Category Archives: IMDB Top 250

The Departed (2006), Infernal Affairs (2002)

There are some films that you just know you’re going to like even before they begin. The Departed was one of those for me.

How could it not be good? Directed by Martin Scorsese. Big names like Matt Damon, Leonardo Di Caprio, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen.

Even Mark Wahlberg was supposed to be good in it.

And so it proved. The plot can sound a lot more complicated than it really is. It’s cops, led by Sheen, versus gangsters, led by Nicholson. Each side has a mole in the other camp, Di Caprio the cop turned mobster and Damon the opposite. And each mole is trying to identify their rival mole, in order to protect their own cover.

It’s a black and white tale really. Di Caprio has spent so long on the wrong side of the law that it’s beginning to eat him up. You can see in every scene how passionately he wants to draw a line underneath his undercover days, go back to a normal life. All he has to do is deliver Nicholson. Meanwhile, Damon, for want of a better phrase, is a sneaky piece of shit. I couldn’t help taking an immediate dislike to his character.

One thing that does take a bit of getting used to is the Boston accent on show. Before this film I had no idea there was such a thing, and it can take a minute or two to tune your ear to it. But it’s almost a character in itself and really adds to the pace and the rhythm of the dialogue.

Speaking of dialogue, Wahlberg’s performance is one for the ages. It’s not just the foul content of his lines, but the venom with which he spits them out (and no, that’s not a reference to his hip hop days as Marky Mark).

It’s not Scorsese’s greatest film, by any stretch, and you’ll never hear a worse Irish accent than that attempted by Ray Winstone. But it’s a fantastic way to spend two and a half hours

Or at least, that’s what I thought before this week, when I sat down to watch Infernal Affairs on Netflix.

Infernal Affairs is a Hong Kong film from 2002, and was the ‘inspiration’ for the Departed. It’s basically the same story, but in Cantonese. And it is out-of-this-world brilliant.

For starters, there’s the sheer speed at which the story rattles along. The Departed’s running time is 151 minutes. Infernal Affairs gets the job done in 101 minutes, the best part of an hour less. There’s no dawdling about, it gets on with it and sucks you in immediately. The placing of the respective moles is over within a matter of minutes, before we even see the title of the film.

I thought that Di Caprio’s performance was the very embodiment of quiet desperation, an undercover cop on the edge. I was wrong – Tony Leung is on a different planet. It’s a heart-breaking display, a guy watching, absorbing everything, in the hope that he can take down the top Triad – Sam, played by Eric Tsang – and get back to a life he knew before.

Any time his secret identity was at risk of being exposed, my heart was in my throat, pounding, even though thanks to the Departed I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen.

Tsang is another who puts his American successor in the shade. Nicholson is smarmy and charming, but I never really bought him as a ruthless gangster. Tsang on the other hand oozes charisma and quiet menace. His eyes were utterly chilling.

And what of the Triad’s man inside the police, Inspector Lau (Andy Lau)? It’s a very different performance to Matt Damon’s. Here is a man fighting himself – and his Triad leaders – to find out who he really is, whether he wants to be defined by his relationship with the Triads or move beyond it. I found him a far more sympathetic character, one who is aware that his mistakes have caused the deaths of good people and who feels genuine remorse for that.

There isn’t the clumsy love triangle that the Departed attempts, and the film is all the better for it.

According to IMDB, the Departed is the 52nd best film ever made, with an average rating of 8.5, compared to Infernal Affairs’ rating of 8, leaving it in 210th place. If everybody who rated the Departed were made to watch Infernal Affairs, I fully expect that positioning would be switched.

Great films stay with you long after the credits have ended. I enjoyed the Departed, but once it was over, I didn’t think about it (beyond the odd delayed chuckle at a Wahlberg line). In the 24 hours since I finished Infernal Affairs, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I implore you to watch it. You won’t regret it.

John Fitzsimons is the editor of personal finance website lovemoney.com and writes about things other than money to keep him sane. His wife still hasn’t forgiven him for subjecting her to Green Street simply for the chance to hear Frodo sing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”.

@johnthejourno

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Oldboy (2003)

It’s looking like Park Chan-wook’s tremendous revenge-thriller, Oldboy, is set to be remade in 2013 by American film-maker, Spike Lee. I’d go on to say how disappointed I am by another needless remake, but frankly, it’s not going to detract anything from the original, however disappointing or surprisingly good Lee’s rendition turns out.

Oldboy is a film that caught me by surprise. I’d seen the film recurring on lists of ‘best foreign films’ and the like, but didn’t pay attention to the curiosity-catching plot and quite how much it appealed to me. The story follows Oh Dae-su, a man imprisoned for 15 years, with no knowledge of his captor or the reasons behind the new life he lives.

His room has a bed, a desk, a television and a bathroom cubicle. The door contains a slot, large enough for a food tray to slide through. But no slot necessary at eye-level. Daily, an incapacitating gas is released into the room and upon Dae-Su’s awakening, the room has been cleaned, his clothes changed and a new batch of dumplings delivered. He scribbles writings into a journal, ferociously beats his fists against the walls that contain him and uses television to stay connected to humanity in what diminutive way he can; it is simultaneously ‘a clock and a calendar. It’s your school, your home, your church, your friend… And a lover’.

Until one day, a news-piece reveals that his own blood and fingerprints have been found at the scene of his wife’s murder; that he has become a wanted man.

Oh Dae-Su is soon released from his prison and equipped with money, a phone and expensive clothes. He is given five days to seek his revenge. At a sushi restaurant, he meets Mi-do, who offers her sympathy, cares for him and joins him on his search for meaning.

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep, and you weep alone.

While staying with Mi-do, it quickly becomes apparent that Oh is out of touch with the subtleties of human nature, and immediately desires Mi-do; a much greater lover than he previously considered his room’s television. But his physical infatuation does not deter him from finding his former captor. Years of disciplined physical repetition has left Oh Dae-Su’s body strong, but his mind is focused only on vengeance and a quest for answers, regardless of what brutality it takes to get them.

Oldboy is not violence for violence’s sake, but it is brutal. Punishment is in the film’s core and it is shown with a gritty style that won’t be to everyone’s taste. However, the film is also very authentic. Choi Min-sik plays Oh Dae-Su and is mesmerising; portraying slips into madness and the need for a human connection, as a result of his tormented, cut-off past. Oldboy has many shocking scenes that aren’t in for shock value, but regardless how believable or ‘justified’ it feels for Dae-Su’s savage character, watching and hearing the claw-end of a hammer go at another man’s set of teeth is hard to stomach.

