Thursday, March 26, 2015


It was a Saturday evening ten years ago today. I plopped my six-month old daughter in my lap in front of the television, all because once upon a time there used to be this thing that I loved. I loved it a lot. And it was there throughout my childhood until one day it wasn't any more. As I grew older, I forgot about it a little bit. Until I forgot about it a lot.

I heard the odd rumbling every now and then that it was coming back. To be honest, I wasn't even that excited. It had tried to come back before.

Yet there I was, sitting there, my gurgling, squirming progeny cradled in the crook of my arms. I leaned in towards my daughter’s ear and I said: “This is Doctor Who. You’re gonna love it.”

The music started. That music. That strange, ethereal, swooping music. And that little blue box from years gone by was suddenly back - swirling and hurtling into a cascading blue vortex. In so many ways, it all came rushing back.

"I'm the Doctor, by the way, what's your name?"
"Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!"

People sometimes like to say that the hairs stand up on the back of their neck, but they don’t mean it most of the time. Not really. It’s just evocative shorthand.

You know what? The hairs did stand up on the back of my neck.

From a dispassionate, purely objective, critical point of view, it wasn't perfect. It was slightly clunky and ramshackle in the endearing way that it always had been. Thing is: I’m not a dispassionate person. To me, it was perfection.

I was right, by the way, she did grow up to love it. Keep running, Doctor.

UPDATE: When I wrote the above, I hadn't yet read the below. Great minds and all that...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dear Mr. Vernon...

"We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all."

Thirty-one years since those eight hours and fifty-four minutes of detention within the concrete walls of Shermer High School. Thirty-one years since the Glorious Ruckus of The Breakfast Club.

Things I know now that I didn't back then, looking down the barrel of the last thirty-one years:

When you grow up, your heart doesn't die. Quite the opposite, in fact. Although there'll be plenty of days when you wish otherwise.

In so many ways, on every precarious level of the scaffolding on which we construct our lives, screws do fall out all the time. The world is an imperfect place.

I still don't know what the naked lady with a poodle under her arm says to the bartender. Because...the world is an imperfect place.

Being bad does feel pretty good.

I used to wear a fingerless leather glove, just like John Bender. I didn't buy it. I found it on the platform at Bayswater station on a boozy teenage Friday night and kept it. Until an ex-girlfriend threw it away years later. I feel more like Bender now than I did then. I've got a real problem with authority figures…

Unlike Bender, I've never worn an earring.

Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Listomania! A Decade-by-Decade Spectacular!

It all started on Tuesday morning when I noticed the #90sTen hashtag on Twitter. So I chimed in. A couple of hours later I spotted #30sTen. Then last night around midnight I thought I’d fill in the gaps to appease my thirst for symmetry.

I don’t sleep much.

So here are those Lists of Movies I Love in their entirety. The usual don’t-argue-with-me caveats apply: lists are subjective / personal / meaningless / idiosyncratic / a bit silly / subject to change at any moment. And they aren't ranked - it’s just ten per decade (with a Bonus Round of five for Our Decade In Progress) - don’t read anything into the order I've placed them in. Here we go...

The 1930s

The Edge of the World (1937 - Michael Powell)
It Happened One Night (1934 - Frank Capra)
M (1931 - Fritz Lang)
Ninotchka (1939 - Ernst Lubitsch)
Nothing Sacred (1937 - William A. Wellman)
Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933 - Fritz Lang)
The Thin Man (1934 - W.S. Van Dyke)
Topper (1937 - Norman Z. McLeod)
Vampyr (1932 - Carl Theodor Dreyer)
The Wizard of Oz (1939 - Victor Fleming)

The 1940s

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948 - Charles Barton)
L'assassin habite au 21 (1942 - Henri-Georges Clouzot)
Ladri di biciclette (1948 - Vittorio De Sica)
The Big Sleep (1946 - Howard Hawks)
It Happened Tomorrow (1944 - René Clair)
The Lady from Shanghai (1947 - Orson Welles)
A Matter of Life and Death (1946 - Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)
Out of the Past (1947 - Jacques Tourneur)
The Red Shoes (1948 - Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)
The Set-Up (1949 - Robert Wise)

