Ten Favourite Films

Here are ten of my favourite films; there’s no question that some (if not all) of these have had an influence on me. Although I love cinema, the whole magical experience, in no way am I a movie buff. Nor do I desire to be: for me cinema is all about escapism; delve too deeply, look too closely and (like Miss DuBois under the light of a naked bulb) the magic dies, least that’s how I see it. Clicking the highlighted links should draw back the curtains on some YouTube clips.

1: Some Like it Hot. I can watch this film over and over, it is truly magnificent. Monroe looks gorgeous in that little black dress she wears throughout the film; while Lemmon’s reactions to the impromptu party in his sleeper bunk make for perfect comedy.

2: Casablanca. Not much to say here: one of the most celebrated films in the history of cinema; every scene is wonderful. However, for me the line of the movie is Bogart’s seemingly insignificant “are my eyes really brown?

3: Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Python at their very best: an ultra-low budget production with the highest possible quality writing and visual comedy. The line: well, way too many to list them all; I particularly like the guards at Swamp Castle being asked to guard Herbert prior to his intended wedding to princess Lucky (“No, no, I want you stay here and make sure he doesn’t leave the room.”) but perhaps the best of all is the “we’ve found a witch” scene and the logical process suggested for proving the accused is indeed a witch (“It’s a fair cop…”).

4: The Producers. The Zero Mostel & Gene Wilder original version, I mean, not the (quite unnecessary?) remake. The original is superb, simply superb.
Wilder: “Stop! This is insanity, have you lost your mind? How can you kill the actors? What do you mean ‘kill the actors,’ actors aren’t animals they’re human beings!”
Mostel: “They are? Have you ever eaten with one?”
And we mustn’t forget The Audition scene (“That’s our Hitler!”).

5: Star Wars. Let me start by saying that I have nothing but the very highest regard for George Lucas. A genuine genius. If he wasn’t a film maker he would be a writer of great force. He has an amzing imagination and his attention to detail is (as Darth might say) most impressive. His films are legends. Episode IV could be released (untouched) today and it would still look cutting edge. Gripping plots, great characters, incredible special effects; I like that everything looks beyond used (verging on the point of mechanical/electrical failure). Beautiful sound effects, too: the hum of a light saber; the crackling of striking light sabres…
The only thing I would change: I wish Mr Lucas had never given us Ewoks; the ghastly things. It’s a lamentable shame (when the possibility arose) that their terrible forest-festooned home of Endor wasn’t blown to a billion smithereens, them along with it, thus freeing the universe from the frightful matted things, once and for all.

6: Jaws. Thirty-plus years on and the real star of this film remains the brilliant John Williams’ soundtrack. The line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat…” As to the acting, I thought Robert Shaw absolutely nailed the character of Quint. I love the bit where the three protagonists are exchanging after-dinner stories aboard the Orca, especially Quint’s recounts of his time in the water following the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

7: 2001: A Space Odyssey. The quintessential sci-fi film. Perhaps more science than fiction: note the lack of sound in space. Even if you’re no fan of the genre it’s worth watching if only for the part where Dave Bowman is attempting to deactivate HAL. The line (from that very scene, in fact) delivered from HAL to Bowman as he attempts to deactivate the computer after killing all of his fellow astronauts, continually attempting to kill Bowman himself and then leaving him stranded in deep space: “Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down, calmly, take a stress pill and think things over.” Oh, the joys of microchip technology.

8: Dr. Strangelove. P.O.E.: purity of essence. Funny, bizarre, unsettling. I particularly enjoy the scene where Mandrake is trying to telephone the president of the United States from a payphone: England and America, two cultures separated by a (not quite so) common language.

9: Jean de Florette and the inseparable sequel, Manon des Sources. Beyond impressive; a wonderful adaptation from the Marcel Pagnol novel. For those unfamiliar with this book/film I’ll not spoil the plot by saying too much, suffice to say that the twist at the very end of part two is quite perfect.
The world is full of nasty people doing awful things to better themselves. They do, however, have the remainder of their miserable lives to regret their spiteful actions… and suffer for them. Really, really suffer. The theme music is Verdi’s The Force of Destiny. Very fitting.

10: Dougal and the Blue Cat. Never been able to watch this film all the way through. It scares me. I mean, it really unnerves me. The Magic Roundabout was always somewhat avant-garde but I can’t handle the whole blue cat thing. There is something fundamentally wrong about seeing cute animated characters (well known from one’s childhood) locked in a dungeon, lamenting their actions and openly weeping with regret and remorse. If you’re feeling extremely brave, try watching this clip of poor old Florence as she drags her chains around…