However violent it seems, the film remains artistic at its core. A scene where Dae-Su fights off several of his former jailers, with a knife thrust into his back, is extremely well choreographed to show the overpowering rage and determination that fuels him, while also remaining stylish and fast-paced.

Watching Oldboy, I was caught up in the mystery of the plot and the style of the film, rather than letting the violence take a front seat. The film offers many moments of humour and humanity, which make it feel completely genuine. Oldboy is powerful, not just for the impact of the visceral violence, but more-so because of the depths of human depravity it portrays. Unlike a lot of recent thrillers, this is a film whose stylish, gritty violence feels like it is serving the equally dark plot, rather than vice-versa.

My name is Jonny Stringer and I’m a journalism student in Sheffield with a growing interest in film. I’m no expert, but know that I’d love the chance to write about film for a living, so I’m hoping practice makes perfect.

I’m a big fan of thrillers, dark humour and the odd bit of stylish violence, but that’s not to say I don’t watch the occasional Disney film from time to time.

Like many, I’m aiming to get through the IMDb Top 250, while also keeping up-to-date with upcoming releases but on a student budget, I do tend to lag behind.

I occasionally write about film on http://jonnystringer.wordpress.com/ and can be tweeted at https://twitter.com/jonnyzomg 

Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Guest contributor John Fitzsimons tells us why IMDB Top 250 film Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells turned him into a RIGHT FAHKIN’ MUG!

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a film that does strange things to people.

It prompted a chap in my class at school to phone me – twice – within an hour of finishing the movie to explain the plot. It convinced Hollywood that Vinnie Jones could act.

Most troubling of all, it led to me adopting the accent of an East End geezer.

This wasn’t an immediate thing. After all, the film came out in 1998 when I was still at school in East London, so had something of an accent anyway. But it was when I went to University in sunny Southampton in 2002 and sat my new friends down for a watch of the movie that it turned me into a tragic, bespectacled Ray Winstone tribute act.

The story itself is nothing revolutionary. A card game goes wrong. A group of friends end up hugely in debt to the sort of chap you don’t want to owe money to. And they only have a week to pay it off. Hilarity ensues.

But it’s the way that story is told. There’s a real swagger to the film, the sort of cocksure arrogance that was all over the place in the days of Cool Britannia. If ever a film smelt of Lynx Africa, it was Lock, Stock.

The film-making itself is very slick, with the sort of camera angle flourishes that – for better or worse – are synonymous of Guy Ritchie films.

And then there’s the dialogue. It’s punchy, it’s memorable, it’s funny. I’m a sucker for a film that’s quotable in everyday life, and lines from Lock, Stock very quickly became standard fare down the pub. Honestly now, who among us hasn’t seen a bargain down the shops or online and responded: “It’s a deal, it’s a steal, it’s sale of the fucking century!”

The music also deserves a mention. There has rarely been a more perfect soundtrack. From the opening montage and Ocean Colour Scene’s 100 Mile High City to James Brown’s The Boss via Dusty Springfield’s Spooky, every song perfectly fits the characters on screen and the mood at that moment.

If Quentin Tarantino had been born in Bow he would have made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

There are a number of stand-out performances in the film. Jason Statham was the epitome of gravelly cool – if I was Kelly Brook, I would have slept with him too. You’d never believe this Dexter Fletcher was the same guy from Press Gang and that awful spell hosting Gamesmaster, while Frank Harper’s Dog is a genuinely unsettling thief with a mean golf swing.

The cameos are great too: Rob Brydon’s parking attendant, Sting as a bar owner and Danny John-Jules (better known as Cat from Red Dwarf) in a fabulous scene spoofing the excesses of cockney rhyming slang.

But really, the movie is all about one man.

Vinnie Jones was an untalented hacker as a footballer, and he’s not much better as an actor. Yet he is by a distance the best thing in this movie as Harry the Hatchet’s debt collector Big Chris.

He oozes charisma and menace, bringing the pain to anyone who doesn’t pay their debts or dares to swear (or even blaspheme) in front of his son, Little Chris. It’s not just the violence though – Jones demonstrates some beautiful comic timing and is clearly relishing every second. It’s difficult not to get caught up in that.

Great films don’t just leave a mark on their audience; they also influence other filmmakers. Just as Blair Witch Project led to a flurry of handheld footage movies (which are still rife today), Lock, Stock also saw a revival in the British gangster movie.

Sadly, many of these feature Danny Dyer. But genuinely brilliant films like Layer Cake simply would not exist if not for Lock, Stock. That’s a fantastic legacy.

As for me, it didn’t take long to realise I sounded like an absolute berk. Besides, when I read the philosophy texts I was supposed to be studying, the voice in my head did so in a Cockney accent. Cogito ergo sum, you mug.

John Fitzsimons is the editor of personal finance website lovemoney.com and writes about things other than money to keep him sane. His wife still hasn’t forgiven him for subjecting her to Green Street simply for the chance to hear Frodo sing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”.

@johnthejourno

Downfall (2004)

Guest contributor Liam Pennington reviews another IMDB Top 250 film, Downfall, and finds thatthis film humanises Hitler, and that is its greatest strength.”

How do you deal with your country’s most infamous moment in history? With compassion, criticism or an uncomfortable compromise? For Germany, ‘Downfall’ marks its most thorough and stark re-examination of the Second World War, and one of the first feature films produced by the country before or since reunification set during the period. That Bruno Ganz is the first German born actor to play Adolf Hitler is highly significant enough before the analysis of his performance is taken into consideration. With fearful accuracy, and not once moving into parody, Hitler was brought back to life.

At the time of its release, ‘Downfall’ was heralded for its honesty and brutality. The question was asked; “Does ‘Downfall’ humanise Hitler?” When I watched the film for the first time, I was struck by the humanity and humility of the man, repulsed by the mindset I’ve always known despite learning almost nothing I hadn’t already known. That said, there was a new dimension to him which underlined or embellished that which is sometimes hinted by contemporary footage uncovered for documentaries. Here is the Adolf Hitler who smiles, who puts a comforting arm around his secretary, whose care about his vision of Germany is as much flavoured by love as hate. ‘Downfall’ produced a version of Hitler who existed behind the propaganda and jokes back home. Whilst the comedians back home painted him as ‘barmy’ and ‘a twerp’, the man himself was being slowly engulfed by the madness which surrounded him. To answer the question, yes, this film humanises Hitler, and that is its greatest strength.

