Films of My Life – The Thirsk Film Festival August 2017

The Thirsk Film Festival ran over the August Bank Holiday weekend (25-28 August) 2017. The theme for the festival was “Yorkshire”, with each movie being either made or set or both, in Yorkshire. In this edition of my “Films of my life” blog, I will review each of the 13 movies scheduled to be shown at the festival.

Friday evening

It_Shouldn't_Happen_to_a_Vet_UK_posterThe festival opened, appropriately enough, with “It Shouldn’t Happen To a Vet” (1976) based on the life and books of local vet, James Herriot. So, what better way to kick off the festival, than with a film set in Thirsk?

I vaguely remember going to see this movie in the spring / summer of 1976 and at the time Herriot was one of the biggest selling authors in the UK (and very popular in the US). I spent a lot of that summer staying with my aunt, uncle and cousins at their caravan near Thirsk. It was a very hot summer (the year of the drought) and as I read some of Heriot’s books and played in the sun, I fell in love with the North Yorkshire countryside he described. It is so different to Tyneside. It was no surprise to me that I eventually settled here

We could only see a digital copy of the VHS source (as the rights-holder has died) because the Ritz is a non-profit organisation. Even though the presentation was not up to 4K standards of 2017, the charm of the movie shone through.

Rating:      Movie (3/5) – Charming. Old fashioned but funny

Yorkshireness (5/5) – Stunning Dales locations and “real” North Yorkshire  farmer characterisation

Saturday

The first full day of the festival kicked off with a childhood favourite of my wife, Gill (and many others) The Railway Children (1970). I remembered it mostly as the one 70s movie where Jenny Agutter keeps her clothes on!

Movie: 4/5 – A children’s classic, but very much a child’s perspective

Yorkshireness: 7/10 – Beautiful West Yorkshire locations and supporting characters

My summer of loveNext was My Summer of Love (2004)

I saw this movie on its release and I remember it well. Emily Blunt is excellent in one of her first movies in this coming-of-age film, but newcomer Helen Cross really stands out, There relationship feel genuine and the Calderdale locations remind me of the 7 years we lived there.

Movie: 4/5 -An affecting coming of age movie

Yorkshireness: 5/10 – Wonderful Yorkshire locations but the characters could come from anywhere.

This was followed by the classic Kes (1969), which was shown in a beautiful, restored presentation.

Movie: 5/5 –  Melancholic story. The school scenes are a vivid reminder of the time

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – Authentic people in a real, but now gone (mining), community.

Next was perennial favourite (recently produced as a stage play) Calendar Girls (2004). . The first half about making the calendar is excellent, but the second half about promoting it in Hollywood may be true but feels like it is there to attract an American audience.

Movie: 3/5 – Funny and moving, especially in the first half

Yorkshireness: 7/10 – Beautiful Skipton locations but we only really see the WI and their husbands

“God’s Own Country” is the perfect companion to “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet”, covering the same people but in a very different way.

God's_Own_Country_(2017_film)Lastly, there was a première – God’s Own Country (2017) – yet to go on general release. I really enjoyed this moving film about the loneliness of being a Hill farmer. The performances are superb and the locations are both bleak and beautiful, but this film feels incredibly authentic. Definitely a film of the year for me, and one I would like to see again when it goes on general release.”God’s Own Country” is the perfect companion to “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet”, covering the same people but in a very different way. They bookend the same situations, but the is when’re the similarity ends

Movie: 5/5 – Affecting, realistic depiction of hill farming life in Yorkshire. Great performances.

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – Grim and beautiful, the (North?) Yorkshire locations are superb and the characters are genuine Yorkshire – good and bad attitudes

Sunday

Billy Liar (1963) kicked off the third day of the festival. At the risk of heresy, I think this movie is overrated. Imaginative and funny in parts certainly, but the character arc of Billy is poor, so there is little justification for his actions. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian shares my disappointment for the same reasons.

Movie: 2/5 – Imaginative but unsatisfying

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – This is a Northern kitchen-sink drama set around Leeds. However, the characters come across as proper Yorkshire

Next we had Brassed Off (1996) another film I haven’t seen in a long time, but one that represents its time and place perfectly – 1990s Yorkshire and the death throes of the mining industry.