The 1950s

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1958 - Louis Malle)
Les Diaboliques (1955 - Henri-Georges Clouzot)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 - Don Siegel)
The Killing (1956 - Stanley Kubrick)
Rififi (1955 - Jules Dassin)
Rio Bravo (1959 - Howard Hawks)
Le Salaire de la peur (1953 - Henri-Georges Clouzot)
Some Like It Hot (1959 - Billy Wilder)
Tokyo Story (1953 - Yasujirô Ozu)
Touch of Evil (1958 - Orson Welles)

Additional Reading Material - that’s the second appearance of Orson Welles so far, which seems like the perfect opportunity to share once more one of my favourite pieces of Welles frippery - the cantankerous majesty of his Findus Frozen Peas recording session outtakes.

The 1960s

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 - Stanley Kubrick)
Branded to Kill (1967 - Seijun Suzuki)
Cool Hand Luke (1967 - Stuart Rosenberg)
In the Heat of the Night (1967 - Norman Jewison)
Night of the Living Dead (1968 - George A. Romero)
Once Upon A Time in the West (1968 - Sergio Leone)
Psycho (1960 - Alfred Hitchcock)
Le Samouraï (1967 - Jean-Pierre Melville)
The Wild Bunch (1969 - Sam Peckinpah)
and Leone's Dollars Trilogy (yeah, that’s right, I’m totally cheating)

Additional Reading Material - My 4,000 word piece on Seijun Suzuki’s hazy hitman masterwork Branded to Kill.

The 1970s

Alien (1979 - Ridley Scott)
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976 - John Carpenter)
Chinatown (1974 - Roman Polanski)
Dirty Harry (1971 - Don Siegel)
Enter the Dragon (1973 - Robert Clouse)
The Exorcist (1973 - William Friedkin)
Saturday Night Fever (1977 - John Badham)
Shaft (1971 - Gordon Parks)
Superman (1978 - Richard Donner)
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971 - Mel Stuart)

The 1980s

48 Hrs. (1982 - Walter Hill)
Back to the Future (1985 - Robert Zemeckis)
Blood Simple (1984 - Joel and Ethan Coen)
The Blues Brothers (1980 - John Landis)
Body Double (1984 - Brian De Palma)
Die Hard (1988 - John McTiernan)
Down By Law (1986 - Jim Jarmusch)
Midnight Run (1988 - Martin Brest)
The Thing (1982 - John Carpenter)
Trading Places (1983 - John Landis)

Additional Reading Material - The highlights of a John Landis Q&A session at the BFI Southbank back in 2010.

The 1990s

Boogie Nights (1997 - Paul Thomas Anderson)
Cop Land (1997 - James Mangold)
Galaxy Quest (1999 - Dean Parisot)
Groundhog Day (1993 - Harold Ramis)
Hard Boiled (1992 - John Woo)
Léon (1994 - Luc Besson)
Miami Blues (1990 - George Armitage)
The Mission (1999 - Johnnie To)
Pulp Fiction (1994 - Quentin Tarantino)
Toy Story (1995 - John Lasseter)

The 2000s

28 Days Later (2002 - Danny Boyle)
Battle Royale (2000 - Kinji Fukasaku)
Black Snake Moan (2006 - Craig Brewer)
Exiled (2006 - Johnnie To)
Ichi the Killer (2001 - Takashi Miike)
Infernal Affairs (2002 - Wai-Keung Lau and Alan Mak)
The School of Rock (2003 - Richard Linklater)
Shaun of the Dead (2004 - Edgar Wright)
Monsters, Inc. (2001 - Pete Docter)
WALL-E (2008 - Andrew Stanton)

Additional Reading Material - From the same publication as my piece on Branded to Kill, here is my article on Battle Royale. This one is super lucky!

2010 to 2015 

Killer Joe (2011 - William Friedkin)
The Lone Ranger (2013 - Gore Verbinski)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010 - Edgar Wright)
Under the Skin (2013 - Jonathan Glazer)
Wreck-It Ralph (2012 - Rich Moore)

Additional Reading Material - William Friedkin visited London’s BFI Southbank for an on-stage Q&A to coincide with the release of Killer Joe - you can read the highlights here. And I really, really love The Lone Ranger - if you want to know why, click here.