Tuesday, March 13, 2012

5 films listed in this book that I never considered as having 'cult' status (even though, secretly, I now understand and agree)

List by Tosca

"In recent years, cult cinema has moved from the pulp periphery to the centre of critical debate. From initially being celebrated in fanzines and journalistic essays, the study of cult has now become a key part of film criticism and media/cultural studies theory..."
- 100 cult films, introduction

Title: 100 cult films by Ernest Mathijs & Xavier Mendik
Published: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011
Summary: This accessible guide takes cult cinema fanatics and academics alike through the 100 most memorable films, showcasing such diverse hits as The Sound of Music, Edward Scissorhands, and The Gods Must Be Crazy. This guide does not limit readers to cinematic favorites of the general public alone, but instead explores the worlds of such cult sub-genres as Italian cannibal movies and Japanese anime. Including vivid photos of unforgettable scenes, this Screen Guide brings to life the success behind some of the biggest movies of our time.

If I'd ever been asked to hand over my list of top 100 cult films I'd have failed spectacularly. At least going by Mathijs and Mendik's version of said same list. That's not a criticism. Merely an observation that any list along these lines (most especially any of ours here at the Top 5 blog) are wholly subjective. I could be facetious and say, "One man's meat is another man's poison," except that I don't think that's right. I believe it's more a case of, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," and no list brings that home to me more than this particular book right here. Sure, it contains lots of films I'd expect to see on here such as Godzilla, Brazil, Donnie Darko, and Blade Runner. There are also a slew of films I've never heard of but now want to look up just because. And, as expected, more than a few that make me go, 'REALLY?' Although, when I stop to think about, they make sense. And so! 5 cult films listed in this book that I never considered as having a 'cult' status (even though, secretly, I now understand and agree). (And, really, 5 films that make me reconsider what I consider 'cult,' anyway).

P.S. I adore the cover to this book, which is taken from the film Pink Flamingos starring Divine. I remember seeing Divine in Polyester (probably inappropriate for a child to have watched but my parents were fairly easygoing when it came to implementing hard and fast film/book filters) and Hair Spray. Polyester? Unforgettable. Hair Spray? Hmm. Possibly, though, either of those I'd consider as having 'cult film' status.



Honourable mentions:
  • In Bruges
  • It's a wonderful life
  • Superstar: The Karen Carpenter story - which we don't have but makes me want to add it to this part of the list, anyway


  • Interestingly enough the book also includes Debbie does Dallas and Emanuelle. Yes, I know what those are. No my parents did not let me watch either of them.

    Harold and Maude [DVD videorecording] / directed by Hal Ashby and written by Colin Higgins
    Starring Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusack, Charles Tyner, Ellen Geer. A black comedy about a rich, disturbed, young man, fascinated with death and funerals, who has an affair and a series of adventures with an eccentric and independent 80-year-old woman. Rated M - Suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over. Note: Contains medium level violence.

    Reasoning: "...it is Gordon's portrayal of the free-spirited Maude - the self-styled Dame Marjorie Chardin - that is the film's real tour de force.

    Tosca's comment: HAROLD AND MAUDE?? Obviously, I am too close to movies I re-watch to see what is really there. That is going to be a constant theme throughout the rest of my list. Sorry.

    The gods must be crazy / Written, produced, and directed by Jamie Uys
    Starring Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo, Nixau. A Sho in the Kalahari desert encounters technology for the first time, in the shape of a Coke bottle. He takes it back to his people, and they use it for many tasks. The people start to fight over it, so he decides to return it to the God--where he thinks it came from. Meanwhile, we are introduced to a school teacher assigned to a small village, a despotic revolutionary, and a clumsy biologist. Rated PG - Parental guidance recommended for younger viewers. Note: Contains violence.

    Reasoning: "A film about idolatry, worship, revolutionaries and the futility of time, set against the background of the clash between tribal and modern cultures, and in an exotic part of the world, surely has the potential to gather a cult following." (page 101

    Tosca's comment: Whoa. Really? I laughed myself silly when I first saw this movie. I was a kid, that's understandable. As an adult, I find it somewhat politically incorrect, and downright odd. But a cult film? Huh. Clearly, I need to re-watch a lot of films thanks to this book.

