miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Lee)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I have actually completed a meme! For the last 20 days I have been posting a contextless, commentless picture from a movie once per day on twitter. The constraints were that the films had to mean something to you, and that you could only post a pic, no comment.

But you all knew I wouldn't be able to resist verbiage in the end, didn't you? So here is the list of films, the pictures I chose, and why I chose them.

1, 12 Angry Men (1957)

A still from the movie 12 angry men

This is actually a live broadcast television play-for-today type thing that was turned into a stage play, and then a film, rather than a film per se, and there's a bunch of versions of it that are worth seeing, but this is the canonical one for me. So tightly directed, so beautifully acted, especially by Jack Klugman (yes, Quincey). And because it's a teleplay adaptation you get that constraint in the number of sets and locations that just increases the claustrophobia.

I love the lighting, too. There's something about 50s black and white films, and the way they lit them... At the time colour was seen as garish and for fantastic movies; black and white was for realism and grit. So there are some beautiful noirish touches in the lighting on this which amplify the mood.

2, Ghostbusters (2016)

I really loved the lady Ghostbusters remake. I loved all four of the leads. I loved Hemsworth's ditzy secretary. I loved Sigourney Weaver's little cameo. I thought the worst thing in it was Bill Murray. But the reason I chose this particular image? Because when I saw this film at the cinema this scene made me cry. This is why I have Holtzmann as part of my sleeve tattoo. It's not just that she gets to be actually heroic - although that's not as common as it should be, it does sometimes happen in movies - it's that she fights properly. She moves with confidence and she kicks arse. There's no stupid leg-wafting waif ballet about this fight. She's dressed in practical clothes, and she has practical weapons, and she is badass.

Add to all that the fact that the scene is shot and directed to amplify, rather than minimise, that badassery. She gets slow motion action moves and the theme tune plays over the fight like when James Bond has his big fight scene. She's shot like she's cool, not like she's eyecandy. She's shot like you are meant to aspire to be her, not like you are meant to aspire to have her.

Little boys have had heroes like that since the advent of film. This is the only time I can think of that little girls have had a hero like that. I will never, ever forgive the whining manbabies of the internet for taking the sequel away from me.

3, Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

I first saw this film when I was six years old. I seem to recall that one of my brothers had taped it from late night telly and let me watch it possibly in an attempt to scare me. It didn't scare me. I loved it. This was the moment I pledged my undying devotion to Christopher Lee.

Having seen the film approximately eleventy billion times since, I can see it has some flaws. Martin Jarvis is spectacularly miscast, as is his friend, the supposedly good looking male lead. And don't even start me on Ralph My-Only-Good-Film-Was-Dr-Jekyll-And-Sister-Hyde-And-That's-More-Do-With-Martine-Beswick-Than-Me Bates. But none of those three really matter: from the opening scenes with Roy Kinnear's oily shopkeeper's shock at witnessing the death of Sir Lee from the previous film; to the scenes between Geoffrey Keen's tyrannical and hypocritical Victorian father and Linda Hayden's rebellious and pouting Victorian daughter, and Gwen Watford as the mother who loves them both and tries to peacemake; to the delight of having both Hammer stalwarts John Carson and Michael Ripper turn up... there's barely a second of this film that doesn't rip along with a joy and verve that several of the Hammer Draculas lack.

4, Vincent (1982)

This one purposefully follows on from the last. After having seen Taste The Blood of Dracula at the age of six, I insisted that I wanted more, and thus my loving family recorded all the Hammer, Amicus, American International, etc films that were shown on the telly and I devoured them avidly. The ones I recall seeing in that period include Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (disappointing because lacking in Sir Lee) Tales of Terror (oooo Peter Lorre!) The Pit and the Pendulum (that Iron Maiden scene at the end!) and Dr Terrors House of Horrors (of which more later), among many others. By seven I, too, was obsessed with Vincent Price, as a noble second to my one true love Christopher Lee. I identify enormously with Vincent Malloy.

