As well as being a fairly prolific reader, I am also pretty keen on films. It’s fairly rare for recent films to catch my imagination but I do love the cinema experience. The local cinema in my university town used to put on vintage films on a Thursday night which was one of the many things that made St Andrews as fantastic a place to go to university as it truly was. There’s something about old-time films, I feel as though they put more of an emphasis on the story telling rather than simply trying to impress the audience with visual effects. I like a story that can stand up without any unnecessary fizz-whizz-bang … and I like films that make me laugh.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
This is my absolute and ultimate favourite film. I try to watch it too often so that I can still be amazed by its brilliance each time I do sit down to it. There’s something very special about Technicolour, there’s a kind of optimism about The Wizard of Oz, that the wizard really will have all the answers and that there really is no place like home. It’s always been my belief that this is a film with many layers, I could talk for an hour about why I love it so but … the simple fact is that it’s amazing. All together now … We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz …
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
This is a film with a very ‘French’ feel despite being American. It is a Wes Anderson film, which means that it is rather deliciously weird. The story of two children who run away together, naturally chaos ensues with a certain dead-pan quality that makes the whole thing even more enjoyable. As with most of Wes Anderson’s output, there is a melancholy core but the colours and the sparkling cast make for a beautiful film.
Passport to Pimlico (1949)
Most Ealing Studio comedies of this era are fairly amazing; Kind Hearts and Coronets, Whiskey Galore, The Ladykillers – they’re all worth watching. I first came across this one while I was studying a module on the 1940s at university and it is such a classic example of the genre. It’s a rather hilarious wee film where a borough of London unexpectedly finds itself to be in Burgundy – meaning that they get to escape rationing but finding themselves in a siege situation with Whitehall. There are so many fantastic films about war-time culture (this one was a close tie with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) but this one is an absolute gem.
It Happened One Night (1934)
For me, this is the ultimate romantic comedy. Spoilt heiress Claudette Colbert elopes with an unsuitable stunt pilot, so her father snatches her away from him directly after the ceremony until she makes a break for it again. On the road, she falls in with the sharp-tongued ace-reporter Peter Warren, played by Clark Gable. Famously, Colbert and Gable thought that this was a dreadful film but then they both won the Oscar for their roles. The chemistry between the two is brilliant and the final scene made me whoop.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
From my point of view, this is the funniest film ever made. Every time I watch it, I laugh until tears come. Even trying to describe it makes me want to start giggling again. On the run from the mob, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis naturally decide that the most sensible thing to do is to dress up as women and go on tour with a band. I’ve always thought that Marilyn Monroe was underestimated for her comic timing, she’s hilarious in this as Sugar Kane. Every line in this is pure gold right up to the end, my personal favourite is when ‘Daphne’ becomes hysterical when ‘she’ sees the mob has caught up with them, “Those guys are going to kill us, they’re going to kill us and then we’ll be taken to the ladies’ morgue and when they undress us, I’ll die of shame!” Oh dear … giggling again. If you haven’t seen it yet, what’s stopping you?
This may be the most perfect story of star cross’d lovers ever set on film. Set in World War II, it’s impossible to view it out of that context. When everyone starts singing the Marseillaise, I am always overcome with patriotism before I remember that I’m not French. Humphrey Bogart is fantastic as the embittered cafe owner with mystery and then Ingrid Bergman is the unhappy object of his affection. This is another film where every line is perfect, a mesmerising tale of wartime self-sacrifice.
The Belles of St Trinians (1954)
When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a St Trinians girl. Before the simpering twits of the recent instalment turned the story into mere drooling over girls in school uniforms, St Trinians girls were tough and never more so than in this film. As the headmistress remarks, “In other schools, young girls are sent out unprepared into the merciless world, but in our school, it is the merciless world that has to look out!” And indeed, when the bus full of the Old Girls pulls up towards the end of the film, the truth of that becomes obvious. St Trinians girls get stuff done. I’m all grown up now and I’d still like to be one of them.
