Top Ten Feelgood Movies of All Time

July 30, 2012

 

 

10. Groundhog Day {1993}

Bill Murray stars in this comedy feelgood film which is as funny as it is moving. Quirky and fascinating, this film hangs on a magic realism that sees our hero re-live the same day over and over until he gets it right. Murray plays Phil, a disillusioned and contemptuous TV weatherman whose ambition and attitude distances himself from those around him. Now Phil has the opportunity to re-live the same day, Groundhog Day, with hilarious consequences. Eventually, Phil realises that he can’t escape, and is forced to confront himself, his attitude and his negative outlook on life. As he falls in love with his producer, Rita, who dislikes him intensely, Phil undertakes a scrooge-like transformation in order to be the man that she could love. This film is a very funny, genuinely heart-warming and extremely well told fable for modern life which neatly avoids falling into the trap of being either overly moralistic or sentimental.

Feelgood 8/10

 

 

9. The Shawshank Redemption {1994}

Tim Robbins and Morgan freeman star in this epic tale of redemption set inside a prison. It is a deep tale of friendship with an iconic soundtrack and equally iconic acting. Andy (Robbins) is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife where he befriends fellow prisoner, Red (Freeman). What makes this film so memorable is its message: That even in the darkest places, the human spirit can flourish. The majority of the film follows the powerful relationship and the engaging dialogue of two fellow inmates as they deal with the ordeals of prison life including corrupt and vicious prison wardens. Andy’s positivity despite such bleakness and Red/Freeman’s integrity (and narration) throughout the film, keeps the viewer hanging on every twist in the story, a story which shows a deep strength and powerful humanity rarely seen in such a major Hollywood production. If you haven’t seen this film yet, treat yourself, clear a whole evening (the film is an epic at 142 minutes long!) and watch what will surely become one of your favourite films.

Feelgood 8/10

 

8. The Pursuit of Happyness {2006}

This film is full of all the hallmarks we’ve come to expect of a Will Smith movie: Engaging, cheeky and full of comedic charm. What’s unexpected is the incredible depth of emotion and sincere storytelling which characterises The Pursuit of Happyness. The story is simple; Will Smith plays a struggling salesman who decides to take charge of his own destiny while at the same time remain a good father during a difficult relationship breakup. Perhaps partly due to being based on a true story, partly due to the child-star of the film being Will Smith’s real-life son, and partly due to the simple but compelling soundtrack, this story of one man’s economic struggle against all odds, and amidst a family breakdown, earns it it’s place at number eight on the top ten feelgood films of all time.

Feelgood 8/10

7. I Heart Huckabees {2004}

How am I not myself? Quite possibly the quirkiest film ever made. The concept is simple, a young man, Albert, goes on a search for truth and seeks to find meaning in his life with the help of two existential detectives. This film is funny, deep and a real tearjerker with some very profound insights into the human condition. It also features some wonderful acting by Dustin Hoffman, Mark Wahlberg, Jude Law and Jason Schwartzman amongst others! I Heart Huckabees is total feelgood, from the twists and turns in the plot to the therapy-like transformation Albert goes through in his search… However, two things in particular make this film so blindingly fantastic. The first is the unique and magical film score written by musical genius Jon Brion – which perfectly matches every mood of the film, and the second is how larger than life all of the characters in this film are, and how easy it is to fall in love with them all. Having said all this, the film also deliberately poses some difficult questions and looks very deeply into the nature of human interaction. If you like your films to be shallow and full of cheap laughs then this film will disappoint. For those capable of looking a little deeper, this film is an absolute gem which can be enjoyed many times over.

Feelgood 8.5/10

 

 

 

6. The Fifth Element {1997}

The Fifth Element is one of the most unusual films to be made in the last 20 years. It is also the ultimate action feelgood film. It is a full-paced, rollicking action-romance-comedy-fantasy-drama-musical-futuristic-space-funk-opera adventure. Not only is it one of the best looking films ever made (costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier), but it also has a score which perfectly accompanies every detail of the film and uses just about every genre of modern music, from reggae to opera. It has a very alternative feel but is as highly polished as any other Hollywood blockbuster without losing any of its uniqueness and charm. There are so many wonderful things about this film: Gary Oldman’s incredible acting as surreal villain Dr. Zorg, the constant comedic undercurrent, (both cinematic and in the dialogue), the live-action “comic-book” style action sequences, the impossibly beautiful opera scene, breathtaking CGI, editing which is endlessly imaginative, perfect casting… I could go on, but I still wouldn’t do it justice… It should be noted that for those looking for a complex plotline with high-brow cultural references… forget about it. This is a simple story, well told. Boy meets girl-alien, has an adventure, saves the world. But then it is not the plot which makes this film so orgasmic, but director Luc Besson’s eye for detail, some phenomenal and fun acting, and the overwhelming and undeniable feelgood sensation which the viewer is left with at the end of the film. The Fifth Element is a celebration of life and love, music, colour, playfulness and much, much more.

