Bitch About It
It’s time to post the second part of last week’s Bitch About It. If you recall, I polled four panelists, Reel Whore, Shannon from Movie Moxie, Film Geek of Final Cut, and M. Carter from M. Carter @ the Movies about their three desert island films. There were shout outs for films like Pulp Fiction, Magnolia, Gidget, and The Wizard of Oz. To see all their answers, check out the post here.
To contrast the question which could very probably be answered with three guilty pleasure movies, I wanted to find out, from each of these panelists, which films they respect the most as examples of film as fine art. So in addition to the desert island question, I also asked the following:
List three films you respect above most all other films and briefly explain why you feel they are some of the best film has to offer. Why are these three films the same or different than those you picked as your three desert island movies?
Here’s what they had to say:
I have tons of respect for the work of the Coen Brothers so it stands to reason at least one of their films would make my list. Of them all, The Big Lebowski deserves much respect. It tosses slackers, achievers, artists, porn stars, pedophiles, and Nihilists into an outlandish story which just so happens to be narrated by the cowboy of all cowboys, Sam Elliott. It’s a wild ride that works amazingly well and every time I watch it I pick up on some nuance I hadn’t noticed before. That’s great storytelling.
One of the best stories I’ve ever seen onscreen is Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. I love the old spaghetti Westerns, but this movie is the epitome of the Western movie. Watching the three gunmen wait for Harmonica’s arrival is slow, yet you can feel every tick of the clock. It’s dark and visceral. Claudia Cardinale plays the strong, beautiful Mrs. McBain opposite a villainous Henry Fonda (if you can believe that?!). It’s a gripping, visually mesmerizing film from start to end.
My last pick is the most recent film by Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds. Leave it to QT to retell the history of World War II so that Hitler and his cronies eat it at the hands of the Jews. His acting is atrocious and the man is crazy as hell in public, but when he puts pen to paper and camera to scene it’s magic.
These are obviously way different from my deserted island picks. While I could easily see having these on the island, in the end artistry loses out to more base urges, and my need for violence, humor and sex would overrule my need to be artistically stimulated. But that’s just me.
These were way harder to come up with, I wasn’t quite sure what specifically would make me respect one film over another. I decided to go with a film where I was profoundly affected by it’s overall vision, especially if that vision was a gutsy one. They are completely different than my desert island picks where are easy to repeat watch and make me laugh, cry, or both. Films I respect can do that as well, but also affected me on a deeper level, and ones that actually affected my outlook on film, life and/or the world.
1. My Greatest Escape / Ne me liberez pas, je m’en charge (Dir: Fabienne Godet)
Documentary on the personal journey of Michel Vaujour, a former thief and mobster and cunning escapist, who spent 27 years in prison. But this isn’t about the glory of crime, it’s about the power of transformation, hope and enlightenment – all from this man who did those crimes. The discussions between Michel Vaujour and director Fabienne Godet authentic and beautiful, it takes real guts to share and showcase such a powerful journey, and one from which everyone can learn from.
2. Night Watch / Nochnoi Dozor (2006, Dir: Timur Bekmambetov)
For being absolutely rich in it’s visual beauty and creating a stunning, electric, full world where the supernatural and magical covertly exist among the norm. It’s a film that creates it’s world so well visually that it lives and breathes organically, so much so that it doesn’t need to ‘explained’ to the audience. I simply ‘is’.
3. A Small Act (Dir: Jennifer Arnold)
Another inspiring documentary, this one focuses on the power of giving. A Small Act shows the impact of the actions of a Swedish woman who sponsored a boy in Kenya years ago, and then the trickle down effect that act of kindness made. What really made this film stand out to me though was that not only does it showcase the power of and the huge difference a small act can make. Even though there is a huge impact, the message of the film stays strong to not to show the power of acts but also to encourage others to do the same.
These are different to my desert island titles as I am going to list three landmark films that have had a massive impact on the films that came after them (influential, I suppose). As a former film student I know I should probably name a silent or Citizen Kane somewhere here but I’m not. So there!
1. Jaws – the first blockbuster.
2. It Happened One Night – the first rom-com. OK, I know it’s not really the first but it’s the original classic. It was also the first film to win the Oscars for The Big Five – proof that at one point romantic comedies were actually decent films.
3. Toy Story – first feature made entirely on computers.
Casablanca is the go-to first choice that deserves to be first because it is a perfect film that works on so many levels — as a romantic drama, a clever comedy (even though so many lines were off the cuff), a character study. It’s the accidental classic.
Next is Tarsem Singh’s The Fall, a visual dazzler of a film with scenery and costuming all the more impressive because they are real, reminding us films don’t need CGI to achieve greatness. But the truly amazing thing is that Singh USES these visuals to tell a wrenching human tale of heartbreak and redemption, played out in the unlikely friendship between a paralyzed stuntman and an inquistive child.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind nabs the third spot for Michel Gondry’s extraordinary artistic vision and his treatmeant of a regular old love story as THE love story. Clem and Joel’s sometimes-gripping, sometimes-banal relationship is told with visual beauty, imagination, humor and a touch of sadness. Winslet and Carrey find the poignancy in these two plain people whose story takes on the feel of an epic tale.
These three films have such towering presence in my mind, such artistry, that I almost don’t need to see them for the rest of time. I’d like to keep the memory of them, and reverence for them, sweetly hazy in my mind and let the other three films keep that mind from turning to mush.
So what films do you respect above most other films? Are they the same films you’d take to your desert island, or are they different? Let us know in the comments.