Films of the year

Return of the King has come top of the BBC’s Film 2004 viewer’s poll. Although I am glad to see Lord of the Rings taking top spot for the third year running (I’ve been enjoying the extended DVD myself an the gazillion hours of extras which includes a deleted scene where Sauraman and Gandalf do wizardly battle dressed as Emperor Penguins and throwing Toffee Crisps at each other) I am a little puzzled since Return of the King was released in December 2003, so technically it ain’t a film of the year, is it? Or maybe they run the poll time for 12 months from a certain date rather than a calendar year? Or perhaps the Elves put a spell on the timekeepers. Actually it’s a pretty good list for the top ten since it also includes the Incredibles, Hero and Lost in Translation, all of which were fab films and brightened my year up. Garden State, Hellboy, Kontroll, Skinned Deep, Switchblade Romance and Tokyo Godfathers all slotted into my film sprockets rather well in 2004 too.

Just caught the Phantom of the Opera movie last week with Mel and that won’t be joining my Best Of List. Watchable enough nonsense, but the music is often very dated and visually Joel Schumacher has simply filmed the stage musical (so it does not flow, it comes in pieces, very lazy) and he has raided a large back catalogue of other movies for the look. Heavy-handed cribbing from Cocteau’s classic Belle et la Bete (and Coppola’s Dracula which referenced the Cocteau rather more artistically) which is one of the best movies ever made and liberal borrowing from many other movies. Plenty of borrowings (or outright steals) from the 1920s classic silent version of Phantom of the Opera with the incomparable Lon Chaney Snr (the man who would have been Dracula if not for the untimely death. If not for that Bauhaus would have been singing ‘Lon Chaney’s Dead’ instead of Bela Lugosi). The 20s version is visually far more stunning than this paint-by-numbers hack job – the scene punting beneath the Opera is gorgeous; Chaney’s make-up (he did it himself) is astonishing and the early colour photography section in the Masque Ball is ravishing (Chaney’s Phantom appears as a luridly-coloured Red Death and the scene ends with him pursuing the lovers to the roof of the Opera, cloak billowing against the 20s Paris backdrop – stunning). Well, it filled a couple of hours okay and Melanie certainly enjoyed it.

On the movie front BBC4 is running a Mel Brooks night. In between shows Mel is on a link to Alan Yentob via the web. On the run up to the screening of the Producers Yentob asks him how the film was made. Well, says, Mel, there was a lot of hard work night after night, cutting those little square holes into the edges of the film… He then take a black comb and does a Hitler impression (hey, this is Mel Brooks after all – you know Hitler is going to end up in there even in a short link) and says that Hitler has been good to him. Not so good to other Jews but he’s made a great living out of him for years…

I love Mel Brooks. Okay, so the last few movies may not have been that great (apparently he is trying to raise funding for Spaceballs 2 now – oh dear. Please, Mel, forget it and do History of the World Part 2 instead, I beg you – hell I’ll even help you write some of it! My scripting rate are very reasonable.) but he’s still Mel Brooks; if he was a city the UN would list him as a World Heritage Site. Dear old Mel is up there in my personal Comedy Pantheon along with Spike Milligan, the Pythons, Ronnie Barker, the Goodies and Bill Hicks. But now time for the Producers: all together now, “Springtime for Hitler and Germany; winter for Poland and France…”. One of the funniest scenes ever in movies. And Mel has two other entries in my personal top ten of funniest movies ever: Young Frankenstein and possibly the funniest film ever made, Blazing Saddles.