Steve Taylor-Bryant let himself get involved on social media again, and so our apologies but here is another one of his top ten articles...
Ten films that made an impact on you the first time you saw them and that forever remain on your watch list. No need to explain your choice; just post the poster and nominate a person each day to do the same.
This was the tweet that appeared in my timeline on several occasions this week. I’m not sure of the original source but it’s a tweet that stuck with me as I had a few minutes here and there between real life work, the World Cup, and viewings at the Edinburgh Film Festival. During such hectic weeks I don’t get to write many articles that aren’t reviews of the festival fayre on offer, and I don’t get to hang out on social media all that much. But I wanted to play along nonetheless. It’s the word ‘impact’ that fascinated me most. Impacted me how? Impacted me when? I took it as positive impact in the main and went with several films that brought me joy for some reason, maybe it’s tied to a happy memory of time with a loved one, perhaps it’s an experience I hadn’t had before at the time of life that I was in upon release. Some are the films that led to a love of a filmmaker’s work, and a couple are films that an impact on me emotionally as an older man. I am not going to nominate people, I am also going to ignore the part of the Tweet that tells me I don't need to say anything the films I've chosen, I'm going to briefly tell you why each film made my list. Anyway, my ten films that played some part in my life for your perusal...
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
This was my first experience of a science fiction film on the big screen. I was taken by my Granddad the year after its release, we were on holiday in Torquay, as part of an early morning matinee double bill with Flash Gordon. I fell in love with the idea of science fiction watching this film, I have a beautiful memory of time spent with my beloved and much missed Granddad, and as I got older and understand slightly more about how films are structured by different directors, I learnt that Irvin Kershner told stories in a slightly different way to other directors of blockbusters at the time. He put so much of the characters front and centre with close ups of the performers faces, and that is a style of storytelling on screen that I have appreciated ever since. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back is glorious.
My first ever superhero film. I was seven years old when I first saw Superman, a character that I had only read about in some comics up to that point, and as a young boy I didn't really understand the concept of superheroes until I had consumed Superman a good couple of times. I didn't get why someone not of our planet would give a toss about us, I didn't understand fully what love, and compassion, and caring meant. Superman is not my favourite superhero, that honour is bestowed on Batman, but Superman taught me to try and be a better person, a better man, and to not try and catch helicopters.
All the President's Men (1976)
I didn't have the opportunity to see All the President's Men until much later in my life than maybe I should have, but I'm glad I did because I waited until I was mentally competent enough to understand the huge gravity of the story, I was aware enough to grasp the impact that these journalists had, not just on their chosen profession, but on the world's political landscape. There has been fewer and fewer journalists the calibre of Woodward and Bernstein as the decades have rolled on, and that is to the detriment of society. All the President's Men is in my opinion one of the most important films that has ever been made.
Brazil is the film that made me fall in love with Terry Gilliam and his fantastical way of telling a story. I didn't know about the behind the scenes issues with the production until much later, and it gave me an even greater love for both the film and Terry's persistence in getting his vision done, a constant battle throughout his career as we are seeing yet again with Quixote. Terry Gilliam will always be my favourite director, he tells an interesting story, he's never afraid to try and get an unconventional vision on the screen, he just never gives up, he fights the battles that all filmmakers should take on as I firmly believe if they did then these all powerful corruptive producers wouldn't have a leg to stand on, and not one of his films has ever felt like a let-down. Brazil started that love affair and I will always be thankful to the film for realising in me a passion for the different.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Surprise, surprise Mr. Gilliam makes the list again. I loved the concept of this film, I loved the casting of this film when it was first announced, but mostly I loved how a film community rallied around after the tragic passing of Heath Ledger. Had The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus been a more conventional film then the loss of its star before filming had finished could have ended the production, another film lost to the vaults of tragedy. But, it was a Terry Gilliam film, it had that inbuilt fantastical way that with the support of some very talented actors stepping into Heath's shoes it could be finished, and whilst I lament the loss of Heath Ledger, I honestly believe the film is better for the events that led to the finished product. The impact on me? Sadness at the loss of a favourite actor but a marvelling at the way a community can get together and get the job done.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Leaving Las Vegas has a very personal tie to my heart. I am an addict, in recovery for a long time but an addict none the less, and in my darkest days I had suicidal tendencies and a reckless abandon in the way I lived my life. I could have quite easily been Nicolas Cage's Ben Sanderson but there by the grace of God go I. Leaving Las Vegas has never left my soul from the first viewing I ever had and, when friends and family who don't understand my darkness or what my addiction was like want to understand a little of my mindset at that time, I give them a copy of this film. After they’ve viewed it, I tend to get hugged a lot, they still don’t understand me or the situation and I’m honestly glad that they can’t get into that headspace.
I saw Eraserhead just before I discovered Dune, which was just before Twin Peaks started on UK television, which was just after I had discovered Terry Gilliam's films. How do you take Gilliam's fantastical storytelling to the next level? You get David Lynch. I was so struck by the beauty in the darkness of Lynch's work, I was in awe at the filmmakers way of hanging me out to dry until the very end of something, leaving me on that hook sometimes if I can’t emotionally or intellectually grasp what I’ve seen, offering me no apology if I’m the reason I don’t understand something, nothing produced by Lynch is ever dumbed down for mass consumption and that is as astonishing as it is welcome. All of this started with Eraserhead.
I love Kevin Smith films, yes even Red State, and whilst Clerks is obviously and rightly held up as a cult classic, it is Dogma that I return to most often. The story I found funny, I am not remotely religious and so the content wasn’t enraging to me like many people, but mostly I loved the cast coming together in something so batshit crazy and producing something so beautiful to look at that endlessly entertains. When I feel my mood slipping, or maybe I am going through something serious in my life, Dogma is what saves me from myself. Plus, Alan Rickman is hilarious as Metatron.
The Beat Beneath my Feet (2014)
I am not a fan of musicals in the main, but when I discovered this gem of a film at a festival a few years ago it was instant love. There are not many films in my cinematic life that have impacted me so quickly. Believe me when I tell you this film is a quality movie that grabbed my heart and never left go. *coughs* review *coughs*
Fight Club (1999)
Fight Club, if you’ve read the book, is a great story. What it wasn’t though was something that instantly had 'film this' spring to mind. How David Fincher and screenwriter Jim Uhls managed to take this incredible text and make it cinematic is beyond my comprehension. The script, the cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth, the casting especially of Edward Norton, there is not weakness in this movie and that is very rare in modern cinema. I still to this day cannot get my head around how everyone involved managed to produce such a delicious slice of cinema and I cannot stop watching the film and trying to work it out.
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Images - IMDb.