Week 1 - The Top 100 Film Challenge

Happy Halloween, y'all! It's been a week of fervent film watching for the Top 100 Film challenge that I set myself last week. For those of you who haven't read what this is (where have you been...), the post can be found here. Things kicked off with The Godfather (Parts I & II) last Wednesday, swiftly followed by The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and The Usual Suspects on Thursday. Keeping up the pace on Friday, I watched Taxi Driver on the train to Nottingham, continued with Reservoir Dogs on Monday and Pulp Fiction on Tuesday. Phew! So, as promised, here is my first review of the films I've watched this week.

1. Film: The Godfather (1972)
Deserves its place in the Top 100?: Yes.

Why?: "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." Boy is this film a lesson in family values. For those who haven't seen it, The Godfather centres around a New York Sicilian mafia family, the Corleone's, the head of which is played by Marlon Brando - who, once you get used to his accent (which sounds like he's speaking through a mouth full of cotton wool), is an incredible character. It's a film all about the importance - and influence - of family, and what happens when anyone tries to knot those family ties. Well, don't mess with the best - the best don't mess. While family definitely comes first in this movie, food - in typical Sicilian fashion - comes a close second: "Ok, so you shot two of 'em, now what ya gonna do?" "Sit down and finish my dinner." Damn straight. If nothing else, watch it just to gaze at a young Al Pacino, who plays Don Corleone's 'good-guy-gone-bad' son. Bonafide eye candy.

2. Film: The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Deserves its place in the Top 100?: No.

Why?: The film is split between the 'current' dealings of the Corleone family, who have moved to Nevada, and a retrospective of Vito Corleone's (Marlon Brando in the previous film) early life. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is badder than ever, knocking out his enemies left right and centre, but for me, the story just doesn't work when taken out of New York. The flashbacks of Vito's early life (who is played by a rather handsome Robert De Niro) are the best part of the film - reminiscent of Gangs of New York, but less stagey. The other half kind of just drags on a bit, and you find yourself realising that Michael Corleone has not only murdered most of the characters, but also your afternoon. The storyline is same-y and there is no real plot or psychological evolution like there is in the first film. Best line? "If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone."

3. Film: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
Recommended by: Edmund
Deserves its place in the Top 100?: Yeah...

Why?: I have two dislikes in film. One is anything set in space. The other is Westerns. I can't stand the 'piow piow' of the gunshots, the cheesy one-liners, and the next-to-none dialogue; obviously The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was going to test me. For those who haven't seen it (i.e. pretty much any female), it's a film about three men in the WWW (that's the Wild Wild West, for those not in the know) at the time of the American Civil War, who are all after some buried treasure. A fairly simple storyline, you might say. I would agree with you. Which is why it is mightily puzzling as to why it takes over three hours to complete. I am putting this down to the inordinate amount of time spent on slow panoramas of the desert, close-ups of squinted eyes, and duels with people who are inconsequential to the overall plot. However, there is a flip-side. Firstly, the score. The film opens with that famous theme tune - you know the one:
and, to be fair, the music doesn't disappoint throughout. It's dramatic, and it works. Secondly, young Clint Eastwood is a hottie. He's one of those brooding silent types. Kind of like Angel in Buffy, but more tanned and with a gun instead of a piece of wood. Thirdly, even I, with my hatred of Westerns, can tell this is an iconic piece of cinema. It's what all subsequent Westerns have tried to copy - without much success. It IS cheesy as hell, I won't lie. And after this, you would be hard pressed to make me watch it again. But, if for no other reason than its status in cinematic history, it does deserve a place in the Top 100. 

4. Film: The Usual Suspects (1995)
Recommended by: Will
Deserves its place in the Top 100?: Yes.

Why?: If you look up 'mindfuck' in the dictionary, this film would be its definition. It's a story about five criminals, told in a series of intricate flashbacks by Kevin Spacey's character (Verbal Kint) from an interrogation in a Californian Police Department - centring around the arson of a boat. Flicking backwards and forwards in time is a little disjointing at the beginning, but you soon get used to it and find yourself totally immersed in the incredible storytelling of Verbal Kint. It's a masterclass in complex plot lines, with a twist at the end which will have you mouthing "No fucking way" at the screen when the credits roll. If you haven't watched it - do. If you have - watch it again; that's what I'm about to do right now.