You can watch the whole thing here, if you like, and I encourage you to do so. It's only 6 and a bit minutes long.

5, Aliens (1986)

I am one of those who thinks that Alien is a better film than Aliens. I prefer Ridley Scott's directorial style to James Cameron's. I think there's a whole bit in the middle of Aliens where the narrative sags, whereas Alien is perfectly paced all the way through. And I don't like that Ripley defers to Hicks as much as she does.

That said, Aliens goes on the list rather than Alien because... Ripley was famously not meant to be a woman in the original. The fact that she was, and all the things that flowed from that, were to an extent accidental. The explicitly feminist stuff in this film? That's on purpose. So Ripley is competent and knowledgeable because that's who Ripley is, but the way she is treated by the company, how women are always treated, with derision and disbelief? And the fact that we know it's wrong and we are meant to be on her side? That's on purpose. The only survivor in the colony being a little girl rather than a big butch manly man? And Ripley's maternal reactions to Newt being painted as strength rather than weakness? That's on purpose. The little exchange with Vasquez - "Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?" "No. Have you?" and Vasquez rolling her eyes because women have to put up with shitty men who think they are funny all the time? That's on purpose. And by God do I love Vasquez. If there is a character who comes close to Holtzmann in terms of flat-out baddassery that little girls should want to emulate, it's Vasquez. Sadly, this film is 18-rated...

Alien is technically a better film; Aliens means more to me.

6, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Another film with a female lead, who is treated badly by all the forces of authority - both of her parents, the police (one of whom is her dad), the school, the hospital... And she comes out on top not because she is particularly strong or powerful or intelligent or good or pure, but through sheer force of determination. Nancy is a great character.

I'm also actually quite fond of Nancy's mother, flawed though she is. She loves her daughter and wants what's best for her because she recognises her own complicity in the horrors, and has buried herself in the bottle because of that. It's reasonably rare in a horror film to have an actually nuanced and believable female character. To have two, and one of them be over 40? That's pretty special.

I also love the use of colour in this film, there's always a subtle clue as to when Freddy is about to appear by there suddenly being something red-and-green like his jersey, even in the entirely blue-lit scenes (see the trellis of roses, for example, or the roof of the drop top car).

The only problem I have with this film nowadays is the presence of Johnny Depp, but as he dies horribly in it (sorry for spoilers) I give myself a pass.

7, Passport To Pimlico (1949)

One of a raft of great Ealing comedies. I've got a box set of 16 of em, bought for my by an Ealing-resident friend for my birthday many years ago. Margaret Rutherford is fantastic in this, and it has a poignant resonance these days what with br*x*t and everything, but the reason it's on the list is very personal.

When I first started dating [personal profile] matgb he lived in London, and I used to get the Megabus down to visit him as often as I could, and we used to go to Lib Demmy things or do touristy stuff - we were both quite poor, so lots more museums and art galleries than West End shows; our first date was going round the British Library followed by the recording of the pilot episode of The Unbelievable Truth for Radio 4.

On a reasonably early one of these occasions we were walking from a museum to an art gallery and we crossed the border into Pimlico. We turned to each other and said, in perfect unison, "have you got your passport?". That was when I thought "this one's a keeper". And that was 12 years ago.

8, Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)

I have been told you can tell whether you are a classicist or a historian by which scene is your favourite in Life of Brian. Historians love "What have the Romans ever done for us?". I am sure that my friend Penny will be glad to see that I am a classicist, because "people called romans they go the 'ouse?!" is by far and away my favourite scene, instantly jolting me back to childhood Latin lessons.

"The locative, sir! The locative!"

But this film also has resonance for me as a commentary on religion and politics. Several scenes in it were clearly written by person or persons who were reasonably embedded in British politics, and remind me of huge numbers of Lib Dem meetings I have actually attended. And the endless poking fun at bureaucracy and the stupidity of power structures is so well done...

9, Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Not just another Ealing comedy, but another one from the golden period. This film is glorious; Dennis Price playing one part (well, one and a half, as he has about 30 seconds as his own father at the beginning) frantically and desperately trying to out-act Alec Guinness playing nine parts is, of course, the thing most people remember. But oh my lord Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood are what take this film from an amusing curiosity to an all-time great. Noble, loyal Edith and sinuous, sexy Sibella are the root of the film and the root of Louis's downfall in the most gloriously inevitable way. Louis's cruelty to and contempt for Lionel (telling Lionel on his wedding day that he's in for a good night, and he should know? That is a very risque line for 1949) coming back to bite him is also gloriously inevitable.

And it's so tightly directed you could use it as a drum.

10, 12 Monkeys (1995)

100% this is in here for Terry Gilliam's direction. I mean I have a big thing for dystopian scifi in general, and Gilliam is no slouch at those - see Brazil and Time Bandits, for examples - but this is just a class above anything else he's ever done. Yes, Alisdair, even that Nike advert.

Every frame of this is so perfect, and you can tell how much effort has gone into the set design, and the props, and the costumes, and the framing, and the lighting and the editing. It contains the best performance of Bruce Willis's career to date (with a possible caveat about Looper) and there must have been some directorial skill involved in extracting that. It's just a masterpiece of filmic art in every way.

11, They Live (1988)

I had to have a John Carpenter. I suppose it could have been Halloween. BUY. It was never going to be The Thing (because poor doggies :( ). CONSUME. It might have been Big Trouble in Little China (but racism) or Prince of Darkness (because Alice!)... STAY ASLEEP. But I think it really has to be They Live, John Carpenter Does Politics In Big Capital Letters. OBEY. Most of his films have some political content, but this one whacks you round the head with it like Shaun of the Dead with a cricket bat. WATCH TV. And then there's the fight scene...

The fight scene makes absolutely no narrative sense whatsoever. CONFORM. It's seven minutes long, and puts a girder across the railway of the film's structure and timing. NO THOUGHT. It's absolutely glorious, and some have actually argued that its very absurdity is the entire point of the film. SUBMIT.

12, My Fair Lady (1964)

Almost the last gasp of the golden age of Hollywood musicals, but what a gasp it is. Just LOOK at the costumes. My god I could pore over that still I've posted for a week, and then throw away my sewing machine because what even is the point?

And the music! Marni Nixon, what a star, and I'm glad she's finally getting the credit she deserves.

FWIW I think Eliza makes absolutely the wrong choice in the end, going for smug, patronising and patriarchal (but rich) Henry over loving, beautiful, dreamer Freddy. But then you can probably tell that from my life choices, can't you?

13, Forbidden Planet (1956)

Those of us who grew up with Airplane and The Naked Gun and Spy Hard and Dracula Dead and Loving It might find it hard to credit that Leslie Neilsen, of the superb comic timing, was once a romantic leading man. But here he is...

This is basically The Tempest translated to scifi, so you know the core of it is good. Old Billy Shakes didn't do that many duffers. What lifts it, though, is the soundtrack. Pretty extraordinary even if you watch it on a crappy old 14 inch telly, as I did the first time around, it's absolutely mindblowing when experienced on the big screen. If this shows in a picture house near you I exhort you to go and see it; I know they have a print of it at the Bradford Media Museum, because that's where I saw it. I expect the BFI have one too.

This is another one that's made it into my tattoo, as well. It has so many iconic images in it. The saucer landing, Robby the robot, the room full of dials, the melting door. All of those images became scifi cliches because of this film.

14, House on Haunted Hill (1959)

I used to have the poster for this on my wall at uni, along with Taste the Blood of Dracula ("Drink a pint of blood a day!") and Masque of the Red Death (of which more later). And the obligatory Dali and Escher prints, obviously. I hold a great deal of affection for William Castle's gimmicky movies in my heart, and it vies between this and The Tingler for which is my favourite, but I plumped for this one because of that poster.

I only wish I'd been alive to see it first time around, and witness EMERGO!!! in action without having heard about it first.