Movie: 4/5 – realistic characters, but the anti-Thatcher politics may upset some

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – from the small mindedness to the sense of community, this is another authentic portrayal of a Northern mining town

A Private Function (1984) also captures a sense of time and place – this time it is post-war austerity Yorkshire. The portrayal of class prejudice and social ambition may be of its time (1947), but there are also some genuine people to be found amongst the pigs.

Movie: 4/5 – Very funny in parts, with Liz Smith in a career making role

Yorkshireness: 5/10 – Apart from the accents, I’m sure that this story could have been set anywhere in post-war Britain

Inbred only represents real Yorkshire if the the pub (The Slaughtered Lamb) in “An American Werewolf In London” was an accurate description of Yorkshire folk! It is? Ok…

Inbred-2011-Movie-Poster-version1

Inbred (2011) was certainly something different. Professionally made but on a low budget, it was a funny, gross, gory tale of North Yorkshire folk in the Vale of York. The scenery was beautiful, even if the gore was not. The visual effects were top notch.

Movie: 3/5 – Good if you like body horror. Think “The (Cleveland) Hills Have Eyes” meets Deliverance near Sutton Bank.

Yorkshireness: 1/5 – Inbred only represents real Yorkshire if the the pub (The Slaughtered Lamb) in “An American Werewolf In London” was an accurate description of Yorkshire folk! It is? OK then perhaps 4/5 is a fairer score.

Monday

Monday started with Leon The Pig Farmer (1992), a film I’d not seen before, but had heard great things about.  It may have been acceptable when it was made, but 25 years on it seems to treat the Jewish community in a most stereotypical (almost racist) way. I felt quite uncomfortable.

Movie: 2/5

Yorkshireness: 5/10 – Leon’s “biological” father is played by  Brian Glover, and he has a pig farm in Yorkshire. That’s about it.

2012-10-3WutheringUKDVDCoverThe Full Monty (1997) didn’t happen due to technical problems, but the Festival ended on a real high with Andrea Arnold’s raw take on the Emily Brontë classic, Wuthering Heights (2011) . For me, this is the best adaptation of the story I have seen, capturing the bleak beauty of the Yorkshire Moors (Swaledale standing in for Haworth) but the emotional essence of the tragic love affair shines through.

Movie: 5/5 – Emotionally raw, cinematically bleak

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – Gives a real sense of how difficult life must have been living on the Yorkshire moors at that time.

 

So there you have it, three days of mostly excellent Yorkshire themed movies. The highlights for me were:

  • God’s Own Country
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Kes

A great festival.

 

 

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Films of my life – War Movies

The recent release of the excellent Dunkirk prompted me to think about which war films would I choose for my Top Ten? Would Dunkirk make that list?

It’s interesting, but I usually think of myself as a “sci-fi” movie fan, but actually I’m first and foremost a “movie’ fan. I love sci-fi, but I also enjoy other genres. Reflecting on what films to put in this list, I realised that many of my favourite movies are war films. In fact, I’ve already identified 2 of the movies on this list as my favourite film for the year they came out (The Great Escape (1963) and A Bridge Too Far (1977)). Another was one of my picks from 1979 (Apocalypse Now) and there is even one of my favourite (non Christmas) Christmas Movies (Where Eagles Dare)!

 

So, what else would I choose as my favourite (so not necessarily the best) war movies?

I would have to include Dunkirk on my list as it is not only one of the best movies of 2017, but a superlative example of how to make epic events relatable

Dunkirk

In no particular order, I would have all of the above, plus:

