, I admit it, I’m a Trekkie. And this is by far the best of the
series. Credit goes to Nicholas Meyer, who breathed life back into the franchise.
Silent Running….vintage sci-fi; Bruce Dern is one of my favorite actors and he is exceptionally solid in this one. Directed by SFX whiz Douglas Trumbull
City of Lost Children/Delicatessen (Jean Pierre Jeunet)
Faust (F.W. Murnau)
My Life As A Dog (Lasse Hallstrom)
Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo)
Napoleon (Abel Gance)
City of God (Fernando Meirelles & Katia Lund))
Aguirre: Wrath of God (Werner Herzog)
Das Boot (Wolfgang Peterson)
The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio de Sica)
Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Bunuel)
Zazie Dans Le Metro (Louis Malle)
King Of New York…Abel Ferrara ugliness; repellent and riveting
Revenge...savage film by Tony Scott; starring Kevin Costner
Scarface…De Palma’s version…unrelenting.
License To Kill...surprisingly brutal James Bond with under-rated Timothy Dalton
Favorite Movie Stars: Steve McQueen; William Holden; Peter Sellers; James Cagney; Groucho Marx
Most over-rated film folk: Alfred Hitchcock; Steven Spielberg; Jean-Luc Godard; Bernardo Bertolucci; Michelangelo Antonioni