Hello internet people, my name is Kristian and I’m part of the programming team at Sunderland Shorts. This is the second in the series of blog posts from the festival team about our favourite films. I hope you enjoy my recommendations!
As a film festival programmer, I think the most important thing to possess is an appreciation of film. It is essential to hone that appreciation and hone your ways of trying to express that to other people. So as a bit of an introduction to myself, I thought I’d write about my top 5 favourite films and the reasons I enjoy them. The internet loves a good list, right? I believe you can tell a lot about a person through their favourite films. Hopefully my enthusiasm and passion for cinema will be communicated in these short reviews.
So here lies – in no particular order – the most formative, resonating, and thought provoking movies I have seen (or at least what came to my mind when I was asked to write this):
The Apartment (Dir: Billy Wilder, 1960)
Whenever I talk about my favourite movies with my friends, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment always comes up. It is such a bittersweet, heartfelt, and clever comedy about real people. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine star as two essentially good souls trapped in a tangle of office politics. Even though the plot is slightly predictable, it is a deeply involving dramatic romance with some great dialogue and three-dimensional characters.
In-spite living in a time where fantastical, multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbusters are coming out every week, I always prefer seeing plausible characters on screen who are just trying their best to make their way through life with all its struggles. This is not to suggest I don’t also enjoy big blockbusters, I mean who doesn’t love living vicariously through the eyes of a Spiderman swinging from building to building in New York?! I am just a big fan of movies that take very small situations and make them feel more epic. I like movie experiences that tend to oscillate between comedy and drama, and The Apartment does that to perfection.
Hannah and Her Sisters (Dir: Woody Allen, 1986)
Woody Allen changed my life and is undoubtedly my favourite filmmaker. Like The Apartment, the way he seamlessly drifts between frivolity and pathos appeals to my taste.
At the youthful age of 17 I had no idea who Woody Allen was, only that I heard his name crop up in radio interviews of comedians and writers I admired. One afternoon as I was aimlessly wandering through a second hand DVD store I passively picked up a copy of Annie Hall for 79p. Later that night, with limited expectations, I popped it in the DVD player – and it genuinely transformed my cinema experience forever.
Woody Allen was the first person I saw who combined humour with big ideas. I’d never seen anything like that before. He was silly and funny whilst still talking about something legitimate. To a 17 year old angsty, romantic Sixth Form student who had just discovered reading philosophy and questioning whether the table was really there or just a sensory illusion (I still have no idea), it filled a perfect cinematic hole in my life. I immediately became a mega fan and began working my way through his interminable oeuvre. It was fantastic (even the not so great ones).
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
So I feel I have to include a Woody Allen film in this list. It is hard to pick a definitive one, but I always seem to go back to and re-watch Hannah and Her Sisters. This seems to be his most literate movie, and as an English Literature graduate it resonates with me. It is filled with universal themes such as fear of death, desire for love, transient lust, and hesitant decision making.
Boyhood (Dir: Richard Linklater, 2014)
Richard Linklater’s epically constructed masterpiece Boyhood. It is nearly 3 hours long. There is almost no plot. But I loved every minute of it. It was absolutely fantastic. Again, it is very similar in tone to the other films I’ve mentioned in the list. A sort of domestic comedy-drama, but very, very truthful, and brilliant performances again.
It is just a story of a kid living his life between the ages of 6 and 18. And that is it. No crazy plot twists. No mad adventures. No kooky characters. It is not building towards any sort of plot twist or cathartic ending. It’s just about a group of people aging, with significant and insignificant things happening in their life. Like Linklater’s well-crafted Before trilogy, it is filled with smart, but natural dialogue.
The actors playing the young children at the beginning of the film are the same actors playing those characters as adolescents and young adults. Which makes it all the more special because you really get to know these characters and feel a connection to them. I am a sucker for teenage coming-of-age stories. Movies like Stand By Me, Almost Famous and The Breakfast Club invariably have my eyes glued and my emotions on the edge of a precipice.
I went to see Boyhood on the last day it was playing in the UK at the cinema. It was a matinée showing at there was only four people in the movie theatre, including me and my friend. After about 90 minutes in, the other two people in the room said ‘Why is nothing happening!?’ and walked out of the screening. Although rather distracting, I quite liked this moment as it practically mirrored a line from the movie during a scene when the mother character is talking to her son about being disappointed with how her life has turned out:
“I just thought there would be more than this…
Boyhood is a refreshing escape from the monotony of real life, to the monotony on a big screen. However Linklater somehow manages to make those everyday moments feel magical and special.
The Truman Show (Dir: Peter Weir, 1998)
How prophetic this film was. Jim Carrey gives a remarkable performance as a man learning that his entire life in an idyllic coastal village has been the subject of a live, 24-hour-a-day womb-to-tomb television drama. The premise of this movie is both reasonable and ludicrous, with a sublime execution. It is as endearing as it is provocative.
The bigger themes of media manipulation, authenticity, reality TV and the American Dream it tackles are just as relevant now (if not more so) than they were when the film was first released theatrically back in 1997.
The colour of the film is perfect, the pace of the editing is exemplary, and there is an attention to detail that you rarely see in a film. I’ve seen this film many, many times and each time I watch I notice something new and interesting.
The Darjeeling Limited (Dir: Wes Anderson, 2007)
Amazing soundtrack, beautiful locations and a great cast. Wes Anderson is another favourite filmmaker of mine. His unique and quirky directing style is always refreshing to my eyeballs and I believe The Darjeeling Limited is one of his most underrated films.
Themes of brotherhood, travel and spirituality are something I ponder over a lot. Being a person who dabbles around in spirituality, watching this movie is always a comfort to me. The characters set out on a spiritual journey and find closure at the end in India. The ride along the way to this enlightenment is hilarious and fun, in only the way that Wes Anderson can show. The rich colours of southeast Asia combined with the wonderfully aesthetic talent of Anderson makes the entire experience a pleasure to watch.
There is an extraordinary amount of incident and observation perfectly squeezed into a mere 90 minutes. The brothers bicker, fight, reminisce, and accuse each other of trivial things. Very relatable family moments.
Hope you enjoyed reading about my opinion on films. If you live in the North East and are remotely interested in film then I encourage you to find out more about Sunderland Shorts: Film Festival at www.sunderlandshorts.co.uk and come along in 2017. Also, if you haven’t seen our new promotional video you can check it out here.
Kristian Foreman, Programming Director