 

Feelgood 9/10

5. Forrest Gump {1994}

Tom Hanks quite rightly won a number of awards including an Oscar for his part in this fascinating and unconventional film. Forrest Gump follows the life and adventures of a truly noble and well-intentioned American man (Forrest/Hanks) struggling with a far lower than average IQ. The audience is never allowed to get bored for a second watching his adventures, war hero, rugby star, nincompoop of the highest order… This film shouldn’t be as believable or easy to swallow as it is, however, due to Tom Hanks’ shining charisma we are happy to suspend our disbelief time and time again. Funny, sad, and intensely watchable, Forrest Gump’s warm-hearted approach to life will leave you smiling long after you’ve finish watching. Feelgood 9/10

 

4. Batteries Not Included {1987}

I saw this Steven Spielberg film in the cinema as a child and was crying so loudly at one point that the man in front of me deigned it appropriate to turn round and proclaim “Oi kid! I’ve seen this film… it gets better I promise…”. This film still has me crying from about 10 minutes in and keeps me crying on and off until the end… not because the film is sad (although there are many sad moments) but because it is overwhelmingly beautiful. Essentially a family film, and despite being about flying robots, the story shows an understanding of human emotion, (good and bad), far beyond any movie for “adults” that I’ve ever seen.

The story follows the residents of an apartment block scheduled for destruction as contractors try more and more underhand tactics to remove them from their homes. Just when it all seems hopeless, the residents receive some supernatural assistance in the form of miniature flying friends. What makes this film one of the best feelgood films of all time is its wonderful acting. Jessica Tandy’s portrayal of a big-hearted old woman battling dementia is wickedly hilarious and deeply moving. In conjunction with a motley but perfectly chosen cast of relative unknowns, this story becomes a modern fairy tale which not only testifies to the depth and courage of the human spirit but also how “heart” is more important than “progress”. Undeniably Spielberg’s best and most overlooked film. Feelgood 9/10

3. La Vita è Bella – “Life Is Beautiful”  {1997}

How can a wartime film, part-set in a concentration camp, be a feelgood film? Director and star Roberto Benigni took a risk in creating this film, which touches the very darkest and brightest aspects of human nature. Be warned, this is a sad film. However, it is also one of the most soulful and beautiful films ever made. The contrast of beauty and horror, ecstasy and despair, create such a brilliant spectrum of emotion within the viewer that by the end of the film you are ready to hug everyone you know and even some you don’t. Life is Beautiful celebrates family, love, spontaneity, hope and protection of childhood innocence, but also confronts the viewer with the reality of our most gruesome of human histories in a way that is neither contrived nor dismissive of the seriousness of war and genocide. Unique and profoundly memorable with more laugh-out-loud and tearjerker moments than you could rightly expect from just one film.

It could be argued that a story as “sad” as this could not be a feelgood film. However, I challenge anyone to watch this film through and not to feel exhilarated, challenged and deeply and soulfully uplifted. Feelgood 9.5/10

 

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind {2004}

If you could totally erase an ex-partner from your mind and memory… would you do it? This film follows a couple who undertake an experimental procedure to forget their relationship woes. What they don’t realise is that there are some cherished memories that are worth keeping.

   Eternal Sunshine is undeniably a romance film, but also has supernatural or sci-fi elements, is quite psychological, is packed full of comedy and drama and has a positive and uplifting thread which runs throughout the film until it’s powerful climax.

Although this film stars Jim Carrey, it is not a “Jim Carrey” film. And it is undoubtedly his best film. His acting, along with Kate Winslet’s, is phenomenal and each scene contains an unprecedented depth of feeling, with Carrey’s usual cartoon antics overshadowed by his portrayal of a shy and sensitive hero. Of course it is also surreal… as surreal a film as you would expect from one involving Spike Jonze, but the emotional drama is undeniably grounded in reality.

