May 6th, 2019 (Classics – Top 3)

This past week I have been away and lamenting the fact there aren’t any movies that I care to see or spend money on at the theatre.  I am also recognizing that many of my favourite films are ones I have seen long ago and haven’t been reviewed here.  I was asked just a couple days ago what memorable movies have I watched lately and I was hard pressed to think of many.  It is easier to back into my own personal archives in my head to come up with favourite movies. So as a result I will take some time to talk about films that are on the top of my list.  Typically when I am asked about my favourite film I will say that I have three.  There are lists that were noted earlier in my writing.  The top ones haven’t changed. But let me expand upon the selections and why.
Shawshank Redemption is a choice that I have discussed before usually referring to other films or lists.  To me, this is really a film about friendship and hope. Having just spent a few days with a really good friend, I value this tremendously. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is a young banker and accused of murdering his wife, who had announced she was divorcing him. He is found guilty and sent to a Maine prison in the 40s. He meets up with “Red”, played brilliantly by Morgan Freeman. Most, if not all readers, will know the plot from here as Andy goes through his time at Shawshank. These two men and others around them find the value of hope, and friendship as well as being “institutionalized”. There is drama and suspense and an unexpected resolution. I think I am most moved by one the closing scenes with Red. Andy has made a request of him and he looks to fulfill it. In that moment when an uncertain leap of faith has materialized a lifeline is given.  Hope.  This is an old reliable film that I can watch time and again.  Each time it moves me even though I know where the story is going.  The performances are universally solid. The warden, the chief of the guards (Mr Hadley) and the librarian are all very good.  This is a film on the top of many people’s lists that I know, both men and women. It surprises me a little about women since they are not represented here for the story.  But I think a good story is still a good story. See it if you haven’t. See it again if you haven’t in a while.

Jaws I re-saw just at the end of December on the big screen at TIFF Lightbox as part of a special presentation. I brought my youngest son.  We had Jaws t-shirts on and watched in a crowded theatre.  This for me is two stories.  There is the small town drama in the beginning for the town council to make a tough decision about beaches being closed during the beginning of peak summer holiday season.  But once made, it turns into an adventure on the sea with nature playing chess with man.  It is a master directorial effort by Steven Spielberg in the film that made his career. With a wonky and temperamental mechanical shark in real life, he found ways for the viewer to believe the shark was there.  Barrels and music were key contributors. Colourful Quint (Robert Shaw) and his story of the USS Indianapolis adds to the seriousness but there are a few laughs along the way.  I saw this film multiple times in the theatre when it first came out as a kid.  I had a memorable plastic shark given as a stocking stuffer that year for Christmas.  I can watch this film time and again. I still have a bucket list item to try and see a great white (or other big shark) up close in their territory.  Quite simply the beginning of summer blockbusters and the remarkable film career for Steven Spielberg.

Finally I have Amadeus as a third favourite.  I also saw this not too long ago when it played with a live orchestra at the Toronto Hummingbird Centre. What a performance! For me I am in awe of the creative process and Mozart remains one of the world’s foremost composers ever.  He was a rock star of his age, but most think of those composers as stuffy and serious performing “boring” music.  It is far from it. Mozart was creating new and remarkable works that stand the test of time.  When Sir Neville Marriner the music director for Academy of St Martins in the Fields was asked about being part of this film (it was a play first) he said he was interested but only if “not one note of the music was changed”.  It wasn’t.  And the music is another character in the movie.  Listen how Antonio Salieri speaks about the Mozart music he hears and sees on the page.  He is a rival, he wants to be famous himself, but he is angry at God for not giving him the talent. He can only recognize the incarnation.  He represents the “Everyman” who puts in his time and then fades away.  I think the by-play between the two men is remarkable.  F. Murray Abraham won the Oscar for this performance defeating Tom Hulce.  He is amazing.  It is a performance of a lifetime and one he landed right after finishing with Scarface.  There are some funny stories about filming in Prague in the early 80s.  Milos Forman the director was a native Czech who was just returning to his homeland having fled the Communists. Not many films show the creative process.  Fewer still can reflect it as well on such a timeless subject as this one.  Is this story true?  No. There are plenty of accounts that suggest that Salieiri was not in any involved in the death of Mozart.  Still the story is is relatable and compelling.  It is truly heartbreaking to see the great musical genius taken away at such an early age. One wonders what further masterpieces he would have made.  This film showcasing his talent is just another one.


Valentine’s Day Feb 15 2017 – Bonus Top Films List

I was delayed in writing up my review of the following.   But here goes, and having seen Alison’s detailed and valuable review of the Oscar nominated films, I have a few to still cross off my list (I have three to go).  Fences, Hacksaw Ridge and LaLa Land.   I have deliberately avoided LaLa Land, and the reason is I don’t feel the need to spend the full fare in a theatre when I will get it fully on the small screen.   Many of the nominees are the same way.   Incidentally,  I laughed out loud with the Emma Stone comments from Alison that I completely agree with!  I don’t find her attractive.   In fact quite the opposite, I think her face is just messed up.  But I digress, but the comment made my day.     This year, there is no epic, big screen wonder that requires the big screen in all of its glory.   In hindsight, I wish I had seen Hell or High Water on the big screen for the panoramas of the landscape in Texas.    A visit to the Chinese mall (I am shamed) netted Moonlight, Girl On a Train and Patriots Day.    Here we go.

