Sunday, 5 August 2012

My Top Ten Films

As Sight and Sound magazine has just published the results of their once-a-decade poll of the greatest films of all time, I thought now was as good a time as any to post my own personal top 10 online.
Here they are, listed alphabetically:

  1. Alice (1988, Jan Svankmajer)
  2. La Belle et La Bête (1946, Jean Cocteau)
  3. Carnival of Souls (1962, Herk Harvey)
  4. Day of Wrath (1943, Carl Theodor Dreyer)

  5. The Exterminating Angel (1962, Luis Buñuel)
  6. Frankenstein (1931, James Whale)
  7. The Haunting (1963, Robert Wise)
  8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, Don Siegel)
  9. Repulsion (1965, Roman Polanski)
  10. The Seventh Seal (1957, Ingmar Bergman)
There are probably about 400 films that I would consider to be "favourites" so this is actually quite a tricky, even futile task. My list contains no Westerns, no Val Lewton productions (although The Haunting is certainly of the Lewton school), none of the early Walt Disney features, no Gene Tierney, no Fred Astaire, no Japanese films, no Preston Sturges comedies, no Busby Berkeley numbers, no New German cinema of the 1970s, and nothing directed by Aki Kaurismaki, John Carpenter, Hayao Miyazaki, Eric Rohmer, Stuart Gordon, Budd Boetticher, Andrei Tarkovsky, Chris Marker or Woody Allen either so yeah, it is pretty unrepresentative of my tastes as a filmgoer. I'm excluding Krzysztof Kieslowski's magnificent Dekalog as it is essentially a series of 10 one hour films made for television. There are far too many Horror or Fantasy movies in there and I've unfortunately done nothing to help remove the label of me being "that guy who likes Horror Films" that has unfairly stuck with me ever since I was a teenager. In terms of listing 10 films that mean a great deal to me, this list does the trick. They are all films I have watched on several occasions with undiminshed pleasure and have what I feel is a timeless quality that qualifies them as great cinema. Certain filmmakers could have been represented by another choice entirely (The Passion of Joan of Arc or Gertrud for Dreyer, The Tenant for Polanski and probably half a dozen other Buñuel and Bergman films). Nine out of ten were filmed in black and white, perhap a sign that now more than ever I appreciate the virtues of older titles. In there are several classics, few surprises, no contemporary titles and hundreds of glaring omissions. There comes a point in your life as a film goer that tasks like this become virtually impossible and relatively meaningless but also fun and thought provoking. See you in another 10 years.

Monday, 30 July 2012

R.I.P. Chris Marker

According to various news and film websites, legendary filmmaker Chris Marker passed away at the age of 91 on Sunday. Best known for his 1962 Science Fiction short film La Jetee and the 1983 documentary Sans Soleil, the closest he came to mainstream cinema was when La Jetee became the basis of the screenplay for Terry Gilliam's 1995 film Twelve Monkeys. A lot of his work is hard to get hold of but well worth seeking out for those who are curious. Amongst his many great achievements were his eco warning Three Cheers for the Whale (1972), the 1973 political allegory Embassy, his 1977 magnum opus A Grin Without a Cat - about the rise and disintegration of left wing activism in the 1960s and 1970s, proving himself to be one of the few filmmakers who could successsfully tackle politics in his work - and two definitive studies of legendary directors: A.K. (1985), about Akira Kurosawa and the making of Ran, and One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich (2000), a brilliant examination of Andrei Tarkovsky's life and work. He remained active in his 80s, producing two late masterworks with Remembrance of Things to Come (2001) and The Case of the Grinning Cat (2004). Marker was cinema’s greatest essayist and continues to be its greatest enigma.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Happy 100th Birthday Cottage Road Cinema!

Cottage Road Cinema (my local cinema in Headingley) celebrates its centenary today. The full story is on their websiteNice to see the BBC covering this story as well.

To mark the occasion they are showing the 1957 British comedy The Smallest Show on Earth - an inspired choice. In an age of soulless multiplexes the survival of "fleapits" is always of great concern to active filmgoers like myself. Occasions like this certainly give cause for celebration.

Happy 100th Birthday Cottage Road Cinema!

Friday, 8 June 2012

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury

I heard the sad news on Wednesday that Ray Bradbury, one of my favourite writers, has died at the age of 91.
If I had to attribute my love of reading and writing to one author above all others it would probably be Bradbury. It's mainly due to his incredible body of work but also by being the inspiring person he came across as in interviews and his active campaigning for public libraries. A legendary American short story writer, novelist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet who has been an influential and seminal figure in literature, film, television, theatre and popular culture for over half a century. Working in the fields of Fantasy, Horror, Mystery and Science Fiction, he maintained a prolific output over several decades. Initially contributing short stories to magazines and periodicals in the early 1940s, his first story collection (Dark Carnival) was published in 1947. Amongst his most famous works are:

The Martian Chronicles

Dandelion Wine

Fahrenheit 451

The Illustrated Man

Something Wicked This Way Comes

The Halloween Tree

He also wrote the screenplay (based on his own short story and play) of one of my all time favourite films, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.

An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001

A Conversation with Ray Bradbury

Day at Night: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury Fantastic Fiction page
Ray Bradbury GoodReads page
Ray Bradbury official website

Here are some of my favourite Ray Bradbury quotes:

“Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I'm one of them.” - Dandelion Wine

“We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.”

"Sense of humour is everything. You can do anything in this world if you have a sense of humour."

“If we listened to our intellect we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go in business because we'd be cynical: "It's gonna go wrong." Or "She's going to hurt me." Or,"I've had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . ." Well, that's nonsense. You're going to miss life. You've got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”

“You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

“I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”
“I have two rules in life - to hell with it, whatever it is, and get your work done.”

“Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.”

“You fail only if you stop writing.”

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)