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Stan and Angelee Anderson's
CINEMATIC "PHILE" CABINET
If there is a common factor in our favourite films, it is that the beauty is in the details. Those small things -- an actor's momentary expression, a certain turn of phrase, an interesting camera angle -- are what make great films infinitely rewatchable.
- The Abyss -- Contains THE most powerfully emotive scene we can think of in a film -- the one in which Lindsey chooses to drown. A close second is the scene in which Bud is falling uncontrollably into the abyss, a perfect metaphor for "the dark night of the soul." The director's cut makes sense of the obscure ending of the theatrical version, although in our opinion it almost over-explains things.
- Aliens -- It's so nice to see an action film with a competent female lead in it (Ripley didn't make us groan by going back for the cat this time). When oh when will the widescreen director's cut be released on video? Memorable quote: "Game over, man -- game over." (Will Bill Paxton ever say a line of dialog with which he is more strongly associated?)
- Amadeus -- A thought-provoking meditation on God's fairness in distributing His gifts, which is comic, sad, and epic in turn. Memorable quote: "Too many notes."
- Billy Budd -- We can't find a thing to criticize (except perhaps a slightly rushed ending) in this dramatization of Herman Melville's novella; uncommonly, the film is better than the book. Peter Ustinov acted in, directed, and co-scripted this tense and intelligent movie about evil's incapacity for tolerating good. The black and white filming contributes to the movie's atmosphere.
- The Big Easy
- The Black Stallion -- We doubt that any animal film will ever top this. Gorgeous cinematography, subtle characterization, and a soundtrack we wish would be released on CD.
- Blade Runner -- After all these years and in spite of some flaws, this still gets our vote for the finest science fiction film ever made. Like Strange Days, it is based on a real science fictional premise, not just shoot-em-up or politics in space.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Crossing Delancey -- This comic romance, in which a New York literary lady is torn between a narcissitic writer and a humble pickle seller, is loved by everyone we know, and realistic enough to represent (metaphorically, at least) many actual courtships we know of, including ours. Memorable quotes: 1. "Ripe plums are falling." 2. "Get off your high horse, Miss Universe. This man's just looking -- he ain't asking to buy." 3. "Yes, Mrs. Mandelbaum, this one I'll meet."
- Cyrano de Bergerac (Gerard Depardieu version)
- My Dinner with Andre -- What could be more boring than a movie solely about two guys dining together, right? Wrong -- for those who delight in witty, wide-ranging conversations. Give us good talk over special effects any day of the week. No longer available on video, but we're hoping.
- Enchanted April (1992)
- The Fugitive
- 84 Charing Cross Road
- The Graduate
- Green Card
- Henry V (Kenneth Branagh version)
- The Hunt for Red October -- Memorable quote: "I would like to have seen Montana." (See Sam Neill entry under Angelee's Heart-throbs, below.)
- Jaws -- Memorable quote: "You're going to need a bigger boat."
- Local Hero
- Much Ado About Nothing
- The Name of the Rose -- Memorable quotes: 1. "The only evidence I see of the devil, is everyone's desire to see him at work." 2. Adso: "Master, have you ever been in love?" Brother William: "In love, hunh? Many times." Adso: "You were?" Brother William: "Yes, of course. Aristotle, Ovid, Virgil, Thomas Aquinas . . ." Adso: "No, no, no. I meant with a . . ." Brother William: "Oh -- are you not confusing love with lust?" Adso: "Am I? I don't know. I want only her own good. I want her to be happy. I want to save her from her poverty." Brother William: "Oh, dear." Adso: "Why, oh dear?" Brother William: "You are in love." Adso: "Is that bad?" Brother William: "For a monk, it does present certain problems." Adso: "But doesn't St. Thomas Aquinas praise love above all other virtues?" Brother William: "Yes, the love of God, Adso. The love of God." 3. "She was the only earthly love of my life, yet I never knew, nor ever learned, her name."
