My Top Ten John Hurt Movies

Happy Birthday (soon!) to John Hurt, who will be 77 on Sunday, January 22nd.

Wow – I didn’t realize just how much Hurt has starred in until I looked him up for this list. So this will be yet another Top Ten where at the end I’ll have to list some of his biggest films that I’ve not yet seen. But I won’t list everything since he’s been in 207 things!!! So here we go… Here are My Top Ten John Hurt Movies (as opposed to performances) counting down to my favorite (which is one of the greatest movies EVER):

Honorable Mentions:

14. Hellboy
13. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (Nuke the fridge!)
12. Thumbelina
11. The Skeleton Key (I actually quite liked this stupid movie)

10. The Black Cauldron

9. The Harry Potter Movies

8. I, Claudius

7. 1984

6. Contact

5. Melancholia

4. V For Vendetta

3. Spaceballs

2. The Elephant Man

1. Alien

I Saw These But Don’t Really Remember Them:

– King Ralph
– Lost Souls

Some I’ve Still Not Seen:

– Watership Down (animated) (This is on my 2017 Blind Spot list)
– The Lord Of The Rings (animated) (This is on my list to watch soon)
– Midnight Express (I’ve been meaning to watch this for years… Maybe it can be a 2018 Blind Spot!)
– Rob Roy
– Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
– Dogville
– Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer
– The Oxford Murders
– Brighton Rock
– Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
– Sightseers
– Only Lovers Left Alive (I keep asking the hubby to watch this with me, dammit! I want to see it!)
– Snowpiercer (This never did get a proper release in the UK. Still want to see)
– Jackie

The Elephant Man (1980) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Tom of Digital Shortbread. Thanks for the review, Tom! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Elephant Man, IMDB rank 138 out of 250… (it was 116 when I started this project – it makes me mad when worthy films move down the list to make way for inferior films like Interstellar!)

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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IMDb Top 250 movie challenge: The Elephant Man (1980)

So there was this movie I needed to watch for this IMDb Top 250 movie challenge thing I was participating in. I’m using the past tense because this was something I had committed to about . . . a year and a half ago at this point. (Is that about right Mutey? Year and a half? or has it been longer?) The movie was David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and I finally managed to calm my ADHD down enough to where I could actually watch it. However, as I was cueing it up to watch my mind started being a bit of an ass, provoking me and stuff, telling me to flip to a different On-Demand channel, something that was playing a more recent movie.

“No!” I yelled back at it, out loud. Seated on a couch in the middle of a very quiet living room. All I had done over the last several months was learn to procrastinate better. Err, sorry, excuse me — blog about other movies that to me at the time seemed more urgent.* Finally I realized I could always procrastinate — yes, that ‘extremely-nonsensical-combination-of-letters-that-if-repeated-enough-over-a-short-span-of-time-makes-even-less-sense-but-somehow-if-you-only-say-it-once-you-know-exactly-what-it’s-referring-to’ word — later on anyway. I had to hit the play button now.

I was transported back to the late 1800s, and Victorian England, where traveling circuses were still all the rage and attracted (semi-) massive crowds. I think it’s only fair to assume those who did not turn out for these shows had some kind of moral compass that wasn’t shattered into shitty little useless bits. After a brief but trippy dream-like sequence, Lynch pans in on a striking man (Anthony Hopkins) moving through the crowds, trying to access a particular exhibit known only as ‘The Elephant Man.’ However a shift in the public perception of what these most bizarre and unholy of events actually represented — not curiosity, but cruelness — led to more than a few of the more obscure and unattractive exhibits being closed down by authorities. ‘The Elephant Man’ was one such exhibit.

Cut to a dank and depressingly dark alleyway somewhere in the London area, where once again Hopkins’ Dr. Frederick Treves is trying to get a glimpse of this elephant-like man. To do so, he must uncomfortably agree to some terms (mostly monetary . . . natch) set by the manager, a horrible man named Bytes (Freddie Jones). When he’s finally granted access Treves is so moved by what he sees that he asks if he may ‘study him’ back at the London Hospital, where Treves is a renowned practitioner of medicine. Or whatever fancy way 19th Century English people referred to medical-y people.