Original, witty, deep and memorable, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one to be enjoyed again and again, and is a testament to the proverb:

“It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”

Feelgood 9.5/10

 

 

1. Amelie

If by this point in your life you have somehow missed watching Amelie, do yourself a favour. Stop reading this and go and watch it. Straight away. Buy it, stream it, borrow it… Just do it! Go on…

This story of shy French girl Amelie Poulain so perfectly captures the nuances of the human experience on film that it is hard to imagine how a better film could be made. Stunningly and creatively edited, orgasmically colourful and engaging, beautifully written and seamlessly wound together, watching this film is like being taken on a journey into the womb of life and back. And that’s before you measure in the soundtrack, which is an engaging delight, a wonder in its own right.

Amelie is a love story, it is about the little moments in life… and it is about breaking out of comfort zones. It is effortlessly funny and sad at the same time with a visual elegance and charm that I have yet to experience from a film of equal calibre and depth. Amelie is sensitive, surprising and bold, and leaves you feeling refreshed and happy to be alive. I found myself smiling from ear to ear within minutes and didn’t stop until at least an hour after watching it. Amelie is great from start to finish, quite simply, a perfect film.

Feelgood 10/10

 

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The Top Ten Romantic Feelgood Films of All Time

February 4, 2013

Sometimes the going gets tough and you just need to wrap yourself up in the biggest duvet you have and watch a good romantic feelgood film. So here we are, the top ten romantic feel-good movies of all time, hand-picked for your viewing pleasure, guaranteed to warm your heart and leave you feeling good. Enjoy!

 

10. (500) Days of Summer {2009}

500days

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What happens when a hopeless romantic meets a total love cynic? Probably not what you’d expect! 500 Days of summer states clearly to the viewer that it is NOT a love story. Rather it is a well-written and cleverly executed examination of love/relationships and the myriad confusing emotions and difficult situations they bring.

500 days of summer uses comedy and non-linear storytelling to present a very honest picture of the relating between the romantic Tom, a greeting-card writer, and Summer, a girl whom men seem to fall instantly in love but whom herself does not believe in love. The story unravels to a conclusion which is honest, bittersweet and grounded in the reality of relationships outside of the Hollywood formula.

What really makes this film come to life is the chemistry and comedy which is well-acted by the lead roles and supporting cast. Add to this a fantastic musical score and you have a feel-good romance which is as bluntly honest as it is original in its presentation. Whether you are a romantic or a cynic, you will enjoy this movie equally.

  Feelgood 7.5/10

 

9. Chocolat {2000}

Chocolat {2000}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do not watch this film if you are hungry! Deliciously sensuous, wickedly charming and a real delight for the senses. While still retaining a certain depth, Chocolat is one of the sweetest Romantic films to come out of the last decade of film-making.

Visually, Chocolat is perfect, from the sugary treats that Vianne (Juliette Binoche) serves up, to the fantastic and engrossing sets and score, to the musical gypsy palette of sound and colour in the scenes which feature co-star Johnny Depp. Accompanied by a supporting cast, which lists Judi Dench amidst their number, and you have a film which is extremely watchable.

The story is fairy-tale in its approach; a mother and daughter travel to a new town and start a chocolate shop, much to the distaste of the ultra-conservative local community. The mother begins a romance which, in the course of love, ends up being the resolution to their problems. Not the most ground-breaking or revolutionary of tales, but one that (mostly due to the calibre of the acting) will leave you feeling light and sweet.

  Feelgood 7.5/10

 

8. The Princess Bride {1987}

The Princess Bride {1987}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take your average fairy-tale, spin it on its head, add some wicked humour and some unusual yet compelling storytelling, some quirky dialogue and a good dose of intense and heartfelt acting from a wonderfully creative cast… and you will have The Princess Bride. Made in 1987, this film is quick-paced and as watchable as any film made in the last ten years, with only some of the film set and elements of the cinematography feeling dated.

Everything about this film is clichéd and predictable, but then you realise that the director is being ironic. It is a moving, passionate romance film which also satires moving romance satire films. It shouldn’t work… and yet somehow… it works! As the story unfolds it matters less and less how predictable the plot is because you realise that you are no longer watching to find out what happens, you are watching it because you are fully engaged with the characters (and the comedy!). The film works because if you are anything like myself you have fallen in love with the lead roles, not just because of the enchanting storytelling, and the way the story is presented (by a grandfather reading to his sick grandson), but also because the actors (Carey Elwes and Robin Wright) are so sickeningly beautiful that even the cheesiest fairy-tale dialogues become believable, charming… heart-wrenching even.

