Friday, March 14, 2014

Favorite Movies: Part 1:

I quite often make a point of saying that films mean almost nothing to me. It’s true. I watch movies. I enjoy some of them. Almost always I promptly forget them and can’t even remember their titles within a few days. I have no idea about the names of most actors. Lana often tells me the names when we’re watching movies, but within fifteen minutes I couldn’t give you that name. I think I’ve looked up something on the internet about movies or actors maybe a dozen times in my life. I’ve bought exactly six movie DVDs in my life, three of which I got in a package deal for about 3 bucks (and have never watched since I bought them).  Lana has bought two others that I might well have bought myself under the right circumstances. Yet, I cannot say that movies haven’t affected me. And there have been some that have influenced my writing. So, instead of bashing movies too badly today, I’m going to actually talk about a few movies I really do like and which have been influences on my fiction.  To avoid making these posts too long, I'll do it in two parts.

                1.  Once Upon a Time in the West. This is my favorite western, and perhaps my favorite movie. It stars Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, and Henry Fonda.  Bronson plays a gunfighter known only as “Harmonica,” and Fonda is the primary villain. This is really the classic myth of the old west and I do own a copy of it. I didn’t actually buy the copy, though. It was a gift. There are lines of dialogue and certain descriptions in the Talera series and in Cold in the Light that evoke elements of this film.

                2. The Outlaw Josey Wales. This is my second favorite western, starring Clint Eastwood, of course. I couldn’t tell you any of the other actors in it. It is actually based on a novel and is one of the very few cases in history where—for me—the movie is a whole lot better than the book. This also had an influence on the Talera series.

                3. The 13th Warrior, starring Antonio Banderes and a bunch of other actors I don’t know. This is my favorite heroic fantasy movie. It’s based on Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, which is a retelling of the Beowulf story. Both the book and the movie are very good. The movie has been more of an influence on my work than the book, primarily because of the very strong visuals. This movie’s influences can be seen in some of my heroic fantasy, such as “A Whisper in Ashes.”

                4. The Thing, John Carpenter version. This is my favorite horror movie. I know the faces of many of the actors in it from other films but the only name I know is Kurt Russell. I thought the casting was excellent, though, and Carpenter got great performances from all the cast members. This has definitely influenced my horror fiction.

                5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The one exception to my “I don’t care about TV/Movies” feelings is Star Trek: The Original Series. I will watch anything and everything about the original series and have seen every episode and film more than once. I’ve even watched the cartoon series, which featured the voices and likenesses of most of the original cast.  I know almost all the actors names, which is unheard of for me with any other series ever. I even know the names of many of the guest stars and have several of their autographs. Wrath of Khan is by far the best of the movies made with the original cast and I’ve watched it so many times I largely have it memorized. Perhaps strangely, however, it has had little actual influence on my writing. I’m sure it’s influenced overall themes but not many details of the Star Trek Universe enter my fiction. Part of it is that I seldom write SF of this type, and part is that I know the stuff so well that I automatically reject it for specifics in my own fiction. The one exception is probably the Spock eyebrow arch, which I have had characters do in my stories. Lana bought a copy of this but I fully endorsed the purchase.


mybillcrider said...

Glad to see someone else likes The 13th Warrior. I too like both the book and the movie a lot.

Ty said...

This easily could have been my own list, though I'd probably have put "Once Upon a Time in the West" at #3 or so. Funny thing, I was just listening to that soundtrack a few days ago, and for a long while I've thought it's some of Morricone best work, despite the popularity of his music for Leone's other westerns.

And yep, Josey Wales is far better in film than the original novels.

The Wasp said...

I think I could watch all those movies on an endless loop. I so wish John McTiernan's original full cut of the 13th Warrior was available.

Have you seen any of the Westerns Randolph Scott made with Budd Boetticher in the 50's? Good, tough stories on a small scale.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I was hooked to "Once Upon a Time in the West" right from the opening scene when Bronson and the three outlaws take up position across the railway line. And then there's that little scene involving one of the outlaws and a pesky fly. I'm going to see this film again.

Erik Donald France said...

