Here are just a handful of movies I would have to have on a desert island...
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
The first time I saw this movie I was eleven years old, and I was so knocked out I couldn’t believe what I’d seen, and had to go back the next night to watch it again. From that cool opening stanza to the set-piece-laden last third, I was in movie heaven. Even now it still gives me tingles. And Harrison never looked cooler. I still think it’s Spielberg’s most satisfying movie and not even the magnificent sequels can match it for raw energy.
Favourite Line: “It’s not the years, honey - it’s the mileage.”
Favourite Scene: Boulder-Dash!
This movie came along at a time when I was feeling pretty disenchanted with the movies and life in general. I’d always been a Tim Burton fan, but, like many people, this was one film I avoided on its initial release. I finally caught it on Moviedrome some years later and was absolutely blown away. I watched it over and over for weeks afterwards. As well as echoing feelings in my own life it also enchanted me with its wonderful characters and the crazy world they inhabited. Forget Burton’s big blockbuster mulch - this is his best film yet. Martin Landau deservedly won an Oscar for his bravura portrayal of Lugosi. Burton should have won, too. Bliss.
Favourite Line: “Right, let’s shoot this f***er!”
Favourite Scene: Pull the string!
This film just makes me laugh from start to finish. The chemistry of the characters (particularly DeNiro and Grodin) is just sublime, but even supporting characters like Marvin Dorffler are a treat. It may be foul-mouthed, but the sheer joy of it all makes it inconsequential. DeNiro brings great weight to what is essentially a formula buddy-buddy road movie and the quality of the acting raises the whole movie to another level. Director Martin Brest hasn’t done anything as good since, and come to think of it, neither has DeNiro. A couple of sequels were made for cable TV but without any of the original cast - but forget them. This is the real deal.
Favourite Line: “You’re gonna be suffering from fistophobia.”
Favourite Scene: Pilot?!! You’re a goddamn pilot?
One of those rare things: a movie for writers. It’s a wonderful, understated movie that crackles with great performances and comic moments. Douglas is at his laid-back best as Grady Tripp, an English professor struggling with his second novel and his own uncontrollable life who has a weird weekend to beat all weird weekends and somehow ends up coming good. The film has some wonderful things to say about writing and past glories and the music (including the cracking Bob Dylan song “Things Have Changed”) gives the whole movie a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Favourite Line: “Gee, Grady, that sounded so sincere…”
Favourite Scene: Shooting Poe
Another Spielberg classic, and the first film I recall seeing at the cinema. I was four years old and the image of the ORCA’s mast sticking out of the water at the end is one of my earliest memories. For a film with such an obviously rubber shark, this still packs a punch. But once again, the most enduring part is the central trio of characters, who spark off each other beautifully, and Spielberg’s bravura visuals and camera acrobatics make it timeless. I can’t believe that the “blow it up” ending only came about after a suggestion by Brian DePalma. A movie I could never tire of watching
Favourite Line: “Hooper! Tie it up, will ya!”
Favourite Scene: We’re gonna need a bigger boat…
THE FISHER KING
Terry Gilliam is a genius. Fact. Although this movie isn’t quite so overblown and visually astounding as many of his other works, it’s all the better for it. Here he’s able to coax some wonderful performances from his cast and goes on to create a touching, emotionally-satisfying whole. The fantasy elements are still there, but much of it is in the minds of its main characters (who are mostly out of their minds to begin with). The train station/ballroom dancing scene is just one of the stand-out moments, and Jeff Bridges portrayal of a tortured soul looking for redemption gives the movie great pathos.
Favourite Line: “There are no little floating people!”
Favourite Scene: The train station…