Modern Movie Classics

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‘Classics’ is a term that is sprayed around with enough gay abandon that it has now become, itself, a cliché. For instance, you can buy a Magnum Classic as if this modern day ice-cream has been around since the 1930’s; a veritable institution of frozen pleasure. What they mean by ‘classic’ is that it is the original, the first Magnum; that Magnums are so revered by ice-cream aficionados that they have to have the original, classic version delineated from the other – lesser – incarnations so that the connoisseur can feel that they are savoring the true Magnum, the mothership of Magnums. Like they’re drinking a 1999 Burgundy (a very good vintage, if you’re interested).

But what do I mean by a modern classic movie? I think that a movie should be called ‘classic’ if you can watch it more than three times and not slam your head in an oven door. Oh, and it has to have been made since 1980 This is, obviously, a crazily strict criteria that doesn’t take in performances, screenwriting and direction or any of the other measures that critics lean against films as a way to judge them.

So, I am not including any of the big, serious films that constantly get touted as being cinematic triumphs of storytelling but merely a list of films I think have been overlooked by award givers and critics (and I know I have missed loads out…):

  1. The Matrix This film has dated. They wander around it long leather coats, use dumb-phones and it has that whole greeny/bluey grading thing that was a big deal back in the day. But. There are a couple of scenes in this which are brilliant: the fight scene between Neo and Morpheus. Neo and Trinity trashing a lobby and about a hundred policemen. I do remember watching it at the time thinking: Oh Neo, you should’ve taken the blue pill, dawg! Who wants to live on a skeggy spaceship with a bunch of crusties eating reconstituted reddy-brek just so you can play computer games all day? Just go on the dole and live in Hull or something…however, that moment when Morpheus reveals the big ‘secret’ to Neo is one of the few times I have been genuinely surprised watching a film.
  2. Toy Story Yeah, there were a few 3D films before this, but this really was the first one. The real genius behind this film is that once you have gotten over the astounding technical achievement you forget about the technical achievement;  it is a great film is because it is about story, characters and a great script. Pixar redefined the landscape of how movies are made and the fact that it didn’t win an Oscar for Best Film shows how bloody gormless the Academy is. Toy Story is what Disney used to do, but better.
  3. Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark This film gets shown on TV quite a lot and I have seen it many, many times and – even with all those viewings – I still never tire of watching it. Speilberg wanted to make an old school, Saturday morning, adventure-serial homage but I think he created something more than that: an almost perfect film with a bit of everything. Humour, action, adventure, romance, tension, good guys and bad guys. The final scene with all the packing crates in the warehouse gets me every time, in an unexplainable fundamental way. Awe. Some.
  4. Candyman This is in no way a perfect film – I know that. But I think that Candyman is a very, very good horror film that gave me the serious heebie-jeebies without resorting to buckets of gore and formulaic ‘jumpy’ moments. What made it creepy was that the film created a myth; a myth that if you said ‘Candyman’ into the mirror 5 times the Candyman (the brilliant Tony Todd) would come ‘n’ getchya. Watch the film, listen to the haunting Phillip Glass soundtrack, soak up the grey cinematography, the locations in the projects then stand in front of a mirror and say Candyman 5 times. Dare you. Double dare you.
  5. The Big Lebowski This is one of those films that you realise is a great film once you have watched it three or four times and even then you start to see new stuff. The ulitmate slacker film, full of stoner cod-philosophy. This, in my opinion, is the American Withnail & I. It has that same vibe, that same feeling of anything could happen and you wish it would…or wouldn’t. A Stella cast just look as if they’re having fun. The Coen Brothers must have had to kick Goodman and Bridges off the set at the end. Brilliant film. Did it win an Oscar? Did it even get nominated? Did it fuck.
  6. Snatch I think that we can all agree that Guy Richie is a bit of a mockney tool – but fair play to him, he did make two rather good films and married Madonna (though this is mitigated by the fact that he made Swept Away and Revolver and Madge has had more rings on her fingers than Liberace). Lock-Stock is regarded as the one great Guy Richie film but I think Snatch is better. Full of mad characters, funny and quotable dialogue and Brad Pitt‘s all-over-the-shop Irish brogue (but, to give the boy credit he really had a go and although it’s a bit mid-Atlantic, he has the essence of it – even I can’t understand some of my relatives, and he has captured some of that…). The film is worth it for Brick Top alone and his mad, super strength glasses and obsession with pigs. A great film.
  7. Pulp Fiction There have been few Tarantino films I haven’t liked, but Pulp Fiction is a particular favourite. Lots of clever, interwoven story-lines, absolutely riveting performances from Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Tim Roth and Uma Thurman; trademark sizzling dialogue and an original and eclectic soundtrack. Tarantino, when he is on form, is one of the most exciting directors alive today, creating films that are surprising, funny, referential and iconoclastic. It was nominated, in ’94, for best film along with The Shawshank Redemption, Four Weddings, Quiz Show and Forrest Gump. Forest Gump won! Forest Gump! Forrest Gump is a shit film. I think I forgot what it was about when I watched it last on Channel 5 at 3 in the morning. Which is where it belongs. Seriously, the Academy is a bunch of eeijits.

16 thoughts on “Modern Movie Classics

  1. I have an ex who used to hunt down people who hadn’t seen The Matrix just to accompany them to the cinema and watch their faces as realisation dawns after the red pill. And he was right to try (for once), but it’s a pure, unadulterated once-in-a-lifetime moment that no amount of vicarious viewing can reproduce. I even envy my Boy and Girl their first watch of The Matrix (assuming Husband No.1 doesn’t tell them in advance during one of his delusional, ain’t-I-a-funny-guy? episodes).