‘Downfall’ records the closing weeks of Hitler’s grip on Berlin specifically and Germany generally. It’s a claustrophobic film, throwing the viewer deeper and deeper into the Führerbunker as liberating forces encroach the city. This is no mere ‘war’ film, though shots are fired and people do die – a good number by their own hand before the deaths of Hitler and Eva Braun.  The film’s pace has an arthouse speed, lingering and exploring, cold and compelling. It’s striking that such films are rare in the English speaking world, with such exploration of a nation’s failings often only produced on the sidelines and by independent minded directors. I always took ‘Downfall’ to avoid ‘cleansing’ the country of its unease about the Second World War, as though this was always intended not to be therapy.

It’s difficult to avoid one of the least expected creations to come from the film, and by which I mean the now over-used Internet ‘meme’ taken from the celebrated bunker scene in which Hitler is made painfully aware just how weak were the defences around Berlin. The scene grasped the fragility of a man whose inner strength came from the belief that he would be saved, that he would be proved right. The ‘meme’ replaced the original subtitles for whichever comedic (and most often, not very comedic) purposes of the creator. Football, soap operas, other films, even references to other ‘memes’, one by one hijacking the scene for their own amusement and taking away with it a tiny part of its soul. The fear of photographs doing the same for the subject perhaps coming true.

Nonetheless, that scene works so well because it manages to combine that which was known about Hitler and that which was always assumed, that the man was weak and vulnerable despite his bombast. The descent for him and his regime is covered with a detached inevitability. Its style is distinctly European, with its series of haunting scenes all the more notable for being captured through German eyes and spoken in the German language. What ‘Downfall’ leaves is a prominent example of storytelling, one which lacks fear and almost all bias. This is not ‘that Nazi film’ anymore than ‘The Counterfeiters’ (Die Fälscher) could be described as such. Quite how any other examination of Adolf Hitler during the last days of the War could be made in the aftermath of ‘Downfall’ is a chin-stroking question and then some. Any more brutal could be dangerously close to pure sympathy, something this avoids. Anything attempting absolute neutrality might fall into parody. Seventy years after the events it follows, ‘Downfall’ retains its unflinching importance.

Liam Pennington is at the action side of 30 years old and is the On-Line Editor for High Voltage. When not making good use of PR companies’ guff, he can be found groundhopping, writing for whoever else wants him, singing along to Eurovision records and sitting through arthouse films at Cornerhouse, Manchester.

@doktorb
www.liampennington.blogspot.com

Some Like It Hot

Guest contributor Liam Pennington revisits the classic Billy Wilder comedy and presents a film that “had more in common with the British music-hall tradition than anything which came before from the United States”

This summer the Failed Critics podcasters cast their eyes across the much maligned rom-com genre, from which Hollywood’s relationship has been clearly cooling for some time. Boys meeting girls, girls getting cold feet, boys getting their girls in the end – such an easy to replicate pattern which can absorb the fashions of the age has been distinctly out of place of late, as though the family audience demographic has been judged distinctly uncool.

That’s not to say that family entertainment has always been wholesome and innocent until a cut-off point when the curtain fell, the lights dimmed and the punch-lines turned blue. There have always been winks to the camera and double entendre, not least in the UK where writers balanced innuendo in such a way as to make films more ‘mucky’ than ‘dirty’. On its release in 1959, an age far removed from our own, Some Like It Hot had more in common with the British music-hall tradition than anything which came before from the United States. Indeed it would be accurate to examine Billy Wilder’s work with reference to Britain’s Carry On franchise which would hit its peak in the following decade. For Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis could well have been Bernard Bresslaw and Kenneth Williams, running from crisis to crisis with increasing farce.

My experience with Some Like It Hot comes from countless Bank Holiday viewings, left alone with the living room television and a brain absorbing every throwaway line without even realising it. Years later, it became obvious that my own humour and character would be influenced by the camp wit and rapid delivery. Kenneth Williams himself would regale anecdotes from his days entertaining the troops on national service, and it is from this Army entertainment tradition that Some Like It Hot gets its pace and patter. I would learn to love the increasingly frantic and frenetic storyline as much as others would appreciate horror or crime dramas, although of course it is from the gangster stories of the immediate post-war period that Wilder found the scaffolding from which to hold his subverted take on rom-com conventions.

As ever with highlights from classic cinema, the legends and myths surrounding Some Like It Hot are worth publishing in books of their own – with many an anecdote brushed up and built upon in memoires and background books to this day. The legacy of the film echoes around the studios of the 21st century with reverence and relevance, for who doesn’t like a cross-dressing, simple misunderstanding farce? Many of the urban myths surround Marilyn Monroe, whose turn as the dizzy blonde Sugar Cane was art imitating life, perhaps deliberately. It is true that Monroe, whose stock rose considerably on the film’s release, would take over seventy attempts to say the innocuous line “It’s me, Sugar”, and another eighty to ask “Where’s the bourbon?” She is, in turns, brittle and beautiful and believable in the role of the jazz band singer, self-exiled to visit hotels from town to town in a desperate attempt to find the man of her dreams. This narrative has been and will be the hook from which scores of films would hang, and yet there’s nothing fresher than Some Like It Hot for taking the story of a girl looking for her prince and making it into a race against gangsters, gender politics and gender bending.

When I was a younger man, it didn’t occur to me that this film was a homosexual politics powerhouse, secretly telling its gay audience that everything would turn out right in the end. One vital line in this regard, “I hope my mother never finds out”, is one of the perfect subversive quotes in a screenplay overflowing with memorable lines. Much later comes the celebrated knockabout in the ‘girl’’s bedroom – “Why would a man want to marry another man?” asks Tony Curtis’ Josephine. Jack Lemmon’s Daphne replies “Security!”

Played “straight” in 1959, the implied queer culture undercurrent would be neon-lit in the modern era, surrendering the subtle interplay between male and female characters for explicit morality lessons. The manner in which the clues and codes are played, from Osgood’s overpowering mother to the celebrated boat scene between Curtis and Sugar Cane melting each other’s defences, shows an adept ability which could be so easily over-flavoured. Threats of a remake have surfaced for years, often taking in the best known/paid comedy actors of the day into contemporary settings with hilarious consequences, though all this talk clearly misses the point. There is a dark undercurrent to the story – there’s the St Valentine ’s Day shooting in the second great set piece of the story, echoed in one of the final sequences in which the Chicago gangsters, masquerading as fans of Italian Opera, are gunned down by a man in a cake. (This latter scene, you could argue, is another case of the gender bending motif).