To sum up, this film has that rare quality: an obvious and enduring sense of intimacy between the characters which is shared freely and happily with the camera through some wonderful and effortless acting. This film breaks the fairy-tale mould, dispatches our preconceptions deftly with a sword-blow, and leaves us feeling happier for having made the journey.

Feelgood 8/10

 

7. Moulin rouge {2001}

Moulin rouge {2001}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moulin Rouge is a love story, housed inside a musical, with a strong cabaret element, bawdy yet contemporary, with some very funny moments and acting which is so good that you barely notice how cliché the whole movie is. But then again, this is another example of a film where the story is unimportant because watching the story unfold is like being inside a diamond-studded rollercoaster.

Love! This film leaves you in no doubt about the theme, and in any other case a love story presented so blatantly would usually be a bit dull and predictable. Not so here though, because between the quirky screenplay, the zany characterisations, the drugged-up dream-like cut-scenes and the 5 star soundtrack, it is difficult not to be entertained by this film.

The acting in Moulin Rouge is believable -the cast doing an excellent job of following the film’s idiosyncratic mood swings- to create a film which is as much a romance as it is an all-singing all-dancing cabaret. Whether you’re a musical fan or not, you have to hand it to Ewan and Nicole, they do a fantastic job of their singing parts. It is a long film at around two hours, but definitely worth a watch, especially if you want a romance with a bit of a buzz!

  Feelgood 8/10

 

6. Stardust

Stardust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on a Neil Gaiman comic about a boy and a star, Stardust is the perfect antidote to an out and out Hollywood Love story. In the same vein as The Princess Bride, it is sincere and funny in equal measure- and has some pretty good special effects too!

Claire Danes (Yvaine) is entirely loveable in this film and works well as the film’s focus of affection. Charlie Cox also does well as the unlikely hero (Tristan) and together they adventure to great comic effect. The story is a real treat, being both quirky and unpredictable, and while the film has a very strong pantomime element, this rarely detracts from the depth and richness of the story. Robert de Niro is a surprise and a treat aboard a fantastic CGI airship, and Ricky Gervais is also well cast as a comic character chameo. The three witches also provide good entertainment and are believable, if not entirely well-explained villains. However, the strength of the story, plot devices and all-round magicalness of the adventure mean that these small flaws can be easily forgiven, making Stardust an excellent and memorable feel-good romantic adventure.

  Feelgood 8/10

 

5. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? {1993}

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? {1993}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the more indie-feeling films on this list, quirky, while at the same time being very down-to-earth, this is a film about love in difficult circumstances. Gilbert (played by Depp) is a young man in a hopeless middle-of-nowhere town, who feels trapped in his role as carer to his heavily obese “momma”, two young sisters and his severely mentally disabled younger brother Arnie.

It is just as enjoyable watching a young pre-fame Leonardo Dicaprio play Arnie as it is watching Depp play one of the first of many effortlessly cool yet tender roles as a budding film star. Under the sensitive direction of Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog) this film more than makes up for its lack of plot twists with its endearing and overarching human quality. This is storytelling at its most intimate.

The score is excellent, the acting: wonderful, the love: almost tangible through the screen, the plot… well… ordinary-ish, but that is the point of the film. It is an ordinary tale about an ordinary guy in a messed up world doing the best he can and finding love in the heart of despair. What more do you want?

Feelgood 8.5/10

 

4. Romeo and Juliet {1968}

Romeo and Juliet {1968}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the saddest love stories ever told, and, (in my opinion at least) one of the the best films ever made.

Although not strictly “feel-good”, the sheer depth of emotion, charm, anguish, wisdom and love portrayed here is enough to raise anybody’s spirits, even if the ending is less than Hollywood and the ending sentiments are less than euphoric. But then again, that is the whole point. Without giving too much away, if by some miracle you are unfamiliar with the story, the message of Romeo and Juliet runs deeper than just the two main characters. While some people may film more sad than uplifting, the plot still presents an extremely condensed version of the most powerful adventure that lovers can experience and of a love than transcends everything.

Beauty shines from the two lead characters, and in Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation of this famous Shakespeare play. In fact, everything about this film is beautiful. It is so carefully devised that every element of it, even the darkest twists contain a rare beauty that defies aging and makes it as watchable now as it must have been to audiences in 1968.

