Not Only But Also...
~ Political Song
Writing an essay on Political song writing...
~ Favourite Things
Jim lists a few of his favourite things...
~ Singing the Blues all
aspiring blues artists should read this...
Island Disks if you could take only 10 disks to a desert island,
what would they be?
Island Films and which 10 movies would you take with you?
That Stopped Me In My Tracks
When was the last time a song stopped you in your tracks?
If you had to spend a year on a desert island, and could only take 10 movies with you, what would they be? Here, in no particular order, Jim chooses his favourite
films (by genre),
and explains why.
To see a complete list of
Jim's DVD and VHS collection follow the links in the main menu bar on the
Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece.
There as so many great moments in this movie. Everyone's favourite moment
is when Robert Duvall's character, Col. Kilgore utters the famous, "I
love the smell of napalm in the morning..." line. But my
favourite line, also spoken by Duvall/Kilgore comes soon after that napalm
line: "Someday this war's gonna end." There is so much regret in his voice when he says this, that you know Kilgore,
and many people like him are going to miss the war, and the positions of
power and influence it gives them.
I actually prefer the original version. The longer Redux version has lots of extra
footage but much of it just gets in the way of the storytelling. While it
was nice to see the much talked about French Plantation scene, and
the Playboy Bunnies scene, I don't think they add a lot to the main
story. In fact, I think the French Plantation scene actually makes
the movie look dated when viewed today.
As for Marlon Brando's performance as Colonel Kurtz - I think it is great. It's
perfectly fitting that this man Kurtz, who is slowly going crazy in his lair,
deep in the Cambodian jungle, spends most of his time sitting in the dark brooding over his actions,
while waiting to 'suffer the consequences' of these actions.
Scene: This movie is full of great scenes, but for sheer heart
thumping excitement you can't go past Wagner's Ride of The Valkeryies
as the choppers sweep in to attack the Vietnamese village early in the
morning. I can never hear that music now, without thinking about that
Contenders: Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket; and the
brilliant German film about life on a German submarine during the Second
World War, Das Boot (The Boat). If
you are going to see Das Boot, do yourself a favour, and see the
original German language version, not the dubbed into English one.
The Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan,
could have been represented on this list several times, and in several
genre's, but I've settled on this gangster epic because I love everything
about this movie. The performances, the cinematography, the plotting, and
especially John Turturro's "Look into your heart..."
Scene: Have I mentioned John Turturro's gut wrenching "Look into your
heart..." speech, as he is about to be shot and left to rot in a forest?
Classic stuff, this.
Contenders: Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas; the other Coen
Brothers classic, Blood Simple; Coppola's The Godfather; and
one of my all time favourites, Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in
America. Which is a good lead in to Sergio Leone's western
Once Upon a Time in The West
Sergio Leone was the director that
made Clint Eastwood famous after he cast Eastwood in his trilogy of 'Dollars'
films: A Fistful of Dollars; A Few Dollars More; and The Good, The
Bad, and The Ugly. But as good as these films are, I think Leone
was still working out what he really wanted to say about the American West
and the people who populated it. For me, all this comes together perfectly in
his epic masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in The
Right from the opening credits, you know you are in for an experience like
no other. If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about. If
you haven't, it's almost impossible to adequately describe the first ten
minutes of the film as three gunmen wait for a train at an isolated
Then there are the film's four main actors; Charles Bronson, Claudia
Cardinale, Henry Fonda, and Jason Robards. What a great line-up of stars.
Henry Fonda playing 'against type' as Frank, the cold blooded killer is a revelation. All this,
and Ennio Morricone's brilliant score make it one of my all time favourite
In fact, I've watched this film more times than I can remember, and every time I
watch it, I discover something new in it. If you haven't seen the movie,
you are the poorer for it.
Scene: So many scenes - so many favourites. However, my most
favourite scene is when Jill/Claudia Cardinale first gets off the train,
and begins her walk along the station platform, into the station office
(where she pauses briefly to talk to one of the staff), then out through
the front door of the station, and out onto the dusty street of the
western town she has just arrived in. All this shot in one long gorgeous
take, set to Ennio Morricone's wonderful theme written especially for her
character (all the main characters have their own musical theme). I never
get tired of watching this scene. Never.
