For some reason, it's been impossible to avoid lists of top 100 films (usually "of all time") in the last few years. Whether on TV, in magazines, or plucked from the ranks of the American Foley Artists' Guild, they seem to crop up with the regularity of a standing order, and often they're about as welcome, for one reason - they're all the same. Well, nearly. Nowadays these lists, whoever does them, come in two flavours. There's the classical, Sight and Sound critic's list, which is guaranteed to feature The Godfather, The Seventh Seal, Birth of a Nation and, of course, Citizen Kane - all good improving cinematic roughage. Lately though, this has been nudged out of frame by what we'll call the Total Film punter's list, which usually goes something like Goodfellas, Blade Runner, Reservoir Dogs and, inevitably, Star Wars - a sort of calculated opposite to the first list, really, a catalogue of yours-to-own-on-DVD batchelordom. We've got nothing against any of those films of course, but we noticed how neither type of list carried much in the way of our favourites. So we compiled our own list with the help of TV Cream readers and newsletter subscribers, in the manner of our previous Real Top 100 Singles, to see what would turn up, and here's the result. It's, er, another list of 100 films. But we like to think there's a bit less predictability, a bit more variety, on show here than your usual trawl through the archives. You'll probably disagree ("What, no Labyrinth?!"), but we can say at least there's no agenda at work here - every entry was voted for just because, well, someone liked it.
If you've any comments, violent objections or declarations of mild bemusement at the final list, do please get in touch at email@example.com.
Comedy thriller master Jules Dassin's answer to his own revered Rififi was this largely dismissed but still tip-top caper comedy, with Peter Ustinov, Maximilian Schell and Robert Morley planning a heist on an Istanbul museum. Whatever the criticisms, there's nothing quite like watching a perfectly choreographed and directed caper sequence unfold, and in that respect this is as good as they come. The Italian Who?
|99||Man About the House|
The best thing about these film versions of sitcoms is that the plots seldom bear much similarity to the "sit" of the original series. So in Are You Being Served? for instance, you get the entire cast going on holiday together, no questions asked. Bless This House introduces Terry Scott and Peter Butterworth apropos nothing. Possibly the biggest deviation comes from this film, with the fraught five-way dynamic of the series getting the boot early on when the cast find themselves uniting to save their lodgings from the clutches of ruthless property developer Peter 'Sir Frank is in charge of civil service pay' Cellier. It's a plot hardly worthy of an also-ran Children's Film Foundation adventure, but it's all carried off with a such an end-of-term sense of fun you hardly notice. After O'Sullivan and Bill Maynard sabotage his posh dinner date with Wilcox (consisting, of course, of prawn cocktail followed by Steak Diane), Cellier climbs into a taxi and utters the key line - "Thames Television studios, Euston Road, please" - so waving a fond goodbye to the demands of plot and a big hello to "a galaxy of Thames stars" from Bill Grundy, through Jack Smethurst and Rudolph Walker indulging in a terrible pull-back-and-reveal racial gag, Michael Robbins as an old flame of Mildred's, to an extravagantly bearded Spike "gotta get these things OUT!!" Milligan. It's the nearest thing there is to a Christmas special on film, really, and for that, to say nothing of the wonderfully wistful closing credits theme, we love it.
The Mouse and His Child|
The only cartoon in the list - so Ustinov gets in again, but Walt disnae. The avuncular anecdotalist provides one of the main voices in this charming, and a bit disorientating, cod-philosophical journey undertaken by the titular two toy rodents. Weird visual interpretations of infinity and musings on "toyhood" made this stick in the minds of many pollsters who saw this at a tender age.
|97||Falling in Love|
A good old fashioned tale of, well, falling in love. Nothing much else happens in this movie - in fact nothing much happens full stop, but that's the beauty of it. Robert De Niro is a electrician riding the train everyday to work, he's married with a kid - nothing much happening there, then - but one day he clocks Meryl Streep and after a few mornings bottling up his desire for her, he finally plucks up the courage to strike up conversation. They're both cripplingly aware of their responsibilities at home, but they can't help themselves and inevitably they, ahem, fall in love. Best scene is the one where they kiss for the first time, and De Niro finally blurts out 'I love you, I really do'. Magic.
