Stuart's Diary

2011/01/12

Hi Stuart.

You recently created a list of your favourite films, but I see it has disappeared along with the rest of the blog content. Any chance you—and the rest of the band—could give us some film recommendations?

Here are a few I’ve enjoyed recently: The Reader, Dancer in the Dark, Juno, Downfall. And two books: Blankets and Fun Home.

Karl

Well this is quite timely. Yesterday i wrote about ten films that i love. It was for the Criterion web site, but then they told me that i had to write about Criterion films only, and that only one of my films was on their list! Guess my taste isn’t high enough in the brow…

Hope these recommendations work for you Karl!

Jackie Brown

This is a definite grower, and a stayer too. I remember reading somewhere that Tarantino thought he had let people down somewhat with this one, but I think he ought to be reassured.

It’s like a modern Big Sleep. You found yourself on the first couple of views trying to remember who did what to whom. By the time you’d figured out what was going on, you’d watched it 6 times, and every time was better than the last!

Crimes And Misdemeanors

This is Woody in top form, all around, with a completely satisfying, compelling, philosophical drama. But it’s really funny too! How does he do that?

Gregory’s Girl

A Scottish legend. Made by Bill Forsyth in 1981, it’s Scotland’s post punk coming of age film – so we all grew up with it. If you want a nice essay in Scottishness, something pitched between the beautiful extremes of Whiskey Galore and Trainspotting, I’d recommend Gregory’s Girl.

She’s Gotta Have It

One of my favourite musical films, though not a ‘musical’. Spike Lee’s dad, Bill, did the music, and it’s one of the elements that allowed me to watch this film again and again when I was young, when I was looking for films to take me places.

I think Spike claimed somewhere, that he was trying to get his film making up to the level of his dad’s music. I think on this one he got there.

The Breakfast Club

My favourite bratpacker, and one of my favourite films. I’m not ashamed! I love that stuff, and I would give my eye-teeth to be able to write a script like this one.

I showed it to my youth club a few years back, on movie night. I hadn’t seen it for a while, and I was worried it would seem tame and out of date. It was actually a lot harder than I remembered. Still kind of beautiful and funny and hopeful.

All The President’s Men

Often, I think, the time and place and atmosphere elements of film are underestimated. I go back to films again and again because I want to be there, or I want to be them.

I want to be Redford and Hoffman. I want to look like them, live like them, work like them. And I want to be bathed in a brownish, shadowy light while I’m doing it.

Trust

Can I just be honest and say that this film in particular helped me through some hard times. I watched it first with a bunch of friends on video. They all thought it was ok. They thought the actors spoke funny.

I thought about it overnight, then watched it again in the morning. I never really left the world of Hartley after that. I had a crush on his films like I had a crush on the Smiths. Those films were a real but magical crutch right through my crappy 20s.

Kind Hearts And Coronets

The best of the Ealing comedies, I would say, in my rarely voice opinion! Alec Guiness plays about 80 characters, to great comic effect. You kind of forget it’s him after a while, you just go along with it.

And the script is up there with Shakespeare.

Life Is Sweet

Mike Leigh makes me cry more easily than any other man. There comes a point early in each film, about page 4 in the script, when the cello usually comes in for the first time, in its mournful, yet hopeful way, and it causes me to check my emotion. It’s a learned response. I know what I’m in for.

Humanity, honesty, frailty, empathy, and at least one character per film that’s way too close to the way you are feeling or have felt, for comfort. Leigh is the true Laureate of these Isles.

2001: A Space Odyssey

One of my favourite cinematic experience was seeing this a few years back, in a new 70mm print, in an almost empty cinema, on a rainy afternoon in Glasgow.

It was in two parts, with a break. I was transfixed. My girlfriend, however, announced that the film was making her sick! So I took her home, stopping only to note the time.

At the identical time the next day I went back to see part two. It was still raining, so the atmosphere was intact. The staff let me in for free when I explained about the girl and the sickness. Bonus.

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