Contenders: Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven; Sam Peckinpah's The
Wild Bunch; and Sergio Leone's already mentioned, The Good, The
Bad, and The Ugly.
Little Shop of Horrors
I love musicals. I think this goes
back to my childhood. As I've said elsewhere on this site, my very first
vinyl album was the soundtrack to the western musical, Calamity Jane,
staring Doris Day and Howard Keel (I kid you not).
Little Shop Of Horrors is the musical version of the Roger Corman
film of the same name which famously featured a cameo performance from a
very young Jack Nicholson. This musical remake stars Rick Moranis,
and Ellen Greene (who also starred in the original Broadway show). It
also has cameo performances from Steve Martin, John Belushi, Bill Murray,
I like it this movie so much I watch at least twice a year! Viewing it is
guaranteed to brighten my day, and put me in a good mood if I'm feeling
down, or put me in a super mood if I'm already feeling 'up' and looking to
get really charged.
Scene: Bill Murray as the masochistic dental patient is an absolute
scream, especially when pitted against Steve Martin as the sadistic
dentist! Be warned. If you have a phobia about dentists, close your eyes
and block your ears for the duration of this scene.
Contenders: The Rocky Horror Picture Show; and West Side
Comedy: My Best Friends Wedding
This would almost qualify as a
musical itself if there were a few more songs in it being performed by the
actors. There is so much to like about this film, I'm almost
embarrassed to go on about it in case I look like I'm gushing!
Julia Roberts, Rupert Everett, Dermot Mulroney, and Cameron Diaz bring so
much to this movie that it's hard to imagine anyone else taking their
places in the film.
I love the way Julia Robert's character is frustrated at every turn by her
own attempts to stop the impending wedding of her 'best friend', Dermot
Mulroney to Cameron Diaz. I love how Cameron Diaz's hopelessly out of tune
attempt at karaoke is turned into a triumph (it's so bad, it's good). Then
there is Rupert Everett's restaurant scene when he starts to sing Dione
Warwick's, Say a Little Pray For You, and all the other customers
in the restaurant join in. Then there is the...
Well you get the picture - or if you haven't already got it - you should.
One of my all time favourites.
Scene: Apart from those mentioned above, I love the way the film ends
with the phone call between Rupert Everett and Julia Roberts, and their
final dance together.
What a great way to end the movie.
Contenders: yet another Coen Brothers classic, Raising Arizona.
Why do I like this film so much? It
is a combination of great acting, stunning sets and cinematography, and a
story line with something real and meaningful to say.
Ridley Scott's sci-fi noir masterpiece stars Harrison Ford, as the Blade Runner
of the title, and Rutger
Hauer, Sean Young, and Daryl Hannah as replicants (life-like robots),
trying to find their maker before their working life runs out and they
This is another movie I never get tired of re-watching. Of course, you
should make sure you get the Directors Cut, which is probably the only
version you can get on DVD anyway.
Scene: Batty/Rutger Hauer's final speech. "I've seen things
you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of
Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All
those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain... Time to
Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, is an obvious choice, as
Scott's Alien. Less well known is one of my favourite sci-fi movies, Dark Star,
but then I don't have that on DVD either, so I guess that rules it out anyway.
Monty Python & The Holy Grail
There are people around who can quote
great tracts of dialogue verbatim from this film. I can't, but there
is much to like about this movie and the motley crew of errant knights
roaming the countryside in search of the Holy Grail.
Flying cows; the black knight and the black plague; witches and damsels in
distress; Trojan rabbits; Knights who say, "Ni"; all this and much more, mixed together in a strange brew that
only the Monty Python team would dare to concoct. If you don't find this
film hilarious, you need a funny bone transplant.
Scene: Scene 4: Constitutional Peasants: wherein Michael
Palin's peasant mud collector swaps some great lines with Graham
Chapman's, King Arthur.
Palin: "Supreme executive
power, derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical
King Arthur: "Be quiet!"
Palin: "You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just
cos some watery tart threw a sword at you."
Arthur: "Shut... up!"