    Fight club [DVD videorecording] / directed by David Fincher, screenplay by Jim Uhls
    Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf Aday, Jared Leto. When a nameless thirty-ish yuppie grows bored of his comfortable life, he becomes involved in an anarchic subculture called "Fight Club", lead by charismatic Tyler Durden. But is this a hard-edged vacation from normalcy, or participation in the de-evolution of a civilized society? Based on the novel of the same title by Chuck Palahniuk. R18 - Restricted to persons 18 years and over. Note: Contains graphic violence and offensive language.

    Reasoning: "The film gained a second life on home video, where attuned cult audiences identified with the themes of contemporary isolation at the movie's core." (page 88)

    Tosca's comment: I absolutely understand why this film is here. It absolutely belongs. I just never thought to put it there myself. I detested this film with a vengeance. Saw it when it first came out with a sibling and her BFF and it was the strangest movie going experience I've ever had. We sat there, the three of us, with completely different reactions. I enjoyed the first part of Fight Club...until the twist. Then, it lost me. I felt like it had been too clever and left me behind. My sister and her BFF, on the other hand, had felt quite the reverse. The first part bored them to tears, like it hadn't been clever enough for them. So much so they giggled and talked throughout...until the twist. Then, they were riveted. In fact, they named it one of the best films they'd seen that year. Needless to say, we've never attended movies together since. I very probably should've read the novel first. My reaction to this film is one of the main reasons why I implemented my 11th Commandment of 'Thou shalt read the book of the film first or forever more be considered a fake.'

    Casablanca [DVD videorecording] / directed by Michael Curtiz ; screenplay by Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch
    Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid; supporting cast. Set in World War II Morocco within a city filled with European refugees. A bitter nightclub owner helps his former lover and her Resistance-hero husband escape from the Nazis. From a play by Murray Burnett and Joan Allison. Censor class: PG parental guidance recommended for younger viewers. Note: Adult themes.

    Reasoning: "After the death of Bogart in 1957 however, Casablanca a devoted and very vocal following...The screenings quickly turned into ritual events, with audiences shouting the lines and embracing the film's nostalgia." (47-47)

    Tosca's comment: I'm surprised to see Casablanca listed here. It's one of my longtime favourites (I suspect that's my mum's fault, she was a Bogart fan) and a film I watch once a year and is, I think, one of the most eminently quotable films I know of, but it's not something I'd necessarily have considered as having a cult following. And! Thanks to the authors, I shall now be re-watching while deliberately looking for homoerotic subtext. Not an angle I'd ever considered. When Rick says, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," just what did he mean? Or do people read far too much into that statement, thereby giving it far more weight than it's worth? Sure, I saw subtext in Inception when, ordinarily, I'm not the type to, but I believe it was there (even though three very close friends tell me I was imagining things, but a whole fandom cannot be wrong, people!). Definitely time to stage a re-watch of both films, methinks.

    Showgirls [DVD videorecording] / directed by Paul Verhoeven ; written by Joe Eszterhas
    Starring Elizabeth Berkeley, Gina Gershon, Robert Davi, Kyle MacLachlan, Gina Ravera. A young stripper, with the help of a more experienced dancer, starts to make it big, only to realize that there is only room for one of them to be the star of the stage. R18 - Restricted to persons 18 years and over. Note: Contains violence, offensive language and sex scenes.

    Reasoning: "Yes it is also extremely smart cinema: a passionate critique of the performance and explotation of labor in the entertainment industry, where hyperbolic rhetoric and postures about 'chasing one's dreams' disguise a deadly competition only won at the expense of one's bodily integrity." (page 181)

    Tosca's comment: All I saw was a smutty film that wanted to be arty but fell far short of the mark. After reading Mathijs/Mendik's reasoning I feel like I should watch it again with their comments in mind, and be a little less harsh in my judgement.

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