Powerful, meaningful, timeless and beautiful beyond compare, this film should be watched at least once by anyone with eyes.

Feelgood 9/10

 

3. The Notebook {2004}

The Notebook {2004}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Notebook is a straight, out and out, love story. But don’t hold that against it… because it’s difficult to find as passionate a story about star-crossed lovers as this one. Spanning a generation, The Notebook tells the story of Allie and Noah, two young lovers separated by circumstance and social differences.

I must admit, that the first 25 minutes of the film left me feeling a little doubtful. Initially the story seems too straightforward and predictable and a bit like a weekend television drama. The Notebook certainly isn’t original in terms of its storyline.

The story begins in summertime in 1940’s America and the Southern accents coupled with a rather clichéd-seeming opening plot and dialogue made me feel very curious but a little bit sick. Although the accents were a little bit jarring, what was uncomfortable was the film’s honesty. At times too sweet and at times too brutal, it tested my capacity for these extremes… and in the middle section of the film I was transformed from being on the edge of bored with the film’s story to shouting at the screen in frustration.

This film is like finding a diamond covered in mud. At first you don’t see it. You’re annoyed that you even picked it up, your hands are dirty. Then, just as you are ready to throw it into the garbage, it hits you. You’re holding a gem.

What do I mean and why do I rate this film? Well… The story itself is not entirely life-altering. The plot seems sucky and the story seems to roll along with little merit for large chunks of it… The music is powerful though, the casting in general: quite good… But the truth is… The lead stars, Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling are nothing short of orgasmic in this film: Believable, heart-wrenchingly authentic in their delivery, sexy, effortlessly at ease with the camera and just beautiful to look at. Add in a great supporting cast, especially the amazing James Garner, and you have an incredible romance which, I’m happy to share with you, I cried straight through the last 20 minutes of. The Notebook is just another predictable love story, but one that is unforgettable.

  Feelgood 9.5/10

 

2. Love Actually {2003}

Love Actually {2003}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Actually, is a film with a massively watchable appeal which actually seems to encapsulate love. It is rare that lightening can be caught in a bottle, as this film does, and not in just one story, but in 8 wonderfully intimate and subtly overlapping stories about the many faces of love.

This film is tremendously rich in character and storytelling, the most notably Bill Nighy’s performance as the ultimate joker of the film, a washed up old pop star trying to score a Christmas number one. He is well cast here, the dialogue and the situations he finds himself in becoming laugh out loud funny.

I can imagine the producers of this film were taking a bit of a risk with the narrative though. Love Actually does not follow a traditional formula, choosing instead to mix up several stories with no main story. Also, given the theme, the film could easily have descended into dreary mush or soppy pastiche. But given to an all-star cast giving an all-star performance and a five-star script… it manages to avoid the pitfalls, resulting in a heart-warming AND heart-breaking film which rewards the viewer’s attention to detail more and more as the stories overlap- a complex and ingenious creative effort.

All in all this film is a wonderful, heartfelt, jigsaw of a story, which, I’m sure, will still be watched by many for years to come.

Feelgood 10/10

 

 

1. When Harry Met Sally {1989}

When Harry Met Sally {1989}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Harry Met Sally is one of the funniest films to come out of 80’s filmmaking: Unashamedly honest, perfectly acted, with a script of very rare quality filled with uncompromising and engaging dialogue. You will laugh; and then you will cry, and then you will laugh some more.

The film focusses on the connection (over several years) between Harry (played by Billy Crystal) and Sally (played by Meg Ryan). Initially clashing, the story follow the two characters as they navigate through the world of relationships, meanwhile while the viewer is allowed to witness the intense chemistry and comedy of the duo as they wind up helplessly closer and closer together.

Essentially a meeting of opposites, the genuineness of the friendship between these two extremely loveable characters and the level of intimacy shared with the viewer means that you often forget you are watching a film.

When Harry met Sally is a cautionary tale about relationships while at the same time having a very positive message to share about relating. To sum up, it is the most entertaining relationships manual you will ever experience, survives multiple viewings and will leave you feeling refreshed and newly in love with the world.

Feelgood 10/10

 

 

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A review of the green mile

October 16, 2012

Directed by Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead, Shawshank Redemption), The Green Mile is a rare and moving realist fantasy set on death row in 1930’s America. Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, this film is a fascinating exploration of some of the murkier elements of human nature whilst being at the same time beautiful, engaging and life-affirming. The cast is very strong and acts well, dropping the audience smoothly into the cold and confused world of death row and the deep friendship, care and honour of the guards working there. Tom Hanks is on usual good form in an unusual role and throughout the rollercoaster of a story we get to see some incredible emotional dynamic from both Hanks and the supporting cast.

