Category: Film

What is the greatest film ever?

Globe reader Ian Myers in Hamilton, Ont. asks, “What’s the Globe’s pick for the greatest movie of all time?”

A loaded question, if ever there was one – and the cause of many ensuing heated debates among Globe editors and writers across various sections.  It’s not a definitive selection by any means, but here are five very passionate arguments – for five very different films:

The Rules of the Game, defended by Liam Lacey, The Globe’s film critic:

The greatest film ever is Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, a tragi-comedy about a roundelay of romantic encounters among guests and servants at a French estate, culminating in a murder.

Released and banned in 1939 on the verge of the war, this technically audacious and deeply humane masterpiece is the only film listed in the top 10 of every decennial Sight and Sound critics’ polls since 1952, and set the gold standard for the medium of film.

Robert Altman spoke for following generations of filmmakers when he said: “The Rules of the Game taught me the rules of the game.”

Blade Runner defended by Elizabeth Renzetti, columnist:

Because it transcends time. Because Ridley Scott melded bits of the past and the future to make a glorious, decaying Faberge egg. Because even the star and the director can’t agree what it’s about.

Because Harrison Ford has never been more beautiful, which is saying something.

Because of Darryl Hannah’s hair.

Because everyone, on their death bed, should recite some version of Roy Batty’s speech. Because it dares ponder the central question of human misery: If you’re dead inside, is it because you failed to nurture your soul, or because the world engineered you that way?

The Godfather defended by Marsha Lederman, Western Arts correspondent:

From that opening shot – Bonasera begging Don Corleone for justice for his beaten daughter – Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather is a master class in filmmaking, each scene – each shot! – the work of a skilled craftsman.

Vito Corleone stroking the cat (improvised!) The horse’s head. Enzo’s shaking hands as he lights the cigarette outside the hospital. “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli” with the Statue of Liberty visible in the distance through the reeds. Michael retrieving the gun behind the toilet so he can gun down Solozzo and Captain McCluskey. Sonny’s toll booth death trap. The magnificent baptism/bloodbath scene. That good-for-nothing Carlo’s feet kicking through the windshield as he finally meets his end.

It’s perfectly bracketed: the film opens in Vito Corleone’s dark study (opening line: “I believe in America”) with a wedding outside – Connie blissful and in white; and closes in the same study, Michael now Don, in that same chair, Connie widowed and frantic, now relegated to wearing black for the rest of her days.

With the bumbling Fredo and hothead Sonny, it’s clear it will have to be Michael, the war hero, who takes over for Vito. But his trajectory – from his declaration to his future wife in their first scene at Connie’s wedding (“That’s my family, Kay, it’s not me”) to that final shot when he closes the door on her – is so authentic and captivating and magnificently acted by Al Pacino.

And the soundtrack? Forget about it.

The Big Lebowski defended by Darren Yourk, Globe Sports online editor:

Joel and Ethan Cohen have made a number of great films, but this tale of how a urinated-upon rug and a case of mistaken identity turn the relaxed life of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski upside down stands alone. A hilarious script, stacked cast, pitch-perfect soundtrack (special nod to the use of the Gipsy Kings’ Spanish cover of Hotel California when we’re introduced to Jesus Quintana), drug-fuelled dream sequences, marmot-wielding nihilists and a whole lot of bowling combine to create 117 minutes of comedic perfection.

You disagree? Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion man.

Die Hard defended by Christina Vardanis, Assistant editor, Focus:

Before the detached, stoic stare of Jason Bourne became the common mask worn by big-screen action heroes, there was John McClane.

There is a lot about Die Hard that plays by the book: one man fights a foreign terrorist group in the name of love with the help of a desk-bound Twinkie-eating cop in a setting that supports a roof-top gunfight, epic catch phrases, a fiery helicopter crash and so much broken glass Annie Lennox made a song with the leftovers.

