I've been working up a good head of steam over Batman since seeing it last weekend - enough of a head of steam, indeed, that I haven't even finished the rough draft of my rant. And I've been working on it for two days. (Also, apparently, I'd really like to wind up on some fanboy hitlists. That's how you know you've arrived, isn't it?)
And I've owed a Monsters & Mullets review for a dog's age. I haven't finished that yet, either.
Fortunately, I've had this post knocking around my harddrive for a few months. So, for today's Friday Five, I present to you Movies I Love. It's just a nice list of a few films I find myself watching regularly. They're not quite comfort films, though there's certainly an element of comfort to them; they are films I engage with every time I watch them, even though I watch them regularly. And they're not guilty pleasures (because I don't believe in those.) These are just films I love, plain and simple.
What are a few of your favorites? Why? And what are you going to be watching this weekend, when you just can't stomach another second of Olympics coverage?
The Limey (1999). A fractured narrative elevates this dreamy revenge noir into a work of art. Terrance Stamp is electric as the terrifying, deeply internal Wilson, a petty criminal from London who’s trying to figure out what happened to his long-estranged daughter. He travels to a hazy, sun-soaked Los Angeles to confront the people who loved her, all the while being forced to come to terms with how the decisions he made as a young man affected the people around him. The Limey is at once an examination of the poetry of regret and an elegy to lost youth. Joss Whedon so loved the film that he based the Buffy episode “The Body” on it. And, also, it’s my favorite film in the entire world.
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000). We’ve talked about this one a lot on Pornokitsch, and we’re just going to keep talking about until you’ve all seen it. And then we’ll talk about it some more. Look, this movie is flat-out hilarious. The dialogue is brilliant, the timing is impeccable, and the animation is weird, totally stylized, and completely perfect.
The Court Jester (1956). A two-decades-too-late spoof of the Errol Flynn Robin Hood, Danny Kaye’s The Court Jester was, at the time, the most expensive comedy ever produced. It bombed in theatres, but became a cult hit thanks to its goofy humor, sincere charm, and wonderfully weird set-pieces including, most famously, a minutes-long riff on the tongue-twister 'the pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.' There’s also a flagon with a dragon. And some dubious sexual politics. And Angela Lansbury bringing a deeply unsettling villainy to her role as pretty, pretty princess.
The Man who Shot Liberty Valence (1962). There’s nothing remotely revisionist about this classic western; John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin are perfectly cast respectively as the old-fart he-man cowboy, young-upstart citified lawyer, and villainous villain. The thing is, Liberty Valence is the perfect showcase for these three actors, and demonstrates exactly why they were so good at those roles. The film’s theme, that laws and book-learnin’ are no match for guts and old-fashioned heroism, is laughably conservative. But the movie’s fast pace, great acting, and many, many memorable moments more than makes up for its glassy-eyed nostalgia for a time that never really was.
Speaking of times that never were: Blazing Saddles (1974) is probably the most-quoted film in my lexicon. I grew up watching westerns, and loved this comedy piss-take about racial politics in the modern day old west even though I was too young to understand exactly how political it really is.
But if there's a film I quote as often (or maybe even more) than Blazing Saddles it's this: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Groan, I know. But seriously, go back and watch this one again. Try to ignore the fact that it's an Indiana Jones movie. The dialogue is really, really good. And it should be! Tom Stoppard was bought in to doctor the script and, according to Steven Spielberg, Stoppard was 'pretty much responsible for every line of dialogue.' There's also the movie's heart, easy to miss under the Indiana Jones/Harrison Ford/Sean Connery/Stephen Spielberg weight: a really good, strong story about the relationship between a parent and a child. Also, there are Nazis and explosions and that universal truth: X never, ever marks the spot. (Except when it does.)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005). Another noir (hey, I like ‘em), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (bonus points for the title, which is an homage to James Bond) doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it deserves for being brilliantly written, brilliantly acted, and brilliantly subversive. The narrative’s ever-shifting sands leave protagonist and explicit audience-identification character Robert Downey Jr. (who regularly addresses the camera) off balance and totally discombobulated as he tries to navigate a strange city and a murder plot that, bafflingly, seems to center around him. By the film’s conclusion, Downey’s Harry seems more than willing to accept his Hollywood happy ending, even if the audience has figured out that something still doesn’t quite add up. The acting is stellar, and that, combined with the film’s labyrinthine plot, combine to make this film worth many rewatches and much discussion. Also ZOMG YOU GUYS HAVE TO WATCH THIS FILM SO WE CAN DISCUSS MY THEORY ABOUT IT.