Black, black, black is the colour of this comedy from Scorsese - his only entry in the list, and one from his post-King of Comedy so-called "fallow" period - about a geek and his night on the town. Griffin Dunne is the poor schnook at the centre of things but with Roseanna Arquette, Cheech Marin and the brilliant Terri Garr involved there’s plenty more to look at. Never mind the likes of Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Goodfellas or any of that bobbins - it’s a testament to Scorsese’s versatility that he still managed to gain an entry with this, even if he does have to enlist the help of Bronson 'Balki' Pinchot and ex-Sid Vicious bodyguard Rockets Redglare to secure it. He will be pleased! 'Surrender Dorothy!'
|95||Don't Just Lie There, Say Something!|
Staying true to our word, we're avoiding bunging any Confessions-type films in the list for a laugh. Well, apart from this one, but that's because it's something altogether more interesting. Two generations of comedy collide in this masterful Whitehall-farce-meets-sexcom period piece, adapted from a stage play, but the cinematic rendition has to be the definitive one. Leslie Phillips and Brian Rix are on top form as a couple of scandal-prone MPs, Joanna Lumley as the cause of much of their scandal, Derek Griffiths and Katy Manning (could there be a more early '70s combination?) as a couple of extremely unlikely hippies, David Battely as a yokel, and even a wonderful pastiche of BBC current affairs discussion shows thrown in for good measure.
|94||Ice Cold in Alex|
John ‘Ryan’s loony’ Mills, Sylvia Sims and Harry ‘right bastard’ Andrews are gasping for a pint in this iconic wartime tale of an ambulance and team panting their way through minefields and t'ing to get to the safety of Alexandria. We’re quietly pleased that the limited supply of war films in the list are not of The Green Berets calibre or any of that shit but of rather more interest and quality than that, this being one of the best available. Carlsberg anyone?
Arguments over whether the long banned (and largely identical) BBC original is better than the film version aside, pretty much everyone who's seen either or both of Alan Clarke's adaptations of Roy Minton's unflinching borstal play is in agreement about its brilliance. Winstone, Daniels, Threlfall and a host of non-professionals get their heads down and charge through the various set pieces - Danny John-Jules' letter from home, the hate-fuelled basketball game, the snooker attack, the infamous greenhouse scene - like their lives depend on it. Disagree? You're on guv'nor's report!
Powell - but no Pressburger, this time - dragged this deeply disturbing story from God knows where in his rather strange mind and made it one of the most unusual but unique films ever made, and all but knackering his career at the same time (but see further down). Carl Boehm is the cinematographer obsessed with capturing the looks on the faces of the women he murders. Members of the Powell Rep are in attendance, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey et al but also the blind Esmond Knight for a touch of irony. An artist engaged in the act of destruction whilst filming it all? Paging Dr Freud!
Concert films are, inevitably, pretty unrewarding spectacles. Iffy sound, endless crowd shots, migraine-inducing overuse of the zoom lens, and a sense of "well, you had to be there, of course" permeating every grainy long-shot of a "legendary" ten-minute Credence jam, all add up to an experience akin to someone telling you about a dream they had last night. That this Maysles brothers' Altamont doc was rescued from such Woodstock-the-Moviedom by the tragic events caught therein is certainly nothing to cheer about, but the results leave an indelible mark where your average festival film just washes over. Perhaps working with hindsight, but still believably, the atmosphere of impending disaster is magnificently built up over scenes of preparation for the speedway gig - from Andrew Loog Oldham's Partridgean attempts at crowd control ("You're rendering that scaffolding unsafe!") to the massive communication gap between the Hell's Angels security detachment and the strung-out organisers. Meanwhile The Stones hang about in local civic offices as the finer points of car park regulation are ironed out. By the time the famous on-screen audience stabbing is being played repeatedly, in slow motion to the shell-shocked band by the directors in a squalid edit suite, you're as sucked into the nightmare as they are. Chilling, compelling stuff. Oh, and the music's pretty good, too.
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