To kick things off here at O&T, I thought the most sensible thing would be to better acquaint all the fine folks out there on the interweb with what I would class as my top 5 movies of all time. So, in reverse order over the next 5 days I’ll give my top 5 movies of all time, why I love them and what I think makes them so special (I’ll be doing the same with musicians over at Tucson if you want to see that too). Through a combination of constant thinking, emotional attachment and sheer awesomeness, these 5 movies have become my favourites, and it starts today with the 2000 comedy hit High Fidelity.
This movie, based on the novel by Nick Hornby, is, in a word, brilliant. From the opening to closing credits there’s perhaps not a line of dialogue I would change nor a scene I would drop. It details the romantic tribulations of Chicago record store (named Championship Vinyl) owner Rob Gordon (John Cusack) who is obsessed with list-making (much like yours truly) and is recounting his top 5 most painful breakups of all time after his recent breakup with girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle), meeting up with his past lovers and trying to find out why he is, in his own words, “doomed to be left”.
Cusack is the emotional anchor of the movie, and plays the role of struggling-guy-finding-love with admirable gusto and brilliant comic timing after testing his comedic chops in cult hits like Say Anything (1989 teen romance), Bullets Over Broadway (hilarious 1994 Woody Allen movie about a struggling screenwriter) and Grosse Point Blank (where he plays an assassin attending a high school reunion – funnier than it sounds). Cusack is more-than-ably aided by the fucking hilarious Jack Black who kickstarted his career here as arrogant colleague Barry whose self-importance is only outweighed by his actual body, and Todd Louiso who gives a great performance as the timid Dick who struggles to be heard over Barry’s torrent of noise. They’re also both first-rate losers who Rob tells us he “hired to work four days a week and they just started showing up EVERY DAY. That was four years ago”.
These two provide loads of laughs, while the emotional clout is left to Cusack and his now-ex girlfriend Hjejle whom he can’t decide whether to hate or try and reconcile with. These romantic scenes aren’t quite as good as the hilarious ones in Championship Vinyl itself, although there’s a brilliant role for Tim Robbins as Rob’s douchebag neighbour Ian, but they’re still affecting and Cusack never fails to keep you interested with his witticisms and frequent to-camera analyses of the situation. Rob’s clearly a tosser, but he’s made loveable by JC who paints him as a tortured nerd who thinks he’s cleverer than he is, but is gradually realising there’s more to life than running a record store.
The script is taut with plenty of great laughs, largely coming from Barry, Dick and Rob’s arguments in the record store and Rob’s tirades to camera about Ian or Laura or music which punctuate the movie and offer a glimpse into Rob’s weird psyche – “top five things I miss about Laura… She does this thing when she can’t sleep, she kind of half-moans and rubs her feet together an equal number of times, it just kills me”.
Obviously when a movie’s based around a record store the soundtrack has to kick ass and fortunately this one does, with quality tunes from a massive range of artists: Stevie Wonder, Belle & Sebastian and The Beta Band to name but three. Music carries the film along whether it’s being heard or discussed, and the soundtrack is as much a part of the film as one of the sets.
High Fidelity is #5 on this list because of a few things: the aforementioned musical selection, brilliant acting, a clever script and Jack Black’s star-making turn. Cusack is the anchor and star, but Black’s Barry is one of the funniest screen performances I’ve yet seen, equal parts asshole, self-important critic and arrogant musician and he steals every scene he’s in.
Awesome film which I would recommend to anyone. If the above isn’t enough to convince you, there’s a cameo from Bruce Springsteen. Comedy, drama, awesome songs and The Boss, what more can you want from a movie? Exactly. Hunt it down.