Monday, May 23, 2011

My Life In Movies

Fandango Groover posted his life in movies recently and thus laid down a challenge seemingly to all movie bloggers everywhere. So here's my offering to this viral sensation. May 22nd 2011.

My favourite movies, 1 per year, 1982 to 2010

1982 - Blade Runner

An obvious choice, as it's one of my favourite movies of all time. Ridley Scott created something incredible and then revisited time and again to make it perfect. Others may always think of Harrison Ford as Han Solo but for me first and foremost he will always be Deckard, chasing and being chased through a derelict building in the rain by Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner. Sean Young is mesmerising in her beauty and even now, nearly 30 years later the effects have barely dated.

1983 - Star Wars Episode VI Return of the Jedi

Turns out that I haven't watched too many films from 1983. But even if I had, I don't think there would be much to compare to this film. One of the finest opening sequences in cinematic history, well at least for those involved with the characters. A prison break to beat all others; you can find more in those 45 minutes or so to love than most movies give you in at least twice that long. And then there's the Ewoks dancing. The recent update that forced Haydn Christensen on us has to be added to Guido shooting first in the list of latter Lucas atrocities in my mind at least.

1984 - Ghost Busters

1984 gave me a lot to choose from, Alex Cox made Repo Man, The Terminator was released, John Hughes had Sixteen Candles, the original Karate Kid was fighting for honour, Gizmo made his debut in Gremlins, Axel Foley did the same in Beverly Hills Cop not to mention Indy in Temple of Doom, Spinal Tap, the first Cohen Bros movie Blood Simple and the Wim Wenders classic Paris, Texas but how can anybody not choose Ghost Busters?

Bill Murray may have achieved great things after this but for pretty much everyone else this was a career high point and for me a movie that I have loved as a kid, a teen, a film student and a blogger.

1985 - The Breakfast Club

Nothing compares to this movie, the ultimate teen flick. When I saw this for the first time I was hooked. I started to feel better about myself, I started to watch films for different reasons, started to ask more questions and demand more from what I saw. Even now I love watching this movie. It's impact on the genre is immeasurable, everything since has copied an stolen from it in one way or another.

1986 - Aliens

It doesn't exactly have to beat off stiff competition but Ferris Bueller pulled out every last piece of ingenuity he had to win this vote and still the second Alien movie won. Platoon was a fine movie but it doesn't get better the more you watch it like Aliens does. And well Blue Velvet is just too damned weird to be classed as a favourite.

Aliens is the best of the franchise, for me it adds something to the mix that the original just couldn't find.

1987 - Angel Heart

Whilst I was very tempted to choose The Brave Little Toaster based on how much I enjoyed it as a kid it can't be my favourite because I simply have no desire to watch it again (at least not until I have my own kids.) And I desperately want to see Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire which I think will surpass the quality of Angel Heart but until then Alan Parker's ultra dark noir wins, not least for starring Mickey Rourke before he got a little bit crazy.

1988 - Die Hard

Not a tough call this one, Die Hard is amazing and much like 1983 there was a distinct paucity in quality this year. Akira, A Fish Called Wanda, High Hopes, Roger Rabbit and Beetlejuice were all released in 1988 but a comparison to Bruce Willis makes for an obvious winner. Yippee Ki-yay!

1989 - Do The Right Thing

Initially this was a tough year to call, once more due to a lack of obvious choices but then I remembered just how incredible this little film by Spike Lee was the first time I saw it and every time since.

You may ask how I can overlook Batman or Sean Connery in Indiana Jones but I was closer to choosing Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train or When Harry Met Sally (yeah I still love this movie, it's very funny and incredibly sweet) over those two.

1990 - Goodfellas

Again, there's no real competition, this movie is solid gold, even on repeat viewings there's so much to enjoy, but remember the first time you saw it, wow!

I honestly thought there would be no competition but other bloggers haven't picked it so my searching around to see if any other movie could compare was a bit pointless. The Grifters was hugely enjoyable, Life Is Sweet was lovely, Arnie was badass in Total Recall and Miller's Crossing is a fine film but none of them had the same effect on me as Goodfellas.

