#30DayFilmChallenge – Week Five

Cineworld’s campaign on social media is the perfect fit for my blog, so I decided to do a post a week for six weeks, combining brief answers with more comprehensive rambles.

It’s interesting to ask yourself these questions and try to think of anecdotes, because it’s those experiences that truly resonate – and why we love films and the cinematic experience.

That is what I miss the most, and will miss even more the longer that I can’t safely return to my local cinema!

(Read part one, including days one to five, here; read part two, including days six to ten, here; read part three, including days eleven to fifteen, here; and read part four, including days sixteen to twenty, here)


Day 21 – a film that made you want to fall in love

This is the type of question that works well for some, and not so well for others (like, for instance, me). I don’t think I can say I’ve seen a film that made me feel like that – the problem with most movie love stories is that they’re highly improbable, and paint an idealised picture for obvious reasons.

Romcoms really aren’t my thing either, as they usually just follow a very set pattern and it’s rare that one stands out above the rest (the “com” side is what sets them apart most of the time, not the “rom”). My generation of guys were also teenagers at the time of the American Pie movies, which probably goes some way to explaining why a lot went on to have ridiculous ways of viewing women.

However, none of this really answers the question – because I don’t have an answer. So what I’ll do instead is point out a rom-com/teen film that still stands above the rest of the dross – both because of its cast and its intelligent modernisation of a Shakespeare play.


I was too young to appreciate this when it first came out, but on seeing quite a few times since I realised why it had become such a cult favourite. It was genius for its time in that it followed in the footsteps of Clueless (a very underrated teen film) by adapting a famous literary classic into a modern (for the time, anyway) American teenage world.

This film works because while it does have “the happy ending”, the manipulations and comedy are effortlessly ported over from The Taming of the Shrew and given that modern spin without too much of the sexism (this was the 90s after all). And it mainly succeeds because of the core of its great young cast who went on do a hell of a lot more – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles and most notably Heath Ledger.

If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favour and watch it. It rode on the coattails of the impressive Romeo + Juliet and showed that while the 90s was not great for a lot of things, it at least allowed filmmakers to take Shakespeare and other older plays and books and transpose them to the modern day with wit and intelligence.

Day 22 – your favourite film set in a fantasy world

It couldn’t really be anything else – and I’m technically cheating here again with this choice, because it would be all three of these as opposed to just one. But then I’m needing to use each film for different answers as we go through the weeks – so why not take advantage of a trilogy in that instance!


I’ve already talked about how big a deal these films were and are to me, so suffice to say here there’s not much more to add except that there was definitely a time when I would have devoured any extra Tolkien content, whether it be video games or whatnot – and now there’s a TV show coming that’s filling in gaps not seen on screen in Middle-earth, I can sense the nerdiness coming back full throttle.

Return of the King has its many critics, just like The Hobbit films, but that’s the beauty of liking things – not everyone else does. And when you’re a huge, almost ridiculously eager fan of something it’s harder to take the criticism. This film floored me when I saw it aged 16, as it was an incredible capstone on a trilogy I was obsessed with – yes, it has “many” endings, but the people who say that ought to read the book, which carries on for about 100 more pages after this film ends AND has appendices. Honestly.

The world Tolkien created is so rich in text, but the combination of New Zealand’s epic landscapes and the filmmaking ingenuity did so much to give it a tangible, realistic feel that I can read the book and picture the landscapes from the films, complementing Tolkien’s extremely detailed descriptions. I would quite happily lose myself to an open world video game set in a realistically designed and explorable Middle-earth, and thank god nobody’s done that (yet).

Day 23 – a film that means a lot to you personally

This is perhaps one of the more disarming questions from this whole challenge, to be quite honest. A lot of films end up being meaningful because of when you watch them, or when you first saw them – that relationship to your emotional state, your age or your current situation. It means otherwise non event films can hit harder or have an impact beyond what you expected, no matter how stupidly high concept or cheesy they are.


This film is hilariously bad in some ways, and sweepingly epic and surprisingly mature in others. It’s a SCREAMINGLY 1980s movie and yet has such promises of depth that you almost lament how more wasn’t made of it at the time or since. It’s no wonder it’s a cult film.

However – it means something to me personally because I’d never seen it before, until March 2017. At this time, I had just escaped one job I’d wanted out of and got another, and I was on an Emirates flight to Dubai to report on my final event for the previous job. Needless to say, a pretty great final trip for anyone in any career!