    And The Big Lebowski? Sublimely sublime. The big, bumbling giant, Jeff, at his very, very, very best. And Turturro licking his bowling ball is just perfect. But the Coens ARE gods.

    1. You are right, of course. That matrix ‘moment’ is a one time only affair, but I have yet to see a film with that kind of plot twist. I thought Inception was going to outflank me but I found it was just a bunch of clever set-pieces strung together by a flimsy narrative.

      The Coen’s don’t make bad films. They have made some of my absolute favourites. But The Big Lebowski? Genius.

  2. This was fun……am a complete movie buff and have a few to add to your must see catalog.

    Get Shorty with John Travolta and Danny Devito. As a California girl just loved the whole East Coast tuff guy culture shock scenario. (Favorite line, ” This is the Cadillac of Mini Vans”).

    The Player with Tim Robbins, another Hollywood film with great actors and not predictable ending.

    Here is a very obscure film few people have seen that I just love, The Spanish Prisoner, Stars Steve Martin and it is not a comedy, not slap stick and keeps you guessing until the end. One of David Mamut’s best.

    My favorite movies are comedies but I am only mentioning one here which I have forced everyone in my circle to watch; Death at a Funeral is a fucking brilliant movie! And I don’t mean the shite American knock off! The guy who gets drugged should have won an Oscar for that!!

    1. Get Shorty is, indeed a fine film – and a fine book. The Player is an excellent film that I have seen a couple of times. Tim Robbins at his best.

      I have not seen The Spanish Prisoner, or indeed heard of it. I will try and get hold of it somehow. Nor have I heard of Death at a Funeral – who stars in it? Found two on IMDB…

  3. I have been banging the drum for “Candyman” for AGES to anyone who will listen. Tony Todd’s amazing voice and presence and the psychosexual dynamic between him and Virginia Madsen. It’s a real white knuckle film. Glad to see it’s getting the recognition it deserves from Mr Shev.

    One I would add here is Requiem for a Dream, which is brilliant and horrifying and stays with you for months afterward. The one problem – it’s so harrowing that you can’t watch it over and over without wanting to throw yourself off Rupal Flank. Still…unparallelled.

    1. Candyman, if you’re interested, has the worst promo for a film I have seen in a long time. What they should have done is just cut a bunch of stuff together to the great Candyman piano track Mr Glass did and Bob’s your uncle. Maybe I’ll do it in a spare moment and post it on YouTube…

      I have – shock! – never seen Requiem for a Dream. I saw a French film called Irreversible that stayed with me for years and is probably one of the most disturbing films I have seen since…well, forever. I don’t recommend it.

  4. Oh Yeah, I also wanted to say that I absolutely hated Forest Gump! Could not understand why everyone thought that was good…….? Four Weddings came out that year and was my favorite movie that year. That Tom Hanks won an Oscar for that completely sentimental twaddle of a movie is beyond me. All my friend’s in Uni were like have you seen it? Blah blah blah. And were totally shocked when I said it was the dumbest movie I had ever seen.

    1. I like Four Weddings. In fact, I’ll go as far to say that I don’t mind a decent ‘chick flick’ at all. A good movie is a good movie whatever label you put on it.

      Anyway, Forrest Gump is basically unwatchable the second time round because it is too corny, too cheesy and in the end I didn’t know why the film was made. Tom Hanks has done some great stuff (Big – SUCH an awesome film; Toy Story 1,2 & 3 – all awesome, each better than the other, Saving Private Ryan – I know it’s cheesy, but that visceral opening scene is still incredible) but this film is not one of them. Shite.

      1. So the version you want to see is the 2007 movie directed by Frank Oz and starring Alan Tudyk as Simon, who in my opinion is a totally under-appreciated actor! He was fantastic with an American accent on a few episodes of Frasier. Spot on as a Hollywood producer in Knocked Up. How is it that English actors can do such a believable American accent but American actors rarely can pull off the Brit accent???

        Ellen Burstyn won a Oscar for her role in Requiem for a Dream which is a fantastic yet harrowing movie. I think you could write a whole other blog about movies or actors that won Oscars that other films should have won…….Marisa Tomei anyone????

      2. I will check it out.

        I think Cannes gives prizes to better films, IMO. The Golden Globes is basically the Oscars dress rehearsal and The Baftas are the awards only British actors turn up to.

  5. Hey Shev,

    That win for Forrest Gump was very bad…But is it as bad as Dances with Fucking Wolves beating Goodfellas on 1991?

    Maybe not…or maybe it’s just Scorcese?

  6. Great post, thank you for writing it. And for posting it. Tangentially, can I tell you about a classic moment in my life which has a vague bearing on your post? No? Oh well, tough. I was in an art gallery carrying my firstborn around and spotted none other than Keanu Reeves. Firstborn started to scream, so I headed to the lift, closely followed by KR. ‘I’m so sorry about the screaming’ I apologised. ‘Hey’ said the monotone-but-quite-fabulous-really one, ‘It’s terrif’.

    And there the conversation ended because we realised that we were indeed in parallel universes and had absolutely nothing to say to each other.

    1. Awesome. I bet you thought of loads of pithy anecdotes and lines of conversation after the fact.

      I once – literally – bumped into Clint Eastwood. I’m not a particularly starstruck kind of person, but that rendered me utterly mute. I thought of loads of stuff I wanted to say. In the end all he said was: ‘sorry, buddy.’ I touched greatness and he was a rock…

  7. I also love Toy Story- and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The scene in the bazaar where the villain squares up for a big sword fight and the Indy just takes out his pistol and shoots him cracks me up every time.

    I love Pans Labyrinth, although it is a bit disturbing. And if I just want to laugh there are two films that are always winners- from complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Dodgeball (‘if you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a ball…’) and Some Like It Hot. Happy days.

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