Essential Movies – 1962 – Alternative View

For my original post explaining my criteria – click here!

Rules: Ten films which, in some way, show our history and culture reflected in film and  film’s growth and change as a medium. It can’t simply be your ten personal favourites of the year. One of your ten choices must be in the top 10 grossing films of the given year. One of the films must have been nominated for a Best Film Oscar (Best Picture, Best Foreign Feature, or Best Animated Feature). One of the films needs to appear in a renowned critic or magazine or book’s best 10 films of the year. These choices can’t overlap. 

  1. Lawrence Of Arabia (Best Picture option)

2. The Longest Day (Top Grossing Option)

3. How The West Was Won (Best Film Critical option)

4. Lolita

5. Cape Fear

6. Dr No

7. The Mutiny On The Bounty

8. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

9. The Manchurian Candidate

10. To Kill A Mockingbird

Which 10 films would make up your Essential list?

Essential Movies – 1961 – Alternative View

For my original post explaining my criteria – click here!

For the mainstream view – click here!

Rules: Ten films which, in some way, show our history and culture reflected in film and  film’s growth and change as a medium. It can’t simply be your ten personal favourites of the year. One of your ten choices must be in the top 10 grossing films of the given year. One of the films must have been nominated for a Best Film Oscar (Best Picture, Best Foreign Feature, or Best Animated Feature). One of the films needs to appear in a renowned critic or magazine or book’s best 10 films of the year. These choices can’t overlap. 

  1. The Hustler (Best Picture Winner)

2. West Side Story (Top Grossing Movie)

3. 101 Dalmations (Best Film Critical Choice)

4. The Guns Of Navarone

5. Breakfast At Tiffany’s

6. Yojimbo

7. The Innocents

8. Judgement At Nuremberg

9. One-Eyed Jacks

10. The Pit And The Pendulum

Essential Movies – 1961

Greetings, Glancers! Welcome back to my series of posts examining those movies intelligent people call Essential – and whether the rest of us should agree.  Check out my explanation post for more info, and have a look at my 1961 Oscars posts if you have additional time to waste. Onwards!

A Raisin In The Sun

Why It May Be Considered Essential: One of the first films to feature a predominantly African American cast including Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier. Preserved by the USA National Film Registry.

Why It May Not Be: Dated even though still topical, no-one remembers it, didn’t do huge business.

What I Think: Even Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds will likely miss out on this one, probably essential for Fans of the cast.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Blake Edwards, one of the most iconic Romances of all time. Top 15 grossing movie that year. Won two Oscars, nominated for three others. Moon River. Preserved by NFR.

Why It May Not Be: It’s old?

What I Think: One of the most obviously all around Essential Movies of the 60s. You don’t get to be a Critic, Film Nerd, or Film Fan without seeing this. Casuals and Careless will know it and should see it.

Fanny

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture and Actor.

Why It May Not Be: It has an unfortunate name. Most people won’t care about the cast. It wasn’t successful. I don’t think anyone remembers it outside of devout stage fans.

What I Think: Essential only if you’re determined to see every film nominated for Best Picture. No-one else needs to seek this out, as enjoyable as it may be.

Judgement At Nuremberg

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Preserved by NFR. Top 15 Grossing film that year. The most famous film about one of the most important Court Cases ever. Stanley Kramer directs. Spencer Tracey, Burt Lancaster, Max Schell, Judy Garland, William Shatner, Marlene Dietrich appear among others – some of the biggest names in Hollywood History. Nominated for 11 Oscars with Schell winning Best Actor.

Why It May Not Be: It’s old and modern audiences may not know all of the historical nuances.

What I Think: Essential for Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds. Should be essential for Film Fans – a must see for Courtroom Drama fans or fans of the cast. No-one else will be interested in finding it.

Last Year At Marienbad

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Directed by Alain Resnais. Masterpiece of surrealism. Influenced David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, nominated for an Oscar two years after release.

Why It May Not Be: Surrealism is a tough self and this is ambiguous as films get. There are no easy answers and most people like a beginning, middle, and end with clear structure.

What I Think: Essential for Wannabe Critics. Film Nerds should give at least one Alan Resnais film a go, so why not this. Surrealist Fans should see it. No-one will care.

La Notte

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Antonioni, Mastroinanni, Jeanne Moreau.

Why It May Not Be: Who?

What I Think: A dense Italian drama about a collapsing relationship – not going to be an easy sell to a modern audience. Wannabe Critics should see it, Film Nerds should try, if you’re not a fan of Antonioni or the cast you’re not going to chase it down.

Lola

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Jacques Demy. Anouk Aimee.

Why It May Not Be: Again, who?

What I Think: If you’re not a fan of Demy or Aimee, or a devotee of the French New Wave you won’t care.

Lover Come Back

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Nominated for an Oscar. Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Screwball comedy in an world of Executives.

Why It May Not Be: Old, dated, corny, not well remembered.

What I Think: Only essential if you like the two stars.

One Eyed Jacks

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Directed by and starring Marlon Brando.

Why It May Not Be: Other than the above, there isn’t much to recommend it to people.

What I Think: An interesting curio and essential for Brando fans. Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds should be aware of it and therefore should see it, but wouldn’t class it as essential for them.

One Hundred And One Dalmations

Why It May Be Considered Essential: It’s Disney. Cruella De Vil. Spawned a Live action sequel or two. Top 10 Grossing Film of the year.

Why It May Not Be: It was during a dark period for Disney where their films were not doing so well, critically or commercially and suffers from being a little dull. The songs aren’t great.

What I Think: Even though Disney films were not great during this time, this one proved they could still make a lot of money on a small budget. Aside from the wacky and dark story, it’s quite a plain story but as it is a Disney animated movie it should be considered Essential for almost everyone. The Casuals may have seen it when younger or if they have kids of their own, and same goes for The Careless – not as vital as some Disney movies, more important than others – so somewhere in the middle.

Splendor In The Grass

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Natalie Wood. Warren Beatty. Elia Kazan. Top ten grossing film of the year. Won one Oscar and nominated for another.

Why It May Not Be: Teen drama from an era long gone. Most modern audiences won’t care about the cast. Stupid name?

What I Think: A fine school-based drama with good performances and timeless arguments, but a setting and style and period which will not resonate as easily with modern viewers. Only essential for fans of the cast, not essential for Film Nerds and not high up the must see list for Wannabe Critics.

The Exiles

Why It May Be Considered Essential: One of the first films of its kind, a pseudo-documentary, but based mostly on the lives of young Native Americans who have left their reservations and moved to the big city.

Why It May Not Be: See above. No-one has ever seen it.

What I Think: I have no idea.

The Guns Of Navarone

Why It May Be Considered Essential: 2nd highest grossing movie of the year. Gregory Peck. David Niven. Anthony Quinn. Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Score, Writing, and others and won for Best Visual Effects.

Why It May Not Be: In the pantheon of great war action movies, this one has maybe been overshadowed by some others. Modern audiences looking for action aren’t likely to look so far in the past.

What I Think: One of the finest WWII era action movies and a perennial seasonal British favourite. Essential for Film Nerds more than Wannabe Critics, but both groups should see this. Essential for War fans, interesting enough that channel surfers may catch it and be drawn in by the cast and the action.

The Hustler

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Paul Newman. Piper Laurie. George C Scott. Nominated for Best Picture and 8 other Oscars, winning for Set Decoration and Cinematography.

Why It May Not Be: Old and Black and White?

What I Think: One of the best Sports movies ever with some iconic performances and characters. Essential for Wannabe Critics, Film Nerds, and fans of the cast. Fans of Pool and Snooker should consider it essential. Likely too distant now for Casuals or Careless to go looking for it.

