Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Wine Bloggers Off-Topic #1: What is the perfect movie?

Goodfellas

Every month I'll be asking a group of wine bloggers and social media influencers an off-topic question that they can answer in as short or as long of a format as they want. We write so much about one topic that it's nice to write about something else once in awhile, like other opinions or passions, and I really like learning more about others in our community beyond that one topic.

So here we go! This is the very first post in the series, and the question is "what is the perfect movie?" Entries are listed in the order that they were submitted. If you'd like to participate in future installments, email me at joeycasco80@gmail.com!

Jim Lockard on WineJIM LOCKARD
Twitter: @JimLockardWine
Instagram: @JimLockard

There is more to life than wine and blogging about wine, and movies are an important part of that aspect of life for me. I minored in film criticism in college and wrote film review for a while in my 30’s. 

My representative “perfect movie” is CASABLANCA. There are, of course, many perfect movies – I have at least ten – and the category is subjective, not unlike what wines one  likes to drink. 

CASABLANCA, made in 1942, directed by Michael Curtiz, and staring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, and Claud Reins is perhaps an easy choice as a perfect movie. Brilliantly written and directed, with a flawless cast, it had the added quality of being timely – a Second World War Movie made during the Second World War. The story included intrigue, Nazis, fleeing members of the Resistance, all in an exotic location filled with corruption and mystery. 

Casablanca
The arc of the story sets the scene in Casablanca, the Moroccan city unknown to most viewers in those days. There are three distinct acts, the first setting the stage of Rick, the Casablanca characters and the Nazis when most of the characters are established and fleshed-out; the second the arrival of Ilsa Lund and Victor Lazlo, two Resistance members who are to be smuggled through Morocco on their way to England, and the efforts to hide them from the Nazis while Rick manages a number of other intrigues. The third act is the departure of Ilsa and Victor and the angst of her separation from Rick, who is clearly her true love, while the Nazi’s are closing in.

Add to this, memorable lines which are repeated even today (at least among my generation). “We’ll always have Paris.” “Here’s looking at you kid.”  and the often misquoted “Play it again, Sam.”  That last line referring to the song that Rick (Bogart) and Ilsa (Bergman) had shared in Paris during a pre-war love affair. The song, “You Must Remember This,” was sung (actually dubbed) by Dooley Wilson at Rick’s American Bar, the nightclub owned by Bogart’s character in the film.

CASABLANCA is a love story, a war movie, and a suspense-thriller with many well-developed characters. It has become a part of American film iconography, a true classic. The IMDB reference is below for the film geeks out there.

Lori Sullivan
LORI SULLIVAN
Twitter: @LoriTwistedCork
Instagram: @LoriTwistedCork

This was kind of tough because I don’t write anymore and I had a hard time narrowing it down to one movie. My choices were going to be “Lawerence of Arabia” - “Cool Hand Luke” - "Auntie Mame”  - “Fandango”.

I chose “Fandango”.

It is not the best movie, but it speaks to me because it is about one last road trip before you have to face reality and “grow up”. Plus it was filmed in Texas around Alpine, Marfa & Lajitas.  I grew up in the western part of Texas & I love big empty spaces.

This was originally a student film that Steve Spielberg saw and agreed to fund. It also, starred some unknown actors at the time: Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson, and Sam Robards. The music was by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. Both influenced the jazz department at the University of North Texas.

Fandango
When the movie was released, I was going through a bad time of “Oh Hell! I’m just out of college and I don’t have a bright future ahead of me”.
It was the same for some of the characters because the Vietnam war was in their future. So they made the most of the here and now with one last epic adventure by going to “dig up DOM”. (yes the Champagne).

It really is a funny movie with some poignant scenes. One of my favorite parts is when the car breaks down and one of the characters decides they can tie a rope to the car; lasso a train and get towed to the next town.

Fandango is considered a minor cult film and every couple of years, people will go on a road trip to see where it was filmed and bring their own bottle of DOM to toast over the Rio Grande River. The website to go to is: http://www.ultimatefandango.com.

I have not done this; but I’m thinking a road trip is in my future...

Lori BuddLORI BUDD
Website: DracaenaWines.com
Twitter: @DracaenaWines / @ExplorWineGlass
Instagram: @DracaenaWines / @ExploringTheWineGlass

When Joey presented me with the question, “What is my perfect movie,” immediately The Hangover, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and Transporter came to mind. But full disclosure, they may not be the perfect movie for the acting, rather providing me the opportunity to stare at Bradley Cooper, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham for an hour and a half. So I had to move on.

The next movies that I thought of were Homeward Bound, A Dog’s Purpose and Marley and Me. I can watch those movies over and over. Unfortunately, I also cry over and over. I’m not talking a subtle tear in my eye. The flood gates open and the full sobbing occurs every time. When I sit down to watch the movie, I promise myself, I’m not going to cry this time. As the movie progresses, I try to remind myself of my promise, but before I know it, the tears are flowing and I’m halfway through a box of tissues. So once again, I had to move on.

