Monday, September 12, 2016

#Top10 - Let's talk!

#Top10 is a brand new feature to Movie Critical. Each week we will be chatting to a film lover or a member of the film community about their #Top10 favourite films and discussing what makes these films so special to them. We all have different tastes in film and watch movies differently depending on who we are. The object of #Top10 is to share the love of film and hopefully you the reader can find some new favourites.

As it is #Top10's first week, we are going to kick things off with my own favourite films! A quick bio for those who don't know name is Nicki Newton-Plater and I am the founder, Editor in Chief and head writer at Movie Critical. I took Film Studies at university and as well as writing for Movie Critical, I also write for Sydney Film School. I've been a film lover my whole life thanks to Walt Disney and to my parents for letting me watch all of Disney's animated films back to back when I was a child.

Choosing my #Top10 proved to be a much harder task than I had anticipated. So here they are in no particular order...

#1 Gone With The Wind (1939)

I know, I just said in no particular order...but Gone With The Wind will always be my number one. I am often met with criticism when I tell people that it is my favourite, so hear me out. Gone With The Wind blew me away the first time I saw it in this day and age so I can only imagine what people felt when they saw it in 1939. It is spectacular and it is epic. I could really write a whole review on why I love the film so much so I'll have to narrow it down to only a few points. The costume design is stunning and the production design of the old South is incredible. This was a time when CGI could not even be imagined in the future, therefore a whole set on the Culver City backlot was set alight for the Atlanta burning scene.

It was during the filming of this scene that Vivien Leigh first stepped foot on the Gone With The Wind set. The search for Scarlett was a spectacle in itself as all of America had read Margaret Mitchell's book and wanted to weigh in on who should play Scarlett O'Hara, yet now it is hard to imagine anybody else playing Scarlett besides Leigh. If she had played the role in 2016, she still would have won the Oscar. Scarlett is brutal, Scarlett is manipulative and Scarlett was a hard bitch. Yet she is one of the most powerful and strong female characters to ever grace the screen and that is something we still need more of nearly 80 years later.

#2 Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Breakfast at Tiffany's is known more than anything for kicking fashion goals with the iconic Little Black Dress and over-sized sunglasses. This in itself made the film legendary, but it was the complexity of Holly Golighty that spoke to me. Holly Golighty is merely a persona that Lula Mae Barnes created when she arrived in New York City to escape who she used to be. The real person she is is somewhere between Holly and Lula Mae and I really related to that. I feel that at one point in our lives we try our hardest to be somebody who is so far removed from the person we used to be and that who we really are is somewhere in between those two personas. Breakfast at Tiffany's had a stunning script, brilliant direction by Blake Edwards and is gloriously nostalgic of New York City in the early 1960's. And of course, Audrey Hepburn is just delightful.

#3 The Philadelphia Story (1940)

I would say that The Philadelphia Story is my "go-to" movie because it never fails to cheer me up and make me laugh. The screenplay written by Donald Ogden Stewart and based on the play by  Philip Barry is just superb in itself, but is perfected by the cast of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard and Virginia Weildler. Hepburn, Grant and Stewart were three of the biggest names in the golden age of Hollywood (not to mention three of my favourite actors) and to have them all in one film and playing off each other with that script is pure bliss. So many great moments. The travelling shot used when Stewart and Hussey first enter the film with Grant walking behind them is one of my favourite scenes of all time because you just can't get a better entrance than that. Another one of my favourite scenes of all time is Stewart's Macaulay Connor's drunk late night visit to Grant's C.K. Dexter Haven's house, which always leaves me in stitches.

#4 Bringing Up Baby (1938)

"I can't give you anything but love, baby"

Bringing Up Baby is classic screwball comedy and another film that is a guaranteed laugh for me. Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant made four films together and they were a real comedic force when they were together. Hepburn (who was known as "Box Office Poison" at the time of release) is probably most remembered for her more dramatic roles, but she played the role of loopy Susan so well and proved that she really was an actress of extreme versatility. There are so many random pieces of hilarity throughout the film and moments of pure slapstick, such as Grant sliding to the floor by treading on a hat. It is just plain and simple comedy. It's clean and pure. It's not a deep film by any means, but it is the perfect light film to sit back and watch when you really need a laugh and it never fails to make me giggle uncontrollably.