  1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – I remember Gill and I going to see the re-released “Director’s Cut” at Marble Arch in 1989. This was the first time I got to see this movie on a BIG screen and its the only way to really appreciate it. I did once see it on a National Express Coach, on a 12 inch screen which was located at the front of the coach. I was sat halfway back and I might as well have been listening to a radio play!
  2. Saving Private Ryan (1998) – the combination of brutal battle scenes (D-Day), state of the art sound realisation (That TANK arriving from behind you) and a human story makes this on of Spielberg’s classics
  3. Das Boot(1985) – This excellent movie showed for the first time not only how boring submarine life was, but also a more balanced German perspective. Released in cinemas from an original German TV series (1981), 30 years before HBO.
  4. Platoon (1986) – made a massive impression on me when I first saw it (in Reading with friend and house mate George Marshall ). It still has the power to shock
  5. Black Hawk Down (2001) – conveys the confusion and fear of war like no other movie. I’ve seen this movie so many times, and I still can’t tell who is who
  6. The Deer Hunter (1978) – another movie that shows the price communities pay when their men (and women) go to war. The relationships portrayed have that hallmark authenticity of Michael Cimino and 70s cinema
  7. Zulu (1964) – was in my list of 1964 favourites. The contrast of fighting styles and the sheer scale of the battles, coupled with the heroism on display, mask the uncomfortable colonial past of the British Empire. Actually, both sides come out with some honour
  8. Paths of Glory (1957) – I chose this movie over “Full Metal Jacket”, as I think it is Kubrick’s better war movie. I chose it over “All Quiet on the Western Front” as it is an even more powerful anti-war statement than that classic. An under rated movie
  9. La Grande Illusion (1937) – like “Paths of Glory”, this is a potent anti-war movie, all the more powerful because it was made 2 years before the fall of France and was banned by the Nazi’s
  10.  Dunkirk (2017) – I would have to include Dunkirk on my list as it is not only one of the best movies of 2017, but a superlative example of how to make epic events relatable. I love Director Christopher Nolan’s call back to another famous war film – The Battle of Britain with Michael Caine providing the voice of the unseen Squadron Leader (a role he played in TBoB)

So there you have it, my ten-ish (ok, 14) favourite War Films.

But which of these would you have on your list?

Films of my life – 1979

Films of my life – 1979

The recent release of the latest Alien movie (Alien: Covenant) prompted me to reflect on the year that the series started – 1979. So, here is the latest (increasingly irregular) instalment of my blog reviewing the films that helped to shape and define my life.

By 1979, I was 15, going on 16 (sounds like a line from a song in “The Sound of Music), but had already seen my first “X” certificate (now “18”) movie (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978”). As my journey from school (St Cuthbert’s RC Grammar, Benwell) to home (Sunderland Road, Gateshead) involved changing buses in central Newcastle, I regularly (at least once a week) took the opportunity to see a tea time showing of a movie in one of the town cinemas. So, what were my favourite movies of 1979? Here are the top 10 Hollywood movies of the year:

  1. Kramer vs Kramer
  2. Apocalypse Now
  3. Rocky II
  4. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  5. Alien
  6. 10
  7. The Jerk
  8. Moonraker
  9. The Muppet Movie

Of the above list, I saw 2,4,5,and 8 at the cinema and caught up with the rest in the early 1980s as home video rental arrived.

Apocalypse Now remains one of my favourite movies. Coppola’s version of Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” is a visually stunning depiction of madness in the Vietnam War. Moonraker was the “Bond in space” that was most notable for depicting the Space Shuttle in a movie before the real thing actually launched.

I’ve mentioned previously how my best friend, Dave Webster, was able to get us into the ABC Haymarket ahead of the queues thanks to family friend Sandy. However, Sandy surpassed himself when he got Dave and I into the press screening of Start Trek: The Motion Picture, which took place at 1000 on a school day. I still love the epic nature of that story, even if the rest of the movie does not stand up well.

Other  movies I loved in this year include;

  • The Warriors (bonkers gang warfare movie that has not held up well, but deemed violent at the time)
  • Mad Max (the original is ok and nothing like any other entry in the series)
  • Life of Brian (“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” – very controversial satire at the time)
  • Being There ( I saw this on my 16th birthday, one of Peter Sellar’s best roles, and one of his last and scary in the current climate)
  • Quadrophenia (great realisation of mod-era England with a superb Who soundtrack)

Alien

Alien is easily my favourite movie of 1979. It is impossible to underestimate the “anti” Star Wars impact of this film: aimed at adults not children, with grimy, industrial space ships and real blue collar characters speaking real dialogue. In the end it is a “haunted house” film, but Ridley Scott’s movie set the template for space movies for the next 20 years (along side his other classic, Blade Runner). The film made a star of Sigourney Weaver and an iconic image of John Hurt. I know a lot of people rate Aliens as the better movie, but I can’t choose. I just love both of them.