5. Film: Taxi Driver (1976)
Recommended by: Tom
Deserves its place in the Top 100?: Yes.

Why?: Another film starring the young Robert De Niro, this time playing an obsessive taxi driver who has a problem with the world around him: "All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." Likened to an American Clockwork Orange, it's pretty shocking for something filmed nearly 40 years ago; sex, violence and expletives feature heavily, against a backdrop of 1970's New York. The character of Travis Bickle is both terrifying and fascinating; you know from the start that something is not 'right' with him, and throughout the film you are kept guessing what big thing he's going to pull off. For me, the suspense really wasn't worth it. The climax - a shoot-out at a prostitute's apartment - just was not big enough. This having been said, De Niro's character is brilliant and unforgettable, and 1970's New York is amazing to see. So, for those reasons, it deserves to be up there.

6. Film: Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Recommended by: Natalie
Deserves its place in the Top 100?: Yes.

Why?: I'm a massive girl when it comes to blood and violence, so when I found out that this was a Tarantino movie, I expected to spend most of my time hiding behind a pillow. However, this is no Kill Bill bloodbath. Granted, there are some pretty gory scenes in the middle - namely when a cop gets his ear sliced off - but the rest of it is pretty tame, by most standards. What really makes the film is the dialogue. The script is genius, full of clever banter and anecdotes between the characters: "Hey Joe, you want me to shoot this guy?!" "If you shoot me in a dream you better wake up and apologise." The film centres around a jewellery heist gone wrong; someone in the group has tipped off the police, and the men have split - some are dead, some are dying, and a couple wind up in a warehouse together. The backstories of the thieves are told in a series of flashbacks under their aliases (Mr White, Mr Pink, Mr Orange, etc) until we eventually find out who the rat is. Visually, it's not all that impressive or exciting, but the screenplay pushes the film on regardless. Personally, I've never seen a film like it, so for its script and originality - it's got to be in the Top 100.

7. Film: Pulp Fiction (1994)
Recommended by: Pretty much everyone.
Deserves its place in the Top 100?: Yes.

Why?: Another day, another Tarantino movie. But what a movie. Pulp Fiction is, in many ways, very similar to Reservoir Dogs. But it's bigger, better and way more cinematically evolved than the earlier film. For starters, it looks better. The scenes are more visual (and therefore more memorable), the costumes are brilliant, and the actors - and acting - are world-class. Secondly, the story is better; instead of flashbacks, the film works like a roundabout book of short stories - a complex web of scenarios with one big fat spider in the middle: the mysterious Marcellus. It covers love (both requited and un-), revenge, crime, homosexual rape, and much more - all tied together with lots and lots of angry violence. Thirdly, the soundtrack is iconic. Credits roll to what more modern readers will recognise as the sample from The Black Eyed Peas Pump It, which, now that I've seen the movie, I basically think is musical sacrilege. Another sample is used in a more respectable song - Fun Lovin' Criminals's Scooby Snacks. There are others you will recognise in the film, but it's an example of just how far this movie's cultural reach is. Finally, the screenplay is just out of this world. Sharp, quick exchanges and long, epic monologues - if you ask what Shakespeare would be writing if he lived in the 90's, this would be your answer: 
"You know what's on my mind right now? It AIN'T the coffee in my kitchen. It's the dead nigger in my garage. When you came pulling in here, did you notice a sign on the front of my house that said 'Dead Nigger Storage'? DID YOU NOTICE A SIGN ON THE FRONT OF MY HOUSE THAT SAID 'DEAD NIGGER STORAGE'?" 
"No. I didn't." 
"You know why you didn't see that sign?" 
Now that's some effing poetry.

Keep the recommendations rolling in, guys. 7 down, 58 to go.

Belle x

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