I want to watch ALL the films

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Yes that’s right, every last one of them. One of the least expected symptoms of lockdown that I have experienced is what I refer to as “Watchlist anxiety”. With so many streaming services just a touch of a button away and the lack of anything else to do, other than having an arm wrestle with some guy called Barry over a toilet roll in Tesco, I started to build up some watchlists. Before I knew it, it was massively out of control.

It’s time for some stats

Thinking Math GIF

Now according to Google there are thought to have been approximately 500000 films made. A rather ambitious estimate is that I have seen around 2000 individual films, which is 0.4% of them, so its clear I have some catching up to do. In fact if I was to watch one film a day it would take me a more than likely unachievable 1369 years to watch them all. That is if I watch one a day, which has only really been possible since lockdown. In my normal life I reckon I probably get through about 150 films a year, so I’m looking at around 4000 years to complete. But the other problem is, people keep making films, and I think it would be unreasonable for them to stop just to allow me to catch up.

Kevin Feige: “Guys we’re not going to make any more films for the MCU because Dom has still got 498,000 films to watch, so we’re gonna hang fire so he can catch up”.

The other issue is of course, and I know I’m not the only one here, but I love a good re-watch. I am of course a Spielberg nut, but throw in the MCU and Star Wars and there is at least 60 films there that I have to watch on a regular basis, and the true rub here is, I have to watch them in order, oh yes, if you’re going to do something you have to do it right.

Me: Hey guys I see you’re watching Empire of the Sun

Friend: Yeah that’s right

Me: So what did you guys think of The Color Purple, it’s great isn’t it?

Friend: erm, well we haven’t watched that one yet

Me:

Samuel L Jackson What GIF by Coming to America

The rewatches are my comfort blankets, as much as I love watching new stuff and getting that buzz from new films when they really hit you, I want to go back and watch every Spielberg from Duel (watched again this morning, it is Spielberg day, see below) and watch how his filmmaking changes over the years, likewise the MCU from IronMan onwards, it feels odd to me that you would just select one at random, or maybe I’m just odd.

The Plan

Planning GIF by memecandy

I have a number of subscriptions, Netflix, Disney + and for now anyway, Sky Cinema through Now TV. On top of this I have an extensive DVD/Blu-Ray collection and I tape (its always tape, I’m a child of the 80s) stuff off the TV like Film4 and TCM. Away from the subscriptions I love collections. As already stated I have to watch Spielberg in order, the MCU in order, Star Wars in order and believe it or not I have also in the past 12 months thrown PIXAR and the Disney Classics into the mix, and I haven’t even mentioned Bond yet. The anxiety is caused by making sure I am getting the most out of my subscriptions and also not neglecting my slightly unhealthy fandom.

Therefore I have come up with a rota, a 15 day cycle if you will. A chaos organiser, an anxiety destroyer, and overwhelming overwhelmer.

Courteney Cox Thats Not Even A Word GIF

Day 1 – Netflix – this will invariably be a new film. Yes there is plenty of stuff I have seen before that may be fun to watch, but primarily I need to use it for the new stuff. Netflix is the bully of the group though, as it is the place most likely to pique my interest with new stuff so may shove some of the other days out of the way.

Day 2 – Now TV – I only have this for 6 months, and is quite limiting on what I haven’t seen, although there should be enough to tide me over

Day 3 – Planner – So this is my Sky box, films recorded from places like TCM. This is always a good day as invariably it is a classic film that I have never seen before.

Day 4 – Disney Plus – Now here is the problem, if I take out all the Disney classic cartoons, the PIXAR, Star Wars and the MCU, take out the Documentary’s and all the shorts there are currently still 324 films on Disney Plus, a remarkable amount of those I haven’t seen. I made the decision the other day to start at the top (they do a handy A-Z) and work my through them, so I watched Kirk Douglas in 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, one of the 498K ticked off, you see it works…………… yes I will consider therapy.

Recent news broke that Disney Plus was launching its Star service for more grown up viewers and at least another 250 films on that. At my current rate that is about 5 years worth of watching on its own.

tom hanks comedy GIF by RETRO-FIEND

Day 5 BBC iPlayer/Kanopy – The BBC iPlayer has some fantastic classic cinema on there and Kanopy is a new service for me. It is free because I work for a University and it has a huge library of everything from World Cinema to early cinema, just this week I watched Plan 9 from Outer Space and looking forward to revisiting the Chaplin back catalogue that is on there.

Day 6 – Spielberg day. I don’t care how many times I have watched them all before, I never get bored. Close Encounters of the Third Kind for example, I have to watch that film 2 or 3 times a year and I always notice something new when I watch it. In a World where we need to do things that benefits our wellbeing, then watch what you like…………as long as its in order.

Day 7 – DVD/Blu-ray – I have to justify the collection, it is apparently taking up valuable shelf space, and cupboard space, and wardrobe space, oh and loft space. I have to be seen to be taking that 5 step walk across the living room to the shelf to be selecting one. I have to be careful though, this is the ultimate rewatch policed area

Wife: I don’t know why you have all of them, I bet you only watch about 4 of them

Me: That’s not true, I watch them all, an equal amount (never sounded more unconvincing)

Wife: I can clearly see your Aliens blu-ray in your hand, right this second, and I know you watched that the other night because I heard you say “somebody wake up Hicks” from the other room

Me: I was just putting it back (easily beat the previous level of sounding unconvincing)

Wife: Yeah whatever, by the way I hate that I know that it is an Aliens blu-ray.

Image result for Large dvd collection
Not mine by the way.

Day 8 – Google Play – I have this other account where I don’t own the physical media and they aren’t often on streaming services so I have them on here, e.g. Tim Burton’s Batman (still my favourite Batman film) so once again to justify my outlay the Google Play account gets a turn. Like a kid who has just asked for Roblox vouchers, I actually asked for Google Play vouchers for Christmas just so I could add to the collection,

Animated GIF

Day 9 – Amazon Prime – My least favourite of the streaming services, however occasionally good things turn up on there, such as Fellini’s 8 1/2 and the black and white version of Parasite. I just keep it for the free delivery of the Blu-rays really.

Day 10 – MCU – Again back to the collections, and so I don’t get distracted in my one man, doomed to failure, mission of getting through the Disney Plus back catalogue, a separate day for the MCU.

Day 11 – PIXAR – this is of course followed by PIXAR for the same reason as the MCU, which brings me neatly onto

Day 12 – Disney Classics – There’s 56 of these bad boys so that’s 2 years work right there, assuming I don’t miss a cycle. I wonder if my daughter will still want to watch these with me when she is 55 years old and we’re just getting to Moana.

Day 13 – Bond – I can take or leave Bond if I’m brutally honest but I do own them all on DVD/Blu-ray and similar to Spielberg and the MCU it would be nice to watch them all in order. Anthology you say, ah pish. In fact I think there are some that I have never seen so there we go, I can watch a franchise and chip away at that outstanding 498k. Besides with No Time to Die delayed again, I have time to get up to speed with this James Bond chap.

Day 14 – Film Docs – This can be anything from the monumental Empire of Dreams to a making of doc on a DVD that I have never watched. I always claim to never have the time to watch the extras, well there you go…….BUILT IT INTO THE SCHEDULE!!!!

aint nobody got time for that GIF

Day 15- Star Wars – It’s where it all started, the obsession of Cinema and film is right there in those 2 words. I love all 11 films and I don’t really care how often I see them. They are like old friends, they are my childhood, they are my adulthood and I think we are very fortunate to live in a time when we have almost unlimited access to them.

That’s it that’s the plan, pretty cool eh? If this all sounds a little OCDish then please note that this is very much tongue in cheek, but film fans are notoriously about order, whether that is how you file your DVDs to what order to watch films in. There are entire websites dedicated to the order the Star Wars films should be watched in.

