The Films We Wish You'd Voted For This Year
Thinking of three films on a single theme that also links to the film we’ve just shown is one of the great, geeky enjoyments of running the film club. It’s often surprising what does win the vote.
Being overly pre-prepared we’ve actually bought DVDs of films one of us was sure would win only to see them get hardly any votes at all (Nigel was convinced you’d all want to watch Saturday Night Fever!).
With the obvious exception of Brigadoon we’ve been pretty well pleased about how the voting’s gone but there are a few films that have been up for the vote that we dearly wish had triumphed.
To complement our Annual Report, these are our five picks each of the also-rans. If you haven't seen any of them, we humbly recommend that you rectify this at your earliest convenience.
If Citizen Kane can be seen as a perfect representation of Welles’ (considerable) ego, Touch of Evil is where he let his (equally considerable) id run riot. The result is a film that, while not as perfect as Kane, is darker, funnier and – arguably – more entertaining. A brilliantly warped piece of Wellesian noir populated by a cast of grotesques David Lynch would give his fluffy white quiff for – encompassing police corruption, organised crime, recreational drugs, racial tension, prostitution, sexual perversion, a truly terrible wig, and erotically-charged conversations about chilli con carne. Not forgetting an opening shot that has justifiably gone down in cinematic history and a great score by Henry Mancini.
Not the greatest film we’ve never shown – just one of the most underrated. A brilliantly throwaway comedy-thriller that fairly zips along, yet still packs a real emotional punch when the final credits roll. Charles Grodin’s mild-mannered accountant almost steals the film from Robert De Niro’s uptight bounty-hunter (a role that is just the right side of self-parody and undoubtedly De Niro’s finest comedic performance). Also, great support from Yaphet Kotto, Joe Pantoliano, and the recently deceased Dennis Farina – who puts in a genuinely chilling performance as a mob boss with a criminal taste in comfortable knitwear. Put simply: more people should see this film.
Yes, The Hustler is The Classic, but (whispers) I actually prefer the belated sequel. Paul Newman reprises his role of ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson and Tom Cruise is totally believable his cocky young protégé Vincent – an untutored talent who gives Felson back his hunger and reminds him that “money won is twice as sweet as money earned”. A film about losers and winners. (But mostly losers.)
Mike Leigh arguably produces his most interesting work when operating outside his comfort zone (see also Vera Drake and Topsy Turvy) and by this criteria Naked is his dark masterpiece. The London depicted here is one of loneliness and of physical and emotional brutality. Not an easy watch, admittedly, but an utterly gripping one. It is also very, very funny. And in the character of Johnny, David Thewlis has created an anti-hero as unsettling and unforgettably off-kilter as any of your Travis Bickles, Randle McMurphys or Alex the Droogs.
The Greatest Horror Film Ever Made? Very possibly. 1960s Uptown New York as a haven for cosmopolitan witches intent on bringing the child of Satan into the world. A classic of paranoia and creeping dread. Ruth ‘Harold & Maude’ Gordon rightly won Best-Supporting Actress Oscar for her unforgettably creepy performance.
Werner Herzog is not only one of my favourite film directors but high on my list of all-time great cultural figures. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, the only Herzog film we’ve shown, is probably not the best way to introduce potential new fans to the great man’s work. By contrast, Aguirre, Herzog’s crazed vision of a nutjob 16th-century conquistador in search of El Dorado is perfect newbie material. Aguirre is played with deranged intensity by Herzog’s great sparring partner Klaus Kinksi. This is one of its many memorable moments.
I’d known about this film for ages before finally seeing it early last year. It’s utterly unforgettable. Jan Svankmajer is a Czech filmmaker most famous for surreal stop-motion animation. If you’re a fan of Terry Gilliam or David Lynch then you’ve probably got the right sensibilities to enjoy his unique take on Alice in Wonderland. Had it won the vote, this would definitely have been the weirdest film we’ve shown. This clip gives a good impression of what to expect.
Films set in small-town America might well be my favourite genre and Breaking Away is one of the best. At the heart of this coming-of-age story is Dave Stohler, a recent High School graduate obsessed with cycling and Italy. He’s also a townie trying to win the heart of a college girl amid clear-cut town and gown factions. The tone of this film is unlike anything we’ve shown and its ‘they-don’t-make-em-like-this anymore’ quality simply adds to its charm. Also worth watching to see a young Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earle Haley.
Fun fact: The film inspired The Hold Steady song One For The Cutters.
We haven't shown that many laugh-out-loud comedies and I’m convinced that had it won this would have been our greatest ever crowd pleaser. What’s not to love about Robert De Niro before he descended into self parody, cracking dialogue, top stunts and a supporting cast that includes Yaphet Kotto and the late, great Dennis Farina?
I’ve not seen To Die For since the VHS era so was looking forward for an excuse to re-watch Nicole Kidman seducing Joaquin Phoenix. It’s another small-town America film and, as I recall, a pitch black satire. It would make a great double bill with The King of Comedy.
So, those are picks. Let us know if there are any films you wish had won.