Tag Archives: Deliverance

Failed Critics Podcast: Favourite Vacation Films

the inbetweeners movieBowing to the “crushing demand” of our followers who will not accept our apology over technical issues relating to our eagerly awaited ‘triple bill’ podcast, in its place this week we have this hastily cobbled together written article which you we hope you’ll accept by way of apology. The idea behind this weeks triple bill is we each pick our favourite three films where one of the main features involves a vacation.

First up getting us going we have Gerry:

  1. The Inbetweeners Movie captures the lads holiday/cheap holiday resort full of Brits experience better than anything else on film (even the mighty Kevin & Perry). Plus it was genuinely funny all the way through, a pleasant surprise considering how things usually go when a TV series moves to the big screen.
  2. Little Miss Sunshine chosen for its realistic representation of the average family holiday, this road trip follows a massively dysfunctional family as they journey to a child beauty pageant. Abigail Breslin quite rightly got a Best Supporting Actress nod for this, one of the finest performances by a child actor ever on screen. Smart, funny and often painfully realistic. A great film.
  3. Adventureland most of us can relate to spending a summer working a minimum wage job with an assortment of weirdos. Michael Cera and Kristen Stewart both perform admirably but Ryan Reynolds steals every scene he’s in. Also, K-Stew‘s annoying open mouth/disinterested scowl thing actually works great here; unfortunately I saw this before I realised she wasn’t acting and this is actually how she is in every film!

Next is James with his 3 favourites:

  1. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – While this may not be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces, it is still  a highly enjoyable murder-mystery romp that deserves further investigation. It stars James Stewart (who Hitch saw as a creative partner in a period that saw them make this film as well as Rope, Rear Window, and Vertigo) and Doris Day as an American couple on holiday in Morocco with their young son. They witness the murder of a foreign spy, and their son is kidnapped in an effort to keep them quiet, as the plot accelerates towards a conclusion in London where the Prime Minister is the target of an assassination. The film is most famous for its Oscar-winning song, Que Sera Sera, later adopted by football fans as the soundtrack for hopeful cup runs.
  2. Dirty Dancing – It’s difficult to imagine a film that divides genders as much as this 80s coming-of-age story of summer holidays, carrying watermelons, and putting people in the corner. If you approach the film with an open mind however, you will find a film that has not only aged better than many of its contemporaries, but is also quite enjoyable regardless of the equipment you were born with ‘down there’. Jennifer Grey stars as Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, the youngest daughter of a typical middle-class American family spending their summer vacation at Kellerman’s, a resort in the Catskill Mountains. Patrick Swayze is Johnny Castle, the resident dance instructor with a working class chip on his permanently unclothed shoulder. While the story itself may be a touch formulaic, the themes of the film explore growing up, privilege, and a remarkably even-handed view of abortion. I can’t guarantee the time of your life, but its ten the feminist tract that Sex & the City claims to be.
  3. Withnail & I – “We’ve gone on holiday by mistake”. One of the most iconic (and quotable) British film of recent times, it’s amazing that Withnail & I was not only the film debut of director and screenwritier Bruce Robinson, but also the cinematic screen debut of Richard E. Grant as the eponymous Withnail. Filmed on a tiny budget, this film has gone onto influence a whole generation of British film-makers. Withnail, and his roommate Marwood (the ‘I’ in the title, played with beautiful understatement by Paul McGann) have had enough of spending the summer in their dingy London flat with only unidentified creatures in the filthy kitchen and a bizarre drug dealer (played by Ralph Brown who essentially reused the character for his appearance in Wayne’s World 2) for company. They decide to ask Withnail’s lecherous Uncle Monty to borrow his country cottage for a holiday, but don’t count on him showing up there with designs on poor Marwood. The film epitomises the badly planned British holiday, with terrible accommodation, shitty weather, and unfriendly locals. We can only stand back and watch as the boys attempt to drink through the pain and spiral into self-destruction.

