Monday, 28 September 2009

Thirty-five films to ease the time in Hades

Marie Phillips over at The Woman Who Talked Too Much asked about favourite movies today, and I thought: "Hey! An easy post for Day 28 of September's NaBloPoMo! I'll just copy my trusty list from Facebook..."

Anyway, here's the 35 of my top movies (in no particular order) that I came up with when I established my Facebook profile a couple of years ago. Thirty-five is not a magic number; it's just what it is. It will become thirty-six and so forth as I run into more movies that I love. Not "the best films ever", mind, just films that I love and will watch repeatedly:
#1. Harold and Maude
Bud Cort, Cyril Cusack, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles
My desert island flick. The movie I watch when I'm feeling down and dusty. I first saw this at age 19 and my perception of this story changes markedly as I age.

#2. Sense and Sensibility
Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant
I just never get tired of this one. It features a dream-cast, Emma Thompson's delicately funny screenplay and the indefinably wonderful direction of Ang Lee. The commentary by Emma Thompson is worth the price of the DVD.

#3. The Ice Storm
Allison Janney, Christina Ricci, Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood
This is the one film about the seventies about which I've been able to say: "Yes, that is what it was like."

#4. Broadcast News
Holly Hunter, William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Robert Prosky
I love the writing and I adore Holly Hunter in this. One of the few films that admits that women actually wear pantyhose instead of topless stockings.

Anton Rodgers, Bernadette Peters, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Mandy Patinkin
A funny movie and fantastic cast. Gorgeous from start to finish.

#6. Jésus de Montréal (Jesus of Montreal)
Lothaire Bluteau, Catherine Wilkening, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Rémy Girard
A parable featuring clever parallels to the Easter story. Extra pleasures for those who know anything about Quebec culture.

#7. Swing Time
Betty Furness, Eric Blore, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Helen Broderick
My very favourite Astaire/Rogers outing. I'm like a little kid on Christmas Eve when waiting for them to finally start dancing in "Pick Yourself Up", then I glow...

#8. Monkey Business
Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Thelma Todd
My favourite Marx Brothers movie. So many wonderful moments: The crew can tell they have four stowaways because they are singing a barbershop quartet. (But wait a minute, isn't Harpo a mute?) All four brothers try to sneak through Customs on Maurice Chevalier's passport. It's heaven...

#9. Snow Cake
Alan Rickman, Callum Keith Rennie, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sigourney Weaver
The writer of this film has an autistic son, and my younger daughter has special needs, so I was deeply touched by this movie. I particularly love the know-it-all lady who thinks she understands autism because she's seen Rainman. It's heartbreaking without being depressing.

#10. Scrooge (A Christmas Carol)
Alastair Sim, Kathleen Harrison, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Michael Hordern
This is the version of A Christmas Carol for me. There are many parts of it that weren't in the novella, but somehow seem as if they should have been. I watch it and weep every year.

#11. 84, Charing Cross Road
Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench
Loved the books by Helene Hanff, and was delighted that this movie is not a disappointment. Obviously a labour of love.

#12. A Room With A View
Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Julian Sands, Simon Callow, Judi Dench, etc., etc.
Gosh, this is just a treat for the senses from start to finish! Wonderful cast and cinematography.

#13. Au Revoir Les Enfants
Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö, Francine Racette, Stanislas Carre de Malberg
Louis Malle telling tales out of school. Not a breath of melodrama, just a gentle story of inadvertent betrayal.

#14. Bedazzled
Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Raquel Welch
Forget the recent junky version. This is the original, full of pithy comments about the nature of evil. ("Julie Andrews!")

#15. Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould
Colm Feore
Not so much a portrait of the legendary (almost mythical) Canadian pianist, as a series of impressions. What's even stranger is that Colm Feore has portrayed another legendary (almost mythical) Canadian, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. That's pretty much all the two have in common...

#16. The Sweet Hereafter
Ian Holm, Maury Chaykin, Sarah Polley, Bruce Greenwood
Based on a novel by Russell Bank, this story has been re-set in a small town in the BC interior where a catastrophic school bus accident has left a debris field of shattered lives. The film has a dreamlike quality; one could say nightmarish, but there is startling beauty amid the broken shards.

#17. The Seventh Seal
Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson
I took my husband to see this early in our marriage, waiting for him to enjoy it as much as I did. He fell asleep. Miraculously, our marriage survived this disaster.

#18. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, Diana Lynn, William Demarest
I'm not quite sure how this film got past the censors in 1944. I guess there was a war on. Really, really funny.

#19. Le Déclin de l'Empire Américain (The Decline of the American Empire)
Dominique Michel, Dorothée Berryman, Louise Portal, Pierre Curzi, Rémy Girard, Yves Jacques
This movie has entertained and perplexed me for years. When I first saw it in my late twenties, I was mystified by how supposedly good friends of long standing could treat each other in such a fashion. As I age, I understand it a bit better. Back in my teaching days, I used to have a lot of Québecois students. They told me that this was a pretty accurate depiction of university professors in Montreal. It doesn't hold out a great deal of hope for women and men understanding each other...

#20. Testament
Jane Alexander, William Devane, Rossie Harris, Roxana Zal
I watched this made-for-TV movie twice, once before having children, and once after. Two different kinds of devastation. I have never forgotten it.

#21. Some Like It Hot
Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft, Joe E. Brown
An excellent argument for never dating musicians! A hoot!