 

The contrast of characters, the integrity of the heroes, the unique and fascinating portrayal of the villains and the contrast between all of these characters is highly laudable. Visually, the film is immersive and detailed and even though the film is an epic (being just over 3 hours long!) it is intensely watchable, survives multiple viewings and has an Oscar nominated musical score which serves as a perfect tool for intensifying an already emotionally super-charged tale.

Finally, although there is a great deal of sadness in this film, (it is after all a film about death row!) much like the Shawshank Redemption this film is a soulful, feelgood adventure, a testament to the human spirit, and proof that the light can shine brightest in the darkest of places.

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A review of Waking Ned Divine {1998}

October 3, 2012

 

Waking Ned Devine comes across like a modern Irish fairy-tale. Some Aesop’s fables mixed with Irish charm and a perfect and spellbinding cast. Not to mention a fantastic score of traditional Irish musical delights! The humour is akin to that of the humour in Father Ted, (if Father Ted was more sophisticated, better written and about ten times funnier!).

Waking Ned Divine

 

Old people acting like children is always fun to watch, but when the story is as funny and well-written as this one, you get a comedy masterpiece. And that is exactly what Waking Ned Devine is, a warm-hearted comedy with some wickedly dark yet innocent humour, which can be a great family film or just as fun to watch with friends. The tiny fictional Irish village of Tullymore makes the perfect setting for the comedy to unfold. The many subplots are perfectly written and give an extra warmth, depth and intimacy to the main story, which has us laughing and crying (sometimes both at the same time!) at every twist and turn of the tale.  In many ways the perfect feelgood film, Waking Ned Devine is a personal favourite of mine which survives multiple viewings and is as hilarious as it is life-affirming. No-one could ever guess that so much comedy could be derived from old men zooming round a tiny Irish village on a motorbike wearing just their shoes; or, for that matter, from grumpy old women being catapulted into the sea. If you haven’t watched this beautiful film yet, you’re in for a real treat.

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Revisiting Baraka

September 25, 2012

I was in my first year at University studying English when my flatmate George sat me down to “Baraka”. He waited to insert the disc before adding: “This film is what made me want to study Geography”. Honestly, at that point I was tempted to feign a headache and escape. After my experiences of falling asleep from sheer boredom in Geography lessons at school I found it very hard to believe how a mere film could inspire anyone to love rocks.

 

Baraka The Movie

Baraka

 

What followed was one of the most humbling few hours of my adult life. My initial scepticism melted away after only a minute as I was confronted with a baboon enjoying a natural hot spring, looking every inch like one of my parents in the Jacuzzi. As the film continued I realised that I was watching something intensely magical and unlike anything I’d seen before (or since). I was quickly mesmerised by the constant stream of the most stunning visuals from around the world combined with a powerful, haunting and meditative soundtrack, and for all 96 minutes I was happily awed and overwhelmed by what is surely still one of the finest and most beautiful films ever made. It didn’t make me want to study geography, however, but I cannot watch it without being deeply fascinated and, partly due to its pace and depth, it survives multiple viewings. In fact, watching it now some years later, I would even say that it requires multiple viewings, because in some respects, watching Baraka is like using God’s eyes to see the world. Without any dialogue at all It celebrates all of the beauty and dignity present in our world without omitting the most destructive and horrendous elements of human nature, and yet at the same time it inspires wonder and awe at both. It takes us from the highest mountains to the reality of deforestation, to tribes painted and dancing, to rows of skulls at Auschwitz, to the modern face of war, to temples and buildings and statues which soak our senses and leave us humbled and thrilled. If I was to send one video into space to explain life on earth to any alien race who encountered it, Then this would be it.

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Top Ten Comedy Movies

August 30, 2012

 

10. Stranger than Fiction {2006}

Will Ferrell stars as Harold Crick in this unusual comedy about a tax officer who wakes up one morning to realise that his life is being narrated by a strange voice inside his head. Stranger than Fiction has an unusual film concept, being that we end up watching the film-script, supposedly as it is being written in real-time. This in itself would not make a ground-breaking film, however, woven together with an absurd and quirky romance and Crick’s regular visits to the literary theorist (played by Dustin Hoffman), this film becomes an instant classic, breaking the mould for the romantic comedy genre.

