Interesting Top Ten Lists

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A Personal Top 10 of Illicit or Intoxicated Film Viewings.

In Intoxication, Movies, Top Ten on March 24, 2012 at 10:43 am

1 + 2 Aliens/Species

I was 11 and Jamie was by far my worst friend. His parents gave him free run of their swanky Hampshire new-build and at school he would regale me with shot-by-shot retellings of the impossibly nasty films they let him watch at weekends. Chief among these was something called Aliens, a semi-mythic slice of space gore in which acid blood and severed heads were chucked around with the sloppy impunity of a Bugsy Malone pie fight. When we eventually sat down to a screening he clung to the remote, fast forwarding the talky bits and rewinding entire sections until I agreed that the surround sound was much better than anything my parents could afford.

Throughout all this, I was fixed to my leather seat with excitement, experiencing for the first time the ambiguous pleasure of wanting the scares to be over but desperately longing to see what might come next. However, that was nothing compared to the weird stirrings I felt during Species, the second part of our double bill, in which Natasha Henstridge’s sexy alien shags and skewers her way across America, pursued by an improbable cast of slumming thesps (stand up, Ben Kingsley). Probably the first onscreen nudity I’d ever seen and most of it was followed by a bloody come-uppance. Way to fuck a kid up, Jamie. Thanks a bunch.

3. What Lies Beneath

15 and unusual, my parents stage-managed a trip to the cinema for myself and a group of my primary school contemporaries, now convent school girls of impeccable moral standing. Intent on demonstrating my new found sophistication I smuggled in a bottle of vodka and supped approvingly throughout Robert Zemeckis’  sub-standard spookathon, chuckling at each weary jumpcut. God, I thought, sucking down drafts of £5 muck, I must look so cool. There were to be no further dates arranged.

4. Evil Dead 2

While op ed columnists berate today’s youth, complaining that they’ve never felt the lash of a cane or the grinding indignities of national service, I rue the fact that they’ll never know the agony of sitting up past your bedtime and praying that the video will stop grinding and squeaking as it kicks into record. I first watched Sam Raimi’s comedy splatterfest on just such a night, cross-legged in my pyjamas and muting the volume whenever anyone got up to go to the bathroom. It’s fair to say I haven’t been the same since.

5. Dawn of the Dead

Bruce Campbell’s deadite bashing sparked my taste for gore and I soon built up a library of illicitly recorded shockflicks. I decided to screen George Romero’s zombie classic for some of my classmates and we occupied the school TV room one rainy Wednesday afternoon. There was an impossibly tense passage in which my hated housemaster wandered in and sat out one of the rare lulls in gut chomping. While we’d chatted and marvelled our way through the opening reel, now none of us dared look at each other and we sat in a thick and awkward silence. Satisfied that nothing immoral was taking place, eventually he continued on his rounds. Moments later, when an onscreen shotgun blast popped a skull like a bloody watermelon, a triumphant cheer rose from the assembled crowd.

6. If…

This was a wonderfully mis-directed bit of pastoral care from my 6th form tutor, a briefcase clutching conservative who sensed growing dissent among my peers as we gradually outgrew the rugby worship and snobbery of my ever-so-minor public school. He arranged a showing of Lindsay Anderson’s 60s classic and bought in a crate of cut-price supermarket beers, hoping we’d sense the futility of Malcolm McDowell’s rooftop showdown and mend our ways. Instead, we wandered back to our boarding house hugging squiffily and plotting revolution. A particularly treasured memory.

8. Bad Taste

Much of this list can trace its origins to Empire magazine and their endless features with titles like ‘The 50 Most Shocking Moments in the Movies.’ I was a sucker for those sorts of things and I’d read all about the sick-drinking excesses of Peter Jackson’s splatterpunk debut. So, when I chanced across a copy in a reduced pile at my local HMV, naturally I pounced. There was some awkward chat with the cashier in which I tried to pass myself off as a mature adult by stroking my incipient stubble and nodding sagely. He didn’t twig and I soon I was riding the bus home, clutching my new find like so much treasure.

This was something that needed to be shared and I resolved that I would share the experience with my two younger brothers, then 8 and 14. Naturally we needed a cover and we developed the cunning ruse that, should we be interrupted, we’d simply present our questioner with the video box for Uncle Buck. Being ignorant fossils, they’d find it impossible to spot the difference between a popular 90s comedy and an excessive blast of comedy gore made for tuppence in a New Zealand backwater. Thus, when were rumbled 20 minutes in, I thrust the aforementioned box into my father’s hands. He surveyed the back cover blurb and looked up at the screen, where a frantic Mr. Jackson was desperately piling his seeping brains through a crack in his punctured skull.

‘Hmm,’ he said, ‘where exactly is John Candy?’

I suppose he had a point.

7. National Treasure

Apparently this Disney romp actually has some sort of plot, pitting treasure hunter Nicholas Cage against Harvey Keitel in a rare ‘trousers on’ turn as a dodgy FBI agent. My only memory from a viewing at the Guildford Odeon is of being woken from a boozy snooze by an usherette who hoped I might identify my then girlfriend. She had gotten impossibly lost while returning from a stomach purging visit to the bathrooms and was clinging to the edge of my seat for comfort. Ah, young love.