The Innocents

Why It May Be Considered Essential: One of the finest ghost/haunted house movies ever, dense and gothic.

Why It May Not Be: Old, BW, not many obvious scares, and probably too stodgy and sterile for modern audiences.

What I Think: A classic in the British horror genre, but a slow-burner which only certain horror fans will appreciate. Essential for Wannabe Critics, less essential for Film Nerds and horror fans, not essential for anyone else.

The Ladies Man

Why It May Be Considered Essential: A Jerry Lewis comedy.

Why It May Not Be: Not many modern viewers will care about the above.

What I Think: Only essential for Lewis fans.

The Misfits

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Miller. Huston. Gable. Monroe. Arguably more famous for the Production issues than the end result. 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why It May Not Be: Monroe may remain a household name, but how many modern viewers have actually seen one of her films? If they have, it’s not this one. A flop on release.

What I Think: Filmed as Miller and Monroe were separating and Huston was drinking heavily. Monroe was in rehab during production. Gable died days after filming finished, Monroe a year later. An interesting film to be aware of due to its troubled history, so Essential for Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics. Essential for fans of the cast due to strong performances. Not essential for anyone else.

Through A Glass Darkly

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Bergman. Won Best Foreign Film Oscar. Harriet Andersson. Max Von Sydow. 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why It May Not Be: See above.

What I Think: Bergman, so again if you want to be a critic or call yourself a Film Nerd, you have to have seen a few Bergman films. This one is a good mixture of accessibility, art, and heavy themes. Essential for Bergman fans – no one else will give a damn.

Viridiana

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Bunuel. Won the Palme d’Or.

Why It May Not Be: See above.

What I Think: Same as Bergman – you need to see some Bunuel and this is as good a place to start as any. Again, no-one else will care.

West Side Story

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Best Picture winner, top grossing film of the year, won Oscars for Best Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and six more. One of the most famous and popular musicals of all time.

Why It May Not Be: Musicals. They’re balls.

What I Think: Arguably the end of the traditional epic Hollywood musical – what more could be done after this? If you’re going to watch one, it may as well be this. Essential for Film Nerds, Wannabe Critics, and Fans – Casuals and Careless will be aware of it and may as well see it but depending on preferences may not seek this out.

Yojimbo

Why It May Be Considered Essential: Kurosawa. Mifune. Swords. Basis of A Fistful of Dollars. One of the best Samurai movies ever. Influential.

Why It May Not Be: Old. BW. Foreign.

What I Think: Essential for Film Nerds, Wannabe Critics, and Kurosawa fans. Like Japanese movies? Then this is essential. Casuals and Careless will not care unless they happen to like old Samurai movies.

Let us know in the comments which movies of 1961 you feel are Essential viewing – feel free to borrow my categorizations or choose your own definitions!

Nightman’s Updated Top 17 Movies Of 1993!

17: Falling Down (US/France/UK) Joel Schumacher

Schumacher continued the 80s success of the likes of The Lost Boys and St Elmo’s Fire into the 90s, with Falling Down probably his best film of the decade. It reinvented Michael Douglas, casting him as a classic anti-hero and the sort of bloke we have all wished we would like to be at some point. Maybe that’s a tad too far, but which of us have not wanted to just say ‘fuck it’ and go on a rampage around the city? Schumacher nails the atmosphere of sweaty 90s LA, a boiling pot of race, pressure, and violence, and manages to make the film action packed, violent, funny, and smart all at once.

16: Mrs Doubtfire (US) Chris Columbus

It’s a family film with its fair share of risque humour thanks to a tour de force performance from Robin Williams. Not all of the jokes land, as it always the case when Williams was given free reign, but when there are so many and when they are delivered with such pace, you barely notice. It’s also another charming watch and kids and older members will find plenty to enjoy.

15: Schindler’s List (US) Steven Spielberg

A contender for the finest war movie ever made, and for the best movie of the decade, Schindler’s List is obviously an exhausting, difficult, but important watch. There are two must watches for everyone on my list today – both are by Spielberg, and this is one of them.

14: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (US) Lasse Hallstrom

Johnny Depp’s star was on the rise, and this was another notch on his bedpost. Lasse Hallstrom was looking for a US hit while Juliette Lewis was another hot property. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was not the sort of film which was ever going to be a hit, but even before it took on a cult status it was clear to any viewer that it was a powerful and humble and perfectly well made and well acted drama. Naturally it was the film which broke DiCaprio, his film stealing performance earning an Oscar nomination. People have maybe forgotten this one now, but with the star power involved its a hidden gem which will continue to be discovered.

13: Cliffhanger (US/France/Italy) Renny Harlin

Arnie had exploded into the new decade making sure that the 80s action hero still had a place in the new, more self aware era. His 90s exploits had not been successful so he found a new action vehicle with up and coming director Renny Harlin. It’s basically Die Hard on a mountain, but it has plenty of action, plenty of violence, a classic batch of hammy villains, and lots of one-liners – in short, everything you want in an action movie, with the added bonus of great scenery and spectacle.

12: Benny And Joon (US) Jeremiah S Chechik

Another offbeat character for Depp to tackle, this is the less mainstream version of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? It’s one of a select few romances or Rom Coms that I hold dear, and another film for people who have maybe forgotten what a great actor Depp is should check out.

11: Dazed And Confused (US) Richard Linklater

Linklater always makes watchable movies, regardless of genre, but his best movies are those which feel like a group of best mates hanging out – with Dazed And Confused being the prime example. Like the movie itself, you can stick it on and just chill. The various characters, the various groups all somehow feel like personal friends and Linklater has a way of making you feel like part of the gang, even as a guy from Northern Ireland who wasn’t alive in the time period predicted. You don’t even need the performances to be good – they are – but you do need the soundtrack and the setting to echo the vibe – it does.

10: The Vanishing (US) George Sluizer

Frequently named as one of the, if not worst, but least most unnecessary and least interesting remakes of all time, The Vanishing still remains for me a gripping and eerie watch. Sure, it’s not as powerful as the original but I saw this one first and those first impressions are hard to shake. Remember, this is a favourites list, not what I think is the best. What I still love about this remake is the cast – Bridges, Sutherland, Bullock, and Travis are all committed and Sluzier does a great job of maintaining the mystery and tension of the original. While the ending is a prime example of Americanisation, I don’t necessarily mind. Sure it would have been cool if they’d shot alternative endings or went with something similar to the original, but the original is still there to enjoy in all its bleak glory.

9: Carlito’s Way (US) Brian De Palma

Carlito’s Way is one of those latter day Mafia movies which was still flying the flag for the sort of violent stylized thriller which would become out of vogue once Pulp Fiction came along. It’s not as good as Goodfellas, and not as memorable as Scarface, but it’s just as engaging with the benefit of being more underseen – get ahead of your mates and stick this one on your movie night list once Lockdown is over and enjoy Pacino, Sean Penn and Leguizamo, acting to Eleven while De Palma cranks up the tension.

8: The Nightmare Before Christmas (US) Henry Selick

I’ve spoken about this movie plenty of times on other lists on this site; it’s great.