- The Secret of Roan Inish
- Sense and Sensibility
- Sleuth -- In our book, the best mystery ever filmed. The brilliance of the dialogue (like that of Billy Budd) seems especially typical of movie scripts based on stage plays. We would like to say something further about the tour-de-force acting by Sir Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, but can't without spoiling the surprise for those who haven't seen it.
- The Sting
- Strange Days -- Memorable quote: "Don't just be using the time that I'm talking to you to be thinking about what you're going to say next."
- This is Spinal Tap
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Watership Down
Other Films Worth Noting
These films don't quite make our primary favourites list (though they might make our secondary or tertiary lists), but each has some quality we nevertheless wanted to draw to your attention.
- Cutthroat Island
- Death and the Maiden
- Harold and Maude
- In this House of Brede
- Jacknife -- Memorable quote: "Anybody needs to bleed the monster, nows the time. We've got no formal facilities in God's country."
- Whit Stillman's Trilogy of Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco
- The Music of Chance
- Quiz Show
- Romeo and Juliet (Zeffirelli version) -- This contains the single most frustrating scene we can think of. Romeo, having been told that Juliet is dead, is racing off to die beside her, and on the way passes the slow-travelling monk sent by Friar Laurence to tell him that Juliet is indeed alive. Everytime we watch this, we think, this time the monk will see Romeo and hail him, and thus prevent his poison by suicide and Juliet's subsequent self-stabbing. But of course, he never does -- for this is a tragedy. What would the story of the two lovers of Verona have been like had Shakespeare planned it as a comedy instead? Memorable quote: "It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night as a rich jewel in some Ethiop's ear: beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear."
- The Snowman
- Sorcerer -- The first time we saw this film, we jokingly dubbed it Sloth because it seemed like the perfect companion film to Speed. (In Speed, a bus dare not go under 50 mph lest it explode, and in Sorcerer, two trucks dare not go over 10 mph lest they explode.) Another appropriate title would be Dante's Inferno in South America, the setting and the circumstances are so bleak throughout. In spite of this, and in spite of the fact that not even one of the characters is sympathetic in the sense of being a decent person (a quality that normally damns a story in our eyes), we find this film to be spellbinding -- intensely plotted and surrealistically atmospheric. We've read that it is an inferior remake of The Wages of Fear -- if this is inferior, we'd LOVE to see the original. Memorable quote: Q: "Did you read about this place in a travel brochure?" A: "I heard it had a healthy climate."
There are certain actors that impress one with something beyond their technical capacities, and these actors will not be the same for everyone. "Personality" is certainly the wrong word, but there is a "uniquely their own" quality about the following actors which makes us smile to watch them even when the movies they appear in are less than memorable.
- Kevin Bacon
- Kenneth Branagh
- Michael Caine
- Sean Connery
- Gerard Depardieu
- Ralph Fiennes
- Harrison Ford -- To quote our priest, "Have you ever seen Harrison Ford in anything and not liked him?"
- Ed Harris
- Jeremy Irons
- Tommy Lee Jones
- Kevin Kline
- Sam Neill
- Bill Paxton
- Dennis Quaid
- James Spader
- James Woods
Yes, we know that this list is disproportionately short. For some reason, there aren't as many actresses that "strike" us as there are actors. The two that currently do are:
- Kathy Bates -- We thought she was a little over the top in Misery (but then, we're not Stephen King fans); however, we found her enormously appealing in Dolores Claiborne and Diabolique, and we look forward to seeing her in many movies more.
- Emma Thompson -- She's exquisite in everything, and we're furious at her and Kenneth Branangh for splitting up. The scene at the end of Sense and Sensibility in which she breaks down in tears is perhaps the most genuinely affecting crying scene in any movie (and a happy one, to boot).
- Armand Assante -- Luscious Latin oo-la-la!
- Sean Connery -- If my guardian angel ever talks to me, I hope that his voice sounds like this. (How is it that Connery manages to get more attractive the older he gets?)
- Ralph Fiennes -- Oh, Those Blue Eyes! Liked him best in Strange Days, but he was even (disturbingly) charismatic as the villain in Schindler's List. Of course, the fact that he is a dead ringer for my high school first love may have something to do with it. . . .