Steve‘s triple bill choices were the first that saw some crossover. Here’s what he had to say:

  1. The Inbetweeners Movie – More or less what Gerry said. Really captures the essence of the first holiday without mum and dad, first lads holiday and everything that comes with it while continuing the brilliant high standard of the tv series without labouring a half hour episode into a 90 minute movie. The jokes are excellent, the soundtrack is pretty good, Simon is a fucking helmet though. Took him 3 series and most of a movie to bin off Carly who wasn’t even that fit anyway.
  2. Jaws – A pretty tenuous link to the holiday theme but ‘Don’t Go in the Water’ was a tag-line on some posters. Well if the film took place in December sharks would hardly be an issue would they? But with people on their summer vacations on Amity Island, the shark sparks the mayor et al into doing something about it as the loss of tourism dollars could ruin the place. With people on holiday being a catalyst and a great white shark the protagonist Jaws is the ultimate holiday/thriller hybrid.
  3. The other I can’t remember now but it just edged out Weekend at Bernies [This is a direct quote from Steve here. If he can’t remember what it was, what hope do I have?! – Owen]

Lastly, Owen‘s three choices are as follows:

  1. American Werewolf in London – Directed by John Landis, in fact I think the last time I spoke to it on the podcast was when we were doing our directors and actors that we’ve fallen out of love with triple bill, and Landis was one of my picks. The story is essentially the tale of two american backpackers who, as part of their trip, are in Yorkshire walking across the moors when they are attacked by a werewolf. One of them is killed, the other only injured who becomes a werewolf. I love this film, I’m long overdue for a rewatch as I like to try and watch it at least once every year. It’s got some classic scenes that even now are scary and very violent. The machine gunning Nazi werewolves are just bizarre and really are the stuff of nightmares. Aside from your regular run of the mill cabin-in-the-woods type of film, it’s the ultimate supernatural “holiday gone wrong” movie.
  2. Rogue – My second choice was one I only watched the other week actually. I very briefly mentioned it by name on last weeks podcast, but Rogue is an Australian creature-feature. It’s about a group of tourists from all over the world really. England, Ireland, America, a few domestic holidayers too from Australia. They go on a trip down a river to take photos of the local wildlife, which includes crocodiles. You can already see where this is going. They respond to a distress flare which is set off which leads them into a sacred holy part of the river that they’re not supposed to be in, when they’re attacked by a gigantic, angry, territorial crocodile who proceeds to eat and kill them one by one. It’s directed by Greg McLean who is a part of the so called Splat Pack of horror film directors, although Rogue is more about the tension of man vs nature than it is about being a gorefest. It’s got a decent group dynamic amongst the cast of characters, some really well thought out scenes and the CGI isn’t too bad either really. Definitely worth a watch.
  3. Deliverance – All 3 of my picks have been pretty grim haven’t they? I wanted to avoid stuff like Evil Dead and The Hills Have Eyes but ended up with 3 holiday films where people die in them anyway. My final choice then is John Boorman’s Oscar nominated film which is about 4 guys who go on a trip down a river but don’t encounter a crocodile. Instead they’re in the arse end of the American south where they get bummed by some local rednecks. It features Jon Voight, who is as great as he always is, but I really liked Burt Reynolds’ character. He’s properly taken to the whole idea of a lads holiday. He’s got his own fishing equipment which consists of a bow and arrow and some rope, so they can live off the land. He may not have his moustache but still looks pretty bad ass. I think it’s a great film, really memorable scenes here too. Two different ones for two very different reasons, but the duelling banjos scene is excellent. Didn’t quite make my top 2 picks for my decade in film article for 1972, it would’ve had to go some to beat Godfather, but is legitimately one of the best holiday films I could think of.

We also had some great suggestions from twitter! @filmproject13 sent in quite a few different picks including Hostel, Vacation and also mentioned Roman Holiday which I suppose does count, even if it isn’t quite a vacation film like the others. Sightseers was an inspired choice by @tylea002 and one both Owen and James were in agreement over, but he also had Before Sunrise/Midnight (but not Sunset!) in his list. A choice that slipped my mind when drawing up my picks was helpfully tweeted to us by @andrew_alcock which was the Norwegian zombie horror Dead Snow. A slightly more bizarre pick was @wily365 who tried (and failed) with his shout for Lion King, but also sensibly suggested Die Hard too.

Thanks to everybody else who indulged us on Twitter. Next week things should be back to normal with our World Cinema special. Join us then!

