By Tafi Mhaka

I do not get it: but my sister swears it is Pretty Woman. How can a film about falling in love with a highly paid female escort be that good? The film had a great soundtrack that literally took my breath away. But I had to cringe at the soapy love affair between Edward Luis and Vivian Ward. Can such a paid-up dalliance truly be real?

Although Richard Gere and Julia Roberts did well I am yet to meet a man who puts Pretty Woman in his top ten movies of all time. Is that because Mr. Luis is the king of wishful thinking in this fairytale romance and indeed pays a small fortune to fall in love?

“I appreciate this whole seduction thing you’ve got going on here, but let me give you a tip: I’m a sure thing,” says Miss Ward.

Would Miss Ward have fallen in love with Mr. Luis had she met him down on his luck in a dingy bar in the rougher parts of Los Angeles I wonder?

What I do get is that some people think 9½ Weeks is the greatest movie of all time. It stars Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke. 9½ Weeks is about Miss Basinger.

The director Adrian Lyne could have cast Tom Cruise or Ashton Kutcher in place of Rourke and it would not have changed a thing. This film is about Miss Basinger. All she had to do is smile and purport to act. This proved to be all audiences in Europe and around the world wanted to see. The film flopped in America but earned over US$100 million overseas on the back of Miss Basinger and her steaming hot sensuality.

The plot is largely unforgettable to be honest and the script is so clichéd it would make Chuck Norris proud. But the dark sexual interplay between the main protagonists is priceless. At a time when Hollywood is being accused of being sexist by paying actresses less money than their male counterparts, I would be the first to say Mr. Rourke deserved far less than Miss Basinger as the latter put up a performance for the ages.

Another great movie is the Godfather. I especially love the parts where the actors get so animated and speak in Italian. But I must make mention of the classic line in the Godfather from the big Don himself.

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse”.

I also like the Godfather 2. I find it equally as exciting as the original and enjoy watching Robert de Niro at his finest. What I love about the Godfather trilogy is the authenticity of the story and the characters. How can a violent and murderous lot live such normal lives at home?

De Niro did such a great job of acting the part of the Italian gangster in Goodfellas as well. But he has also raised the ire of the Order of the Sons of Italy in America (Osia). They say De Niro’s roles have tarnished the image of Italian-Americans, as his roles seem to imply that Italian-Americans are violent in real life.

The Green Mile is another critical favourite for a million reasons. The film explores bullying and mental health and weighs in on the merits of the death penalty and exposes the complexities of race relations in America during the volatile 1930s all at once.

It does it so well; you cannot but help to pity John Coffey, the gentle giant who is on death row for raping and murdering two small white girls. Yet this is the same man who has the goodwill and power to breathe life into a woman dying from an undiagnosed illness. We also witness a fairly disturbing botched execution in The Green Mile. It is pretty riveting stuff by any standard.

So is Casablanca, the 1942 Hollywood classic movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Casablanca has it all. It is about war. It is about love. It is about love in a time of war. It is about self-sacrifice. It is about lost opportunities in love. It is about losing love to unadulterated reality.

“We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.”

It is about the multicultural richness of society. Casablanca, the city in Morocco, represents everything Hitler and Mussolini espouse.

The idyllic romanticism of the city of Casablanca is matched only by the beauty of Ilsa Lund, the woman whose charms have captured the hearts of the leading men in Casablanca: Rick Blaine and Victor Laszlo. The film is driven by an excellent script that allows for a host of supporting actors to crash the party.

The film has a classic ending for viewers: it is so hard to get over Rick letting the love of his life go off with another man. It leaves a real bad taste in the mouth. It feels so real.

It is as real as Goodfellas, a film that stars Robert de Niro, Joes Pesci and Ray Liotta. This Martin Scorsese film is based on Wiseguy, a novel by Nicholas Pileggi about Henry Hill, a real life gangster who lived in New York.

The regularity at which the mafiosos rob and kill is shocking and the depravity of their violent ways is revolting to say the least. But the script is brilliant: Scorcese humanises the mafiosos so much you might not empathise with the men they kill. There is a part in a movie where Tommy DeVito (played by Joe Pesci) kills a waiter for simply standing up to him.

But this the life Hill cherished as a young man.

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States. Even before I first wandered into the cabstand for an after-school job, I knew I wanted to be a part of them. It was there that I knew that I belonged. To me, it meant being somebody in a neighbourhood that was full of nobodies. They weren’t like anybody else. I mean, they did whatever they wanted. They double-parked in front of a hydrant and nobody ever gave them a ticket. In the summer when they played cards all night, nobody ever called the cops.”

I do not know if it is possible to have an all-time favourite film. What I do have though are films I consider the greatest of all times for subjective reasons. Mostly the films I regard as the best rank highly on most lists I have seen published. Though I would rather watch a movie first before I read what a critic has to say about it. I think The Sound of Music is such a great film.

The acting, the singing, the storyline, I find it all exhilarating. It is just that movie that takes me places. It takes me to a world that I yearn for; a world that possibly cannot be real, a world I feel a real connection with. It might be something to do with the simplicity of the film. The beauty of the mountains. The honesty of the characters. I do not believe I have watched any other film starring Julie Andrews besides the Sound of Music. I am not sure if I ever will. What I am sure about is: she has to be the greatest actress of all time.

And Pulp Fiction might be the greatest film of all time as well. Do you remember this: “I’m sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn’t mean to do that. Please, continue, you were saying something about best intentions. What’s the matter? Oh, you were finished! Well, allow me to retort. What does Marsellus Wallace look like?”

This is Jules Winnfield after he has shot dead a man lying on a sofa in Pulp Fiction. The 1994 American neo-noir crime black comedy film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino is credited with resurrecting the career of John Travolta and establishing Samuel L Jackson as an actor worthy of serious roles and an Oscar nomination. I enjoyed the humour in the film and sublime acting. The villains in Pulp Fiction are so cool; way too cool in fact and I love that.

Back to the Future is another film that I love to watch. I have seen it twenty or so times and I cannot get enough of it still.

All of us have a little Marty McFly in us. You could be that guy who believes nothing is impossible. You could be that small town hero who captures the heart of a lovely girl ahead of the biggest bully at school. Or you might be Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown: You are a big dreamer and everyone thinks you are crazy for it. Or you could be Marty McFly Snr. You are just that guy people love to yell at for no reason. That guy who loves his wife and kids to bit. Back to the Future takes you back to a time people keep things simple.

The Usual Suspects does not have a simple plot. But it is simply fascinating. Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite and Kevin Spacey star in this 1995 American neo-noir mystery crime thriller about finding Keyser Söze. The great thing about The Usual Suspects is: you almost want to watch it again as soon as you finish it; and the great thing about Keyser Soze is his mystique.

“Who is Keyser Soze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.”

You could be gone with the wind like Tom Hanks in Forest Grump. This is a film about a man who refuses to become a product of his times and fights prejudice and adversity at every twist and turn.

“My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get, ’” says Forest Gump.

What is most remarkable, for me, is, I feel his pain so much. I feel for him when his mother dies. I feel for him when the love of his life dies. I feel for him when his peers laugh at him. That is Forest: he is a man I can relate to.

I can also relate to the fight between good and evil in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi as well. That recreation of a universe on a distant planet is so real. You have to believe in evil and believe in Luke Skywalker. That belief that good will always triumph over evil is vindicated in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Perhaps I love it because the bad guys seem to win most of the time in real life.

What is your greatest film of all time?

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