10 Films

There are posts going around facebook asking what 10 books/films/tea blends have lasted with you over your life. Here’s my movie list, in no real order of preference.

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)

Worth watching solely for the incredible performances of Geoffrey Rush, this is a gritty (and contracted) biopic of one of the greatest comedians of the 20th Century. I really resonated with Sellers’ fear that beneath all the masks there was no essence, no Peter underneath. While this “allowed” him to immerse himself in characters like few others, it paints his life as tragically sad. Tough watching at times, but worth it.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

A (very) long film, but its visuals are phenomenal given the time it was made. It deals with big themes (like the evolution of humankind), but most of the story is told in small segments. Our imagination is left to fill in the gaps, and it works very well.

Without that context, the psychedelia of the last 15 minutes or so will make no sense whatsoever. But if you’re prepared to invest in the big themes, this is a stunning piece of cinema history.

Gladiator (2000)

Another long film, and one I like for different reasons. I really like Russell Crowe’s portrayal of a loyal, dutiful soldier navigating a cunning, scheming world with integrity, even at his cost. Great soundtrack too.

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Another Kubrick film, and another (kindof) Sellers film. The comedy is black as black, and full of the futility that marked the Cold War. This film wouldn’t be made today (because the “baddies” are much less centralised than the Cold War), but it does capture the gnawing feeling that one stupid renegade could bring the knife-edged balance of humanity crumbling down.

Network (1976)

Possibly my favourite film of all time. All the main actors put in stunning performances - it won 3 of the 4 acting Oscars in 1976. In fact, it holds the record for the shortest performance that won an acting award - Beatrice Straight won with only 5 minutes of screen time! (She deserves it, btw.)

While Dr. Strangelove looks at the Cold War through a military lens, Network looks through another lens - the camera lens of a TV studio. The callous way that people, current affairs, politics and even terrorism can be used for monetary gain get a caustic examination, with the lingering suspicion that even the “goodie/baddie” categories might themselves be a fabrication.

Worth watching for the stellar acting performances, and the prophetic (!) foreshadowing of reality TV.

The Matrix (1999)

Everyone knows this one. Solid cast, good storyline, amazing special effects, and kicking soundtrack. Shame they never made any sequels…

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012)

Found this while on honeymoon, and Verity kindly agreed to watch it. Tells the story of a young Pakistani man, who goes to chase the American Dream and support his family. But it’s on a collision course with his homeland, and he has some decisions to make.

Good, because it gives a non-American, non-Western voice to the modern conflict between militant Islam, imperial America, and the people who live under their ideologies.

Chariots of Fire (1981)

Finally a predominantly positive film! A great story about a Christian athlete who takes his faith seriously in a culture dominated by lip service. A compelling story, and there’s that opening sequence.

Remember the Titans (2000)

America. 1970s. Race relations. Reconciliation. Killer soundtrack. Denzel Washington & Donald Faison. #saynomore

Amazing Grace (2006)

Biopic about William Wilberforce, and his tireless attempts to abolish the slave trade in Europe. As a Christian who cares about the world, Wilberforce is a tremendous example of determination to right an injustice. It’s such a terrible shame that so many people around the world are still in slavery of varying kinds. Wonderful performances by Albert Finney as John Newton, and Benedict Cumberbatch (before he was Sherlock!) as Prime Minister William Pitt.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

I need to thank my brother David for inviting me to watch this.

Two things:

  • This movie, more than any other in this list (perhaps with the exception of the 2 Kubrick films) needs to be watched on a big screen. The cinematography is stunningly good, and gives a real energy to the desert. It was also shot on sumptuous 70mm film (with its 6-channel audio), so there is an incredible richness to the imagery and sound.
  • This movie is long. The director’s cut is 228 minutes, or 3 hours and 48 minutes in duration! There is a shorter re-release, but don’t bother. Watch it all.

Despite its historical setting, and the many things one can learn about that region of the world from watching, it’s more of a character film than anything. Lawrence gets caught up in events and, despite knowing more about the Arab world than many of his British colleagues, still manages to find himself on the wrong side of everyone, including himself.

Watch it. You won’t be disappointed.