We live in a time when we have never had it so good, regarding access to films, but the amount of times I have sat for an hour just scrolling through streaming services procrastinating over whether to watch Willow for the 80th time or take a punt on The Apple Dumpling Gang (it’s on the list, oh yeah!), when in fact a little bit of order can make that decision for me. If I added up the time I spent scrolling, well that’s probably 20 films or one Lord of the Rings, right there.

futuristic technology GIF
Me arriving for opening night of No Time to Die in 3390

So by the year 3390 I should have caught up, of course by then Cinema will be a totally immersive experience, but I’m sure, Tom Cruise will be making Mission Impossible 83 live from Alpha Centauri and there will be a new Spiderman reboot in the works and there will still be the financial toss up between some pick n mix or a villa in Marbella, rest assured I’m somewhere there will be a watchlist that will require some detailed plan of action

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

2021, the year to try to enjoy films again

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This is a blog that I have pondered putting together for some months now and a new year led me to think that now may well be the right time. I spend, probably too much, time on Social Media because I adore watching films and I like talking about them. My hope was that I would find many like minded people, on Twitter in particular. Twitter is a place where I have very few followers who know me personally so I could be somewhat anonymous, a wry stranger who would occasionally drop into a conversation uninvited and deliver a line of Shakespearean wit and then disappear, leaving the gang of merry tweeters to wonder who the humourous stranger was that had just interrupted their discussion on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Fortunately, there are many such people on Twitter, who find and take great comfort in this dazzling of artistic mediums. They generally appear to share my love and fascination with the World of Cinema, appreciating the beauty and skill involved in every frame of celluloid (or whatever the digital equivalent is). Films have always been about escapism, they have been a comfort blanket when the World has thrown crap in my general direction. “There are always movies” I would be heard to yell, after Liverpool got thumped at home, or a school exam had been failed brilliantly, or mum had decided tonight would be the night for the infamous fish pie.* Films were there to take the burden of life’s pressures from me. They were like a friend. If life appeared to be filled with excrement, stick on Back to the Future, watch Indy get chased down by a bolder, watch the Ghostbusters cross the streams, watch the three men sing the little lady to sleep with a rap song, within minutes the World would be right again.

Does anyone know the lyrics to the three men rap? (I love the song but  can't find the lyrics anywhere) - Three Men and a baby/Little Lady Answers  - Fanpop
Hey Mary, did you brush your teeth?

What I didn’t expect from my trips to Twitterland was to be encountered by the dark side. There is a popular # called #FilmTwitter which if you use at the start or end of one of your tweets will notify it to large parts of the film fan community on Twitter and hopefully start a fun conversation. However, what this hashtag does more often than not is similar to when that dude opens the puzzle box at the start of Hellraiser, it unleashes the Cenobite dwellers of Film Twitter. These are the people who hate everything, the people who’s childhoods have been ruined more times than those of us who used to watch every episode of Rolf’s Cartoon Time.

There is a more sinister side to the FilmTwitter dark troopers, and that is that their hatred now has a platform, and in most occasions a pseudonym or anonymous platform for them to spout their views. Now before I go any further, I am not for one minute suggesting that people are not allowed to dislike a film, or for that matter comment on it explaining why they don’t, of course they are. If everyone in the World liked the same things then it would be quite boring, however we would also probably be now onto Three Men and a gaggle of Great Grandkids (not sure that title would clear the censors but whatever).

The problem we have now is that people love a “like”, a “retweet” a “share”, it’s what makes the unpopular popular, and the best way to do that, is to launch into a film and let it (a piece of art designed to entertain, lest we forget) have it with two Uzi 9 millimeters.

There is an unfair phrase banded around that nobody hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans. This all came about after the release of Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII The Last Jedi in 2018. Now personally, I thought it was fantastic, and here is why. I thought it dared to be different, I thought it wanted to tell a new story, with familiar characters in a Universe that had from day one embraced diversity and shown that regardless of who or what you are you can become all you are meant to be. As Yoda famously uttered in Empire Strikes Back “judge me by my size do you?”. The online response to this film (again piece of art designed primarily to entertain) was quite frightening. Again, I must reiterate, you don’t have to like a film, whether that be Star Wars, Jaws or Police Academy 7, it is perfectly ok to not like a film. But this wasn’t a dislike, this was pure hatred.

Here comes that sinister side, I was mentioning earlier. Some people hated this film so much that they PAID to watch it several times just to build up the evidence, just to back up their arguments. I followed one Twitter user who knew The Last Jedi to the most finite detail, that can only be achieved by studying the film, like a scholar of Shakespeare would. He knew so much about this film, more than I (someone who loved it) hadn’t even noticed. He knew everything about it, and hated it. There was a teeny tiny part of me that admired his dedication to his loathing, but generally I actually felt quite sorry for him. Not because he didn’t like the film, like I said perfectly entitled to that, but he seemed to be dedicating every minute to attempting to destroy this film, with every bead of energy he could muster.

STAR WARS EPISODE 8: THE LAST JEDI – US Wall Movie Poster Print - 30cm x  43cm / 12 Inches x 17 Inches VIII: Amazon.co.uk: Kitchen & Home

Now obviously he was never going to succeed, he was a nameless faceless keyboard warrior, but he obviously felt it was important enough to him to do all of this. He launched an online petition (he wasn’t the only one) to get Episode VIII officially removed from the Star Wars cannon. This was pure dedication. The reason I felt sorry for him was, I couldn’t help thinking, what a waste of time and energy, why make yourself this miserable. Why not watch something you do like and put that amount of time and energy into promoting that film so that more people can see it? By constantly going on about Star Wars either in a positive or negative way you arouse the interest of people who are yet to see it.

The repetition doesn’t help either, there is always one joker who thinks, when asked which is his favourite of the 4 Indiana Jones, that they are the first person to come up with the not very witty response “pah, not sure what you mean there are only 3 films to me (smug face, smug face). Toxic fandoms, they achieve nothing. Actually that is not strictly true, crying, basement dwelling man babies managed to force Daisy Ridley and Kellie Marie Tran off social media, bleating on about ruined childhoods like some entitled toddler who has been told to turn Paw Patrol off as its past bedtime.

The other sinister side of Social Media is that there are films that no-one has even seen yet that are apparently awful. Steven Spielberg is due to release a re-imagination of West Side Story in December 2021 (delayed from 2020). This is a film that is designed for Twitter to tear it apart before even so much of a trailer has been seen.

So here is the thing. Lets make 2021 the year that we just get back to why we are interested in Movies in the first place, and that is to be entertained. We don’t need to think too deeply about them, they are there to take people away from their every day lives and offer some escapism. Yes of course they are there to make money and obviously there are a lot of films about social realism and other such issues, but they are still films and the primary aim is to entertain as an artform.

Think back to the first time you saw the Star Destroyer, engulf the big screen at the start of Star Wars, or when Marty realised what the serious shit he would experience at 88mph was, or when Sally inspired half the patrons in a New York deli to order what ever she was having, or when Cap heard a distant radio signal informing him that help was “on your left”.

Think about Donald O’Connor singing Make em’ Laugh, Harold Lloyd hanging precariously from a clock face, Charlie Chaplin making bread rolls dance, Mary Poppins inventing words like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, or Michael telling Fredo that he knew it was him, or Red walking across the beach to meet Andy, or Brody’s realisation that a bigger boat was required, or Buzz flying with Woody in Toy Story, or Axel Foley disarming an unmarked Police car with a banana, and Ripley advising the Alien Queen to step away.

Making 'Em Laugh Till You Hurt - OZY | A Modern Media Company
To Infinity and Beyond: My love for Toy Story – Pop Cultural Studies
Does Jack Latvala keep falling for the banana-in-the-tailpipe trick so he  can be CFO?

These are all magic moments that have been revered for decades. We are now at a stage where we are not allowed to enjoy such things, because ultimately waxing lyrically about things doesn’t get any likes, or retweets, it doesn’t get any attention.

Movies are a wondrous thing, the artform of my generation. They give out hope, they give credible diverse roll models. It’s time to stop trying so hard to find fault and just let yourself go. Life is way to short to be this angry about everything.

If you are the sort of person who finds fault in most films, then my guess is that its not the films that are the problem……….it’s you.

Here’s to a wonderful year of Cinema in 2021. If you let it, it could be the best ever.

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

*my mums is a phenomenal cook, just the fish pie really never again.

The magical Cinema

Cannon Bolton in Bolton, GB - Cinema Treasures

The rain was coming down heavier now, big old fat rain, the rain that only comes in the summer. The bus had gotten stuck in traffic, the film started in less than 10 minutes, with any luck I would only miss the adverts and trailers. The Bolton Cannon Cinema was showing Star Wars, the original cut as well, for the first time in over 30 years and it was for one night only. I half expected the queue to go half way back into town, like in the days pre-multiplex.

The traffic was not improving, so I decided to make a run for it. It couldn’t have been more than half a mile away. I begged the driver to let me off before the next stop, he grumpily agreed. The rain was lashing down now, I lept over lake size puddles, didn’t fancy sitting for 2 hours with soggy feet no matter how much I wanted to see the film.

I rounded the corner and there it was the old faithful, The Cannon Cinema in Bolton.

I was relieved but at the same time slightly surprised that there was no queue. Counting my luck I dashed into the foyer, checking my watch. I breathlessly stammered to the old man in the ticket office, “One for Star Wars please…….it hasn’t started has it?” With a wink and a smile that almost suggested don’t be silly we were waiting for you, the old man shook his head “No, you are just in time, go right in”.

