'A Few Thoughts On My Favourite Films (Pt.1 )' by Luke Morley Print E-mail

Apart from music, my other big obsession is films. One of my earliest memories is being taken to the cinema to see ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, the first Beatles film when I was four years old and I’ve loved movies ever since.

My Father was and still is particularly fond of ‘westerns’ so in the sixties when this genre of film was still massively popular I went to see many a classic. The ones that still stand out for me are ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (the title of which will be familiar to anybody interested in Thunder), ‘Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’ and ‘Rio Bravo’. Interestingly they all have a similar theme running through them about disparate people coming together to do something they wouldn’t be able to accomplish on their own.

All these stories are about friendship (‘Butch Cassidy’), redemption (the alcoholic ex-gunslinger played brilliantly by Dean Martin in ‘Rio Bravo’) and the sum of the parts being a greater force than the individuals (‘Magnificent Seven’). The relationships between the characters in all these films are all multi-layered despite the stories being essentially very simple. Bit like being in a band really! Talking of westerns and teamwork leads me neatly into ‘Way Out West’.

I can still remember a TV series presented by the late Bob Monkhouse that featured clips of silent movies and as a little boy I was intrigued by all these comic characters and the strange, speeded up, grainy films they all appeared in. None however, made me laugh like Laurel and Hardy.
The enduring popularity of their work is testament to the fact that they were way ahead of their time. You can see their influence down the years in everything from Morecambe and Wise to Little Britain. What made ‘Way Out West’ particularly special were the musical moments. The dance routine Stan and Ollie perform outside the saloon (Ollie moves incredibly daintily for a big man) and their duet on ‘Trail of The Lonesome Pine’ (which went to number one in the singles chart fifty years later!) are both timelessly magical.

The fact that good comedy is timeless is reflected in two of my other favourite films both of which share the same director, Billy Wilder.
‘Some Like It Hot’ is a film I’m sure nearly everybody is familiar with. It stars the beautiful and incandescently sexy Marilyn Monroe as a singing ukulele player (!!) and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as two cross-dressing musicians on the run from the Mafia. I suppose you could call it a romcom with a twist but it’s so much more than that. It also has the most memorable last line of any film before or since!
‘The Fortune Cookie’ is slightly more obscure but equally funny. Jack Lemmon also appears in this but the overwhelmingly brilliant performance in the movie is by Walter Matthau as a crooked lawyer. There’s a thick seam of Jewish New York humour running through the heart of this film and you can see similarities to Woody Allen and even hints of Larry David.

Being a musician means films about or concerning music are always of interest. Unfortunately, because there’s been so many appallingly bad ones made, I always approach them with a great deal of caution. To be fair it’s not so much the films in general, it’s how they deal with the act of making music that is so badly handled. For instance, ‘The Doors’ movie; I think Val Kilmer does a pretty good job of bringing Jim Morrison to life but the parts of the movie where the band are rehearsing or recording are frankly, unrealistic and embarrassing.
The genre has thankfully improved over the years and recently both ‘Ray’ (Jamie Foxx is so good you actually forget you’re watching an actor) and ‘Walk The Line’ are a lot more believable.
A music-based movie I love is ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’. Despite being dated, the film manages to weave great footage of Little Richard, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran into a very funny romantic comedy. It also features the ultimate pneumatic, platinum blonde in Jayne Mansfield.
The last word in music movies however, is still ‘This Is Spinal Tap’. Everybody that’s ever been in a rock band will recognise a situation or a character they’ve encountered on the way to rock’n’roll glory. Whether it’s getting lost on our way to the stage or the in-store appearance where nobody turns up, we’ve all been there! The other remarkable thing about this film is the quality of the English accents. There have been so many American-made films over the years that have been terrible in that regard.
I also happen to have it on good authority that a certain internationally renowned band (who shall remain nameless) sat down to watch this and did not laugh once! Oh dear…if you don’t get ‘Tap’ you really shouldn’t be in a band!

Speaking of music-orientated movies, ‘The Last Waltz’ which is arguably the best ‘documentary’ type film ever made about a band, was directed by somebody more commonly associated with another genre of films, Martin Scorsese. Apparently the money he was paid to make ‘Last Waltz’ financed the making of ‘Meanstreets’ which was the movie that made people sit up and notice him.
Scorsese went on to make a lot of great films. He’ll always be associated firstly with ‘Goodfellas’, which is magnificent although I happen to like ‘Casino’ just as much. He has the ability to create absolutely believable characters (the bad guys have good points and the good guys are all flawed in some way), put them in an entirely credible situation even though it’s often a world most people have never and will never inhabit. His work with Robert De Niro and more recently Leonardo De Caprio has produced brilliant three-dimensional characters although when it comes to a pure acting tour de force, Joe Pesci in ‘Goodfellas’ takes some beating. It’s amazing that such a tiny man with such a high, whiney voice can be so convincingly psychotic and terrifying.

Anyway, I could go on and on and on and I’m sure I probably will at some later stage.
In the meantime if you haven’t seen some of the films I’ve droned on about please do check them out; I promise you won’t regret it!

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