With a quotable line and believable character around every scene, it is no surprise that Some Like It Hot retains its place at the top of many all time greatest lists. My relationship with the film as never faltered, for it retains the ability to cheer up and surprise. I’ve grown to appreciate the subversive narrative and camp humour, warm to the walking contradiction that was the strongly brittle Monroe (who was, incidentally, my sole reason for loving the Hitchcockian Niagara), and still guffaw as the dominoes of farce tumble onto our two heroes. If you’ve ever wondered where to find the starting point of modern comedy’s love affair with men in a frock, there’s almost nowhere else you could start but here.

Liam Pennington is at the action side of 30 years old and is the On-Line Editor for High Voltage. When not making good use of PR companies’ guff, he can be found groundhopping, writing for whoever else wants him, singing along to Eurovision records and sitting through arthouse films at Cornerhouse, Manchester.

@doktorb
www.liampennington.blogspot.com

Star Wars (1977)

The weekend of Speed’s home release (on VHS and Laserdisc concurrently, nostalgia fans!) my best friend and I watched it 12 times. We alternated that and lying on her bottom bunk, gazing up at the life sized Keanu Reeves poster she’d blu-tacked to the slats of her sister’s top bunk. I guess you could call it a sexual awakening. We’ve all had them. It’s just that, for some, puberty coincided with the release of a more critically acclaimed blockbuster. That said, even if you’re not invested in marrying the protagonist, Speed is a superb film. We didn’t just watch it to stare at Keanu’s face. We used to rewind and watch the bit where Dennis Hopper’s head gets knocked off by the subway sign on slow motion, cheering all the way.

I stand by Speed’s merits as a film, but it’s no doubt the circumstances through which I discovered it that will lead me to defend it to the end. We were on holiday in Florida around the time of The Lion King’s theatrical release. We didn’t get a chance to see it out there, being somewhat preoccupied by the International House of Pancakes, and a mild case of sun stroke. However my brother and I, obsessed with Aladdin and massively anticipating the next Disney animation, came home with a suitcase full of merchandise. Including a cassette tape of the soundtrack. When the film finally hit Leicester Odeon several months later, we queued around the block to attend the first showing, and proceeded to be the weird kids on the back row who somehow already knew all the words to every song in the film.

Circumstances and surroundings surely have some influence on your opinion of a film. It’s not everything, granted. The first time I saw Amelie was at Glastonbury 2002 in the ill-fated Cinema Field. After three failed attempts to start the film, the inflatable screen collapsed and they gave up. But the five minutes I saw (three times) were enough to send me home from the festival with the overwhelming urge to see the entire film. (That and a commitment to make it through the rest of my life without ever having to watch The Charlatans perform live again.) Nonetheless, it must have some bearing. The Natalie Portman stripathon Closer was bad, no doubt. But the fact that my friend and I & drifted into the cinema lobby afterwards half asleep and thoroughly depressed, only to find our husbands clutching each other and crying with joy having just seen Team America: World Police for the first time didn’t help its cause. Best Picture Oscars have probably been won and lost over less.

Here’s the thing: as I sat down to watch Star Wars for the first time, aged 31, after a long day and a couple of beers, I was expecting to be blown away. In reality I found the beginning kind of slow. I didn’t immediately warm to the R2-D2 / C-3PO double act the way I knew I was supposed to. (Frankly he just annoyed me, wheeling around making his indecipherable beeps, dragging his big plate hands along behind him.) Yes, Alec Guinness kicked ass. And Harrison Ford was suitably dreamy. But I wanted an action movie and I didn’t feel I was getting one. My biggest disappointment was Darth Vader. I thought he was supposed to be scary? Stood in the Situation Room doing his heavy breathing routine? Come on! He wouldn’t last five minutes under Jed Bartlet. And don’t even get me started on the fact that he’s voiced by Mufasa from The Lion King. The kindest, noblest lion that ever lived. If you want menacing, try getting Jeremy Irons to voice Vader. Perhaps I should have watched it that summer we went to Florida. The Star Wars ride was far and away the highlight of Universal Studios. If I’d watched it then, off the back of that excitement, aged 13, less cynical, my Star Wars story would probably be different.

I understand the cultural significance of Star Wars. The fact that, if it wasn’t for this film, I wouldn’t know and love the likes of Clerks, Se7en, or even Toy Story. I get that, and I’m grateful. I love the fact that it’s created a generation of passionate, geeky, often obsessive film fans. That my husband has to deliver a 20 minute diatribe on the original theatrical versus newer versions before he can even open the dvd case. But, just as you don’t get butterflies in your stomach as the title hits the screen on the last note of ‘Circle of Life’, or a ridiculous grin on your face when Jack Traven shouts ‘It’s cans! It’s ok, it’s cans!’, I don’t love Star Wars. Sorry.

Toy Story 3

I didn’t see Toy Story 3 at the cinema. I remember the hype, but I was pretty pregnant that summer, and my preferred method of watching a film was bouncing on an exercise ball, mainlining Maltesers and pausing the dvd every 10 minutes to visit the toilet. They don’t let you do that at the Odeon. I went to the cinema once, to the badly named, pseudo Love Actually ensemble fest Tamara Drewe. (Weird film. Someone gets trampled to death by a cow!) But I spent almost the entire thing standing in the aisle because my right rib ached when I sat down. And, after that, people didn’t want to go out in public with me so much.

In case it wasn’t already clear, I’m a very emotional person. I highly rate any film which has the ability to make me bawl my eyes out after multiple viewings. Armageddon (including, weirdly, the bit where Bruce Willis tells the Nasa guy they don’t want to pay taxes ever again). Pretty much all of Con Air (Nic Cage has never met his little girl, for fuck’s sake!). And Life Is Beautiful (which is frankly too tragic for me to even consider watching since having a baby). Toy Story 3 makes the list. Along with all the hype at the time, I heard there was a really sad bit. Naturally I mistook this to be Buzz, Woody, et al holding hands to face certain incineration at the refuse plant. I brushed this scene off ‘obviously they’ll be saved, they wouldn’t end it like that!’ and didn’t cry one bit. Well I had my smug face wiped out several minutes later, didn’t I? When Andy started handing his toys over to Bonnie, lovingly describing each one, and I was utterly destroyed. And still am. Every single time.