I walked up the long dark enticing corridor and up a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs I was actually in the auditorium, with the beautifully imposing giant red curtain bathing the whole room with a glowing expectation. This was my heaven, but it was a strangely quiet heaven. In fact I was the only person in the room. Had I come to the wrong screen?

Before I had time to contemplate, the projector at the back of the room spluttered into life, launching a beam of God light across the cavernous room onto a ginormous red velvet curtain, which almost on queue parted like the the red sea, revealing a 30-45 foot Cinema screen. I moved to a red velvet chair and perched on the edge as the projector clicked into top gear. The familiar site of the Fox searchlight blazed onto the screen with the accompanying fanfare. The screen momentarily went dark and then the following appeared in light blue writing.

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away… | Level Up | by Chris White |  Geek Family Media | Medium

As if a giant fan powered by a thousand trumpets suddenly burst into life forcing me back into my chair the yellow stencilled logo of Star Wars shot across the screen.

  1. Star Wars (1977)
Star Wars Movie Posters | Original Vintage Movie Posters | FilmArt Gallery

As soon as the yellow Star Wars logo disappeared off into the galaxy followed by that oh so familiar yellow text backstory, I sat back into the chair in anticipation for one of the most seminal moments of my life. The following minute of big screen action would give birth to my lifelong addiction to Cinema. Tantive IV raced across the screen being attacked by an invisible foe. Of course it was only momentarily invisible as the old dusty theatre began to rumble and shake as the Imperial Star Destroyer loomed into view. This scene remains as breath-taking now as it was when first viewed as giddy child sat on a chair not too dissimilar to the one I was on now.

I was instantly transported back to my 5 year old self, giddy with excitement. I must have seen Star Wars 50 times. It was my go to VHS during damp School holidays, it was the stuff of my once fervent imagination. The time literally rushed by, I had subconsciously been mouthing along with the dialogue, I knew this film word for word. I had completely forgotten that I was on my own.

The film was approaching its conclusion, General Dondonna had just briefed the rebel troops for their impending attack on the Death Star, Luke and Han had exchanged words about how much the Rebels could use Han, but he had debts to pay off and to be honest the mission was purely a suicide one. Luke climbed into his X-Wing, put on his helmet and then, right on queue a black seat belt shot across my lap and fixed itself to the other side of the chair. Instantly a control panel appeared in front of me, I had a sudden feeling of plummeting through space.

“ARRGGHHHH” I yelled into the void

“Red 5 are you ok?” a voice came from within my headset

“Hello, who, what, Red 5…..me?” I jabbered frantically

“I just lost my starboard engine, get set up to start your attack run” the voice in my head said

“What the hell………I don’t know how to fly one of these things” before I knew it the X-Wing that I was somehow in control of plummeted at great speed and into an all too familiar trench. “Woahhhhh” I shouted as I grabbed the steering controls in front of me. I had two other fighters on either side of me, I assumed these to be Biggs and Wedge. I knew it wasn’t going to end well for either of them. A screen in front of me showed that enemy fighters were closing in. Wedge took a hit and had to bail out, going against the script slightly I didn’t tell him that was ok, if anything I thought it a little bit cowardly.

We carried on down the trench, Biggs was explaining that he would keep the fighters away from me long enough to do what I needed to do, which at this precise moment was desperately go to the toilet. Biggs inevitably met his doom in a shower of explosion. It was just me now, being chased by 3 imperial fighters, one of which was being piloted by a long lost family member maybe.

Without a clue what to do, I felt my time was up. Just then one of the three fighters exploded and a second one lost control and flew into a wall, at the same time knocking the middle guy, the leader spinning out into space. A voice came over the headset

“You’re all clear kid, now lets blow this thing and go home”

“Erm…….ok, er quick question, how do I do that? I asked

“What?” came the slightly put out reply

“Well you see I have never been in one of these things before, and there was very little training so I’m kind of just pleased I’m keeping it in a straight line at the moment”

After a long pause the voice said “Can’t you just use the force or some shit like that?

“Well, you see I was just watching a film and not really sure what is going on”

“You see that red button on the end of the steering wheel?”

“Yes”

“Just press it…..jeez”

I did what the voice told me to and sure enough two proton torpedoes fired out from the gun turrets of my X-Wing, I pulled back on the steering mechanism which lifted me out of the trench and back towards the deepest space. Behind me I heard (which is odd for Space) an enormous explosion that threw me back into my seat. At that precise moment I was back in the standard red velvet chair, Han and Luke were on screen receiving their medals, not sure why Luke was getting one, I’d done all the hard work. I always watch the end titles of any film I watch, I always have. I always thought it was important to look at every name, not just the stars, but every name of every person who had dedicated their time and dedication to making a piece of entertainment, designed to make people smile. All of these names belonged to individuals with greater talent than I could ever dream of.

2. Mary Poppins (1964)

See the Original 'Mary Poppins' and Have Hot Chocolate at Darien Library on  Wednesday, Dec 26 - DarieniteDarienite

Star Wars had finished the screen was now blank. I sat there is stunned silence. What had just happened? What was this place? I had heard of immersive cinema before, but had never been thrown so helplessly ill-prepared straight into the heart of the action. I had just flown an X-Wing, I had just destroyed the Death Star and this was no simulator, I had actually done it. Just as the enormity of it all started to hit me, the projector behind me began to splutter into life again, am I going to be thrown straight into the Empire Strikes Back, which would be partly cool, but also the thought of being attacked by a Wampa, crashing my X-Wing into a swamp or for that matter losing my right hand suddenly had me desperately needing the toilet again.

However it wasn’t the Empire Strikes Back, I was now facing a blue screen with the words Walt Disney presents, closely followed by the words Mary Poppins. Now Mary Poppins was another one of my favourite films growing up, however unlike Star Wars, I had to keep that a secret until I reached adulthood through fear of the playground beatings that come with such a revelation. It was a film that always reminded me of Christmas, probably because it was on BBC 1 every year throughout the 1980s. I had always loved the songs, and the mixture of live action and animation used to blow my mind as a kid (it still does to be honest).

With my experience of watching Star Wars very much fresh in my mind, I did start to wonder whether the same would happen again with Mary Poppins. Even if it did, there was nothing much to fear here surely, I could jump on a carousel if I had to, I would quite happily have a tea party on the ceiling if called upon. Nearly 90 mins and I still haven’t been called, maybe my Star Wars experience was just down to too much cheese before bedtime or some off meat in a sandwich I ate earlier, and I was actually just here to watch and enjoy.

We were now on the rooftops of London and Bert is currently dancing Stepping Time “wiv all iz pals”. Bert continuously shouts instruction to his jolly friends such as “over the rooftops, Step in Time” and his friends would dance over the rooftops. After a magical section of daredevil choreography, Bert approached the screen and shouted “Mary Poppins, Step in Time”. All the dancers on the screen stopped. Bert looking puzzled said again “Mary Poppins, Step in Time”, still nothing. “Come on Mary, Step in Time” – Bert lent a bit closer and through a forced smile and gritted teeth said “You’re holding the film up”. Oh shit. He’s talking to me, but he must be wrong I am a man, I don’t know how to dance, I looked down and saw I was wearing a red velvet floor length coat, covered in soot. I stood up and caught myself in a rooftop window. I was a woman, quite fit one actually, but that’s beside the point.

Mary Poppins | Comédie musicale, Ramoneur, Acteur disney

“Come on Mary, Step in Time” Bert urged, almost pleadingly.

“Its’s ok you carry on, I’ll just watch thanks” I sheepishly responded with a plum English accent that shocked me more than suddenly flying an X-Wing, and pulled away, but there was no getting away. Bert’s chimney sweep friends gathered around me and started their dance again, with me in the middle. I suddenly found myself tapping along, and before I knew I was kicking my knees up in perfect time, it was getting close to my crowning moment, the mid-air twirls, I was going to go for it, this was going to be brilliant. I launched into the twirls. In the film Mary spins at least a dozen times, I knew I could do better and proper went for it. On the 20th spin I started to feel a bit sick, I came crashing down to the rooftop but in fact I landed once again in the velvet chair. Bert and his pals took turns to waltz past the screen, each of them doffing their caps to me as they went by.

The film carried on as if nothing had happened. Dame Julie Andrews was now back on screen where I had moments earlier been. I was starting to think that I was having some sort of psychotic episode, but a strangely enjoyable one.

