Annihilation

The furor around streaming versus big screen is an interesting one – everyone has an opinion on it. Personally I feel that if the director’s intention (as was the case here) was for the film to be seen on the big screen then that is where the film should debut. If I had the power (and in another part of The Spac Hole I do) I would want every film to debut in Cinema. Hell, I would want to watch every TV show on the big screen too – the quality of television these days almost demands that shows with spectacle such as GOT and TWD should be seen with a crowd on a massive screen. However, the world is continuing to move away from such things – films are now becoming available on smaller and smaller screens, in more and more portable ways, and are becoming both more personal and less engaged experiences. Personal in that you can sit watching with headphones in bed or on the train or on the trap with no-one else annoying you, but less engaged in that you’re more likely to watch the movie in short bursts instead of a single sitting – something which I can’t stand but freely admit to doing more and more.

Annihilation is the latest film from Alex Garland – riding high after Ex Machina – with this film being another intelligent entry into a new wave of sci-fi movies. Based on the story of the same name (nope, haven’t read it) it follows an all-women group of scientists and soldiers as they venture into a wavering phenomenon which has arrived in the USA and has been growing steadily. This shimmer, as they call it, appeared three years ago, and all attempts to investigate successfully have failed – recording equipment yields no results, data is cursory, and any people who have gone into it have never returned. That is until one solider, Kane, returns home after having entered the shimmer a year earlier, although he has no memory of his lost time and is disoriented and sick. His wife, played by Natalie Portman, joins the all female team to enter the shimmer and find some answers once and for all.

I haven’t read many reviews of the film so far, but I imagine comparisons to 2001 will be frequently made. The film is a journey of body and mind – not quite the action epic I was anticipating when I first heard about it. There is action, but this is more akin to something like Moon than Aliens. There are meditations on guilt, depression, hope, and a lot of digestible science to chew on, though it might take multiple viewings to fully swallow and appreciate. The visuals are often stunning and the performances are uniformly strong, albeit mostly on the samey side – almost every character seems to be in a malaise of some sort and it’s really only Portman and Leigh’s characters how generate and depth or feeling. On a visual level it’s undoubtedly a success, from a thematic and philosophical perspective I imagine it will have more supporters than detractors, while on an emotional level the coldness left me… cold. The struggles near the end reminded me of the similar struggles for survival of Gravity but didn’t affect me on as personal a level. Another watch might make me think differently, but at this point in time it’s not a film I feel that I need to see again.

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Fantasy Festival Line Up – Day One

Greetings, Glancers! It should be fairly obvious that I love music. I’ve loved music since day one. As a child I was known for my Michael Jackson moves, aunts and neighbours throwing pennies at me as I danced. I got a guitar when I was eight. I started DJing when I was thirteen. I’ve been to a bunch of festivals. I’ve written a tonne of songs… you get the idea. The idea behind this series of posts is based on another classic of pub discussions – if you could, without any limitations, put on a concert or a festival, who would you put on the bill? That’s what I’m going to be writing about over the next few days – do you feel lucky, punk (sic)? We’ve all imagined this, haven’t we? If you haven’t, then start now and stick your line-ups into the comments or your own blogs. Share your wildest dream concert line-ups and invite us to the show – in The Spac Hole, anything is possible.

Naturally, I have put a few guidelines in place – NOT RULES – if you want to play along (and why in thine hell wouldn’t you?) you can follow your own guidelines. These ones works for me. First, it’s going to be a three day festival. Second, I’m going to give some loose timings – some bands might play for one hour, some might play for three – you can do whatever you want. Third – it doesn’t matter if the bands or artists or alive or dead. Fourth…. there is no limit on genre or style of music. Fifth – it’s not a 24 hour festival, let’s say we’ll play from 10.00am to Midnight each day. Sixth… is there a sixth? Yeah, no breaks between artists I guess, so as soon as one ends, the next starts. I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go along.

I’ll give a few notes about why I’ve picked each artist and why I’ve put them where I have. You’ll probably be able to guess a few of my picks if you’ve been reading for a while. You have your ticket to come and enjoy – if you don’t like any of the artists then go and grab a drink or some snacks at one of the many booze and grub establishments which are sure to be in attendance. Even better, take a wander around the venue and ‘discover yourself’. Yes, my Fantasy Festival is mimicking the look of Glastonbury – though not as gargantuan. There’s only one main stage, but a variety of fields, forests, glades, and hills to ramble through and you may even stumble upon other artists playing impromptu gigs or DJs setting up for some after hours raving (hint – only such soothing minstrels as The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, and Public Enemy will be invited). Obviously I can’t possibly cover all of the artists I’d want to see – the eagle-eyed among you will notice that quite a few of my all time favourite artists don’t feature here, but who knows – if the Festival is a success we might have a sequel!

Well, that’s enough of that. You’ve zipped up your tent, you’ve shared a box of pop tarts with some guy called Ken, and you’ve stocked up on cider. The sun’s out, the shades are on, and oh look – the show’s about to start.

10 – 11: Koji Kondo’s Nintendo Orchestra

11 – 12: Haven

12 – 2: The Music

2 – 4: Nightwish

4 – 6: Radiohead

6 – 8: Manic Street Preachers

8 – 10: Alice Cooper

10 – 12: Nirvana

In my experience of festivals, the early morning gig is something relaxing, or unusual, or light and breezy to get the show off to a gentle yet entertaining start. Think Rolf Harris at Glastonbury. Or maybe not… yeah, don’t do that. People are sort of milling around, getting a feel for the place, sorting out their internal radar so they know where the nearest bar/food joint/toilet is located, the atmosphere hasn’t quite become tactile, yet there is a buzz of excitement in the air. We kick things off with some tunes that everyone will know – even if you don’t recognize the name. Koji Kondo is the man behind the most memorable tunes from Nintendo games – think every early Mario and Zelda game. The guy was twenty three when he worked on Mario, creating numerous tunes which are beyond iconic and essentially bringing legitimacy to the art form. It’s not just him though; no, he’s brought some pals who created or worked on the scores of other hit Nintendo games – it’s an hour of some of the most joyous compositions in recent memory.

Have I Seen Them: N/A

The first band of the weekend are no more; Haven came and went in a brief five year period during which they released two albums and generated a few Top 40 singles. They’re the band which should have filled the gap in the market which Coldplay did, followed by wank like Snow Patrol and Keane. I’m not a big fan of Coldplay, but during that time they cornered the soft rock market. Haven had that Manchester swagger and influence but were essentially mellow rock balladeers, led by Gary Briggs who I still consider to have one of the best voices in rock. I saw them at Glastonbury and their brand of emotive guitar led anthems are a perfect way to kick the morning into the next gear – nothing too offensive, but songs custom built for large crowd singalongs.

Have I Seen Them: Yes – Glastonbury

The Music are the perfect festival band – I think they needed another hit album to cement them as true headliners, but their energetic body of work ensures they can fit anywhere on any bill. I was torn between them hitting the coveted sunset slot, but in the end I decided to put them on in the middle of the day because they put on such an upbeat, up-tempo show. If you haven’t caught their second album – I consider it (still) the best album since 2000. Across their three albums and their many B-Sides and rarities they have must which you can dance to just as much as you can head-bang to. It’s groovy rock with insane vocals and the songs can easily breakdown into instrumental freak-outs ideal for drunken, stoned group dance-offs.

Have I Seen Them: Yes – Glastonbury

Nightwish are of course headliners in their own right, but that’s something you’re always going to get in any discussion like this – 10 bands, 10 headliners. As we’re in fantasy mode, I’m going to take things up a notch by saying this is Nightwish with all three vocalists – Tarja, Annette, and Floor. Nightwish have always been a band of excess, of epic scope, so why not throw all three in – the original with Tarja, the transition with Annette, and the current with Floor. I know this sort of thing rarely works – you could have each singer tackling the songs written with them in mind, you could have three singers all taking different parts and laying harmonies, or have Tarja tackle songs written long after she left. The band get the heavier side of the festival going and set things up for a potentially exhausting night.

