May 2013 + 5 Greatest Car Chases

It’s a bumper crop of things to discuss in this month’s update!

  • The return (as it were) of What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?
  • New films in the double figures — but just how many?
  • (Over-)analysis of what this means! (Not much.)
  • The completion of my Harry Potter re-watch…
  • …and a look at the results of my Harry Potter poll!
  • A top five… but of what? (Oh, it’s in the title, isn’t it?)
  • And the usual pointless “next time” bit that I ought to do away with but keep including just because it’s there in the template!
  • It’s only the biggest*, bestest** 100 Films update ever!

    So, as Graham Norton might say, jump on it!

    No, er, I mean — let’s start the show post!

    [Imagine a 100 Films title sequence here. Or don’t, whatever.]

    What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?

    The path to not-quite-making-it-to-100-films is paved with good intentions (as is the path to making-it-to-100-films-or-more, but the failure path has more paves), and my plan to watch two WDYMYHS films this month is now another slab in said path. So I bump that idea to next month, because, hey, I did watch one. And that one was…

    Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, aka Det sjunde inseglet if you speak Swedish or want to be one of those people who always uses the original title regardless.

    Despite owning Tartan’s impressive Bergman Collection DVD set for a number of years, this is actually my first experience of Bergman. Once, I noted how many significant directors have been new to me in the course of 100 Films. I thought I’d done it on an individual year, but it was in my review of The Great Dictator. I don’t believe I’ve ever done the former, probably because it’s never actually been noteworthy. However, it’s felt like there have been a few this year, so that’s something I may add to the end-of-year stats.

    But that’s still seven months away. You want to know what I’ve been watching in the past 31 days, right? Right?

    May’s films

    Django Unchained#44 The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
    #45 The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
    #45a Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
    #46 Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece, aka Tintin et le mystère de la Toison d’Or (1961)
    #47 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
    #47a Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
    #48 Django Unchained (2012)
    Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan#48a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
    #49 On Dangerous Ground (1952)
    #50 Les Misérables (2012)
    #51 And Now for Something Completely Different (1971)
    #52 Shane (1953)
    #52a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
    #53 Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2012)
    #54 The Seventh Seal, aka Det sjunde inseglet (1957)


    This month’s tally of new films rests at 11, more than double what I achieved last year and drawing equal with May of 2011.

    It’s also an anniversary, because May 2010 was my first of these regular monthly progress reports. Three years! My my, time flies. Back then I managed 16 new films, at the time my joint-second highest month ever. Show off month.

    Back in 2013, May is my joint second highest of the year — behind March (which is the current second highest month ever) and tied with February. That’s a pretty solid start to the year — more so than last year, and while 2011 and 2010 show a similar shape (double-figure Januarys, Februarys, Marchs and Mays with a relatively weak April), I’ve reached #54 this year, while in 2011 it was… oh, #58. Well, in 2010 it was… oh, #57.

    Hey, you can’t win ’em all.

    In terms of the films themselves, there’s an uncommonly high number from the ’50s this month — three, whereas my year-to-date only featured one other. There’s no particular reason for that, it’s just one of those coincidences. There’s also four films from 2012 alone, which is more to be expected as I continue to catch up on last year’s cinematic releases. There’ll definitely be more of that next month.

    Potter poll!

    For most of this month I’ve been running a poll on readers’ favourite Harry Potter films (you may have noticed it — it’s sat on the left of the front page). It’s been interesting to see how many votes I’d attract, especially with near-relentless badgering about it on Twitter at some points. As it turned out, better than I’d feared. That’s what bombarding Twitter can do.

    Well, I’m not closing the poll, but as it hasn’t received any new votes in weeks, let’s look at what my tiny sample thought.

    Everything Will ChangeThe clear victor is the Alfonso Cuarón-helmed franchise-revitalising third film, Prisoner of Azkaban, which scooped exactly 50% of the vote. Its supremacy in this poll was never in doubt, lingering around that percentage throughout. There’s a three-way tie for second, though, the result of low voter numbers. Mike Newell’s pivotal and well-liked Goblet of Fire is an unsurprising feature so high, but the incessant climax-readying info-dump of David Yates’ Half-Blood Prince is more uncommon; as is the series’ opener, Philosopher’s Stone, as the Chris Columbus films are often held in the lowest regard.