What makes it the greatest, though, is John McClane. He’s not part bat, or spider, or made of iron. He’s not some amnesia-addled psychologically-programmed killing machine. He tears through Nakatomi Plaza beaten, bloodied, terrified, filthy and full of regret for mistakes he made long before the opening scene –  in his marriage and as a father. When he fires his weapon, he’s driven by fear, not arrogance. He fights dirty – with a chain, with packing tape, whatever he can find – and is desperate for help. He doesn’t think he can win this thing – but he knows he has to die trying. I’d give you more reasons why Die Hard is the best movie of all time, but I’m starting to tear up a bit. Hans, Bubby. John McClane is my white knight.

Follow Globe Arts on Twitter, and read more Globe film coverage here.  Think we got it wrong? Have a better movie? Share your picks on Twitter and Instagram with #GlobeFilm (We’ll add our favourite arguments to this list.)

I’m sick of Christmas films. What great family movies do you recommend?

‘Tis the season for eggnog, advent chocolate and – bah, humbug – the same 6 Christmas movies you’ve seen a hundred times over. Reader Jason Hall asks on Twitter: “What entertaining, classic, non-holiday movies can I watch with my family this Christmas?”  For those of us who can’t stomach another ‘Santa! I know him!’ or ‘The Marleys were dead, to begin with’ –  Globe Arts writer Andrew Ryan offers hope:

Firstly, I’m assuming you define classic Christmas movies wherein the big day itself is peripheral and that feelgood holiday message isn’t hammered home with all the subtlety of a massive neon Santa Claus, as per A Christmas Story or It’s A Wonderful Life.

Toward that noble cause, here are five holiday-themed movies suitable for family viewing that won’t make you feel like you’ve consumed a month-old fruitcake.

Trading Places (1983)

Two fantastically wealthy brothers (Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche) make a gentleman’s bet as to which human drive is stronger – nature versus nurture – midway into the festive season. Their experiment involves taking the crass street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) and supplanting him directly into the life of yuppie broker Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd), which includes the hiring of a hooker, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, to move the downfall along. Naturally, Billy Ray and Louis catch on to the plan and hatch their own scheme to make the two old coots pay where it hurts the most: In their bank accounts. Note: Most broadcast versions of the film have already excised the fleeting shot of Jamie Lee’s breasts.

Gremlins (1984)

Director Joe Dante steers wide of the usual festive sentimentality in this dark comedy that surfaces sporadically this time of year. The story: Dodgy inventor Rand Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) gifts his cleancut son Billy (Zach Galligan) with a tiny furry creature called a Mogwai for Christmas along with the proviso that the kid never, ever get it wet or feed it after midnight. Naturally, Billy fails to heed his father’s warning, the Mogwai start multiplying and before you know it there are hundreds of the bloodthirsty little monsters running amok in a small town. The lesson here: Always read those instructions.

The Ref (1994)

The only thing that toxic couple Lloyd and Caroline (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) hate more than Christmas is each other, which partly explains why they’re at each other’s throats one snowy Christmas Eve. Enter petty criminal Gus (Denis Leary) who has the misfortune of breaking into the bickering duo’s home shortly before guests start arriving for their annual holiday shindig. Gus opts to attend the soiree – he pretends to be their marriage counselor – and maintains the ruse for as long as possible. Weirdly, this may be the only Christmas movie in which viewers actually root for the bad guy.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

A few years before Robert Downey Jr. became Iron Man, he was still a working actor willing to take chances in offbeat projects like this dark comedy. Downey is letter-perfect as luckless thief named Harry who attempts to rob a toy store (he’s trying to get a Christmas present for his nephew) and somehow ends up in Los Angeles where he reunites with his high school sweetheart Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) and becomes the unwilling partner of a shrewd shamus named Gay Perry, played by Val Kilmer. It’s not really a movie for the kids, but it is wickedly funny.