Have I Seen Them: Yes – Belfast

No festival worth mentioning in the last thirty years omits Radiohead. They became big with Creep, and followed it up with the many hits from The Bends, but it was their early Glastonbury appearance which truly made them Gods. Say what you will about their post OK Computer work, but they still answer to no-one when it comes to seeing them on stage. Songs which sound relatively tame in the studio take on a completely different life when Thom and co perform them live, and when they unleash the classics they stand in a class of their own. There is no good time to put the band on because there is no bad time to put them on – they should headline any show, but they are perfect for the sunset evening slot, or for afternoon rocking. Essential for anyone’s fantasy.

Have I Seen Them: Yes – Glastonbury, Belfast.

Was there ever any doubt that I would include Manic Street Preachers? Actually, I didn’t have them down originally until I did some switching around to force them in. I was happy leaving them out because I’ve seen them live so many times already that another isn’t really ‘necessary’. However, they’re probably my favourite band of all time so I should have them here rather than in the sequel, and because this is a fantasy I’m going to imagine that Richey has returned. I never saw the band live before Richey vanished, but in my festival he’s back and playing with the rest of the lads, leaping about to Your Love Alone Is Not Enough, and closing out with A Design For Life.

Have I Seen Them: Yes – Glastonbury, Belfast, Dublin

Thinking back, I would really want Alice Cooper to headline so I should have either added more days to my festival or held some artists back so they could headline another year. Well, I’ve started now and there’s no going back. Alice Cooper is one of my longest running inspirations – in music, and in writing. He basically created or cemented a bunch of genres – metal, shock rock, garage, punk – he’s had a hand in all of them and more. For fantasy purposes this Alice Cooper act would feature the original band along with many of the great musicians he’s employed in his solo work over the decades. I think it’s cool he’s following The Manics because they are fans and have covered him before. The only time I saw Alice Cooper live it wasn’t the fool experience. he only played for around an hour as support for Def Leppard (who I had no interest in seeing) and though he had some stage theatrics going on, it felt very rushed. A full two hour show would be jam packed with guillotines, dead babies, and classic song after classic song. It pains me to see how under-appreciated Alice is in music history, when almost every musician in the last 50 years has been influenced by him, whether they know it or not.

Have I Seen Them Live: Yes – Belfast

My headliner for the night is arguably the most important band of my childhood and early teen years. Nirvana, along with Guns ‘N’ Roses were the artists which confirmed my love of rock. Spoiler Alert – I’m not including GNR this year! Gotta save someone I love for another year, right? I never got to see them live – I missed them in Belfast due to being too young to be allowed to go. The Spac Hole Festival brings Kurt and Co back together for one final fuck you – a gloriously chaotic two hour set of smashing and screaming the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since the early 90s.

Have I Seen Them Live: No

Off to bed now, you little scamps. Tomorrow’s another day – and it’s going to be a beast.

Best Foreign Film – 1974

Official Nominations: Amarcord. Cat’s Play. The Deluge. Lacombe, Lucien. The Truce.

Not a great year for the category, officially or otherwise. Amarcord got Fellini the win, but it’s a 1973 movie so it’s off my list. Joining it is Cat’s Play. The Deluge is way too long, The Truce is decent, which leaves Malle’s Lacombe, Lucien as the clear winner – a heartening and cynical tale about a boy trying to join La Resistence but finding it more difficult than he would have thought. It would be my winner here regardless.

My Winner: Lacombe, Lucien.

My Nominations: The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz. Murder On The Orient Express.  Stone. The Four Musketeers. Lacombe, Lucien.

Only my winner makes it over to my list, joining a random quartet. Stone is the only one here which stood zero chance of ever being nominated, but it’s probably the most enjoyable of the bunch, at least for someone like me. It’s an Australian biker movie, part cop movie, part suspense, all action, and very low budget. The characters all have cool names like Undertaker, The Gravediggers, Captain Midnight so you should know what to expect just from that information. It’s about a biker gang whose members (ahem) are being hacked up, so a bad-ass cop decides to go undercover and investigate by joining the gang. Naturally the line between cop and biker blurs. It’s great fun.

Also a lot of fun is The Four Musketeers. I’ve no idea how many movies there have been about the French sword fondlers, but this is one of the best. It’s a direct sequel, bringing back the cast and director Richard Lester – as it was meant to be a single film starring The Beatles, there’s quite a lot of humour and energy, but when they released there was too much footage and story they split the movie into two parts. The cast includes Christopher Lee, Fay Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain, Oliver Reed, Charlton Heston and more. Speaking of ensemble casts Murder On The Orient Express, recently re-imagined with Johnny Depp, sees Michael York (also from The Four Musketeers), Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Ingrid Bergman, Vanessa Redgrave, Lauren Bacall, Albert Finney and many more all gallivanting around a train in one of the greatest whodunits.

Finally, The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz, sees Richard Dreyfuss as a bored Canadian kid who gets a crap job in a hotel and his escapades at pissing people off and trying to earn his own plot of land. It’s weird but much better than it sounds.

My Winner: Stone

Let us know in the comments which movie of 1974 you pick as the Best Foreign Film!

Nightman’s Favourite Films Of The 1990s

I continue my summary of my favourite films by year and by decade with this, my favourite films of the 1990s. Although I spent seven years in the 1980s, it’s really the 90s that most of my ‘growing up’ took place. It’s when I changed schools, became a teen, and all those important things. In terms of my love of film, it’s the decade that I started realizing that films were actually pieces of work that took years of planning and work to create – from the money men to the writers to the director and everyone else involved, while previously I only recognised a film by who starred in it. My tastes continued to be a love of action and horror and as the decade came to a close I was looking further afield for the sort of kicks that Hollywood could no longer provide. Regardless, this list will likely contain mostly American films, though the explosion of indie talent means that even those won’t necessarily be ‘Hollywood’. This could be a long post too, as many of my all time favourites came out in this decade. Essentially everything outside of the top seven can be in any order. Enough balls, lets do this.

21: The Blair Witch Project (1991)

Lets kick things off with a film that received a lot of hate from the horror community. It still divides horror fans with little middle ground – you either love it, or see it as boring, scare-free, and the main reason we have so many terrible shaky cam movies now. If there is any middle ground, it’s those people who say that the film is 95% walking around a forest, and the last 5% of the movie being genuinely terrifying. Obviously I love it, and a large part of that is due to the last 10 minutes or so – what makes the ending so chilling though is everything that comes before it. The three characters here, while they have their moments, are less annoying and more human than most you’ll find in this type of film and make less dubious decisions. The mythology of the film is interesting too, not least because it has basis in historical fact – I’m talking about the whole Witch Trials and Puritan fear-mongering of previous centuries here. Secondly, witches are a type of supernatural creature sorely underrepresented in movies, even in horror fiction as a whole. There are a few standout movies of course.

Obviously not the first found footage movie, The Blair With Project is nevertheless the most influential – it’s still the poster boy for the sub-genre. I remember the hysteria when this was released and I saw it as soon as I could. I watched the related documentary and I bought a related book detailing the history of the township. I love how the movie built up this little universe all of its own. I was mystified though by the people who actually bought into the advertising, believing the film to be real – I’m still not sure how people were fooled by this. The film has such a simple set up – a trio of students are making a documentary about a small town and the mythology surrounding it. They travel to the town, meet a few locals, and head out into the massive woods where evil is meant to lurk. They go missing and a few years later their video footage is found – the film is that footage. In the footage we see them getting stalked by something unseen – the group believe it could be locals having fun but they quickly become disoriented, paranoid, and fight among themselves. They get lost, they see and hear stranger things, and… well, you either know the rest or should watch yourself. I’ve never been scared of camping, or woods, or isolation, or anything like that – in fact I find such things comforting. I’ve no idea why the film creeps me out so much – I can only assume it’s the idea of a witch, some ancient evil lurking which can control time and space apparently, which gets to me but even that sounds stupid. Whatever it is, it works, and I love it.

20: The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Even after other movies from the same era have achieved cult status, this one still flies mainly under the radar and I’ve still no idea why. Look – it has like 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. Idiots. I mean, its treatment of women is dubious at times as I  believe I covered in my review post, but in terms of pure action and entertainment there are few better.