The remake of this is actually worth seeing too: although they miss the entire point of the original film by making the ghosts real, Geoffrey Rush does the most amazing Vincent Price impression in it, and you can't go wrong with a bit of evil scenery-chewing Famke Jannsen.

15, Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Because I had to have a Roger Corman: here's another Vinny P, and another film with astoundingly good use of colour throughout. This one has a very young Jane Asher as the ingenue protagonist and another Hammer stalwart, this time Hazel Court, as a gloriously debauched satanist (and wife of Vinny P). There's also a fine performance from Skip Martin in the Hop Toad subplot. And I love the moment at the end where (slight spoiler) all the other different coloured Deaths turn up for the post-work wander-off-to-the-pub of Deaths too.

I have a big soft spot for all the American International Corman/Price/Poe stable, especially Tales of Terror (for the love of God Monstresor!) and Fall of the House of Usher (PLEASE speak softly, sir, every sound you utter is EXXXquisite agony to me!), but this one is the only one that has the scale and budget and and sets and costumes they all should have had.

The sets really are the star of this one, clearly designed by someone with a huge amount of love for the source material, and beautifully dressed and shot. Another one to catch on the big screen if you possibly can, just for the sheer spectacle of it.

16, The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

I have enjoyed all the Lego movies I have seen, but this one holds a special place in my heart for one particular reason: when, as a tiny Batfan I saw the 1989 Batman at the pictures, and they'd cast Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, I thought that was really interesting casting. They were clearly setting him up to be a recurring character, and I knew who Harvey Dent was and what he would become. Batman the Animated Series (which is basically my canon for Batman stuff) also had a Harvey Dent who was black, and I thought this was great.

Then Batman Forever came out.

I like Batman Forever. It's got some great stuff in it. The soundtrack is great. But the one, glaring, gaping flaw in it is that they threw Billy Dee Williams over for a white guy. Now, I love Tommy Lee Jones, I really do. But that should never have been his part.

The Lego Batman Movie rights that injustice: Harvey Dent/Two-Face is black, and voiced by Billy Dee Williams. Hence the picture of Two Face going "YAY!"

17, Doctor Terror's House of Horrors (1965)

Again, this one is here to represent a stable: Amicus Portmanteau movies. It could have been From Beyond the Grave (Peter Cushing's amazing "northern" accent!), or Tales From the Crypt (Zombie Mr Grimsdyke the avenging angel forever!), or Vault of Horror (Mad Tom!) or Asylum (The Lombot!) or The House That Dripped Magenta (which will always be a date film for [personal profile] magister and I) but Doctor Terror (a plant like that could TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!) was my first and will always be my favourite.

Although the film is bookended with stories about two seductively supernatural women, my favourite of the five stories, is, you might have guessed this, the fourth. Christopher Lee's marvellously snotty and pompous - yet insecure and terrified - Art Critic versus The Amicus Hand is an absolute joy from start to finish. Michael Gough's mischievous artist is great too, but Lee basically carries the entire story all by himself, with only an animatronic hand to act against. Those who say he tends to dial it in unless he's opposite another good actor (yes, Kim Newman, I'm looking at you) would do well to bear this little story in mind.

18, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

This is here to represent Ray Harryhausen. It could have been Jason and the Argonauts (bring me the children of the hydra's teeth!), or Clash of the Titans (Medusa! The Kraken!) but in the end I had to go for Kali. And then I had to decide whether Kali herself or Caroline Munro's chest was more magnificent and iconic and... well, you can see what I went for.

I do have some qualms about Mad Tom in Brownface these days, and there's various other bits of racist ick in there too, but there's something in there that redeems that for me which you'd never see in a mainstream adventure movie these days - the heroes of the film are all explicitly muslim. And it's Harryhausen at the peak of his powers.

19, Thelma And Louise (1991)

This film came out when I was 13, but I don't think I actually saw it till 14 or 15. Regardless, early teens is a hell of a time for an impressionable girl to see a film like this. And, as I said earlier, I love Ridley Scott's directorial style. The man can't write a plot for toffee (see Prometheus) but his visual sense and attention to detail is second to none. And, you know, Geena Davis. The woman is doing astounding work to this day.