3. Raider of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark - Paddock Picturehouse

Mary flew away after the wind changed and Mr Banks had learned the lesson that it was more important to spend time with your kids and that money wasn’t everything, I tried to comprehend what had happened to me in the last couple of hours. Was I done now, was I free to go? I hoped not but also feared what would possibly appear next. I didn’t have to wait long. As if someone who knew me was orchestrating all of this from somewhere the Paramount logo appeared on the big screen and then dissolved into the actual mountain. I started to sweat, but it wasn’t a nervous sweat it was brought on by the incredibly heat I was now experiencing, there was a buzz of insects and in the distance the howls of monkey’s dominated the Cinema. Of course I wasn’t in the cinema was I, that’s right, I was in a Peruvian jungle, wearing a fedora with a bullwhip by my side.

Now under any normal circumstances being dressed as Indiana Jones would be awesome, but I wasn’t stood in my living room anymore or in the father/son fancy dress competition at the work summer fair (he was Short Round). I was stood in the Peruvian jungle in front of a rather cobweb filled temple with my rather useless and even more treacherous colleague Satipo. I let out a huge puff of the cheeks. “Ok then lets do this” I reluctantly say and trudged through the entrance.

Satipo stops me to inform that a couple of large spiders are on my back “Ah well, you just wait till you see what is on your back” I inform him with a touch of snark. True to form he turns to realise he has the entire cast of Arachnophobia crawling his personage. We approach the beam of light. I should let him walk into it really as the conniving git is only going to stitch me up later anyway. I’m nice, I don’t do that. We swing across the gap and enter the chamber with the golden idol at the end. Satipo doesn’t know what I know and assumes there is nothing to fear here. Now according to the script I’m supposed to stop him, but sod it

“Yeah go ahead, fetch the gold statue for me”. Satipo gives me a look that suggests I’m not supposed to say that.

“Are you sure Senor?”

“Yeah, it be right” I respond.

Reluctantly Satipo sets off. Two steps in he triggers the booby trap and smack, a poison dart straight through his face.

“Oh dear, nevermind” I say to his lifeless body “I’ll go get it”. Balancing carefully along the cracks I reached the altar and carefully replace the idol with a handy bag of sand that I seemed to suddenly have on me. As the temple begins to slowly implode, i dash through the chamber dodging the poison darts, leap over the chasm and slide under the slowly closing door. I get under the door a bit too easily so I quickly throw the whip through again just so I can swiftly retrieve it before the door crashes to the ground. I have a little giggle at how cool all of this is.

It was at that point that the rocks above my head started to shift, of course the rolling bolder, again the first thought was, this is very cool, I’ll run away from it but maybe throw in a little stumble along the way. Then I thought, these Hovitos are genius’s getting that thing to stay up there in the World’s most elaborate booby trap. However I really should have just got on with it. The bolder was there heading right for me. It was actually a lot faster than it looked. “Oh shit” I turned and pegged it as fast as I could but it was constantly catching me, this was going to be close. I saw the cave entrance and dived full length through a cloud of cobwebs and landed at the feet of the seriously pissed off Hovitos. However I wasn’t at their feet, in fact I was now face down on the floor of the Cinema.

Gathering my bearings I turned to look at the big screen as Indy, now in the more suitable guise of Harrison Ford was heading across the field, with the Hovitos in hot pursuit, yelling to his friend Jack to start the engine. I climbed back into the seat, as Indy’s adventures played out in front of me. A feeling of exhiliration swept through me. A few hours ago, I had blown up the Death Star, danced on a London rooftop with a bunch of chimney sweeps and had now just been Indiana Jones. I never wanted this to end. Talk about your best day ever.

4. Toy Story 3 (2010)

Toy Story 3: The Gang's All Here (Video 2010) - IMDb

As the Ark of the Covenant is wheeled away to be looked after by “top men” I relax in my seat. I should be tired but I’m anything but, I am packed full of nervous tension, what will happen next? I didn’t have to wait long.

Oh fantastic, the Disney castle had just appeared on the screen, but hang on, whatever this is, how am i going to be transported into it. The familiar blue sky with white ice cream clouds appears, it’s Toy Story 3, one of the finest films of the past decade. Script perfection and narrative storytelling has never seemed so effortless, its a work of wonder from the start. The film progresses along at a steady rate, but we are approaching the films climax and I have not been transported yet, then I start to develop an uneasy feeling, I take a quick glance around the Cinema, quickly turn to the screen and shout, to no-one in particular

“the furnace scene!”

I could hear a creaking above me, I looked up at the cavernous ceiling just as a large metal object crashed down onto my face. All was dark, all was quiet, I could still hear the film playing in the background. Slinky Dog was calling out Buzz’s name, he strangely seemed to be getting closer. Then I felt somebody pulling my hands and I slid out from underneath whatever it was (turns out it was a big TV) that had pinned me and came face to face with red haired cowgirl Jesse.

“Buzz are you ok?”

There you go I was Buzz Lightyear and I was in the trash conveyor belt. As we approached the metal crusher at the end of the conveyor belt the call to grab something magnetic to rise to the magnified ceiling went up. Quickly grabbing a discarded lunch box I shot to the ceiling with my new friends. Of course the complete tosser of a bear Lotso abandoned us as we headed straight for the furnace. As the conveyor belt reached it summit we toppled into the mass of discarded metal and headed slowly towards our fiery grave. Despite our best efforts, the game was up, this was it. My friend Woody reached across and grabbed my arm, we shared a moment, a moment of friendship, a moment of togetherness.

I have always fancied the idea of being a writer, but never in my wildest imagination could I possibly write anything with the emotional wallop of what was happening to me now. My plastic arm was starting to gently bubble as we edged ever closer to the PIXAR equivalent of Dante’s Inferno.

As the impending doom approached, a saviour from above arrived as the claw from heaven reached into the down and plucked us all to safety.

I was soon back in my chair. I had just been a cartoon character, bizarrely this one had felt the most real. As the end titles played across the screen, I finally began to feel exhaustion consume me, both physically and mentally.

As the PIXAR lamp jumped across the screen for one final time, the red curtain cruised across the screen and the house lights came on.

5. Avengers Endgame (2019)

Avengers Endgame POSTER Glossy Premium Borderless Movie Poster of Various  Sizes (POSTER - A2 size 23.4 x 16.5 Inch / 594 x 420 mm, Endgame (V1)):  Amazon.co.uk: Kitchen & Home

I collected my thoughts and headed out towards the foyer which was now in total darkness, there was an orange glow coming through the glass square on the front door to the cinema, the smell of destruction wafted through the main door which appeared now to be hanging on by the edge of its hinges. As I approached the door, those hinges gave up the fight and door crashed to the floor.

The rain had stopped, that was for sure, but where the building opposite once stood was the remains of it, reduced to a pile of rubble, with the four corners still sticking out of the ground. In front of me I can see the scorched remains of those corners flames still licking the sides of them the sky is filled with thick dense smoke. What the hell has happened here?

The ground began to shake as a figure approached from within the smog. A giant of a man at least 10 feet tall, he had a bald head and a chin that resembled a purple nutsack. As the giant came into view, i realised that he was not alone. Appearing alongside him was hundreds, no actually thousands of extras, all of whom looked like they didn’t want to ask me any questions, just to tear me apart. I was severely outnumbered, the coward in me suggested I just turned around and run back into the Cinema. The coward won, I turned with the sole intention of sprinting back in to the Cinema, closing the door and hiding under my completely inadequate red velvet chair. Small problem, when I turned round the Cinema had gone, replaced by, you guessed it a huge pile of rubble.

I turned back to look at my soon to be arriving assailant, he was getting close. I suddenly heard a strange gust of wind, out of the corner of my eye I saw something hurtling towards me at great speed, it was coming right for my face. I instinctively put up my hand, with a clanging thump I caught the steel handle of a very familiar hammer. Purple guy was still edging closer to me, as were his hoardes of angry followers. My first thought was “there is something awfully familiar about all of this”. That thought was interrupted by a radio signal that simply said four words “Captain…….on your left”.

To the left of me a bright orange portal appeared, sparking into life like a Catherine Wheel on Bonfire Night. From within it walked T’Challa, Black Panther in all his regal glory flanked by Okoye and Shuri. Over head, strangely accompanied by Alan Silvestri’s rousing score flew Falcon. More and more of the Portals began to appear, heroes were appearing to help me against the purple gonad who was facing me. Spiderman, Dr Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Antman, Zammo from Grange Hill and the entire cast of Rentaghost all arrived in a blaze of glory. Within moments an army had formed that was a match for the opposition. The musical score had reached its climax, there was only one thing left to do. As once again the familiar hammer flew straight towards me, I called all to arms

“Avengers!!!” – thump the hammer landed perfectly in my grasp……..