The film opens with some American Football player going for a touchdown or a home run or some sports shit but rather than some last minute glory win like Teenwolf, he whips out a gun and starts shooting the opposition before killing himself. Nice. Elsewhere, we meet a washed up ex Secret Service Agent who is now the disgruntled father of a bratty daughter, husband of a cheating wife, and a boozy PI. He gets a job to bodyguard a stripper, who just happens to be the boyfriend of an ex NFL star. The stripper is promptly killed and the boyfriend and the bodyguard team up to find out who put out the hit, unraveling a plot of corruption in the world of sports and politics. Directed by Tony Scott and starring Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans, this also features Danielle Harris, Halle Berry, Kim Coates, Taylor Negron. The script by Shane Black, which was sold for a record 1.75 million, is superb – filled with great self-aware 90s humour, Scott directs with his usual visual flair, and the cast are all good – Willis especially delivering one of his most sardonic performances. There are some great action set-pieces while remaining grounded, and yet both Scott and Black have stated that the end product was not what the script deserved. If that’s true then I can’t imagine how good the end product should have been.

19: Starship Troopers (1997)

The middle of the Nineties saw Paul Verhoeven moving away from the violent action movies that had earned him worldwide fame a decade earlier. His previous two films were sex-based thrillers – a massive success in Basic Instinct and a massive failure in Showgirls (I like both). Starship Troopers is a glorious return to the likes of Total Recall and Robocop – big, brash, loud mouth action, ultra violence, and more satirical than a liberal talk show host. Adapted from Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel, Verhoeven’s take clearly mocks the celebration of war and its associated propaganda machine although it’s easy to see why many completely miss the fascist satire and take it on face value as movie where guys with guns triumph over some faceless drone enemy.

The film follows Johnny Rico – a student in his final year of a very patriotic, militaristic school – and a small group of friends. Earth is attached by an alien race, kicking off an all out intergalactic war. Rico signs up in the hope of revenge, guts, and glory, and his band of friends all get recruited into different sections of the army – pilots, intelligence, grunts etc. Rico is a grunt and goes off for training to be cannon fodder – the scenes of training taking those of Full Metal Jacket to ridiculous new heights. Once training is complete, Rico heads off to war – that’s pretty much it. The special effects were state of the art for the time, and I still enjoy them now. The action is top rate, futuristic gun battles with ugly arachnid and alien creatures, and a cast featuring Dean Norris, Brenda Strong, Marshall Bell, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Busey, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, and Casper Van Dien. Like in Robocop, Verhoeven fills this with media interludes – news snippets, adverts, info nuggets, all catered to a bloodthirsty flag-waving audience all to willing to sacrifice body and soul for a worthless cause. The dialogue doesn’t quite reach the heights of Robocop (what does?) but the film reunites the director, screenwriter, and musical composer meaning it’s a close cousin. Balls to the wall violent action movies were on the wane in the late 90s, and this is one of the genre’s finest swansongs.

18: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

I’ve argued before how this is a horror film. I’ve argued how Sheryl Lee deserved and Oscar nomination, if not a win for her performance here. David Lynch has quite a few masterpieces in his resume, but Twin Peaks – the series and the movie – are by far his most beloved work. The movie departs tonally, bravely, from the original series and instead offers a harrowing, terrifying glimpse into the last week of Laura Palmer’s tortured life. There are no characters offering quaint small-town wisdom, there is no offbeat humour, and there is almost no hope or light. This is the darkest quivering heart of The Black Lodge, a place of obsession, madness, and death, and its pulsating ripples envelope and suck in any innocence there may be in the unfortunate surroundings. If you haven’t seen the movie, then I won’t say anymore about it – all I can say is that it certainly helps to know the series before watching the movie, and to not expect the movie to be an extension of the show’s charms. This is your favourite town and everyone in it being burned to the ground, and its horrific and glorious.

17: Tombstone (1993)

True Romance and Heat narrowly missed out on making this best of Nineties list. Those films and Tombstone share the honours of having some of the most amazing casts in single films. There are a few films like this in the Nineties where you look at the cast and already know the film is going to be wonderful – doesn’t matter what the thing is about – it could be a discussion of the correlation between paint drying and algebra, it could be one of those terrible singing talent shows, hell – it could even be a musical and the cast alone would make it unmissable. Luckily Tombstone is none of those shitty things, instead being a stylish version of events from the life of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday with all manner of guns and moustaches.

Look at these names: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn, Sam Elliot, Powers Boothe. That’s a strong enough cast to sell any movie, but then you check out the support – Jason Priestly, Thomas Haden Church, Stephen Lang, Dana Delaney, Paula Malcomson. Fine, some decent names there, hardly stars though. Okay, why don’t we throw in Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Billy Bob Thornton? That’s without even mentioning Billy Zane, Michael Rooker, Terry O’Quinn, John Corbett and many others. That’s like a 70s disaster movie epic, or a Cecil B De Mille cast – in some respects literally.

The story is fairly streamlined and straightforward – A gang of outlaws has been shooting up various towns and they descend upon the town of Tombstone. Noted lawman Wyatt Earp and his brothers have decided to settle down there for a quiet life, meeting up with old friend Doc Holliday. The two groups, and assorted others, clash. There’s more to it than that, a lot of character building and inter-relations stuff, but at its core it’s the story of these groups coming together in a bloody conclusion. I’d spoken in another post about not liking many Westerns when I was young, but this is definitely one of the few which appealed to me and has only grown in my estimation over time.

16: Desperado (1995)

Robert Rodriguez burst onto the scene with this 1995 marvel of low budget film-making, essentially remaking his even lower budget El Mariachi. That previous film gained Rodriguez attention from the likes of Quentin Tarantino (who guest stars here) and whose influence no doubt aided in this getting made. The film also brought Salma Hayak and Danny Trejo into the limelight and launched Antonio Banderas into action hero status. Like Tarantino’s films, Desperado is marked by stylish action, quotable cool dialogue, and a variety unique grindhouse type characters.

Following the events of El Mariachi (no need to see that movie first though), the Mariachi with a guitar case full of guns has become something of a legend or folklore hero. El Mariachi is looking for the man called Bucho who killed his girlfriend and blew a hole in his hand. His travels take him to a small Mexican town where he encounters a new lover, a guitar playing boy, Bucho and his goons, and a variety of assassins and scoundrels looking for bounty. Beyond that, it’s guns guns guns. The principle cast are all gorgeous, cool, and the cameos from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Tarantino, Cheech and others are fun. The action set-pieces are fantastic, more in common with John Woo’s antics than the Hollywood blockbuster. For balls to the wall energy and creativity you won’t get many better.

15: Leon (1994)

Luc Besson had been making films for a while before he struck gold with Leon. His previous feature film Nikita had established him as one of the more interesting and diverse directors of action movies, but it’s Leon where he builds upon many of those ideas – isolation, moral ambiguity, control, and does it with a world-renowned cast and the sure touch of a director and writer on a creative roll. The film follows Jean Reno, a deadly assassin who stays away from all human contact and social interaction, who gets embroiled in saving a young girl’s life and trains her to follow in his footsteps. The film also features Natalie Portman’s star-making turn and Gary Oldman being epic, plenty of stylish action and a rather sweet/disturbing relationship depending on how you view it. The action movie moved away from the muscle bound superstars who owned the genre in the 80s and for a few years it struggled to find a new identity – the reluctant or anti-hero would take the place of Arnie and Sly as symbolized by films such as this.

14: Problem Child (1990)

This one was love at first sight and I still remember explaining the film in detail to my friends and a cousin the following week in school. Scene by scene, quote by quote I must have memorized the whole thing and then reenacted it to my class till they knew it by heart without having seen it. I probably contributed a hefty percentage to the amount of money the film made after making sure everyone else went out and saw it. Back when you rented VHS tapes, we generally kept them for a weekend. In most case we probably only watched them once, but I think Problem Child got a few watches and rewinds before getting returned. We probably rented it again before I eventually bought the tape myself.

It’s the story of a boy, Junior, who has been passed from family to family, adopted and sent back, and who ends up in an orphanage for kids no-one wants – hilarious! No-one wants him because he’s, well, a dick. He breaks stuff, steals, swears, plays pranks, and is probably violent. He’s clearly a future serial killer (his hero is in fact a serial killer), but maybe all he needs is the attention of a loving family. Enter John Ritter and Amy Yasbeck – a couple who insides are not compatible. They’re your perfect white American suburban family – all they’re missing is a kid – and they are coerced into adopting Junior. It’s not long before he begins wreaking havoc with his new family, destroying bullies at a baseball game, at a snooty birthday party, and inviting a certain Bow Tie Killer to rescue him.

