Thursday, 3 January 2013

My Favourite Films - Part 1

I doubt that too many visitors here at Red Parsley have been dropping by since the very start of the blog, but any who have may remember I started it off by posting lists of my very favourite games. However, as much as I may love video games, specifically ones of a 'retroish' nature, they're not the only things I love.

Indeed, I've been an avid fan of films since probably around the same time as I discovered video games - the mid 80's - and this is, initially at least, largely thanks to my dad who's always had a sizeable collection of videos and then DVD's for me to watch at my leisure. I've therefore been planning to make a list of my favourites for some time, and since the 'holiday season' is upon us, now is as good a time as any!

Only because I seem to watch many more films at this time of year than any other though, so I guess I'm in a 'filmy' mood at the moment. Must be the time off work I suppose. Anyway, as with the game lists from all those 500-odd posts ago, the lists are not in a precise order, they're more a general grouping of my faves, but I guess you could call them roughly organised. Here's the first:

The Lord of the Rings (2001 - 2003)

Call it cheating if you want but I generally count the LOTR films as one looong film, and what a film it is! From the moment it was announced it was said the books couldn't even be filmed. The many Tolkien fans around the world feared the worst, but even the most optimistic of movie-goers surely couldn't have expected anything approaching the film(s) that finally did appear? There are faults, sure - the sense of scale is sometimes a bit lacking for one thing (cough*Rohan*cough), but expectations were shattered nonetheless and we were soon surprised to find approaching eleven hours of the most amazing cinema ever created. The story is well known to most already of course, but the roles were perfectly cast and the sheer effort the production team went to to bring their vision to realisation is truly jaw-dropping. If I was forced to choose between the three 'chapters', I'd probably go for Fellowship as my favourite, but they're all so amazing it's really pointless choosing. In my humble opinion the finest cinematic achievement of all-time.

American Beauty (1999)

Not only does every movie fan owe Sam Mendes a heartfelt thanks for this appropriately beautiful film but I personally owe him a debt of gratitude for changing the very way I rather stupidly used to judge films. Before this début of his, I near enough exclusively looked down on Oscar winners as pretentious, melodramatic, and pretty much the opposite of what I wanted from a film. Being something of a Kevin Spacey fan, however, I took a chance and soon discovered a truly wonderful film featuring a mesmerising script by Alan Ball, a haunting Thomas Newman score, and career-best performances from all involved. Thanks to this opening of my mind, I've subsequently discovered many other great films as well, but none have matched the depth and emotion of this great. Not many films engage me to the extent that I'm left motionless, still gazing at the screen until long after the credits have finished, but this one did. And no, it wasn't because of Thora Birch's sizeable knockers either. Probably...

Rushmore (1998)

For some reason Wes Anderson has apparently earned almost as much contempt as adulation for his distinctive approach to film-making over recent years. I suppose I can see why they're an acquired taste but there's no question that he's my personal favourite director. Rushmore was the first film of his that I saw and it has remained my favourite (although I haven't yet seen his latest at the time of writing). Its tale of eccentric private school student, Max Fischer, his friendship with rich industrialist, Herman Blume, and their mutual love for elementary school teacher, Rosemary Cross, is almost perfect in every sense - the memorable script, fantastic score/soundtrack, well-structured story, and superb acting (including Bill Murray's in the role that started his second career as a 'serious' actor) are all flawless. Even if you don't 'get' Anderson's style and therefore don't like this film, you'll still not forget it. If you find this kind of quirky indie appealing as I do though, you'll find no better example.

Dave (1993)

Unusually for me, Dave is a film I first saw on TV, something I try to avoid watching at the best of times if I can help it, but despite missing the start I found myself strangely captivated. This was also unusual since it's not the kind of film I would usually give five minutes to! Even though director Ivan Reitman takes a comedic approach by thrusting the positive everyman of the title into the Oval Office to double for the incapacitated President for whom he's a dead-ringer, it's still a political drama which would often be a turn-off for me (as well as, no doubt, many others). The fact that it's actually the opposite of that is largely thanks to the characters, chiefly Kevin Kline's supremely likeable Dave as well as dastardly President Mitchell, but is also aided immensely by the masses of cameos from real politicians and media personalities which lend an otherwise silly premise an air of credibility, even believability. A feel-good film in the best sense of the word, and one which even gives you hope that a 'real' Dave might one day emerge and save us all! (full review here)

A Knight's Tale (2001)

Although I do have an interest in films (and indeed games) that take place in medieval settings, this is a film I almost didn't even bother with, mainly because it was recommended by a work colleague with whom I did not share a taste in films. After accidentally seeing the trailer and then seeing the film cheap, however, I decided to give it a try and it quickly became one of my most watched films ever! It was written, produced, and directed by Brian Helgeland (who's usually just a screenwriter) and stars Heath Ledger as a peasant squire who, along with the help of his numerous friends, decides to masquerade as a noble knight in order to compete in jousting tournaments. Of course, there's soon a 'bad guy' rival (played suitably caddishly by Rufus Sewell) and a love interest (the slinky Shannyn Sossamon), and the subsequent action/dramatic scenes are each as entertaining as the other thanks to a superb script and very likeable bunch of characters. Some dislike the use of anachronisms but I've never found A Knight's Tale to be anything other than a tremendously entertaining, not to mention highly rewatchable bit of fantasy. (full review here)

That's it for today but if you're intrigued as to the other films included in the list, come back soon for another five!

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