7: A Perfect World (US) Clint Eastwood

Clint had been directing for about 80 years by the time he made A Perfect World, and had been acting for roughly 300 years on top of that. His follow up to the universally acclaimed Unforgiven is a light crime drama which I prefer to his masterful Western. I’ve always suspected the light tone came from Kevin Costner’s involvement and that another actor may have brought a more cynical vibe, but Costner and Eastwood were a perfect match and foil for one another, and created one of the least seen finest movies of the 90s. Assuming most reading this list may not be familiar with this movie – it follows two escaped convicts in early 60s Texas who pick up a hostage in the form of a young Jehovah’s Witness boy completely innocent of the ways of the world. What begins is a road movie mixed with coming of age mixed with buddy comedy mixed with violent thriller as Costner learns responsibility from the boy and the boy learns right and wrong from the criminal, all while Texas Ranger Eastwood and criminologist Laura Dern chase them down. It’s an incredibly, unforgivingly (ha) underrated film with a terrific cast, nuanced, funny, touching, and never bogged down by its 2 hour plus running time.

6: Demolition Man (US) Marco Brambilla

I’ve spoken plenty about this one on the blog before – it features in my Top Ten Stallone movies.

5: Last Action Hero (US) John McTiernan

I’ve spoken plenty about this one on the blog before – it features in my Top Ten Arnie movies.

4: Body Snatchers (US) Abel Ferrara

It gets undue hate for not being as good as the 70s or 50s version. Don’t sleep on it. It’s in my favourite movies of the decade list… I think. If it’s not, it’s fantastically grim vision of the famous story with a more claustrophobic setting.

3: True Romance (US) Tony Scott

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

2: Tombstone (US) George P Cosmatos

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

1: Jurassic Park (US) Steven Spielberg

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1995!

Lordy lordy, this is going to be a long one (that’s what she said etc). 1995 is just one of those years, both formative and just simply a bad-ass year for movies. As usual, my list is eclectic with both critical darlings, commercial hits, and lesser known or foreign curios. Enjoy!

20: Braveheart (US) Mel Gibson

This was the biggie of 1995, and a bit of a surprise, lifting Mel Gibson into the pantheon of Great Directors and showcasing his skills as a leading man. It’s not my favourite Gibson movie but it’s a sublime achievement with great, epic action scenes and famous speeches.

19: Casino (US) Martin Scorsese

Casino always felt like a lesser Scorsese movie to me, the less popular younger brother to Goodfellas. As unfair as that is, I feel like it’s true. But it’s still Scorsese, and he’s still on fire, so there are very few other directors who can touch him when he’s delivering.

18: Casper (US) Brad Silberling

Casper is better than Casino! Well no, but I enjoy it more. It’s a great lead in to Horror for kids, it feels like a mini Tim Burton movie – with a little more darkness and satire this could have been a bona fide classic. It’s Christina Ricci, so I’m in regardless, but you also get Bill Pullman and Eric Idle for some reason.

17: Jumanji (US) Joe Johnston

Jumanji is that bona fide classic family movie blockbuster – the effects for the time were great, the idea was fun, and Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst are on top form. I’m not a Joe Johnston fan – three of his movies appear on my Least Favourites lists – but this is his finest moment, mixing the story, characters, and effects seamlessly. In truth, I was always a bigger fan of the Animated TV show, but the movie is a lot of fun.

16: Dangerous Minds (US) John N Smith

It’s a stereotype now – the teacher coming in to some tough inner-city school, and turning them around thanks to a passion for (literature/art/music/dance/anything) some subject. Variants of this had been going on for decades, but this really perfected the thing. It didn’t hurt that Gangsta’s Paradise was released alongside the movie and became a worldwide smash. Great cast, great energy, and while these types of movie feel a little White Saviour-ish, I can’t help but enjoy these types of film.

15: Strange Days (US) Kathryn Bigelow

Before Bigelow became a genuine A-Lister with The Hurt Locker, she was making much more interesting high (or low) concept movies like this. This was quite revelatory in 1995 and quite a lot of the ideas and technology displayed are in regular use today. Like Near Dark, this is a gorgeous night time shot movie, albeit this one is much more focused on the indoors rather than the outdoors. Out of all of the movies on my list, this is maybe the least seen (it was a massive bomb); it stars Ralph Fiennes as a former cop/now criminal in a futuristic end of the century LA who buys and sells people’s memories (there’s a device which can record these) and who gets pulled into a wider story of love, crime, and murder. Throw in an archetypal Juliette Lewis performance, Angela Bassett, Tom Sizemore, and the always great Michael Wincott, a great mid-nineties indie/rock/techno, and at the very least you have an interesting (if cold) movie well deserving of re-evaluation.

14: In The Mouth Of Madness (US) John Carpenter

One of the last John Carpenter movies I ever got to because it’s so damn hard to find a physical copy of, In The Mouth Of Madness is one of the last great Carpenter movies. I don’t love it as much as some, but that may just be because I’m not as familiar with it. It’s unusual for Carpenter in that it’s not so straightforward – it’s a natural thematic successor to Prince Of Darkness and features a deliciously madcap Sam Neill performance as an Insurance Investigator sucked into, well, the mouth of madness. Charlton Heston pops up too. It’s very strange – there are good effects, good ideas, and Carpenter is as assured as ever, but it doesn’t always flow in a pleasing way (which may be deliberate) and the script feels lacking. But it’s still Carpenter doing Horror, and that will always be a good thing.

13: The Last Supper (US) Stacy Title

Most people have likely not seen or heard of this one, given that it is an India release with a religious sounding name. Plus, it’s a bit of a single location, very talky movie. It’s also smart, funny, and has a cool cast and even better cameos. It follows a dinner party with a group of liberal arts students whose night of privilege and culture is interrupted by the arrival of a Right Wing Desert Storm Vet with plenty of strong opinions. It amusingly breaks down barriers of class and stereotype and gets quite dark, while never losing its comedy core. Annabeth Gish and Cameron Diaz are the big names of the main players, but it’s Bill Paxton and Ron Perlman who steal the show.

12: Kids (US) Larry Clark

I don’t know many people who enjoy Kids or any of Larry Clark’s movies. I don’t know what it is – the faux realism, the dialogue, the Mean Streets style shooting, but there’s something so watchable about them to me. I appreciate that most people are going to be offended by them, and that many are going to find Kids problematic – as they should. It’s not an easy movie, dealing with a bunch of, well, scumbags, underage sex, drugs, abuse, AIDS, and other antics we don’t associate with people under 16. When’s it coming to Disney+?

11: Pocahontas (US) Disney

Pocahontas for me was a slight turning point for Disney, towards a downward turn. We’d had the second Golden Age with three legit bangers in a row. Pocahontas is not up to the same level as The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty And The Beast, but is at least the equal to The Little Mermaid. While it was a smash, that little dip in quality continued through the rest of the decade (outside of Pixar) and not really picking up again until Princess And The Frog and Tangled. Still, Pocahontas is light years ahead of most other animated movies and always charming even if it’s not one I revisit often.

10: Mortal Kombat (US) Paul W S Anderson

Do do- do do-do do-do do do do – MORTAL KOMBAT! I was obsessed with the games at the time, so an actual big budget martial arts movie on the big screen with people shooting fireballs and spears towards four armed monsters…what more could a twelve year old boy want? Plus, I was already the biggest Bruce Lee fan in the world. It’s not the best movie in the world, or of the year, but it’s such a lot of fun and remains one of the best videogame adaptations.

9: Now And Then (US) Lesli Linka Glatter

I never understood why this one isn’t as heralded as Stand By Me and other coming of age movies. This is a near perfect movie, with a terrific cast (the kids moreso than the adults), a great soundtrack, and a funny script. It’s gentle, heartwarming, and remains a neat little secret to whip out of the back-pocket every so often and show to someone who’s never heard of it. The film follows four long-term friends who meet up to support one of the group who is about to have her first baby. The group reminisce about their childhood in 1970, with the film flipping back between both eras as they talk about life from the perspective of coming in to adolescence and approaching middle age/middle adulthood. It’s great, it’s lovely, and it stars Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rosie O’Donnell, Rita Wilson, Gaby Hoffman, Thora Birch, Christina Ricci, the late Ashleigh Aston Moore, Cloris Leachman, Bonnie Hunt, Brendan Fraser, Janeane Garofalo, Devon Sawa, and Rumer Willis.

