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Perhaps a doctor would diagnose me as obsessive compulsive (my friends sure do!) because I have been keeping lists of all the films I've ever seen since 1972. But that doesn't mean that I have been an aficionado for that long. My real passion for films has only developed in the last nine or ten years, thus I feel I have a lot of catching up to do, especially of the 'classics' and even rewatching many I've already seen but no longer remember. Perhaps not remembering a film means it wasn't worth remembering, or perhaps it is just that we see way too many films for any human brain to keep track of.
Reviewing is a very subjective matter. Being a person of volatile emotions, when I am asked what I like in a film my answer usually hinges on something to do with some emotion. If a film moves me to strong feelings – be they of sadness, anger, humour, inspiration – then that film is well on its way to being seen in a favourable light. That probably makes me less critical and objective than I should be. I may often see that a film is formulaic, predictable, schmaltzy, emotionally manipulative and yet, because it has touched something deep in my emotional well, I forgive that film its excesses and declare it worth seeing. So be warned! I also think it is important to support Australian film. In the past, too often I've heard remarks like 'It's good for an Aussie film'. So many of our recent films are great by world standards and deserve all the support and accolades they can get.
For you who want viewing recommendations from the critics, here's my advice: find a reviewer with whose opinions you find you most often agree and be guided on what to see by their reviews. Even better: just be open to the wonderfully rich and varied experience that is film – a window to your own life and an understanding of what makes up the complexity and wonder of human experience. Wallow in film and have fun!
And now to some of my favourite films over the years.
All About My Mother: Almodovar's direction of a tricky plot is near flawless.
Before Sunset: A total gabfest that captures the deepest sadness in life - regret.
Brokeback Mountain: heartbreaking and unmissable
The Constant Gardener: Everything you need in a film: great acting, superb cinematography, gripping plot, social commentary.
Frida: for its vibrancy and sheer joy of life, and the wonderful Salma Hayek
The Hours: The depth of emotion in the three women's performances, not to mention Ed Harris, must be seen.
Lantana: A great Aussie film, with intense humanity and great acting
Look Both Ways: the best Aussie film I've ever seen, and stands tall against any overseas offerings. Its compassionate and humorous way of dealing with bleak subject matter is wonderful.
Lord of the Rings (the trilogy): - fantasy as it should be - engrossing
Man Without A Past: Aki Karismauki directs a stunningly understated piece that cuts to the heart of life's paradoxes
Monsoon Wedding: A delicate interplay giving us the sadness of life which though never quite stops the joyous moments bursting through
Shrek: Total fun; and clever too!
The Station Agent: friendship grows between an oddball group of outsiders
The Straight Story: David Lynch's atypical humble tale of an old man's journey
Swing: I'm a sucker for gypsy films - Tony Gatlif captures the passion of the Romany music and life irresistibly.
The Tracker: Intensely powerful, magnificent cinematography.
Travelling Birds: Visually sensational, totally glorious!
High Fidelity: A must for list makers and music fiends.
And other assorted favorites from years past:
Sci-fi: Alien, Blade Runner, Terminator
Comedy: Groundhog Day, Tootsie, Mrs Doubtfire, Monty Python's Meaning of Life
Music: Carmen (Carlos Saura version), Gadjo Dilo, Latcho Drom
Aussie films: Mullet, Radiance, The Road to Nhill
Food: Au Petit Marguery, Big Night
Others: Apocalyse Now, Do the Right Thing, Fargo, Godfather Trilogy, Lawrence of Arabia (the long version!), Midnight Cowboy, Silence of the Lambs.