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A Decade in Film: The Seventies – 1972

A series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema, choosing their favourite films from each year of that decade.

This week the podcast’s Owen Hughes looks back on a year when the highest grossing film star of all time made his debut (it’s Samuel L Jackson, of course), the porno Deep Throat was the sixth biggest hit of the year, and Pong became the first ever commercially successful video game (thanks, Wikipedia!)

5. Solaris

Solaris 1972“Man was created by Nature in order to explore it. As he approaches Truth he is fated to Knowledge. All the rest is bullshit. “

I first read about Solaris in a book called Why Aren’t They Here? by Surendra Verma, which primarily explores (amongst other theories) the Fermi paradox. Put simply, if intelligent alien civilizations exist, and the universe is as vast as we think it is, then why haven’t they made contact with us yet? One of the many possible answers for this could be that we have no way of communicating with them, even if it were physically possible to meet them. A famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once proposed that “if a lion could speak, we couldn’t understand it”. What he means is, even if an animal could physically speak a language to us, our points of reference would be so far apart, it would just be gibberish. We wouldn’t be able to understand a word that lion said, much less recognise it was attempting communication.

What does this have to do with Solaris? Well Andrei Tarkovsky‘s enormously important Russian sci-fi film, based on a Polish novel of the same name, is about this giant, living, liquid planet that attempts to communicate with the humans that are trying to study it. Ultimately, as Wittgenstein predicted, it’s impossible for them to fully understand each other. It’s a story of love and loss that explores the depths of the human mind/imagination with some thought provoking imagery and mind-meltingly complex ideas.

I have to admit, Solaris is mostly on this list out of respect for what it achieved and for the concept behind it. I like to think I can occasionally watch these long, slow, art-house films and enjoy them. Truth is, I found Solaris a really difficult film to watch. Patience is a virtue supposedly, but when you’re watching a film where (for what seems like an eternity) all you’re watching is nothing more than a camera attached to the front of a car as it travels down a motorway, you kind of forget that! I think a lot of the more artistic visual elements of the film went over my head somewhat. However, rarely do you see such an intelligent and thought provoking sci-fi film that I think it can just about nudge blaxploitation horror picture ‘Blacula’ out of my top 5 films for 1972.

4. Fist of Fury

Fist of Fury Bruce Lee“Whenever you’re ready, I’ll take on any Japanese here.”

Whether you accept that there are 4 or 5 full feature films, and whichever film of those is your favourite, one thing that seems to be universally acknowledged is that Bruce Lee was an icon of early 70’s cinema. His legacy has endured over the decades, influencing film writers, directors and stars. He made Asian cinema (or at least Kung-Fu films) the phenomena it is in the West. I don’t need to go on about this. I’m not the first to point this out, I won’t be the last, nor am I the most qualified!

What I love most about talking to people about Bruce Lee’s films is everyone seems to have taken away something different from his movies. I watched Fist of Fury, Enter The Dragon and The Big Boss when I was a young teenager, first getting into movies. Before then, he was just someone I knew from the poster my artistically talented uncle had drawn. There was something about that image of Lee (which looked a little bit like this) that drew me in. He just looked so cool in that poster and the young impressionable me wanted to see just how cool he actually was. As I watched those films (and as I got older Game of Death and Way of the Dragon too) I realised how cool he actually was. Answer: very.

Despite being his second major film, and also starring as Kato in his own TV show, Green Hornet, (including cameo’s in the Adam West Batman series) it was Fist of Fury that launched him into movie superstardom. It’s a simple mystery plot in which Lee is subjected to bigotry and prejudice by the Japanese. It’s not the plot that made the film so endurable. It’s Lee. It’s the cool one liners he delivers mixed with the impressive action/fight sequences that he choreographed himself. It’s that recognisable shriek as he kicks someone in the gut, dispatching baddies with one blow. It’s the character of Chen and how nobody other than Lee could’ve played him in the same way. It’s quite simply an excellent kung-fu film that any fan of the genre should watch and adore.

3. Deliverance

deliverance burt reynolds“Goddamn, you play a mean banjo!”