Palin: "I mean, if I went round saying I was an emperor just
because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me
Arthur, (grabbing hold of Palin): "Shut up! Will you shut
Palin: "Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the
Contenders: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, staring Steve Martin and
Michael Cain is a delight; and the Monty Python team's other classic, The
Life of Brian (if I had it on DVD*).
* I have finally acquired a copy of The
Life of Brian, since I first wrote this piece, so can I swap these two
films over? Can I? Can I? Please...
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
The newest addition to this list,
Martin Scorsese's three and a half hour documentary exploring Bob Dylan's
formative years in New York City is a revelation in every sense of the
word. Containing lots of previously unseen footage of the young Dylan, including
many great performances and interviews old and new, this doco is a must
have for all Dylan aficionados.
Viewed together with D. A. Pennebaker's 1965 documentary, Don't Look
Back, both films paint an extraordinary portrait of the artist as a
young man as he reshapes the musical landscape around him. Watching this film you get a sense of the enormous pressure
Dylan was under to shoulder the burden of 'spokesman of a generation'. A
role he didn't ask for or want, and which he is still trying to fight
Even today, 40 years after turning his back on folk music, I know people
who still haven't forgiven him for 'selling out' the folk protest
movement, and carving out his own unique musical path. Thank God, he did
ignore all the carping and criticisms; the constant booing from unthinking
fans, and the stupid inane questioning of media reps to follow
his Muse wherever it chose to lead him.
Scene: I was blown away by the power of some of the early concert
performances we get to see in this film, especially Only a Pawn in
Their Game. Dylan sings with such focus, such power and conviction,
that it is easy to see why he garnered so much attention and interest in
those early years in New York.
Contenders: Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz; and Woodstock
(the original movie), for which incredibly, Scorsese also filmed some
Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons both star
in this stunning movie. The fact that the film also has a wonderful score
composed by Ennio Morricone only adds to the pleasure one gets from
viewing this beautifully photographed film.
Made when the concept of Liberation Theology was gaining much
prominence among the established western churches in the late 1970s and
early 1980s (especially in the Catholic church), the film focuses on a
small group of 18th Century Spanish Jesuits - played by Irons and DeNiro -
who go into the South American wilderness to build a mission in the hope
of converting the Indians of the region. When Spain sells the colony to
Portugal, they are forced to defend all they have built against Portugese
The ending will not leave you feeling good, but thankfully the makers of
the film stayed true to the story, and resisted the typical happy Hollywood
Scene: It's almost impossible not to be knocked out by the scene where
Robert DeNiro, as the character Mendoza, a former slave trader, does penance
for his past sins by dragging a huge and heavy bundle of swords, armor,
helmet, and clothing to the top of a high valley as water spumes and pours
down around him every step of his weary way.
Terry Gilliam's classic movie of a
not too distant dystopian future where a huge monolithic bureaucracy
(which seems remarkably close to the vision George Orwell created in
his book, 1984), controls every aspect of daily life.
Staring Jonathon Price, Michael Palin, and Robert DeNiro, is Brazil
just a bizarre dream? A terrifying nightmare? A figment of Jonathon
Price's over active imagination?
Whatever it is - you may never view the comic genius of Michael Palin in
the same way again. But that's already telling you too much if you haven't
yet seen the movie, which I urge you to do - not once, but many times. In
fact, you will need to see it multiple times to pick up on all the things
you missed the first and subsequent times you watched it.
Like all of the films on this list, I never tire of watching this movie,
but I have to be in a certain frame of mind before I do so. It's not the
sort of film that leaves you with a good feeling - however brilliant it
Scene: I'm not sure if it's possible to have a favourite scene in this
movie. It is at times bizarre, hilarious, bleak, terrifying, hallucinogenic,
and much more besides. In deed, Sam
Lowry's (that is, Jonathon Price's) first day in Information Retrieval is
probably all of those adjectives and more, so I will select that as my
favourite, although every scene is a winner.
Contenders: Louis Malle's Days of Heaven; Michael Cimino's Heaven's
This has been a real
challenge, selecting ten of my favourite movies. In truth, almost every
DVD and VHS film I own is a favourite, for one reason or other, and
depending on my mood on any particular day, this list could look quite
What are your 10 most popular movies?
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