First off, let me say that this is not my top ten films – sort of defeats the purpose of the list title, but then it’s my view that there are simply too many great films in existence, for all sorts of reasons for me to even consider trying to state that only ten are my favourites.
This list is therefore a list of my top ten examples of potentially many movies in the same category – simply by definition therefore, this list is in no particular rank. Check with me tomorrow, and I’ll probably give you an entirely different list.
1. La femme Nikita (Dir. Luc Besson 1990)
An exceptional film in itself, with the likes of Luc Besson and Tcheky Karyo, but here as a good example of how Hollywood can take a good and influential foreign film and have the sheer arrogance to think that a American remake will sell better. At the same time, also an example of the great foreign films that even the UK audience don’t watch at their best as they are so conceited to think that it should be dubbed rather than simply read the subtitles – all of the acting nuances evaporate into nothing.
2. The Naked Truth (Dir. Mario Zampi 1957)
Not only an example of the lost filmmaking talent of the UK (here, I’m talking crew and writers) from the golden age of Ealing (inc. all the other lost studios, like Islington where many of these were made), but also a time when a collection of great actors and comedians would come together against personal differences and create something magical. Today, I’m not even sure that I could list a group of this nature, let alone whether it would be even physically (and financially) possible.
3. McVicar (Dir. Tom Clegg 1980)
A terrible film, which I watch every time I want a laugh, but actual quality, good or bad is not the point of this example. Why? Because ignoring its artistic merits, especially as it’s from an old hand like Tom Clegg (huge amounts of TV, including all of the Sharpe’s), it’s a film which is an example of a great film maker being overruled by money. I know from personal experience of the film crew and the prison service how much everyone was grinding their teeth through the production of this travesty, yet could not do a thing about it. This is therefore my favourite film setting artistic interpretation against artistic integrity.
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Dir Stanley Kubrick 1968)
For a moment ignoring story (if that’s at all possible with a man like Arthur C. Clarke), this film was ahead of its time in regards to production values in so many ways – remember that we are still talking the late ’60s here, yet have set design and film editing better than many SF films prior to the mid-80s. Many studios up until the ground breaking Star Wars and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (the first I think showing the great ILM’s distinctive style showing through), and most certainly the Academy, still viewed SF as either a money making tool not to be taken seriously, or the realms of the B-movie.
5. Charade (Dir. Stanley Donen 1963)
Well, what can I say. Combine the likes of Hitchcock and Stanley Donen with Grant, Hepburn, Kelly and Mason, and it’s difficult to not get something special. In the case of Charade, we have so many names coming together (Mattau, Coburn, Kennedy and even Ned Glass and Jaques Marin) with great character performances and one liners, that I’m not sure we’ll ever see the likes of these movies again (considering the current liking for remakes in Hollywood right now, not sure I want to. Hey, Hollywood, just…don’t…touch…)
6. An Ungentlemanly Act (Dir. Stuart Urban 1992)
A wonderful and often forgotten voice, Bob Peck starred in this ‘play for television’ (what the US would call a TV film) about the Marine detachment in Port Stanley at the time of the invasion. It includes so much WWII-era ‘Britishness’ that we are now losing, that it’s worth the watch even without the fact that it’s a great production in itself. This is my favourite example of plays turned movie, bridging the gap between theatre and film in many ways, and returning some focus to often nebulous screen-only productions.
7. Three Days of the Condor (Dir. Sydney Pollack 1975)
Even though often regarded as a precursor of the Bourne films in terms of story background, despite being typically slow in places like many a Robert Redford film, this is one of my favourites for a totally different reason. Including Fay Dunaway, Cliff Robertson and Max Von Sydow, there is not much more to it than that despite at least one action sequence and the use of firearms. It’s therefore a ‘big’ film which I feel would still be well within the reach of an amateur production: a case of how you use your tools, rather than what your tools are.
8. Avatar (Dir. James Cameron 2009)
Despite being a huge SF fan, from a story perspective I wasn’t overly impressed with Avatar – too many elements that I recognised from other places, especially literary. One can’t ignore it’s other redeeming features however, most notably that it is one of those groundbreaking films which introduce technological advances into the industry which will have shock waves reverberating for years to come. It’s one of those events where, if you have not seen Avatar in 3D, you need to just to be able to say, ‘I was there’.
9. Moulin Rouge (Dir. Baz Luhrmann 2001)
Moulin Rouge is one of those films that people love or hate, but in many cases of the wrong reasons. I have spoken to too many people who say they walked out in the first few minutes – a travesty in itself for many movies as you are not giving it a chance – but for this film those first few minutes are a fast paced, farcical ‘bring the audience up to speed’ before a musical production that breaks the hold of the big scale Hollywood musical piece or Disney teen-bopper. If you have not seen the DVD extras for this movie, you need to, just to understand so many of the design issues, both physical and musical, that needed to be overcome.
10. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Dir. Peter Jackson 2001-2003)
Many people do not realise that when Tolkein wrote Lord of the Rings, he was reclaiming British history which had been overwritten by the Norman conquests. With such an endeavour therefore, any movie maker attempting to challenge such a huge background needs to have a very clear vision. It is therefore testament to Peter Jackson that he carried it off, but also testament to the executives at the incumbent production studio (at the time), New Line Cinema, for looking at the two-film breakdown which Peter Jackson had prepared (typical of all attempts to bring LOTR to the screen, fearing that there was no way that any studio would shell out for three such massive productions) and declaring that two films were not enough for such an epic. They immediately requested him to re-write the production plan for three…that’s belief and commitment.
If anyone has not seen the DVDs from the collectors edition of these three films (each uncut film being over 2 discs, totalling something like 21 DVDs for the set), please see me if you want to borrow them. Covering all aspects of production of these epics by WETA, they are really a must see for anyone considering either amateur or professional move-making.
So there you have it – agree or disagree as is your wont. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out the lists from other OVFM members!! Click HERE to return to the menu page!