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 – the best Christmas movies

Films of my life – the best Christmas movies

I’m writing this blog on Boxing day 2016 – at 0448 to be very precise. Over the Christmas holiday, I’ve viewed most of my favourite Christmas movies. This is a traditional event for me, and over the last decade or so a list has evolved of what I consider to be the “best” Christmas movies. Well, they are my favourites anyway. Some are very traditional and focused on Christmas itself; others are included because they have a winter setting. This has allowed me to include a variety of genres, from science fiction / horror and action to family favourites.

Here is my list of essential Christmas movies:

Where Eagle’s Dare (1968) – The quintessential “boys own” WWII movie, with Richard Burton in possibly his last great role (ooh, controvertial). The winter setting, the twisty plot and THAT theme music (Ron Goodwin) make this essential viewing every December.

a-christmas-carolA Christmas Carol (2009) – I love the Charles Dickens classic story so much that it appears twice in my list. This version, the most recent, features state of the art digital animation / motion capture and stars Jim Carrey as Scrooge and ALL 3 Christmas ghosts. It was released in 3D so there is a lot of gratuitous flying and swooping, but I like that it captures the spirit of this most traditional of Christmas tales. The film is directed by one of my favourite artists – Robert Zemeckis, who loves to push the creative and technological envelope. A lot of people don’t like the “uncanny valley” of motion capture / CGI but this film is one that gets away with it by making the whole film animated.

ohmss

courtesy of ImdB

OHMSS (1969) – Not only the “winter” Bond, but in my opinion the best Bond movie. It also has its own Christmas song (“Do you know how Christmas Trees are made?”) and multiple endings. The skiing sequences alone make this one of the most exciting Bond movies, and even if Lazenby doesn’t convince in the acting stakes, his physicality more than compensates.

 

 

 

 

the-thing

The Thing (1982 / 2011) – a bit of a cheat here – two movies for the price of one! The 1982 John Carpenter (another favourite director) remake of the the 1950s original is one of my all time favourite sci-fi/horror movies. OK, so some of the plot doesn’t really hang together, but this claustrophobic remake of Agatha Christie’s “And then there were none” is so tense and atmospheric (and, yes, gory as hell) that I love watching it at least once a year. A special mention for the 2011 reboot / prequel which does a magnificent job of filling in the events before the 1982 movie. The real joy in the second movie is seeing how cleverly the makers have worked back from what is shown in the Carpenter movie – genius!

OHMSS (1969) – Not only the “Winter” Bond, but the best Bond movie. It also has it’s own Christmas Song “Do you know where Christmas Trees are made?”

gremlins

courtesy of Flickr

Gremlins (1984) – This was the top Christmas movie of 1984, and another I went to see with my best man, David Webster. There are so many sight gags in this movie, coupled with a wicked sense of humour (you don’t know whether to laugh or recoil in horror) in scenes such as the blender or Phoebe Cates describing why she hates Christmas. Simply, a classic from a top year for popcorn movies (Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Star Trek III)

die-hardDie Hard (1988) – This movie re-wrote the action genre. You can also include  Die Hard 2 (1990), as both are the very best action movies set at Christmas. After this, the franchise went in a different direction and it hasn’t been the same since. Bruce Willis was an unlikely acton hero in 1988, having come to public notice playing light comedy in the TV show “Moonlighting”. He subsequently made this his genre and alongside Schwarzenegger and Stallone was one of the biggest action stars of the 80s/90s. Another breakout star from this movie was Alan Rickman, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

 

loveactually

courtesy of Flickr

Love Actually (2003) – I have some real problems with this flawed movie from Richard Curtis; the lack of an overtly gay relationship (it was edited out for time purposes) and the sinister storyline involving Andrew Lincoln (stalking?). That said, the rest of it is genuinely funny and heartwarming and, more importantly, it is the one Christmas movie on this list that the whole family will watch !

miracle-on-34th-street

Miracle of 34th Street (1947) – The 1994 Richard Attenborough remake is ok, but the original in black and white (so my kids refuse to watch it) is brilliant. This movie captures the extremes of christmas – what children believe and want and what the commercial interests push. Heart warming and very clever. The court scenes in particular are memorable as Kris Kringle has to show that Santa is real.

muppet-christmas-carolThe Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) – in spite of Michael Caine’s appalling singing voice, this remains the best adaptation of this story. The songs are catchy and fun, as is the blend of human and muppet characters (all of the favourites from the TV series make an appearance) and the film benefits from Miss Piggy having the least screen time of any of her appearances. Genuinely funny and spine tingling in equal measures and a must see every Christmas Eve.

its-a-wonderful-life

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)  – This is my favourite Christmas movie. I shed a tear every single time that I watch this Frank Capra classic. James Stewart never made a better film, and only a person with a heart of stone could fail to be moved by the uplifting ending. The movie emphasises the small acts of kindness that each of us is capable of, and the huge impact they can have on the people around us. It also reminds us what Christmas is about, and I watch this movie any time I want to feel better and restore my faith in human nature. The essential Christmas movie, and one I always watch before everyone else gets up on Christmas Day.

What are your favourite Christmas movies?

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 – 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