You wonder what events conspired to ever see a story like this make it to screen. It’s a film you certainly wouldn’t see getting made in today’s more tame climate. The film was touted as a horror – inviting a child in to your home who happens to be violent or have other dark secrets (Orphan), then as a satire of all of the child-centric family hits of the 80s where grown ups overcome their issues thanks to the innocence of a child, eventually settling on this where the morale appears to be that… everyone deserves a chance, but most people are dicks? See, aside from being really funny – for kids and adults – Problem Child is dark as sin. I’ve always appreciated dark humour and I don’t know if that comes from years of violent slapstick cartoons or elsewhere, but I’m sure this film was a part of influencing my tastes. I’m not sure my wife would allow my kids to watch this if she really knew what it was about, but luckily for them I’ve already let them watch it so the joke’s on…. I actually don’t know who.

13: GoldenEye (1995)

I’ve always been a Bond fan. As a red blooded British bloke, of course I am. As with most successful franchises, sooner or later the money men come in and fuck everything up, and that’s exactly what happened with Bond. For years, various owners and companies and twats fought over the rights to the series and in the meantime the world moved on. By the time 1995 rolled around the Cold War was in the past and The West’s old enemies had been defeated or put into hiding. Luckily, evil and greed never dies, so the new world had a bunch of new outlets for ideas. A new Bond, a new M, new writers, directors, a new style, a new world – but still the same old sexy antics of a globe-trotting super spy who can’t resist dipping his PPK in the moist schemes of the world’s Vs (villains). Like most Bond films, the plot is either over-complex or a maguffin – here there’s stuff about Russians and hackers and satellites and financial ruin, but really it’s about a rogue MI6 agent and old friend of 007 getting up to badness, and Bond having to go kill him. On the way he leaps off a Dam, drives a tank, shoots up a train, kills a Boris, and stays Onatopp of his womanizing ways.

I’ll call it out here for full transparency – I love the N64 game and it’s one of my all time favourites. I played the game before I watched the film, but I don’t think this has had a huge impact on my love for the film Sure, being familiar with the game and then watching those scenes and locations on screen was cool and probably gave me some initial lols and hearts. As time went on though the film never fell out of favour with me – it has some of the best performances of any Bond movie, Brosnan is perfect, Bean is a great bad guy, and both Scorupco and Jansenn rank highly in my list of Bond girls. I love how personal and emotional the story becomes – it’s not just a job for Bond – and it has some of the most memorable action and stunts of the series. You’ll see that my favourite Bond films are those which I find the most emotional or have the most interesting story – that’s why the likes of this, For Your Eyes Only, Casino Royale, Live And Let Die rank higher for me over the more obvious Connery stalwarts – Bond as a flawed human or unique stories over your standard spy malarkey. I even like the music in this one – the one thing all critics point to as a major miss.

12: Jurassic Park (1993)

This was always going to be included on my list of favourite 90s movies – I imagine it would be on most people’s top tens/twenties, especially those who grew up with it. I’m annoyed I never caught this at the cinema when it was released. I’m not sure why, given that I saw some other weird ones on the big screen this year – The Nightmare Before Christmas and Super Mario Bros for example. I’ll assume you know the story – rich guy and a bunch of scientists find a way to create dinosaurs, they decide to breed them in a special zoo, but before opening to the public they invite a bunch of experts to inspect. The dinosaurs escape and everyone freaks out.

Like Jaws is to shark movies, Jurassic Park is the daddy of dinosaur movies. I don’t see it ever being topped even though I would happily watch any number of imitators. It’s the perfect film for the kid in us – for those of us who used to look at dinosaur books and be filled with awe and wonder that such things ever walked the earth. There’s no other director in the world at his peak that you’d want working on this film than Spielberg – you just know he shares that awe and wonder. Add to this Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Samuel L Jackson, and non-annoying kids, and a bunch of iconic images, great score, memorable set pieces, and you have an all time classic. All I’d love now is a genuine, genuinely good dinosaur-based horror movie.

11: Hard Boiled (1992)

People forget that John Woo has been involved in movies since the late 1960s. He directed his first film in the early 70s. There has always been something ultra modern about his films – when something like Hard-Boiled or Face-Off came out you’d assume it was made by some alarmingly talented new voice, not someone who had been doing it for three decades already. He had already made your standard Golden Harvest wuxia type film, then movies with Jackie Chan, and didn’t really get to assert his own true vision until Heroes Shed No Tears and (more accurately) the superb A Better Tomorrow. Those films unleashed his personal style and as his films progressed we got more of his traditional ‘heroic bloodshed’ movies – films with a (then) unique look and fell – very stylized, killers in suits and shades, lots of slow motion gun play, slow motion everything really, and uber-cool actors and characters. There was usually a lot of male bonding/conflict. Hard Boiled is his crowning achievement – a film that laughs at how small and tame the action of Die Hard is, and a film which both is the hallmark for Hong Kong action, and revolutionized the genre as a whole. Yet so few people have seen it.

Chow Yun Fat stars as the renegade cop Tequila, a man who plays by his own rules in the typical 80s archetype. After his partner his killed during a raid, Tequila is taken off the case. Elsewhere, an undercover super-cop is trying to infiltrate a ruthless Triad gang. The two team up and play an uneasy game where the violence rapidly escalates until the final stunning shootout in a hospital. The action man…. there was a point in the nineties when action was becoming stale – there were disaster type epics, there were meta movies, but the genre seemed to be moving away from the one man army movies I grew up with. Then I happened upon Hard Boiled and was in love instantly. The action here is ridiculous, set-pieces going on for thirty minutes rather than three. There are crazy shots here that boggle the mind – the amount of preparation which must have gone into them, especially those one-shot scenes, is still mind-blowing and they were done with no digital trickery. The plot does become overblown and there are some sentimental scenes which will seem odd to Western audiences, but in Fat, Leung, Kwok, and Wong we have some good guys and bad guys to rank alongside the Rambos and Hans Grubers of the world. This is one of those films to show people who think foreign movies are boring. Two hours later they’ll be saying Hollywood movies are boring.

10: The Fifth Element (1997)

Milla Jovovich had already appeared in a number of great films, but this was her star-making turn. For my money, she should have received an Oscar nomination here, as the pure and innocent Fifth Element taking human form. If you don’t fall in love with her here, you have no soul. This is a madcap comic book action movie – over the top in all the right ways, and with a unique look thanks to Besson’s vision and Gaultier’s ‘fashions’. Check out the rest of the cast too – Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, with Luke Perry, Brion James, and Lee Evans in smaller roles. It’s the age old story of the destruction of Earth by an unnamed space evil, and the human and alien representatives on the sides of good and evil trying to save/destroy everything. Bruce Willis is back to his wise-cracking, fatigued best as an ex-military, now cabbie who accidentally meets The Fifth Element and must protect her from those who would use her for their wicked purposes. There’s a lot of plot and history here, but in the end it boils down to a simple kill the bad guys synopsis, with ridiculous guns, wacky characters, and some of the best actors in the world having the most fun they’ve ever had. The fun is infectious and the execution of the youthful ideas will keep you guessing and smiling.

9: Bangkok Dangerous (1999)

I’ve talked on the blog before about how I’ve always enjoyed foreign cinema – especially Asian films as they offer their own twists on my favourite genres of action and horror. I can’t recall exactly, but I think this was either the second or third Pang Brothers film I saw – the first being Bangkok Haunted. The first thing I would say about this – and the rule typically applies for any remakes of foreign movies – is see the original first. Nic Cage’s remake is an average thriller which takes some of the loose ideas here, but sucks the emotion out. It also lacks the vibrant style which the Pang Brothers showcases, especially in their early days. The weird thing is – the remake was also directed by the Pang Brothers, so I’m not sure where things went sour. It’s a decent movie, but very straight to DVD, and not a patch on the original.

