Warm out today, warm yesterday – blisters on me fingers

milkHmm, seems summer has come to an end. Well, it’s no longer over 30 degrees anyway. Twas a good heatwave, the length of which this country hasn’t seen in quite some time.

To pay tribute to the crazy climate, I’ve compiled my favourite cinematic moments linked to heat. Mix yourself a mohito, sit back, read and enjoy.

  • Death of Captain Kaneda
    The impressive and arguably underrated Danny Boyle/Alex Garland collaboration, Sunshine (2007). Astronauts on a mission to save the sun. The Captain sacrificing his life to fix the ship’s shields was a powerful, emotional scene.
  • Dr Manhattan is born
    Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen was expertly brought to life by Zack Synder in 2009. In this scene character Jon Osterman – played by Billy Crudup – gets incinerated in a nuclear accident, then reforms as the godlike Dr Manhattan.
  • I hate you! Anakin burns
    Whilst I’m not a massive fan of the prequels, this climactic scene in Revenge of the Sith (2005) is actually brilliant and tonally closest to the originals. McGregor finally loosens up and Christensen as Anakin shows a glimmer of emotion.
  • Evey is reborn
    In another Alan Moore adaptation V for Vendetta (2005), Evey – played by Natalie Portman – is reborn after V tortures her. Her rebirth is intercut with clips of V’s rebirth from the fire, thus binding them closer as characters. Great scene.
  • May I have a glass of water?
    Beatrix Kiddo: dusty, hot, tired, just clawed her way out of a coffin where she was buried alive; walks into a diner and politely asks for some water. Western music powerfully scoring the scene in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol II (2005).
  • Milk was a bad choice!
    Thinking his beloved dog Baxter dead, Ron Burgundy in Anchorman (2004) – unshaven and dishevelled – mourns him; wandering the streets on a hot day drinking milk from the carton.  Pure comedy gold.
  • Are you going to tell my daddy?
    So it’s not all burning to death and drama, I thought I’d sex things up with a scene from Swimming Pool (2003), a fairly low-key French-British film starring Charles Dance, Charlotte Rampling and the delectable Ludivine Sagnier.

To finish, here’s a (quite badly filmed) clip of Family Guy. Stewie and the Cowtones playing ‘My fat baby loves to eat’. When the sun comes out, there’s nothing quite like the dulcet tones of a banjo to while the day away.

Top swordplay scenes and fencing movie moments – en garde!

inigo montoya dread pirate robertsYesterday I went for my first ever fencing lesson with a group of mates. Quite an interesting sport – a lot harder than I expected.

As our Hungarian instructor attempted to explain the technique behind parry and riposte, my thoughts drifted to iconic swordplay scenes from movies. Let’s look at some of my favourites:

The Princess Bride (1987)

‘You seem a decent fellow, I hate to kill you.’ ‘You seem a decent fellow, I hate to die.’ Memorable lines uttered by cult character Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and the film’s hero Wesley (Cary Elwes), aka the man in black. A wonderfully scripted scene too. Patinkin rose to professional level in fencing as part of his preparation and bears striking resemblance to a young Antonio Banderas. Is that how Banderas got the Zorro gig a few years later? Hmm.

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The Three Musketeers (1973)

In terms of a compelling screen presence and down and dirty swordplay, you can pretty much pick out any scene involving Athos (Oliver Reed). D’Artagnan meeting the musketeers was a key scene, as it brought the main characters together brilliantly. But special mention should go to Athos’s fight in the third act, where he appears to get killed and impaled on a windmill. Great swordplay, great scene.

Die Another Day (2002)

Whilst this Bond film may have been below par, the swordfight scene was not. Found a great behind-the-scenes clip that shows Brosnan really got stuck in, doing most of the physical work himself. Most impressive!

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Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)

Try and force the rest of the self-indulgent franchise from your head for a second and focus on the original film – a thoroughly enjoyable tale. Johnny Depp elevated this film with his quirky, masterful take on Captain Jack Sparrow. A stand-out scene had Orlando Bloom’s blacksmith Will Turner meeting Depp’s Jack for the first time and trying to prevent his escape. As expected, a wonderfully choreographed fight ensues.

Kill Bill: Vol 2 (2004)

Just to be obscure I’m going to include a deleted scene, one where Bill (David Carradine) shows off his skills with Kiddo (Uma Thurman) watching with adoration in the background. I can see why it was cut, as it doesn’t drive the story forward a great deal, just adds more depth to Bill as a character. As sword fights go though, it’s pretty cool.

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Highlander (1986)

‘There can be only one.’ I’ve often pondered the subtext to that line. Only one what? Film with a Scottish guy (Sean Connery) playing an Egyptian lord? Or French guy (Christopher Lambert) playing a Scottish tribesman? Suspension of disbelief aside, it’s a film packed with iconic swordplay scenes. For me, Highlander vs. The Kurgan is the pick of the bunch.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

‘Recognise this? It was your father’s…’ Not technically great swordfighting, more a chance to watch Alan Rickman at his scene-stealing best, swinging a sword as long as his arm against Kevin Costner’s ‘Californian’ Robin Hood in this climactic battle. Even as an out-and-out bad guy, you don’t want Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham to die. He’s mesmerising to watch, particularly when fighting and spitting venomous lines in Robin Hood’s direction.

