My Life in Film: Why I Love Movies

Ever since I was a kid I loved movies. When I was really young I loved Disney movies. The delightful animation and catchy songs with a dollop of lovable characters captured (along with a whole host of pre-schoolers) my imagination. I remember proudly proclaiming that ‘Ariel had turned into a fewman’ when I was about 3 years old. Though I would say that Alice in Wonderland was my ultimate favourite.

alice in wonderlandThe story of a girl who is not interested in what the grown ups want her to do, who retreats into her own fantasy world populated by white rabbits, dodos, smoking caterpillars, and ruddy faced queens spoke to me. I wanted to retreat into that world and away from the one where I was constantly told what to do, and how to behave. I found it hard to understand the world in which I lived, and so Wonderland with it’s bright colours and nonsensical ways made much more sense to me. It was a world where anything could happen and was not constrained by convention, something I never really got along with.

As the years progressed so did my knowledge and taste in movies. I bawled my eyes out when Littlefoot thinks his mother’s returned, only to find out it was his shadow all along. As I grew up in the 90s there was a lot of classics from the times, Cool Runnings was always popular. I think my grandmother can still recite the entire scripts of Home Alone II, Look Who’s Talking 2, Three Men and a Little Lady and Sister Act II: Back in the Habit from them being on repeat whenever my brother and I were at her house. I used to make her watch Mr Nanny with the brilliant acting skills of Hulk Hogan, right until the end when I would get scared and make her turn it off. I think she’s still annoyed about that.

During this time my parents were getting a divorce, and as would become a pattern in my life during tough times it was to films that I turned for comfort and support.

mrs-doubtfire-1993Mrs Doubtfire was timed just right for this maelstrom in my life. Like everybody else I was entertained by the antics of Robin Williams drag act, the scene where he has to seamlessly switch between himself and Mrs Doubtfire for an inspection from the comically dour Mrs Selna in particularly entertaining and a great example of the physical performance Robin Williams became famous for.

Seeing a story about other kids going through the same heartbreak that I was brought a great comfort in the sadness that I was feeling in that time. At a time when I felt along in the world with no one to turn to, Robin Williams, Sally Field, and Mara Wilson were there for me to let me know that I wasn’t alone and there are others out there who have experienced similar emotions.

As the 90s gave way to the 00s and adolescence started rearing it’s head the movies I was watching also started to mature a little. Along with the usual teen fare of the time like American Pie, She’s All That, and Mean Girls. It was at this time however that my tastes starting diverting away from the mainstream. I had an old television in my room, so I was able to easily sneak up late at night and watch all manner of movies I was far too young to be watching. I saw Stand by Me at 11 and cried like the little girl I was. It was these late night television sessions that I credit with really helping to shape my view of the world. I was able to explore the worlds of the weirdos, the strangers, the eccentrics. People like me.

On the night of my 13th birthday Channel 4 screened Trainspotting, the second feature film from Danny Boyle who would go on to be an Oscar winner for Slumdog Millionaire.

This was the first ‘grown up’ film I really, truly loved. I watched it at least once a week for at least a year.

As I have previously mentioned on this blog, Trainspotting is a story of outsiders, not just that, but outsiders who don’t care about and actively reject the mainstream ‘ I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who need reasons when you’ve got heroin?’. As a teenager who from a young age had struggled to fit into the tiny town where I was raised this spoke to me. I’m not saying that I rushed out and tried heroin (to this day I have never stuck a needle in my arm, that bit seemed kinda yucky) but it was here that I learnt that it was OK to go against the grain and choose your own life with it’s own rules.

trainspotting

When I was eighteen I packed up my bindle and waved goodbye to my mother as I set off to find my fortune in Sunderland. After quickly finding out this is not possible in Sunderland I settled on plan B and decided to study media production. Though I watched many new movies, studied them and was even a member of the film soc. I began to feel my love of movies wane a little. I still watched as many as possible, but I found that they were being used for as a distraction or something to have on in the background as I did work or looked at cat pictures on the internet (this was the naughties, it was still funny back then). This movie slump lasted through graduation and taking my first tentative steps in full time employment. I thought my movie spark was gone.