The film follows Kong, an archetypal sympathetic hitman, bullied as a child for being deaf, but whose disability and bullying makes him a flawless killer. He ends up working for the mob, he is friends with a stripper and her boyfriend, and he falls in love with a pharmacist. That’s… pretty much it. The story is one you’ve seen a million times before – you know that things will go wrong and revenge will be served cold, but it’s done with such flair, and done with such conviction, with emotion, with humour, that it stands tall as one of the finest examples of the sub-genre. Pawalit Mongkolpisit is a great choice as the lead – you can’t help but feel for him and side with him in spite of the terrible work he does, and Premsinee Ratanasopha as Fon is a revelation. It’s a massive pity that these guys haven’t really done any other work – their relationship here feels both cute and honest without being cutesy. I don’t want to say too much else about it – seek it out for yourself, and enjoy one of the finest slices of 90s action you’ll ever see.

8: Things To In Denver When You’re Dead (1995)

In the post Pulp Fiction world, every young director wanted to make their crime masterpiece. We had British efforts from Guy Ritchie and his clones, Eastern attempts, and endless Hollywood versions. I’ve never felt that Things To In Denver When You’re Dead fit this mold – but that’s how it was reviewed and marketed. It’s a shame this never got to stand on its own as it is a unique film, miles apart in tone and style from Tarantino’s work – a much more sombre affair and a film that I would probably choose to watch over Pulp Fiction any day of the week – and I’m a huge fan of Pulp Fiction. 

There are a number of films this decade which have truly unbelievable casts – Tombstone, Heat, Pulp Fiction, Cop Land, True Romance, Glengarry Glen Ross – and this. Lets see – Andy Garcia, Christopher Lloyd, Christopher Walken, Steve Buscemi, Gabrielle Anwar, Treat Williams, Fairuza Balk, Jack Warden, Bill Nunn, Don Cheadle, William Forsythe. I realize that not all of those names may be A-Listers or household names, but film fans will recognize and respect them – and that’s not to mention the host of regognizable faces who also pop up, even if you don’t know the names – Jenny McCarthy, Willie Garson, Tiny Lister, Buddy Guy, Bill Cobbs, Marshall Bell, and others. You’ll spend the movie going ‘where do I know that guy from?’

It’s not merely a who’s who guessing game – the characters they play you will want to hang out and have boat drinks with, and the story they find themselves in is tinged with regret, heroism, futility, fatalism, honour… Garcia stars as ex-gangster Jimmy The Saint. He has been legit for a while, with a bizarre business where people (generally the elderly or those with an incurable illness) record a video for their loved ones to be given once they pass – I’m not sure such a business model would survive today, but it works as a nice plot device. Christopher Walken (should have grabbed an Oscar nomination) is his terrifying ex-boss, and he calls a favour from Jimmy to help get his pedophile son and ex-girlfriend back together. For some reason Jimmy recruits his old pals to run an intimidation job on the ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend (rather than just roughing him up one to one), and it all goes badly wrong. Buckwheats for all, as they say.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I love the film so much – it’s undoubtedly cool, having a style that sticks with me for whatever reason, and it features some of my favourite performers in iconic ways. Balk is terrific, Garcia and Lloyd give some of their best, understated work, and Anwar proves again that she should have been a much bigger star. I love the dialogue, I love Steve Buscemi’s Mr Sssh, and I love the inevitability of Mr Sssh’s pursuit and the overall vibe of death and honour – doing what you can with the time you have. This made around half a million bucks at the box office, which is a crime. You owe it to yourself, and to the film itself, to go watch this now – yes you, reading this list, watch it now and then tell your friends.

7: Beauty And The Beast (1991)

What can I say – I’m a sucker for schmaltz, when it’s done right. My favourite Disney movie ever, my favourite animated movie ever, for me nothing else comes close to its majesty. The tale as old as time has never been told better, in such vibrant colours and with such lovable and dastardly characters.  I talked about the film in more detail in my Top Ten Disney films post – TLDR version – awesome heroine, great songs, wonderful heartfelt story acted out by great characters and cast.

6: Scream (1996)

By the time 1996 rolled around (I probably actually saw this first in 97, but who’s counting) I was already a hardcore horror fan, with the Elm Street series being my favourite. I was also already head over heels in love with Neve Campbell, thanks to Party Of Five. When I first heard about Scream – merging Wes Craven with Campbell in a new slasher movie which just happened to be getting rave reviews from everyone – I knew I would love it. What I didn’t know was just how much. I remember renting the VHS and watching two or three times that day. There was something so callous and wicked and ingenious about that opening sequence – not just the dialogue, or the scenario, or the whole ‘killing off our big name actress’ thing but how the killer kills Casey such footsteps away from her parents, stabbing her as she reached out for their help in the safety of her own front lawn. I’m not sure there have been many more brutal or poignant horror movie deaths than that – certainly not many have affected me so much. Although I always had an inkling, it was that moment which cemented my understanding of Craven’s over-arcing theme – that theme which runs through all of his work – that kids are never safe, and that your parents can’t help you. As would be revealed, and much like Nightmare, Hills, and other Craven hits – the sins of the parents will come back ten-fold upon the children.

The film doesn’t hold back on the blood and guts either, being fairly graphic given the target audience. There are your standard stabbings and slicings, but also gun shots and the odd ceiling decapitation/chokehold. What about that dialogue? Williamson and Craven collaborate wonderfully, bringing that meta mid-90s speak to a peak, the characters smart, aware, cool, but still falling into the same traps that they mock fictional characters for falling into. As iconic horror dialogue goes, ‘What’s your favourite scary movie’ is right up there with the best, but it’s the discussion of movies and of tropes that really won the fans over – this was, finally, a horror movie made by and for horror movie fans – one which understood us and the fiction we love.

What’s it all about though? A small town is being ravaged by a number of brutal killings and the ultimate target appears to be one Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell in her star-making performance). Who is the killer – it could be anyone – an absent parent, a school faculty member, a reporter, a boyfriend, a friend – part of the fun is that the film keeps you guessing right up until its final reveal and twist. It wouldn’t be a slasher movie without a twist. We have this gorgeous young cast fighting for their lives all while trying to get on with the mundane stuff like school and sex and movies and parties, we have a kick ass soundtrack, both instrumental and the songs, and it’s all pulled together with a taut nod and wink by Craven – one of the best, at his best. All that said, and I didn’t even mention Ghostface – how iconic is that mask?

5: The Crow (1994)

If the 80s was the decade when the most wacky ideas seemed to get a greenlight, then the 90s saw the darker material rising to the top. What Scream is to the horror genre, The Crow is to the comic book genre. The Crow is, without a doubt, the finest comic book movie ever made. I love Batman, Superman, Nolan’s trilogy – but they all pale in comparison to this. Look at how expansive the world Marvel has created – not just as a whole, but in each individual entry – everything is MASSIVE and yet, they’re all so bland. I’ve yet to see a single drop of anything resembling emotion in a single MCU movie – granted I’ve only seen a handful so far, but it’s their generic, stale, lets blow up another city feel which leaves me cold. They’re popcorn movies for sure, but like popcorn which has been lifted off the ground after a double bill of Fifty Shades and Indecent Behaviour. 

Why am I moaning about Marvel? I feel like The Crow doesn’t get it’s due credit. I want as many people to see it, and to honour it, before another inevitable remake comes along – it is a case of the stars at night aligning and making something so perfect that it couldn’t possibly have been made by anyone else at any other time. Before it, very few comic movies were daring, or felt independent, or seemed unique. The Crow takes chances – it’s dark as Witch’s muff, and it casts the untested son of a martial artist as its lead. It’s a film about a man coming back from the dead to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancee and it’s loosely based on the writer’s own, similar, true story. It has a look unlike most other films – rain drenched, always night, always smokey, with crime and debauchery everywhere. Alex Proyas had this and Dark City in the 90s – what a combo – and then he seemed to lose his mind and make fluff. The talent shown in these two movies, the look and tone, is unparalleled.

Brandon Lee stars as Eric Draven – a man brought back for revenge. Over the course of a night he hunts down the men who killed him and his fiancee, all the while hounded by a cop (Ernie Hudson) and a child he once knew (Rochelle Davis) and under the watchful eye of a mysterious crow. That’s all there is to it, but it’s haunted by sadness both real and fictional – writer James O Barr’s real life tragedy all to plain to feel, and Brandon Lee was accidentally killed during filming, ensuring that he would never see the final product. All that takes the darkness on show to higher levels of tragedy but even without the real life stuff, it’s a film oozing with emotion. There is a dizzying visual flare, some of the finest one-line dialogue of the decade, and another brilliant dual soundtrack – instrumental and songs – I bought both shortly after seeing the movie. Lee should have been up for an Oscar here, and the rest of the cast feature standout performances from Michael Wincott, Tony Todd, and David Patrick Kelly. Even though the movie was a hit, even though it spawned a TV series and many sequels, even though Sting based his most popular persona off it, even though I feel like it has its own cult of fans who hold it dearly – it deserves more recognition.