As Lynch’s often powerfully emotive work seeks to explore the relationship Dr. Treves formed with his patient, Joseph Merrick (a breathtakingly good John Hurt), during the time he stayed in this hospital, the narrative gets cozy in this facility, spending much of the remaining time concerned with the passage of time and how it can quite literally heal wounds. Unfortunately, the London Hospital had been deemed a facility fit only for those who could be cured of their ailment(s). Go figure, Victorian England. As if Joseph needed the added pressure of becoming an inconvenience to the bureaucracy. (Random bit of trivia: Joseph’s so commonly mistakenly referred to as John that he is actually ‘John’ in the movie as well, so for the purposes of this review I’ll stick with his movie name from here on out.)

The fabric of this narrative is weaved from a tough, humanistic cloth. The Elephant Man is an absorbing study of one of the most fundamental aspects of existence, the need and desire to fit in and belong to something. For the heavily disfigured John, it’s heartbreakingly sufficient for him to have his presence actually acknowledged by at least one person. Perhaps this explains why he opens up at all to the doctor who found him in the streets and why he said precious little to his circus manager/owner. John sees Dr. Treves as a paternal figure of sorts. At the very least, a reincarnation of his mother, of whom he carries around a picture in his pocket. Since early childhood, around the age of 10 when she passed away, John was always curious to know if she, too, would have rejected him like his father and his new wife had . . . or would she have accepted him for what and who he was?

The Elephant Man is powered by two tremendous performances from Hurt and Hopkins, the former being one of the strongest in all of cinematic history. (Certainly in my history of watching movies, which is like, so totally not a history at all . . . . . ) I feel pretty comfortable making that claim even when factoring in make-up effects that were ahead of their time, effects so convincing they inspired the Academy to introduce an award category the following year specifically for Make-Up Artistry.** Hurt, behind a mask that graphically depicts the brutality of random chance (a.k.a. the nature of genetics), is mesmerick (see what I did there? I spelled that word as if it were his last name as part of the . . . okay, yeah this is pointless information). But for cereals, you cannot turn away from this performance, not for a second. The man is utterly transfixing throughout, in ways that ingeniously distract from the grotesque physical appearance. Physically embodying the character was one step, but giving the man personality . . . that’s another challenge entirely. And yet, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for Hurt. He’s stoic yet nevertheless heartbroken by his past; grateful for Treves’ kindness yet still aware that not everyone can be like him. There’s an aura surrounding John that is wholly indebted to Hurt’s interpretation.

Obviously Hopkins is no slouch either. A complicated individual, Treves is first at odds with the hospital and its ‘curable patients’ policy. Over the months and years of John remaining under his care Treves makes more enemies than just Bytes, who reemerges infrequently throughout, eager to reclaim his prized possession any day. John’s life in the London Hospital begins in isolation, but as the doc makes leaps and bounds in progress with the patient, and the tenuous bond of trust they establish eventuates in John’s transfer to a more social area of the hospital, Treves must face up to the ethical consequences of using John as a pseudo-medical experiment. Hopkins is immensely likable as Dr. Treves, yet he’s perfectly imperfect. He doesn’t immediately question his approach with John, like how one of the first things he did with him was show him off to an auditorium packed with, yes, other medical-y people and laying claim to how this would be his most interesting patient yet. Instead, that question comes much later, after circumstances have changed dramatically. Yet, if we’re meant to feel ambivalent towards Treves, Hopkins does a damn fine job of convincing us of his better qualities.

This is of course not easy material to get through. If you have the patience to sit through some many trying scenes (I’m talking the kind that make you angry), then the upshot will be powerful, a potent reminder that people have an immense capacity for kindness in spite of all that has been shown here. Yet the treacherous scenes that come before are often punishment on the conscience; their bluntness at times visceral and greatly upsetting. Some parts are sickening, while others can be downright unwatchable. How can ignorance beget such monstrous behavior? The kind of freakishness that occurs naturally only in tents that capitalize on monsters. Lynch crafts a beautiful symmetry between John’s unfortunate looks and society’s collective hideousness.

