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Chris Thompson

I like watching movies, I like talking about movies and I like to hear what other people think about movies. In fact, when I was just out of high school I used to talk so much about movies that my parents questioned my choice of Urban Planner as a career. It was the first time I'd really considered that it might be possible to apply my passion for the movies to something beyond being a spectator, so I deferred my Urban Planning course and took a couple of years off while I considered my future. A good deal of that considering time was done in between seeing films the old Valhalla Cinema in Richmond where I got the chance to see some great movies that would otherwise have been condemned to being viewed on the small screen.

For me, reviewing is just another way to pursue my love of talking about films and offers me a way to contribute to the greater conversation about good, bad and indifferent movies. My rule of thumb is that it's not about my taste in movies, it's about my ability to be respectful and objective in talking about what works and what doesn't. I recall a review I read once that started out with the line "Oh my God this was awful". It continued in the same scathing vein throughout which was funny in its way, but not very elucidating. It was just a rant based on personal reaction that was looking to be cleverer in its own writing than the screenwriter of the film had been. Big whoop! If I can't find something good to say about a film, even a stinker, then I think that's my failure not the filmmakers (after all, no filmmaker sets out to make a bad movie... they just don't always achieve what they set out to do). To that end, I count it as a real success if I can write a positive review about a film that's made in a genre or a style that I, personally, don't really like... but that I can recognise is successful at doing what it's trying to do. (the same, but in reverse, goes for those sad occasions when your favourite directors turn in a project that really misses the mark).

There's also a selfish reason for reviewing films, and it's not about the free tickets. When I'd finished considering my future in between sessions at the Valhalla and other cinemas of quality, I found myself enrolled to study, among other things, filmmaking and, further down the track, found myself working as, among other things, a screenwriter. So the selfish aspect for me is that reviewing a film forces me to apply myself to a more fundamental examination of a film than whether I liked it or not, and to articulate what the examination has revealed in a way that others can make sense of - and that process has a very beneficial by-product for the screenwriter in terms of what you come to understand about how movies are written and then made and what works and what doesn't. So, as the old proverb says, a fair exchange is no robbery. I know I get a good bargain from this process... and I hope the readers do too.

I'm not much good at whittling my movie lists down to my top ten favourites... but here (in no particular order) is an eclectic list of movies I saw in those formative years when, as I now realise, my movie aesthetic was developing... (and it's probably worth saying that the list also doubles as a list of directors whose work I generally admire)...

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey

Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven

Woody Allen's Manhattan

Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity

George Roy Hill's Slaughterhouse 5

Arthur Hiller's Silver Streak

Sydney Pollack's Castle Keep

Robert Wise's The Day The Earth Stood Still

John Frankenheimer's Seven Days in May

Otto Preminger's Advise and Consent

Bob Fosse's All That Jazz

Don Seigel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Ted Kotcheff's Wake in Fright

Francis Ford Coppola's One From The Heart

Bruno Bozetto's Allegro Non Troppo

Ralph Bakshi's Wizards

Lina Wertmuller's Seven Beauties

Rob Epstein's The Times of Harvey Milk

George Pal's 7 Faces of Dr Lao

Robert Benton's The Late Show

Roman Polanski's Macbeth

Norman Jewison's Fiddler on the Roof

Herbert Ross' The Last of Sheila

Stanely Kramer's It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World

WD Richter's Buckaroo Bonzai Across The 8th Dimension

Richard Rush's The Stunt Man

John Carpenter's Dark Star

Steven Spielberg's Duel

Joseph Losey's The Damned

Peter Bogdanovich's What's Up Doc?

Frank Capra's Lost Horizon

Martin Ritt's The Front

Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud

Lawrence Kadan's The Big Chill

John Sayles' Eight Men Out

Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool

Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man

Buster Keaton's The General

David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia
...and so many more

 

 

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