4: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

A number of films just miss out on my Top Ten Of All Time – a few of which are definitely better films than some which are in my Top Ten – Dawn Of The Dead, The Thing, Battle Royale, and this – Edward Scissorhands being some of those. This movie is perfect – there is literally nothing I would change about it, my only problem with it being that it is so short. It cemented Tim Burton as a God in my world, cemented my adoration for Winona Ryder, and made the world take notice of a young fella called Johnny Depp – how he didn’t get an Oscar nomination here is ridiculous. Depp lost a Golden Globe to Depardieu in Green Card – seriously. Danny Elfman didn’t get nominated, Burton was passed over for Best Director, nothing for him or Thompson in the writing categories. 1990 was actually a good year for The Oscars too, but still.

If you’ve seen the film then you already love it for the same reasons I do – as I’ve said, it’s perfect. All I will add is that it has always appealed to the outsider in me, that sad que cera ceraness of it all striking a personal chord.

3: Ringu (Top Ten Of All Time) (1998)

There are a number of horror films which changed my life and which I never shut up about once I saw them – if I knew you at the time, you can be sure I made you, or tried to make you watch them. They had to be films which either came out around that time – not something from decades earlier, or foreign/one I knew most people wouldn’t have seen. Scream was one, Bodysnatchers was another. Maybe I was most vocal about Ringu – it’s one of those films where seeing and feeling people’s reactions was almost as fun as watching the film itself. As those final scenes begin you can feel the oxygen get sucked out of the room, in fact the room itself seems to grow smaller, walls pressing in and the viewer slowly folds their limbs into a crab-like foetal position. This is the pinnacle of the J-Horror movement and of Asian Horror in general, a slow burning masterpiece of dread and outright shivering terror.

You probably know the story by now – there are whispers of an urban legend about a videotape (such things once existed, kids). When you watch the tape, your phone rings and a voice tells you that you have exactly seven days to live. There is only one way to save yourself from the curse, and that is to make it go viral – make a copy and make someone else watch it and the curse is passed on to them. Bodies begin to pile up and it seems there may be some truth or hysteria attached to the legend. Enter journalist Reiko who wants to write a story about the whole thing – her niece apparently a victim of the curse. Upon investigating, Reiko finds what appears to be the videotape of legend. Naturally, she watches it, but oops – so does her ex-husband and son. They have seven days to try to uncover and prevent the curse, looking into the history of the mysterious Sadako Yamamura.

I love this film so much – to the point that I see many many parallels between it and The Terminator series, thematically, stylistically… but I won’t go into those. If you like both series, you’ll see what I mean. Once again, I love the inevitability of it – basically, if you watch the tape you’re fucked, and you can’t really avoid it. Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada are excellent leads and the story merges old world superstition with new age techno-fears. The whole thing is fundamentally routed in Japanese fear and culture, yet it’s intrinsically universal. I bought the sequels, love them too, and I bought the books – very different beasts from the movies, but genuinely brilliant too. Hell, I even bought Rasen – the other sequel which tries to be more like the book, but without the genius of Nakata at the helm it’s not great. Nakata’s best film, his work here made me seek out all of his other stuff with increasingly diminishing returns.

I love me some gore, and I love a good effective jump-scare, but fear works best for me when it creeps upon me and of course, when I actually care about the story and the characters. The story and characters here suit me perfectly – a mystery based on whispered myths and tragedy, bullying, psychic power, intelligent, strong men and women – and while the scares here are actually quite minimal, it’s the way it builds and builds unrelentingly to that climax – you won’t realize that you’ve pulled out your own nails while watching. I had great fun doing prank calls on people after making them watch the movie. We created memes of certain moments before internet memes were a thing. Just one final word – I despise the remake. It is utter shite. Utter, complete shite. Yet most horror fans, most film fans prefer it. It turns this masterpiece of dread into generic, glossy, noisy jump-scare bollocks and even commits the cardinal sin of cutting away during the climax. Stick with the original.

2: Dumb And Dumber (Top Ten Of All Time) (1994)

The only comedy which I have marathoned – watched many times in a short space of days. Probably the comedy I quote the most, and another film where I went out and bought the soundtrack shortly after seeing it, and got annoyed that half the songs were missing. The Farrelly Brothers have never bettered this, and I wish wish wish they had done a sequel in the same decade instead of waiting until the performers were depressingly old and made me too aware of the ravages of time. No matter which version you see, Dumb And Dumber is a perfect comedy, though I am inclined towards the juvenile – again, as long as I actually care about what’s going on.

The film is all about Harry and Lloyd, two loser, less than intelligent friends who scrape by with dead end jobs. During a chance encounter/intervention during a blackmailing deal, the pair end up with a mysterious maguffin (suitcase) and decide to go on a cross country journey to Assssspenn and deliver it to its rightful owner. Along the way they meet a variety of weird and wonderful characters, have a number of adventures, and learn absolutely nothing. It you’re not laughing at least once every thirty seconds while watching this, I don’t want to know you. Naturally, it’s the little things that most people don’t notice that stick with me the most – the things Lloyd buys after being instructed only to purchase the bare essentials, the force with which Lloyd cane-whacks Harry’s legs with… I could go on. It was always my plan to go to my school Formal (for any US readers, it’s our equivalent of Prom) with one of my friends, dressed in the same suits Harry and Lloyd wear to the fundraiser later in the film, but we chickened out and he ended up not going at all. To make up for this, I got drunk and threw pint and shot glasses from one of the hotel rooms into the car park below. Side note – as I checked Wikipedia for box office returns on a number of these films, I keep seeing them being listed in various magazine’s 500 films of all time – I must do some sort of post covering those 500 films and a few words on what I think of each. You’ll love that.

1: Terminator 2 (Top Ten Of All Time) (1991)

Naturally. Like I said in my 80s run down, it’s this or The Terminator which top my all time list. What is there to say about it? It’s groundbreaking in every sense – everyone involved deserves a statue in their honour, and it’s a film which has influenced me deeply. Some films go beyond just being films – fans hold conventions, fans dress up and have regular screenings, fans make life decisions based on their love of these films. I think the film and me were intertwined before I even saw it – it’s almost like it was made just for me, but clearly it was made for millions of others just like me. I don’t even know what I’m talking about any more but as a boy, seeing this for the first time, a little younger than John Connor is in the story, it was about me. I loved Guns N Roses, I loved Public Enemy, I loved Motorbikes – hell, I even had a friend with a ginger mullet. I may not, as far as I’m aware, be the future saviour of the human race, but if such a burden was thrust upon me I’d suck it up, shine that bitch on and snarl an Hasta La Vista, Baby at the enemy. This film is everything I want in a film from top to bottom – story, cast, characters, director, music, dialogue, action, emotion, scares, laughs, tears, the way it looks… I don’t think any other film will ever speak to me the way this one did and has. In a way that’s a thought tinged with sadness, but in another way I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it and be alive when it was released. Thanks to everyone for making it, it means a lot. My only regret is not being in it myself.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of my list and what your favourite films of the 1990s are!

Nightman’s Favourite Films Of The 1990s – Stats Roundup

Greetings, Glancers! So, older readers of my Oscars posts may recall that I tried to give some stats at the end of the year. It became too difficult to gather metrics and I become too lazy, and lo the posts migrated to the Hades Of Blogs like so many before. The same will likely happen to these summary posts – where I give some ‘interesting’ stats on my favourite films of each decade. It doesn’t mean anything, you won’t gain any insight or pleasure from reading them, and they will be painful to write. Why do it? Well shucks, I’ve always had a thing for hurting myself. ‘Enjoy’!

