Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Top 7: When Ideas Make The Movie

Ideas are a wonderful thing. They inform life itself, and where would we be without capitalism, human rights or the I-pod. Applied to a more insular field of discussion, such as movies, its seems a painful statement of the obvious to say they are very important, but what's interesting is almost how unimportant they've become. Over the years we've built up genres, conventions, stock emotional journeys and cliche's for all areas of film-making. In many ways the idea, at least in its uncompromisable original form which is to come up with something that nobody's done before, seems to matter less and less. Its almost as if they way you tell it matters more then what your telling. Because I guess they're are so many more voices then stories, and that's where you find your originality. But this list is a celebration of spiting this rule, the movies that have good ideas and truly nothing else. Bad acting, bad writing, the works. Except at their core, they has a very good idea, and it carried them bulldozing through all their pitfalls to be a good movie regardless. SPOILER WARNING. BE WARNED ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE.

7) Dark City

The Big Idea: So What actually happens when Aliens abduct you?

Alex Proyas has one ability as a film-maker. To make Gothic production design look the shit. If you take this away from him he's got nothing, as evidenced by Knowing and I Robot. I know The Crow has its fans, but this is probably the best thing he'll ever do because it works on such a good concept. Suffice to say it props up some bad acting, shocking dialogue and general suckage in all areas exempting cinematography and production design. It also allowed a great visual film-maker with no story-telling sense whatsoever to make a good movie.

6) Evil Dead 2

The Big Idea: Right, so you've got The Evil Dead and you've got Airplane...

This is a kind of horror comedy we'd never seen before at the time, Which is the enthusiastic piss-take. The pitch of this movie basically Airplane with gore, and because this idea worked so wonderfully. One can't help but get swept up in the Giddiness, and be entertained to the point of such incapacitation that you almost doesn't notice there's absolutely nothing substantial here at all. Its Candy floss if it were a movie, but the concept of tone is so strong that this movie recently rinsed Citizen Kane and The Seventh Seal in Empire's 1000 greatest movies. Who needs those movies when you have Bruce Campbell being attacked by has own hand right. But seriously I love this movie.

5) Assault on Precinct 13

The Big Idea: An inner city siege. Like Rio Bravo with street punks.

You could substitute this with any John Carpenter movie really, because he was the master of executing awesome high-concepts in a manner of mediocrity, but the idea was so invariably good people ate that shit up. After all this dude re-invented the siege movie and pretty much created the stalk and slash genre, such is the extent at his genius of the simple but awesome concept. 13 is a surprisingly effective movie because of its premise, even if it is shot and written like a straight to video movie almost, with a standard of acting to match. But no-one had thought of a 'hey wouldn't an inner city siege movie be awesome!' movie before and thus Carpenter's legend was assured.

4) Cube

The Big Idea: So what if we were the rats in the maze?

This is an interesting one, because you can tell this movie is written by a very smart man, with a deep knowledge of Physics, Mathematics, Psychology and Philosophy. But what Vincenzo Natali is not is a great film-maker, really. Or a great writer for that matter. But Cube is such a barnstormer of a movie in terms of subject matter it really doesn't matter that the dialogue feels like it belongs in Heroes and the acting in As the world turns. Despite this, Its the quintessential Rats in a Maze movie, with people having to solve the puzzle of an unfathomably large and ever shifting Cube in order to avoid the fate of a lab rat. The Saw franchise owes it a lot, which stole the ideas and ditched the intelligence.

3) El Mariachi

The Big Idea: Its a Mariachi vigilante. Hell yeah.

The western meets an 80's action movie, but set in Mexico. The concept of having a gun-toting mariachi coming to town to clean shit up is so awesome in itself, its no wonder that this movie not only launched a trilogy but also the career of Robert Rodriguez. And this despite it looking like it was made for absolutely no money (it was made for less) and there being nothing that amazing about the film at all really. It just that 'gun-slinging mariachi' looks so awesome on paper it became a cult hit. Its maybe The snakes on a plane orgy of irony thing, but to a lesser extent. Desperado is the shit though, and without this there's not that so. Thank god for fans of cheap action movies.

2) Mad Max

The Big Idea: Its a revenge/road movie set in the future. With Mel Gibson.

Mad Max made for more money and with a better cast ( i.e its sequel the Road Warrior) would have been one sick-ass film, but as it is there's just a clever little revenge movie with a charismatic star and an exploitative down and dirty feel. Which works and doesn't work at selected intervals. But the combination of the semi-dystopian future and pedal to the metal road movie of it as well as the revenge story works as a very clever and at the time original crossing of genre's. Its rough around the edges feel doesn't matter as much as it would say if this movie starred Charles Bronson and been envisioned with less verve.

1) Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Big Idea: Southern hicks kill nice city folk with chainsaws. Thats right I said Chainsaws.

Introduced the Chainsaw as a killing tool for cinema. End of. That's such a legendary contribution that the rest of this movie could pretty much be the twiddling of thumbs and it would still have a legitimate place in history. There's more to it then that, but there's some quite blatant flaws here too. Acting goes without saying in a movie of this kind, and also some of the pacing and OTT of it fails some times. But like I said, Chainsaw.


Antonionioni said...

Surely the philosophical content of I Heart Huckabees beats drilling a chainsaw into some bad actor's pretend guts as an idea? No, okay, just asking!!! Or how about Einstein: The Prequel? Okay, okay...

spiral568 said...

Thats clever stuff, but I was going for movies with good ideas that are otherwise bad movies. So literally all they have is a good idea. I heart huckabees is a good film in other ways rather then just its conception, it has good acting and its well written and therefore is too good to qualify for this list. But your sarcasm is always appreciated here.