Ten Terrific Films- Part Two

lantana

5. Lantana
Great line- What are you doing here? Most of the guys in this place aren’t much older than our son.

This is a mesmerising, sumptuous mix of sex and death with a stellar cast including Barbara Hershey, Geoffrey Rush, Anthony La Paglia and Russell Coight Glenn Robbins. Written by South Australian resident Andrew Bovell it’s mysterious and gripping and sad. Paul Kelly provides the suitably atmospheric score.

Set in Sydney the film engages us visually and aurally, and I can almost feel the uncomfortable humidity of both the setting and the relationships.

groundhog

4. Groundhog Day
Great line- Ned… Ryerson. “Needlenose Ned”? “Ned the Head”? C’mon, buddy. Case Western High. Ned Ryerson: I did the whistling belly-button trick at the high school talent show? Bing! Ned Ryerson: got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didn’t graduate? Bing, again. Ned Ryerson: I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple times until you told me not to anymore? Well?

With its themes of redemption and finding joy in every moment this is a favourite among Buddhists, and as cynical weatherman Phil Connors, arguably Bill Murray’s finest performance.

A magnificent comedy the film also appeals with its life-affirming messages although it’s impossible to now hear Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” without an involuntary twinge.

Not only is Groundhog Day- February 2- my wife’s birthday, but I recall legendary Australian sports-caster Bruce McAvaney struggling uncharacteristically to say the name of a race horse called Punxsutawney Phil (a gelding). It’s the only time I’ve heard Bruce frustrated. The horse had a mercifully short career.

It’s a film I like to see annually, just to luxuriate in the fun of a Pennsylvanian town called Punxsutawney. Last February 2 a British pay TV channel showed the movie. On a loop. All day. Genius.

goodfellas

3. GoodFellas
Great line- You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?

I know we’re all supposed to love The Godfather, and I do, but GoodFellas is my favourite mob movie. Again, it’s a film with a great, laconic narration, by the doomed protagonist Henry Hill, and based upon a true story, which concluded in witness protection as these things often do.

In a curious tribute one of The Sopranos producer called this movie his “Koran” and I love Scorsese’s soundtrack. His rule was if a scene was set, for example, in 1973 then it couldn’t feature a song from after then.

There’s a gruesome montage with bodies turning up in cars, garbage trucks and a meat freezer van set to the gorgeous slide guitar and piano coda from “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes. The disconnect between image and sound emphasises the absurdity and horror of this barbaric landscape.

With Aretha Franklin, The Who and The Rolling Stones the soundtrack evokes the broad historic sweep of this magnificent movie.

Now

2. Apocalypse Now
Great line- Kurtz: Are my methods unsound?
Willard: I don’t see any method at all, sir.

In many ways this is beyond a war movie as it’s a journey into the deep horror residing within our human condition. The physical action is set within Vietnam and Cambodia but the real conflict occurs within the psyches of the characters and us.

Among the questions it asks and demands we also ask is who has the moral supremacy? Kurtz? Willard? Kilgore? Dennis Hopper’s photojournalist? It also asks questions of American imperialism and war.

The mythology of making this film is a story in itself that nearly approaches Coppola’s epic. Hearts of Darkness documents the troubled production with the health issues of both Sheen and Brando; typhoons; financial blow-outs and more.

The Doors’ “The End” has been used in many films but none approach the impact it has here.

Years ago, before our boys arrived I went to our local cinema on a Sunday night to see the then newly-released Redux version. For a thrilling, brief interlude, I thought I would achieve that geeky nirvana: I’d have the entire theatre to myself and would take in the 180 minute spectacle in a private screening. Yeah, I know.

But, as the film finally opened two other punters came in, broke the spell and took their seats. Oh, well.

For the record this version is inferior. Coppola got it right first time as none of the additional scenes contribute to the original. It’s a film for a murky, wintry afternoon.

Pulp

1. Pulp Fiction
Great line-
Jules: Tell him, Vincent.
Vincent: Royale with cheese.
Jules: Royale with cheese. Do you know why they call it a Royale with cheese?
Brett: Because of the metric system?
Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett. You’re one smart motherfucker.

I’ve only ever seen one film three times in the cinema. Pulp Fiction. Upon seeing it in January 1995 it stayed with me for weeks and months. Key in this was the Elmore Leonard-inspired dialogue with its pop culture references that was at odds with the on-screen action of gangsters and violence. The film lived and thrived in this space and, to this day, colours many of my conversations.

One Sunday when we lived in St Albans just out of London we were visiting friends. The boys Joey and Laurence, had had a big night out, and had just finished their midday breakfast. I asked them what they’d eaten.
“Burgers,” came the reply.
That was my cue. “Burgers. The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.”

While not invented by Tarantino the technique of chopping up the narrative so the story is delivered in a way that heightens our response to the characters and plot. So, instead of the film ending with Butch and his girlfriend riding off on Zed’s chopper just after killing Vincent Vega it concludes triumphantly after the coffee shop hold-up.

Like many I also bought the soundtrack and maintain that Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” splicing into Kool and the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” is the most exhilarating opening credits and frames the movie perfectly.

Thanks for reading.

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