What are your memories and favourite movies of 1979?

 

Films of my life – 2016

Films of my life – 2016.

The latest entry in a review of the films that have influenced my life – year by year. Last year was a bumper year in terms of 5* movies, at least in my view. So, in this review, I will concentrate on the 12 movies that I rated as 5/5 or 5*

The year started with 3 movies form the same genre. Nominally, these 3 movies are all “westerns” but actually, that was where the similarities ended;

  • The Revenant is not strictly a western, as these are generally set between the civil war and 1900. It was set much earlier in the century and won Leonardo Di Caprio his first Oscar for Best Actor. A totally immersive experience
  • I saw The Hateful Eight in full 70mm in Leicester Square. It’s a typical Tarantino movie, with his hallmark dialogue. Certainly overlong (it had an intermission) and very violent, the snow bound setting was perfect for a cold January
  • Bone Tomahawk starts off as a traditional western -Native Americans abduct white settlers – but turns into a horror movie about cannibalism. Brilliant and also very violent

My next choice is Spotlight, the story of the Boston Globe investigation into paedophilia in the Catholic Church. Made in the style of “All the President’s Men”, this excellent procedural had extra resonance for me as I could identify with the way that the church is feared and respected.

My next choice is a very different movie – Hail, Caesar is one of the funniest films of the year and a beautiful tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood. It will be remembered for one line of dialogue – “Would that it were so simple”.

Embrace the Serpent is a stunning foreign language film, a sort of adaptation of Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” set in the amazon jungle. Beautiful cinematography, despite being filmed in black & white, but with a technicolour dream sequence.

September saw Hell or High Water, another western but this time of the modern variety with Jeff Bridges simply brilliant as a Sheriff approaching retirement chasing bank robber brothers, including Chris Pine who is an absolute revelation.

Another hilarious movie is the New Zealand set Hunt for the Wilder-people. Sam Neil is on top form as a grumpy man who goes into the new Zealand countryside with his errant foster child. The development of their relationship is both funny and poignant.

Next up, two movies that took traditional genres and gave them a new twist. The Girl with all of the gifts is a thoughtful British sci-fi movie that has a dark secret at its heart. Very imaginative. Under the Shadow is a creepy UK-Iranian ghost story that was true unsettling.

I, Daniel Blake won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and is directed by Ken Loach. It tells the heartbreaking story of how the UK social security system can work against the people it intends to help. Everyone in the UK should see this movie.

Nocturnal Animals is a very stylish thriller from Tom Ford starring Amy Adams. Coincidentally, she was the star of my final choice, and my favourite movie of 2016 – Arrival. This movie is thoughtful science fiction at its best and the light it shines on communication links in to what I teach on training courses.

arrival

courtesy of wikipedia

So, a bumper year for good movies. Here is my top 5;

  1. Arrival
  2. Hunt for the Wilder-people
  3. I, Daniel Blake
  4. Hell or High Water
  5. Spotlight

 

Films of my life – 2000

Films of my life – 2000

Time for a look at a more recent time in my life (but still 16 years ago). Here is the best known quote from my favourite movie of 2000:

 “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

By 2000, Gill and I were living in North Yorkshire, with 3 active boys (James, Harry & Richard). This meant that most trips to the cinema were for family films, as our eldest son, James was only 8! More adult material, we tended to catch-up with on DVD (which started to replace VHS in the mid-1990s).

Growing up, the new millennium seemed so far away – I used to think “God, I’ll turn 37 in 2000” and as you know, when you are young that seems to be VERY old. Now, of course, I look back from (nearly) 53 and wish I was that young! Ah, c’est la vie.