Back to the Future (1985)
The 1980s were a bad decade for many things; music, clothes, hair-dos. But they were an excellent decade for films. Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride … but the best of all was Back to the Future. We could argue back and forth about the sequels to the franchise (II is slightly questionable but III is brilliant) but there is an optimism and an enthusiasm about the franchise that’s very appealing. After all, if you were going to travel in time, you would want to do it in a Delorean.
Groundhog Day (1993)
This is another film that makes me laugh until I cry, no matter how many times I see it. Weatherman Phil Connors is having the worst day of his life, stuck in a nightmarish small town by a snowstorm that he failed to predict. Over and over again. This has become a real cultural reference point, even for people who have never seen the film. The cast of whimsical small-town characters really get to shine as all of the different possibilities for the day play out and even Andie Macdowell gives things her best shot. Phil lives the day time and time again until he gets it right and all of it to a cheery weather-themed soundtrack.
Mary Poppins (1964)
This was my very first favourite film. I first saw it aged four and I watched it on a loop fairly continuously for a few years afterwards. I wanted to be Jane for a long time, I liked her hair. I knew all the words of all the songs and most of the dialogue. Again, it’s a Technicolour classic – a Disney view of London. Although nobody has ever in the history of time had an accent quite so awful as Dick Van Dyke. That aside, this is still my favourite musical and although P.L. Travers may have hated it, I never will.
Star Wars (1977)
I first watched this film aged nine and was caught up by the optimism of the story. I’ve been fairly smitten ever since. I like a nice story of Good vs Evil and with a super villain like Darth Vader and sidekicks like R2D2, it is no wonder that so many people became fans. What is peculiar is how all of these ingredients could be reused to such poor effect in the prequel trilogy … maybe it was just Jar Jar Binks that wrecked everything. Or maybe it was not having Han Solo. Anyway, the originals were amazing.
Fly Away Home (1996)
It was a simpler time, back when Anna Paquin was known for flying with geese rather than frolicking with vampires. Aged nine, I fell in love with the cinematography of this film and it became my go-to Film to Watch while Ill for the next six years. The storyline may seem cheesy but it’s also just a nice, comfortable film to watch under the duvet when you’re feeling slightly snuffly.
I loved the book but had not been holding out great hopes for the film but I was so wrong. Admittedly, I tend towards bias with movies starring James Macavoy but even without him, this is a flawless adaptation. Knightley and Macavoy have genuine chemistry as the doomed lovers, I remember when I saw this in the cinema with my Mum, she started sobbing when they were parted. Also, Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave are eerily similar as the three faces of Briony. This is possibly the finest book-to-screen adaptation that I have ever seen.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
This is a romantic comedy with heart and a brain. Written by Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner, it sets up to answer the question, ‘Can men and women really be friends?’ Harry and Sally meet and meet again, all the while claiming that their relationship is platonic. Infamous for the diner scene, this is also a film about the differences between men and women and what it is that brings us together.
Tell No One (2006)
This is my favourite thriller … which may seem strange because normally I do not enjoy thrillers, but every shot of this film is perfect. Eight years after the murder of his wife Margot, the lead character Alex cannot seem to move on but mysterious things are afoot which put Alex under suspicion in a double homicide and make Alex wonder if Margot may in fact still be alive. My favourites are the two detectives on his case. If I had my way, they would have a spin off show.
Almost Famous (2000)
This is a beautiful film with a smidgeon of the semi-autobiographical. The fifteen year-old would=be reporter William goes on the road with 1970s rock band Still Water. Along the way, he meets beguiling ‘Band-Aid’ Penny Lane, legendary rock and roll critic Lester Bangs and troubled guitarist Russell Hammond along with a fantastic supporting cast. A film for all who love music, it is also filled with humour and pathos – I have lost count of how many times I’ve watched it.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
Great Expectations (1946)
In Which We Serve (1942)
Man On Fire (2003)
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
Les Emotifs Anonymes (2010)
About Time (2013)
Sister Act (1992)
The Blues Brothers (1980)