Viewing thoughts for grown-ups...
So here we still are; the government is continuing with its advice to stay home, stay safe and continue our collective protection of the NHS. This is hard - of course it’s hard - but it is obviously the right thing to do in these unprecedented times.
This is not the forum to debate the whys and wherefore of ongoing policy; this can be left to those more qualified than us to decide. What we can do however is continue to provide advice and guidance in areas we are qualified - and provoke a bit of friendly debate in others. Last week gave you a list of films that you’ll enjoy sitting down to watch with your families. This week, as a continuation of that, here is a summary of films that are more appropriate for when children have gone to bed. Qualification criteria for this list is fairly arbitrary; recommended by a member of the Butler Sherborn team gets it considered and a vote is then taken. Some classics, some not so well-known but all outstanding. As follows; again in no particular order.
Thelma & Louise. At a time like this, who doesn’t fancy a bit of escapism? The two women in question are great friends who, through one single error, find themselves running harder and faster than they thought possible to escape the consequences of their actions. Two feisty leads, a brilliant supporting cast (Brad Pitt as a hitchhiker, anyone?) and some spectacular cinematography made this a great film but it’s the balance and humanity in the storytelling that raises it above the rest.
The Godfather Trilogy. While The Godfather regularly features in "best films ever" lists, and The Godfather 2 is held as the "best sequel ever", all three Godfather movies are seminal in the history of modern cinema. They follow the trials of the Italian American mafia Corleone family whose patriarch, Vito Corleone, rises to be a major figure in American organised crime. Over time, his youngest son (Michael Corleone) becomes his successor. Tangled, twisted and hugely engaging it made household names of many actors and lifted Marlon Brando to the near mythic status he enjoys today. No other gangster movie comes close.
Amelie. This is a whimsical depiction of contemporary Parisian life, set in Montmartre. It tells the story of a shy waitress, played by Audrey Tautou, who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better while struggling with her own isolation. Having been home-schooled by her parents who believed she was ill, Amelie coped with her loneliness by developing an active imagination and a mischievous personality. The film charts her efforts to improve people’s lives around her by a variety of means; resulting finally in happiness for herself. Genuinely uplifting, quirky and memorable, it will make you long to visit Paris!
The Shawshank Redemption. It is almost impossible to countenance any list during these times without including this paen to isolation and containment; it is also a lesson on playing the ultimate long game. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman play unlikely buddies thrown together through circumstance who forge an unbreakable bond over several years as they find solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. Originally underwhelming at the box office, a re-release and slew of awards punted it into all-time great lists, where it has been ever since.
Die Another Day. Perhaps a slightly surprising inclusion, but this 2002 release has the distinction of being a bit of a “home fixture” for the Cotswolds as not only were several scenes filmed on the airfields at Upper Rissington, but they also sourced a company from Stroud to supply its wintry effects. As such, a little bit of Gloucestershire was transformed into the Arctic scapes of Iceland. An area covering five football fields in Upper Rissington was slowly covered in fake snow to match the original Icelandic setting. The story itself is one of the more outlandish, the storyline a bit clunky and even the toys were underwhelming - but the location has never been beaten!
Blood Diamond. Diamonds are not always a girls’ best friend; not if they have been sourced from the battlefields of Central Africa and illegally exported for the profit of a few criminals and warmongers. This is the premise of this movie starring Leonardo Di Caprio and one of the first to pick up on this brutal trade. It pulls very few punches as it dramatises the efforts of a few to thwart the industry that had grown exponentially through the civil war in Sierra Leone to a horrifying scale. LDC is mesmerising and the supporting cast is outstanding and it is worth highlighting that alongside its social message, this film is also a first rate thriller providing a storyline conclusion while not implying the problem is solved. It still isn’t.
The Pursuit of Happyness. We all need a bit of happy. Starring Will Smith (and his real-life offspring Jadon playing his son) this charts the fall and rise of Chris Gardner who, through an entirely plausible run of bad luck finds himself unemployed and homeless. Ringing uncomfortably close to the bone for many people at this time, the story is lifted from hopelessness by Smith’s performance; always open and honest but never totally despairing. He always goes to the well one more time and, finally, things turn around and the rewards start to come. It’s a bleak journey, but there is light at the end of it.
Black Cat, White Cat. This Serbian movie, released in 1998, details the efforts of a small-time criminal to solve many of his problems by marrying his son to a sister of a troublesome gangster. Winner of the Silver Lion at the Cannes Film Festival in 1998, it features the reunion of two criminals who have not seen each other for years and when they do a series of unlikely events results in a raucously funny reunion, some dirty deals and a shotgun wedding. The characters are great, the visuals fantastic, the music terrific, the comedy a bit over the edge at times.... Laugh out loud funny; and watch carefully all the way through!