Our nearest cinema in 2000 was the “Showcase” at Teesside Retail Park, near Stockton. This was one of the first big multiplexes in the north east. In more recent times, multiplexes have opened in Middlesbrough and Darlington.

showcase-cinema

courtesy of thiistockton.co.uk

2000 was not a particularly great year for movies – there was plenty of quantity, but little quality. You may well have guessed it from the quote, but before I get to my favourite movie, here are the other movie highlights of 2000:

  • X-men
  • Almost Famous- Cameron Crowe’s semi autobiographical tale about a cub reporter with Rolling Stone in the early 1970s. Has a great soundtrack
  • High Fidelity – decent adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel, relocated to Chicago with  John Cusack and a breakout role for Jack Black
  • Billy Elliot – uplifting tale set around the miner’s strike of 1984 in north east England, which had resonance for me (the miners rather than the dancing)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Ang Lee’s beautifully choreographed and shot tribute to eastern cinema

gladiatorMy favourite film of 2000 was Gladiator. This reboot of “The Fall of The Roman Empire” made a superstar of Russell Crowe (he won a “Best Actor” Oscar and the movie was “Best Film”). It has a great score from Hans Zimmer too. But what makes Gladiator so special for me is the sheer scale, enhanced by (at the time) ground-breaking computer generated imagery. CGI was also used to ensure that Oliver Reed completed the film, despite dying during filming. Director Ridley Scott crafts an epic tale that works on a human level. Crowe’s Maximus is one of the great screen heroes, not least because of how he stays loyal to his values and beliefs.  I’m not sure that either Scott or Crowe have made better movies in the years since Gladiator was released and it remains a favourite of mine to this day.

Films of my life – 1977

Films of my life 1977

061132:Odeon cinema Pilgrim Street Newcastle upon Tyne Malcolm Maybury 1995

The Odeon, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle

By 1977, my cinema visiting routine was well established. I was living in Gateshead, but my school was in the west end of Newcastle (St Cuthbert’s Grammar). This meant that I travelled through the centre of Newcastle every evening of the working week, usually via the number 39 bus. At least once a week I would go to see a movie, preferably with a friend, but often on my own.

There was plenty of choice amongst cinemas in Newcastle in 1977. There was the Odeon on Pilgrim Street, which had 3 (later 4) screens, two ABC cinemas (Haymarket and Westgate Road), the Studios 1-4, and the Queen’s Theatre (70mm, curved screen). There were no affordable video players, and video rentals didn’t arrive until the 1980s, so if you wanted to see a movie, you had to go to the cinema, or wait FIVE years to see it on TV!

Star_Wars_Episode_IV-A_New_Hope_Theatrical_Release_PosterProbably because I was 13 for most of  1977, it is one of my favourite movie years. There are several movies from 1977 that are now regarded as classics:

  • Star Wars – just Star Wars, not Episode IV, not “A New Hope”, just Star Wars, which I think Dave Webster and I went to see at the very first showing at Christmas. A school acquaintance (Terry Hawthorn) allowed us to join him and his mum and jump the queue
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind – another favourite, though
    Spielberg has re-edited it several times, and generally not for the better. It was superb in 70mm at the Queen’s.(Update: on checking, this movie was released in 1978 in the UK)
  • The Spy Who Loved Me – one of the better Roger Moore Bond movies
  • Annie Hall – a film I love that I discovered in the 1980s when I was old enough to appreciate it!
  • Saturday Night Fever – I was annoyed that my younger sister, Rose,  got to see this at 12 years old (it was an X / 18) but I had to wait 2 years before I could get in
  • Eraserhead – David Lynch’s oddity, which I eventually saw in my 20s.

My favourite film of 1977 is not regarded as a classic, but it is my favourite war movie (as in one featuring battles, I have others, such as Schindler’s List that are set in the war, but are not war movies). It was one of the top 10 earners of 1977, though.

A Bridge Too Far Original Half-SheetSo why does it have such a special place in my heart? Well, it was one of the last movies that really had an ALL-STAR cast – Connery, Caan, Olivier, Redford, Gould, Hackman, Bogarde, Caine to name but a few. Sean Connery was, and probably still is, my favourite movie star and he is excellent in this film.

Another reason that I have fond memories of this movie were the circumstances of seeing it. Our family holiday that summer was in North Wales, and we spent it with my Uncle David, Aunty Margaret and my 4 year old cousin, Andrew. We saw the movie in Llandudno, in hot, stuffy, packed cinema. The movie is about 3 hours long, and had a interval. Sometime after stuffing our faces on ice-creams at the break, Andrew, decided to bring it back for public viewing. This resulted in Margaret getting a mop and bucket and cleaning it up. It did make the hospital scenes more realistic for the audience, as the cinema stank of bleach for the rest of the showing.