It wasn’t all great though, as my grandad was about to pass away from cancer, and it had been a grim few weeks followed by a final goodbye the day before I went. So it’s safe to say my emotional state was “febrile”, and Emirate’s free booze for economy passengers helped and hindered that at the same time!

I was looking forward as always on that length of flight (remember flights?!) to watching as many films as I could in seven hours, and I came across Highlander, which I’d never seen but had wanted to. Flash forward to partway through the film, and the deployment of Michael Kamen’s stirring orchestral cover of Queen’s Live Forever (which I had never heard properly, nor knew was from this film).

The one scene in which the protagonist Conor – an immortal – is shown, Up-style, living his life with his wife as she grows older and passes away was inexplicably an emotional thunderbolt for me. I didn’t cry, but the booze, cabin air and the general feelings I was having at that moment made this otherwise cheesy film mean quite a lot to me out of nowhere – and I had a very strong emotional reaction I’ve not had before or since.

I’ve watched it since and the power of that scene has obviously diminished – but the film itself is a great, cheesy and unique fantasy/action smorgasboard – and despite disliking Queen like I dislike the Beatles (yes, shut up), I continue to go back to Live Forever as a quite remarkable, emotional piece of music (it’s no wonder it’s one of the top funeral songs). And I’ll not forget that strong connection of emotion and cinema every time I hear some of the score or catch a glimpse some of the film.

PS: Highlander is RIPE for a big budget reboot, though The Old Guard on Netflix from 10 July appears to have stolen that particular bit of thunder!

Day 24 – a film made by your favourite director

This is so tough! I don’t know that I have one favourite director – but I do have many favourite directors. But I’ll go boring because I’ve already discussed Christopher Nolan twice, gushed about Denis Villeneuve and because I’ve only mentioned one of this guy’s films so far, incredibly.


Every single time this film is on TV I have to watch it. I’ve seen it so many times and it’s always good – I mean, how could Harrison Ford beating the shit out of Nazis to the music of John Williams not be great entertainment?! From its charismatic lead right through to the excellent supporting cast of Nazi bastards and (non) Egyptian sidekicks, plus the aforementioned epic score and thrilling action, this is peak Spielberg and just brilliant from start to finish.

Day 25 – a film that inspired you

This is definitely the toughest week so far, I have to say! Inspiration implies a film that has made me want to do something better, to achieve more – which, when you consider a lot of films are very heightened and not at all anywhere near real life, means you have to think hard about how something might be inspirational beyond its setting (and think more about its messaging or what it’s trying to say or argue).

To be honest, for me it’s more about learning about something you weren’t aware of, and pursuing that down the rabbit hole that is Wikipedia or general reading. So I would narrow this down to historical films, or those based on historical events. It’s probably not an understatement to say that it’s important to learn from the past so as to not make the same mistakes again – though a lot of dickheads seem not to agree (or get their little whiny boy pants in a twist worrying about statues of slave owners they have no connection to as a cover for their own racism. Sorry, got sidetracked there).

This more often than not leads down the path of war films and war cinema, which when done well (and not with a jingoistic focus) can actually paint a vivid picture of a past event or situation that you had no idea about beforehand. Just from this year, 1917 fulfilled that by painstakingly recreating the horrors of the WW1 trenches; in its own way, so did Tolkien last year.

I could fill multiple blog posts with WW2 films that taught me new things and fired my imagination, but there are almost too many to list. On the fighting side you have Saving Private RyanDunkirk and other such films of varying quality or adherence to fact; this also applies to the horrors of the Holocaust with Schindler’s List and The Pianist.

There are also films that reflect more modern events and world changing moments – Flight 93, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty on 9/11 and the War on Terror; and the superb The Big Short on the credit crunch and global recession. This even filters down to the smaller scale but no less important movies such as Spotlight, The Post or Philomena, exposing past criminality and sometimes resolving (but not always) the damage done.

In essence, there’s not one film but dozens upon dozens I’d say were inspirational to me, both as a journalist and editor as well as someone interested in history and the lessons it can teach us every day. Any film like these, even those with glaring historical errors or bizarre plot devices designed for audiences rather than truthful representation, fire my personal need to learn more about the past.

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