Last night I watched Hausu with George and Dan. All three of us are battle-scarred veterans of bad and weird movies: The Baby, Enter Zombie King!, Shriek of the Mutilated, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Sasquatch Mountain. But we’ve never seen ANYTHING like this before. The director had never done a film before, but was a veteran of 1970s TV commercials. And that’s just what it feels like: a bog-standard vengeful ghost plot taking place in a 90-minute Mentos commercial with overtones of H.R. Pufnstuff and Scooby Doo. Oh, and people are occasionally killed in a surrealistically gory fashion. And there’s a bear that cooks ramen in a street stall. Seriously, you should probably just watch it.
Books shouldn’t get all the love! 15 movies that stick with you, not necessarily the movies you feel are the best made. We’re talkin’ the ones that have become part of you, that come directly to mind when you think about film. Tell or tag other people if you want, I never do.
1. Blade Runner. After watching this I feel like I’VE seen attack ships off the shoulder of Orion.
2. Amelie. My love for this movie know no limit. It’s what I think life should be like.
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Honestly, I wish I could erase it from my memory. I’ve seen it TOO many times.
4. Casablanca. Love, courage, greed, friendship, patriotism, fear, cunning. They’ve never been done better.
5. The Professional. Works as an action movie and as an unusual buddy movie–look, a kid who’s neither cutesy nor a full-time hostage!
6. Unforgiven. What a peculiar way to begin a movie–with a title card about events in the hero’s prior life that have no direct bearing on the plot. It reads “She was a comely young woman and not without prospects. Therefore it was heartbreaking to her mother that she would enter into marriage with William Munny, a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition. When she died, it was not at his hands as her mother might have expected, but of smallpox. That was 1878.” When you reach the end, it makes perfect sense.
7. The Dresser. Amazing performances in a movie that’s mostly about just two actors, Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay. There’s so much going on here about the price of dedication, making a place for one’s self in a frightening world, and the ravages of age.
8. The Breakfast Club. Teenage frustration and isolation has never been depicted so well in film. I still find this movie hard to watch.
9. Star Wars. In fairness, the way this movie has stuck with me might be because I had a) a soundtrack album with much of the dialogue, b) Star Wars bedsheets, and c) a significant number of action figures.
10. Barton Fink. Not one of the Coen Brothers’ best known movies, but one that bears repeated watching and thought. The Coens’ antipathy towards their protagonists is well balanced hear with real sympathy for Fink’s plight(s).
11. Silence of the Lambs. It’s a textbook example of how to adapt a novel to a screenplay and one of Hollywood’s best-ever thrillers. It remains the only movie I’ve ever watched twice in one day, the first day I rented the tape.
12. My Neighbor Totoro. There’s almost no tension or conflict in this film, but its charm and imagination never falter.
13. The Princess Bride. Like it says on the box–“Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…”
14. Wings of Desire. Dreamlike, challenging, and unusual, but never pointless or self-indulgent. Its optimism and quiet passion never fail to move me.
15. Aliens. That’s how you make a sequel. You take the compelling setup you inherited, give it an utterly different genre spin from the original, spend a giant Hollywood budget, and have the courage to give the world a woman as real action hero.
The most influential film director in my life isn’t Sergei Eisenstein or John M. Ford or Orson Welles. It’s Hollywood director John Hughes, who died this week at the age of 59. The day after I saw The Breakfast Club in the theater I stayed home from school. My mother was a little alarmed at how upset I was by the movie and decided not to press the issue. That’s the moment, right there in the darkened Parkway Cinema in Natchitoches, that I first realized how seriously I was depressed. Yes Hughes’s movies were calculated Hollywood comedy, but those stories about the hopes and insecurities of high school kids in Shermer, Illinois were real to me, real in a way that I wasn’t seeing anywhere else in film or television.
Gen Xers will be posting plenty of blog entries about Hughes over the next couple of days. Rather than dwell further on his contributions to our generation’s psyche, I’m going to take a slightly different tack. In case anyone significantly younger than me is reading this, I want to pay tribute to one part of Mr. Hughes’s legacy that might not be obvious from watching these films on DVD: the construction of the soundtrack. The title of Pretty In Pink was inspired by the Psychedelic Furs song of course, but look at all the other songs here: Suzanne Vega’s “Left of Center” (for years this was the only place to find the song), “If You Leave” by OMD, Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Bring On the Dancing Horses,” and the Smiths’ great ode to adolescent desperation “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.” Some of these songs feature prominently in the film, but some are just playing in the background. OK, what’s surprising about that?
Everything. That’s not how soundtracks were made in 1986. For most of the history of talking film, a good film score might well be released on vinyl, but if a song was going to be associated with a movie (aside from musicals) it would be ONE song, specially commissioned by the studio in hopes of getting a hit. Hughes paid more attention to incidental pop music in film than anyone before him, carefully picking little-known songs to highlight scenes and being sure to secure the rights to release them on a soundtrack compilation. It’s the beginning of the film soundtrack as we know it today.
and you can hear it too. Kevin Smith filmed his college lecture tour a few years back and released it as An Evening With Kevin Smith. Kinda like a concert film, only with a tubby, chatty filmmaker instead of rock stars. Smith shares some great stories about making movies and he’s a very skilled oral storyteller. There was a while in the late 90s when he was working on a Superman script. His stories about whackjob producer John Peters’s ideas for the film have to be heard to be believed. If anyone is really against Kevin Smith and all he stands for, post a comment here and I’ll tell the story so you don’t miss out.