#5 L.A. Confidential (1997)

I love this movie. L.A. Confidential is so atmospheric and nostalgic. It's probably pretty obvious looking at my favourite films that I love Hollywood history and classic Hollywood films. I also love the city of Los Angeles. It's a mixed up city that is dirty and grimy but also star struck with a certain sense of glamour to it. L.A. Confidential shows Los Angeles the way I really believe it would have looked and felt in the 1950's. There was (and probably still is) a corrupt world behind the glitz and glamour. It was the film that made Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce stars outside of Australia and they along with Kevin Spacey are wonderful in the film. Another one of my all time favourite movie scenes belongs to this film when Guy Pearce's Ed Exley memorably accuses Lana Turner of being a hooker who looks like Lana Turner.

Even though I did enjoy the novel by James Ellroy which this movie is based on, L.A. Confidential is one of the few times I will ever say that the movie was better than the book.

#6 Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

The feeling I get when I watch Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is just that the stars aligned. Everything in this film just works and not enough people have seen this film. I saw it when it came out and then studied it for my American Film Genres class at college where I realised how much I really loved it. Shane Black has a really unique style of comedy which is extremely dark, random and sarcastic. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a comedy which is part action and part murder mystery. It is a great, crazy and fun romp which is thrilling and unpredictable. Set once again in Los Angeles, but in the present day with the main players being people who don't have a great deal of talent and are still hoping for their big break. I do love watching Robert Downey Jr. in roles like this as he does more franchise films these days rather than stand alone films, and it is great watching him play someone quirky, but otherwise normal in comparison.

#7 Hollywoodland (2006)

I love Hollywood history and Hollywoodland is based in part on real life events. It looks at the death of the 1950's television Superman, George Reeves and examines the possibility of whether his death (which was ruled a suicide) could have been murder. I love old Hollywood conspiracy theories even if I really believe that they are just rumours to sensationalize. The way the film approaches all the evidence and looks at all the possibilities is not only thought-provoking, but enjoyable and entertaining. It also shows the contrasting sides of Los Angeles where George Reeves and the Mannix's live the lives of the Hollywood elite as opposed to Louis Simo's grimy apartment building and his family's suburban life.

#8 The Great Dictator (1940)

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. The man was a genius and he is my number one film hero. Charlie Chaplin changed the face of cinema and brought happiness and laughter to so many people's lives. Of course, Modern Times, City Lights, The Kid and The Gold Rush are also among my favourite films and are each pure genius in themselves, but The Great Dictator is the one I personally love more than any others. Although the film states at the beginning that no characters are based on any actual real life person, it does not take a university degree to know that Dictator Adenoid Hynkel is based on Adolf Hitler.  Chaplin and Hitler were born on the same day and Hitler modelled his moustache on Chaplin's as he thought it would make him more likable. Chaplin was not a Jew, but he saw what Hitler was doing and it angered him. Chaplin got in a great deal of trouble from the public for making The Great Dictator, the American public were also not a fan of it as they thought he was mocking the USA. Now we look back and see how incredible it is. Even now, his final speech in the film is relevant. Yet despite the serious nature of the film, it is still a comedy in true Chaplin fashion and his gibberish speech at the beginning of the film is absolutely hysterical.

#9 Mary Poppins (1964)

As I said, Disney was what kicked off my love of film all those years ago. There are so many Disney films that I love, but at this point in time I would have to say Mary Poppins is my favourite and it's only been recently that I have found that it has snuck it's way into my very favourite films. I must have seen it for the first time when I was around 5, but I have come to appreciate it a great deal more as an adult. I love all the song and dance scenes, but my favourite part of the film is Julie Andrews. Andrews has said that Walt Disney approached her to make the film while she was pregnant and told her that they could wait until she had had the baby and was ready to come back to work to start to make the film. He knew she was the only one for the role. The character of Mary Poppins in a film like this really could have been so over the top and by the wrong person could have just been laughable, but Julie Andrews is absolutely perfect. She is just so natural in a role in which it actually would have been hard to be natural in. Again, such a well deserved Oscar and one of my favourite performances of all time.

#10 The Wizard of Oz (1939)

I really had a tough time choosing this tenth film. There are so many other films that I just absolutely adore such as Sunset Blvd., The King's Speech, The Departed, The Aviator, Bonnie and Clyde, Network and It's A Wonderful Life that I could have put here. At first I shied away from including The Wizard of Oz because I thought it seemed too obvious, but there is a reason it is obvious. It is because it is a true classic in every sense of the word and it is really is one of my all time favourites. 1939 was such an incredible year for film. Two of the greatest films of all time in one year. I do sometimes speak of The Wizard of Oz in the same sentence as Gone With The Wind because I love hearing about the making of it, the search for the actors to play the characters and the aftermath. The Wizard of Oz was truly before it's time. I love the fact that my grandparents watched it as children, my parents did, I did and now my children are and I know families will for years and years to come. Poor Judy Garland...such a tragic star.

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