I found this idea on this blog (scroll down a lot to find it - there is also a great post on nostalgic books) and it has been on my mind since. I love film. I love lists. I've never seen or heard of doing one like this. Not 'favorite' films or 'best' films or 'successful' films but 'influential' films. Also, not influential in terms of the world or film or trending what-have-you but influential to.... me. Fascinating.
I thought a lot about what I consider influential and was suprized that quite of few of my favorites didn't meet the mark and land on this list. I consider something influencial if it changed me in some way, be it point of view, behaviour or interests. I also included films that reaffirmed things I believed but probably couldn't articulate those beliefs at the time.
Without further ado... Oh, and content of films *is* mentioned so if you hate spoilers proceed with caution. This are listed in the chronological order in which I saw them.
1. Cheaper By the Dozen
Dir: Walter Lang
This film had a profound effect on me. I don't think I knew what 'efficiency' was prior to watching it but I was very away of it after and ever since. The father is an 'efficiency engineer', I mean is that even a job anymore? What sticks with me the most is when he times how long it takes to button his vest from top to bottom, then from bottom to top. After which his bit 'A ha!' moment of now knowing which was faster so that he will save time and always button his vest this way. It takes logic to such a far extreme that it seems ridiculous. I love it. I love being efficient. I always take the sortest route to get somewhere or do some things in the 'correct' order just so I can do this. It totally influenced me to be the person who I am.
2. Star Wars
The original, aka Episode IV: A New Hope
Dir: George Lucas
When people ask my "What's your favourite film" I answer: "You mean, after Star Wars?". I love this movie. I don't know and don't care if there are flaws. To me this film when I'm watching it I'm not even sure what I'm seeing as I've seen it so many times. It makes me happy, it reminds me of my childhood I remember actually seeing reels of it through a projector in our green room when my family still all lived together. We would watch it as it rewound and I remember laughing so hard when the stormtroopers fell 'up' to a standing position. To me it feels like home, it makes me feel safe. It's about people doing something they believe in and fighting for the greater good against all the odds. And then there are the moments that I watch for every time, the moments Hans eyes change colour, Mark Hamill shouting "Carrie", and of course the shoe. I am so happy I have a VHS version pre the remastering so I can watch it with all the 'flaws'.
3. Some Kind of Wonderful
Dir: Howard Deutch
I saw this film 3 times in the theatre during March Break on year, and at least 2 of those times was with my sister Suzie. I wanted to be Watts. She was cool, tough, a tomboy, was best friends with a guy, had a car, tattoo, wore boxer shorts and she played the drums. I don't think it was possible to be cooler than that. And she was from the other side of the tracks. I always wanted to be from the other side of the tracks.. or whatever the marker it would have been. Ironically I have no idea what her character saw in Eric Stoltz, especially when there were 2 really cute guys with shaven heads in the film, but to each their own. This is definitely my favourite teen/coming of age film. This is my Dirty Dancing.
4. Jesus Christ Superstar
Dir: Norman Jewison
I remember finishing my Grade 9 Math exam earlier but wasn't allowed to leave so I started writing the lyrics to songs from this musical to pass the time. "Christ you know I love you, did you see I waved? I believe in you and God so tell me that I'm saved". My teacher was this, looked at me and said: "Are you... OK?". Ha. A fan of musicals I guess he wasn't. I love the 70's-ness of this film. I love the costumes, the multiculturalism of the casting, the music, I even love the hats. But really what does it for me is the dancing and the singing. I could watch the scene of Simon Zealot's a million times. I usually stop watched after Blood Money or maybe I Only Want to Say, as it gets too sad . The tanks scene still scares me. For me this is what defines a musical for me.
5. The Big Blue
Dir: Luc Besson
This is the first film I saw directed by Luc Besson, one of my favourite directors and most likely the first film I saw with Jean Reno in it. I think I watched it on First Choice one afternoon when I was sick. It was quirky, it was French, I had no idea what it was about... I loved it. It showed people with a different perspective & value and how someone else may place an high level of importance on something you never would think of. Some things are almost in the vein of magical realism, but I believed it. I think that is why I liked it so much. I believed it could be true, even if it was meant to be fiction or ambiguous.
Fair warning: watching it more recently the music is *very* 80's pop-like.
