I write one of these posts per-week, which normally necessitates emailing NME.COM Deputy Editor Luke Lewis on a Monday and saying “what should I write a blog about this week, Luke?” Normally he comes up with some visionary idea for me to wax lyrical on. This week he just said, “um… why don’t you write about the ten films that changed your life?” I think he was busy. Oooh look, here’s Star Wars…
From the off: I’m always skeptical of lists like this, mainly because I’m always waiting for some sort of Spartacus-like revelation akin to, “this is the film that made me realize that I was bored of humanity and actually wanted to spend the rest of my life pretending to be a wolf. Oh, by the way, I’m Spartacus. aWooooo”. Normally they just end up being a list of films someone likes. But I’ve done my best to pick movies that have proved to be turning points in my life, or at the very least signposted interests and obsessions.
What I’m more interested in than anything though, are the films that changed your life. The movies that made you see things differently or inspired something in you that made your life better, worse or just different. I do think cinema can do that with more aplomb than most art forms, just because of their length and room for emotions. Do leave those films in the comments below mine. I’d love to read them…
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Part of me wants to lie and say it was something highbrow like The Battleship Potemkin that ignited my lifelong adoration of cinema. Only it wasn’t. It was this oft derided early eighties German fantasy film (think The Lord Of The Rings made with bits of junk found at the bottom of the cupboard). It’s the first film I ever remember seeing at the cinema – from that point on my favourite place – and I still find myself sat through boring movies thinking, “this would be miles better if it had a flying dog in it”.
Clash Of The Titans (1981)
Before Hollywood butchered it for a 2010 remake, Clash Of The Titans was animator Ray Harryhausen’s finest moment. Before I wanted to be, then became a writer I wanted to be an animator. You can probably see where this is going. Sadly – oh so very sadly – that didn’t happen, but the reason why the film makes this list is that in many ways it still shaped how my life played out. I applied for animation school in 1997. I didn’t get in. I cried. Then I decided I’d be a writer instead. Nevertheless, sometimes this film is shown on wet bank holidays and I feel insufferably sad.
The Omen (1976)
Whilst Richard Donner’s film didn’t make me attempt the murder of any sullen pre-schoolers, it was the film that turned me on to horror. This in turn has led to me spending the majority of my free time therein watching people’s brains get nom nom nom-ed/tormented by Japanese women who can’t dry their hair properly. I always remember the first time I saw it, on crackly VHS, gripped by fear one Saturday morning before my parents woke up. It instilled an obsessional thrill in me that I’ve spent my entire life trying to replicate.
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School isn’t a very good film. But it does have The Ramones in it, and thus is better than fucking Inception. It’s also the film that made me want to form a band, which, while it didn’t particularly change my life, did lead to the thrill of John Peel saying my name on the radio and being familiar with the innards of the nation’s very worst toilet venues. I saw the film at an age before I was allowed to go to see bands on my own. Imagine my disappointment when I realized most of them were like The Bluetones (my first gig) and not da Bruddas.
Brassed Off (1996)
It helped that it was set on my doorstep – the film is set in ‘Grimley’, a thinly disguised take on South Yorkshire’s Grimethorpe – but I can’t think of anything that set me on the road to being politicised quite as much as Brassed Off did. Set against a backdrop of pit closure, the film is an evocative snapshot of a defiant but dying community. The Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez scene early on (“that’s orange juice to you”) still makes me swell with emotion. More than that, it still leaves me feeling consumed with fury.
There’s a moment in your life when you realize the fragility of everything that’s important to you. That might be friends or family, or just the continuation of the life you lead. That moment is crystallized for me by the closing scene of David Fincher’s mid-nineties film. I watched it as a teenager, alone, and when that scene came, I remember rushing to telephone everyone who meant anything to me to make sure they were okay. Call it testament to the power of the filmmaking, or just the mindset of an overly emotional young man. But it certainly reminded me to treasure what I love.
I fell in love with Japan the moment I saw it being smashed to shit. I fell in love with Godzilla too, who’s become a sort of pop-culture idol of mine, appearing in the lyrics to my old band’s songs, covers of fanzines I made, as well as his figurine form adorning every surface of my house. With knowledge of him came that of Japan, a country that culturally has shaped much of what I listen to and watch. In April I go there for the first time, for two weeks, basically to geek out. If I get arrested and deported for breathing fire, you know who to blame.
Without Danny Boyle’s adaptation of the Irvine Welsh book I wouldn’t be a writer. Seeing the film led me to discovering Welsh’s books – for the first time: exciting, unpretentious, unflorid stories about stuff that I actually cared about – which, much like all those anecdotes you’ve heard about punk, led me to think, “yeah, I can probably do this too”. What’s more, for me the film is a snapshot of the mid-nineties, which if you were a teenager, felt a bit like a time when you could do anything. Maybe all teenagers feel like that, but I’m not sure my dad felt it watching Bridge On The River Kwai.
If you’ve never seen it before, Michelangelo Antonioni’s first English language film tells the story of a photographer’s accidental involvement with a murder. If you have, then you’ll know that few films showcase London as being quite so exciting. I first saw the film six years ago, a writer living in Newcastle knowing that writers in Newcastle have to do other stuff too. Bored of collecting towels for bands in the promoter’s assistant gig I held down, a viewing of the film made me think, “I need to blow this joint” (why it suddenly made me speak in the language of a 1950’s Chicago gangster, I don’t know). Sadly the film doesn’t show what a depressing place Wood Green is in winter, but I’ve never regretted the move.
A few months off being thirty, 2010 saw me tired of the day in and day out of what my life had become. I went to see Kick-Ass at a screening three months in and came out of the theatre knowing what I needed to do. I needed to leave my job. I needed to immerse myself within my passions. I needed to change everything I didn’t like about my life. If you haven’t seen it yet (and its poor box-office showing suggests you may have not) then it’s that sort of film. A film that spends its running time frantically screeching, “LIFE IS AMAZING IF YOU WANT IT TO BE”. I hope more people do see it, just so they can feel that way too.