I've set myself a totally unrealistic challenge here: there are so many good films! I'm also suspicious of putting things in order of merit. This is just a selection of films that may give you some insight into the kind of person I am. I hope you find some old friends here, and maybe also discover some new ones.
What's Eating Gilbert Grape?This is one of those films I avoid watching too often in case the spell gets weakened. A nowhere town in mid-America, the eponymous Gilbert (Jonny Depp) has a brother with learning difficulties and a morbidly obese widowed mother to care for, and relieves the boredom of his job in the town store with providing, er, additional services with the groceries: then two visitors arrive... Leonardo di Caprio got an Academy nomination for playing the brother before he became known: it's maybe the best thing he's done.
Spirited AwayWeird and beautiful Japanese animation
Priscilla Queen of the DesertWhen I'm feeling down this is the perfect medicine
As good as it getsFrom the moment the dog rattles and bumps down the rubbish shoot I loved this film (don't worry, the dog survives)
Donnie DarkoPowerful, intelligent, and haunting. And paradoxical: when some people have 'explained' that the end of the story shows that the time travel stuff is all in his head and isn't 'real' I was disappointed, because I wanted the time travel to be 'real', but why? None of it's real, it's all fiction! What's going on here? (If this kind of thing interests you, you might like to have a look at Derrida)
Local HeroEverytime I watch this film I love it more.
DogmaTwo fallen angels try to re-enter heaven which risk the end of the world, and can only be stopped by a lapsed catholic woman who faces attacks from devils on roller-blades: yeah, right. But I still love this film. The plot is ridiculous but the ideas it plays around with are excellent: Oh, and God is (or may be) a woman...
Rufus (the (black) 13th disciple (Chris Rock)): Imagine you're a twelve year old boy: and one day you're told you're God's only son. And more than that, you're God! How long do you think it would take you to get to grips with something that huge? Maybe say, oh, 18 years?'
Bethany (Linda Fiorentino): 'I don't want this: its too big'
Metatron (God's messenger)(Alan Rickman) :'That's what Jesus said. Yeah, I had to tell him...I had to deliver the news to a scared child who wanted nothing more than to play with other children. I had to tell this little boy that he was God's only son and it meant a life of persecution and eventual crucifixion at the hands of the very people he'd come to enlighten and redeem'
The Station AgentA sweet and beautiful film about unexpected friendships. I can't explain it: if you've seen it you'll know what I mean, otherwise you'll just have to see it for yourself.
Love and Death on Long Island
Edward ScissorhandsI love the way this film turns the normal expectations on their heads: the ruined gothic mansion on the hill top is the sanctuary, the suburban cul-de-sac is the place of danger, and the strange creation is the vulnerable innocent. Maybe I identify with him...
The MatrixExciting, clever, philosphically challenging (unlike its successors)
'What is "real"?'
Citizen XA film about a Russian serial child killer (based on real events) just before the fall of the Soviet Union (and I can't find it in Halliwells)? Well, if you've not seen it you've missed a gem: a witty portrayal of wrestling with a doctrinaire bureaucracy, shot through with compassion. Stephen Rea is the downtrodden forensics expert and Donald Sutherland excels as the apparently unsympathetic colonel.
El Bola ('Pellet')A humane and thoughtful take on friendship, parental abuse, and growing up. Beware of trains though...
Krampack (Translation, er, tricky)Another tale of friendship and growing up: two older teenagers here (than in El Bola), and emerging sexual awareness adds additional complications. A world away from American Pie.
Y tu mama tambien? ('and your mum too?')Sexy, wistful, deep, and features Gael Garcia Bernal. What more can you ask for?
El Hijo de la Novia (son of the bride)Argentinian, could be summed up as mid-life crisis film but that is too simplistic. The wedding of the protaganist's wonderful elderly father to his confused, senile, but still deeply human mother is the only wedding ceremony I have ever seen on film that moved me to tears.
Temporada de Patos (Duck Season)Two teenage boys, a slightly older girl, and a deeply frustrated pizza delivery man end up together in a flat in a grim mexican tower block while the parents are out. Funny, slightly surreal, and beautifully observed.
En construccion (in construction)I normally dislike documentaries: I am easily bored and generally need a strong narrative structure to hold my attention, but this is genius. A poorish 'barrio' in Barcelona is redeveloped. Old buildings are knocked down, new ones slowly built, while the life of the surrounding neighbourhood goes on (and, during construction, a Roman burial site is discovered). That's it. But it's so beautifully observed, capturing the spirit of the place and of the people perfectly and so intimately, that it makes me want to cry just thinking about it. How did the director manage to make himself so invisible, and how did he manage to follow through subtle narrative strands and draw out so many layers of meaning? I don't know.
The Motorcycle diariesAll I knew about 'Che' Guevara was that he became a freedom fighter and was killed (it is said) with the approval of the USA, and that he now appears on t-shirts. Now I know more: this road movie looks at just that moment when an ordinary student was drawn towards another life (OK, and it also stars Gael Garcia Bernal again).
'This isn't a tale of heroic feats. It's about two lives running
parallel for a while, With common aspirations and similar dreams. Was
our view too narrow, too biased, too hasty? Were our conclusions too
rigid? Maybe. Wandering round our America Has changed me more than I
thought. I am not me anymore. At least I'm not the same me I was'
Ernesto 'che' Guevara