Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Ultimate 501 Films (Or So My New Book Thinks)

Like food, books is my means of survival. While a glass of milk provides bone-strengthening vitamins and protein, reading a chapter in a novel supplies the excitement and entertainment which I constantly crave. Without books, my life would be as lonely and miserable as Madonna's gloomy Frozen music video (no association with record-breaking Disney animations or cute snowmen). 

Although this summer has been enjoyable - despite the blistering heat, TV programmes as trashy as a recycling centre and so on - I probably would not be enjoying it as much if my trustworthy pal, le livre, wasn't around to spend six weeks of school-free holiday with me. I've just begun to read the classic 1967 novel, The Outsiders, and feel at ease whilst I'm learning about the hard-going lives of 'greaser' Ponyboy and his friends. 

The humidity might be bringing out all the flies and insects from their hiding places at the moment and, if my brother is correct, the best programme shown at the moment is Power Rangers, but summer is as heavenly as I imagined several weeks ago - and even more so because books are only a reach away.

When I travelled to the nearest town yesterday afternoon, I decided to head to the high street and visit a bookshop which, despite being one of the handful left, will be closing down next month. As most shops hold big sales before they finally get the chop, I was keen to pop in there for a while and have a look around - an ideal opportunity for my inner bookworm and bargainista to unite in search of a discounted book!

By the time that I'd left, I had picked up four different books - two novels by Jane Austen, a teen vampire novel and an encyclopedia whose hefty weight was as heavy as my annual horde of Christmas chocolates. And the whole purchase only set me back £8 or so; I doubt that even Amazon would have beaten it! 

But, once I got home (as rain splashed onto my just-washed hair), I wasn't thinking about Jane Austen or a quick-witted teenage vampire; it was the encyclopedia which had definitely caught my eye. Unlike most encyclopedias I see, this one was guaranteed to not bore me to sleep way before my bedtime nor be added to the family's collection of unsellable junk several years later. It is, indeed, a dream come true for an arts lover like myself... because the book is all about the best 501 films ever made. 

Even my dad, who was in the bookshop at the time, was taken aback when I picked up the encyclopedia and announced my intention to purchase it. As my younger brother has long been renowned as a film buff, Dad thought that the book would be better suited to his interests but, like the saying goes, I proved him wrong! A week or two before, I'd received an encyclopedia titled 501 Must-Read Books which I have so far liked, yet the film-themed one stood out to me as soon as I saw it. 

Whether the picture of Spanish beauty Penelope Cruz (who I personally believe is the most beautiful woman in the world) on the cover influenced my decision to buy it or not, I'm not incredibly sure, but the front cover lured me into hundreds of pages of professional film reviews. From romance to horror, the encyclopedia covers almost every genre that you know off heart and features a broad mixture of old and modern day films. 

What I'm now trying to figure out is how many of the listed films I have watched - with five hundred and one mentioned in the book, I can only assume that I've watched a fraction of the figure! With two chapters focused on wars and westerns (in a blazing desert, otherwise my land of nightmares), exploring Clint Eastwood's filmography in a rodeo club is unnecessary, as I have no desire to watch films of that genre at any age. As for the rest of the book, I will have to analyze each film in order to find out whether I've seen it or not. Here goes!

1. Speed (1994) 
2. Crank (2006)
3. Some Like It Hot (1959)
4. Animal House (1978)
5. Airplane! (1980)
6. Trading Places (1983 - only saw it last week!)
7. This is Spinal Tap (1984)
8. The Breakfast Club (1985)
9. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
10. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988)
11. Groundhog Day (1993)
12. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
13. There's Something About Mary (1998)
14. Amelie (2001)
15. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
16. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
17. Juno (2007)
18. Carrie (1976)
19. The Shining (1980)
20. The Others (2001)
21. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
22. Funny Face (1957)
23. Hello, Dolly! (1969)
24. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
25. Grease (1978)
26. Fame (1980)
27. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
28. Moulin Rouge (2001)
29. Chicago (2002)
30. High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008 - how did this reach the list?!)
31. Mamma Mia! (2008)
32. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
33. Dirty Dancing (1987)
34. Romeo + Juliet (1996)
35. Alien (1979)
36. Ghostbusters (1984)
37. Back to the Future (1984)
38. Aliens (1986)
39. X-Men (2000)
40. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
41. Witness (1985)
42. Leon (1994)
43. City of God (2002)
44. Casino Royale (2006)

Forty four films later, I've reached the end of an oh-so-long tunnel. In all honesty, I'm surprised that, over a period of several years, I've seen so many critically acclaimed films. When I watched them, it didn't occur to me that, in an encyclopedia somewhere, they would be listed as all-time greats... imagine my shock when I came across the third High School Musical film! Being short-sighted, I honestly believed that my eyes were playing tricks on me and I needed new glasses, yet some things - as crazy as it might seem - are often true! 

Despite viewing just under a tenth of the listed films, that doesn't automatically mean that I liked every single one. For example, I will never regain the two hours it took to watch The Others which, unlike its description, didn't feature much action or variety in settings; until then, I had never realized how boring life would be if it was spent at an isolated country house in the middle of nowhere. Even my village looks like London compared to the dull and cloudy countryside featured in The Hours

Apart from that one in particular, the rest were perfect examples of how to spend my time wisely - in fact, I have either bought or re-watched most of them! For years, I've regarded Breakfast at Tiffany's as my all-time favourite films because it ticks all the boxes:

a) One of the most iconic actresses of all time, Audrey Hepburn, is playing the lead role, whom she transformed into such an entertaining character, whose actions and behaviour were constantly unmissable. 

b) Considering that it was indeed a romantic film, the oh-so-lovely parts weren't as dramatic (or, in today's world, extremely amusing) as some of the other films at the time, which made the film more believable and realistic to its audience. And, throughout the film, I was kept on my toes whilst waiting for that kiss - the one which sets off the fireworks and is permanently inscribed in your memory - which didn't come until the very end...

c) Was I in fashion heaven or not? Audrey's clothes - all of which were supplied by Givenchy - were to die for, but it was the little black dress which truly defined fashion. Over fifty years later, women (and me!) all over the world are grateful for Audrey introducing a wardrobe staple - and turning us green with envy!

Other personal favourites include the The Breakfast Club (which I mentioned in a post a week or two ago), French modern classic Amelie and Leon. Even X-Men gets my vote - I'm still feeling sore about missing out on seeing Days of Future Past at the cinema! Alien remains my favourite horror film which, coincidently, was my first 18-rated film. An eleven year old never forgets her first 18 film nor, for that matter, the sight of a wormlike newborn alien! 

I hope that my film journey continues for many years to come and, if Sky bothers to add more legendary films to its On Demand feature, I might be able to tick more films off the list!  

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