Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My taste in holiday movies and music

Casino: Really long, but compelling, partially-true story of the rise and fall of a Jewish casino manager and his Italian mob-boss friend in 1970s Vegas. Forget the mafia antics and the breathtakingly tacky glitziness of polyester-era Nevada, this is actually about love and betrayal, as DeNiro loves his wife (carnally) and his friend (platonically), but is betrayed on the personal and economic level by both, and walks away from the experience alive (which is more than can be said for most of the film's characters) but diminished as a person. Equivalent on my holiday playlist: "Walking on Broken Glass" and "Fairytale of New York."

Inglorious Bastards: Not the Tarantino one, but the film also known as Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato (which my limited Italian translates as "that damn armoured train"). Arguably a masterpiece of clever irony, mixing Blaxploitation tropes and subverted war-film cliches to create a knowing wink at European images of gung-ho American imperialism. That, or just the Italian sense of humor at work. I can see why Tarantino liked it, and Tarantino's is the cleverer film, but the original has an exuberance which Tarantino's version lacks. Equivalent on my holiday playlist: "Killing in the Name" and "Walking Round in Women's Underwear".

Jacob's Ladder: Hallucinogenic, terrifying and poignant portrayal of what appears at first to be a Vietnam veteran, his life in pieces after the war, stumbling shell-shocked through a bewildering system, then to be a thriller involving a cover-up of the use of experimental drugs in Vietnam, and finally something rather more Dante/Hieronymous Bosch influenced. For all its horrific imagery of war and madness, I defy anyone with a heart to watch the ending without tearing up. Features the only non-annoying use of Macauley Culkin ever. Equivalent on my holiday playlist: "Mad World."

Movie count for 2009: 108. Number of songs on my holiday playlist: 53.