1991 - The Silence of The Lambs

Tough. Very tough. Slacker was hugely influential to me as a wannabe film maker, T2 was explosive and all round awesome when i saw it on VHS and Delicatessen is perhaps Jeunet's finest film but the very first time I saw Silence of the Lambs I was hooked. Three amazing characters that you just can't turn away, Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter is obviously much discusses and Jodie Foster was the perfect mix of strength and vulnerability up against Ted Levine as the excellently creepy and fucked up Jame Gumb. Superb thriller, almost unmatched in it's genre.

1992 - Reservoir Dogs

1992! A watershed year, the year a new generation of film maker came to prominence, the Sundance kids? Plus RDJ as Chaplin, Stephen Rea wanting to sleep with a transvestite in The Crying Game, the most absurd Oscar winner of all time starring in My Cousin Vinny and Robert Altman's The Player. But I don't think you can beat Reservoir Dogs for influence on me as a viewer or as a film maker. The dialogue and the non linear narrative were a revelation to my teenage mind.

1993 - Jurassic Park

OMGosh 1993 featured Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, Tony Scott directing the best Tarantino script True Romance and David Thewlis in Naked. But the feeling I got watching Jurassic Park as a 10 year old can't be matched. Even now 18 years later the first time you see the dinosaurs at the lake is still completely magical.

1994 - Pulp Fiction

I seriously found this one difficult. I knew Pulp Fiction was gonna be 1994 before I even got to checking what other movies might've come close. Then I discovered quite a few of my all time favourite movies were also released that year. Chungking Express is wonderfully sweet and melancholy and a really exciting piece of cinema for a film student, i'm pretty certain you won't be able to find a person alive who saw Shawshank Redemption and didn't find it utterly compelling viewing, Jean Reno as Leon is fabulous, I still quote The Lion King on a regular basis, Nigel Hawthorne was outstanding in The Madness of King George and Danny Boyle made his debut with Shallow Grave. I don't think it's very fair that they had to come up against Pulp Fiction really.

1995 - Toy Story

What the hell happened in the mid 90's? Another seriously strong year for films. Twelve Monkeys was so close to getting the nod before Leah reminded me that Toy Story was released. I don't think i've seen any movie as much as i've seen Toy Story. A movie that has everything and is infinitely quotable. But it wasn't just Twelve Monkeys, you can't look at 1995 without considering just how good movies like Seven, Casino, Heat, Usual Suspects, Braveheart, Before Sunrise, City of Lost Children, Leaving Las Vegas, Welcome to the Dollhouse and Die Hard 3 were.

1996 - Scream

Scream wins by simple fact that it's both awesome and amazing at the same time. A real defining moment in my film viewing life. Sure I saw Independence Day 4 times at the cinema and Fargo might be the Coen Brothers best film of the 90's, Billy Bob Thornton was superb in Sling Blade, Secrets & Lies just might well be up there with Brief Encounter as one of my favourite movies ever, the phrase money baby was invented in Swingers along with Vince Vaughn and Jerry Maguire was showing me the money. All of these movies might have been my choice in most other years but the sheer pleasure I got from watching Scream throughout 1997 and how fondly I remember it means nothing else really had a chance.

1997 - L.A. Confidential

The year my two passions clashed harder than an iceberg and a ship. 4 very good science fiction movies - Gattaca, Fifth Element, Contact and Cube came up against the finest noir film in many many years and lost to the better film. Also in the running, taking shots from a sniper rifle was Grosse Point Blank, the cool Fincher thriller The Game and Tkeshi Kitano's wonderfully beautiful Hana-Bi. There are not many noir films better than L.A. Confidential however, an extremely well made movie of the excellent James Ellroy novel.

1998 - The Big Lebowski

It was a straight run between Dark City and The Dude but there is a line and across that line you do not as Walter might say, sorry scream. Dark City is a superb piece of science fiction however. So in a distant 3rd place race you'll find such fabulous work as Happiness and Elizabeth.