Then one night, when I was in my mid 20s I decided to watch Tommy, the rock opera penned by The Who about a deaf dumb and blind kid, who can sure play a mean pinball.

I don’t know what it was, it could have been the blindingly brilliant visual feast, it could have been the wonderful songs, it could have been any number of things. Whatever it was something clicked inside of me and my love of cinema came back with avengeance.

I had seen Tommy before as a teenager, and though I always enjoyed it, it was not until the viewing on this fateful night that I well and truly understood what I was looking at. It was genius in movie form.

Thus began a renaissance  for my love of movies, I was able to enjoy movies even more than I had when I was younger and on a much deeper level.

tommy

As well as being amazing for so many reasons Tommy will always have a special place in my heart for reigniting my passion for movies. Before I was very selective about what I would watch, and would randomly take against certain genres but now I’ll watch and (mostly) enjoy everything and anything.

So, why do I love movies? I love them because they’ve brought me worlds I can get lost in, they’ve brought me characters that have helped me through tough times. They have helped me to bring more of an understanding of our world through the stories they bring. We all have that one form of art that speaks to us, that we can turn to when we need it. It can be used to express yourself in ways you never thought possible. For some this is artworks, for others music. For me, it’s movies.

John Hughes: The Best of the Worst

John Hughes is a bastion of teen movies, he practically invented the modern teen movie.

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, the chances are John Hughes helped you to get in touch with your acne covered, slightly greasy, hormonal feelings!

john hughes breakfast club.jpg

Hughes gave us some great movie moments. There’s the emotionally charged scene in The Breakfast Club (you know, the one where we found out Emilio Estevez is a person as well as a jock, and The nerd can’t make an elephant lamp). Ferris Bueller somehow getting away with destroying his friend’s Dad’s car. Let’s not forget Kevin McCallister beating a couple of inept burglars with a house of tricks. So sometimes it can be easy to forget just how many duffers he squeezed out the nib of a pen.

john hughes home alone

Ladies and Gentlemen I am here with you today to give you five reasons that John Hughes, should have stuck to capers involving children being abandoned and teenagers coming to terms with growing up.

So, let’s start at the end:

5. Drillbit Taylor (2008, 1hr 50mins, 12A)

john hughes drillbit

The classic tale of little kids getting even with their bullied.

So, take three nerds, some bullies and an older father type figure who helps them to overcome their demons. It’s like the Karate Kid but with a pathetic loser instead of Mr Miyagi. And there’s three of them.

Most of the jokes involve rather terrible slapstick and Owen Wilson (as the eponymous Drillbit Taylor, our Mr Miyagi) pretending to be cool when he clearly isn’t. At least Mr Miyagi was legit.

Hughes used a pseudonym, Edmond Dantes and you can tell why. Maybe he didn’t want people to remember him with this film, the very last before his death in 2009

4. Maid in Manhattan (2002, 1hr 45mins, PG)

john hughes maid in manhatten

Where to begin with this festering, cesspool of a movie? This was a pretty big hit back in the day, grossing $155 million worldwide. It became the go to date movie of late ‘02 and early ‘03, and middle age ladies love watching it on a Saturday afternoon with a bowl of Chunky Monkey.

So, why is this movie so terrible? People clearly like it. Well we’ll start with the acting, Jennifer Lopez as Marisa Ventura is so wooden she could be picked up to stir your favourite cake batter with. Ralph Fiennes as the bajillionaire that rescues Marisa from her terrible life was also pretty bad, but in his defense he does his best with what he’s got. Which isn’t much.