The Elephant Man has been described as one of Lynch’s most accessible films. Structurally speaking it’s as straightforward as a . . . I don’t know, something that’s straightforward — a ruler, perhaps? No, a documentary. As straightforward as a documentary. I hesitate to make that comparison because it makes the film sound uninspired and possibly even lazy. Given the way The Elephant Man flows from one stage of life to the next, ducking and diving in and out of the various rooms that constituted John’s life the film does take on some of the evaluative properties of an in-depth documentary. Lynch didn’t have to concoct a timeline-distorting, reality-bending head trip to leave an impression here. He just needed to let the subject matter speak for itself.

*  just FYI Mutey, films like Mortdecai, The D-Train, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and what was your favorite film ever? oh yeah — Interstellar 😉 were reviewed before this was watched. Lol?

** slight correction: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created the new category for the following year’s ceremony, but only after they were pressured publicly to do so. When The Elephant Man failed to garner attention for its make-up effects, it was petitioned to have an honorary award bestowed upon it, even though the AMPAS refused. An American Werewolf in London was the first film that won the prize in the following year

THANK YOU to Mutey for your PATIENCE and your PERSEVERANCE and your HOSPITALITATITY for letting me post this review on your site, and so late! 🙂 The Elephant Man is incredible stuff, I recommend anyone who has not seen it give a look-see sometime. 

Melancholia (2011) Review

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Melancholia (2011)

Directed by Lars von Trier

Starring:
Kirsten Dunst
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Alexander Skarsgård
Brady Corbet
Cameron Spurr
Charlotte Rampling
Jesper Christensen
John Hurt
Stellan Skarsgård
Udo Kier
Kiefer Sutherland

Running time: 136 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with Earth.

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My Opinion:

Here’s one of the most-voted-for movies in my recent poll (I already reviewed the top two winners: Spirited Away & Grave Of The Fireflies). I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Lars von Trier film. They’re artsy fartsy & weird, right? I was thinking this was my first von Trier film but, oh yeah!, I actually saw Dancer In The Dark years ago. That was pretty good… I know that probably a good ten years ago I spent quite possibly the most I’ve ever spent on a set of DVDs when I bought something called Riget (The Kingdom – a Lars von Trier TV mini-series from 1994-1997) because I’d read about it & it sounded awesome & I didn’t know who the hell Lars von Trier was. Shit… what did I buy?! I’ve still not watched it all these years later. Has anyone seen it? I’m a little scared now – I hope no one mutilates their genitals in it. Anyway, after all the rambling I’m going to say that I actually liked Melancholia quite a bit! Huh. I was expecting it to be totally pretentious (which I suppose it is) but I also thought it was very beautiful.

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Melancholia is pretentious and artsy fartsy and full of rich wankers with their first world problems & Kirsten Dunst is depressed even though she’s young and rich and beautiful and successful and has an amazing chest. So right away it’s very hard to feel for these people although, as we’re introduced to more of Dunst’s family, we do at least start to feel for her having had to deal with these people in her life (especially her bitch of a mother) and start to understand why she is the way she is. Her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is also very supportive so, as the movie is about the two sisters, it doesn’t get too annoying as these two are bearable. It’s like Frozen with severe depression! Look – shit is shooting from Dunst’s fingers kind of like how ice shoots from Elsa’s!

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This movie is divided into two parts: Part 1 focuses on Dunst & the evening of her wedding while part 2 deals with Gainsbourg’s fear of the strange new planet Melancholia, which she is afraid will collide with Earth. I think a lot of people may struggle with part 1 as you really just watch Dunst in a wedding dress growing more & more depressed but it’s necessary for the character development of the two sisters & seeing what their relationship is like. I have to say I loved the very beginning which was just full of strange & beautiful imagery while classical music played (from Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde. I won’t even pretend I didn’t have to look that up – I like some classical music but I’m more of an Iron Maiden fan). So I liked the first half of this film just fine although I think more will prefer the second half in which we watch Melancholia come closer & closer to Earth and the sisters’ roles are reversed. Basically, part 2 is much better (or is more “exciting”, I suppose) as the characters face their impending doom. Yay! I’ve always wanted to say “impending doom“!

