Thanks to a throw-away comment I made regarding Big Night, I set myself up to publishing another list. And with Darko's assurance that I'm a shoo-in for the Associated Society of Schmucks, I do believe I'm up to the challenge of enumerating (and elucidating upon) my fifteen favourite films.
My only criteria for these fifteen is their watchability factor -- in other words, these will be movies I don't hesitate to turn on and watch yet again. Consequently, there aren't likely to be too many downers in the bunch (i.e., no Schindler's List -- which I don't think is a Great Movie, either). Forewarned is forearmed: I'll be getting the obvious one (Star Wars) out of the way first, so if you don't feel like dropping by for a visit tomorrow, I'll understand.
I'll admit right now that I'm not 100% confident of the list's inclusions. Tastes do change over time, and movies I once thought I'd never tire of have in fact worn out their welcome. Apocalypse: Now is one such, thanks in no small part to my peculiar history with the film. My first exposure to it was on our family's b&w TV, propped on (what else?) a TV tray in a corner of our kitchen. I can't remember which of the networks broadcast the film on a Sunday night, but my parents made arrangements to keep my younger brother and sister out of the room for the full four hours while I watched the movie (and commercials).
I was decidedly underwhelmed when I finally shut off the set and went to bed, but over the next few years I did give the movie a couple of spins on a friend's VCR and colour TV, and it gradually accrued some of the gravitas the critics had accorded it. In the late 80s, Coppola re-released the film to theatres, and I went with some friends to the newest, largest cinema in Winnipeg to see this masterpiece.
The lights dimmed, The Doors began their ominous, mystical strumming, and the helicopters did their slow-mo swooshing. My heart beat faster. Finally -- the movie as it was meant to be experienced! The napalm flared, and Morrison's majestic baritone rose and sounded ... well, it didn't sound quite so majestic. It sounded a little high. And a little ... fast. Ten minutes later, my group reached consensus: the projector speeds were off. This was Apocalypse: Now as rendered by Alvin & The Chipmunks.
A dispiriting experience, but Coppola got into the habit of re-releasing this film every 10 years, and finally, in a Toronto theatre, I saw the film the way it was meant to be seen. This time there were no screw-ups, and the film was indeed a powerful experience -- powerful enough for me to agree to a "midnight matinee" just two years later.
This time my group of friends was all-male. At 11:45 we left the pub and staggered to the theatre in question, joining a short queue that was also all-male -- with one beautiful, blonde and visibly nervous exception. The fella next to her kept his hand on the small of her back and made all sorts of cooing and soothing noises -- "I'm serious: this is the best movie. Ever." -- but her shoulders were hiked up to her ears and her arms were folded tightly across her chest. Any fool could see she knew exactly what she'd been rooked into -- a Dick Flick -- and those of us who followed the doomed couple down the escalator hiked a thumb in their direction and sniggered.
Three pints of beer just before the stroke of midnight is not the best preparation to undertake for a three-hour movie. I was snoring in minutes, only to awaken during the feverish shrieking of The Ride of the Valkyries. It was just as well: my bladder could bear no more, and I executed a guffaw-inducing stumble-sprint as I desperately negotiated the wickedly steep aisle for the washroom. Once relieved, I returned to my seat and dozed off for the remainder of the movie. Then all the lights flashed on, and the lone usher walked up and down the aisle, clapping his hands and shooing us out. The blonde was nowhere to be seen.
In a reasonable world, that would have been my final exposure to Apocalypse: Now. This being anything but a reasonable world, Coppola went and released Apocalypse: Now - Redux. I was originally dubious about its merits and figured I'd just take a pass. But then The Globe & Mail gave three sheets of paper to novelist Michael Ondaatje's unceasing praise for this "director's cut". Another ten dollars left my pocket, another three-plus hours ticked off my life. And it became official: I had watched Apocalypse: Now for the last time.
But not so these next 15 -- stay tuned to glory in my taste, or to despair in the lack thereof!
Film Fave #15