Books, yeah, books! Movies made from books. There has to be a perfect movie there. I thought of the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Bourne Series, The Hunger Games. But that was a fleeting thought. There pretty much isn’t a movie out there adapted from a book that I read that the movie is better than the book. Reading a story allows my imagination to run wild (and boy can it run wild.) The problem with the movie, is that they have to cut scenes and make casting decisions that are not what I had in my brain, and then I get angry. The biggest example is Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum in One for the Money. I refused to read another book written by Janet Evanovich after that disaster. And again, time to rethink.

PsychoWhat I originally thought was a simple question, turned out to be an extremely difficult one. Every movie I thought of had something that made me say it wasn’t worth that prestigious title of a perfect movie. Finally, just as I decided there was no such thing, one movie popped in my head. A movie, way before my time, but is a true classic. One that invokes tension, anxiousness, leads you down a path that has you questioning everything.

And probably the biggest twist of any movie that has ever been written. A movie, that decades later spurred a television series that explained how the main character became the maniac he was. That television series won many awards and immediately had a cult following.

In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock directed a movie starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh and Vera Miles that made an entire country scared to take a shower. Psycho is an adaptation from actual events that occurred in 1957 in Plainfield, Wisconsin and has stood the test of time. It was made to shock the viewers, and did a great job of it. It is a horror film in every way, but what makes it perfect is that Hitchcock didn’t need to shock people with slashers or topless co-eds being dismembered. Instead, he left the explicitness to the viewers’ imagination, and that’s what makes it perfect.

Frankie Cook
FRANKIE COOK
Website: FrankStero.com
Twitter: @FrankStero
Instagram: @FrankStero

Joey's question above could be interpreted in several different ways.  I've chosen to answer it in the sense of: 
  • What is my perfect movie?
  • What movie do I want to watch again and again?
The first point is important because I might well think other films are more technically brilliant, thought-provoking or innovative, but it doesn't mean I want to watch them frequently.  I've seen Citizen Kane once, and although I own on it DVD I just don't find it enjoyable enough to watch again anytime soon.

The second point is related - I love Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, with the best possible versions probably being the extended versions on BluRay, but the 686 minute runtime (that's over 11 hours!) make them somewhat impractical for an evening's entertainment.

The answer, of course, is the 1990 release The Hunt For Red October.

The Hunt for the Red OctoberIt's a bloke's film
This means it's not great for sitting down for some quality time with my wife and / or kids, but if I'm adamant that I want to watch it then I get a bit of peace and quiet!  Here's why it's such a bloke's film:
  • It's adapted from a Tom Clancy book, and military thrillers are definitely more aimed at men than women.
  • The director, John McTiernan, also directed Predator and Die Hard, among others...both big ticks in the bloke column
  • It features submarines, helicopters, aeroplanes, aircraft carriers...boys do love their toys!
  • There's even a shootout - aboard a nuclear submarine!
  • There are hardly any female characters in it, and there is no romance in the film whatsoever.
Cool info 
Sometimes things are done so brilliantly on screen that, even though you are watching and perhaps notice subconsciously, they don't register on your conscious mind.  This is one film where, once you learn about the trick or quirk, the film isn't spoilt - it's enhanced.  Here are a few examples:
  • When deciding on whether the Russian characters should speak in Russian (with English subtitles) or in English (with Russian accents (apart from Sean, see below)) the film-makers had a character reading a passage from a book in Russian while the camera slowly closed in on him, and at the word "Armageddon" - which is the same in both languages - he then switched from Russian to English, and then other characters carry on in English as though that is what they had been speaking the whole time.  LINK
  • One of the two screen writers who adapted the book, Larry Ferguson, also had a role in the film as the most senior non-commissioned officer of the USS Dallas, the Chief of the Boat or "COB".  Knowing he was cast before the screenplay was finished enabled him to write a few cool scenes for himself.  LINK
  • Harrison Ford turned down the chance to play Jack Ryan as he felt the script focused far more on Captain Ramius than Jack Ryan - of course he subsequently played the character in Patriot Games and Clear And Present Danger.