Number Of Best Picture Nominees: (Out of a possible fifty) Fifteen

Number Of Best Picture Winners:  (Out of a possible ten) Four

Number Of Movies In The Top Ten Grossing of The Year: (Out of a possible one hundred) Thirty four

Number Of Movies Which Were The Top Grosser: (Out of a possible ten) Five

The number of films nominated for Best Picture this decade sees a significant enough increase from the 80s – up to fifteen from five, while the actual winners went up to four from one. The decade started out well, with the first half of the decade nominating a fair number of films that I also picked, before dropping off in the second half. We also get an increase from twenty nine to thirty four from a Top Ten Grossing perspective which surprised me a little. I’d assumed that so many of the films I picked in the 80s were super popular at the box office versus the nineties, and that the nineties would be hit by my growing interest in the decade in foreign cinema. My numbers always seem to be in the late twenties to early thirties in this category, so the result is consistent. The latter half of the decade certainly saw a downturn in grossing movies compared with my picks from the first half.

Movies By Country In My Top 10:

USA: 120

UK: Seven

Italy: Two

Japan: Six

France: Twelve

Germany: Two

Australia: Two

Canada: Two

Denmark: One

New Zealand: Two

Hong Kong: One

South Korea: One

Thailand: One

The USA dominates again, particularly in the early years, but the closer to 2000 we get, the more foreign invaders bound in with glee, though not as many as I assumed there would be. The decade starts off with many holdovers from the 80s – high quality entertainment that I grew up, before morphing into more indie, meta, and self aware offerings. By the end of the decade other regions were releasing Hollywood sized productions – big budget movies and genre defining pieces.

Movies By Director:

Kevin Smith: Four

Disney: Four

David Lynch: Three

Wes Craven: Three

John Woo: Three

Steven Spielberg: Three

Luc Besson: Three

 

Tim Burton: Two

Martin Scorsese: Two

Paul Verhoeven: Two

David Cronenberg: Two

Robert Rodriguez: Two

Quentin Tarantino: Two

Frank Darabont: Two

Francis Ford Coppola: Two

James Cameron: Two

Oliver Stone: Two

Alex Proyas: Two

Roland Emmerich: Two

John McTiernan: Two

Tony Scott: Two

David Fincher: Two

Renny Harlin: Two

Mike Judge: Two

Tom Shadyac: Two

James Mangold: Two

Peter Hyams: Two

Kevin Costner: Two

Chris Columbus: Two

 

Takeshi Kitano: One

Robert Zemeckis: One

Terry Gilliam: x

John McNaughton: x

The Pang Brothers: x

Jim Jarmusch: x

Dennis Dugan: One

Chris Weitz: x

Paul Weitz: x

Brad Bird: x

Kang je Gyu: x

Milos Foreman: x

Stephen Sommers: x

The Wachowski Brothers: x

Daniel Myrick: x

Eduardo Sanchez: x

Trey Parker: x

Takashi Miike: x

Peter Weir: x

Nicholas Roeg: x

Ivan Reitman: x

Rob Reiner: x

Joel Schumacher: x

Caroll Ballard: x

Vincent Ward: x

Gregory Hoblit: x

Stephen Norrington: x

John Frankenheimer: x

Hiedo Nakata: x

Danny Boyle: x

Walter Hill: x

Andrew Fleming: x

Hiyao Miyazaki: x

Vincenzo Natali: x

Curtis Hanson: x

Paul Thomas Anderson: x

Ang Lee: x

Peter Jackson: x

Ridley Scott: x

John N Smith: x

Kathryn Bigelow: x

John Carpenter: x

Stacy Title: x

Martin Campbell: x

Gary Fleder: x

Larry Clark: x

Lars Von Trier: x

Joe Johnston: x

Mel Gibson: x

Brad Silberling: x

Peter Farrelly: x

Michael Mann: x

Mike Newell: x

Clint Eastwood: x

M Night Shyamalan: x

Jan de Bont: x

Neil Jordan: x

Pete Hewitt: x

Lasse Hallstrom: x

Chuck Russell: x

Jeremiah S Chechik: x

Paul W S Anderson: x

Lesli Linka Glatter: x

Gregg Araki: x

Mathieu Kassovitz: x

Richard Linklater: x

Kenneth Branagh: x

George P Cosmatos: x

George Sluizer: x

Brian De Palma: x

Abel Ferrara: x

Henry Selick: x

Marco Brambilla: x

Kevin Reynolds: x

Stephen Herek: x

Gilliam Armstrong: x

Bernard Rose: x

Jerry Zucker: x

Penelope Spheeris: x

Penny Marshall: x

Taylor Hackford: x

Roberto Benigni: x

Jim Gillespie: x

Simon West: x

George Armitage: x

Frank Marshall: x

Ate de Jong: x

Sheldon Lettich: x

Ron Underwood: x

Richard Benjamin: x

Geoff Murphy x

One hundred and forty seven films, 120 directors. The numbers are because I picked several years with more than ten films. We have some of the usual suspects again, and a few directors standing out with multiple picks. While we have many directors from previous decades, the obvious big drop is from John Carpenter who only gets one vote here. Disney are the biggest mainstay, topping the list with four entries alongside newbie Kevin Smith who also gets four. Wes Craven, Steven Spielberg, and David Lynch continue their good form with three entries, while John Woo and Luc Besson hitting their stride with three.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Paranormal Activity – Unpublished Screenplay

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

OPEN ON:

EXT. SANTA ROSA. CALIFORNIA – DAY

A WOMAN drives into a DRIVEWAY in a CAR and steps out.

KATIE

Seriously?

MICAH

What?

KATIE

What? We have just bought this inexplicably gargantuan house that there’s no way we can possibly afford given that we are apparently unemployed, and now you have also purchased a Hollywood grade camera. And now you are pointing it at me.

MICAH

Yup.

KATIE

Why you do that?

MICAH

Well you know, it’s what all the kids are doing these days – filming pranks, shooting themselves eating tide pods, unwrapping toys, and uploading the clips to Instagram

KATIE

Insta-wha?

MICAH

Emm, oh right. What year is this again? 2007?

KATIE

It’s 2006, you dick.

MICAH

Really? Right. What about Youtube – is that a thing?

KATIE

Yes. Micah, you are behaving quite oddly today, and only marginally less annoying than you will be later.

MICAH

HA HA HA! Yes, it’s wonderful being young, white, and Middle Class in these United States! Nothing will ever go wrong!

INT. BATHROOM – NIGHT

KATIE is brushing her teeth. MICAH is grunting.

MICAH:

HEURRRRGH! RARRRRR! PLOP!

KATIE

Seriously? Do you really need to drop one off while I’m in here? It’s disgusting.

MICAH

HRRRRNNNGGAAA!

KATIE

And why on Earth are you filming this!?

MICAH

Gotta get dem likes and subcribes, boiii!

KATIE

Well, don’t get any ideas about bringing that thing into the bedroom tonight. I need my beauty sleep because my sister KRISTI and her husband DANIEL are coming, but not his daughter – our niece – ALI, or their son, HUNTER.

MICAH

HRRRYUUUNNNTERRRR! PLOP!

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

KATIE

Ahhh, I can’t wait to get into bed tonight, for a long and restful night without any funny or spooky busin- hey, what is that thing doing in here?

MICAH

Ugh. Why are you always com-plain-ing about EV-REE-THING? Look, it’s important that we document every pointless second of our worthless lives for future generations. You never know who might need it! Now stop your yapping and take off your bra.

KATIE

I will not!

MICAH begins stamping his foot in front of the CAMERA and mewling like a SPANKED INFANT.

MICAH

WHAAAAAAAA! WHAAAAAAAA!

KATIE

Stop that right now, you’re making the floor creak!

MICAH

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

MICAH stamps his FEET around the room until A DRESSING GOWN falls off the BEDROOM DOOR.

MICAH

What the!? Did you see that? The dressing gown just flew onto the ground as if possessed by an evil spirit! I think this house might be haunted! YIPPEE!

KATIE

Seriously?

INT. BEDROOM – LATER THAT NIGHT

KATIE and MICAH are in BED. They are sleeping. THE DRESSING GOWN lies on the floor where it fell earlier.

MICAH (mumbling in sleep)

Mmmy life is brrilllya. Mmylifeis mmmm. You’re beautifu-ul, it’s true!

Suddenly, the DRESSING GOWN stands up all on its own as if possessed by an evil spirit. It starts to MOONWALK in front of the CAMERA before sliding out of the door and out of sight.

DRESSING GOWN

WEEEEEEEE!