The details are wonderful, to the point where it feels like you’re being rewarded for watching, and for paying attention. And the endless characters never grow tiresome. This also helps when you’re in possession of a stroppy toddler, who refuses to watch any tv besides this, Fantastic Mr Fox, and Million Pound Drop. Sid, Andy’s evil neighbour from the first film, returns in Toy Story 3 as the air-drumming garbage man. Buster, the puppy who arrived at the end of the first film, and saved Wheezy from the yard sale in the second, is back in the third as an overweight old dog. And the remaining Green Army Men who parachute out of Andy’s window at the start of Toy Story 3 as the fate of the toys is beginning to come clear, arrive at Sunnyside during the end credits.

Andy’s drippy mum is back, naturally, to inadvertently throw away toys and generally sob about him going off to college. I have my own theories about her however, since stumbling upon one fan site which categorically stated Woody was Andy’s dad, I have given up speculation in favour of washing out my eyeballs. What is clear is that she spends the entire trilogy secretly drinking gin in the kitchen, and I do worry about her now Andy & all the toys have moved out. His little sister looks like a bit of a handful. Michael Keaton’s Ken doll has to be the triumph of the new characters. Though even Jessie, whiney annoying brat throughout Toy Story 2 and the beginnings of Toy Story 3 ‘We’ve been replaced!’, ‘I can’t breathe!’, ‘He left us on the cuuuurb!’ redeems herself by the end. Thanks mainly to her relationship with Spanish Buzz Lightyear.

Toy Story 3 is epic, no doubt. It’ll make you laugh. It’s relentlessly quotable. It’s poignant because it deals with the passing of time, and with getting older. The things we adults are all trying to avoid by watching films about a talking space ranger. And then, at the end, everyone can have a good sob. The Spanish version of You’ve Got a Friend in Me over the end credits is the perfect accompaniment to all the nose blowing.

In a world where kids are growing up surrounded by tv and computer screens, Toy Story 3 is pretty much the perfect toy to have.

‘Now Woody, he’s been my pal for as long as I can remember. He’s brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special is he’ll never give up on you…ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what.’

Another shabby IMDB Update – Numbers 241, 166, 57

I am increasingly finding it difficult to keep on top of this blog – mainly because I find that podcasting is not only more fun and social than the solitary world of the blogger, but it is also a lot more work than turning up for 2 hours every Sunday. I’m going to the cinema a lot more, and believe it or not I actually spend a lot of time writing notes for my appearances. This may well astound those of you who listen to The Failed Critic Podcast.

I have seen three more films on the Top 250 since the last update – and here is a quick summary:

No. 241 – The Social Network (2010)

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Directed by David Fincher and scripted by Aaron Sorkin – this film was always going to be very stylish with some witty quick-fire dialogue. The fact that this film is also edge-of-your-seat interesting despite essentially being the story of two simultaneous tech industry lawsuits is testament to the greater film-making skills of Fincher/Sorkin.

It tells the story of how Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) created Facebook, and how he fell out with his “only friend” Eduardo Saverin (the heart of the film, and played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield) in the process of making Facebook the internet behemoth it is now.

In short, I really enjoyed it. Not the best thing Fincher and Sorkin have ever done – but deservedly in the Top 250.

No. 57 – A Clockwork Orange (1971) and No. 166 – The Life of Brian

You can listen to my thoughts on both of these films here – in the podcast where I choose three of my favourite films of the 1970s, and discuss the problems that all 3 faced with censorship at the time.

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A Clockwork Orange is simply one of my favourite films ever. The combination of elaborate staging, alienating direction, the classical music, and Alex’s narration allow us to enter a space where we can feel sympathy for a rapist and murderer. The alienation of the viewer is vital, as this film could never work if shot in an ultra-realistic style.

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Monty Python’s Life of Brian however, is not even my favourite Python film. That said, that’s like saying Lagavulin 16 year-old isn’t my favourite single malt whisky (it’s Glengoyne 21 year-old if you’re interested). The fact is, Life of Brian is a brilliant comedy film that hasn’t dated in over 30 years. It contains some of the greatest comedy sketches of all time (What Have The Romans Done For Us, and The Judean People’s Front come to mind), and is probably a more rounded film than Holy Grail (which I maintain is the funnier film, and therefore ultimately the better film).

IMDB Top 250 Update – Numbers 247, 217, 205, 134

I’ve made it 10% of the way to my target!

Due to my blossoming rediscovery of the wonderful world of film I have neglected this blog lately. I’ve been too busy planning and recording the Failed Critic podcast, going to the cinema, and tracking down obscure documentaries to watch online to get on with the serious business of writing about the ‘Top 250 Films of All Time’.

That said – I have managed to watch the following films recently which I will briefly discuss now.

No. 134 – The Wizard of Oz (1939)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I rewatched this classic musical featuring a young girl plucked from her small Kansas farm and dumped in the wonderful world of Oz for the Child Protagonist Triple Bill in the Failed Critic Podcast. I think it actually gets better with every viewing – or at least, I have lost another layer of hipster cynicism between each viewing.

I actually tried the ‘Dark Side of the Rainbow’ trick, and I was reasonably impressed. My attempts to recreate this magic with Shed Seven’s seminal ‘A Maximum High’ album were less conclusive.

 

No. 205 – The Exorcist (1973)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another one I had already seen – although this was the Director’s Cut on Blu-ray which was brand new to me. I know that some people think the extra 10 minutes either slows the film down needlessly, or consisted of schlocky SFX – but I think this was my favourite viewing of the film to date.

It’s an outstandingly creepy film, and it’s easy to forget how natural Linda Blair is in front of the camera. I love this film, and I think I love the mythology and stories behind the making of it even more.

 

No. 217 – Sherlock Jr. (1924)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was my first experience of watching Buster Keaton, and I am ashamed that it has taken me this long. I adored this film, and the care and attention paid to some of the stunts is nothing short of amazing.

There are a few scenes that don’t quite work for a modern viewer – a prime example being the immediate moments after Keaton steps into the film projection which if he wasn’t there would be a bland and slightly random montage of scenery clips.

The pool scene has immediately placed itself in my top 10 scenes of all time already. I’m now looking forward to The General.

 

No. 247 – Nosferatu (1922)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original vampire film, and one I hadn’t seen in years – and certainly never sober. This film has a fascinating back story about how the film-makers basically took the story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and changed a few names and plot details to avoid getting sued by the estate of Bram Stoker.

It didn’t work.

The most interesting change to the story, and the one which has lived on long beyond anyone involved in making the film – is the fact that Nosferatu (the rip-off of Dracula) is killed by direct sunlight, rather than just weakened by it as in Bram Stoker’s version.