Patriots Day stars Marky Mark with the same director as Deepwater Horizon.   Same basic facts and script with a fictional Marky Mark, making his way through otherwise factual content (roughly anyway).   As someone who has run a half marathon, and other running events, the Boston Marathon is the Superbowl of runs.    Here I can only imagine the poor saps who have been running for hours to at the end have not one but two bombs cut them down with flying nails and sharps.   With that backdrop, then we have the cops and other persons in authority (including Kevin Bacon and John Goodman) trying to find the bad guys.   I have vague memories of these events and like girlfriend I thought that bombing and then the tracking down of these guys took place much quicker.   I was in awe with the one confrontation scene were I was convinced that the bad guys were in trouble – how the hell could they not have been, and I would have thought I would have remembered the news coverage on it better.  I didn’t.  Suffice it to say, this is a decent job on a known story.   The number of resources thrown at this, and the city shut down is staggering.   Each actor earned a pay cheque but otherwise it was not memorable for me.   The exception is the survivors and those who carry on and find ways to not let an act of terror define them nor how they will be running their lives.

Moonlight.   I wrote to Alison about how I am challenged this year with protagonists who are insular and keep to themselves without voicing too much about feelings and what is going on in their heads.   Casey Affleck is here, as well as now the three Moonlights.    I felt for Moonlight at all the stages of his life.  I found his adult-self interesting in his choice of profession giving his background and his connection with Ali.   Ali, also by the way, was in Hidden Figures, who also has Ali’s wife’s character too in it (as the engineer).    Still I was not moved to tears.   Again for the people who don’t voice their challenges, their agonies and their torments, it makes it more difficult for the viewer.   And they both (Affleck) and Moonlights says so much with their eyes and body language.   In the end though, the stories are plodding along and don’t really go anywhere.   They are character pieces and stand on their own right, but these aren’t movies I would seek out and add to my DVD collection and watch time and again.    My list of Top 10 films of all time are all movies I have seen more than once, and I own – and can treat like old friends who I enjoy getting acquainted with yet again.   There are films where I come out and say “that was the Best Picture” with my viewing and re-viewing of The Imitation Game doing that for me a couple years ago.   It didn’t win.    But it will be remembered later I think – in the same way the Saving Private Ryan is remembered moreso than Shakespeare in Love.   I am reminded that Oscar doesn’t always get it right.

Girl On A Train.  I like Emily Blunt.  I think that she is growing in her abilities and in last year’s Sicario showed more depth and range than from other films.  I still think too that her connection and chemistry with Maaaa-tt Daaamon in The Adjustment Bureau is palpable and one of the finest in recent memory.    From a male-female relationship perspective to be clear.   I didn’t like her in this movie.   I didn’t like this movie that I found manipulative.    I didn’t really like the Jennifer Lawrence look-a-like who ends up disappearing.   I don’t like how Blunt’s character is inebriated and fall down drunk and looking every bit the part in appearance for most of the film.   Because this book was so popular, the expectations were so very high with this.   It failed.   I did not read the book and have no desire given the movie.  The tangled webs that women weave here are something (like Gone Girl) that makes guys cringe in a Fatal Attraction kind of way!   This movie is one that lives down to its billing.

Rob’s Top 10 of ALL TIME (made more difficult as there are some genres that get short changed, and could be done by Director, or Actor etc.):

Shawshank Redemption


Godfather I and II


The Martian

The Exorcist

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Silence of the Lambs


Raging Bull

Honourable mentions: The Matrix, Snow White & Seven Dwarves, The Imitation Game, Pan’s Labyrinth, Million Dollar Baby, Finding Nemo, Cool Hand Luke, Terminator 2, Alien, Avatar.

Adding more:

Tree of Life – yes, yes, yes!
Kingdom of Heaven – a fav or mine with Ridley Scott.
Blade Runner deserves more for it’s cutting edge (Blade Runner 2 with Ryan Gosling AND Harrison out this summer)
Funny – adding Something About Mary
Romance – When Harry Met Sally 
Daniel Day-Lewis- My Left Foot
Kevin Costner – Dances With Wolves

April 30th, 2012, Ebert Top 10

Ebert’s Top 10 OF ALL TIME!
My Top 10 of ALL TIME (in no particular order and likely dealing with genres) – I struggled with this mightily:
Shawshank Redemption
Jaws (thriller)
Exorcist (horror)
Monty Python and Holy Grail (comedy)
– Raiders of the Lost Ark
Ben Hur
The Notebook (romance)