11 October 2010

The Mad Prophet #100 (Kind Of)

This is as close to celebratory as I get.
I've been keeping count even after I axed the numbering in the titles, and by my reckoning, this is the 100th post since I stole adopted Howard Beale's moniker back in August last year. Some of you may not have been reading that long, but some may have been around since the very first post at this blog, my review of The Dark Knight over two years ago now... what do you want, a cookie?

Things have changed- I've found a rhythm and settled into it, kind of. Posting remains sporadic, opinions remain ranty and "Mark Kermode" is still the reason most of you found this site, according to my search stats. In the shadow of his flappy hands, I still stand, and so it's difficult to know how to commemorate 100 Mad Prophet posts. And then I realised a list would probably do it.

In 100 posts as the Mad Prophet, I've never actually told you what my favourite films of all time are. I've mentioned one or two here and there, but having not seen every single film ever made, I've been reluctant to share my own worthless ramblings about my personal favourites. But hey, you're here for the ramblings, so here are my top ten favourite films ever.

10. THE BIG LEBOWSKI (Coen, 1998)

Um, what? Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski loses a good rug when mistaken for his millionaire namesake, and as he and his bowling team try to get compensation, they become embroiled in a bizarre conspiracy involving Mrs. Lebowski.

Why for? Star Jeff Bridges recently compared this film to The Godfather, and although I like this more, the comparison with that film's reputation stands up. Making a modest showing on its original release, it's now the cult classic equivalent of Francis Ford Coppola's epic. Always funny, always quotable, and frankly, I've always thought this was the Coens' best work, rather than Fargo. Gee, this turned into Mark's Unpopular Opinions quite quickly. 

9. CINEMA PARADISO (Tornatore, 1988)

Um, what? A filmmaker reminisces upon his childhood in his local church, which doubles for the cinema in his small town, when he receives word that the venerable projectionist has passed away.

Why for? To me, it's the quintessential film for film lovers. Some may be alienated by the sentimentality towards celluloid pleasures, but then these people are soulless. So if you're not a zombie, Tornatore's ode to a bygone age of cinema is as heartwarming as they come, and dammit, I weep every single time I watch it. Ennio Morricone's excellent score and the nigh-on perfect ending see to that. The clip is the former rather than the latter because I don't want to spoil it- go watch the film. 

8. A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (Powell and Pressburger, 1946)

Um, what? Aviator Peter Carter dies in action during the Second World War, but due to bad weather conditions, he isn't taken into the afterlife right away. In the 20 hours it takes for heaven's administrators to catch up with him, he falls in love, and must make the case that he died too soon if he is to be with her.

Why for? In January, I argued that The Lovely Bones was one of the better films of the year, even though I sort of agreed that Peter Jackson's vision of the afterlife was a little too psychedelic, and overwhelmed by CG. Here's a film that circumvented that by putting the hereafter in black and white to contrast with the technicolour mortal realm. And a high concept makes for the greatest romance of all time, in my humble opinion. Simply enough, they don't make them like this no more...

7. PAN'S LABYRINTH (Del Toro, 2006)

Um, what? In 1944, an oppressed young girl escapes the reality of her brutal stepfather and fascist Spain by entering a dark fantasy world, in which she must pass three gruesome tests in order to prove her royal lineage and reunite with her real father.

Why for? By turns, it's brutal and fantastical- a grown-up genre savvy answer to Alice in Wonderland. Memorable characters and a great script are married perfectly with the splendid visuals. It also boasts The Scariest Movie Monster Ever, as endorsed by your Mad Prophet- see the video above. Del Toro's demented masterpiece.

6. BACK TO THE FUTURE (Zemeckis, 1985)

Um, what? Dr. Emmett Brown invents a time machine, and high school student Marty McFly accidentally drives it back to 1955, meeting his parents when they were his age and jeopardising his own existence in the process.