015507:Percy Street Newcastle upon Tyne 1966

ABC Haymarket

The success of Star Wars, Close Encounters and a few minor blockbuster movies reflected the changes going on in movie releases. The success of Jaws in 1975, plus the big hitters of this year set the pattern that we still see today – with studios putting more emphasis on making and marketing blockbusters. This would get even bigger with the introduction of multiplexes, video (then DVD and Blu-Ray) rental and sales starting in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the move to the US model of cinema chains spelled the ned for many older theatres in city centres like Newcastle. Within a decade many of the cinemas mentioned would close. The Odeon was the last to go, eventually closing in 2002.

Films of my life – 1965

Films of my life – 1965

I have to be honest and say that 1965 is not a vintage year. That said, it did produce 2 of my all time favourite films and enough quality to fill a weekend of binge viewing.

I have no real memories of 1965 (I was 2 in the October of that year), so again, the films I like were mostly discovered on TV. One or two should be on telly more often (“The Hill” for one, in which a wig-less Sean Connery endures bullying and pain in a desert military prison ) and others, such as the sumptuous Doctor Zhivago have become staples of holiday viewing (there is nothing better than watching this movie on a snowy day at Christmas).

Ipcress File

The Ipcress File – the “anti-establishment Bond”

Notable releases this year were “Thunderball” (Connery’s Underwater-Bond, complete with wig). In fact, it was a big year for spy movies, with the first movie version of a John Le Carré  book – “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” with Richard Burton. This was a grittier, humourless spy movie, much more real-life and bleak. Very much a product of the Cold War. Similarly, one of my 2 favourite movies from this year, was an antidote to Bond, but this one was produced by Harry Saltzman, one of the Bond producers! “The Ipcress File” starring Michael Caine as Harry Palmer has lot of the grit of Le Carré, but author Len Deighton added in 2 elements that make it even more appealing; Palmer is a working class spy and he has a real attitude; if Bond is establishment, then Palmer is the very definition of anti-establishment. As such, the character tapped into the blossoming youth culture and “kitchen sink dramas” from a few years previously. The fact that it is set at the dawn of “swinging London” gives it an added sense of time and place. Then there is the outstanding score (by another Bond veteran, John Barry). Check out the main theme, it is sublime!

I have to say that every time I come across this movie on TV, I can’t resist watching it.

Other top movies released in 1965:

  • For a Few Dollars More
  • Help (good soundtrack, not as good a movie as “A Hard Day’s Night”
  • Dr Who and the Daleks (Peter Cushing[!], Technicolour Daleks[!])
  • Ten Little Indians (one of the best Agatha Christie’s, recently done on TV as “And then there were none”)

Sound of MusicAs I said, not  a vintage year. However, my other favourite movie of this year also has a great soundtrack, and is still a regular for holiday TV. “The Sound of Music” is hard to resist, with many well known songs (“Climb Every Mountain”, “My Favourite Things”, “Do-Re-Mi” to name but a few) and a surprisingly gritty story. It was another film that I saw for the first time at the cinema, in the mid 1970s at the Queen’s Theatre in 70 mm.

 

I’m not sure which of these 2 movies I love most, so I’ll choose both of them as my films of the year.

 

Films of my life – 1971

Films of my life – 1971

I am currently making my way through an excellent book called “1971- Never a Dull Moment” in which the author (music journalist David Hepworth) claims this year to be the greatest in rock history. This inspired me to cover the same year for the next entry in this series.