- Harrison Ford -- Excellence at one's craft is sexy to me, and boy, is he excellent. Like Ralph Fiennes, he achieves the perfect mix of intensity and restraint.
- Jeremy Irons -- The definition of "civilized." Not only that, but check out those muscles when he wears the tank top in Die Hard With a Vengeance.
- Sam Neill -- Oh, Those Blue Eyes! Number 2. He broke my heart forever when he didn't make it to Montana at the end of The Hunt for Red October (notice, however, that he got there at the opening of Jurassic Park).
- Dennis Quaid -- Oh, that Smile! Especially in The Big Easy.
- Phoebe Cates
- Katherine Ross
Being musicians and lovers of music in general, we probably notice film music more than most people do, and we believe that its appropriateness (or lack thereof) is a prime ingredient in a film's success or failure.
- The Awakening
- The Black Stallion
- Cyrano De Bergerac
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Far and Away
- The Firm
- 49th Parallel (Prelude)
- The Fugitive
- Henry V
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
- Inspector Morse, Theme to
- Much Ado About Nothing
- The Snowman
- Watership Down
"Favourite" and "television" are almost contradictory terms for us, since at this stage of our lives we watch almost no TV shows, but only rent videos. Occasionally, though, we see a show that is not only worth the time it takes to watch it (all too rare, in our view), but well worth watching again and again.
- Absolutely Fabulous
- All Creatures Great and Small
- Beatrix Potter (animated)
- The Borrowers
- Hallmark Hall of Fame
- Masterpiece Theatre
- Brideshead Revisited
- Martin Chuzzlewit
- Middlemarch -- Memorable quotes: 1. "One cannot be wise for other people." 2. "He has the look of a poet. Shelley had that look, you know -- about the eyes." 3. Dorothea: "I have never done you any injustice. Please remember me." Ladislaw: "How can you say that. As if I were not in danger of forgetting everything else."
- Mr. Bean
- Sherlock Holmes
- Inspector Morse
- Lord Peter Wimsey
- Mystery Science Theatre 3000
- The Cave Dwellers
- Pod People
- Pride and Prejudice
- Shock of the New
- Wallace and Gromit
- The Wind in the Willows (BBC "claymation")
Childhood Dreams and Nightmares
This is not really a list of favourites, but rather a list of things on film that made strong impressions on us, of wonder or of fear, in our childhood and adolescence.
- The Boy and the Pirates
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari -- Angelee: I never saw this movie as a child, and I still haven't. Nevertheless, it became a childhood nightmare of mine due to a still from it that appeared in a Best of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, one of my favourite reads at age ten. It was a picture of Conrad Veidt as (presumably) Dr. Caligari himself, sporting a demonic grin. The picture scared me so much, I used to force myself to look at it at least once daily so that I wouldn't go around thinking about it all the rest of the time.
- Chiller and Strange Tales -- Angelee: Horror seems to be a common obsession at ages nine and ten, and I for one never missed these regular Saturday and Sunday afternoon supernatural film slots (though they occasionally featured sci-fi or fantasy, horror predominated). I had so many bad nights because of them, that my mother threatened to stop me from watching them, but I pleaded desperately and successfully to be allowed to continue terrifying myself.
- The Creature from the Black Lagoon
- The Haunted House (?--or whatever it was called) -- Angelee: I can't remember the name of this film; it was probably too grade-D to make it into any video book. Cheesy as it undoubtedly was, it had a very successful (to me) opening, which managed to be more frightening than the whole rest of the movie besides. The camera (in black and white) panned slowly up a desolate country road to a gate which opened by itself, all to suitably creepy music, and beyond the gate stood -- we simultaneously saw the object and the title superimposed on it -- THE HAUNTED HOUSE. The sense of dread this opening created in me confirms my theory about what is really scariest in stories -- not any terrible thing that actually happens, but the fear of what might happen.