This is more of an interesting film for its cultural relevance and influence, rather than for entertainment value – unlike Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. for example.

Rocky (1976)

How have I got through my life to this point without seeing Rocky? And I don’t just mean how I am a 32 year-old man who hasn’t seen the film Rocky – but how have I made it through those 32 years without the guidance and inspiration that watching Rocky at a younger age would have afforded me.

Why didn’t my parents make me watch Rocky? Why wasn’t it on the curriculum while I was at school. If I had seen Rocky as an impressionable teenage who still had the worldat his feet – I coulda been a contender

Rocky tells the story of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) – a small-time boxer and heavy for the local organised criminal, who unexpectedly gets a shot at the heavyweight title held by the charismatic Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). The tagline: His whole life was a million-to-one shot.

The film looks, like most films of the era, uber-gritty and neo-realistic. The low-key opening titles and location-filmed exterior shots scream “THIS IS A FILM MADE IN THE 1970S”. I find this era of film-making fascinating, as in my experience it is the home of some of the most realistic cinema ever made. Directors were moving away from sound-stages and specially designed sets, and special effects were still in their infancy. The 1970s is chock-full of great films portraying everyday people and stories.

Rocky is another one of those films. He’s not a hero, certainly not at the beginning. He is Joe Everyman, trying to scrape a living using his skills legally, and illegally. In his spare time he hangs around a little too much on street corners with musical loiterers, looking a little too much like a pimp in mourning for my liking – but we like the guy. We’re rooting for him.

Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed. Legend.
Baby, you got a stew goin’

The big surprise here is how genuinely brilliant Stallone is in the title role. It’s sad that in the years to come he would become a parody of himself, and the action films he became known for. It’s easy to overlook how low-key, and utterly human his performance here is. He shows a remarkable amount of self-doubt and nerves for someone fighting for the World Heavyweight title, and even sets his sights on Adrian – the plainest of all the plain girls in Philadelphia.

It’s impossible not to refer to the Rocky-esque story behind the film while evaluating this film’s worth. Stallone was a broke actor at the time he was trying to sell his script for Rocky. He apparently had $100 to his name, and was trying to sell his dog as he couldn’t afford to feed it. He was offered $350,000 for the rights to his screenplay, but turned it down as he insisted that he was cast as Rocky. This eventually happened with Stallone basically working for union rates just to get the film made.

Wow.

Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)

At some point in your life, you’ll be tasked with arranging a hen night which includes a private film screening of Amélie, and accompanying French themed party. This is statistically likely to happen to most people, and in no way highly specific to my own personal situation. However, since I’ve been there, I am able to offer some top tips.

Tip One: Run. For. The. Hills.

The associated admin of said event will fill you with such rage that you will come to hate: the film Amélie, Gmail, Delia Smith, the character Amélie, the staff of your local card shop, camping, star of Amélie Audrey Tautou, January, Ikea and, inexplicably, Danish pastries.

It’s just not worth it. Instead, google the couple who had an incredibly stylish Amélie themed wedding, and become friends with them. They look cool. I bet she never had to put up with this shit.

Amélie is wonderful, magical film. For those people who find it wonderfully magical. Others hate it, for the very reason the first lot love it. The third group of people haven’t seen it, or are ambivalent. Such is life. Me? When it’s not inspiring social occasions which ruin my life, I love it.

On paper, the film is cheesy as fuck. It’s full of lines like ‘a surge of love, an urge to help mankind engulfs her’. There are talking passport photos, winking statues, and endless silly faces. It’s a whimsical boy meets girl. But it works. What elevates it high above all the other love stories are the details. The supporting characters. The cinematography. The entirely perfect score.I’m not going to try and break it down any further than that because that’s just not how it’s meant to be experienced. And also because I’m kind of busy. Did you not read the first paragraph?

Director Jeunet‘s god like genius aside, the main reason this thing looks so good is Audrey Tautou. Brass tacks: she’s exquisite. From the opening shot of her in the cafe, to the closing shot of her dicking around on a moped. The smile, the enormous eyes, my god the hair! Seriously, it’s worth watching for that bob alone.

The fans adore Amélie fervently. Try googling anything about the film. You can’t, since every parent on the planet from 2001 onwards named their baby girl Amélie. And then posted every minute detail of her life into the first page of my google search results.

I hope the haters hate it because it’s too quirky. Because they’re not into the music. Or some other genuine reason like they got dumped during a screening of it. I really hope they aren’t dismissing it because it happens to fall into the category ‘non-English language’.

I saw a mention of the film in a women’s magazine last week, which said something along the lines of ‘Audrey Tautou is so memorising and stylish as Amélie it’s worth putting up with the subtitles’. I can’t quote it exactly, because I stabbed the moronic magazine in the face. Similarly, the second message board post on its IMDB page is from someone desperately searching for a dubbed version. Don’t even get me started.

Watch Amélie if, like me, you need momentary respite from hating every person on Earth.

Kate likes: polishing mirrors, overhearing private phone conversations, eating the end piece of a sliced loaf of bread.

 

No. 53 – Wall-E (2008) and No. 246 – Beauty and the Beast (1991)

After the hugely depressing ‘Battle Royale of Battle Royales’, I got to spend the entire Easter weekend with my 18-month old daughter. Now, I used to worry that my children wouldn’t like the ‘right’ kind of music, but it’s only since I’ve been a father I’ve realised bad films are far worse than bad music.

I can take the worst tweeny nonsense Simon Cowell has to throw at me in my stride. Bad music is easy to tune out from; but I can’t look away from a bad movie.

And when you are a parent, you better get used to sitting down and watching the same film about a hundred times. My daughter already has her first crush – on Macaulay Culkin. I’ve seen Home Alone so many times over the past six months I can recite it pretty much word for word (favourite quote this week – “You’re what the French call Les Incompetente). It’s a good job Home Alone came from the mind of John Hughes (RIP), and is actually a pretty decent kids film. Culkin is a genuinely charming performer, and he is ably backed up by Joe Pesci, Catherine O’Hara, and John Candy (RIP, again). Compare this to the pretty awful Marmaduke, which made a brief appearance for a week, and has now been conveniently lost…

Anyway, this weekend gave me the chance not only see two more films from the list, but also to lay some more good film foundations for the future.

