Movies and [some] television

What is your favourite film? If you can actually answer that question with one movie, then you’re not much of a film fan in my book. A single film that is tops no matter what your mood, how your day went, how focused you are, is simply not possible. Some days you want to watch Earth Girls are Easy; some days not. (Mostly not, but then…)

A few years ago I set out to select my ‘top ten’ movies. When the list grew past 100 I gave up. I hate the increasingly common dumb movies (such as pretty much anything with Mike Myers in it), but if my mind is a certain way, I love Laurel & Hardy—and you don’t get any dumber than Stan having a bad time. I don’t like musicals, except for Singing in the Rain. And Thoroughly Modern Millie. And Fred & Ginger. And some of the crazy 30s things. But, honestly, I don’t like musicals.

If pressed, I have three ‘favourite’ movies—from before the late 70s (technical advances make it unfair to compare across major changes, such as silent/sound, or the huge modern improvements in sound quality, special effects or colour). The three are:

I doubt that any of these have ever appeared in any well-known film critic’s list of 10 best of all time. But I like them a lot. (And The Wrong Box has finally been released on DVD, although it is very difficult to find, and may already be out of print.)

Technical improvements do not necessarily produce better films—King Kong 2005 clearly has ‘better’ special effects, but KK 1933 remains the better movie. (And KK 1976 should be eliminated from our collective memory.) And why are almost all remakes inferior to the original? It is understandable that sequels are usually worse—just milking the cow dry—but to put all that effort into a remake and have it turn out abysmal is a mystery. Did anyone connected to The Day the Earth Stood Still 2009 consider going back to the original short story, instead of the much-different 1951 film? (After finally catching it on telly, I will admit that the re-do isn’t too bad – but why?)

Rather than provide lists of films, organised by genre, which would be rather boring, I will simply say:

For some comments about the wonderful films of Miyazaki, please see Hayao Miyazaki on the Japan page.

How to Steal a Million—film locations

Inspired by the websites discussing filming locations for Amélie, I recently devoted a considerable amount of time to discovering locations for the lovely romantic comedy How to Steal a Million (Twentieth Century–Fox, 1966), with Audrey Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Eli Wallach and Hugh Griffith; directed by William Wyler, music by John Williams (yes, that John Williams—he was not always mere bombast).

Magic lantern shows

As someone who is interested in the early cinema, I had read about some of the predecessors of movies, including a technology referred to as “magic lantern”. In essence, this is simply a slide show, using large glass slides, but that bare description does not do it justice. I was fortunate enough to see a magic lantern show in Cambridge, performed by an expert, the late Mervyn Heard (whose website has gone away). And it was, indeed, magical. Complete with sound effects, transitions, narration and, yes, even motion, it was a marvelous experience.

[some] Television

I use [some] because so much TV is drivel. That is inevitable, given the sheer volume of shows, but still unfortunate. My favourite TV programs of all time (excluding outstanding short series such as Porterhouse Blue (1987), The Singing Detective (1986) and House of Cards (1990 plus sequels):

Probably The Wonder Years should be there as well. I cannot explain the appalling lack of Samurai Pizza Cats on DVD. Shows that I remember having watched avidly when they were new, but which now seem mediocre on DVD/re-runs:

And it is painful to watch Monty Python and see how cheap and nasty the production values were (the Beeb tends to do that). Still great, though.

Recent likes

When I first read a description of Forever – a 200-year-old man who is apparently immortal, although stuck with reanimating in the nearest body of water, sans clothing, when ‘killed’ – my first thought was ‘another lame concept on a pathetic network (ABC)’. But then I saw the cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Judd Hirsch, Lorraine Toussaint, and a name new to me, Alana De La Garza. Tried it; liked it a lot. Excellent writing and structure, with voice-overs by Gruffudd which make enough serious points to outweigh the silly premise. Inevitably, it lasted but one season; cut probably by some network big-shot who was too ‘busy’ to watch it.

Beautiful speaking voices

Why are they all men?! Add in: