The summer is over (at least it is on this side of the Atlantic where our annual week of blue-skied loveliness has been and gone) and therefore winter is coming, and will be upon us long before we’ve even thought about cleaning the barbeque. But worry not, because there is nothing better than curling up on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a good film. But what to watch? Why not go back to some of the seminal greats that you watched that one time but perhaps haven’t seen for God knows how long? Here’s a list to get you started on your winter hibernation movie marathon.
10. Little Miss Sunshine
Perhaps one of the most genius films ever written, you really need to relive the scenes of a whole family, who make the word dysfunctional seem like a compliment, running to try and jump into a moving VW camper van. To be honest, every once in a while, it’s fun to be reminded by a coked up granddad that we should “Fuck a lot of women. Not just one. A lot of women.” There’s nothing like promiscuity amongst the geriatric it seems. And sometimes, your first line of dialogue should be you screaming “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck” at the sky because thing’s don’t always work out like you’d hoped. Never mind, it all works out in the end.
Was it just me or did Looper just fall off the edge of the world the second it left the cinemas? Everyone raved about it when it was showing down at your local Odeon, but three weeks later we’d all forgotten about it. This, ladies and gentlefolk, is a crime against humanity. Looper is quite possibly the second greatest original film to come out in years (Inception takes first place – and rightly so). Where most big blockbuster films are sequels or reboots, not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that, Looper followed suit with Inception and blew our faces off with mind bending brilliance. And perhaps Inception is why Looper was forgotten – it was overshadowed. Yet stand this film on its own two feet and it towers above most other things. Even if you can’t quite shake the feeling that you’ve seen the guy who plays Joseph Gordon Levitt before… oh right, it is Jo-Go but with weird prosthetics. Odd, he almost looks exactly like Rob Lowe with a Neanderthal brow.
8. The Empire Strikes Back
Aside from the fact that The Empire Strikes Back is my favourite film of all time, it is undoubtedly the best sequel of all time. On top of that, it also takes the accolade of being the actual best film of all time. Godfather eat your horse’s heart out. Face it, sequels are rarely on a par with the first instalment. And to have a sequel which is clearly better than its older brother, is nigh on impossible. You can basically count the sequels that bettered the first volume on one hand. Godfather two is better than the Godfather, X-2 is better than X-Men, Empire Strikes Back is better than A New Hope (battles still rage over where Return Of The Jedi fits in on the greatness scale, I say a firm second place) and the New Testament is better than The Old Testament. If you can think of more, feel free to put your answers on a post card (or just leave them in the comments below).
But you really know what your life is missing these days? I’ll tell you: a planet in the Hoth system, AT-AT walkers, tauntauns, Yoda, levitating X-Wings, ghostly Alec Guinness, Bespin, casual limb dismemberment, and fuckin’ Lando. Sort it out – trot out the world’s greatest cinematic masterpiece and get all hot under the collar when Han tells Leia she needs more scoundrels in her life.
While some would chuck the second film in this saga into the frey of Sequels That Are Better, I always think that the original Alien is a purer, more earnest film. Jesus, I sound pretentious don’t I? For me, Alien is simply fantastic beyond words. It’s slower and quieter and therefore more tense than any of the other Alien films. When I first saw Alien, I literally convulsed with fright so much that I fell off the sofa. True story. There’s a brilliance to Alien that thrills me right from the second the title slowly begins to morph from what you thought was just a / into /-\ I_ I l= I\I . I doubt I will ever be as enjoyably terrified as when I’m watching Alien.
Not one for the faint of heart or small children, Seven will mess up your head in a way you never fully want to admit. You know you enjoyed every shitting second of this but you’re unsure as to why a giant knife dildo was so superb. I’ll give you a moment to stop retching. Seven is a sublimely excellent film that not only has a good story but in fact makes you think. Thank Zeus that the final draft of the film did indeed end as the writers intended. While unsavoury, it is thoroughly refreshing to have a downer ending that you so thoroughly love. It’s hard to explain but I think my point is best made when Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) goes to the library to research the seven deadly sins. The janitor presses play on a CD player and Bach’s masterpiece of a string quartet Air on a G String (stop giggling) seeps out of the speakers and is jarringly accompanied by medieval illustrations of hell, satan, fire, brimstone, and sinners dismembered and damned for all eternity. It’s heaven on your ears but hell on your eyes. Seven manages to be both sick but also oddly beautiful all at the same time and you need to see it again.
5. School Of Rock
Do you realise just how endlessly quotable this film is? It comes only just below Anchorman and Mean Girls for the sheer number of lines that I snaffle and crowbar into my everyday dialogue. If you enjoyed Jack Black in High Fidelity (and if you didn’t you need to check yourself into a psychiatric ward) then School Of Rock follows on nicely. I like to imagine that High Fidelity is merely a prequel and Jack Black has merely gone from being in a band that does jaw-dropping covers of Marvin Gaye to being a washed up rock star who exploits schoolchildren in order to prove a point. For something that will make you grin from ear to ear, School Of Rock is hard to beat. And if you’re not hardcore (oh no you’re not hardcore) enough to appreciate sung lines such as “Fifty five is a-forty five more than what is the answer Marta?” then you’re most definitely off my fucking Christmas card list. This is comedy gold with simply inspired musical numbers all the way through. Guaranteed to put a smile back on your face.