It has an amazing cast
Let's look at some of that cast, beloved to me not only for their acting prowess but also for some of the other films they've been in.
  • Sean Connery - playing a Russian submarine captain with a Scottish accent, both when speaking his few lines of Russian and when speaking English with a supposed Russian accent.  Slightly more together than the goofy Ramius in the book.  His most famous line from the film is surely: "Give me a ping, Vasili. One ping only, please." LINK
  • James Earl Jones - Darth Vader's voice and one of the coolest actors ever to be on film.  His gravitas in the original Star Wars Trilogy was matched by Alec Guinness, and without the pair of them the film probably wouldn't have made it past the first release.
  • Alec Baldwin - looking slim and young, not only trying to swear like an Englishman ("They've sortied their whole bloody fleet!") but also doing a passable impression of Sean Connery!
  • Joss Ackland - plays a foreigner, just like he does in nearly every movie.  Does his accent change from film to film?  I'm not sure, but my brain registers his characters as foreigners before I even remember the actor's name.
  • Sam Neill - not only one of my favourite actors, but a wine enthusiast with his own winery (see my forthcoming article on Two Paddocks Pinot Noir).  As Captain Vasili Borodin he has dreams of settling down in Montana. LINK
  • Tim Curry - Dr Frank-N-Furter of Rocky Horror fame, though here playing the sub's Doctor Petrov more in line with his sub-hysterical butler in Clue.
  • Jeffrey Jones - despite his legal troubles, he will always be Edward D, Rooney, Dean of Students in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
  • Richard Jordan - best known to me as Duncan Idaho from David Lynch's Dune.  Sadly died only three years after October hit the cinemas.
  • Gates McFadden - Star Trek The Next Generation ((TNG)'s Doctor Beverly Crusher playing the hero's English wife.  Her character wasn't English in the book, but the director wanted to emphasize Jack Ryan's station in London.

Julien MiquelJULIEN MIQUEL
Website: SocialVignerons.com
Twitter: @JMiquelWine / @SocialVignerons
Instagram: @JMiquelWine

Not sure anything close to a ‘perfect movie’ exists!

First, there are so many different genres, and none combines with perfection different universes and different genres. Do ‘fusion movies’ even exist? Movies crossing borders and mixing different genres into one single movie? Writers and directors don’t even try probably, as they know a movie is to immerse you into one universe, not several, and do it very well. It’s hard enough this way. A movie is always made with an specific audience in mind too, therefore always a it biased.

Secondly, for me anyway, wine is not present enough in ‘near-perfect’ movies. So, they’re all flawed to start with in this regard [wink]. Had the characters been wine connoisseurs uncorking and sharing a few nice crus along the script in The Game, Avatar, The Matrix, Fight Club, American Beauty, or Eyes Wide Shut (some of my favorite movies), those would probably had been ‘perfect’. I love when a specific wine is discretely mentioned in a movie, like Chateau Latour in Ratatouille for example. But it doesn’t happen often enough. I guess wine producers don’t quite have big budget enough to pay for this type of product placement, nor have they the interest to do it. It used to be the case in James Bond which was fun.

InceptionAnd, I haven’t come across a wine movie that’d really blow my mind… Mondovino was a joke. Bottle Shock was overly romanticized. Sideways was fun. I’m still to watch Somm. Is it good?

Anyways, perhaps if I were to cite one movie as a candidate to the tittle of ‘the perfect movie’, I’d nominate Inception. The casting is outstanding, and I found the movie immerses you so deep into this multi-layered universe. Somewhat like tasting a great wine. There’s always something new to unveil at every second hidden underneath the surface! It’s breathtaking and captivating. The mark of a great movie for me, is when at no single moment do you ever think “oh, I can see how they’ve shot that scene, and they could have done differently, or better.” When you stay dazzled all along. Inception did that for me. Just a shame while they were in Paris, the characters did not stop by at a wine shop and buy a case of wine, to enjoy along the story. A glass of wine a day…

JOEY CASCO
Twitter: @TheWineStalker
Instagram: @TheWineStalker

First of all, THANK YOU TO ALL THAT PARTICIPATED right off the bat for this series and I'm looking forward to doing this every month for as long as it lasts! I'm hoping to make it really grow into an event that lets us learn more about each other and helps us promote each other's hard work. Secondly, YOU'RE ALL WRONG! *I'm joking*

The perfect movie is Goodfellas! How could it not be?

EVERY. SINGLE. SCENE. is memorable and quotable. There is no part of this movie that is not important, not a great example of brilliant acting, or a single waste of a second. From the famous clown fiasco, to “I don’t shine shoes no more”, to "they spit on their own floors!", to "I'm gonna get the papers, get the papers", to “Kaaaaaren!?! Why did you do that?!?”, this is a true American classic that cannot be beat in its relentless roll-out of incredible moments and storytelling. (Have you used a razor blade to slice garlic? I have.)

GoodfellasMy personal favorite scene is when they stop at Tommy's mom's house. Tommy's mom is played by Scorsese's real life mom (and she was also Paulie's maaah in the Sopranos). She cooks them an entire meal in the middle of the night and shows them a painting of a man in a boat with two dogs. Tommy goes "Oh I like this one... One dog goes one way, the other dog goes the other way, and this guy's sayin', 'Whaddya want from me?'" I don't know why I love that so much. Then they borrow one of her knives because they "hit a deer and its paw got caught in the grill." So good!

There's a love story, there's action, there's drama, and there's humor. There's something for everybody unless you're a little kid.

Go back and watch it and prove me wrong. The script, the directing, the acting, and the use of music (oh, the music! The ending of Layla could not be better used, ever!) make Goodfellas the perfect movie. I honestly don’t see how it could possibly be improved upon.

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