1999 - Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai

Tres tres difficult. Fight Club was amazing, The Limey is amazing, American Beauty was amazing, The Boondock Saints is so totally badass, Being John Malkovich boggles the mind, The Matrix was truly groundbreaking to me then but has since been shown up to be a bunch of cool stuff stolen from other people so it is Jim Jarmusch that steals the crown with the superb Forrest Whittaker starring Ghost Dog. Cool, violent, meditative and recalling the superb Melville noir Le Samourai.

2000 - Amores Perros

New millenium, drop in quantity of quality of films. Or at least from American film makers maybe. Lukas Moodysson released Together, Fukasaku made Battle Royale and Wong Kar-Wai had In The Mood For Love but the debut from Innaritu was incredible.

It's use of multiple storylines colliding with a devastating car crash was later echoed by the Hollywood film Crash. Gael Garcia Bernal jumped out of the screen burning himself in to the minds of viewers around the world as the lovestruck Octavio. An often bleak and disturbing look at love and loss that stays with you for a long long time after the credits roll.

2001 - Monsters Inc.

Donnie Darko, Spirited Away, Amelie, Mulholland Drive and The Royal Tenenbaums, what do these movies have in common? They are all superb pieces of film making, rightly hailed by film critics and fans around the world. AND none of them can compete with Monsters Inc. for my affection.

The vocal pairing of Billy Crystal and John Goodman is excellent, packed with charisma and displaying an obvious chemistry, combining to make their double act extremely funny in what was yet another superb Pixar film. Dreamworks really look so trashy in comparison don't they.

2002 - Infernal Affairs

Dirty Pretty Things, Adaptation, City of God. Fabulously dark, willfully bizarre and truly moving & exhausting film making in that order. BUT the first part of the Infernal Affairs trilogy was without doubt a movie event for me and my buddies at uni. Taking it's cue from Hard Boiled this was an exceptional piece of crime genre film making with an all star Chinese cast and a sense of class missing from the Scorsese remake.

2003 - Finding Nemo

Kill Bill, Oldboy, Spring Summer Autumn Winter and Spring, Lost In Translation, 21 Grams, Last Life In The Universe, I am not exaggerating by saying that these films are some of my absolute favourite and most enjoyable pieces of cinema by some supremely talented film makers and I would be hard pressed to choose my favourite from any of them.

However Ellen De Generes as Dory and Albert Brooks as Marlin is the best comedy/movie double act since Crystal and Goodman. Another infinitely quotable movie and another beautiful film from the talent at Pixar.

2004 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Narrowly beating out the finest piece of film making on WWII that i've ever seen, Downfall, and the hauntingly beautiful Kim Ki-Duk film 3-Iron, not to ignore Garden State or Shaun of the Dead, is the fabulous Jim Carrey starring, Michel Gondry directed, Charlie Kaufman written love story with a difference, Eternal Sunshine. Blown away the very first time I saw it, I was completely outraged that Jim Carrey didn't win an Oscar for his performance.

2005 - Sin City

Not a huge amount that really jumped out and screamed pick me this year. having said that Sin City is a fabulous piece of noir film making. So much fun and so so stylish.

If I was gonna pick something else it would be the comic noir Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as my friend Kat said to me today, the last remaining reason not to hate Val Kilmer. And wasn't this the film that gave us back RDJ?

2006 - Clerks II

The original film was robbed as my choice for 1994 because it had the misfortune of going up against Pulp Fiction, no such fate can befall the sequel in 2006. A particularly weak year of films fer sure but Clerks II for me was a truly enjoyable film. It feels like a movie made by a group of friends just having fun with things, like Kevin Smith just relaxed and let his much loved characters run wild. And the gratuitous choreographed dance scene a la Austin Powers is wonderful.

Two films that came close were the exceptional Pan's Labyrinth and the much fun Stranger Than Fiction and recently I saw the beautifully shot fable The Fall.

2007 - There Will Be Blood

2007 was a big year for great films, at the time I felt that No Country For Old Men was unsurpassable for example but I must've watched and watched and watched Superbad. Juno was utterly charming, Eastern Promises the best film about London I remember seeing and The Darjeeling Limited is Wes Andersons finest work.