- Have Gun, Will Travel -- Angelee: Does anyone else remember this 1950's Western TV show concerning "a knight without armour in a savage land" (to quote the theme song) named Paladin? Along with the more directly chivalric offerings of the time such as Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, and William Tell, I suspect that this show exerted a strong influence toward interesting me in the Middle Ages. When I later learned that Charlemagne's knights (Roland, etc.) were called paladins, my first thought was, "So that's where the Have Gun, Will Travel hero got his name!"
- Hell to Eternity
- Hercules or Sinbad movie, concerning a blue rose
- King of Kings
- Letter from an Unknown Woman
- The Naked Jungle -- Angelee: I saw this in the drive-in when I was a few years old; I was supposed to go to sleep in the back of the car, but couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen. The romantic aspects of the story did not stick with me much at the time (though I was a romantic child), but after seeing it I did begin to live in fear of being eaten by soldier ants. I later discovered that the film was based on a short story by Carl Stephenson, Leningen Versus the Ants. This is one movie that impressed me as a child which I still think good -- only too rarely the case.
- O Lucky Man! -- Both of us have the same memory of this movie -- that it contains one of the most horrific images we have seen. Lead actor Malcolm McDowell, trapped in an experimental hospital, pulls back the covers from a man in bed to find that the man's head has been grafted onto the body of a pig.
- Outer Limits Episode
- The Picture of Dorian Gray -- Angelee: This film did not so much scare me as made a spiritual mark on me. The symbolism of a beautiful face masking an ugly soul resonated with me, and produced one of the most powerful dreams of my childhood when I was about nine years old. I dreamt that I sold my soul for beauty, and, after being longed for and wooed by a host of boys, I was finally obligated to keep my end of the bargain and go to hell. I descended through a trap door that had opened in my apartment hallway and traversed a similar hallway in hell, at the end of which was a room containing only a mirror. "Well, here I am in hell, and it's not so bad," I said to myself as I entered the room. "And anyway, I've still got my beauty." Whereupon I walked up to the mirror and looked at my own ABSOLUTELY HIDEOUS face. I promptly woke up in a cold sweat and promised God that I would never, never consider selling my soul. . . .
- Portrait of Jennie
- Quatermass Trilogy
- Superman Episode
- Twilight Zone Episode
- Unknown late 1950's/early 1960's TV show -- Angelee: At a few years old, I wandered out of bed into the living room while my parents were watching this. It concerned a young girl (abused?) who had some psychological disorder which caused her to see a wild animal when she looked at her mother's face, and blankness when she looked at the face of anyone else. The camera let us into the girl's point of view by showing these people with "blanknesses" instead of faces, and they haunted me waking and sleeping for years afterward.
- The War Lord -- Memorable quotes: 1. Bronwyn: "May I dress myself, my lord?" Crisagon: "Yes." Bronwyn: "Are you going to watch me?" Crisagon: "Yes. . . . Are you cold?" Bronwyn: "No." Crisagon: "You're afraid?" Bronwyn: "Yes." Crisagon: "Why? I'm gentle with horses, hawks." 2. "These young folks here think of nothing but folicking. Desist, I tell them, but they will go a'wantoning. So, lest the devil take them, I preach them a text from holy writ. 'Increase and multiply,' I say --'replenish the earth.' And, oh, how they obey me." 3. Crisagon: "I need you as I need breath, sunshine, fire in winter -- that's what festers. I want my life in you. It's truth. It goes beyond the blood, the fever in the flesh." Bronwyn: "They say it's a sacred thing to have a high born man begin your life. . . . Are you afraid of me? I cast no spells." Crisagon: "Better if you did. Spells can be broken." Bronwyn: "My lord, I too am bewitched."
- The Witch's Mirror -- Angelee: A grade-Z, Mexican-made horror film that scared me the most of any I saw during my ten year-old horror-obsession phase. It featured the two things that are, for whatever deep-seated psychological reasons, my biggest nightmare-factors -- evil/insane women, and disfigurement by fire. Not to mention the extra added ickiness of disembodied hands stabbing people with scissors.
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