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

MICAH

Wowzers – look at this footage!

KATIE

What is it? Did you record any further ghostly sightings?

MICAH

No, somehow I missed those, but check out how cool the toilet looks when it flushes in HD!

KATIE

Ew, gross.

The DOORBELL RINGS.

KATIE

That’s probably my sister, KRISTI and her husband DANIEL.

MICAH

Cool! I can’t wait to show DANIEL my sweet setup.

KATIE

Hello KRISTI!

KRISTI

Hello KATIE!

KATIE

Where is your husband, DANIEL?

KRISTI

He couldn’t make it, he is busy setting up cameras around our house.

KATIE and MICAH together

Cameras? Really? Why?

KRISTI

Yeah, also he hasn’t been cast yet, and come to think of it, neither have I, but we can retcon those details in later.

MICAH

Let me give you some privacy so you can talk about WOMAN STUFF. I’ll just leave my camera here.

MICAH leaves and KATIE and KRISTIE sit down

KRISTI

So why do you have a camera now? I hope you haven’t encountered any spooky goings-on? Going-ons? Whatever.

KATIE

Well, now that you mention it, I did think I heard some chilling noises last night, and ever since we’ve moved here I think I keep seeing a shadow standing at the bottom of my bed. And one time I thought I saw a Mexican running through my kitchen, but that seems unlikely.

KRISTI

Oh ho ho, I’m sure it’s probably nothing. La la la, lets talk about something else.

KATIE

Wait a second, I’m remembering more things – things I had forgotten about. Things from our childhood.

KRISTI

Yeah, our childhood was great. Nothing weird ever happened. Apart from that time our parents were gruesomely and mysteriously murdered and our Grandmother had to take care of us.

KATIE

WHAT!? I had forgotten that – I thought they died in a totally accidental housefire! But who cares, what’s important is that I remember I had a friend called Toby. You all thought he was imaginary, but he was really real! Wouldn’t it be cool if he came back?

KRISTI

No?

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

MICAH and KATIE are sleeping again, the lazy BASTARDS. Suddenly, the DOOR creaks open. It’s really quiet, but out of nowhere A LOUD NOISE MAKES A LOUD NOISE!

MICAH

Jesus, do that in the bathroom will you?

KATIE

I’m like literally terrified. I think this house really is cursed! I want to move out!

MICAH slaps her face. Twice.

MICAH

Silence woman, you are being hysterical. The only thing cursed in this house is your infernal mouth.

KATIE

I’m so sorry, sweetie, I’ll be good.

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

KATIE is literally on the TELEPHONE. Not literally.

KATIE

Come on, come on, pick up. Oh! Yes, hello! Is this the Priest’s hotline? Oh, thank goodness. Tell you what it is, I recently moved into a new house and I think it might be haunted – possibly by my imaginary childhood friend, TOBY. Uh huh. Uh huh. Mmm. That’s right. Uh huh. Mmm. A crucifix, yes. Uh huh. Got it. Mmm. Uh huh. Oh – you’ll send someone over right away? That’s fantastic! I’ll be here!

EXT. DRIVEWAY – DAY

A PRIEST arrives on a BICYCLE. You know he is a PRIEST because he is carrying a BIBLE, a set of BEADS, a LARGE FLASK with ‘HOLY WATER’ written on the side, and one of those things around his NECK.

PRIEST

Hello, you must be KATIE, and I must be a PRIEST.

KATIE

You are correct on both counts. Do come in.

PRIEST

Ah, before we enter, I would like to say a quick prayer in LATIN, if you don’t mind.

KATIE

Go ahead, that’s what I’m paying you for.

PRIEST

Semper ubi, sub ubi. AMEN.

KATIE

I don’t think that means what you think it means, but whatever.

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

The PRIEST is looking up at the ceiling, as if he can see something only he can see. He SHIVERS.

PRIEST

This place is…. evil. This room…. this house…. that lamp…. evil.

KATIE

Oh woe! Is there nothing you can do!? Why will no one help us poor, defenceless millenials!?

PRIEST

This rug…. that wall… evil.

Suddenly, ANOTHER REALLY LOUD BANG GOES BANG, and the EVIL LAMP wooshes across the room and smashes behind the PRIEST.

PRIEST

What the fuck! That lamp almost got me! I’m getting out of here!

KATIE

But what should I do?

PRIEST

Contact your Rabbi!

INT. BATHROOM – NIGHT

KATIE is in the shower. The CAMERA is watching every CREVICE. Uh oh! The DRESSING GOWN is moving again!

DRESSING GOWN

Now’s my chance. BOW-CHIKA-WOW-WOW!

The DRESSING GOWN steps into the SHOWER with KATIE.

KATIE

What the – OH NO! HELP!

For a moment it looks like they are struggling, but eventually the DRESSING GOWN wraps around KATIE and begins to squeeze her.

KATIE

OWW! OWWW! OOOOH! Ooooh, I like that. Mmmm, come here baby.

They kiss and the CAMERA SOMEHOW FADES TO BLACK.

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

KATIE is already in BED.

MICAH (OS):

Honey, I’m home! Where are you?

We hear FOOTSTEPS approaching and assume it is MICAH ascending the stairs. We are correct.

MICAH

Oh, there you are. Sorry I’m late, it’s just, you know what the guys are like when they’ve had a few. I missed you so much.

MICAH stops talking into the CAMERA and turns to see KATIE sitting up in bed and STARING at NOTHING.

MICAH

Oh, hi, I ah, didn’t see you there. Are you keeping well?

KATIE says nothing. In fact, she doesn’t say anything at all.

MICAH

Ohhh-kayyy.

INT. BEDROOM – LATER THAT NIGHT

KATIE and MICAH are sleeping. SOMETHING bumps the CAMERA and KATIE stirs.

KATIE

Ugh, what a weird dream. I dreamed that I was… never mind. Back to sleep we go.

KATIE lies down again, but is suddenly grabbed by an unseen force and dragged out of the BEDROOM feet first.

KATIE

MICAH! Help meeeeeee!

MICAH

In a minute.

KATIE (OS)

No, please don’t kill me, I’ll do anything! TOBY? MICAH!

MICAH finally wakes up, STARTLED.

MICAH

Katie? KATIE!

MICAH runs out of the room. OS we hear various screams and grunts and demonic CACKLES. There is one final yelp, and then a loud SNAP. Then silence. Eventually FOOTSTEPS come up the stairs and we assume it is KATIE or MICAH or DANIEL. We are only half right! KATIE crawls disconcertingly into the room and her face is all weird and messed up in a spooky way. She suddenly lunges at the CAMERA.

CUT TO: BLACK

A TITLE CARD READS:

Five days later, after being alerted by a neighbor concerned by a foul smell, a local Constable found the body of Micah with his head twisted all the way around. This footage was taken as evidence. Katie’s whereabouts are unknown.

POST CREDITS SCENE – INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

The Dressing Gown is doing THE THRILLER DANCE in front of the CAMERA.

MICAH (OS):

Keep it down up there, some of us are trying to rest in peace!

It is unclear if this section took place before or after MICAH’S death, but is ironic either way.

THE END

Nightman’s Top Twenty Films Of 1999

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

Alright, as it was the end of the century/millennium/world, we’ll have one last top twenty instead of 10.

20: The Sixth Sense (US) M Night Shyamalan

19: Girl, Interrupted (US) James Mangold

18: The Green Mile (US) Frank Darabont

17: Shiri (SK) Kang je Gyu

16: The Iron Giant (US) Brad Bird

15: American Pie (US) Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz

14: Existenz (Canada/UK/France) David Cronenberg

13: Ghost Dog (US/France/Germany/Japan) Jim Jarmusch

12: Music Of The Heart (US) Wes Craven

11: Office Space (US) Mike Judge

10: The Mummy (US) Stephen Sommers

9: Fight Club (US/Germany) David Fincher

8: Man On The Moon (US) Milos Forman

7: Dogma (US) Kevin Smith

6: End Of Days (US) Peter Hyams

5: Audition (Japan) Takashi Miike

4: South Park (US) Trey Parker

3: The Matrix (US/OZ) The Wachowski Brothers

2: The Blair Witch Project (US) Daniel Myrick Eduardo Sanchez

1: Bangkok Dangerous (Thailand) The Pang Brothers

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Four

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two