This blog has been written as part of the “Five-Films Forever” blogathon challenge, created by the brilliant Claire Packer owner of the Cinematic Delights blog page https://cinematicdelights.com/

More details on the Blogathon can be found here:

Claire can be found on Twitter as @C_Packer (https://twitter.com/C_Packer) and catch her reviews at https://letterboxd.com/C_Packer/

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

Who is the main villain in Jaws

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Jaws is often tricky for me to write about, because it is quite difficult to find an angle or idea on it that hasn’t been covered several times before. I could write a review of the film, but I’ve done that before and besides everyone who has a passing interest in the film will have read plenty of reviews and seen the film several times.

Therefore I thought I would write a few thoughts on who I consider to be the main antagonist of the film. In my mind there are three main candidates and I’m going to take a look at them all here.

1. Bruce the Shark

Original Jaws Shark Restored for Museum of Motion Pictures – /Film

It is a very simplistic view to blame all of the events in Jaws on the shark, but surely he is just going about his daily business being a carnivorous animal that is on the hunt for his lunch and dinner. The fact he stumbles across a beach with a bunch of people who like to spend their time splashing around in the water, therefore attracting his attention is just an added bonus for Bruce. It’s kind of like a free all you can eat buffet and lets be honest there isn’t a person reading this who wouldn’t go back for seconds if confronted with tressel tables full of pork pies and chicken legs, so lets back off Bruce for doing what comes naturally.

Film journalist Mark Kermode famously said that Jaws is not about a shark, it is a tale of masculinity and relationships. He was maybe referring to the the fact that the shark is a mere subplot to what is going on around them. I don’t think that’s true and is a little unfair on our Bruce, who like I said was just doing what sharks do. It doesn’t discriminate, it is not out for revenge (that comes later in film 4) it is just looking after itself. My feeling about the shark in Jaws is that it actually, in a strange quirk of fate becomes one of the heroes in the end, and I’ll explain why a little bit later.

2. Mayor Vaughn

Mayor Larry Vaughn | Fear world Wiki | Fandom

Mayor Vaughn is your typical politician, he constantly has one eye more on the bottom line than on the safety and wellbeing of the public he has been elected to serve. Mayor Vaughn is quite a prescient character these days, particularly when you consider how governments have handled the management of the Coronavirus, desperately trying to balance the economy against health. So much so that Mayor Vaughn has found himself unwittingly at the mercies of many an internet meme creator over the past year, as the similarities between his crusade to keep the beaches open through fear of loss of income is mirrored by a number of todays politicians who perhaps have struggled to see the bigger picture.

Personally I think what makes Vaughn a bigger villain is that he makes all the same mistakes again in Jaws 2. He may be misguided and uneducated in the first film but surely there is no real excuse for his actions in the 2nd film. I’m always annoyed in Jaws 2 when Vaughn and fellow rich git Peterson kick off about Brody being in the observation tower at the beach. Surely a beach that has had a number of shark attacks in the past couple of years would have some kind of patrol.

Vaughn is a coward and isn’t strong willed enough to be considered the true villain of the piece. In the first film he goes from an exuberant outgoing town representative to a shaking, chain smoking nervous wreck, which makes his stupidity in the second film even more gauling.

3. Quint

Was Captain Quint from Jaws Based on a Real Person?

Now here me out on this one. I love Jaws, I think it is a phenomenal film, no questions asked about that, but I have to be honest it doesn’t make my Spielberg top 10, and that is down to one person, Mr Quint. I appreciate that he is a fan favourite and Robert Shaw’s performance is brilliant, but I just can’t stand him.

Quint is an arrogant bully, he is also a bit of a know it all who takes great pleasure in putting people in their place. It starts out with him interrupting the town meeting by running his fingernails down the blackboard, I mean honestly who does that? He then refers to the shark as a bird, and talks whilst eating.

We next meet him teasing Hooper in the boat yard, although Hooper stands his ground by tying the perfect bowline knot much to Quint’s frustration. It is Quint’s idea to head out into the deep ocean to catch the shark, despite all the attacks thus far occurring close to shore. Once out in the deep blue, his constant nip-picking of Hooper from the way he drives the boat to how he spends his spare time is teasing bordering on nasty. He always has to get one up on the crew, in particular Hooper.

Hooper: That’s twenty footer

Quint: Twenty-five

Oh come on how do you know that just by looking at him, you cantankerous old barnacle. It’s not just Hooper who gets it from Quint. He continuously teases Brody about his wife and then in a moment of complete shithousery smashes up the boat radio. Well thanks a lot.

I’m going out on a limb here and saying I think the true villain of Jaws is Quint. He is cold and calculated and has no redeeming qualities about him, and now I turn to the hero of the piece, the aforementioned Bruce, who decides like me, he’s had enough of him, so decides to have him for lunch. For me it’s a bit like when the T-Rex spoils the raptor party at the end of Jurassic Park, it’s a moment of triumph and applause for this naturally trained killer, a punch the air moment if ever there was one.

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

The overseer: Spielberg’s Top 10 Production credits

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Hi folks and welcome to my latest top 10. I’m going a little bit left field and looking at the Top 10 films where Spielberg hasn’t directed but has been credited as Producer or Executive Producer. One of the attractions of Spielberg to me growing up, was even if he wasn’t in the directors chair he seemed to be involved in the majority of films that I enjoyed growing up.

With over 170 Production credits to his name, putting a Top 10 wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be at first. I immediately discounted any that he had directed, and obviously ignored the dozens currently on his announced slate on IMDB. I have also culled a few more by not looking at sequels, however this still left me with a plethora of options. So I decided to go with the heart and not the head on this one, which means quality productions such as the Coen’s True Grit are left off and also there is the omission of crowd favourites Innerspace and The Money Pit which would have been 11 and 12th respectively if I had too.

One further caveat is that I haven’t seen all the films on the list so I may have missed some of your favourites that I’m not too familiar with. So without further ado, here is the Top 10 list of my favourite Spielberg Production credits.

10. Twister (1996) Dir: Jan De Bont

After the stresses and strains of the emotional experience of Schindler’s List, Spielberg was taking an unprecedented 4 year break from the Director’s chair. He was, however, very much keeping his head in the game with his Producers hat on, with a variety of TV shows, the hilarious and anarchic Animaniacs and the rather damp squib (pun very much intended) Seaquest DSV. Movie wise is was a mixed bag, including the fun and sprightly Caspar (which again just missed this list) and the cringeworthy Flintstones (Steven Spielrock anyone???).

1996 was a summer of big blockbuster action films, with Roland Emmerich’s fantastic Independence Day leading the way, Michael Bay showing considerable restraint, by his standards anyway, with the ridiculously entertaining The Rock and we met Ethan Hunt for the first time as Mission Impossible burst onto our screens via the Channel Tunnel.

Crashing into the 2nd place in the Box Office chart that summer was Twister, a film about a group of storm chasers battling to find the Big one in the American midwest. With spectacular, Academy Award nominated visual effects (it lost out to Independence Day), the film actually touches on a number of Spielbergian themes, our group of Chasers are all Science nerds, there are broken relationships, there is the destruction of small town America, it is all there. The script is a bit hokey, but whoever watches films like this for Shakespearean delivery, this is a perfect Sunday afternoon movie.

9. *Batteries Not Included (1987) Dir. Matthew Robbins

batteries not included (1987) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

I watched this again recently and to be fair it has aged, but what we have here is a simple tale of triumph over adversity and an enormous sense of a community coming together to beat the odds, which are traditional Spielberg themes.

The film is anchored by a beautiful pair of leading performances from Jessica Tandy as the dementia suffering Faye and the dazzling Hume Cronyn who plays her steadfast husband Frank. Originally conceived as a story to be included in Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, the idea had enough legs to be made into a full length film.

It’s a charming tale, with plenty of 1980s schmaltz, that tales off slightly in the final act. A film that still appeals to all ages, the adults will enjoy the nostaglia, and the youngsters will giggle at the alien antics.

Worth noting also that *Batteries Not Included was the screenwriting debut of Pixar legend Brad Bird who would go on to direct The Incredibles and also some of the later Mission Impossible franchise. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the bigwigs at Pixar didn’t get a large portion of their ideas for 2008’s UP from the set up here as there are plenty of shared themes, not least the last house standing setting.

