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Home > Film

Robin Ince's Top 30,000 Films Of All Time

#29,975 - #29,971

5 September 2003

#29,975: American Beauty

People sure went mental for this film, it was the Citizen Kane of 1999, the sort of film that is described as 'a stunningly audacious directorial debut' but not as 'the greatest lesbian women in prison biker girl gang film ever made'.

It had an air of the emperorís new clothes about it: to be a critic and declare that American Beauty might not be utterly dazzling was tantamount to being found in an alleyway in your mother's bra masturbating in excrement and shouting "I demand that there's a sequel to Happy Gilmore."

But by the time Road to Perdition was released, critics found themselves able to start saying "well, I was never sure that American Beauty was that great in the first place, though I might have forgotten to say anything when the hooha was going on..."

American Beauty is not a bad movie (and comes a very creditable 29,975th in my countdown) but for some reason people gave it an instant classic status it didn't deserve. It was as if no other filmmaker had ever noticed that not everyone's happy in their jobs, relationships breakdown with the monotony existence, men who get to midlife crises sometimes start smoking dope with their daughter's friends and wanting to fuck them, teenagers can be grumpy and really macho homophobic army types sometimes want to do the man-dance with their neighbour.


There are some great performances, though personally I found Annette Bening a bit over the top, the Thomas Newman score was pleasant, but then for some reason was all danced up and placed on interminable ambient trance compilations, and you got to see a bag blowing around in a draft as if it was somehow significant.

This was really mainstream arthouse doing daytime soap opera and yet people found it significant - 'oh look they're holding up a mirror to our empty lives'.

This reminded me of Schindlerís List. A comedian was once waffling on about it and then turned to me and said 'Have you seen it?' I said that I hadn't and he portentously declared, 'You have a duty to see it', as if, until Spielberg had directed Schindlerís List, the Holocaust had been a forgotten event of the twentieth century brushed under David Irvingís Persian carpet.


#29,974: The Opposite of Sex

This was meant to be a coldly cynical film that refused to play by Hollywoodís saccharine rules. Christina Ricciís opening voiceover promises that this isn't going to be one of those films where it ends with 'I was never the same after that summer or whatever like it was so deep they can't stand it'. She also states that itís not one of those films that has a voiceover to paper over all the plot cracks, but that she will do a voiceover because everything moves at such rip-roaring speed we wonít be able to keep up otherwise.

She lies through her teeth on both counts. The tale of a nasty girl, who turns her gay half-brotherís relationship upside down by flashing her breasts at his boyfriend (please note, if this makes you want to rent this in the hope of seeing Christina Ricciís breasts, they do not appear on screen, youíll have to wait for Prozac Nation).

This film keeps promising to be mean-spirited, but actually everyone grows and learns on the way and everyone is on the road to emotional recovery by the end. If there is one thing I hate more than treacle, itís something that pretends not to be treacle but has really got a heart of syrupy gold, like Tate and Lyle in a Sarsons bottle. Itís a surprise really, considering it was directed by a man who wrote for Hart to Hart and The Colbys.


#29,973: Pretty Woman

This film had a similar effect on the female population of America as Top Gun had on the male. After Top Gun, the glamour of it all meant that men signing up for the USAAF went through the roof, equally after the release of Pretty Woman, more women than ever before became prostitutes.

A beautiful story of hookers, businessmen and no herpes.


#29,972: Mandela and De Klerk

I have never seen this film, but Michael Caine plays FW De Klerk (imagine that). I intend to see it very soon and will report back.

#29,971: On Deadly Ground

Another Michael Caine movie and this time he plays an evil oil man intent on drilling into somewhere icy (I think itís Alaska, I can't remember) and destroying all the wildlife, tribal spirits and goodness that exists there. He has jet black hair and eyebrows and his adversary is the good-hearted, open-minded, kung fu kicking Steven Seagal.

At times Caine has an American accent, but as the film drags on with itís mixture of nonsense mysticism and action, Caine clearly just drops the accent and waits for his personal hell to be over. In this version, unlike reality sadly, Seagal wins, after taking a mystical mind trip. The film ends with a five minute feature on how the earth is being destroyed by big industry that goes relatively unpunished by government. That was ten years ago, oh god, weíre all fucked really.

On the plus side, Caineís career recovered and he made the subtle masterpiece The Quiet American, though I am sure it still wonít be long until he agrees to rub shoulders with Jean Claude Van Damme in a movie about fox hunting and karate.

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