First up, we watched Wall-E. And although my daughter walked off a few times during this film, I was enraptured. The opening 40 minutes or so are some of the most beautiful, touching, and charming images ever committed to film. I am struggling to do justice to this section of the film with my flabby and poorly created words. I know it’s lazy, but you really have to see it for yourselves. It finds beauty in human creation – the tiny artefacts that we take for granted and throw away every day.

Director Andrew Stanton (he of monumental Disney flop John Carter) claims that the inspiration for Wall-E can from a pair of binoculars at a horse racing meeting. Hmmm, I do suspect this might be an invention to stop the producers of Short Circuit suing for image rights. Wall-E is one Johnny 5-looking muthafucka.

Interestingly, this is the first time Pixar have used live-action footage in one of their films – with the always-watchable Fred Willard playing the president of Earth who orders the evacuation of the planet after humankind pollutes it to such an extent that it becomes uninhabitable.

The second-half of the film can never quite live up to the pure genius of the first half, and fades into standard Pixar fare. Although, even ‘standard Pixar fare’ is still better than most films produced in any given year.

Beauty and the Beast was the second half of our double-bill. This is the first animated film ever to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar (it lost out to The Silence of the Lambs), and shares the record with Wall-E of 6 nominations (it won 2 – Best Score, and Best Original Song).

This is a whole different kettle of fish to Wall-E, but still very enjoyable. I remember seeing this film when I was still at school, but cynically dismissing it (as cynically as a 12 year-old can). I’m now older, wiser, and a lot more susceptible to a big opening musical number.

I’d forgotten how good the songs are (and I’m surprised that I wasn’t aware of the Broadway stage version – this seems far more suited to a stage adaptation than The Lion King for example), and the animation looks glorious on Blu-ray. This is one of the last great ‘classic’ Disney animations, and genuinely feels timeless.

The little one struggled to sit and watch both films if I’m honest, and she is already showing signs that she prefers live action to classic animation. That said, I had a great weekend and I’ve hopefully started the brainwashing early enough.

No. 44 – Alien (1979) and No. 59 – Aliens (1986)

So this is the first post that attempts to get all conceptual on your collective asses. Over a week I decided to watch the first two films in the ‘Alien’ series, and not only look at their individual claims to belong in the IMDB Top 250, but also look at what they told us about the future directions the two director’s would take in their career.

The Alien series is a very interesting, and pretty rare, example of different directors being able to work with a consistent source material – but also get to put their own personal stamp on the end result. Unlike the recent Mission Impossible series (which gave these opportunities to a couple of very experienced directors in Brian De Palma and John Woo), the Alien series has helped to really launch the careers of directors who had only made one or two films before their shot at an Alien film.

Alien was Ridley Scott’s second feature (after The Duellists), James Cameron got the Aliens gig before The Terminator was released (it was his third film), and Alien 3 was David Fincher’s first feature (after which he went on to direct Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network, and the vastly underrated The Game).

And while Jean-Pierre Jeunet had already made Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children before he made Alien: Resurrection, it was still only his third feature and came four years before he would make Amelie.

So, Alien then.

The film opens with a long sequence looking around what appears to be an abandoned space ship. We soon discover that the crew are not missing, merely sleeping. They are woken early by the ships computer to investigate a distress beacon coming from an uncharted rock. The sci-fi equivalent of the ramshackle house on the hill, or the forest where all those teenagers died 25 years ago…this very day.

The first thing that strikes you about this crew is how many bloody great actors they’ve got on board this ship. I kept having to remind myself that Sigourney Weaver was pretty much an unknown as this time – and she had to keep up in the acting stakes with a laconic John Hurt (who just makes acting look so easy), an ice-cold Ian Holm, and a demented as ever Harry Dean Stanton.

The fact that she emerges from this film not just as the fictional last-person-standing, but also as the last actor standing is the reason this film is so successful in everything it sets out to achieve.

Groupon were struggling to shift their 'futuristic facial' vouchers

I love everything about this film. The steady drip-drip of the building terror. The fact that things aren’t explicitly spelt out to the audience (clues are mentioned to the audience, and then left for the audience to decode). The design of the set, the SFX, and most importantly of all, the HR Giger Alien creation just wow you in every frame. This is the second 10/10 I have given to a film on the list so far.

Which probably explains why I didn’t love Aliens as much as I remembered. James Cameron’s crack at the Alien franchise is the only instalment that was written and directed by the same person. But Cameron isn’t an auteur in the true sense of the word, and I honestly think he needed someone with a little distance from the project to at least tidy up some of the clunky dialogue and exposition we get in the first hour or so of Aliens.

I also found it harder to empathise with the characters, and in one particular case I would have fed him to the Alien myself if I had been on-board the ship. Whereas Aliens had genuine acting talent, with each actor portraying a fully-rounded individual with hopes, dreams and fears – Cameron’s marines lack the vulnerability of the Nostromo’s crew from the first film, as well as being meat-heads with few redeeming features. It doesn’t help when (no offence to the actors involved) you replace the likes of Hurt, Holm, and Stanton with Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, and Lance Henriksen. They do a good job, but they just haven’t got the gravitas of the Alien cast.

The other big difference between the two films was in the special effects. And the is the film that was made 7 years earlier that surprisingly comes out better in this comparison. I watched the original theatrical release for both films, and far too often during Aliens I was watching effects that looked like out-takes from Flash Gordon. I know it’s unfair criticising a 26 year-old film’s SFX – but Scott managed to completely suspend my disbelief for Alien despite having a smaller budget and less technology available to him.

I can only conclude that Ridley Scott knew the technological limitations of making a film set in space, and thus used more traditional film-making craft to work within those constraints. Whereas James Cameron was more ambitious and was determined to show massive explosions, and ships crashing, and didn’t mind that they didn’t look very believable.

It might sound like I didn’t enjoy Aliens, but I honestly did. That’s mainly because the last hour of the film is popcorn-eating, ass-kicking action of the highest calibre. There are three or four timeless action set-pieces which ratchet up the tension, before paying off the build-up in spectacular style. We also actually give a shit about Ripley and the abandoned child Newt, and we are desperate for them to survive.

When the film finished I was elated, and it was only after I started to analyse what I had seen that I realised how weak the first half was in my opinion.

And that I think is the difference between the two directors. Ridley Scott has gone on to direct a lot of very different films, and is able to work with different budgets and actors to make interesting stories. He can produce brilliant performances from his actors, and realises that his best work is done from behind a camera – and is happy to leave the writing duties to people who do it for a living.