8: The Doom Generation (US/France) Gregg Araki

Now that I think about it, there’s quite a few movies on my list that many people won’t have seen or heard of. This is another example. Gregg Araki is a bit of a powerhouse in the Indie world, with The Doom Generation probably being my favourite movie of his. It’s one of those movies which gets thrown in with the post-Tarantino world thanks to a post-modern approach, lots of style, lots of violence, cool dialogue, foul language, gore, and bizarre bits and bops. Oh, and lots of sex. It follows two teenagers (Rose McGowan and James Duval) who are driving through the night and decide to pick up a drifter. There’s an accidental murder which leads to increasingly bizarre and violent encounters as the film turns into a road-movie-fever-dream-with-boobs. McGowan gives her best performance, Duval and Schaech are excellent, and there are plenty of weird cameos as every person in the film claims that McGowan’s character is some ex-girlfriend/wife/friend and it all ends in a massacre.

7: La Haine (France) Mathieu Kassovitz

Speaking of massacres, La Haine is a film constantly at boiling point, just waiting for something unspeakable and ferocious to happen. Another underseen classic, this is perhaps the one most deserving of an audience given its relevance, potency, and power, and simply because it is undeniably brilliant. A French film starring Vincent Cassel, Said Taghmaoui, and Hubert Kounde as three friends in an inner city crime-filled Parisian district who find a Police Officer’s gun in the aftermath of a riot in which a fourth friend was seriously injured. The three friends debate what they should do with the gun – one vows to kill a cop if the fourth friend dies, one disagrees, and one is a mediator. The three travel around the city talking, plotting, dealing with gangs and cops and the city is presented as a melting pot of violence ready to erupt at any moment. It’s super tense, shot in beautiful black and white, and features great performances across the board.

6: Die Hard With A Vengeance (US) John McTiernan

I’m getting to the point where these are the movies which probably made my favourites of the decade post. As I can’t recall which ones made it, I’m going to be brief on each of these – you should know them all anyway. This is the third Die Hard, the second best in the the series and almost on par with the original. It’s great, though the final act doesn’t live up to the rest.

5: Heat (US) Michael Mann

It’s Heat… it’s one of the best casts of all time, and with some terrific set pieces.

4: Mallrats (US) Kevin Smith

My favourite Kevin Smith movie, and a great, aimless hangout movie.

3: Desperado (US) Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez’s best movie. It’s perfect.

2: Goldeneye (UK) Martin Campbell

One of my favourite Bond movies, one of the best Bond movies.

1: Things To In Denver When You’re Dead (US) Gary Fleder

Another underseen classic, another fantastic cast, one of the finest movies of the decade.

Let us know your favourites in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1997!

Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection

Alien Resurrection

One of the big criticisms against Alien 3 was the lack of action. And horror. I mean, there was also a lack of direction, no memorable characters, and the overall story wasn’t very interesting – but it’s still a damn sight better than Resurrection. Resurrection should work – you have Joss Whedon writing – an upcoming star with a love for the genre and strong female characters, you have Jean Pierre Jeunet directing – a director with a distinct visual flair, you have a return to action, a great cast, and Ripley’s back! And swimming Aliens! But somehow everything that could go wrong, does. The story is a mess – the bad guys have somehow brought Ripley back from a lava-based death because that was the only way they could find and clone the Xenomorph, but there’s space pirates or something and Ripley is essentially de-humanized. Jeunet doesn’t do horror often, and his voice and eye and humour simply don’t work in this world with this script. He brings his usual pals who make up the bulk of the cast, leading to a mish mash of accents and faces who should be more memorable than the shaved-bald nobodies of part 3, but zero time is spent defining any of them. Similarly, the action feels like it was directed by someone more comfortable with corsets and wigs than plasma rifles and grenades. There’s precious little horror or threat or suspense, and the overall vibe feels more like Delicatessen. Swimming aliens are cool though.

Batman And Robin

Legitimately one of the worst films ever made. It’s basically Carry On Comic Book Heroes (or if the name of the film appeared in the film itself, it would be called Carry On Cum Ick Boob Herpes) such are the truly awful one liners. I mean, it’s clearly aping the 60s series, and possibly the original comics – but who has the time to read that shite – but that in no way makes a thing good. I’m here to see this product, and the product is vomit inducing. I don’t think I’ve cringed more in any other movie – I don’t think I cringed more watching this than this time I accidentally gave the tip of my shlong a paper cut. Clooney is… fine.. but why make the change from Val? Chris O Donnell is as suitably bland and forgettable as he was in the previous movie. The worst moments, sadly, come from Arnie and Uma – both dial their performances up to 69 – but there’s only so much they could do with material written by a 6 year old future sociopath. Does anyone even remember Alicia Silverstone being in this? It doesn’t look like any other Batman movie, which some see as cause for praise, but it’s hardly unique in that respect – the only thing unique about this movie is that it holds the spot for worst Batman movie.

Double Team

For those of you who, back in 1997, were wondering ‘wait, hasn’t Mr Don’t Give A Van Damme already made a film called Double Team?’ then I’m right there with you. But no, that was the vastly superior Double Impact, which featured Bolo Yeung and an eye-opening sex scene (not literally). No, Double Team is the one with Dennis Rodman, back when he had yellow hair, and back when Mickey Rourke was still a mess. The film is something to do with an ex-dude returning to shooty killy work when his old nemesis starts shooty killing, but the dude is married now and doesn’t want to deal with flambouyant NBA stars-turned actor-turned arms dealer-turned friend of North Korea – Dennis Rodman. There’s shooting and killing and babies and a tiger…. it’s not Tsui Hark’s finest hour, and that guy has some of the finest hours ever committed to action cinema.

Gattaca

Maybe it’s me, but I prefer my sci-fi movies to be more on the shooty, killy side of the moon. Sci movies which tend towards the thought-provoking or introspective or intellectual tend to not be my jam, unless they are singularly brilliant. This is singularly bland. I’m sure I’d probably enjoy it if I saw it again now, or enjoy it more than what I remember from my first and only viewing decades ago, but I have no desire to return to it.

Contact

Re-read my entry for Gattaca.

In & Out

In the VHS player once, then out and into the bin never to be mentioned again.

Mortal Kombat Annihilation

I was a big fan of the first Mortal Kombat movie. Not because it was amazing or anything, but because I was an obsessive fan of the games at the time, and because it made a decent fist at converting a videogame about muscle-bound freaks tearing each others’ arms off and ‘getting over here’, into a wholly entertaining 90 mins. The sequel, which I waited and waited for, comes with all the annoying cast changes you would expect and an even more overblown and silly plot. Worse, it takes its script from the Batman & Robin school of writing, with dialogue last seen scrawled in the bathroom stall of an Eastern European drug den. Even the fighting and introductions of fan favourite fighters is a complete let down. Lets hope the new movie lives up to the hype of the ridiculous trailer.

Mrs Brown

Maybe I now have an innate dislike of anything with ‘Mrs Brown’ in the title thanks to that awful sitcom, but this came first and is equally unwatchable. Lets go through the list of things Nightman cannot abide – Costume Drama? English? Quirky humour? The monarchy? This was going to be on my list before it was even released.

