Week of Movies: 6 & 5

Wednesday 22 November (2006)

Two more classic movies added to the list, but what will we find today? Star Wars? The Godfather?! Read on and see!

7. Scarface (1983)
8. Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb) (1964)
9. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
10. Vertigo (1958)

My 6th Favourite Moviefear and loathing in las vegas (1998)

I’m ashamed to say, I only read Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas after I’d seen this movie. Fortunately for me, everything I loved about the film adaptation was pure HST, and the reasons for that are because of two things: Terry Gilliam’s direction (and faithful script) and the tremendous work of Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro as the protagonists; Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo.

The film opens with the two of them racing through the desert in a red convertible, and Duke is explaining about how the drugs are beginning to ‘take hold.’ This is pretty much the concept of the entire movie – two chancers taking a lot of drugs and experiencing all the weirdness of Las Vegas in the early 1970’s. Of course, the deeper meaning (and probably the factor that makes the book and movie serious satire and not just junkie comedy) is that Las Vegas is so capitalistic and insane – like a theme park for drunken adults – that two ‘drug people’ go by virtually unnoticed, and actually come across like the more sane characters.

Despite this, it is on a very base level an extremely funny film. Depp manages to capture Thompson’s mannerisms almost perfectly, and Del Toro’s portrayal of the attorney, Dr. Gonzo, is superb. They make a good pair, and their individual performances seem to augment each other – so much so that when I now read the book, I see the characters as they appear in this film.

Terry Gilliam (and co-writer Tony Grisoni) have done a remarkable job with the screenplay – it plays with chronology more than Pulp Fiction, and is incredibly accurate to the book. The direction, if anything, is even better – bizzare camera angles and gorgeous cinematography truly make it all hallucinatory, and the special effects depicting the onset of LSD are very realistic – from animated paisley carpets, to the view from a TV extending outward and covering the entire room. It was a very wise decision to tell the story from Duke’s point-of-view, because this allows us to experience Vegas through his eyes, and hear his thoughts. I especially love the way the narration and the on-screen dialogue overlap each other, as Duke loses the ability to realise whether or not he’s speaking, or thinking.

It’s a very funny film, and it’s very well made. If you like the book, you can’t expect a better adaptation than this – and if you’ve never read it, I think you’ll find it’s an excellent introduction to both Thompson, Gilliam, and the actors – it’s probably Johnny Depp’s finest performance, and certainly one of Del Toro’s best as well.


My 5th Favourite Moviegoodfellas (1990)

Good Lord, Goodfellas – what a movie. It’s such a powerhouse of talent, a masterpiece of storytelling, that it just sucks you in completely for two and half hours. This is the kind of story that Martin Scorsese (dare I say, America’s greatest living movie maker?) does best; covering a period from the fifties to the eighties, with a core group of characters whose dynamics and relationships change wildly over that time.

In a nutshell: Ray Liotta is Henry Hill, and from a young age he wants to be a gangster. He loves the power these men wield, and so he gets a job with Paulie (Paul Sorvino), a local mafia don. As time goes on he befriends Tommy, a violent psychopath who has a penchant for jokes, played brilliantly by Joe Pesci in an Oscar winning role, and meets Jimmy Conway – a powerful and influential crook, played by Robert De Niro. The three of them experience a life in the mafia – and all that you would expect to go with it; from murders and robberies to the high-flying life that power and money bring.

The passage of time is dealt with expertly, with a wonderful use of music and fashion. You really believe you’re watching these characters grow older together, which is essential to the believability of the film. And, because it’s based on real people, it is believable – which makes each crime all the more horrific.

I’m not going to talk much more about this movie because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. But, have no doubts – this is the best gangster movie ever made (and yes, that includes The Godfather.) It’s a remarkable film, and Scorcese’s best – that alone should be reason enough to see it.


One Response to “Week of Movies: 6 & 5”

  1. Sally Says:

    Surprised to see Fear & Loathing so early! xxx

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