RR Movies: Ambition

Maybe if you don’t go into a negotiation wanting to both have your cake and it eat, you’re setting your sights too low, but there are some difficult situations – in a divorce, for example – where that would seem a rather ambitious approach…

But this allows me to make ambition the theme this week and suggest a film that shows both how effective it can be (if you’re female) and also how pointless (if you’re Caden Cotard). That’s a sort-of cake-and-eat-y thing, no? Synecdoche, New York is a film I recommend to people, expecting most of them to complain how depressing it is. Enough also appreciate its genius.

What films about ambition would you recommend?

20 thoughts on “RR Movies: Ambition

  1. Tempting to go for humble (and relatively uncorrosive) ambitions, along the lines of Flashdance or Educating Rita. But instead i’ll go for the Godfather trilogy, even though ambition probably isn’t the overriding theme. A colossal snakepit chock full of sleazebags backstabbing each other while watching their own backs in the process of climbing the greasy poles.

    • I love Educating Rita, but i think you’re right, it’s more self-fulfillment rather than naked ambition that is celebrated. I’ll take the Godfather trilogy as a great suggestion and give you Scarface in return.

  2. In the spirit of Chris’ pick, which i haven’t seen (but looked up), i could offer up two more that i haven’t seen – Heaven’s Gate and Ishtar. Two big fat turkeys killed probably by overweening directorial ambition.

  3. For me there’s only one contender here namely ‘Sweet Smell of Success’ with Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster. Not only is it a great film with Curtis’ rampant ambition destroying everything and everybody in its path it is also one of the hardest and most cynical films ever made, just about the furthest you could get from today’s Hollywood pap. If you’ve never seen it do yourself a favour and search it out !

  4. I’ll go for There Will Be Blood where Daniel Day-Lewis does some BIG acting as the ruthless would-be oil man.

    I would have been tempted to go for The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer but I recently started re-watching that on Youtube and – the “cheeky” sixties visual humour about secretaries in micro skirts etc has dated really badly. Shame as there’s quite a bit of resonance in the story of the messianic figure who pretends to give power back to the people while sweeping aside all opposition.

    • There Will Be Blood is probably my favourite film of the last 10 years. That said I got it on DVD soon after it but haven’t got round to watching it. The fact that Mrs Wyngatecarpenter decided she didn’t like it (without actually having seen it) doesn’t help I suppose.

      • I think I’m the only person I know that didn’t think it was very good – what did I miss? I might have to try re-watching it…

  5. Can’t come up with anything, even after Googling … can only conclude that I don’t watch films about ambition? Can I have “Macbeth”? Not sure I’ve ever seen a film version but I’ll go for the 1978 one with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench, for the sake of argument.

  6. Was away at a conference so only managed a few this week:

    Sightseers (last week’s Chris’ pick – loved the Englishness of it all)
    Comedian’s Guide to Survival (not bad)
    Les Innocents (really good)

    ..looking forward to checking some of this week’s suggestions

      • Oh..thanks. I heard the title when it came out, but hadn’t looked into it any further – on the list it goes!

        I also watched Captain Fantastic and Tale of Tales, thoroughly enjoyed them both…especially Captain Fantastic (Bikini Kill and Guns’n’Roses (well, kind of!) on the soundtrack just made it all the better)

  7. I was struggling here, not because I couldn’t think of any films, but because there are so many, and because ambition is so heavily bound up with things like a lust for success, power, wealth, fame and all kinds of other things.

    I had been trying to think of positive aspects of ambition as opposed to the corrosive effects of ambition driven by pride, greed or ego. It was tough, very tough, because even when someone is ambitious for good reasons, it involves a degree of pride and ego to make things happen.

    So, in the end I have chosen a film derived from a book about the early days of space flight and it is The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe. It starts with Chuck Yeager, a test pilot whose ambition is to fly faster than sound, which he does, and moves on to the ambitious aims of the Space Race between the USA and USSR. In the film, we meet all manner of characters, all driven by ambition. The book is a superb thing and the film captures the book pretty well, and also features a towering performance from the great Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager.

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