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Summary:

Melancholia isn’t for everyone – you’ll probably love it or you’ll hate it. I suppose it is kind of a part of one of my favorite genres: apocalyptic. I’m obsessed with anything apocalyptic so right away I had an interest in checking out this film. I also don’t mind a bit of artsy fartsy pretentiousness now & then (I love things like Daft Punk’s Electroma) so I had no problem with any of that here. Although, it’s a pretty straightforward story and any symbolism isn’t weird or confusing – it all made sense & I actually thought it was a very interesting way to explore depression. I mean, there’s nothing that makes you go “what the HELL is von Trier smoking?“, which is the impression I get about his other films that I haven’t seen. There’s no genital mutilation here or anything. You know, I’m just assuming everyone knows what I’m on about since we’re all movie bloggers but maybe I should point out that this happens in his film Antichrist so some people don’t think I keep mentioning the mutilation thing out of the blue for no reason. I think I probably prefer watching pretty rich people being a little sad to some of Lars von Trier’s other films from what I’ve read of them but I wouldn’t say no to watching some more of his stuff based on Melancholia.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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V For Vendetta (2005) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Mike of Screenkicker!. Thanks for joining in on this, Mike! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about V For Vendetta, IMDB rank 164 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

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Ever since Blade was released in 1998 we’ve seen a huge resurgence in the number and quality of comic book movie adaptations.  Despite all the great attempts at bringing the world of comics to life one respected author’s creations seemed destined to be mishandled completely.  Alan Moore is the mastermind behind classic graphic novels like Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen however the transition from page to screen of his work had been mediocre at best.  The film version of League is almost a lesson in how not to adapt the medium and From Hell isn’t much better.  So does V for Vendetta break the curse?  Yes and no.

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V tells the story of Evie played by Natalie Portman a young woman living in a near future fascist Britain who through a series of events comes to be associated with a masked anarchist named V whose goal is to overthrow the government.  With V’s help Evie finds the strength to confront almost impossible odds.  Fans of the source material won’t find much to grumble about apart from some changes to the main character.  He’s less of a straight-up terrorist and more of a righteous revolutionary.  One of the best things about Moore’s comic was the vision of the UK he created.  It was written in the 1980s and was massively influenced by Britain governed by Margaret Thatcher, making its near future version of London believable and not too far from our own world.  V director James McTeigue’s adaptation on the other hand portrays a very strange city which never feels real, its recreation of London looks old fashioned and seems more quaint than dystopic.

The movie starts by setting the scene and at first is jarring when we first meet V.  This is one of those common situations where comic book dialogue sounds silly when spoken aloud with V’s introduction eliciting childish sniggers from me the first time I saw it.  He’s seems far from the dangerous, determined force of nature from the book and later when he has emotional scenes it can pull you out of the action.  Basically the first half of the film jerks along at an uneven pace leaving you ambivalent to what’s actually happening.

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I know what you’re thinking – this armchair critic hated the film.  Well you’re wrong!  There is a lot to like about it and it really is greater than the sum of its parts. There’s a good performance from John Hurt and despite a slightly dodgy English accent, Natalie Portman gives it her all.  And once the plot kicks into gear properly the film finds its feet. Stephen Rea plays a policeman investigating V’s attacks and how his snooping unfolds is expertly told with a brilliant montage towards the end showing all the parts of V’s plans falling into place.  The crowning moment though is the entire section where Evie is captured, imprisoned, and finds a letter from a previous inmate.  Acting, editing, music, and visuals all come together to produce an extremely emotionally affecting and memorable scene which will stay with you and is worth watching the movie for.  From this part to the end of the film it’s worthy of the title and you forget about the slightly dull first half.

Intriguingly V is the first Alan Moore adaptation that he wouldn’t let producers put his name on and it turned out to be the best at least until Watchmen was released.  It’s a good story, well told with good acting, action and a couple of absolutely brilliant sections so it’s definitely worth a watch if you’ve always dreamt of sticking it to the man.  It really is V good.

7/10

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