These are all great flicks, Charles! (Translation: I, too, like them all -- wicked!)

Agreed also on the original 'Star Trek' series. I still find it very thought-provoking and ahead of its time, ahead of our time even now.

Angie said...

I think I've actually seen all of those, although with Outlaw Josey Wales and Once Upon a Time in the West if I did it was when I was a kid. The titles definitely ring a bell, but I don't remember much of anything about them. They're the sort of thing my dad would've wanted to watch when they were on TV (we hardly ever went to the movie theater when I was growing up) and I'd probably have watched too just because TV was what we did in the evenings.

The 13th Warrior was great fun. I like Antonio Banderas a lot too, and I watched this one with my husband. I loved the scene where he'd finally had it up to HERE with them dissing his horse, and he rode all around the camp and then jumped over their ignorant heads. That was fun. :)

I just saw The Thing recently; Jim got it from Netflix and got me to watch it. It was better than I was expecting, and I stuck with it to the end. Very creepy, scary in places, lots of tense atmosphere. And the ending was very dangly, which usually I hate but it worked here.

Wrath of Kahn rocked. :) They tried to do a "Kahn" thing in the most recent Star Trek movie, and although I like the reboot about 1000% more than I expected to, I think it would've been stronger if they'd just made up a new character for Cumberbatch and run with it. He's a great actor, but he doesn't look like a "Kahn Noonian Singh," nor does the history they gave him work at all with the original canon, even given the deviation of the time-travelling Romulan. [sigh] I get that they want to do new stories. They should just DO new stories, instead of writing a new story and then trying to paste a few old-canon labels onto them. :/

But yeah, Ricardo Montalban was a wonderful actor. "Space Seed" wasn't my favorite episode in the original series, but Wrath of Kahn was a wonderful tie-in to it.


the walking man said...

Ever seen The Searchers? I'm not a big John Wayne fan but this one was so gritty and historically accurate

Nephew: "Why are you shooting all the buffalo"

Wayne: "So the Indians have nothing to eat"

Of course Ford directed it.

I Liked Pale Rider too Clint Eastwood as a preacher? Yea cool.

You know your missing movies like
Idiocracy and other cult classics.

Brian Miller said...

oo nice....great list...i really like 13th warrior as well....i would add 'Once' and 'Se7en' ...have seen most of these...the only one i am not sure of is the bronson film...will check it out...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The Thing! You the man. Such a great Carpenter flick. Even thirty years later, it still holds up. (And the special effects in the remake/prequel didn't look any better.)
A fan of all things Star Trek, so applaud that choice.
And 13th Warrior - very underrated film.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My favorite western is THE SEARCHERS but this would be in the top five with Rio Bravo, TRUE GRIT and ??

Charles Gramlich said...

Bill, my wife is also a fan. I don't know why the movie isn't more universally loved.

Ty, I have the soundtrack for Once upon a time as well. Awesome stuff. One of the few soundracks I ever listen to. I also have the 13th warrior soundtrack.

The Wasp, I've actually seen very few movies made before the mid to late 1960s. I don't have a netflix service so I'm stuck with whatever comes on TV.

Prashant, I love that opening. What could have been slow, was turned into very suspenseful. I love the line about the horses, "No, you bought two too many."

Erik, you're right. about Trek. Ahead of us today for sure in many ways.

Angie, I agree on the scene from 13th warrior where he shows them what his horse can do. I also agree about Cumberbatch in the new Trek movie. He just wasn't Khan.

Mark, I have seen The Searchers. Pretty good movie. And I like Pale Rider a lot. Not as good as Josey Wales. I do like idiocracy. My wife and I frequently rewatch that one.

Brian, Seven was a good movie. I don't know "once." Seven was very gross for the time, a good solid horror movie with an interesting twist. Precursor to Saw, I reckon.

Alex, yeah, I don't know why 13th warrior doesn't get more love. I heart it! I thought the recent "thing" was ok but nothing special. Not as good as the Kurt Russell story.

Patti, I think I saw Rio Bravo many years ago. I did like the original True Grit, and the remake wasn't bad either. Good book as well.

