My top, 5/5 stars movies to pass a pandemic with.

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Movie reviews/top 10 films list

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Summary reviews, by Jason Day, of his top ten movies of all time, the films that have either influenced or entertained him the most. Chosen to either help you see something a bit different or to just pass a pandemic with.

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Is it really more than a month since I was last allowed to go to the cinema?

Have more than four weeks elapsed since I was allowed tripped along to the Northampton Filmhouse to see the latest – and very enjoyable – version of Emma?

Well, yes they have and I use the word allowed deliberately for as you well know, cinemas like theatres, concert venues etc. are subject to a nationwide ‘lockdown’ until the coronavirus storm has passed.

I never thought I’d be refused permission to make my once – sometimes twice – weekly trip to my local cinema, or even need to seek permission.

But there we have it. As I keep hearing people say, we live in unprecedented/difficult/strange times.

Cinematic production has all but ceased and many films up for a spring release have been shelved for the immediate future.

The latest James Bond No Time to Die – originally scheduled for an April release – being one of the notable ‘on the shelf’ pieces. But Bond movies earn big bucks at the cinema, so it was wise for the producers to call a pause.

The Guardian also reported in March that the US box office recorded zero revenue for the first time in history.

So, in come home cinema services to fill the void. Many of these have huge numbers of subscribers already and – in Netflix’s case – produce and release their own movies. It will be interesting to see what their performance has been when the dust clears after this unexpected bounty.

Obviously, I look forward with relish at seeing movies on the big screen again but for now I offer my top 10, 5/5 stars movie favourites of all time to help you nudge to seeing something different or just to pass a pandemic with.

Intolerance (1916)

I’m a huge fan of silent cinema, but I appreciate others might not feel the same – and how dare you!

Still, it’s as good a time as any to see something different, so I have dropped a few in here that had a real impact on me and are great examples of the silent cinema art form.

This mighty epic by the ‘father of cinema’ D.W. Griffith was originally so vast it kept Russian movie school students busy for years editing and re-editing the footage to create different ‘meanings’ and directly informed an entire cinematic movement (montage).

Even in its various trimmed down edits, Intolerance is still an unwieldy, rambling piece, but it still shows more than a century after it was first released that no one since Griffith has been able to match him in terms of crafting such movie behemoths (he was, after all, directing crowd scenes of hundreds of people some distance from long before mobile phones or walkie-talkies).

It’s totally mad, sometimes bad bad but not especially dangerous to know (sometimes, all at once) as Griffith, with increasing skill and ferocity, cross-cuts between four wildly different eras of history to make a thuddingly wet point (love conquers all, you know) but it still has a lot of ‘Oooh!’ moments not least in the staggering, luscious, daringly staged Babylonian sequences.

For more, see the full review here.

Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

The Wind (1928)

For me, this style of cinema – practically a genre itself – is the pink, the pearl and the perfection of the artform.

As is actress Lillian Gish (who turned down the female lead in Faust) the outwardly fragile but steel-backed heart of The Wind, a throbbingly beautiful, slyly sexual drama.

She plays an outwardly delicate, seemingly innocent lass from the country visiting a friend in rough-hewn Texas, forced into marrying a man she doesn’t love. She kills a would-be rapist…but that’s just the start of her troubles.

Gish portrays Letty as a force of nature, like the ever-present wind that howls around her, with an inner core of steel and untapped sexuality that is as dangerous as any meteorological onslaught.

For more, see the full review.

Available on DVD and (hopefully!) soon on Amazon UK and Google Play.

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Film poster for Gone with the Wind (1939)

Producer David O. Selznick was determined to work with Gish (again! I’m a bit of a fan). So determined in fact he offered her a supporting role in this, the most successful movie he made in a distinguished career for an independent producer during Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’.

She turned down the chance to play prostitute Belle Watling in what would have been one of the greatest examples of miscasting in cinema history.

Relatively unknown English actress Vivien Leigh shot to international stardom as spoiled, spirited, slap-happy southern belle Scarlet O’Hara who matures during one of the most turbulent times in American history.

Clark Gable plays Rhett Butler, her enamoured but grounded suitor.

Adjusted for inflation it is, to date, the movie most successful movie of all time in terms of box office earnings.

For more, see the full review.