8. Poltergeist (1982) Dir. Tobe Hooper

Steven Spielberg actually directed Poltergeist, crew member confirms | The  Independent

Yeah I know, Spielberg directed Poltergeist, yadder, yadder, yadder. Erm, no he didn’t, and to constantly claim that he did is quite offensive to Tobe Hooper. Yes Spielberg was by all accounts a very hands on Producer, and a number of themes smack of Spielberg, not least the Suburban setting, the dysfunctional family, the young children in peril etc, but those are just the headlines and this is Hooper’s film.

Despite the setting and the family dynamic, the characters, in particular the adults don’t really fit the Spielberg mould of the time. The Freelings are pot smoking ex-hippies, trying to hold onto their youth, whilst they can, (one fan theory I read was that the whole plot was imagined by Diane whilst high off the pot!!). The reliance on effects that are now quite dated, again doesn’t appear to fit in the practical mentalities of Spielberg at the time, i.e. E.T, Raiders etc.

Poltergeist has some terrific setpieces and the most terrifying clown this side of IT, and is again one of those films that nostalgia has been kind too, and it makes this list because Steven Spielberg produced it, not directed it.

7. Deep Impact (1998) Dir Mimi Leder

Casting de Deep Impact (1998) - SensCritique

1998 was the year of Twin film battles, where films with similar themes go head to head. In animation we had Dreamworks Antz, facing off against Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, Peter Weir’s The Truman Show up against Ron Howards Ed TV, and Spielberg’s own Saving Private Ryan and Terrence Malicks The Thin Red Line.

As far as audiences were concerned however, the biggest battle was the fight to save the Earth in two films about cataclysmic asteroids are set to crash into and destroy Earth films. Winning this particular box office battle was Michael Bay’s, Bruce Willis starring preposterous (even for an asteroid film) Armageddon, which inexplicably was only held off the number 1 spot for the year by Titanic.

Personally, I always thought from viewing both Armageddon and Deep Impact that the Mimi Leder film was superior, in every way, from the science involved to the script, (Armageddon’s is so hilariously bad, its actually quite fun). The main difference between the two, is that Deep Impact has very little if any testosterone and with Leder at the helm why would there be, there is a seriousness with the situation, we are drawn into the characters, we care for them, we want them to succeed. We don’t really give a toss about Bruce and his neanderthal mates.

Deep Impact is a classic Friday night movie, with a fabulous ensemble cast, who all contribute. Booking the trend somewhat of 90s action flicks and in complete contrast to Armageddon’s gung ho, if there is a lead in Deep Impact then it is surely the excellent Tea Leoni’s determined journalist, who more than holds her own alongside Morgan Freeman (playing the President we all wish they had now), Robert Duval’s seasoned Astronaut and an early role for Elijah Wood.

Armageddon may have triumphed at the box office but there is no doubt which is the superior film.

6. Men In Black (1997) Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld

Men in Black' Was the Last Movie of Its Kind | Hollywood Reporter

Probably the film in the list that had the least input from Spielberg, here very much Executive Producing through Amblin, however that is no reason not to include it. Very loosely based on the early 1990s comics by the same name, (the films are considerably lighter in tone than the comics), Men in Black deals with a fictious Government agency who deal with extra-terrestrial life that lives, generally in perfect harmony with humans on Earth, the catch being, that humans don’t know about due to the MiB organisation.

The first and by some considerable distance the best of the series is helped by a brilliant double act, taking the buddy movie to new heights. We have the seasoned old pro, the craggy faced Tommy Lee Jones, playing it straight as die throughout, alongside the cocky new recruit, an at the top of his game Will Smith. The chemistry between the two leads is fantastic and it is a shame that they have struggled somewhat to replicate that in the lacklustre sequels that followed.

Once more the effects are really good and Sonnenfeld demonstrates some of his Gothic tendencies that he employed so well in his Addams Family films in the early 90s.

Men In Black was a box-office monster, helped in no small part to the star wattage of Biggest Star in the Galaxy at the time Will Smith, it helped that he had an absolute banger of a theme tune to accompany it, but this film would have been nothing without Jones’s, sardonic and occasionally moving performance.

5. Gremlins (1984) Dir. Joe Dante

Gremlins - info and ticket booking, Bristol | Watershed

There are three rules that you have to follow if you’re going to take care of your Mogwai, it becomes apparent quite quickly that they are all utter balls. We all know about the nonsense of not eating after midnight, I mean when does that end, can you book a table at the breakfast buffet or is there a certain time you have to reach before you can kick back with a croissant. There’s also the issue of time zones but lets not go there. But what about never getting them wet, through fear of multiplication, yet at one point the hoard of Gremlins are clearly seen walking through snow with no ill effect. Then there is the fear of bright lights, which a bit like when you ask your teenage kids whether they heard you ask them to empty the dishwasher, depends on what mood they are in at the time, for example the Gremlins seem ok in the lighted kitchen when they are helping themselves to the cake mix.

Now lets not be an old fuddy duddy about this, these glaring plotholes are part of pop culture folklore and are very much a part of the appeal of this perennial festive classic. Mixing extreme lightness, carol singing Gremlins, break dancing Gremlins, even Snow White singalong Gremlins, with terrifying darkness, the chainsaw attack, the grizzly water fountain finale and worst of all the reason why Kate doesn’t celebrate Christmas, we have a film that at one point you think the whole family could enjoy and the next would make an interesting double bill with Driller Killer.

I’m sure Gremlins was made with one eye firmly on the merchandising potential and this has often raised questions at to who this film is aimed at. What is undoubted is that it is hilarious and at times scary as hell. A sequel, which many devotees prefer to the original, I’m not one of them, arrived 5 years later and was more a satirical look at movie sequels and merchandising tie-ins. The original though is a black comedy that has landed itself firmly in the pop culture lexicon for the past 30 plus years. Still to this day, despite it’s obvious nonsensical plot, it is tremendous entertainment and Christmas just isn’t Christmas without it.

4. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – Robert Zemeckis

15 Things You Might Not Know About Who Framed Roger Rabbit | Mental Floss

Ok, the mixing of live action and animation was nothing new in 1988, Disney themselves had been making films since the early 1940s in this format, however films that had placed an animated lead character alongside a human lead were few and far between and seen as little more than a gimmick.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is in all sense an purposes a Film-Noir with a Looney Tunes, technicolour back drop. From the hilarious prologue short cartoon “somethin’s Cookin” starring Roger and the (we found soon after) hard drinking, womanising Baby Herman we have the tone set, for one of the most innovative blockbusters of the 80s.

There are plenty of elements of this film that perhaps are aimed at an older audience, for example one of the scariest villains of any childhood with the horrific Judge Doom, and of course the Femme Fatale who quite frankly will have many of the male and female audience questioning their sanity.

Technically magnificent, it still very much holds up today. Bob Hoskins is brilliant as the cynical, grieving, hard drinking Eddie who has a particular dislike for Toons, but the true star of the show is Zemeckis, who never lets get away from its noir routes.

3. Super 8 (2011) Dir. J.J Abrams

J. J. Abrams's 'Super 8' Zooms In on a Dark Secret - Review - The New York  Times

It is no secret how much of an influence Spielberg has been on the career of J.J Abrams, and in 2011, Abrams made Super 8, his love-letter homage to Spielberg, in this quite brilliant science-fiction tale. This is the entry in the Top 10 that is probably the least talked about, and has largely been forgotten by the film community, which is a crying shame as I would say it is easily in my Top 10 movies of the last decade.

It’s all here in this one, clear references to E.T, and The Goonies from Spielberg’s back catalogue, with touches of Stand By Me and even Alien, it is sci-fi, action mixed with nostaglia all set in a nice Spielberg inspired Suburban community.

Led by a sparking young cast the film is told from their point of view as they try to solve the riddles of the mysterious goings on that follow a train crash in their town. The friends agree to get together to help make a horror movie using a Super 8 camera, a further nod to Spielberg’s own childhood, and over time they bond. The film is a thrill ride in the traditional Spielberg way, at times it is genuinely scary and at other points, deeply moving, the main character has recently lost his mother in a workplace accident, the absent parent a recurrent Spielberg theme.

A film about friendship, a film about belonging, this is more than just a kids monster movie. It’s legacy lives on with the Netflix produced, and majorly Spielberg inspired Stranger Things.

2. The Goonies (1985) Dir. Richard Donner

The Goonies' cast: Where are they now? % | Gallery | Wonderwall.com

In 1985 Spielberg was taking his first real steps into Directing films, aimed more at critical acclaim that box office receipts, with his adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Having been dismissed a nothing more than a popcorn peddler, a PT Barnum figure if you will, by many a critic, Spielberg decided to focus on what was deemed more grown up material.