9. Bad Boy Bubby

In my third year at university, my friends and I took it upon ourselves to induct the freshers into the rigours of student life. We bought a copy of this weirdo Australian flick online and tonnes of Polish apple vodka. The new intake were bound to be impressed by our cosmopolitan ways and we spent ages draping the walls of our sitting room with ropy blankets. Half an hour in, as the titular character clingfilmed his incestuous mother to death and escaped the grotty bunker in which he had been cruelly imprisoned, a girl started crying hysterically and had to be taken home. An excellent introduction, I thought.

10. A Matter of Life and Death

Just before graduation I broke my knee falling down a 13th century spiral staircase (we’ve all been there, right?). Bizarrely, I wasn’t prescribed any painkillers until I found myself convalescing at home some months later. The pills I was given were custard yellow and fiercely effective and I spent a wonderful afternoon watching the Powell and Pressburger classic, medicated to my eyeballs and oozy with relief. I vividly remember Kim Hunter‘s red lips swimming somewhere in the haze as she talks David Niven through his opening earthward plummet.

By Nick Garrard

Nick Garrard writes about books and films and tweets tiny stories as @nevervane. He is also unemployed. These two things may not be unconnected.

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Top Ten Randomised Book Pairings

In Books, Top Ten on March 20, 2012 at 9:08 am

After years of having my books thematically organised I decided it would be much more fun to have them in no sequence whatsoever.  So I pulled them all off the shelves, shuffled them around, then replaced them completely at random, with absolutely no conscious engineering of which books might go next to each other.   I would strongly recommend this exercise, it’s very liberating.  Moreover, it’s also quite entertaining to look along your shelves afterwards, and see which books have ended up next to each other.  I came across some interesting “pairings”, some of them funny, some eclectic, some surreal, and some downright disturbing.

So here are my Top Ten randomised book pairings, in no order of preference.

1.         100 Great Lives

            Weird Deaths

It’s the juxtaposition of the two extremes in the titles that I like about this one. Life and death, side by side.  One book contains mini-biographies of 100 famous people, from Alexander the Great to Winston Churchill.  The other provides short and true anecdotes about bizarre and crazy ways of dying – about 150 of them (so death certainly has the edge).  One is supposed to be inspiring, the other will make you collapse in a helpless heap of schadenfreude.

2.         Wild Swans – by Jung Chang

            Tragically I was an only Twin – by Peter Cooke

Jung Chang is a clever woman and an excellent writer, but she can be stern and serious, and I suspect she would be rather grim company (well to be fair she did have a rotten childhood growing up in the Chinese Cultural Revolution).  But being next to the anarchic and foul-mouthed Peter Cooke might do her good and lighten her up a bit.

3.         Weaveworld – by Clive Barker

            Very Good Jeeves –  by P G Wodehouse

The master of gruesome horror fantasy is now sitting alongside an English upper-class dimwit and his forbearing butler.  What a strange conversation that could be.

4.         River out of Eden – by Richard Dawkins

            The autobiography of Roy Keane

This could easily end up in a punch-up: angry Catholic footballer versus angry atheist academic……

5.         Among the Believers – by V S Naipaul

            Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst – by Barbara Castle

            A Room of One’s Own – by Virginia Woolf

V S Naipaul is a male writer who recently spoken rather disdainfully of female writers.  Now he’s sandwiched in between two forthright and formidable women, Virginia Woolf and Barbara Castle, not to mention the Pankhurst girls. Serves him right.

6.         Writing Home – by Alan Bennett

            Selected Letters and Journals – by Lord Byron

Two gifted humourists together – they could have been very amusing together, but I fear Alan Bennett would just be too incoherent with excitement over his new neighbour to make a decent contribution

7.         An English Madam: The Life and Work of Cynthia Payne – by Paul Bailey

Stories – by Oscar Wilde

Cynthia Payne is the cheerful lady who devised the ingenious sex for lunch vouchers scheme, which were apparently popular with high profile judges and political figures.  I’m very happy to say that she is now in the witty and genial company of Oscar Wilde. What a delightful pairing and what bawdy gossip they could exchange!

8          (Oh dear!)

Heidi – by Johanna Spyri

            Justine – by the Marquis de Sade

I felt so queasy when I came across this one – little Swiss Heidi in the company of the man with the filthiest imagination in Europe – that I broke my rule and rearranged them.  They’re no longer even on the same floor – the Marquis’ new neighbour is a book about the rules of the game of boules, which should keep him out of trouble, and Heidi is now safely snuggled up to Squirrel Nutkin.

9.         Candide – by Voltaire

            A Drink with Shane MacGowan – by Shane MacGowan & Victoria Mary Clarke

A sophisticated philosopher and a permanently rat-arsed songwriter, both geniuses in their own ways, a shame they will be mutually unintelligible.

10.       The Marx Brothers Scrapbook

            The Second Sex – by Simone de Beauvoir

Although none of the foregoing are in any order of preference, I think this one is my favourite.  I keep imagining the austere de Beauvoir playing the Margaret Dumont role, stoically forbearing,  as Harpo tries to steal her turban, and Groucho makes insulting remarks about the size of her feet. It’s a wonderful scenario.

By Mary Redshaw

Former public servant and international relations practitioner, now cheerfully unemployed and keeping busy with reading, blogging, pratting around on the internet, walking the dog, and watching telly.

Competition

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I have some books to give to you.

 

But I want you to work for them.

 

To celebrate World Book Week, I want you to write me a top ten about books. It can be on anything relating to them, but the theme has to be related somewhat to books.

 

The prizes will be a couple of books for the winner.

Send your entries in before Friday 9th and the winner will be announced shortly after. Submissions information can be found here