Consett-Empire-Theatre-small

Empire Theatre Consett (courtesy of Consett Magazine) – long before I went there

Nineteen seventy one has a real significance for me and my life through movies, as it is the first year I can remember actually going to see movies. Specifically, I remember going to see the James bond flick “Diamonds Are Forever” with my dad at the old Empire Cinema / Theatre in Consett. One of the prevailing memories of watching movies in the 1970s was the poster advertising the movie, with 3 still images and tempting text underneath. To this day, Diamonds are Forever is one of my favourite Bonds, but I suspect more for nostalgic reasons than for it’s quality. DAF, like Goldfinger, had an iconic Corgi toy – the Moon Buggy, and I still remember playing with it at our caravan near Crook.

corgi_moonbuggy_original

Courtesy of 007 Magazine

This was the start of regular, almost weekly trips to the Empire with my dad, and sometimes my uncle David and one of dad’s best friends – Johnny. My abiding memory of these visits was my dad’s annoying habit of just deciding we would go to see a movie. In those days, you could just go in when you wanted, so most of the movies we saw at that time, we came in half way through! We would then stay for the next showing, and dad would try to leave when we reached the part where we arrived. I always refused to leave, and insisted we stay to the end. I especially remember song this with another film released that year – “Escape from the Planet of the Apes” and being totally confused about what was going on (doubly so as this was the 3rd in the “Apes” series, but the first one I saw). To this day, I still hate missing the start of a movie, especially as they now clear the cinema and you can’t just stay for the next showing.

Much as I love DAF, it is not my favourite movie of 1971. Most of the films on the list below I fell in love with years after they were released, usually after seeing them on TV. “Willy Wonka” is a great example of this. I love this version of the Roald Dahl story.

Here is my list of runners-up (in no particular order)

  • Get Carter (Michael Cane as the least likely returning Geordie)
  • Straw Dogs (infamous rape scene)
  • The French Connection (great car chase, and very gritty)
  • Bed knobs & Broomsticks (the mixed animation / real life football match)
  • Dirty Harry (“You feeling’ lucky, punk?” iconic 1970s cop, originally written for Frank Sinatra)
  • Walkabout (Jenny Agutter nude was a staple of 1970s movie viewing)
  • McCabe & Mrs Miller
  • A Clockwork Orange (banned until after Kubrick’s death in 1999, due to the violence it inspired)
  • The Last Picture Show
  • Willy Wonka
  • Diamonds Are Forever

 

AStrainposterMy favourite movie of 1971 was another in Michael Crichton’s repertoire of warnings about  science and technology going wrong (he also wrote Westworld, soon to be remade as a TV series, and Jurassic Park). This film is almost documentary like, but many of the images are truly terrifying, especially the walk through the tiny village wiped out by a virus. The climax is one of the most tense ever, as the scientists race against a countdown that will result in the  destruction of the lab they are in, designed to contain any breach of infection. This has been repeated many times in movies, most notable in Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), but it was never done better than here.

It is also important to put this movie into the context of the time it was made; this was the height of the cold war and fear of biological warfare was very prominent in the minds of the pubic.

Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain – my favourite movie of 1971

Quite simply, The Andromeda Strain is one of the best science fiction movies of all time.

 

Films of my life – 1975

“1975 is one of my favourite movie years. Not all of the movies were great, but the memories certainly were”

Films of my life – 1975

What a year! This is the year when I remember becoming more “independent” in my movie habits. Not as in seeing more independent rather than mainstream Hollywood movies, but in being able to go to the cinema without my parents.

At this time I was growing up in Gateshead, and most of the movies I saw were shown at the Classic Cinema in Low Fell. I used to go with my Three Amigos – Tessa, Andy & Sean

Classic Cinema

Title: Classic Cinema, Durham Road, Low Fell Courtesy of: Photographer: Manders, Frank Date: 28/7/1977 iSee Gateshead Old Photographs Ref: GL001191

and the certificates in those days were;

  • U (universal, same as today)
  • A (a bit like today’s PG, but many cinema’s would not allow children to see movies on an evening, without an adult, especially for popular films)
  • AA – like a 15
  • X – like an 18

I remember trying to go and see “The Towering Inferno” in 1974 with my mates, and getting turned away from a evening show, despite queuing for 30 minutes!

So what were my favourite movies of 1975? Well, I got to see my first AA (despite being 11) when we got into “Tommy”. I barely enjoyed the film on that occasion as I kept expecting the police to come in and arrest us for being under age! I have to say, Tommy is still one of my favourite movies, a crazy mix of a great album from The Who and the trippy visuals of Ken Russell.