Thankfully, it didn’t mean that he had lost his sense of humour or his desire to be involved in wholesome family entertainment. Whereas the Color Purple dealt with themes of domestic abuse, incest and segregation, in 1985 he produced two of the most iconic 80s films that were as far away from the above as possible (actually may be not the incest, but we’ll come back to that later in the blog).

The Goonies is one of those rare breed of films, where you would be pushed really hard to find anyone who has anything bad to say about it. It is a very simple of tale of friendship and adventure, a real kids adventure film that has spanned the generations, from people like myself who loved it since its release, to my parents who were delighted at the time that there was a film that wasn’t a cartoon or involved galaxy’s far far away to entertain the kids, and now my children who watch it now and can’t comprehend that it was made 35 years ago.

And that there is the point, The Goonies is timeless, it is so fresh it could have been made last week. Perfectly cast from the noble Sean Astin as self appointed leader, to 80s icon Corey Feldman as the most punchable but still likeable Goonie, Mouth. Then there is my favourite, Ke Huy Quan, fresh from playing Indy’s card playing best mate, as the inventive James Bond fanatic Data, and of course the Pop Culture icon, Jeff Cohen’s Chunk, who’s confession scene is possibly the finest moment in the whole of 80s cinema.

The tomboyish Martha Plimpton playing the sarcastic Steph, a pre-Thanos Josh Brolin playing the tough older brother, and every schoolboys crush Kerry Green as cheerleader Andy round out one of the most likeable casts of any film.

Terrific pantomime villain support comes from Anne Ramsay, Robert Davi and a young Joe Pantoliano as the criminal Fratellis, add to the brilliance of this simple piece of entertainment.

You don’t hear of anyone stating they don’t like The Goonies, because there is nothing not to like. I would question anyone who disagrees with that probably doesn’t like films at all, but for a film about a bunch of kids looking for buried pirate treasure (btw didn’t know the name One-Eyed Willy was a bit dubious when I was a kid……….ah innocence) to still be this endearingly popular 35 years on is an absolute credit to everyone involved. Now about that incest……..

1.Back to the Future (1985) Dir. Robert Zemeckis

FXRant: "Back to the Future," Einstein Jump

Ok we’ll get to that shortly. Back to the Future could well be the perfect film. It is entirely possible that no film made before or since has resonated or landed in the pop culture psyche as much. Similar to the Goonies it is one of those films that everyone has seen, and everyone, even none film fans get a little smile on their face if you mention it.

When I was growing up in the 80s and as was often the way in Manchester, school holidays were often dominated by bad weather, and my older brother and I had a stock pile of films recorded from the BBC and ITV that would regularly be watched almost on loop. There was obviously the Star Wars trilogy, the aformentioned The Goonies and of course Back to the Future, possibly the most quotable film for me and my brother.

What is often overlooked with Back to the Future is the perfection that is it’s screenplay. My brother now lives in America and it dawned on me during a recent WhatsApp video call just how much we quote the film in general conversation, and I’m not just talking about the “Great Scott’s” of this world I’m talking the more subtle lines. For example, if my brother is wearing something a bit unusual, I will say “and what are you wearing Dave?” which Marty mutters to his brother Dave who is inexplicably wearing a business suit in the altered future………my brother is not called Dave.

My brother and I used to cook lunch during the School holidays and he would often jokingly throw in the line “Damn it Man, I sliced my hand” in honour of Marvin Berry cutting his hand trying to open the boot of his car whilst the keys were locked inside, or if one of us was playing music at an annoying volume, the other walk into their room, and say “hold it fellas, I’m sorry you’re just too damn loud”.

It’s little things like this that make this film special to everyone who has had the pleasure of seeing it. Similar to the Goonies, it is incredibly fresh and could have been made last week. Led by Michael J Fox as Marty McFly, nobody my age (I was 8 when the film was released) had ever seen anyone cooler than Marty. He was the most awesome character growing up and is probably still my favourite now when all said and done.

Are there issues? Well you could argue that the mother/son incestuous connotations is a little Oedipal, and some may today question the friendship between Marty and Doc, but from a story telling point of view it is brilliantly done and in the case of Marty and Lorraine, (played by another 80s icon the simply stunning Lea Thompson), is resolved carefully without too much cringe.

Worth noting also that Back to the Future has my number 1 punch the air moment when George, a suitably awkward Crispin Glover, finally stands up to Biff, quite possibly the greatest screen bully ever, played with dotable menace by Thomas Wilson. It still gets a cheer to this day.

Back to the Future was followed up by two quick fire sequels in 1989 and 1990 and, despite never truly hitting the heights of the original, are fantastic watches, and may well be the second and third part of the most complete trilogy. Pray tell nobody gets the insane idea to reboot, remake or simply go back in time to update the original. Some things are best left well alone.

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4 year old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

What’s for Dinner? Spielberg’s Top 10 Dining table scenes.

The latest in my Spielberg top 10s is a closer look at the times that Spielberg has utilised the most practical of all props, the humble dining table. Sometimes these can be small, intimate scenes such as the mimicry between a father and son at the breakfast table or much grander settings, such as the “feast of beasts” at Pankot Palace. Spielberg uses this familiar setting to bring comedy, revulsion and sometimes just some exposition but the scenes below are all performed beautifully by the cast and are often the more underrated parts of his films. Please let me know if I’ve missed any of your favourites.

10. The make believe feast – Hook (1991)

Pin on Movie Quotes

Where better for Spielberg to explore the idea of lost innocence and memories of childhood than the Dining table. Hook has often been accused of being too loud, too over the top, I once heard someone inexplicably describe it as too much fun. I think this scene captures the point perfectly. As the Lost Boys sit down for their dinner of what appears to be empty pots and pans, Peter looks on bewildered commenting “eat what? There’s nothing here, even Gandhi ate more than this”. Stuffy adults the World over are in agreement with it’s ridiculousness. There then follows a perfectly played trading of insults between Peter and self-appointed Lost Boy leader Rufio “Substitute Chemistry Teacher” is an insult I still throw out there to this day.

Egged on by the Lost Boys who want nothing more than the cranky, old Peter to rediscover his former glories, Peter starts to get into it, launching a brutal tirade on the stunned Rufio culminating in the poetic “hey Rufio, why don’t you go suck on a dead dogs nose” and flicks his spoon with imaginery icing to land perfectly with a splat on Rufio’s face. Peter was starting to let himself go, to stop himself being so uptight, to enjoy himself. There is the lesson right there.

9. A loving game of copycat – Jaws (1975)

Mayfair Theatre on Twitter: "Nothing says Happy Father's Day like ...

Where better for Spielberg to showcase the loving bond between father and son, than you guessed it the dining table. In a film dominated with scenes of terror and carnage, this quiet unassuming scene at breakfast showing the bond between father and son is 90 seconds of pure beauty. It is a scene that shows despite the chaos going on in Brody’s professional life that the people that matter most are still there for him.

It’s also poignant during these unusual times that young Sean is oblivious to the challenges that his dad and the adult world that surrounds him are going through. He is not interested in the political point scoring that his dad is having to deal with, he just loves spending time with his dad. It also demonstrates to Martin that when all the frustrations consume him, he need not look any further than his biggest supporters, his family “Give us a kiss”, “Why?” “because I need it”.

Worth noting that Spielberg goes someway to recreate this scene in E.T when Elliot first brings E.T into the house to demonstrate the bond that it already forming between the two.

8. The paranoia scene in Chuck’s cafe – Duel (1972)

The Frights of Mann: Duel's Paranoid Scene at Chuck's Cafe | From ...

Where better for Spielberg to show a man wracked with paranoia clumsily order a sandwich? That’s right, a dining table.

The centrepiece of Duel and possibly it’s stand out scene isn’t on the open road and doesn’t involve a car or a truck (although the latter is glimpsed out the window). Instead taking momentary refuge in Chuck’s roadside cafe, David Mann (that’s M.A.N.N) takes a quick trip to the bathroom to freshen up and returns to see his chief tormentor nonchalantly parked up outside. Mann immediately jumps to the same conclusion as us, namely the driver is in the cafe.

What follows is almost 15 minutes of carefully constructed Hitchcockian suspense as Mann eyes up the several redneck truck driving patrons of the cafe. An intrusive voice over is an unnecessary addition but the tension is palpable, and the numerous red herrings are sumptuously served along with a Swiss Cheese on RYE, ooh and an aspirin.

This is Spielberg at his most showy, a young director trying to demonstrate that he can bring something different to a bog standard thriller, and this scene showcases a lot of the visual bravado that would be shown over the next 5 decades.