    That said, there’s also a three-way tie for last place, and the other Columbus film — sophomore entry Chamber of Secrets — finds itself among them. It’s not that bad, but it’s never been widely loved. More surprising are its two companions: both halves of Deathly Hallows. Considering the unrelenting acclaim that the latter half in particular received on its theatrical release, I was a little surprised to see these pick up 0 votes. That said, Part 2 is almost all climax, so perhaps they would fare better if taken as a single four-and-a-half-hour film?

    That just leaves Yates’ debut film, Order of the Phoenix, sitting almost slap-bang in the middle, on its lonesome in fifth place. Each to their own.

    So that’s that. As you can see from the links scattered above, I’ve already reviewed all eight films, but (as promised) I’ll have something to say about Yates’ four films when considered as a job lot, to be posted in the next week or two.

    And finally…

    5 Greatest Car Chases

    Inspired by watching Tokyo Drift, and the most recent Fast & Furious storming cinemas. And by “car chase” I really mean “action sequence involving a road vehicle”.

    1. Tomorrow Never Dies
      Tomorrow Never DiesYou can’t have a list of great car chases without including at least one Bond. Indeed, I could easily fill this top five with that series alone. TND wins because of two stand-out sequences: Bond driving a BMW saloon around a car park in Germany, which sounds dull as dishwater… except he does it via remote control and the car is stacked with gadgets; and a motorbike vs helicopter chase on the streets — and rooftops — of Saigon.
    2. Ronin
      RoninTo bring extra swish and excitement, the Fast & Furious films often use CGI in their car chases. Ronin, however, does it all for real — often with the actual actors in the cars. There are several chases in Ronin, but the extended climax through the tunnels of Paris is of course the best. The film used 300 stunt drivers and they wrecked 80 cars, but the exhilaration provided is entirely worth it.
    3. The Bourne Identity
      The Bourne IdentityMany times, a great sequence is born out of an idea to innovate or do something different (to go back to Tomorrow Never Dies, the bike chase was a deliberate counterpoint to GoldenEye’s tank chase), and the first Jason Bourne film is no exception: he’s in a Mini! Americans always find small cars striking (see also: Da Vinci Code’s Smart car), but at least it’s put to good use — he drives it down some stairs!
    4. The Matrix Reloaded
      The Matrix ReloadedFor sheer throw-everything-at-the-screen bombast, you can’t beat the car sequence in the first Matrix sequel — it was so big, they had to build their own stretch of freeway! Of course, it’s as much about the fighting going on in and around the cars as it is the chase, and there are bikes and lorries and stuff involved too — including a spectacular head-on collision — but it’s all road-based, so it counts.
    5. Quantum of Solace
      Quantum of SolaceI wanted to avoid having two Bond films, and I tried, but I couldn’t think of anything significantly better than the opening minutes of 2008’s widely maligned Bond adventure. Cut like lightning, almost intuitive and impressionistic rather than classically clear, and viscerally destructive throughout, it demands your attention — and indicates the kind of pace the rest of the film will move at. Then the reveal at the end makes it all the sweeter.

    And two I’ve never seen…

      Bullitt & The French Connection
      BullittRead most lists of the greatest car chases and one of these will be at the top, usually with the other in second place. They’re iconic for different reasons: there’s The French Connection’s frantic illicitly-filmed chase between Gene Hackman and Brooklyn’s elevated railway; and there’s Bullitt’s eleven-minute pursuit around the streets of San Francisco, with Steve McQueen and co gaining plenty of in-car air-time on those famous stepped hills. So iconic, I know this much without having seen either.

    Those are a few of my favourites, but what have I missed? And are there are any so bad I should’ve made room to decry them?

    Next month on 100 Films in a Year…

    It’s June! It’s halfway! But I’ve already passed 50!

    Will June’s total, doubled, indicate my final tally? Well, it hasn’t yet, so probably not. But a man can dream…

    * Probably. ^
    ** Subjectively. ^

    2 thoughts on “May 2013 + 5 Greatest Car Chases

    1. I always recommend to folk they check out the 1973 ‘The Seven-Ups’. Not only is it another crime gem from the cinematic 70s, but its stellar car chase (c/o some of the same crews that brought you the iconic ones featured in BULLITT and THE FRENCH CONNECTION, especially stunt coordinator Bill Hickman) that shouldn’t be missed or forgotten.


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