Bean

In a year of personal let downs, this was probably the most heinous. Mr Bean is one of my favourite TV shows of all time. I still watch every episode every year. Rowan Atkinson’s creation is comedy perfection. But like almost every attempt to bring a British comedy show to the big screen, the movie loses everything which made (makes) the show so wonderful. Gone are the set pieces, the humour is changed to cater to a more American audience – a bizarre change when the show is both Universal and timeless – and having Bean following a larger form plot, such as it is, simply isn’t as interesting as seeing him ramble aimlessly from scene to scene and mishap to mishap. Luckliy, the sequel is much better, but I think the day I saw this was the day my childhood died.

The Full Monty

Once again…. lets just go through the list. English? Quirky comedy? Basically a musical? As interesting as (some of) Britpop was in the 90s, the same cannot be said for the films of the era. An unbelievable success, in that I cannot believe anyone paid to see this.

Let us know in the comments what steamers I missed, or if you think I should re-evaluate any of my picks above!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Movies Of 1999!

We’re into a new (old) millennium in our trawl back through my yearly lists, and this time we’ve stumbled upon our first mega-list. Twenty movies! This might take a while…

20: The Sixth Sense (US) M Night Shyamalan

I get pissed off quite easily by hype, or by acclaim – or at least I used to. Maybe being such an outsider led me down the narrow vine-choked path of assuming that anything popular is crap. There is a lot of truth in that line of thinking, but it’s also misguided. In the end, you have to view things for yourself and be aware of your biases so that they don’t influence your opinion. In other words, it took me a while to come around to The Sixth Sense. Everyone loved it, from horror fans to serious critics – as a horror fan we tend to become sceptical when one of our dirty brethren becomes accepted by the establishment. I can’t say I ever fell truly into that category of fan, but I understand the sentiment – especially when so many wonderful horror films have been overlooked. I tend to feel like the movie isn’t as powerful with repeat viewings – most will say the opposite is true. Once the film has revealed its secrets, there isn’t a lot for me to enjoy here. Naturally the twist is one I guessed fairly early on, but with all round decent plotting, a heady atmosphere, and strong performances, it remains a seminal and entertaining horror movie.

19: Girl, Interrupted (US) James Mangold

It’s the film which catapulted Angelina Jolie into the A Listers, but I was always more invested in this because of Winona Ryder and Brittany Murphy. Mangold was fresh off Cop Land which was one of my favourites of 97 so I was keen to see what we could do with a mostly female cast. There are all round great performances here, a timely soundtrack, and even though it’s a period piece it feels very modern – there are problems here which society hasn’t adequately solved yet. It’s not a film I revisit often, over most of the others on this list, but it packed a punch first time round.

18: The Green Mile (US) Frank Darabont

It’s not every day that you take a Stephen King novel and adapt it into one of the most well-loved films of all time. Frank Darabont did it twice. While The Green Mile isn’t as acclaimed as Shawshank, it is an equally epic character journey set in a hopeless world and is one of those rare occasions where the director successfully understands the core of the King’s work and is able to translate it. It is a little more sentimental than his earlier feature, but lets not forget it’s a film about the rape and murder of two young girls and a man suffering the torment of life on Death Row. Similar to Shawshank we have a terrific cast knocking it out of the park, and a story which reminds you that sometimes there is light at the end of the tunnel.

17: Shiri (SK) Kang je Gyu

I can’t say for sure, but Shiri was the the first film I saw from South Korea that I understood was a South Korean film. Growing up, I knew my martial arts movies from China, my action movies from Hong Kong, and my horror movies from Japan – but South Korea was some other strange entity. Turns out they could do the aforementioned genres as well as anyone else. Shiri is a crime thriller which is likely the least seen movie on this list. It’s also a fish – which may be important. There is a fast pace with the stylish direction of much of 90s HK action – fans of those movies should be at home here – and while it does often feel like a homage, there’s enough cultural nuance to make it fresh, at least for someone like me.

The film starts out with a group of North Korean soldiers – best of the best types – who are sent to South Korea to commit acts of terror, espionage, and murder. We then follow the South Korean forces in charge of hunting down these spies, leading to plenty of gunplay and startling revelations. Those unfamiliar with SK Cinema will recognise a few of the performers – namely Yunjin Kim (Sun from Lost), and Song Kang-Ho (Parasite, Snowpiercer) so it is a good place to start if you’re interested in exploring movies from this region.

16: The Iron Giant (US) Brad Bird

In all honesty – The Iron Giant is a badly written story by Ted Hughes. Seriously, it does read like it was written by an illiterate child. Create to Brad Bird then for scrapping the bullshit and getting to the emotional core of the story – the fear and paranoia and friendship. WB really dropped the ball on this one, as it is easily one of the best animated movies of the decade, and if you want to go up against Disney you need to market correctly. No-one saw it at the time, but it has since gained a new audience and respect, and it’s every bit as essential at the best output of the year, animated or otherwise.

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

I shouldn’t really like American Pie, but I suppose it is my Porkies. Or my Dazed And Confused. Every generation has their balls-out teen oriented movie which caters towards those of that age at that point in time, and that just happened to be me in 1999 or thereabouts. It’s the age old story of a bunch of horny teens trying to bust a nut before Prom, whether that be with a girlfriend, a model, a milf, or indeed – a pie. It’s somehow charming and helped launch a lot of careers, many of which didn’t go anywhere, and launched a franchise with rapidly diminished returns, and launched a series of clones none of which were very good. So it’s all the more remarkable that this one is still fairly funny and works as a snapshot of what teen life was like at the end of the 90s.

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

While David Cronenberg had continued to make interesting films through the 90s, I felt his movies, if not his subject matter, had become a little too…. tame? Mainstream? While the budgets were higher and I think he clearly grew as a Director, the films didn’t mean as much to me when compared with his 80s work. Existenz is a nice merging of his big ideas, his mainstream flirting, and his body horror, exploring humanity’s leap forwards into software, videogame technology, escapism, and reality. It’s like a pseudo-sequel to Videodrome and every bit as captivating, even as it keeps you at arm’s length. Suffering a little from going up alongside The Matrix, the film follows a game designer who is stalked by assassins in a world where two major competing companies look to design the most realistic virtual reality experience. As you would expect, there’s a lot of bizarre visuals and ‘nothing is at is seems’ shenanigans, but the stellar cast including Sarah Polley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Willem Defoe, Jude Law, and Ian Holm keep matters as grounded as is possible.

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

Jim Jarmusch has always been one of ‘those’ directors. People know him and either love or hate his work, but he does whatever the hell he wants. I think Ghost Dog is my favourite movie by him, and it may be his most accessible film. Essentially, Forest Whitaker is a hitman of the Leon variety – quiet, solitary, and lives by a code – specifically an ancient Samurai code and book called the Hagakure. He works for the Mafia but finds himself conflicted and hunted after a hit early in the movie. The film is him processing his thoughts and morals and methodically going about the business of killing, but it’s done in a fairly stylish way with an air of detached cool. It’s probably the first Jarmusch film I would recommend to newbs.

12: Music Of The Heart (US) Wes Craven

What the hell is this doing here? There’s no reason I should enjoy this, but I do. It’s the same old story you’ve seen before – a passionate teacher goes to a ‘dangerous’ school, and teaches them about art/music/life/literature/love instead of guns and drugs and sex. It’s that film, but for whatever reason I always enjoy these.