Dir: James Cameron
I remember losing a art contest about creating a 'futuristic' ship/planet because I designed in on Aliens. It wasn't that they noticed and thought I was 'copying' but that it was based in military and violence "Those are the guns with grenade launchers.. and those ones have flame throwers.. and there is the ammo". The guy who won did a happy-dappy version of the future with people holding hands across the globe. How ironic that is, as now I'm really anti-gun/violence. I loved Aliens. It was scary, it had lots of characters to like and great lines (Anytime, Anywhere..., Why don't you put her in charge!" and it had not just one but 2 really great, strong, cool women in it. Ripley and Vasquez. I love how there were just as strong and just as tough and that gender was never an issue. Well, never a power issue. Actually if you include Newt it would be 3 strong female characters and I think I will. Ok, its 3.
7. The Abyss
Dir: James Cameron
I think I would consider this the first film in one of my favourite film genre's that I call: "Blue" films. I would put The Big Blue in this genre as well but only retrospectively. This was again a multiple viewing in the theatre film and I even saw it in IMAX. I think it might have been the first time I was looking forward to seeing something because of the director. I enjoyed it for a lot of reasons, an large ensemble cast of kinda outcasts, another strong women character and well... it was a lot of blue. But it influenced me in ways such as it showed the military not as the good guys, people taking care of their own (I loved Ed Harris in this film...) but mostly because its about belief. Belief that something could be good over something bad. Believing that you are going to make it, believing in yourself and trusting others as well. Dangit I'm getting teary eyed! hehe.
8. Once Were Warriors
Dir: Lee Tamohari
New Zealand, 1994
I've seen this film twice, and I will not watch it again. Even though the story is compelling, the acting is spectacular and it pulls all your emotions throughout the film. But it is so painful, its is almost too much to watch. Well quite frankly for me, now it is too much to watch. This was the first film that shifted my view on violence in film/tv. The odd thing is, this didn't happen while I was watching it. I was working at a bookstore and someone asked me what I had read most recently, and it was the book based on this film. She asked me to describe it. (HUGE content spoiler inc....) I said "Its about a Maori Family where the husband is extremely abusive to his wife, and how the family copes with that in their day to day life". And she said.... "That sounds interesting". I stared at her. I thought about what I had just said. I was like, what do you mean interesting? That's awful!! Why do you want to see that? Why did I want to see it? And I realized I don't, I have since then developed having almost zero tolerance for that kind of violence and abuse in film. It isn't 'entertainment' in my book.
9. Tank Girl
Dir: Rachel Talalay
"She's just a girl.. just a girl.. the girl you want" I love this movie. I love the clothes, the humour, the fact that it doesn't take itself to seriously. Plus, its actually a great cast: Lori Petty, Naomi Watts, Ice T and Malcolm McDowell. I would say that Tank Girl is definately one of my idols. She knows what she wants and she goes and gets it. No hesistation, no fear, no restraint. She is just the coolest. I remember almost dating a guy who said he thought Jet Girl was cooler than Tank Girl. Which explains the 'almost' part of that sentence. To quote Tank Girl herself "Well, *that's* a bore!".
10. Shall We Dance / Shall we dansu?
Dir: Masayuki Suo
Please do not get this confused with the US version. Go and see the original Japanese one and you will be so much happier. This is such a beautiful film, I don't mean visually but rather it speaks of desire and longing and can really pull on your heart. I find it comments on loneliness, and even when we can be surrounded by people in many different areas of our lives you are always having your own experience seperate from what is going on around you. It also found it showed that once you start on a journey, you may not end up where you expect.
11. The Core
Dir: Jon Amiel
You may be confused at this point of the journey. I know this film probably comes as a surprize and it surprizes me to included it. What has stuck with me about this film is depiction of and what it says about leadership. A line from it that has stuck with me is (paraphrased) "You can't be a leader until you failed". I still think about this and wonder if I agree with it, and what it means. I really didn't expect this reaction from what is essentially a action/adventure disaster-ish film. You can sometimes never tell what will make an impact.
Dir: Francis Lawrence
USA/Germany , 2005
This is quite likely my favorite film from 2005. It gives me hope for art and style in film. The art direction and costuming are absolutely perfect. What a wonderful re-interpretation of characters that have been shown a million times over. I often get asked as I'm interested in fashion as well as film and worked in theatre whether I would ever do costuming and I always have said no. After seeing this film I can see why people would do it.
© Shannon Ridler, 2006