Monday, 27 February 2012

Oscar day - my favourite films of all time

Oscar - shmoscar!

With my film reviewer hat on - my Odeon card and my addiction to pick 'n' mix, I couldn't let the morning after the night before go unnoticed.

But this morning I'm found lacking. I haven't seen 'The Artist', 'The Help', 'The Descendants' or 'War Horse'. What have I been doing with my days?

I have however seen 'The Iron Lady' which I loved - and said as much in my article for 'The Good Review'. And 'Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy' which I loathed for being about as clear as a muddy puddle!

I could leave it at that, but it would be a bit of dull blog on a subject that I think I'm rather good at. So instead I've decided to have a bit of a think about my favourite films from over the years. I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones that spring to mind.

1. Dr Zhivago (1965)

One Christmas a couple of years ago I actually watched this epic from start to finish. It's set in Russia as the country moves from Tsarist to Communist rule - via the Russian civil war (1917-1923). 

Zhivago is a doctor (you'd probably guessed that) caught in a love triangle between his wife Tonya and lover Lara. 

What I love about this film is its historical context - it's a period that has fascinated me since I studied it for 'O-Level' (showing my age now). It was brutal and harsh in a country where the landscape and environment was similarly brutal and harsh. Besides, I've always had a soft spot for Boney M's 'Rhasputin' and a macabre fascination in the Tsar and his family being shot, dissolved in sulphuric acid and thrown down a well (including little Alexander who had haemophilia)! 

What else? Well the music is amazing - "La, la la la - la la la la la laaaaa".
I love its expansive wide scenic shots of the landscapes and beautiful cinematography. The ice and snow in the summer house on the Russian plains is exquisite.

I think Julie Christie, who plays Lara is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen - and while we're at it, I quite fancy Omar Sharif.

Click here to watch the Dr Zhivago trailer.

2. Officer & a Gentleman (1982)

When I was a student, I was struck down with glandular fever. During that period I had terrible insomnia and spent many nights watching the two films we had for our Betamax video. One was Grease, the other 'Officer and a Gentleman'. I know if off by heart.

I love Richard Gere as 'Mayo the Wop' - who just needed the right woman to understand him (enter Debra Winger).

It has a great sound track - Pat Benatar's 'Treat me right'. "One of these days you're gonna reach out and find that the one that you count on has left you behind!"  What a tune!

Richard Gere runs around in a muddy puddle and does sit ups until he is a broken man - "I can't quit - I've got nowhere else to go".

And then there is the ending - "Love lift us up where we belong!" What woman wouldn't want to be swept off her feet in a paper factory with such passion that her hat falls off and her hair comes tumbling out. "Way to go Paula - way to go."

Click here to watch the trailer for An Officer and a Gentleman.

3. Shadowlands (1993)

I watched this in Sheffield - and I howled and howled and howled. Set on the 1950's, it's the story to author CS Lewis, played by Anthony Hopkins and his relationship with divorced American poet Joy Gresham played by Debra Winger (I must like her films). 

The two finally found each other late in life and it is just a beautiful story of two extraordinary people. One, a very sweet middle aged man who has spent a life time living in his imagination and doesn't really know how to do relationships. 

The other, a determined America woman who doesn't take no for an answer and gently guides him through the maze.

The tragedy is how short lived this happiness is as Joy is diagnosed with cancer and ultimately dies.

I'm not sure that I could watch it now - but I remember it as being a beautiful, gentle and touching film that will always be amongst my favourites.

Click here to see the trailer for Shadowlands.

4. Before Sunrise (1995)

We've all imagined what it would be like. You meet a stranger on a train from Budapest and then spend until sunrise running around Vienna getting to know each other. A brief encounter before you go your separate ways. 

Ethan Hawke (American Jesse) and Julie Delpy (French CĂ©line). It is such a fantastic idea. Just two people getting to know each other and we get to spy in on them.

Vienna looks amazing as the camera stays just a step ahead of them as they chat. The scenes are long and uncut. They must have been a nightmare to film, but in doing so showcase just how great these two actors are.

The film ends as they agree to meet again in the same place in six months time - but do they?

Well you find out in the sequel - Before Sunset (2004) - I won't spoil it for you. But if you would like to watch the trailer for Before Sunrise, then click here.

5. Gallipoli (1981)

Ask me my favourite film of all time and I will tell you over, and over, and over - it's Gallipoli. 

The whole Australian nation now loves me!
I loved it from the first moment I saw it, New Years Eve 1983. I wrote an essay about it in my teenage diary about war and its futility.

Set during the first world war, it stars a very young Mel Gibson and Mark Lee as two friends who meet through athletics. The horrible war bit is only a small portion of the film right at the end. For the majority of the film you follow these two friends, Archy and Frank, as they travel across Australia to sign up for their big adventure.

You really get to know these two boys, and you continue to follow them as they undergo their training - all the way through to the Anzac horror that was Gallipoli. A campaign which was a series of monumental military cock ups and achieved nothing more than a stalemate with their Turkish enemy.

Gallipoli is so embedded in Australian history. It's where they feel they came of age and fought together under one flag as a single nation - side by side. 

The combination of Jean Michel Jarre and Albioni is genius as the film reaches its devastating climax. This clip is of the last six minutes - so - spoiler alert. But I think it's one of those films where seeing the ending first, probably makes it even more powerful when you see the whole thing. Click here to watch the ending of Gallipoli.

So what does this list say about me? Well - it seems I'm an old romantic who loves history and stories about people. But then you probably knew that already!



  1. Totally agree on Tinker Tailor - as soon as I realised that Gary Oldman was not at any point during the entire film going to morph into lovely Sirius Black, I lost interest. If I'd been writing this, it would be Lord of the Rings (Two Towers, Fellowship and Return of the King, in that order), Ghostbusters, and a tussle for 5th between things as diverse as Amelie, O Brother Where Art Thou, a Star Wars and, erm, ET. What are yours then?????

  2. Totally agree. It bored me senseless. No film should have that much brown in it.

  3. Mmm have been thinking about this, quite hard to pick only 5 cos it depends what mood am in, but amongst my favs (that I have watched repeatedly ... And please excuse holes in plot or cheesiness ... Not that it wud change my mind!!) Highlander (I am Connor McCloud...) Moonstruck, 5th Element, Pride and Prejudice (BBC series!) and then I struggle to whittle it down. I like Amelie, Monsoon Wedding, Bourne (all 3), LOTR, Dark Crystal, Billy Elliott, and on and on!!!