Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quentin Tarantino's top 20 movies since 1992

QT gives an elliptic and esoteric list of the best films from the last 19 years.

Given I have seen remarkably few of them (though I suspect, more than most people), I can't comment intelligently on how good or bad the entire list is.

Of those that he includes that I have seen, I can say that I am occasionally in agreement. 'Memento Mori' (Memories of Murder) is haunting and simply excellent, and overlooked because of its foreign origin. 'Fight Club' remains one of my all-time favourites, and have watched it repeatedly. The Takeshi Miike flick he picks (Audition) isn't one I have seen, but I include Miike's 'Old Boy' among my list of the best, so we do still share similar tastes.

'Speed'? Really? I just can't buy it. It's junk. Seriously junk. I have similar problems with 'The Matrix', not that I don't enjoy it, but when the premise of the film is that humans are being used as batteries by machines, when alternatives exist that any schoolboy could point out, makes the inclusion of it strange. It is still compulsively watchable, even if it is the Jesus story retold as PK Dick sci-fi epic.

I also don't share his enthusiasm for Lars Von Triers, though I know most serious film critics do.

Most gratifying for me was the inclusion of 'Unbreakable', a film I thought was misunderstood by critics (and even fans), and that is the high-water mark for M. Night Shyamalan's film making career.

Here is the trailer for the movie QT thinks is the best flick released since he himself started making movies, Battle Royale;

My own 'Top 20' list would look very different, and as with Tarantino's list, the flicks are in no particular order except for my favourite;

- A History of Violence

Cronenberg's meditation on violence is simultaneously creepy, sexy, and affecting.

- Fight Club

A study on masculinity, modernity and madness, wrapped in the shirtless torso of Brad Pitt.

- Unbreakable

Arguably still the greatest comic book movie ever made - in part because it takes itself and its premise seriously.

- Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Redefines what it is for a story to be 'epic'.

- No Country For Old Men

Deservedly won the Best Picture Oscar, it's debatably the Cohen Bros. finest work (The Big Lebowski is the other contender IMO)

- Pulp Fiction

QT's masterpiece.

- Little Miss Sunshine

Smart and laugh out loud funny. A rare combination.

- The Dark Knight

Like 'Unbreakable', DK rises well above the source material, in this case to reflect cogently on terrorism and state violence. Heath Ledger's performance is nothing short of legendary.

- Moon

Not all great science fiction needs to have explosions, space battles or Frankensteinian sub-themes. In this case, it doesn't even need a cast of more than a few people. Sam Rockwell is never short of mesmerizing despite being on camera for almost the entire movie.

- Apollo 13

Ron Howard's accounting of the near tragic mission to the Moon, and the inventiveness and courage that got the astronauts home alive.

- L.A. Confidential

Future film studies of film noir will have L.A. Confidential as the ideal modern example of the genre.

- Old Boy

Disturbing and exhilarating discourse on revenge.

- Memento

Christopher Nolan's murder mystery is filled with fine acting (especially the lead Guy Pearce), has a riveting story about a man with no short term memory, and totally goes for broke by having the narrative play out backwards. Film studies classes will have this in their canon for decades.

- Gosford Park

If any film can be described as being utterly British, this is it. A giant metaphor for the class distinctions of British society, it is ruthless in its examinations and yet never fails to deliver the goods as a straight up mystery procedural. Perversely, it would be an American director (Robert Altman) who achieved this.

- A Scanner Darkly

An innovative film technique (rotoscoping), coupled with one of the most difficult P.K. Dick novels, and a hit/miss cypher of an actor (Keanu Reeves) are the ingredients for one of the most unexpected - and even horrifying science fiction movies ever made.

- Ronin

Best. Car. Chases. Ever. And it has Robert DeNiro in the lead.

- Heat

All-star casting from top to bottom, a propulsive story line about a high-end gang of bank robbers, and realistic action sequences (especially the gunfight after the bank robbery), transform a straight forward morality tale of cops and robbers into a masterpiece. Also, Moby covers Joy Division on the soundtrack, which is no small thing.

And my favourite movie since 1993;

- Crash (Cronenberg)

Here's the decidedly non-plussed review of Crash offered by Siskel and the more forgiving response by Ebert.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Joanna Russ RIP

Science fiction lost another great recently with the passing of Joanna Russ.

Author of many groundbreaking works, and remembered especially for her injection of intelligent feminism into the boys club of sci-fi, she will be missed.

The story 'When things changed' was published in 'Dangerous Visions 2' and remains a classic.

It can be read online here.