The ASIDESTEPS CANON – b-sides vol. I

The Canon.  One hundred films with nothing from the top 250 Sight & Sound poll.  These are the b-sides; un-canonised, free from decades of perception and discussion, but great films in their own right.  No apologies, no pretensions.


  1. Sitting Target (1972 – Douglas Hickox)


Because sometimes you need three films in one.


An Oliver Reed and Ian McShane prison breakout movie that becomes a cat-and-mouse chase with police officer Edward Woodward, and a cutthroat revenge thriller between the two leads.  Each is section is enjoyable on its own, but together it becomes one of the great unsung delights of seventies British cinema.  Brutally charming, the film features the same deft editing that John Glen brought to his Bond films.  Douglas Hickox was a filmmaker of quicksilver ability, though Sky Riders, his 1976 Skydiving film, is pleasantly disposable.



  1. Putney Swope (1969 – Robert Downey Sr.)


Because sometimes your father is a horse’s ass.


Downey Sr.’s satire on advertising feels like a surreal multitude of fragmented attacks jabbing at you from all angles.  Downey Sr. ridicules the complicit homogeneity of business, media and politics in their attempt to maintain the status quo and protect their wealth.  Though like all satire, it is essentially worthless.  No government has been brought down by a joke.



  1. Party Girl (1958 – Nicholas Ray)

Because existence is tolerable with Cyd Charisse.


There’s something wonderful about those films featuring D-list talents of the day.  Nominally a gangster film, the movie features two delightful dance numbers from Charisse, who remains one of the most astonishing screen dancers of all time (see The Band Wagon – 1953).  But the colours of the film are what remain with you, dancing behind your eyelids in the way that all bright lights do.



  1. Modern Romance (1981 – Albert Brooks)


Because there’s a better cinematic comedian than Woody Allen.

Brook’s film explores the fine line between needing time to yourself and not wanting to be lonely, and how this often leads to relationships.  With an almost anecdotal rhythm, he shoots scenes in long takes allowing him to talk himself into deeper and deeper pits.  Exploring the social discrepancies of modern (or ‘1981 modern’ – rolodexes et. al.) life Brooks shows how hating yourself turns you into fickle, desperate, hilarious human being.


  1. Detention (2011 – Joseph Kahn)

Because this is what being a teenager is like.


This is the film that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) wanted to a be.  A hyper-kinetic, horror-action comedy, full of swipes and sildes and cuts and flashbacks, the film perfectly captures the toxic multi-media barrage of communication that teen-agers experience nowadays.



  1. Moonrise Kingdom (2012 – Wes Anderson)

Because it takes a long time to learn to love some people.


I wrote Wes Anderson off about five minutes into The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).  My goodwill had been expended on the title alone, despite crying at the end of The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).  Eight years later, and with a vociferous appetite for movies, I decided to give it another shot.  What once I saw as a high affection now seemed to me to be a director in control of the mise-en-scene.  Anderson’s atheistic is all the more appealing when entwined with the delightful intensity with which children experience the world.  Some people you love right away.  Some people it takes some time to ‘get’ them.



  1. Broadcast News (1987 – James L. Brooks)

Because nice guys are scumbags.

Holly Hunter is trapped between the emotional manipulation of two men.  She’s funny and capable and clearly more talented than either of them, but she is still made to feel like shit.  There’s a scene where Albert Brooks tries to guilt her into love by attacking her for not admiring his friendship enough and it’s a scene played out all over the world by emotionally needy men, day in day out.  Love is a weapon for these men, one designed to inflate their pathetic desperation.


  1. In the City of Sylvia (2007 – Jose Luis Guerin)

Because throwaway films can niggle the back of your mind.


In 2009 I decided to start going to the cinema more often.  I loved films and was missing out on seeing movies I wanted to see because I had a limited number of friends willing to go with me.  So I started going on an almost weekly basis.  Early on in the year I went to see In the City of Sylvia on a whim.  And yet, all these years later, the film niggles inside my mind.  Another riff on Vertigo (1958), it is a picturesque study of the obsessiveness men can find in a perceived notion of love.



  1. After Hours (1985 – Martin Scorsese)

Because a Hitchcock imitation can be better than the real thing.

There are films that Martin Scorsese obsesses about – New York, New York (1977), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Gangs of New York (2002) – and these are almost universally mediocre.  Yet some of the films where he has not had the opportunity to overthink prove to be the best use of his vibrant kinetic style of cinema.  After Hours is a freaky unnerving comedy about an everyday man’s flirtation with a more exciting side of life, one that proves almost universally disastrous.



  1. The Village (2004 – M. Night Shyamalan)

Because there are no apologies.

Shyamalan takes his predilection for the plot twist and turns it into a tangle.  A film in which bad choices (such as mannered, affected speech patterns) are revealed to be quite deliberate as a filmmaker seeks to underline the artificiality of a constructed village community.  It features some career best work from cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer James Newton Howard.  Astonishing.

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