4. The Last Samurai
Not a cinematic great perhaps, but it’s arguably the best version of the story we see rehashed and repackaged so often these days. Dances With Wolves is too long (though it is a good contender), Pocahontas is too chirpy, and Avatar is too shit. The Last Samurai manages to be not shit and also have one of the greatest battle sequences in cinema which only the likes of 300 and Lord Of The Rings can hope to best. Plus it has Tom Cruiseywoose swanning around being all good and actory like he does. Not to mention the few minutes Billy Connolly in which he delivers the immortal comeback of “No offence sir, but shove it up your ass” just as he cocks his shotgun.
But if I’m honest, The Last Samurai is quite an excellent retelling of the trapped-with-my-enemies-who-turn-out-not-to-actually-be-my-enemies-ooh-yay-let’s-all-die story. It’s tastefully and thoughtfully done throughout with only the bare minimum of compulsory cliché action film lines thrown in. There are great performances from everyone involved and this is still one of the only films that touches on this great period of upheaval and uncertainty in Japan that eventually had worldwide repercussions, not to mention the brief allusion to the atrocities committed by the US towards the Native American population. Don’t believe me? That’s because you haven’t seen it recently enough. Crack it out again and tell me you don’t feel a shiver of awe run down your spine with the line “He is Samurai” and that you don’t sniffle when Katsumoto kicks the bucket.
Never in the history of film has the true story of mass murder been so goddamn funny. It’s hard to explain just why the Minnesotan accent and turns of phrase are so giggle inducing, but they most certainly are. As stories go, it’s a simply fantastic twisty turny plot with extra helpings of dramatic irony ladled about everywhere, not to mention the shocking body count. Pro tip: don’t hire psychopathic morons to kidnap your wife in an insurance scam, especially if one of them is… y’know, just kinda funny lookin’. It never fails to amaze me just how much I enjoy films made by the Cohen brothers but this is arguably their best (though I will concede to anyone who fights for The Big Lebowski winning that title). In fact, why not have a Cohen brothers marathon to keep you warm from all the hysterical laughter in the autumnal chill that’s beginning to set in?
Fargo is a film that never grows old but I always leave it far too long in between viewings. It’s always just as exciting, just as weird, just as unbelievable, and just as fucking brilliant as it was the first time round. It’ll make you glad that your life is going as well as it is and that you’re not considering abduction, embezzlement, and murder in order to keep you on your feet financially.
A seminal film most famous for the line “I’m not drinking any fucking merlot!”, Sideways is a comedy tour-de-force that simply refuses to act like a comedy. Instead it masquerades as a heartfelt drama and it manages to pull it off too! But underneath it all, this is an undeniably funny film which makes you both want to be Miles (Paul Giamatti) and also stay as far away from him as possible. To be honest if you even like the smell of wine, this is a must see. And if you’re an habitual wine quaffer like myself, it is utterly essential re-viewing material. Perhaps I watch this to know exactly how not to grow up, maybe it’s for the lovely warm summery Californian feel of the whole film; but what I really think I watch the film for is the slowly (perhaps even sensually) delivered monologue about why Pinot Noir is the best grape and why wine itself is sacred and glorious.
If you find yourself in a more pensive mood, Munich is the film to watch again. It’s long, verrrrry long, but it is earth-shatteringly brilliant from start to finish. Perhaps I just enjoy more historical films than the next guy, but Munich truly changed my perspective on the world and how things work. Sorry, I’m getting a little deep – I’ll dial it down a notch. Munich is a film in which Eric Bana amazes you until you’re left utterly spent of emotion but you still want more. I was previously sceptical of Bana as a serious dramatic actor but this changed all that, not to mention Daniel Craig in his role immediately before Casino Royale. Ciarán Hinds is also spectacularly spooky and chilling every second he is on screen. Munich is a deeply sad film that is about the death of so many people that it’s hard to watch it and then retain your faith in humanity for quite a while; but all the same, it is mesmerising in its scope and in the way history played out. It’s also refreshing to watch knowing that it’s a Spielberg film that seems not to fit in with many of his other works. For me Munich stands out as a work of dramatic and historical brilliance more than the sometimes lighter or larger feel of most of Spielberg. While I feel odd recommending such a downer of a film for you to watch again and drag yourself though its horror and heartache, I do believe that Seth Rogen said it best in Knocked Up: “Munich was awesome… if any of us get laid tonight it’s because of Eric Bana in Munich”.