The James Cameron we saw making Aliens has gone onto to make films where the budget seems to increase with every movie. He seems to see actors and scripts as important parts of the film-making process – but no more important than SFX or his overall vision for the film. Everything good about Terminator 2, True Lies, Titanic, and Avatar can be seen in Aliens, but everything horrible and clunky, sentimental, and down-right awful can trace its origins back to Aliens as well.

No. 179 – Warrior (2011)

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I am watching what the general public regard as the best 250 films ever made.

Because while Warrior is a perfectly acceptable way to pass two hours (and another twenty minutes), I am stumped as to how this can be seen as any kind of milestone in the history of cinema.

When Warrior was first released, I shunned it. The world doesn’t need another Rocky-wannabe so soon after The Fighter I thought to myself. Then friends who I respect (and some I don’t) wouldn’t shut up about it. Then I noticed its rating on the esteemed Internet Movie Database and added it to the high priority pile on my Lovefilm list.

And it’s this betrayal that has made me angrier every day that has passed since I watched the film. I dismissed the film and unimportant cinematic fluff, then got excited about only to find out I was right in the first place.

The basic story revolves around two estranged brothers, and their inevitable encounter in an MMA (Multi Martial Arts) tournament with a WINNER TAKES ALL $5 MILLION CASH PRIZE!

I am now going to talk about the film in a way that means I cannot help but spoil it.

If you don’t want to spoil the film for yourself then either bookmark this page and return once you have seen it, or alternatively just read on and don’t bother to watch the film. The choice is yours.

Are you ready?

Right, what annoyed me most about the film is that while on one hand it tried to be gritty and neo-realistic in places – the plot hinged on some totally unbelievable plot points that totally undermined the tone of the rest of the film. Imagine if Nil By Mouth had a scene where someone wins the lottery, and then get’s voted in as Prime Minister on a populist anti-Domestic Violence ticket. Or if in Shane Meadow’s Dead Man’s Shoes Paddy Consandine was actually a British special agent with the back-up a rogue cell in the style of Mission Impossible?

For example, the top 16 MMA fighters are really going to put their body and health on the line with the prospect of getting NOTHING in return. Sport doesn’t work like that! All of these fighters would have demanded at least an appearance fee to cover the costs of training/travel/not being able to walk again. This appearance money would have probably been enough to solve Tommy and Brendan’s assorted financial problems – which explains why the film doesn’t pan out that way.

While on the subject of the tournament, it is more than just convenient that Tommy and Brendan both manage to blag a spot in the most talked about MMA competition of all time. I just don’t buy it.

Tommy’s past as a marine is badly handled in my opinion. First we’re meant to believe he ripped the door off of a tank with his own hands. Why couldn’t it have been a more believable form of heroism? Then, when outed as a deserter not only do the military police decide to wait until the end of his participation in the tournament before arresting him, but thousands of marines turn up to cheer him in the stadium. Cheering for someone who deserted his squadron in Iraq? Really?

How he got home from Iraq to Pittsburgh is probably best left in the imagination of the writers as well – lest they decide to bring out a Bourne-esque prequel. Actually, Tom Hardy would make an excellent character in the Bourne series, but I digress. The fight sequences are pretty impressive – but if you are a MMA fan and want to see decent MMA fight sequences, you might as well watch the real thing.

I usually love Tom Hardy, but he was surprisingly one-dimensional in this role, and I got really fucking annoyed at having to keep turning up the volume to hear him and Nolte try and out-mumble each other. I was far more emotionally invested in the Joel Edgerton character, and I think a pretty decent and more entertaining film could have been made just showing his side of the journey. It would have been shorted, funnier, and overall more enjoyable in my opinion.

The film was too long, unoriginal, and took itself too seriously. I’ll trust my gut instincts a little more in future.

No. 225 – Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Rosemary’s Baby was Roman Polanski’s first US film, and is the film that launched Mia Farrow and that haircut into stardom. It’s based on a novel by Ira Levin, and apparently Polanksi followed the novel almost to the letter as he was unaware that he could take any liberties with the source material. Ah Hollywood, if only you had retained that innocence…

Farrow plays the titular Rosemary – and the film follows her and her actor-husband (played by John Cassavetes) as they decide to move into a new building (complete with horror-staple warnings about it having a spooooooky history) and deal with nosy neighbours, suicides, and Rosemary’s pregnancy and the impending birth of their child.

Without wanting to give too much away, Rosemary gradually starts to suspect that all is not right with her neighbours – and she starts to genuinely fear for her life, and that of her unborn child.

Actually, fuck it. This film has been out for over 40 years and I don’t think I am really ruining anything is I say that Rosemary thinks that her neighbours are a coven of witches and that they want her child for a sacrifice.

The genius of the film, and the reason I had a knot in my stomach for the majority of it, is that because we only see events from Rosemary’s perspective we are constantly questioning whether or not her suspicions are true, or whether they are the product of her paranoid mind. In a scene where Rosemary is trying to convince one of the few outside-parties in her life, I still found myself not quite believing her despite everything I had already seen.

Despite being billed as horror film, Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t really fit the conventions of the genre. There aren’t really any ‘jump’ moments, and most of the film takes place in very normal surroundings, and in the daylight. What Polanski does however, is just keep dripping fear and dread into every scene – like some kind of Chinese Water Torture. Towards the end of the film I felt suffocated not by unexpected shocks and frights, but by the horror of the situation apparently being confirmed to me. This was compounded by an extraordinarily performance from Farrow who not only uses her acting chops, but physically transforms before our very eyes.

Maybe this is a personal thing but despite not being a religious person I have always been most disturbed by the glut of films that appeared in the 60s/70s that dealt with the religious supernatural, and the human followers of these practices. I’m talking about classics like The Exorcist and The Omen, as well as a much under-looked ‘favourite’ of mine Race with the Devil (starring Peter Fonda). Actually, I may write a top-5 ‘Devil-Worship’ films in the near future…

I have a few minor quibbles – it feels a little dated in parts, and there’s a couple of moments in the build-up that just feel silly – an example being when Rosemary and Guy spend their first night in the new house making love (their words) on a wooden floor before finishing their dinner. But overall the screenplay is brilliant in the art of making sure that every word counts, and means something to the story – and despite being about 20 minutes too long in my opinion, there is not a lot of waste onscreen.

So, a brilliant film made by an exceptional craftsman. Then why do I feel like I never want to watch it ever again? I’m not a believer in the supernatural, but something about this film just felt wrong, and almost other-worldly. Don’t watch it just before bed.

And don’t have nightmares…