The MarkCity Cinema
Film critics are forever putting together lists of 'the greatest films of all time' with some snoozefest like Citizen Kane invariably topping the table. My own list has nothing at all to do with whether the director is a great auteur or how wonderful the cinematography is. These are the ten films I'd take to a desert island with me. If I could find a desert island with a TV and DVD player. Dude, Where's My Car? just failed to make the list.
So why is Pulp Fiction my favourite film? Is it the glut of fantastic scenes, like the dancing at Jackrabbit Slim's, the gimp scene, the shot of adrenaline in the heart, Samuel L Jackson's Bible-quoting? Is it the glorious, quotable dialogue? Like 'I'm gonna get medieval on yo ass', 'That is a tasy burger' and 'Bring out the gimp'? Could it be the brilliant soundtrack? The excellent cast, which reinvented John Travolta and made superstars of Jackson and Thurman? The mystery - just what is in that suitcase? It's all of these things. Pulp Fiction is the perfect movie. God bless Quentin Tarantino.
2. Leon (aka The Professional)
There's something slightly dodgy about Leon. A lonely getting-on-a-bit hitman takes in a very underage girl and has what can only be described as a love affair with her. They don't actually do it - although in the uncut version, which you can only buy in Japan, they come very close. So why, when you watch it, don't you think, 'Somebody call Childline'? I think it's because Leon seems so innocent, so childlike himself, and Leon and Mathilda teach each other about love, friendship and putting down roots. It's a beautiful film, and the ending breaks my heart every time. Oh, and Gary Oldman is fantastically evil as a corrupt, pill-crunching cop.
3. Fight Club
In which Brad Pitt takes his shirt off and gets beaten up a lot, Meat Loaf grows a pair of 'bitch tits' and Helena Bonham Carter puts in the sexiest performance I can ever remember. A lot of people hated Fight Club because of all the violence, but, as someone who has only experienced the 'thrills' of exchanging blows once, in a rather rubbish playground punch-up, I found the whole thing quite cathartic. They beat each other up so we don't have to. The final scene, in which skyscrapers collapse as the Pixies 'Where Is My Mind?' rings out, is unforgettable. By the way, if you haven't read the book and have no idea what was going on in this film, Brad and Ed Norton are the same person.
4. Battle Royale
Another violent film. But, come on, if you don't find the idea of 40 schoolkids being stuck on an island with a bunch of weapons and instructions to kill each other funny there must be something wrong with you! Battle Royale is set in the near future when the government has decided the best way to control teens is to...well stick them on an island with weapons and instructions to kill each other. Let's hope David Blunkett hasn't seen it. At the heart of all the maga-esque madness is a sweet love story. And Takeshi Kitano is typically brilliant as the teacher in charge of the mayhem. This is playground rivalry taken to extremes. Grange Hill was never like this.
5. The Shawshank Redemption
Ah, a piece of good old-fashioned storytelling. The bit where the old bloke with the pet crow hangs himself gets me every time. Sob! The ending, when the majestic Morgan Freeman finds his old friend again made my heart ring with joy. Hurrah! Shawshank uses every trick in the film-maker's book to manipulate your emotions - and, my God, it works.
6. Lost In Translation
This is a very personal choice because Lost In Translation acts as a souvenir of my year in Tokyo. Sophia Coppola captures the dreamy chaos of Japan perfectly, and how could I fail to love a film with such a great karaoke scene. Bill Murray is craggy and funny; Scarlett Johanssen is sexy and quirky. We watched this in New York, and I remember a couple of kids shouting outraged abuse at the screen at the end, because Bill and Scarlett didn't get it on. They just didn't get it. This film's beauty is in its restraint. A small criticism: the Japanese are stereotyped in this film, and there are some easy targets hit, but it's still one of my favourites.
The only Brit-flick in my Top 10. Trainspotting really won me over despite my hatred of the horribly overrated Irvine Welsh. Like Pulp Fiction, the music plays a huge part in this movie. Top scenes include Renton plunging into Scotland's filthiest toilet, Spud flicking poo all over his girlfriend's family (um, is there a theme here?) and the terrifying Begbie going berserk in a London pub. Classic opening too.
Pure nostalgia. And proof that I'm not making any attempt to be hip or trendy. After watching Grease, I speny my entire childhood wishing I could go to an American high school - although I have it on good authority that high schools weren't really this much fun. Grease is actually pretty risque - what with all that backseat action and dirty dancing. I still can't work out which Sandy I prefer though - the pure Sandra-dee or the sexed-up vamp in impossibly-skintight pants. Actually, I think I prefer Rizzo.
9. The Empire Strikes Back
Well, Star Wars had to be on here somewhere - after all, I was born in the 70s. One of my earliest memories is watching Star Wars at the cinema with my dad and sister. By the time Empire came out I was in a frenzy of anticipation - and it didn't disappoint. I had also developed a pre-pubescent crush on Princess Leia and desperately wanted to be Han Solo (he was much cooler than Luke). The scene where Han is frozen in order to be transported into the hands of Jabba the Hutt is just so moving. Ooh, I hate that Boba Fett.
10. The Blair Witch Project
Perhaps this wouldn't be such a good one to watch on a desert island. I certainly wouldn't want to watch it in the woods. Blair Witch is one of those films that you either love or hate. If you hate it, you either have a weak stomach or no imagination. Such a shame that the makers couldn't follow it up, but as exercise in cheap film-making and genius marketing, this horror movie is hard to beat. And it's genuinely terrifying.