The Films I Have Watched Most

Weird Science

There’s the films you watch and admire – Chinatown, say, or The Godfather or Raging Bull or Scum. Then there’s the films you can put on and you know all the dialogue but they’re like faithful companions. I mean, I know all the bits in Revolver but that’s never going to stop me giving it another spin (if FLAC files spin). These films are your duvet-day entertainment, what you stick on when you come home drunk before falling asleep on the couch, the ones you swap lines with friends unto infinity. For people of a certain age, you might still raise a chuckle at “Shut your fucking face, uncle-fucker!”, or it might be “We have both kinds, country and western,” or “I know that penis – it had a mole on it!” or “The one with Bad Motherfucker on it” or even “Yes, it’s true – this man has no dick”.

I’ve quite a collection of these. I like, as Mr Keating said in Dead Poets Society, to “suck the marrow” out of the things I really get into, to really understand them- but also just because they become part of me.

Rocky II

You remember how people used to have video cabinets filled with VHS tapes? As in the blank ones they’d tape films onto. When I was a nipper we had about a dozen, all numbered with a small notepad I used to keep track of what was there. (Even then I was anal retentive about organising my entertainment…). We also had a smaller collection of bought VHS tapes, with the cover and all. These included Queen’s Greatest Flix, The Best of Hot Chocolate (my mum really likes Errol Brown), The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller (my sister was the Jacko fan), and Rocky II. On Saturday mornings me and my siblings would get up and watch the Stallone tale of Balbao’s descent into poverty, his half-assed training, Adrian’s coma, his redemptive (and quite brilliant) training montage, and his rematch with Apollo Creed. It’s all character-based and pretty slow moving until the montage and fight – so with the patience of kids (i.e. none) we’d most often just skip the boring bits to the exciting ending. Still, I really do think this is a very good film (for what it is) – very much better than Rocky, which better works as a concept rather than enjoyable film, and is of course far superior to the subsequent films in the series, where Rocky becomes an absurd superhero. And goddamn that montage – the music is so stirring, slow-building on the brass and climaxing on the strings. Fucking outrageously manipulative but so well done!

Ghostbusters

I was literally just watching this today for, I don’t know, the hundredth time. It is just so well done. The plotting is extraordinarily efficient for one thing: at the beginning, they flee the ghost in the library back to Columbia only to find the Dean evicting them. Dana Barret watches the Ghostbusters ad on TV right before her fridge has a nervous breakdown (I was tempted to say “meltdown”). The newscasts letting us know (without having to have any further big-budget special effects) that the ‘busters have been busting lots of ghosts. Compare with the absurd lengthiness of post-2000 blockbusters – this is lean and sharp, just how a film like this should be. The characterisation is wonderful: I just love Egon and his semi-autistic geekiness, while sweet lovable Ray is just right for Dan Akroyd, and Bill Murray… this is probably his most quintessential role, no? At least in his earlier wise-cracking incarnation before he became the prototypical alienated, mildly depressed, existential-doubt type in Lost In Translation (though see also Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt). The ghosts and other supernatural hokum is played for fun but with intelligence rather than mickey-taking. (Dan Akroyd is a fully paid-up Spiritualist). Ghostbusters is a film that’s just great fun and filled with endless quips (“Listen – do you smell something?”).

The Empire Strikes Back

I’m not really a Star Wars geek. No, really. I am not in general big on sci-fi, which I find humourless and not character-driven, which are two things I find essential in films (not necessarily in conjunction). But goddamn this is a fucking brilliant film, so rich in drama, stuffed full of major motifs like OEDIPAL CONFLICT and BETRAYAL and REDEMPTION. The characters are complex and recognisable (I am sure we have all met Leia’s and Luke’s, though perhaps not Boba Fett or Yoda); the special effects are stunning (oh god, the blu-ray version is magnificently detailed) but organic, with no artificial CGI sucking the life out of it; and the set piece action scenes are terrific: the lighting in the picture below is so well done.

Empire Strikes Back is just a film I can watch again and again and again. (Can’t really say the same about the other Star Wars films!)