But still the more time that passes, the better There Will be Blood becomes in my mind. The opening 40 or so minutes are totally mesmerising, the absence of dialogue only serves to heighten the enjoyment, to the point where you only realise that nobody has spoken until somebody actually speaks. From what i've read of the source material this is largely Paul Thomas Andersons work too. Triple thumbs up for the work of Daniel Day Lewis also.

2008 - The Dark Knight

The year of Dark Knight really. I was completely amazed by the movie, Heath Ledger as the joker was like nothing i'd seen before. Especially after the Jack Nicholson joker! A dark multi layered comic book film from Chris Nolan, regardless of whether Batman can turn his head or not.

Mentions to Wall-E and In Bruges both of which in another year might've been selected for being yet another fabulous Pixar film and a delightfully dark and fun hitman movie respectively. I am also counting Hurt Locker and Gran Torino as 2009 because they were not released in the UK until 2009.

2009 - Gamer

OMGosh, I LOVE THIS MOVIE. Neveldine and Taylor created the best near future science fiction film imaginable. Every single aspect of the science fiction was spot on accurate in a myspace/facebook version of Running Man with Gerard Butler perfect in his role of grunting muscle bound killing machine Cable. In a world where people are making films like Surrogates and Source Code movies that actually get it right should be celebrated.

Hurt Locker, Hangover, Gran Torino, District 9, Star Trek, Fantastic Mr Fox, Moon, Jennifer's Body, An Education. Holy cow 2009 made up for the lack of films in 2008 didn't it.

2010 - Inception

Literally I have no idea how Inception isn't everybody's choice for 2010, it was a phenomenal experience and an exceptionally unique piece of film making.

Toy Story 3 was great for all the reasons the first one was and then some, the Coens remake of True Grit had me enthralled for the entirety and Scott Pilgrim whilst not being everybodys cup of tea was top quality film making that entertains throughout, in the cinema I was struggling for breath I was laughing so much with no sign of a letup.


  1. Cool list,

    I'm really glad to see Ghost Dog on your list, I chose it for that year as well. Such a brilliant, yet overlooked film...

    Nice blog by the way, I'm following!

  2. thank you. it's quite a bit longer than yours!

    I'm very surprised that anyone else chose Ghost Dog actually. I very nearly didn't but the longer i thought about it the better it seemed, the more impressed i am. although i struggle to find a jarmusch movie i don't thoroughly enjoy.

  3. Fantastic list; more times that I can count on all fingers I smiled at the mention of one thing or another, especially the ones that aren't my favourites but I love why you love them. I too went with including the supporting cast of films you also love per year... surprised more people didn't, only in the year of my birth did I find there wasn't a slew of films all my favourites for different reasons.

    I'm with you on Aliens; I forgot to include it on my list but I've always preferred Cameron to Scott, even if the Giger design work is so much more fascinating in the original and the performances are, you know, so much more 'respectable'. I still prefer Weaver and Biehn fondling through firearms and Paxton immortalising the phrase 'Game over man, game over!'. And the mention of Brave Little Toaster :) I tried to watch this recently and it IS one of those films that isn't so timelessly well done that you realise with relief it's still watchable when you grow up. Pixar it is not.

    Also with you on LA Confidential, although I think it's an improvement on the book as opposed to a good adaption of it. Just my opinion, but if I'd read the book first with it's twisty and (for me) implausible twisted conspiracy story, I probably would have assumed the film would be about all that and not bothered watching it :/ The only thing that's new to me was Gamer, though many people have been telling me Neveldine and Taylor would be totally up my street. I take this as a sign I should go and get it.


  4. Great picks! Really enjoyed them. I'll be sure to keep reading your blog too!

  5. hels - i find it hard to be critical of james ellroy, his work is so large in scope and so black in content that i love being taken on his journeys through americas underbelly. but i do think that the adaptation is one of the very best of its kind as they could have quite easily got bogged down in unnecessary plot points. as for neveldine and taylor, i'm not a fan of crank but pathology was pretty good, they just managed to get gamer so totally right in my opinion.

    joanna - thank you for the kind words, i hope you continue to enjoy my posts.