It’s because of this that we at HeyUGuys (and in this case, we, is myself and Gary) have decided to set ourselves a project. To watch and review all 250 movies on the list! We’ve frozen the list as of 1st January this year. It’s not as simple as it sounds, as we’ll be watching them in one year, 125 each.
This is our third update, a rundown of my next five movies watched for the project.
(You can find last week’s update here)
Set on a remote US research base in Antarctica, The Thing begins with seemingly mad Norwegian researchers flying into the US research base, chasing a wild dog, trying to kill it. The US researchers have no choice but to kill the wildly firing Norwegians. They investigate the abandoned Norwegian base to try to find out what caused their insanity. They find an unearthed spaceship, and the charred remains of a strange looking creature.
The Thing is a story about paranoia and survival as much as it is an actual horror film. Its an intelligent, well written and well crafted film. The Antarctic base is the perfect location, effectively cutting the researchers off from any kind of civilisation, without any means of escape. Its a refreshing change from the derelict space hulk that is usually used for this purpose in films nowadays. Setting it in a real world environment makes the whole thing that bit more believable.
The special effects, great at the time, still just about hold up today. The use of stop-motion give the transformation and movement of the alien creatures a genuinely creepy feel. The shock moments when the Thing appears creates a stark contrast to the slow, tense human drama of the rest of the film. The finale of the film is literally explosive, and the downbeat ending suits the tone the movie keeps the whole way through.
The Thing is a shining example to film-makers even today of how to create tension, drama and paranoia. It stands as one of the greatest horror films of all time, and continues to be popular today, with new fans discovering the film for the first time.
Crash won the Oscar for best picture of 2005. It proved to be a contentious choice, particularly as it was up against Brokeback Mountain, Good Luck, And Good Night, Capote and Munich. However, the fact it is in the top 250 suggests enough people were impressed by Paul Haggis’ incendiary piece. Crash follows the lives of several people in LA, over a 24 hour period. There are several car accidents that occur, but really the crash of the title refers to the collision of societies views, beliefs and prejudices.
Crash is a movie about racism, in all it’s forms. It plays out as a series of complicated situations where racial stereotyping, prejudice or just plain racist abuse are a major factor. Each one is designed to make you think about the behaviour on display, who is right and wrong, and the aim is to both highlight the issues and show that nothing is ever as simple as right and wrong. A female character feels intimidated by two young black men, but doesn’t avoid then because that would be considered racist. They promptly carjack her. A black Sergeant talks a white cop out of reporting his racist partner, because the police force are likely to sack them instead.
As an entertaining movie, Crash is far from perfect. The various situations presented are more like a series of vignettes than a cohesive film. The lives of the protagonists do intertwine, but in many of the cases they don’t need to to make sense. The way the many lives are cut together causes the movie to feel a little disjointed, the pace doesn’t flow at all. As a thought provoking film, Crash is more successful. Intelligently written, with genuinely touching moments and a few powerful performances.
We’re all responsible for stereotyping people by race to some degree, and Crash uses ambiguous situations and altercations to cause us to question our right to do so. It makes you think about who you are, and what your attitudes really tell you about yourself. More than anything, Crash is a perfect illustration that nothing is ever as simple as black or white.
Little Miss Sunshine was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards for 2007. It lost out to The Departed, as Martin Scorsese finally was recognised by the Academy. On the surface, this small scale family dramedy doesn’t appear to be a work of cinematic excellence, but then, looks can be deceiving. Little Miss Sunshine opens with the Hoover extended family sitting down to dinner. We learn about the drug taking grandfather, the suicidal uncle, the son who has taken a vow of silence.
Things aren’t going well for this most dysfunctional of families, and a cross-country trip to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant doesn’t appear to be particularly well advised. But with nothing else positive looming on the horizon, the family reluctantly load up a dormobile of dubious condition and embark on a quest to make young Olive’s dream come true. Depressingly dark and almost cruelly comic, you’re unsure from the outset whether you are supposed to laugh or cry. The truth is, you’ll do both. Playing out like an up-to-date National Lampoons Vacation, the depth and heart to the story ensure it is so much more than that.