The following week, I tried to get into “Rollerball” and failed. After several failed attempts I eventually got to see it in 70mm at the Queen’s Cinema in Newcastle (with a giant curved screen) about 2 years later! It is still one of my favourite movies of any year.

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courtesy of cinematreasures.org Queens Cinerama Theatre

 

Here are my favourite movies of 1975

  1. Jaws
  2. Rollerball
  3. Tommy
  4. One FlewOver the Cuckoo’s Nest (Jack Nicholson classic)
  5. Three Days of the Condor (classic 1970s conspiracy flick)
  6. Picnic at Hanging Rock (spooky Australian mystery)
  7. Barry Lyndon (Kubrick does Thackeray)
  8. Dog Day Afternoon
  9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which everyone my age could quote)
Jaws

one of the most famous movie posters in history

Jaws confirmed my love of cinema. It came out on boxing Day 1975, 6 months after taking the USA by storm. I remember the hype and build up (done in a very 1970s under stated way). There were jigsaws,  an advert for Tudor crisps and the original book and the soundtrack with that theme (Da dum Daa dum). In the days before the internet, building the buzz was a long drawn out affair.

I got to see Jaws over the Christmas holiday. It was showing at the ABC Haymarket in Newcastle, and there were queues for every showing. If you wanted to see it in the first week, you had to queue for up to 2 hours. I went with my friend Dave, who’s dad was best friends with Sandy, the concierge. We walked to the front of the queue and got in first. Just like we were VIPs, though we did pay!

My abiding memories of watching the film were;

  1. I’ve never seen anything like this
  2. Seeing a fat woman in the row in front of us scream and throw her large box of popcorn all over her and us when that head comes out of the bottom of the boat. Simply magic.

1975 is one of my favourite movie years. Not all of the movies were great, but the memories certainly were

Films of my life – 1984

“So, what is my favourite movie of 1984?  I’ve chosen possibly the greatest concert movie of all time -Jonathan Demme’s  film of Talking Heads in concert – “Stop Making Sense”.

Welcome to my blog, where I reflect on different years of my life through the films released in that year.

Having previously covered the first 2 years of my life, this post looks at 1984 – one of my favourite “film” years and a significant year in my life, as it was when I first met my wife, Gill.

In researching this year, it was immediately apparent that by the 1980s far more films were in production. That said, 1984 was an especially bumper year and some great movies were released. Here are a few that stand out:

  • Ghostbusters
  • Gremlins
  • Amadeus
  • Dune
  • Splash
  • This is Spinal Tap
  • Purple Rain
  • The Terminator
  • A Passage to India
  • The Killing Fields
  • Karate Kid
  • Romancing the Stone
  • Once Upon a Time in America
  • Beverley Hills Cop
  • Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Tightrope
  • 1984

GhostbustersPhew! What a list. Many of those fils are favourites of mine; Comedies like Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Spinal Tap and Beverley Hills Cop; Adventure movies such as Temple of Doom and the Indiana Jones-light “Romancing the Stone” and Karate Kid; “Once Upon a Time in America” – Sergio Leone’s last and possible greatest movie, doing for the gangster movie what he did for the Western with “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. The post-Vietnam war movie “The Killing fields” was a very affecting watch.

“Amadeus” has a special mention, as on the evening all of our student house went to see it we discovered a tiny kitten upon our return. We called it “Amadeus” (of course) but that only lasted a few weeks before we re-named him after one of our best friends – “George”. George went on to live with Gill and I, my family and eventually, Gill’s brother , Nigel.

stopmakingsense-1080x675So, what is my favourite movie of 1984?  I’ve chosen possibly the greatest concert movie of all time -Jonathan Demme’s  film of Talking Heads in concert – “Stop Making Sense”.

What I like about this movie is the concert itself is centre stage. The filming is very straight forward, because the amazing set and stage settings carry the film. This is a band at the peak of it’s powers, delivering their greatest hits in an unjust way – no shots of the audience, just the band, their music, David suits and great lighting.

Favourite scene

The concert and movie opens with David Byrne walking out to a empty stage, placing a ghetto blaster on the floor and playing an acoustic version of “Psycho Killer” whilst the stage is set around him.

Check it out