Weird Science

I first saw Weird Science about the time that I got Appetite For Destruction, and the two have long felt to some extent complementary in my mind. I used to watch it repeatedly watch it with a friend with whom I’d bonded over GN’R, and we’d drool over how great the parties were and how hot the chicks were, man, and how awesome it must be to be 18 and be able to drink and have sex and drive and have tattoos and shit. We were essentially pretty much like Gary and Wyatt, in reality, but that went unsaid. For young boys (we must have been about nine years old), the film just seemed to hit everything we ever dreamed about. Aaah, such naive stupidity. Great film though: Bill Paxton in scene-stealing form as the vicious older brother Chat, Kelly LeBrock as the hottest woman ever, with those Brigitte Bardot lips, the mutant bikers from hell, Gary’s terrible parents, Wyatt’s even worse parents, the great soundtrack, the sense of teenage kicks… damn, I watched the fuck out of this film.

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3 thoughts on “The Films I Have Watched Most

  1. I think there’s a bit of a generational effect at work here, Mike. With the exception of Ghostbusters (cult gold, a gem that speaks to all ages), these are probably all films that you had to be in your early teens to really get into in this way. I was already at university, so they didn’t get under my skin in quite the same way.

    I saw The Blues Brothers dozens of times when I was a student, but have dropped out of the habit of re-watching it now. The only film from that era of my life that I still revisit quite often is Animal House (which I saw in my first week at university, and I seriously think may have been responsible for derailing my life). More recent comedies that have earned regular repeat rights are Anchorman, The South Park Movie, The Simpsons Movie, and Team America (“You are worthwhiff, Arec Bawrrin!”). Also, perhaps rather more surprisingly, the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore vehicle Music and Lyrics, which is a tremendously clever and very sweet rom-com – I never seem to go stale on it (it has somehow become one of my main Christmas traditions over the last five or six years).

    Amongst more serious films, I’ll watch any of the Tarantinos at least once a year. And I love the Dollars Westerns – especially For A Few Dollars More.

  2. Yeah, musically I am 60s/70s, but filmwise I’m a real 80s kid. These were all pre-teen films for me, 8/9 year old classics. But goddamn they still get me every time.

    Taraninos – yes indeed, though the appeal of Kill Bill was lost on me. I liked the veneration of Resevoir Dog I read somewhere on your blog – it is maybe overshadowed by Pulp Ficion, but what an amazing film it is – the writing is spectacular, the acting brilliant, the casting inspired, and the arc is perfect. Not sure about The Simpsons Film though!

  3. I’ll take Reservoir Dogs over any of the rest of them as a work of art. His later films are full of quirky richness, but they don’t have that laser focus of RD. (I had a very nice romantic encounter once with a young lady who concurred with my view that it was superior to Pulp Fiction because it was a perfect exemplar of Aristotle’s concept of tragedy.)

    The Kill Bill films are tremendous romps, and actually they’re particularly well suited to repeat viewing because they’re so episodic; by the third or fourth go round, you don’t feel bad about zoning out for a while and then tuning back in when it gets to a really good bit. Although, in fact there’s a whole bunch of really good bits one after another. Tremendous action sequences, tremendous dialogue. Just a bit unsatisfying overall because it’s so self-indulgently overlong and such a schlocky story.

    I don’t know what the thing with so many people griping about The Simpsons Movie is. I was more than pleasantly surprised; fairly blown away, in fact – it far exceeded my expectations. A pretty near perfect TV-to-big screen transplant – which I wouldn’t have thought possible for a show as fast-paced and tightly written as that. I suspect the carpers either had unrealistically inflated expectations (in the cinema it’s got to be TEN TIMES BETTER than on TV!!), or else are too used to the 22-minute format and couldn’t adapt their attention span to a full-length feature. I have no problem watching it three or four times a year: there’s not a lull in pace or a weak gag anywhere in it. (My only slight regret is the demise of Dr Nick. Oh, and Rainer Wolfcastle having become Schwarzennegger now – what’s up with that?)

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