Unknown said...

I was thinking it was about time we watched Wrath of Khan again...for perhaps the 375th time. (You can never watch enough Wrath of Khan.)

Unknown said...

The Thing is one of my favorite movies. Rob Bottin's special effects are still gruesome and nausea inducing. The soundtrack is amazing.

What really makes it stand out as one of the greatest horror movies of all time is neither of the above.

The isolation of the camp, the close proximity in which the men live and the larger group dynamics of who associates with whom. The introduction of the alien organism, the huge storm which keeps them from flying the helicopter and makes radio contact with the outside world serve to amplify the existing tensions. Add in paranoia and fear and you have a pressure cooker.

Carpenter doesn't get nearly enough praise for the interaction between the crew members, the little glances, the tense postures...

It really is sad that the movie is not recognized for the work of brilliance that it is.

Chris said...

I'm with you on everything but the Star Trek movie. I hope we can still be friends.

You did leave out two very important words when talking about #1, though:

"Claudia" and "Cardinale."

I would say movies are every bit as important to me as all the other things that have defined my creative life, be it books, music, comic books, etc. I don't buy many, but I do have a little collection going of the ones I love.

Richard Prosch said...

All great. I've been watching the Eastwood westerns again this summer and still need to get to Josey Wales. Watched Joe Kidd the other night. For years before I owned it on video, I listened to ST:TWOK on cassette tape. So yeah, I grok the memorized lines thing. Much fun!

G. B. Miller said...

I first watched The 13th Warrior on cable a few months ago like I do most movies that intrigue me (especially ones with Antonio Bandaros), which is to watch the last 15 minutes. If it holds my attention, I search it out again to watch it completely. Fortunately, the STARZ/ENCORE family of channels was overkilling that bad boy this past winter, so I was able to watch it from the beginning. I liked it a lot and did not know it was different twist on the Beowulf story.

I really liked that Charles Bronson/Henry Fonda movie. Nice character twist by Charles Bronson.

I don't have much to say in the way of The Outlaw Josey Wales. Saw way too much of it while growing up and the book is a lot more interesting than the movie (the book's violence is a tad more realistic than what you see in the movie), so I can pretty much leave it now in my advanced years.

jodi said...

Charles-every man that has been in my life has enthralled the 'Josey Wales'. Me not so much. Charles Bronson was a fox!

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, so it certainly seems.

Ryan, I agree. The cast works together in just oustanding ways. It must be the excellent directing that really achieved that feeling.

Chris, yes, Claudia Cardinale was quite important to Once Upon a time in the west. I couldn't think of her name the other day but remember it when you mentioned it. She had a pretty good acid wit at places.

Richard, Joe Kidd is one of Clint's that don't seem to come on TV as often. Still a good one, though.

G.B., Banderes was quite good in the 13th warrior. I've generally liked him. The book Josey Wales was based on was called Gone to Texas among other titles, by Forrest Carter. I have to admit I thought it was really awful.

Jodi, well you're simply wrong about Josey Wales. However, you are quite discerning in other matters so you are forgiven. :)

Riot Kitty said...

I have only seen Star Trek, but I have seen all of them, does that count? :) We watched The Wrath of Khan again recently. Ricardo Montalban is amazing!

BernardL said...

Great list. All of them have had some influence in my writing at one time or another. 'The Outlaw Josie Wales' has always been my favorite western of all time, and 'The 13th Warrior' my favorite fantasy/sword and sorcery movie.

Charles Gramlich said...

Riot Kitty, Khan is my favorite movie villain ever.

Bernard, I'm not surprised we have similar tastes.

Ron Scheer said...

I saw JOSEY WALES onboard ship returning from a year abroad. It was a perfect welcome home.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

Oh, 13th Warrior was one of those movies that surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. Still love it.

Unknown said...

What an awesome list! You got a great combination of historic, fantasy and action movies. It's nice to know that those movies have inspired you in finishing your manuscripts. I do hope you get to watch more movies and apply more insights in your novels and other crafts. Thanks for sharing that, Charles! All the best to you!

Simon Walker @ The ViewLorium