This is a film about journeys, both geographical and emotional. Each character grows personally, as does the family as a whole. Death, shattered dreams and lost love are addressed, whilst all the while the family pull together to complete their quest. There are laugh out loud moments of ridiculousness, but it’s the subtle humour during the more personal moments that mean they stay with you.
Much has been made of young Abigail Breslin’s performance, but for me the revelation is The Office’s Steve Carrell. An underplayed, measured performance, Frank provides the glue that holds the dynamic together. Truly heartbreaking moments, like the shattering of Dwayne’s dream career, and heart lifting scenes like the families’ unorthodox arrival at the pageant combine to make Little Miss Sunshine a touching piece of cinema that will stay with you long after the final reel.
Rebecca is just one of many Alfred Hitchcock movies on the imdb250 list, proof if any is required that Hitchcock is considered one of the elite, arguably the greatest storyteller in the history of film. This fact is representative of one of the reasons we took on this project. I’ve seen very few of Hitchcocks movies, and being forced to watch films i otherwise wouldn’t have seeked out is a compelling reason to take the project on.
A young lady is forced to accompany the disagreeable Mrs Hopper to make a living. When her boss is taken ill, she takes the opportunity to spare some rare off time with the well-to-do Maxim De Winter, who is staying in the same Monte Carlo Hotel. Maxim’s wife Rebecca has passed away, and the time they spend together makes him happy for the first time since. So when she is forced to leave Monte Carlo by Mrs Hopper, Maxim proposes marriage rather than lose her. Despite some potentially off-putting talk that the man is still devastated by the premature death of his wife, she agrees and accompanies him back to his stately home.
The hook with most of Hitchcock’s best work is the knowledge that something isn’t quite right, and the anticipation of the dreaded event. Rebecca is in many ways the purest example of this. The shadow of the man’s dead wife looms large. With a life she isn’t used to, and a home full of her predecessor’s personal touches, the Second Mrs De Winter is figuaratively haunted, and the feeling pulls at you that the figurative may become the literal. As she learns more about the late Mrs De Winter, her unease grows into fear.
The slow burn of the building tension and fear is so effective, in fact, that when the pay off comes it is almost underwhelming. It was a tough task to top what came before it, and the climax is maybe a little too ordinary. That’s not to say it isn’t intelligently conceived and artfully constructed. The problem is probably more due to the countless imitations and rip-offs of Hitchcock’s work that we’ve been subjected to over the years. The shocks and twist have become so elaborate that looking back to this time period, the ones displayed here seem pretty tame.
Rebecca is a relatively early film in Hitchcock’s career, and already he displays all the great mystery, storytelling, and plot twists that mark him out as a true great. Modern contemporaries like Christopher Nolan and David Fincher may attempt to imitate and innovate, but Hitchcock will always be remembered as the true master.
When District 9 was released last summer, expressions like ‘surprise package’ and ‘sleeper hit’ were bandied about with gay abandon. The truth is, with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson as producer, and a compelling alien refugee storyline at it’s core, District 9 hadn’t been made in top secret. Many people had been looking forward to it a year or more before its release.
What was a surprise was how well made it was, how good it looked for it’s budget, and how assured the direction was from first time feature helmer Neill Blomkamp. The story of alien refugees held in camps, persecuted by the native populace was fairly unique. The apartheid allegory was hardly cryptic, but it really didn’t need to be. The mixture of serious message and all-out action was well balanced, and meant that a sensitive issue was brought to the attention of a wider audience.
This is really what film should be all about. Complex, compelling story-lines, enhanced by engaging humour and action, allowing both ends of the viewing spectrum to appreciate what they are being shown. Sharlto Copely was set an unenviable task, having to portray an obnoxious, snivelling mid-manager whilst still allowing room for sympathy, and later redemption. Copely succeeded well, and displayed a wide repertoire of emotions and a talent for physical comedy. If he can affect a reasonable American accent, a decent Hollywood career almost certainly beckons.
Destined to be known as the ‘other’ sci-fi movie nominated for this years best picture Oscar, Blomkamp won’t lament the poor timing. If District 9 had come a year ago, it wouldn’t have gotten the nomination. There’s no doubting it deserves to be up there this year, and as for it’s position in the 250, it possibly deserves to be even higher.
Bazmann – Don’t forget you can follow our progress at http://twitter.com/baz_mann and http://twitter.com/gary_phillips_