This film is as innovative as it is unusual, and rather than becoming a “Will Ferrell film”, Ferrell becomes secondary to the artistry of director Marc Forster’s storytelling in a way that is entirely satisfying and gives Will Ferrell a chance to show some acting range, which he does marvellously.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is also notably wonderful in this film as the love interest and provides an engaging counterpart for Ferrell as the story unfolds. Together they give an emotional depth to what is surely one of the strangest and most innovative comedies of the last 10 years. Feelgood 8/10

 

 

9. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou {2004}

Bill Murray is in fantastic form in this quirky and surprising Wes Anderson comedy. Wonderfully whimsical and with humour as dry as the sea is wet, The Life Aquatic sees a motley crew of weirdos embark on a shark hunt in a surreal “Moby Dick”-like adventure. Highly stylised, undeniably weird and full of all the traits of a Wes Anderson Film, including dark humour, emotional poignancy and some wildly fascinating and unpredictable characters, The Life Aquatic is unconventional, touching and full of comic joy.

While the story has been criticised for its coherency or lack of it, the world created by Anderson in this film is so absorbing and odd that it can be forgiven its major deviations from conventional storytelling. What creates an extra depth and vibrancy in this film is that, through its story, its rawness and compelling characterisation, it somehow creates an odd kind of nostalgia for an unexplored childhood which delivers a far deeper film experience than could usually be expected of a film this weird. Feelgood 8/10

 

 

8. The Fisher King {1991}

Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams are cast in this unlikely and positively inspired Terry Gilliam film. Less weird than Gilliam’s other work, and less “Robin Williams” than other Robin Williams films, and flawlessly held together by the integrity of Jeff Bridges’ acting, this film deserves all of the acclaim which was heaped upon it a short while after its release.

Of course being a Terry Gilliam film it contains many surreal elements, however, The Fisher King is more than a Pythonesque comedy, it is a masterful piece of storytelling, brought to life by some wonderful, deeply emotive and extremely believable acting.

The main theme of the film is one of redemption as Bridges and Williams’ characters form an unusual friendship and search for a way to piece together their broken lives. Spellbinding, inventive and well-paced, The Fisher King is a beautiful story which has the power to remind us how to be truly human. Feelgood 8.5/10

 

 

 

7. There’s Something About Mary {1998}

What makes this film so remarkable is its pace. The film is just under two hours long but it seems less, not just because of how quickly it moves, but because there are so many laugh out loud moments… and most of the time you’ll be laughing at things you know you probably shouldn’t! The comedy is in many ways puerile, plays to stereotypes, and is massively politically incorrect, but is undeniably, side-splittingly funny.

There’s Something About Mary was an instant hit when it was released back in 1998 and watching it again recently I was amazed to see how it hasn’t dated at all. Yes some of the comedy is sheer slapstick, yes the story is almost predictable, yes the jokes are base and push the boundaries of taste, but yes it gets away with it, yes the comedy timing is perfect and yes the character dynamic is intensely watchable. More than that, the love story is believable, insightful and beautifully human. If you don’t walk away from this film feeling entertained then you probably don’t have any legs. Feelgood 8.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

6. The Royal Tenenbaums {2001}

Drawing on director Wes Anderson’s own childhood experiences, The Royal Tenenbaums follows the story of an extremely unusual family as they struggle to express their emotions in an extraordinarily poignant and darkly hilarious masterpiece of a movie.

What makes this film for me is its sharp timing and perfectly paced editing. The humour is cold but constant and the further we enter into Anderson’s weird family universe, the funnier and more engaging each twist in the story becomes. Perhaps it is because we all know people a little like the Tenenbaums, characters who are masked behind money and/or success but who desperately need a human connection… this film is easily one of my favourites, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the cast contains several of my favourite comedy icons.

What this film isn’t, is a lighthearted family comedy. What this film is, is an eccentric, quirky, sometime melancholy but insightful and heartfelt journey into the darkest depths of what it means to be a family, and leaves the audience feeling grateful for the people in their lives they can call family. No matter how screwed up or lost we or they happen to be. Feelgood 8.5/10

 

 

 

5. The Full Monty {1997}

Gritty, Blunt, heartfelt and uncompromisingly funny, The Full Monty was quickly an international hit after its release in 1997, and contains some of the most engaging acting and storytelling to come out of 90’s filmmaking. This film about 6 unemployed ex-steel-workers-turned-strippers is a wildly unlikely story but so authentically told that it can be followed easily and believably as it challenges all of the preconceptions it suggests to us in its opening scenes.