The script is Awful, you can tell that it was heavily influenced by Pretty Woman, as it’s essentially the same story. Only told less well and even more patronising to women. Hey girls! If you want to get away from your life of drudgery and awfulness, just meet a rich, white dude. He’ll be amazed at how novel poor people are and buy you nice thing

3. Curly Sue (1991, 1hr 41mins, PG)

john hughes curly sue

Upon it’s release Curly Sue was a a bit of a flop, and gained a lot of criticism from critics and fans alike.

The story centres around a homeless man with a heart of gold, Bill Dancer (Jim Belushi). Along with his plucky sidekick, Curly sue (Alisan Porter), a young child about the age of 8. They pulls scams, not to get money, because that would be wrong, but to get food to eat, that’s survival, so it’s OK.

Apart from some loose back story revealing Bill knew Curly’s (Or Sue’s?) mother and agreed to look after her once her mother died it’s not really clear why he didn’t just dump this irritating little weasel as soon as he could.

She’s just. So. Annoying! She has a whiney voice and shows a level of cutesy precociousness not witnessed since Shirley Temple sang about her Goodship Lollypop.

Then, one day they try and scam a fancy lawyer. They end up getting invited to stay the night in her house, and in what I am sure will be a shock twist to you all. She ends up falling in love with Bill, the homeless guy that tried to scam her for free food. How adorable.

Most of this film doesn’t make sense, the characters are two dimensional and (as previously stated) really annoying. This film did so badly, Hughes actually dropped out of the business of show for a little bit. Not for long though as the next year he saved himself with Home Alone II

2. She’s Having a Baby (1988, 1hr 46mins, 15)

 john hughes shes baby

Hughes didn’t want to be typecast, over his 30 year career he tried his hand at many genres, from pure kids’ movies (Home Alone), to teen movies,(Pretty in Pink) and Comedy movies (The Vacation series). Some genres he could tap into and others he just couldn’t get the hang of. Adult drama, unfortunately falls into the latter category.

It’s about a newly married couple learning how to be married. An interesting concept, getting married is a pretty big change in people’s lives, you have to learn to adjust and compromise and make big decisions together. Like weather or not to have a baby.  

Like other films on this  list, the catalogue of errors is present, the bad acting, terrible direction. Awful dialogue and a script that doesn’t always make sense. You have zero sympathy for the characters as Kevin Bacon’s character, Jake Briggs drops out of his Master’s degree, seemingly because he got scared of not being good enough. Meanwhile Kirsty Briggs (Ally Sheedy) just randomly stops taking birth control without telling her husband. I’m all for women being in charge of their own bodies, but having a baby affects both of you… At least tell the guy! By the end, when they eventually have the baby they have learnt so little and seem like such terrible people you really wish they hadn’t just procreated.

 

And the winner of worst John Hughes movie is

1. Mr. Mom (1983, 1hr 31mins, PG)

john hughes mr mom

A man has to look after a child. Hilarity ensues. This should be enough to tell you all that you need to know about this movie. That and the poster, just look at it! You know you’re in for a hilarious time when you see a man wearing rubber gloves and carrying a baby.

I know that this film is over 30 years old now, and some allowances must be given for historical context. Even with that in mind, this is really just. Anger inducing.

So, Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) loses his job. So wife, Caroline (a housewife of many years) has to go out to work. After a few japes involving terrible slapstick and pooey nappy jokes Jack starts to get the hang of this child care and cleaning malarky. However, after a while he starts to find this life a little constricting (he’s learning what it’s like to be a woman in the 80s… How very progressive!). Then his neighbours start coming onto him. Let’s face it all housewives are horny and just want to sleep with whoever is going, married or not.

I’m sure at the time it was thought of as being progressive, it was only 4 years later we got Three Men and a Baby (a much better film following a similar theme) but it’s just misguided. Caroline works for an ad executives, and they want to hire her based on her housewife know how, they might as well have patted her on the head and said ‘now now pretty lady, we need someone who knows about these… Women’s things’. Eurgh.