Cooper’s Camera (2008)

You may have to scrounge through a few remainder bins to find this Canadian-made movie, but it’s worth the effort. Set in a mundane, obviously Canadian small town, circa 1985, the film stars Daily Show fixture Jason Jones as a hapless nitwit named Gord Cooper, who is thrilled with the state-of-the-art video camera he plans on giving his wife Nancy (Samantha Bee, who happens to be Jones’ wife in real life) for Christmas. Cooper’s plan falls to pieces before anyone even gets to carve the roast beast, courtesy of a crotchedy grandmother (Jayne Eastwood, never funnier) and a sleazy dinner guest (Peter Keleghan).


What’s the best Canadian horror movie ever made?

Erin V asks on Twitter, “What’s the best Canadian horror movie?” Globe Arts writer Andrew Ryan says, “Talk about a loaded question!” He explains that “although Canada has never really had a reputation for classic cinema, there’s still a longstanding tradition of shock – and occasionally schlocky – films near and dear to horror fans.”  As one of those diehard fans, Ryan offers his top five Canadian horror movies of all time:

5. Pontypool (2008)

Renegade director Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo, Highway 61) clearly had a hoot making this splatter-fest with comedic flecks. Canadian character player Stephen McHattie shines as a formerly famous radio shock jock named Grant Mazzy, whose career has bottomed out in the miserable burg of Pontypool, where he broadcasts out of the basement of the town’s only church. In the wake of a freakish snow storm, reports start coming in about horrific acts of violence and people developing really strange speech patterns – such as saying the same word over and over. In short order, Mazzy and his ragtag staff come to realize the weird behaviour is part of a deadly virus being spread by the English language itself. Which is not good news for a radio station, obviously.

4. Fido (2006)

Five years before The Walking Dead debuted on television, zombies were pretty darn funny in this offbeat horror feature directed by Andrew Currie. The story takes place in the alternate-universe town of Willard, several years after a cloud of space dust has turned a good percentage of the population into rotting zombies with a taste for human flesh. Not surprisingly, a company domesticates the undead, who are then conscripted to deliver the mail and perform other functions seemingly beneath regular folk. But at the same time, they’re still…zombies, which becomes an issue when a precocious kid named Timmy (K’Sun Ray) tries to become besties with his family’s newest acquisition named Fido, played by Scottish comic Billy Connolly. Weirdly wonderful in its own Canadian way.

3.  Ginger Snaps (2000)

Creepy and compelling, this low-budget film has a massive cult following, and not just in Canada. Set in a drably generic Canadian suburb, the story casts Katherine Isabelle and Emily Perkins as the disaffected Goth teen sisters Ginger and Brigitte, whose lives take a turn when they’re attacked in the woods by a beast of local legend. Before you know it, Ginger is sprouting hair and simian features and – scarier still – she starts dating boys! Weirdly, the only method of suppressing Ginger’s aggressive new persona involves the ingestion of high-grade marijuana. Followed by the sequels Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back.

2. The Brood (1979)

Following breakout acclaim with Shivers and Rabid, David Cronenberg pushed the bar higher with this creepy amalgam of sci-fi and horror. Oliver Reed plays a controversial psychologist who encourages his patients to manifest their inner rage, which subsequently take physical shape in the form of cancers and extraneous organs. Enter new patient and bitter divorcee Nola (Samantha Eggar), who inexplicably starts birthing horrific little creatures to act out her fantasies of hate against her luckless ex (Art Hindle). Be warned: The shocking denouement still ranks among the most disgusting scenes ever committed to film.

1. Black Christmas (1974)  

Directed by the late Bob Clark (who ironically would later direct A Christmas Story), this low-budget entry stars Margot Kidder as sorority sister named Barb, who finds herself stuck in a gloomy sorority house with her best pal Jess (Olivia Hussey) during the festive season. Not a creature is stirring until Barb starts getting phone calls from some sicko threatening to chop her into bits. Although the movie looks crude today, it was one of the first homegrown films to feature graphic on-screen violence, which naturally made it one of the year’s highest-grossing movies.