The film follows the group as they attempt to rebuild their lives after losing their jobs. More than a social observation about how selfish politics can affect working communities, it is a story about how courageous and unpredictable a force the human spirit is. Indeed, after watching this film, I was left in a joyful state of suspended disbelief, warm of heart and more than a little surprised to be so emotional, having just watched a group of unfit middle aged men take all of their clothes of in front of an audience full of screaming women.

If you haven’t watched this film before and are planning to, prepare to be awed and inspired. This is feelgood storytelling at its best. A genuinely remarkable northern fairy tale. Feelgood 9/10

 

 

 

4. Yes Man {2008}

“Just say Yes!” is the premise behind this inspirational Jim Carrey movie. More than just a laugh-out-loud romcom, this film will change your outlook on life. The plot is arguably quite obvious, but contains enough regular twists and turns to keep us engaged as we watch how just saying “Yes” to each opportunity can make all the difference often in the most hilarious way. However the plot becomes largely secondary as we quickly fall in love with one of Carreys most full-on, quirky, outrageous and charismatic performances. Carrey’s acting is matched only by the beauty and integrity of Zooey Deschanel as she plays an entirely convincing love interest and whose presence instantly lights up every scene in which she appears.

Not since The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has Carrey delivered such a mature and engrossing performance. This, along with the underlying message of relentless positivity which this film embodies, makes Yes Man one of the best comedy feelgood films of all time. Feelgood 9/10

 

 

 

 

 

3. The Darjeeling LTD {2007}

Wes Anderson continues the theme of dysfunctional families in his most mature and fascinating film yet. What places this film above other similar films is the attention to detail in the characters and the sheer spontaneity with which the story unfolds. The irrational love-hate dynamic between all three brothers as they attempt to find meaning in their lives makes for some golden entertainment. At first the characters simply appear odd and misguided, however, as the story unfolds we see how each of them is redeemable and we end up watching with suspense as the three attempt to make sense of their family connection and show their awkward brotherly love for each other.

Two things in particular push this film into a higher category of filmmaking. The first is the music, which plays a powerful role in bonding the audience more deeply to the characters, and the second is the deliberate and meditative silences which punctuate the adventure, which, rather than being contrived or becoming boring, give us the opportunity to fully share and experience the insightful and spiritual journey the brothers undertake in the film. The Darjeeling Limited is as weird a film as we would expect from Wes Anderson, but with a wealth of emotional twists and eccentric humour that propels this film truly in a league of its own. Feelgood 9.5/10

2. As Good as it Gets {1997}

Jack Nicholson plays Melvin, a man who derives pleasure from his ability to deeply insult those around him. A misanthropic romantic novelist with an obsessive compulsive disorder, Melvin’s life changes dramatically when he forms an unlikely friendship with a single mother and his gay artist neighbour.

Funny from start to finish, this film will have you laughing at things you know you probably shouldn’t. Melvin is like some fallen god of derision, and embodies human bitterness. In this film he gets free reign to insult, degrade and otherwise demoralise anyone he encounters in a way which is furiously entertaining. The only catch for Melvin is, he begins to fall in love, and with this event he is forced to confront his bigotry, negativity and downright cruelness to find redemption in some painstakingly hilarious ways.

As Good as it Gets will glue your attention from start to finish, Nicholson’s acting and range of facial expressions is beyond superb. This James L. Brooks comedy about a bitter man who finds redemption through love is a real gem. If you haven’t already, watch it. Feelgood 9.5/10

 

 

 

1. Big {1988}

Absolutely charming and possibly Tom Hanks most enjoyable performance to date, Big is a fairy-tale about love, about childhood innocence and about… well… about remembering to enjoy your life! Few magic realist tales have such emotional depth and poignancy and no other film about body swapping is more believable or heartfelt.

There really is very little to say about this film other than it survives repeat viewings and hasn’t dated at all since its release in the late 80s. A landmark comedy which is on so many top 10s and top 100s that if you haven’t seen it yet, you really should treat yourself to a viewing… and if you have already, but not for a while, it might be worth taking the time to enjoy this classic comedy masterpiece another time.

Big is deeply touching, wonderfully acted and celebrates the joyful innocence of childhood in a way which is as insightful as it is entertaining. Feelgood 10/10

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