Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ten Films

A good movie is like a good memory. It should come back to offer a a smile any time you are feeling reflective. It should also nag you when you see a reference to it in some other aspect of popular culture, or when an event as mundane as a man's hat or a woman's dress makes you think, "Oh yeah, like in..."

Well, in a state of blissful semi-relaxation, I thought of ten good memories - ten being a standard number for any kind of list. In this case, they are ten films that, no matter how tired I am, I could not resist sacrificing a night's sleep over. Here they are:

Shadows – John Cassavetes - The great director's first -largely improvised with amateur actors. A take on race relations and the concept of the "one drop of blood rule" and "passing for white" in America. Three siblings deal with their various shades of colour. Very hip, with a New York jazz aesthetic, before that became a cliche.

Repo Man - Alex Cox - Punk meets nuclear war paranoia. Likely dated, but wonderful for its subtle mocking of the middle class punk scence, and some great performances by Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, and Jennifer Tilly.

After Hours – Martin Scorcese - My favourite Scorcese film and one of his few comedies. I identify with Paul, the ordinary guy caught in the artsy Soho neigbourhood in New York because of a pretty woman, and the need to disrupt his mundane daily life.

What Happened Was – Tom Noonan - Noonan, a bit part player in some action films, made this serious two person drama about the awkwardness of dating, the pain of being single and lonely, and remarkable shift in power than can occur when levels of education and self esteem clash.

Watermelon Man- Melvin Van Peebles - Great satire on race relations. The bigot's nightmare - waking up one morning to discover that you have become black.

Tampopo- Juzi Itami - My first Japanese comedy. Noodles meet old spaghetti westerns. Great parody of American machismo, with a nod to the trucking industry, who afterall, put food on the table. I would come to love ramen noodles a decade later though.

Amarcord – Frederico Felini - Ok, so I did not come of age in Facist Italy in the 1930's, but what boy hasn't fantacized about a teacher or tried to make sense of chaos around him?

El Norte – Gregory Nava - Probably the most serious of the lot. Two teens from Central American try to make it as migrant workers in the US. Heartbreaking and very real, and the protagonists' journey is exciting and exhausting. Not as emotionally manipulative as it could have been.

Down By Law – Jim Jarmusch - A satire on the prison break film and male bonding. Great soundtrack from Tom Waits, who demonstrated reasonable acting skills, although his fight scene was more reminiscent of a Martha Graham than John Wayne.

Men- Doris Doerrie - Julius is 40, successful, but his wife leaves him for a hip artist. Shattered, he reinvents himself. Since the film is German, there is some deep seated reflection of how the baby boomer generation saw its ideals become corrupted. Very funny.

Quite a diverse list, and an extraordinary number of these films are from the 1980's, when I started to take movies a little more seriously as a form of entertainment. Pretentious as all hell, but I will talk hockey at some point too.

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