Let me start off by saying that I love lists, and I am a huge movie fan. So I thought I’d start this blog off with a good old desert island, High Fidelity style top 5 list the internet seems to know and love. I believe you can tell a lot about a person through their favourite movies. It is almost a key hole into their minds. So as an introduction to myself, here lies the most formative, resonating, and thought provoking movies I have seen in no particular order:
Whenever I talk about my favourite movies with my friends, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment always comes up. It is such a bittersweet, heartfelt, and clever comedy about real people. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine star as two essentially good souls trapped in a tangle of office politics. Even though the plot is slightly predictable, it is a deeply involving dramatic romance with some great dialogue and three-dimensional characters.
In-spite living in a time where fantastical, multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbusters are coming out every week, I always prefer seeing plausible characters on screen who are just trying their best to make their way through life with all its struggles. This is not to suggest I don’t also enjoy big blockbusters, who doesn’t love living vicariously through the eyes of a Spiderman swinging through New York?! I am just a big fan of movies like The Apartment that take very small situations and make them feel more epic. I like movie experiences that tend to oscillate between comedy and drama, and this does that to perfection.
Hannah and Her Sisters
Woody Allen changed my life. He is my favourite filmmaker. Full stop. Like The Apartment, the way he seamlessly drifts between frivolity and pathos appeals to my taste.
At the youthful age of 17 I had no idea who Woody Allen was, only that I heard his name crop up in radio interviews of comedians and writers I admired. One afternoon as I was aimlessly wondering through a second hand DVD store, rummaging past endless Adam Sandler comedies and straight-to-video Jean-Claude Van Damme movies from the 80’s, when I passively picked up a copy of Annie Hall for 79p. Later that night, with limited expectations, I popped it in the DVD player – and it genuinely transformed my cinema experience FOREVER.
I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
Woody Allen was the first person I saw who combined humour with big ideas. I’d never seen anything like that before. He was silly and funny whilst still talking about something legitimate. To a 17 year old angsty, romantic Sixth Form student who had just discovered reading philosophy and questioning whether the table was really there or just a sensory illusion (I still have no idea), it filled a perfect cinematic hole in my life. I immediately became a mega fan and began working my way through his interminable oeuvre. It was fantastic.
So I feel I have to include a Woody Allen film in this list. It is hard to pick a definitive one, but I always seem to go back to and rewatch Hannah and Her Sisters. This seems to be his most literate movie, and as a literature student it resonates with me. It is filled with universal themes such as: fear of death, desire for love, transient lust, procreation anxiety, and hesitant decision making.
Richard Linklater’s latest epically constructed masterpiece Boyhood. It is nearly 3 hours long. There is almost no plot. But I loved every minute of it. It was absolutely fantastic. Again, it is very similar in tone to the other films I’ve mentioned in the list. A sort of domestic comedy-drama, but very, very truthful, and brilliant performances again.
It is just a story of a kid living his life between the ages of 6 and 18. And that is it. No crazy plot twists. No mad adventures. No kooky characters. It is not building towards any sort of plot twist or cathartic ending. It’s just about a group of people aging, with significant and insignificant things happening in their life. Like Linklater’s well-crafted Before trilogy, it is filled with smart, but natural dialogue.
The actors playing the young children at the beginning of the film are the same actors playing those characters as adolescents and young adults. Which makes it all the more special because you really get to know these characters and feel a connection to them. I am a sucker for teenage coming-of-age stories. Movies like Stand By Me, Almost Famous and The Breakfast Club invariably have my eyes glued and my emotions on the edge of a precipice.
I went to see Boyhood on the last day it was playing in the UK at the cinema. It was a matinée showing at there was only four people in the movie theatre, including me and my friend. At about 90 minutes in the other two people in the room said ‘Why is nothing happening!?’ and walked out of the screening. Although rather distracting, I quite liked this moment as it practically mirrored a line from the movie during a scene when the mother character is talking to her son about being disappointed with how her life has turned out:
I just thought there would be more than this…
Boyhood is a refreshing escape from the monotony of real life, to the monotony on a big screen. However Linklater somehow manages to make those everyday moments feel magical and special.
The Godfather (part I & II)
What can I say about The Godfather that hasn’t already been said? Consistently top of the ranks on any ultimate movie list and rightly so. It is an overwhelming masterpiece that is unconditionally flawless.
The Darjeeling Limited
Amazing soundtrack, beautiful locations and a great cast. Wes Anderson is another favouite filmmaker of mine. His unique and quirky directing style is always refreshing to my eyeballs. I believe The Darjeeling Limited is one of his most underrated films.
Themes of brotherhood, travel and spirituality are something I ponder over a lot. Being a person who dabbles around in spirituality, watching this movie is always a comfort to me. The characters set out on a spiritual journey and find closure at the end in India. The ride along the way to this enlightenment is hilarious and fun, in only the way that Wes Anderson can show. The rich colours of southeast Asia combined with the wonderfully aesthetic talent of Anderson makes the entire experience a pleasure to watch
There is an extraordinary amount of incident and observation into a mere 90 minutes. The brothers bicker, fight, reminisce, and accuse each other of trivial things. Very relatable family moments for me.
But really, I only like this movie because of the 13 minutes of Natalie Portman in the prologue.