11: Office Space (US) Mike Judge

Mike Judge always makes watchable, addictive stuff. He has had a fairly sizeable influence on my life, or my entertainment preferences, with Beavis And Butthead and King Of The Hill being two of my favourite formative TV shows. It took me a while to get on board with his movie work, but they’re all gold. This is the most meme heavy work – there are images from this film I’d wager most people have seen without knowing the origin. Even twenty years on, the film is still the most accurate depiction of office life I’ve ever seen – nailing the dialogue, the malaise, and the characters to a T. All that would be great, but it’s stupidly funny too.

10: The Mummy (US) Stephen Sommers

The Mummy is just one of those pure popcorn entertainment films which ticks all my boxes for a good Cinema time. The effects were excellent at the time, the cast were great fun and you could tell they enjoyed every moment of making it, and it remains an excellent throwback to Indiana Jones escapades of my youth.

9: Fight Club (US/Germany) David Fincher

In all honesty, it took me a while to come around on Fight Club. It pissed me off that the film was revered so highly as this huge game-changing, life-changing thing, and it pissed me off that it seemed to be creating a cult of disciples too dim to realise that the very film they worshipped was mocking them. Taken purely on its own merits, it’s a dark and dirty treat which questions aspects of masculinity and 20th Century vice, and it’s shot with Fincher’s trademark gloom as if every camera is a recovering addict just emerging from a pit of toilet filth. Plenty of good performances abound, lots of one-liners – I just don’t buy the whole life-changing aspect.

8: Man On The Moon (US) Milos Forman

Growing up far from the US in a post 1970s world, I didn’t have any idea who Andy Kaufman was. Over time, as I got more into comedy and film, I learned about Taxi and heard Kaufman’s name, but I wasn’t aware he was such a big deal, and suh a fascinating character until this film was released. I was miffed that this flew so far under the radar at the time, and I tried telling people that it was Carrey’s best performance. It’s only in recent years that the film is now being re-evaluated, especially in the aftermath of that Jim Carrey Documentary. In any case, this is a comedy fan’s masterclass, a film with laughs, absurdity, and pathos in equal measure, with an Oscar worthy Carrey performance and great support.

7: Dogma (US) Kevin Smith

I’m not Catholic, but I did grow up never far from Church, Bible, Preacher, and Verse. If there’s any connective tissue between most religions of this world, it’s their attempts to make you feel inferior, guilty, and to keep you under control – like a virus, they do these things to give themselves meaning. Or do they make you a more positive, caring person? Bottom line – we’re all different, religious or not, dicks or not. Kevin Smith takes aim at, well, dogma, with his simple plot probing more questions than you would expect in a film which features a giant turd monster. The film follows Affleck and Damon as two Angels who find a loophole which allows them to get back into Heaven, having been expelled by The Lord. Unfortunately, we learn that if they succeed then that would prove that God is fallible, and the world, the universe would crumble and cease to exist. Along for the ride are plenty of View Askew familiars, Alan Rickman, Alanis Morissette, Chris Rock, Linda Fiorentino, and Salma Hayek in a bikini – which is of critical import. Like Smith’s best work, it’s funny, provocative, challenging, and stupid in equal measure.

6: End Of Days (US) Peter Hyams

1999 was a strange time. I was there to see it, to laugh at the paranoia, to get drunk at all the best parties, and to consume all of the cultural oddities from film to music which cropped up. Thankfully, humanity at large took it all in the best of spirits, whereas I feel like if 1999 was more like today’s culture – we’d all be fucked by Right Wing Crazed extremists preaching censorship and control, and using the End Of Days as another tool to make themselves the big boys of the yard. In 1999, we were all a little more innocent, hopeful, but that didn’t stop Arnie adorning a sidearm or two and going to war with Rapey little Gabey Byrne’s Satan. Byrne’s Satan is a lovely malevolent creature, fucking your wife right in front of you, then asking you to pay him for the pleasure, hunting for babies to munch on, and patting his lips with glee at carnage created or witnessed. The tail end of the 90s wasn’t the most impressive for Arnie – his star was on the wane and his political ambitions were at the fore – yet he still had enough clout to take on the Dark One and save us all from eternal damnation. Or allow us all to live long enough to see a different sort of demon expose the failings of humanity from atop perch bought with ignorance and hate.

5: Audition (Japan) Takashi Miike

Miike makes a dozen films each year, but perhaps none have had the impact of Audition, culturally and critically, and commercially. This is the Miike film that people who haven’t heard of the man know. This is also a film which can make a grown man wince and cry and look sidelong at the woman sitting beside him and wonder internally why she wears a wry smile during the film’s final ten minutes. It’s gloriously shot, a film of two halves tied together by two captivating leads and an unnerving sense of dread, of something being not quite right. It’s one of those films which makes Hollywood Only fans reconsider their short-sighted fandom and dare to peer beyond their sunny but bland shores.

4: South Park (US) Trey Parker

I watched this as a double header with American Pie at a friend’s 17th Birthday. Both accompanied each other well, but this got the most laughs, and the least uncomfortable boners. It’s one of the very few select instances of a TV show making a good movie. It’s not just good – it’s fantastic. Plus it does the near impossible, and makes a Musical…not shit. The songs are funny, you’ll laugh till your tears turn red, and you’ll wonder why the hell else other great shows can’t match the feat.

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

If you were to choose maybe ten movies which defined the 90s, there’s a strong possibility that The Matrix would appear on that list. And on most people’s lists. It’s one of the most influential movies of the era, one of the most visually striking, but it’s also simply a fun and action packed ride, delivering blockbuster thrills, and engaging story, and plenty of dialogue which every dick has been misquoting or mismeme-ing since. It’s a pity the sequels were what they wore, but for a few years this was the peak and the future of action. It made or re-made stars of Keanu Reeves, Fisbourne, and Hugo Weaving, and made it cool (apparently) to strut around in long black coats and shades in the Summer Sun, or at pitch black night. I did this before it was cool, and when people began calling me Neo, I would state plainly that I was mimicking a Terminator – the philistines.

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

Covered in my Top Movies Of The Decade, so check it out.

1: Bangkok Dangerous (Thailand) The Pang Brothers

Covered in my Top Movies Of The Decade, so check it out.

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

Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier (1972)

*Spoiler Alert – this post contains ludicrous generalizations

Americans. They love their guns and war. Obviously I’m painting with crude, broad strokes, but as a non-American, that is your stereotype. British people have weird teeth and may all be lair-dwelling super villains, Germans are efficient pool-side lounger-grabbers, the French are from France, The Irish are Drunk, people from the Middle East are terrorists, people from Africa are starving, and Americans are loud, overweight, obnoxious, gun-toting zealots. Stereotypes are bullshit, but sprinkled with nuggets of truth. Look at the way veterans of Vietnam were treated, especially those speaking up about the truth in this stunning documentary. Look at what is happening today, with warmongering and tweet-tiger-poking. History repeats itself, humanity loses, and the rich get to work on getting richer and making the rest of us forget.

In case you hadn’t yet surmised, the Winter Soldier I’m talking about today is not a Marvel action fest, but a timely documentary made numerous filmmakers and is based around the Winter Soldier War Crimes hearing of 1971 – something I had no clue existed prior to watching the film. The film interviews and documents testimony and eye witness accounts, from US soldiers mainly, of the terrible acts they saw committed in the name of their flag, their Country, their freedom, acts which are far and away from the regular horrors of war. We learn how many of the soldiers signed up or were conscripted under the old lie of fighting for freedom of good old Uncle Sam, white picket fences, Sunday baseball games, and all the other bullshit, but were not in any way prepared for the nature of combat physically or mentally, were trained to be blinded to the suffering of others, to follow orders without question even though the orders were clearly wrong, and were not made aware of little things such as the Geneva Convention. Basically, if your superior told you to crush a baby’s head under your boot, you were required to get stomping.