I also fully recommend the song Thelma and Louise by the Horrorpops, inspired by this film, which is one of those songs that always cheers me up.

20, Horror Express (or Panico En El Transiberiano) (1972)

In the spirit of saving the best till last... Fuck Vertigo and Citizen Kane: this is the best film ever made. I will brook no argument on this. It's got Peter Cushing AND Christopher Lee. It's a murder mystery/scifi/mad monk/period horror/bawdy sitcom/police procedural/zombie movie. It's got Telly Savalas before he looked at Birmingham. It's got a relentless unknowable monster, who none-the-less learns and changes and grows through the film. It's got a theme tune you can really whistle and a monster that does. It's even got Roger Delgado, albeit in voice only. It's even set on a train! This film has got everything.

There are some really crappy prints of it floating around - I have huge affection for the one we used to cajole Tony into showing us every year at the fantastic films weekend; some of the scratches and dings on that print are like old friends - but it has recently come out, lovingly restored, on bluray from Arrow with commentaries and trailers and all sorts.

Go buy it. Now. You won't regret it.

To be honest, I could have gone on for a lot longer than 20 days. Although those films all definitely mean something to me, it's not a list of my favourite films by any stretch. Only one musical? Whither Singin' In the Rain'? No Gremlins II: the New Batch? No Wrath of Khan? No Rocky Horror? No Flash Gordon? No Galaxy Quest? No Alan Rickman or Sheila Keith or Karl Urban? No Kubrick? No Rope or Rear Window or Psycho or Rebecca - no Hitchcock at all? etc. etc. But I expect you're probably glad I stopped when I did.

Date: Thursday, February 14th, 2019 02:52 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] theandrewhickey
That's a fairly perfect list of films, frankly. Not quite the list I would have made, but every one on it made me think "Yep, that's a good one. That makes sense."

Date: Thursday, February 14th, 2019 02:58 pm (UTC)
strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
From: [personal profile] strange_complex
Yep, a great list! And well done for completing the meme. I did a 30-day books one last year, and it took a lot of organisation and memory skills to finish it (especially as I went on holiday part-way through). Glad you enjoyed it!

Date: Thursday, February 14th, 2019 03:09 pm (UTC)
lady_lugosi1313: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313
:-) joyous :-)

Date: Thursday, February 14th, 2019 03:29 pm (UTC)
brithistorian: (Default)
From: [personal profile] brithistorian
But I expect you're probably glad I stopped when I did.

Actually, no - I'd love for you to go on. I enjoyed seeing films here that I've enjoyed and also discovering new films to watch.

I was thinking about My Fair Lady the other day. Specifically, it occurred to me that World War I would be starting in just a few years (according to the interwebs, My Fair Lady is set in 1912). Freddy would, of course, volunteer. I imagine he'd enlist in the cavalry, most likely in the 9th Royal Lancers. He'd end up getting decorated, possibly posthumously, for some incredibly rash action.

Date: Friday, February 15th, 2019 03:05 am (UTC)
earthspirits: (Vincent Price)
From: [personal profile] earthspirits
Actually, I love classic films - so would have been delighted for you to keep going!

Date: Friday, February 15th, 2019 04:25 am (UTC)
franklanguage: (Default)
From: [personal profile] franklanguage
That's a very young Jack Klugman in the 12 Angry Men picture!

Date: Sunday, February 17th, 2019 08:16 am (UTC)
norfolkian: (Default)
From: [personal profile] norfolkian
Oooh, 12 Angry Men is so good.

I wanted to watch the Lego Batman movie but husband saw it before me and told me it's not very good. I've not really seen any other Batman films. Would you recommend it?

Date: Sunday, February 17th, 2019 07:58 pm (UTC)
lokifan: black Converse against a black background (Default)
From: [personal profile] lokifan
Kind Hearts and Coronets <333 I saw it when I was very wee and loved it. Should watch it again now I'm old enough to appreciate stuff like the wedding night line!

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