Why for? If you don't know, get to your local cinema- they're still showing the film's 25th anniversary remastering. For those still with us, films like this are just magical. It's got plotholes you could drive the DeLorean through, but its enduring appeal is down to the fact that it's a sci-fi film about people and romance rather than technobabble and causality, like the kinda inferior Part II. Make like a tree and go watch it.

5. THE DARK KNIGHT (Nolan, 2008)

Um, what? Batman has organised crime on the run in Gotham City until the arrival of the anarchistic Joker. A trifecta is formed between the caped crusader, Commissioner Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, but all three are tested to their limit by the Joker's campaign of chaos.

Why for? We're two years down the line now, so we've weathered the backlash against this film, and even the insane "making us look bad" machinations of the nutty Nolan fanboys over on the IMDB, so we know by now that this film still has flaws. But you know what? It still doesn't feel like it once you're watching. No comic book movie is this engrossing- it's not what you'd want from a Superman or Spider-Man film, but it's the perfect Batman film, with an unforgettable cast and an aesthetic that still dazzles if you've seen it twice or twenty times.

4. SHAUN OF THE DEAD (Wright, 2004)

Um, what? Shaun drives his girlfriend Liz to breaking point with his persistent inertia, and it feels like the world is ending when she dumps him. Then the zombie apocalypse happens, and with the world really ending, he rallies a ramshackle group of survivors to go to the local pub.

Why for? Edgar Wright is one of my favourite directors, but for me, neither of his other films quite match the sheer brilliance of Shaun. Like The Big Lebowski, it's a comedy that is always funny, and one which always has new surprises no matter how many times I see it. Odd then, that it's so difficult to find usable clips on YouTube. Then again, the Don't Stop Me Now dance number/fight scene should be seen in context to be believed.


Um, what? A New York subway train is hijacked by four men, who demand the Mayor pay a million dollar ransom for the passengers. A battle of wills ensues between the hijackers' leader and a transit police lieutenant, as it seems impossible that the robbers could ever escape...

Why for? Unlike Tony Scott's brainless remake, this is an action film with real class. It deploys great actors to perform an excellent script, and for posterity, it shows an immutable New York spirit. While the remake was obviously tinged with post-9/11 context, the passengers are considerably more ballsy in the superior original. Darkly humorous and gripping by turns, it's another film with an unforgettable ending.

2. TOY STORY (Lasseter, 1995)

Um, what?  Hand-me-down cowboy doll Woody rules the roost amongst his fellow toys, a role which is usurped in the wake of their owner's birthday. His favourite gift is a brand-new spaceman action figure, Buzz Lightyear, who quickly becomes more popular than Woody.

Why for? Fun fact- more people find this blog by searching for Toy Story than any other term. That said, at least one of you sick puppies found me by looking for "baby spiters". But I've spoken of my love of the Toy Story trilogy even more than my distaste for Michael Bay, and there's a reason for that. It's a magnificent series, but the one that holds the spot in my top ten is the first one, for all the added nostalgia value it's gathered since my first viewing at the age of 6. Also, it's near enough perfect.

1. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Spielberg, 1981)

Um, what? With the Nazis combing the desert in search of the dangerously powerful Ark of the Covenant, archaeologist Indiana Jones tries to beat them to it, picking up his old flame Marion Ravenwood along the way.

Why for? I feel I've covered this film considerably less, when you account for how it's my favourite film of all time, and all. It has something for everyone, including a career-defining turn by Harrison Ford, and Marion just being the stuff of life-long crushes (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull doesn't count). The recent announcement of Star Wars being redone in 3D filled me with dread for the day when Lucasfilm turns on its better franchise once again- if they ever tamper with this, I'm redoubling my efforts to leave the planet. What's to say, except that it's my idea of a perfect movie?
If you're surprised by my top ten, or want to share your own all-time favourites, why not leave a comment? It's ironic that Network didn't make this list, really- the whole blog is built around that film. Although my list fluctuates, rest assured that it always makes the top twenty if not the top ten...

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until the 200th post, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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