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The Lord of the Rings (2001)

Here, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) goes toe-to-toe in a frenzied battle with giant orc Lurtz. Fun fact: when filming, the stuntman playing Lurtz accidentally threw the knife directly at Mortensen instead of aiming wide as planned. Viggo instinctively deflected the blade with his sword. Does that mean Mortensen is actually Aragorn in real life? We can but sincerely hope this is the case.

As a final note, before anyone mentions Rob Roy, Seven Samurai or Star Wars, I’ve left them out because either I’ve not seen them, or don’t consider them worthy of inclusion in terms fencing quality. You may disagree, but it’s my list, so there we go.

My top 10 supercool film soundtracks

  1. the life aquaticThe Life Aquatic
    (Wes Anderson)
    Two reasons this is my top choice, Seu Jorge and David Bowie. Seu Jorge’s take on Bowie tracks perfectly complemented the film. Standouts for me include his versions of ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Space Oddity and ‘Rebel Rebel’. Oh, and ‘Changes’, it’s beautiful.
  2. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino)
    It’s hard to select just one Tarantino film soundtrack, most of his films have outstanding music to set the scene. If pushed for an alternative I’d probably say Kill Bill 1, then Reservoir Dogs. Pulp Fiction takes this one though, with use of Al Green, Dusty Springfield, Kool and the Gang, and many more.
  3. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese)
    Jimmy ConwayThere’s detail here about how Scorsese only used songs that commented on the scene in question in some way. From Tony Bennett’s ‘Rags to Riches’ in the opening credits, the main character’s story is introduced. An absolute favourite scene is where Jimmy is considering whacking Morrie and Cream’s ‘Sunshine of your Love’ kicks in. Impossibly cool.
  4. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie)
    When this film appeared in 1998, the soundtrack was key to its appeal. ‘Spooky’ by Dusty Springfield, ‘Police and Thieves’ by Junior Murvin, ‘Walk this Land’ by EZ-Rollers, ‘Why did you do it’ by Stretch, ‘The Payback’ by James Brown, ‘Fools Gold’ by Stone Roses. Outstanding.
  5. corey and ginaEmpire Records (Allan Moyle)
    A mid 90s film about a group of slackers who work in a record store. It’s a really sweet film, never fails to perk me up if I’m down. There’s so many songs in it too, from the Gin Blossoms and Cranberries, through to Coyote Shivers and Better than Ezra. Check the playlist here.
  6. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle)
    Killer soundtrack, kicked off with Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ and never let up. Raw, gritty and very 1990s, with Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ for the sexy nightclub scene, and Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ overdose scene; tracks selected helped key scenes pack a massive punch.
  7. Juno (Jason Reitman)
    Super sweet indie film with lovely little songs throughout. Watch the opening credits theme song, with its quirky animation, it sums up the film. Actress Ellen Page – who played Juno – suggested to the Director her character would listen to The Moldy Peaches.
  8. natalie portman zach braffGarden State (Zach Braff)
    Another sweet indie film, powered along by the warm little centre that is Natalie Portman’s character. It also included lovely, quirky music by The Shins. If you don’t like this band then you have a heart of stone.
  9. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
    Despite his body of work, this is the first film to win Scorsese an Oscar. I think the phenomenal soundtrack throughout might have helped. The Dropkick Murphys ‘Shipping out to Boston’ fits perfectly. There’s also the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, for good measure.
  10. Snatch (Guy Ritchie)
    brad pittI’m going with another Guy Ritchie film. Along with The Stranglers ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by 10cc, this had Madonna, The Specials, The Herbaliser, Oasis and – most impressively – ‘Angel’ by Massive Attack. Watch this scene, powerful stuff.

Looking back through this, I’ve realised it’s a mostly a mix of gangster and quirky, indie films. I’m comfortable with that. It reflects my film tastes, in terms of how music has influenced my love of a particular film at least. There was a lot of films that didn’t make the cut, but it’s a top 10 list, you have to be ruthless.

Use of music in film
I think there’s two routes you can go when using music to complement your film. Either have the music interwoven with the whole theme and tone of the film (think Wes Anderson, Jason Reitman). Or use individual songs to give particular scenes an emotional wallop (Martin Scorsese, Guy Ritchie).

Tarantino the wildcard
An interesting exception to the rule – for me – is Tarantino. Mostly I think he follows the Scorsese approach. However, if you take Kill Bill 1, he uses RZA from Wu-Tang Clan to produce the soundtrack, which weaves perfectly through the film.

‘The Lonely Shepherd’ by Gheorghe Zamfir is such a perfect song for this film. East meets West, pan pipes moving into spaghetti western. RZA heard this eating in a Thai restaurant. Not hard to believe. Similarly Tarantino heard ‘Woo hoo’ by the 5.6.7.8’s just as he was about to leave a shop in Tokyo. He persuaded the shop to sell him the CD and then got the band to appear in the film.

Anyway, I’m going off topic. This probably just proves Kill Bill should really be in my top 10 list. The Hattori Hanzo scene is a true classic and really should have convinced me of this. I humbly beg your forgiveness and ask that it be included as a wildcard.

Kill Bill