Witness accounts tell, in detail and often with fury and disbelief of Vietnamese children being shot to pieces just because they happened to be walking down the road, of hostages being taken just so they could be dropped out of helicopters for fun, of innocents being slaughtered indiscriminately for the crime of not being American, and so on. Most of the interviews are from soldiers only recently returned from the war, and filmed in black and white to give a news reel feel, but there are snippets of colour footage of troops in battle.

If you didn’t already have a ready made assumption about the recent history of US war, then you will after viewing this. Especially given what you may know about the continued treatment of ‘the enemy’ in subsequent wars – one only needs to see how prisoners – and often innocents – were treated post 9/11 in American camps to know that there is a deep, awful, and unavoidable history and systematic problem with savagery, with evil, within American society. At least where it concerns the Military, and those who sent men and women to war. It has been over a year since I first watched this film, and over 50 years since the US was arsing about needlessly in Vietnam – and yet very little has changed. People in power will abuse said power, people with guns will fire them at anyone and everyone as long as they don’t have the finger or the trigger turned inwards, and the media, the flag-wavers, the people at the top will turn a blind eye to it all. If you think you’re Country cares about you – you are wrong. If you think your Country cares about others – you are wrong. If you think your country cares about Veterans – you are wrong. Your Country simply wants all the toys, all the control, and wants to wave its dick around to show it’s the baddest motherfucker around. Wake up – for the good, honest Americans and people around the world, it’s only your voice and power which will make a change.

It’s no surprise then that Winter Solder was ignored upon release and that all mainstream stations refused to show it for decades. Can’t have people knowing we’re sending our boys away to kill actual boys and girls, then bringing them back more broken than ever with only a couple of badges and a pat on the back to keep them warm at night – because of course we’re not going to really look after them are we? Winter Soldier should be required viewing for everyone, or at least anyone with an interest in history, but especially for the flag-waving Right who may be faced with the sound of their own screams in their own echo chamber of bias, and the Left who need reminding that change is absolutely necessary, and for everyone else regardless of affinity who should know the extremes people will go to for the Stars and Stripes.

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2000!

It’s 2000! Sure it took until 2020 for The Great Plague to come and strike us all down, but for a while in 2000 people were freaking out. Also – there were movies. Here are some of my favourites. Brother was Takeshi Kitano testing his toes again in the US – it’s fun, mainstream. American Psycho is all chainsaws and suits and nudity. Amores Perros is another classic of South American cinema which still feels fresh, while Baise Moi has nothing ‘fresh’ about – it’s scary, filthy, and unmissable. Erin Brockovich is one of the rare Oscar bait movies which I enjoy. In The Mood For Love is trippy, sexy goodness. Memento is trippy trippy goodness. MI 2 is probably my favourite in the series, though everyone else says it is the weakest.

10: Almost Famous. (USA) Cameron Crowe.

Almost Famous dropped at the right time for people like me, of my generation. I was 16/17, ready to set off in the world and make an impact,brimming with dreams and wonder and a desire for experience. Plus I was already a big fan of a lot of the rock music of the 1960s and 70s. Almost Famous has that hopeful, free vibe flowing through – a great cast, terrific soundtrack, and hits my personal sweet spot as a coming of age story too following a kid trying to break into a world of writing, music, heroes, and rock and roll excess.

9: Gladiator (USA/UK). Ridley Scott.

Regular readers will already know this, but it’s worth calling out here for those of you who only read the list posts. From a very early age, I had an obsession with Greek and Roman myths and legends which eventually became intertwined with the genuine history of those countries. I studied Latin in school for 7 years, and part of my University Studies was in ‘Classics’ – the literature, language, and philosophy of Greece and Rome. My Latin class in School (there only was eight of us) actually went on a School trip to see Gladiator after the rave reviews one of my classmates was giving it. Aside from finally getting a decent version of the Trojan Epics, this is the best film someone like me could have hoped for. It’s an epic without all the faff which came later to the ‘genre’, a story of personal grief, struggle, and justice, a remarkable depiction of Rome with bloody battles and at least a couple of great leading performances. Super soundtrack too.

8: Best In Show (USA). Christopher Guest.

Just a quick update since I originally wrote this post – after the great Fred Willard sadly passed away. What a massive loss to the comedy world it is.

I went through a Christopher Guest phase in the early 2000s, repeatedly watching this, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting For Guffman while laughing my ass off and gobbling down illegitimate muffins. This one is a large step up in laughs from Waiting For Guffman and is just as strong a movie as This Is Spinal Tap. Set in the, already laughable, world of Dog Shows it follows various hopeful Dog Owners as they prepare their pooches, in often surreal situations, for a chance at stardom at the prestigious Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. All of the usual Guest favourites are out in force – Eugene Levy (who literally has two left feet), Catherine O’Hara (whose promiscuous past keeps catching up with her), Fred Willard (as the scene stealing over exuberant co-host of the event), and John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean (as the bitchy gay couple).

Like the best mockumentaries, this has a fair level of understanding of the subject matter meaning the satire and detail hit the mark more often than not. The cast are all comedy veterans and are both at ease and having great fun with the material, so it makes for comfortable viewing – there are no try-hards and the jokes range from dialogue based to slapstick, from visual to surreal, all with a light-hearted sprinkle of vignette silliness.

7: Dancer in The Dark (Denmark). Lars Von Trier

There’s a strong case for Dancer In The Dark being Von Trier’s best movie. It works on a number of levels, but most crucially it doesn’t feel like either exploitation or experimentation – it works as a brutal and downbeat drama with less of a focus on the director’s quirks and ego, and more on the character and plot. Bjork is spellbinding, the soundtrack features a few great songs, and the rest of the cast give notable performances. Is it manipulative? Sure – it’s a Lars Von Trier movie so that is part of the package, but it asks a lot of questions of the viewer and wrenches its answers unflinchingly.

6: Unbreakable (USA). M Night Shyamalan

Unbreakable remains Shyamalan’s best work – The Sixth Sense continues to get the plaudits, namely because it was first and people were so taken in by the twist, but Unbreakble is more accomplished in almost every level – a gloomy take on the comic book genre which you don’t even realize is a comic book movie until the final scenes, unless you’ve been paying attention closely or reading these spoilers.

5: Pitch Black (USA). David Twohy

I’m probably remembering this wrong, but I’m almost certain I saw the trailer for this a solid year before it was actually released. I remember catching the trailer and thinking ‘what the hell was that, that looked epic’. But nobody else mentioned it afterwards and I began to think it was all a dream. Then a year later it returned and I grabbed a couple of people and raced to the Cinema shouting ‘this is that trailer I told you all about’! What was even better was that Aeryn from Farscape was in it – of course nobody in the screening knew what the hell Farscape was and told me to shut the hell up. Plus you have Keith David in a legit big screen outing! But the film is all about Vin Diesel and his Riddick character – one that would become less interesting with each sequel, but here he has just the right amount of mystery to make him an enigma. Oh yes, it’s also set on a planet filled with near-unstoppable monsters in near-unstoppable numbers which only come out in the dark, and it just so happens that the planet is entering it’s ‘Winter’ Season when all light is extinguished. It was the best pure alien creature feature since Aliens. 

4: X-Men (USA). Bryan Singer

The only reason I really wanted to watch X-Men was because I loved the 90s cartoon. I’vev never been a big comic book fan and the comic movies I’ve enjoyed are few and far between, given how many there have been. When I like them, I love them and X-Men seemed more interesting given the cast and director. It was better than I expected and while it lacks much of an emotional core, it is more clever and socially relevant than whatever passes for superhero entertainment these days. Plus there’s a tonne of kick-ass action and the cast are committed.