Amazon Prime; Google Play; iTunes.

Great Expectations (1946)

Charles Dickens must have been dancing in his crypt with delight when director David Lean and producer/co-writer Ronald Neame turned their masterful hands to adapting what is arguably the Victorian author’s most famous novel.

This movie is the perfect marriage of a faithful, nuanced script, impeccable acting and evocative visuals.

John Mills plays Pip, the working-class boy plucked from obscurity by an unseen benefactor who feels he has the titular potential.

The cold and imperious love of his life Estella is masterfully played by Jean Simmons (as a child) and Valerie Hobson (as an adult), the latter of whom, as the real life Mrs John Profumo, would go on to be drawn in to the British political scandal of the century.

For more, see the full review.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

This melodrama about a deranged silent movie star who ensares a failed screenwriter in her incredible comeback delusions is the film that shaped me.

After first seeing it aged 15, I was knocked sideways by its sleek look, funeral music, witty, biting, script and superlative, career best performances.

I judge all cinema by this one film.

Yes, it’s melodramatic and at times ridiculous, perverse, over-done and almost desperately avante garde (for American cinema of this time), but that’s partly why it’s great!

For more, see the full review.

Amazon Prime; Google Play; iTunes

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Prior to seeing Sunset Boulevard there was another movie that captured my interest in films, but more in terms of ‘how did they do that?!’ than the quality of its music, script and acting.

This blockbuster disaster drama – it was the biggest hit across cinemas for 1972 – is pretty easy to sum up. A decrepit ocean liner, full of sort-of famous stars, is hit by a huge wave and is capsized.

The survivors must tread their way through the broken innards of the vessel – upside down – toward the bottom of the ship where they pray for rescue. Leading those prayers is Gene Hackman as a renegade preacher.

It was seeing that capsize sequence on TV, aged 12, that made me head for the local library to read up about how director Ronald Neame did it.

For more, see the full review.

Airplane! (1980)

image film poster airplane

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking!”

We all need a good laugh, so I had to put a comedy in to this list and this movie has so many laughs from perfect punning, clever wordplay and downright childish, toilet humour gags, it’s impossible to not sniggers yourself senseless.

This giddily giggly send-up of the glut of disaster dramas that hogged 1970’s cinema screens features a classic cast of B-movie stars lampooning their former screen personas, including Poseidon Adventure captain Leslie Nielsen as the most professionally unprofessional doctors

Robert Stack, Peter Graves and especially Lloyd Bridges help out with the tittering tally.

For more, see the full review.

Amazon Prime; Google Play; iTunes.

Inside Out (2015)

I’m no fan of animated films; their tendency to rely on anachronism and glib, childish humour (yes, I know they are aimed at kiddies and families) can really irk me sometimes.

But this one is just stunning and will raise you up with very funny jokes suitable for all and drop you in to a comparative pit of genuinely moving moments that will have you in tears.

It also isn’t often you say that complex, psychological theories about memory processing are explained lucidly and entertainingly by a cartoon. This blessed Disney production does just that, in less than a minute of screen time.

This is a treat for children and adults alike.

For more, see the full review.

Amazon Prime; Google Play; iTunes.

BlackKklansman (2017)

image poster blackkklansman

I still think it was a crime – or should be a crime – that Spike Lee’s 70’s detective drama about a black cop infiltrating the KKK by helping Jewish pal Adam Driver ‘act’ more like him, didn’t get at least one more Oscar.

Lee won for best adapted screenplay but his super-cool style makes the movie so seductively streetwise, that it’s irresistibly entertaining and gives a strong, but not overpowering, social message about tackling racism.

For more, see the full review.

Amazon Prime; Google Play; iTunes.

Marriage Story (2019)

Driver again in another movie that also deserved a few more Oscars. He plays the seemingly perfect man married to the seemingly perfect woman (Scarlet Johansson) who finds the front room rug pulled unceremoniously from under him when the missus says she wants a divorce.

Their mutual antipathy is slowly, lovingly built up and it’s with a stunningly written and filmed showdown that the couple’s emotional break finally begins.

Both stars are ace, but the best turn comes from Laura Dern as Johansson’s lawyer, who reeks of false friendliness and PR soundbites.

For more, see the full review.

Netflix.

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