Friday, 15 May 2009

Top 5 Films

Last week's Star Wars related top five got me thinking about my all time favourite films. It's a pretty easy list. The top four have been set in stone for some time. I thought film number five was pretty solid too, but now I come to write about it I'm not so certain.

1. Reservoir Dogs (1992) Dir. Quentin Tarantino
I'm pretty sure I only went to see this film because it had been banned. I remember Barry Norman giving it a glowing review and hinting at all sorts of things that sounded edgy and exciting. I had to drag a mate along as it wasn't the sort of movie my girlfriend was keen to see and, typically, we arrived late, walking in during the opening "Madonna" monologue and wondering what we'd missed. I love the way the film is put together; the sparseness of the main warehouse scenes, the snippets of what had led to that point and the gradual development of the characters involved. It doesn't even disappoint at the finish, a brilliant Mexican stand-off followed by an emotional end for Mr Orange and Mr White.

2. Fargo (1996) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen
Lured in by the appearance of Steve Buscemi this was, I think, my first Coen Brothers movie. I'm a big fan of all their work now but this remains my favourite. It's got a gentle pace that gives the viewer time to take in the nuances of the film without sacrificing any of the pull from the plot. The scene that sticks in my mind is still Buscemi being fed into the wood chipper by Peter Stormare but many of the film's best moments involve very little happening at all. Brilliant performances from William H. Macy and Frances McDormand and some great cameos from other Coen regulars.

3. Pulp Fiction (1994) Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Tarantino has made a big impression on me. I feel like I've been there from the start and despite a gradual decline in quality he is still one of my favourite directors. "Pulp Fiction" is good enough to stake a claim for the number one spot, as do all of my top four. It has a more complex plot than "Reservoir Dogs" but that doesn't detract from the pace and thrill of the story. It contains more brilliant dialogue from the pen of Mr T and pulls off some neat cinematic tricks along the way as it jumps between time and location to magnificent effect.

4. Star Wars (1977) Dir. George Lucas
"Star Wars" is a film intrinsically linked with my childhood. I have vivid memories of my Mum taking me and my best pal to Kingston to see it. I can remember the Bus journey there, in the silence of contained excitement, and the bus journey home with our noisy discussion of the best bits. I remember talking about the scene where the Jawas capture R2D2, how brilliant light sabres were and the spectacular finale with the X-Wing squadrons. I went on to swap Star Wars bubble gum cards at school (still have the full Blue and Red set!) and got a Star Wars duvet and pillow case for Christmas that year. If you could get something with Star Wars printed on it (pencils, lunch boxes, pants) then I probably had it. I've seen it more times than I can count and still love it now.

5. Blade Runner (1981) Dir. Ridley Scott
For a long time "The Godfather" has taken this final spot and it remains a a fantastic film, it's just not one I've felt the urge to watch again very often. "Blade Runner" appeared some four years after "Star Wars" and offered me a sci-fi film with a bit of gritty reality thrown in. A sign I was growing up and much more appropriate, I thought, for a teenage boy to be into. It was darker and moodier than any sci-fi I'd seen before and revelled in the ambiguity of it's plot.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Top 5 characters from Star Wars

Like most boys (or girls) who were between the age of seven and twelve in 1977, Star Wars is one of my favourite movies. The saga it began is as popular now, thirty years on, as it was in the late seventies. Just the other day my youngest was explaining to me the plot details of the original movie whilst playing Lego Star Wars on the PlayStation. He knows the story as well as me and is as entranced by the characters as I had been in '77.

1. R2D2
I can't really explain why a small robot who communicates in bleeps and clicks made such a big impression on me. However, I'm pretty sure R2 would be high up in most people's top five. Alongside his "straight man" C3P0 he brings a comic lightness to the films yet also plays an important role in the key events. Anthony Daniels is perfectly cast as the counterfoil to R2's bravery and determination. The two robots were based on Tahei and Matashichi the peasant's from Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress and provide an alternative view of the saga which I think is one of the films great strengths.

2. Yoda
It took me a while to love Yoda. Initially he seemed to be just an excuse to use Jim Henson's Muppet appeal. However, If there's one thing the prequels got right it was the chance to see Yoda in his Jedi prime. Seeing the little green guy spinning in mid-air whilst demonstrating sword skills that would impress Errol Flynn is worth the price of admission on its own.

3. Han Solo
Yeah, Luke might have been the main hero but he was always a bit too wet to really admire. Han Solo was the real star of the show, a bit rough around the edges and not always driven by the right motivation, he was the lovable rouge it was impossible to dislike.

4. Darth Vader
One of the greatest ever movie Villains. He features in so many of the standout moments; his arrival on the captured rebel ship, the dogfight for the Death Star, his redemption as he dies saving Luke's life. Vader's appearance makes an impact on the story without the need for dialogue.

5. Boba Fett
A late change in my top 5 thanks to a chance conversation the other day (cheers Gav). Boba Fett doesn't say a great deal but he steals the screen whenever he appears. Star Wars kick started my love of collecting things. Initially it was bubble gum cards but I soon moved on to the little plastic figures. I think Boba Fett was particularly rare and I remember being over the moon when I eventually got one thanks to an offer on the back of a Corn Flakes packet. In Empire and Jedi Fett was cool because he looked battle worn and tough to beat, his subsequent revelation as the original source for all clones has only added to his mystique.


Friday, 1 May 2009

Top 5 Sitcoms that didn't make my other top fives

If you read this blog you'll know by know that I'm pretty anal about this sort of thing. Having returned to the sitcom topic I've realised there were a few great shows that I either narrowly ruled out or just plain forgot about. I'm probably pushing my luck but these are five sitcoms I reckon deserve a place in your hearts that I've not already mentioned.

1. The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin (1976-1979)
3 Series created by David Nobbs
Well observed satire of Reggie's struggle to come to terms with his middle class existence and gradually falling apart at the seems. It's back on BBC with Martin Clunes in the lead role but surely it can't match the genius of the original.

2. The New Statesman (1987-1992)
3 Series written by Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran
Wonderfully over the top performance from Rik Mayall as the archetypal vitriolic Tory politician. Like a less subtle version of "Yes Minister".

3. The Brittas Empire (1991-1997)
7 Series created by Richard Fegen & Andrew Norriss
If you could cope with the infuriating and fastidious Gordon Brittas there were some brilliant plot lines in this post "Red Dwarf" vehicle for Chris Barrie. Having come to a natural conclusion at series five the BBC made a mistake in bringing it back for two more runs but that shouldn't take away from it's prime time success.

4. Outnumbered (1997-ongoing)
2 Series written by Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin
Semi-improvised vision of 21st century family life that captures perfectly the chaos of working parents attempting to "do the right thing" whilst bringing up children who would test the patience of a saint.

5. I'm Alan Partridge (1997-2002)
2 Series written by Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci & Peter Baynham
The best thing Steve Coogan has done. Social ineptness, banal conversation and an unhealthy obsession with Lexus cars.

And damn, I still didn't have room to talk about Rising Damp, The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Flintstones or Spaced.