3: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China/HK/Taiwan/USA). Ang Lee

By 2000, I was already well versed in Asian Cinema, particularly Kung fu movies. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Wuxia type movies, preferring realism in my tales of revenge. Ang Lee brought a heightened sense of realism to the genre, removing much of the magic but keeping the romance and string-work, bringing the beauty of the best of Hong Kong and Chinese Cinema in a more palatable way to Western audiences – without the flag waving patriotism in other words. Established stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat give a sense of familiarity and credibility, while Zhang Ziyi became a household name thanks to her blend of teeth shattering beauty and baddassery.

2: Final Destination (USA). James Wong

It’s in my best of the decade, so check for more info there.

1: Battle Royale (Japan). Kinji Fukasaku

It’s my favourite film of the decade. It’s also the best film since 2000.

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

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two (including the winner)

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2002!

So I thought I had written this post and was ready to submit before the Least Favourites Of 2002. But I had not, so I’m blasting this one out quickly. Dog Soldiers is one of those rare good Werewolf movies, one which is filled with action, humour, and plenty of bloody violence. It also established Neil Marshall as a new and exciting director. Bubba Ho-Tep reminded horror fans that yes, Bruce Campbell was still alive and yes, Don Coscarelli was still making movies, and yes both were still capable of making a hit. It has cult written all over it, what with its unique cast and story by Joe Lansdale – an ancient Mummy attacks an old peoples’ home and only a pair of residents, who claim to be Elvis and JFK, can save the world. It never quite reaches the heights I hoped it would, but it’s still a fun, silly, and sometimes poignant ride.

10: City Of God (Brazil) Fernando Meirelles

I didn’t know much about South American cinema but by the time 2002 had rolled around I had expanded into modern Spanish territory and was beginning to pick up the odd cheap South American DVD wherever I could. City Of God came with a tonne of acclaim and by the time I saw it I understood why – I’ve never been a fan of conventional crime or gang based movies – British stuff particularly winds me up, but when the film has a fresh setting or a take I’m unfamiliar with then it’s all the more likely to win me over. Add to the fact that this doubles as a coming of age story and it has a foot and leg over most films in this genre. Meirelles hasn’t been able to replicate this for me, even with his later critical darlings, and he doesn’t make a lot of movies – but this is still an early 2000s classic.

9: Equilibrium (US) Kurt Wimmer

Speaking of people who don’t make a lot of movies, Kurt Wimmer bowed out after the disaster that was Ultraviolet. It’s a shame, because Equilibrium is probably the best of the post Matrix action movies before superheroes came and blandly stomped all over everything else. It’s stylish and detached and has a more interesting visual approach and message than something more popular like V For Vendetta has. Plus there’s a  lot of guns and Christian Bale.

8: Hero (China) Zhang Yimou

I had been a fan of Zhang Yimou for a while, but it wasn’t until Hero that he became a more familiar name in the West. Hero ticks plenty of boxes for me, and for being a worldwide hit – but maybe the most important and long-lasting factor is simply how beautiful, stunning it all is. In a time when much of Hollywood’s output could be bland visually, Hero was a revelation, bursting with colour and creativity. On top of that there are wonderfully choreographed fight scenes and a rousing score.

7: Infernal Affairs (HK) Andrew Lau/Alan Mak

I mentioned crime thrillers at the top – Infernal Affairs isn’t exactly outlandish or particularly unique – but it does have a twisting narrative and focus on character and world building without relying on the usual quirks and beats police procedural movies do. It’s also a who’s who of Hong Kong/Chinese cinema with many familiar faces putting out stellar work – Andy Lau and Tony Leung, along with Eric Tsang and Anthony Wong are the most notable figures. Even if you’ve seen The Departed, it’s worth going back to catch this.

6: The Pianist (France/Germany/Poland/UK) Roman Polanski

Say what you will about Polanski the person, there’s no doubting the power and skill possessed in his movies. The Pianist sees Adrian Brody as the title character as WWII erupts in Warsaw – his transformation over the years as the city becomes increasingly devastated, and his part in various uprising and survival attempts. There’s no obvious, visual, big bad to get behind here, only a city becoming a ruin and the exterior sights and sounds of war, Brody gives a once in a lifetime performance, and Polanski relays perhaps parts of his own childhood into scenes of sadness, degradation, and hope.

5: Dark Water (Japan) Hideo Nakata

I didn’t immediately love Dark Water – at least not in the same way I did Ringu. Although it feels inaccurate to use the term action packed when it comes to Dark Water, it definitely moves a notch or two faster than Nakata’s breakout masterpiece. It still has a greater focus on introspection and atmosphere than noisy jump-scares and it still has an abundance of creepy long-haired shenanigans, and it’s another movie based on a Koji Suziki piece – it should feel familiar to Ringu fans. Overall it’s a story of motherhood, guilt, protection, wrapped up in a supernatural mystery as a young mother and her child in the midst of a divorce move into a low rent apartment block with various… plumbing issues. It’s an unexpectedly moving story with a drip drip drip of scares before a brief flood towards the end. See, I can do cheap metaphors too!

4: The Eye (HK/Singapore) The Pang Brothers

The Pang Brothers, for a while, were among the most exciting filmmakers on the planet. I loved everything they did and this early foray into horror took the influence of Ringu and added(literal) explosive elements to make a more rollercoaster type horror movie. Scares come from any and all directions here, and the use of audio is second to none in setting up many of the film’s most tense moments. The film has some of my favourite scares to date and retains a creepy power even after all these years and viewings. For anyone not in the know – it’s a film about a young woman who has an eye operation to regain her sight. This being a horror movie, it’s more of an eye transplant.. and oh the things the previous owner must have seen. Blind from an early age, the operation is apparently successful as she begins to pick up shapes and objects -even if some are a little odd and disorienting. Dismissing these as a natural side effect, her sight soon returns, along with the bonus gift of being able to see ghosts. And the ghosts know she can see them. It’s a fun, B-movie idea explored before, but to the film’s credit it doubles down in the first half on the scares before delving into an interesting quest for the second half – it never feels boring or routine.

3: The Twilight Samurai (Japan) Yoji Yamada

I’ll be honest – in 2002 I was picking up any old Asian film which sounded like it might be interesting (which of course led to me seeing plenty of rubbish). I didn’t know who Yoji Yamada was back then, and I got this because it starred Hiroyuki Sanada and had a cool name. The Twilight Samurai may be ‘the best’ movie released in 2002. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, and absolutely should have won. Sanada is a poor Samurai working in a small town in, basically, an office job. Times are tough and the world seems to be moving ahead without him and his skills, yet his honour and family give him a sort of contentment. The opening of the movie sees the death of his wife, leaving him as the patriarch and matriarch of his household, much to the dismay of the townspeople. He does not have time for frivolities with his co-workers, instead spending his time looking after his daughters and elderly mother. It’s a very – pro traditional Japanese values type of film, one which honours the sacrifices made by the main character and treats him as the everyday hero he is. Don’t worry – there’s plenty of sword swinging too. Sanada deserved an Oscar nod here too.

2: 28 Days Later (UK) Danny Boyle

It’s 28 Days Later – of course it’s going to be here. It’s also in my Favourite movies of the decade post, so go read that.

1: Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (SK) Chan Wook Park

This brutal, gut-wrenching classic also made my Favourite movies of the decade post – so go read that.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: One (The Winner)

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