Our Favourite Films (part 3)

Part 3 of a new series – each Film & Media teacher will list their favourite films and explain why. What better recommendation for all film students than an amazing selection of films from film teachers?

Part 3 is brought to you by Mark Young.

1/ Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2000)– As far as I’m concerned, Lynch is the most important filmmaker in the history of motion pictures.  If one man understands the power of film to blur the line between dream and reality it’s Lynch.  I’ve put no horror films on my list because there is nothing more horrifying than some of the scenes in either this, Fire Walk With Me or Lost Highway.  Pure horror. No forced scenes or jump scares, just the exact same feeling one might have from a bad dream.  Genius.  Of all of his films Mulholland Drive is possibly his most complete; a tour-de-force where all of his themes and ambitions – and nightmares – come together perfectly.  And it was this film where I finally realised one has to view Lynch’s work as a circle rather than a straight line. 

2/ Dogs In Space (Lowenstein, 1986)– a slice of Aussie punk /slacker life during the late 70’s starring INXS singer Michael Hutchence. I was quite fascinated with Australian Cinema while I was finding my feet as a filmmaker (especially a lot of ‘underground’ ‘art’ filmmaking) This film has stuck with me more than most and not only has a great soundtrack featuring Iggy Pop, Gang of Four and Aussie legends such as Ollie Olsen and, of course, Hutchence but its style is something else. An impressive realism, so much so, that it’s almost entirely devoid of story so to speak but propels us through the drug fuelled, bedsit punk lifestyle of a Melbourne few probably saw. I’m aware this makes it sound pretty dull but it’s captivating, inspiring and made me realise how film could work differently in order to tell a story – or rather – capture a mood.

3/ Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984)– The 80’s is a great period for Hollywood blockbusters. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981), the continuation of the Star Wars story, and many more. However, it was the comedy genre that was most successful in making the leap to bone-fide blockbuster. Gremlins (Dante, 1984) The Blues Brothers (Landis, 1980), Trading Places (Landis, 1983) all major blockbuster comedies (and all have their foundations in Saturday Night Live) Chief of these is Ghostbusters. Very funny, very New York and just a joy from start to finish. For what it’s worth, Ghostbusters 2 (Reitman, 1989) and the reboot Ghostbusters (Feig, 2016) while never quite reaching the heights of the original are also full of laughs and have been unfairly lambasted.

4/ Escape From New York (Carpenter, 1981)– I love John Carpenter.  Even his big budget stuff feels low budget at times (probably because he did his own soundtracks on a cheap sounding keyboard) Escape From New York has an incredible anti-hero, Snake Plissken, who has to rescue the President from a near-future New York which has been turned into a high security prison.  It’s dark yet garish, cynical, spiteful yet funny.  It’s the start of classic 80’s cinema and Hollywood’s real second Golden Age had begun.  Hollywood was going to be very confident about it’s output for the next few years.

5/ Sign O’ The Times (Prince, 1987)– Prince was an incredible musician but a terrible filmmaker. However, this concert movie (with a few neon segues thrown in) is an incredible document of the best performer of the 80’s – more than that, it shows a genius at the peak of his powers. Prince was a mystery who could seemingly do everything and anything whenever he wanted – his mystique only lasted a few more years after this but at this point there was no other musician who could touch him. It’s not a musical, of course, but Dancer in the Dark (Von Trier, 2000) is. This (kind of, in a cheating way) makes my list because – and I should point out I don’t usually like musicals – purely because of Bjork. Bjork’s songs are wonderful but never mind those; I have never seen an acting performance quite like this. Actually, check that. This isn’t a performance. Bjork becomes Selma rather than acts Selma. It nearly broke her and she never acted again.

6/ Bladerunner (Scott, 1982)– I’ve always loved sci-fi, from the brilliant British lo-budget of Blake’s 7 to the glossy battles of Star Wars and Star Trek. Bladerunner was a step up, however. Rather than being a Western in space as most sci-fi before it, Bladerunner is Film Noir. Stylish, moody and thought provoking and with Harrison Ford as Deckard – a character as far removed from Han Solo as you can get – providing a direct comparison with the sci-fi soap opera of Star Wars. It’s beautiful to watch and truly immersing. Also worth checking out is the incredible documentary Dangerous Days – Making Bladerunner. Special mentions to the Alien series of films and The Matrix trilogy.

7/ Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren, 1943)– I am hugely influenced by surrealist film. I could have easily chosen Un Chien Andalou (Bunuel (1929) or L’Age d’or (Bunuel 1930) and, perhaps, on another day I would.  But Meshes is genuinely one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.  A huge influence on the work of Lynch, this short film offers dream images that are hard to shake off once you’ve seen it.  Some say the purpose of cinema is to create a dream state.  If so, this is surely the ultimate film.   

8/ Withnail and I (Robinson, 1986)– The funniest British comedy ever?  Sure, the Python films and Shaun of the Dead might say otherwise but this wonderfully quotable take on ‘stranger in a strange land’ gets better with every viewing.  From the dark underbelly of turn of the decade decadent 1960’s London to the strange characters of the bleak English countryside via Withnail’s warped view of his own destiny, this is not only hilarious but that final scene is so poignant it genuinely makes you want Withnail to find a way out 1969. But one suspects he never does. 

9/ Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)– Theses lists are so hard but I needed to put this film in.  I haven’t watched it in ages but it’s Scorsese, it’s De Niro, it’s a dirty and bankrupt New York.  It’s fascinating.  I swing between grimy realism, neon gloss and surreal dreamscapes in my choices.  De Niro is so good you don’t even realise he’s the bad guy until it’s too late. 

10/ Meeting People is Easy (Gee, 1998)– I watched quite a few documentaries before shooting and completing my first feature. Films that told great stories from seemingly modest subject matter stood out such as Dogtown & Z-Boys (Peralta, 2001) and Grizzly Man (Herzog, 2005). But the biggest influence by far was the lo-fi aesthetics present by Grant Gee for his film about Radiohead. Obviously, the music is great but the tension of a band about to reject all the trappings of fame is immense. A band on the edge, trapped and needing to break free from the loneliness and pressure – they had become everything they were writing about. Special mention to Man With A Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929) – one of the films that invented cinema as we know it.

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