If there’s one thing writing these Decade in Film articles are good for, then it’s for forcing me to finally get around to watching some classic films. The flip side to that is films I really love and originally included in my top 5 have to make way for films that, as it turns out, are just undeniably better. Take, for example, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which is now losing out on a top 5 ranking position thanks to John Boorman’s Oscar nominated film about 4 guys who go on a trip down the Cahulawasse river in the arse end of the American south that they won’t forget.

Until this week, I’d only ever seen clips of Deliverance. Hell, I could even play part of the duelling banjos song on my guitar despite never having watched the whole of the film! Now that I have seen it, as Matt Lambourne so accurately predicted would happen, I now “understand a number of long-standing cultural references towards it that may have gone over my head before”. It is so influential on other survival films.

I love Burt Reynolds anyway, and even without his moustache, he was still awesome here. He has all the best lines, looks the most bad-ass and has probably the most interesting character too. Although John Voight may have something to say about that; he also has a very interesting character. There’s a lot that makes this film memorable, from the “skweeee” scene, to the fantastic soundtrack. Don’t be like me. If you get the chance to watch Deliverance, do it!

2. Aguirre: The Wrath of God

aguirre“I, the wrath of God, will marry my own daughter and with her I’ll found the purest dynasty the earth has ever seen.”

I don’t have much knowledge of the Spanish conquistadores beyond what is taught at a very basic level at school and what the BBC kids sketch show Horrible Histories has educated me in! So what struck me most in Werner Herzog’s tale of the notorious Don Aguirre and his quest for the mysterious cities of gold (dododo do doo doo, aaahhh) was how real the film felt. I can only liken it to something like the David Simon HBO TV series, The Wire (bear with me here…) It’s a culture and a place I have virtually zero experience or knowledge of beyond fictional representations through TV and film etc, yet the world they have created is so utterly believable that I never question it. I accept that it is mostly likely exactly how these people lived, how their journey unfolded, how the jungle and the river sounded, how it looked, etc.

The title character, Aguirre (played sublimely by Klaus Kinski,) is incredible and it’s not difficult to believe he was as “mad” as he is portrayed as being here. He’s a constant and menacing presence throughout the whole film. The way the film is shot is almost like Aguirre is breathing down your neck, watching your every move, and it’s very uncomfortable. Effective! But uncomfortable.

One other thing I loved about this film (there are much better parts of the film involving all manner of themes about betrayal, love, history, slavery and all that jazz, but something that stood out for me) was the music! I loved that bloke playing the pan-pipes. That tune he whistles is infectious. The whole film is superb though and fully deserves to be on this list.

1. The Godfather

The Godfather“Michael: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
Kay Adams: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.
Michael: Oh. Who’s being naive, Kay?”

The Godfather. Of course, The Godfather. What else but The Godfather? It had to be The Godfather. A film so critically and commercially successful that only the insane would leave it off a list of their favourite films from 1972, never mind not have it as first choice. I mean, come on. As enjoyable as the British horror film ‘The Asphyx‘ starring Robert Powell is, or as deeply disturbing as Wes Craven’s directorial debut ‘The Last House on the Left‘ is, there’s no way any film was going to top Francis Ford Coppola‘s masterpiece.

From the very first scene to the last, The Godfather is undeniably a fantastic example of film making. The swagger that all the characters carry with them, thanks mostly the faultless performances of some unbelievably well written characters by absolutely everyone involved, makes the film feel so real. It’s a tragic story about the collapse of man, the sense of being trapped in a “family” that you can not escape, a destiny that you are doomed to, but at the heart of it is this ideal of love and togetherness.

There are massively conflicting emotions you get from the film, things you know that are not right, but you can’t help it anyway; wanting characters like Don Corleone to recover, to improve, to do well, despite knowing that he is exactly the sort of person that you hope you never have to encounter in your life, is testament to the creativity that has gone into creating this iconic character from the make up, to the costume, the setting, the direction and least of all the acting. It’s a breathtaking performance from Superman’s dad and Oscar winner Marlon Brando, which is rightly regarded as one of the absolute best in cinematic history.

I’m not sure I can actually say all that much else about it that hasn’t been uttered a million times before by people able to put into words their thoughts much more eloquently than I could, so I’ll cut my review short right here. But suffice to say, it’s a film that is timeless and a classic for a reason.

You can read Owen’s choices for 1971 here, and find the entire Decade in film series here.