#22. Shakespeare in Love
Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Judi Dench, etc.
Adored the very wittiness of this, and especially enjoyed the pokes at playwright John Webster (creator of such feel-good bloodfests as The Duchess of Malfi) who is portrayed here as a particularly creepy little boy.

#23. Da hong deng long gao gao gua (Raise the Red Lantern)
Li Gong, Cuifen Cao, Saifei He, Shuyuan Jin
This, to me is a perfect illustration of how oppression leads to the oppressed undermining each other. Suppose the women really had treated each other as sisters; would the power the man had over them been as devastating?

#24. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning
Full of haunting music and lovely lines: "We thought you was a toad!" "Do not seek the tray-shure!" "He's a suitor!" The odd ritual run-and-sing of the KKK is one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen on film...

#25. Monty Python's Life of Brian
Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam
One of my two favourite Easter movies. (The other is Jesus of Montreal.)

#26. Looking for Richard
Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Estelle Parsons,Aidan Quinn, Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder, etc, etc.
I think my favourite aspect of this documentary was the juxtaposition of the earnest "Method" approach with the scholarly musings of members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. On one side, you have a sort of deliberate ignorance (maybe innocence is the better word), aiming for purity of character development and motivation, and on the other, actors who simply know Shakespeare within their bones. Which is the correct approach? Who cares? The play's the thing! (Wrong play, I know!)

#27. Le Roi de coeur (King Of Hearts)
Geneviève Bujold, Alan Bates, Michel Serrault, Madeleine Clervanne
This film stole my heart when I saw it in my university cinema as a young student. What fun to hear Alan Bates actually speaking French throughout the movie. (Dubbed versions of this film are pointless!)
#28. Kissing Jessica Stein
Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen
I married early and never really experienced the dating scene. This film reminds me why! Although it is nice to know one has options...

#29. Arsenic and Old Lace
Cary Grant, Edward Everett Horton, Jack Carson, James Gleason, Vincent Massey, Peter Lorre
One of the two perfect Hallowe'en movies of all time! (The other is the 1963 version of The Haunting.) The play itself is a delight, but the movie has such tricks and treats as Cary Grant doing several triple-takes, and Raymond Massey being truly creepy. Very funny, and for a faint-heart like myself, not a little scary...

#30. The Haunting
Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn
The terror in this film is derived entirely from camera angles and sound effects. And it works, mate! Don't watch it alone at night! As a side-dish, you can enjoy the pseudo-sophisticated psychology of the time. Apparently, Clair Bloom's penchant for dressing in black Mary Quant is a dead giveaway that her character is a lesbian. (Gee! Who knew?)

#31. Tootsie
Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Bill Murray, Sidney Pollack
My 3 favourite things about this movie (aside from the writing, direction, and Dustin Hoffman): Teri Garr as the bewildered girlfriend-who-never-was: "You schmuck!"; Bill Murray in what I believe was an uncredited role as the laid-back room-mate: "You slut!"; and director Sydney Pollack as Michael Dorsey's long-suffering agent: "I begged you to get therapy..."

#32. Amélie (Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain)
Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus
Charmant! Tout simplement. (Actually, I think of Amelie every time I tap the crusty top of a crème brûlée...)

#33. Singin' in the Rain
Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly, Jean Hagen
How many musicals have a great screenplay? I'll tell you, next to none! This movie just entertains from all angles: singing, dancing, acting, and laughing! My goose-bump moment: The minute Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor stop singing "Moses Supposes" and let-er-rip with an amazing dance on a desk-top.

#34. Life Classes
Jacinta Cormier, Leon Dubinsky, Leo Jessome, Frances Knickle
Dammit, I just love this film. A Nova Scotia girl whose idea of art is paint-by-numbers gets knocked up and heads to the city. Eventually she stumbles into being a nude model at an art college, and from there moves into the world of art herself. I've always thought this film was a small gem.

#35. Romeo and Juliet
Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey, John McEnery, Milo O'Shea, Michael York, John McEnery, etc.
The PTA actually put a ban on this film in 1968 -- which really got the viewing numbers up. (You get to see Romeo's bare bum for all of thirty seconds --- shocking!) But the magic of this film is seeing the lead roles acted (very well) by very young actors, close to the ages Romeo and Juliet were supposed to have been. The rest of the cast is amazing: a very young Michael York as Tybalt, the acerbic John McEnery as Mercutio, and the lovely voice of Laurence Olivier as the Prologue. Then there were the music and costumes. Sigh...

It's taken me hours to edit and link this list. That'll teach me to try for an easy post...


Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Can I just say, that is a great film selection -- It's been long on my list to see Jesus of Montreal since I first caught a clip of it back when it was released in the UK (on a film review show). It's always been hard to get on DVD and I keep meaning to get hold of it. I just know I will love it.

Persephone said...

Yes, you will! I still have my old video of it, but must get around to replacing it with a DVD --- before DVD become obsolete. As The Globe and Mail tell me they are already. Sigh. I'm such a dinosaur...

bonnie-ann black said...

you know, that list makes me long for week of being snowed in with just the dvd player, a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine.

great movies all. i would have to have "Casablanca" however (my very favorite movie) and "The Princess Bride"... just for laughs.

Persephone said...

Casablanca is on The Resident Fan Boy's list. I love The Princess Bride, but so do my daughters, so I'm a little surfeit on that one.