7. Scrumdiddlyumptious breakfast with the Queen – The BFG (2016)

Are you ready for THE BFG's scrumdiddlyumptious breakfast at ...

Where else would Spielberg put a giant having breakfast with a Queen? Of course, the dining table (albeit a bloody big one).

Growing up The BFG was my favourite book, as someone who had to be forced to read anything as a kid (reading just wasn’t as exciting as Star Wars), The BFG managed to break through my self imposed barrier and even managed repeat reading. Imagine my delight, therefore, when my favourite director announced he was going to make a film of it. The finished film didn’t quite meet my expectations, a few too many of the grizzly moments were left out for it to be a truly satisfying adaptation however, there was still loads to enjoy, none more so this note perfect, hilarious breakfast scene.

A scene that is packed full of slapstick and toilet humour, it’s possible Spielberg hasn’t had this much juvenile fun since the scene at number 10 in this list. From the chandelier smashing entrance to farting corgis and wind breaking monarchs this classic comedy trope of fish out of water is just an absolute delight, and my word, that breakfast looks good, and thats before the Frobscottle makes an appearance.

6. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA – A.I (2001)

AI: Artificial Intelligence: Does Not Eat

Where better for Spielberg to showcase just how creepy a married couple’s new robotic child actually is? Oh yes, the dining table.

Opening the scene with David perfectly captured in the halo esq light fitting, the family embark on their evening meal in an atmosphere of awkwardness. David silently observes Henry and Monica eat their food and drink their drink, replicating their actions with his own empty glass and plate, whilst both Henry and Monica look on with a growing sense of unease. The deafening silence is alarmingly shattered as Monica struggles to get all of her noodles into her mouth by a terrifying cackle from David.

For me it is one of Spielberg’s finest jump scares, completely unexpected and out of context with the scene. Monica and Henry’s momentary shock is quickly replaced by nervous laughter as David continues to laugh maniacally. The darkness in this scene is very much in keeping with the mood of the first hour of A.I as Spielberg paints an uneasy utopia and shows humans barely able to understand on how best to cope with their new family member. The fact that David doesn’t understand why he laughs at Monica’s gastronomic short comings adds to the sinister feel. The start of the scene has David bathed in angelic light, by the scenes conclusion we are plunged further into a creepy, nerve jangling thriller.

5. Celie’s triumph – The Color Purple (1985)

Been On My Mind… | blah blah birds

Where better for Spielberg to stage a grand standing moment that puts a true coward in their place? Of course, the dining table.

Everyone loves it when a bully gets their comeuppance, think about George McFly flattening Biff in Back to the Future and tell me there isn’t a little smile forming on your face.

For the first two hours of The Color Purple, Celie (a quite stunning Whoopi Goldberg)is bullied, humiliated and abused by Mister (a monstrously buffoonish Danny Glover). Celie submits to everyone one of Mister’s demands and the people around her accept that is just the way things are. However the introduction into Celie’s life of the electrifying Shug helps Celie realise that perhaps she doesn’t need to lead a life of suffering and hardship. After discovering that Mister has been hiding letters from Celie’s sister Nettie for years, Celie finally finds the courage to confront Mister. This time Celie gives Mister both barrels in front of the whole family to tell him what a weak man he is and how unafraid of him she now is.

“Nettie and my kids be comin’ home soon, and when they get here we gonna’ set around and whip your ass” Nettie says with a quiet determination. It is a genuine punch the air moment, leaving a bewildered Mister speechless. It’s the finest moment in a film that has plenty of glorious moments but can on occasions descend into Sunday afternoon melodrama.

4. Maybe it was an iguana – E.T (1982)

Top 10 Times A Table Became An Additional Character In A Steven ...

Where better for Spielberg to demonstrate the after effects of a failed marriage? That’s right….the dining table.

Among all the magic and wonder in E.T there are scenes and story themes of sadness, loss and loneliness.

This scene towards the start of the film perfectly captures the new family dynamic, as departed father now leaves mum and older brother to act as surrogate parents to Elliot and Gertie. From the moment we meet Elliot we feel his isolation, he is on the outside looking in, and like any kid he wants people to respect him, he wants them to listen to him when he has something important to say, instead he just gets teased by his older brother. Older brothers are meant to do that, it’s in their job description.

Here we see Elliot’s frustration grow to the point where he announces that his brother may not have the most fragrant aural scent. The shock of that moment (which Spielberg refused to let the BBC edit out for it’s Christmas Day premiere in 1990) is followed by a pause before Elliot delivers an even greater sucker punch by telling the occupants of the dining table that his absent father would believe him.

From light hearted teasing to awkward atmosphere with one line of spiteful dialogue. Elliot has gone to far but doesn’t appear to care, not even by a clearly upset mother, a fuming big brother and a confused little sister.

It’s a beautifully played scene that is in stark contrast to the loud, dancing, pizza scoffing, game of dungeons and dragons from the previous evening. It perfectly encapsulates the challenges that a family faces as they try to adjust to their change of circumstance, meaning things such as simple disagreements over who’s turn it is to clear the plates off the table gets blown hugely out of proportion.

3. Feast of the beasts – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Happyotter: INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984)

Where better for Spielberg to exploit the Gastro fears of the characters and quite frankly the audience, that’s right the dining table.

Perhaps the most controversial entry into this top 10, a scene that hasn’t particularly aged well. On release Temple of Doom was criticised for high levels of violence, now it comes across as film veiled in thinly guarded racial stereotypes. The feast at Pankot Palace is played for laughs as repulsive course is replaced by repulsive course, whilst playing in the background we have Indy grilling the sinister Prime Minister Chatter Lal about the disturbing history of the Palace and its association with the Thugee cult.

What is great about this scene is the impeccable comic timing from Kate Capshaw. In a role often derided as a screechy, annoying damsel in distress, Capshaw realises that she is the comic relief in one of Spielberg’s darker films. Ignoring the glaring plot hole of Indy appearing to being totally oblivious to a giant snake being on the table, which when cut into has 100s of little snakes pour out of it, Capshaw’s reaction is pure slapstick gold. Follow this up with a main course of grilled beetle, a steaming bowl of eyeball soup and of course the crowning glory, for dessert, chilled monkey brains, we are witnessing a Spielberg scene that would never be made today and possibly shouldn’t have been made then but it is tremendous fun.

2. I guess you’ve noticed something a little strange with DadClose Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

A Close Encounter with the Devils Tower – Deano In America

Where better for Spielberg to portray a suspected mental breakdown than at the family dining table.

After having a Close Encounter with a UFO, Roy Neary starts to have strange visions of a mountain in every day objects. He becomes obsessed with this image, seeing it in every day objects including in the foam that he is about to use in his morning shave. As Roy’s obsession grows, his behaviour becomes odder, resulting in the alienation of himself from his family.

As Roy daydreams he’s handed a bowl of mashed potato to which he casually starts spooning onto his plate. A moment later and Roy sees the shape in the mashed potato and starts to ladel the potato onto the plate, using his fork to shape it into the mountain. Roy only stops when he notices the family are staring. They are not just staring, the eldest son weeps as he watches his dad emotionally fall to pieces in front of their eyes. The rest of the family watch on aghast at these strange events

It’s a tragic moment of realisation for Roy that perhaps everything isn’t quite right, a realisation that his family don’t recognise him anymore and the first real indication that they are no longer Roy’s number one priority.

1. Spared no expense – Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park – food & a film

Where better to knock an eccentric businessman down a peg or two….that’s right the dining table.

Once the dust has settled on the ooos and ahhs of the first glimpses of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, a dose of sober reality is laid out to Billionaire fantasist John Hammond by the very scientists that he had hoped would endorse his magnificent theme park. However, what Hammond encounters is a barrage of criticism from all three, who raise the practical fears of this new Eco system that has been developed in a lab without any caution given to the environmental and ecological ramifications of such a place.

Serving West Chilean seabass that has spared no expense, Malcolm, Sattler and Grant express their gravest concerns with some of the finest and most quotable dialogue in a Spielberg film. Hammond realises he only has the blood sucking lawyer on his side who eyes are wide with dollar signs. The lack of discipline in the attainment of Scientific knowledge is Malcolm’s main concern delivering the classic denouement,

“yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”

For an audience who still have their heads spinning from the wonders of the brief glimpse of the dinosaurs, it’s a real bump back down to Earth moment.

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4 year old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

The Spielberg Top 10: Best Opening Scenes.

To grab an audience you have to start well, all the great films pull the audience in, you could argue that you need to grab them in the first 5 minutes or people may lose interest. Like writing, if I waffle on too long you won’t read the rest so without further blathering, here is my personal TOP 10 opening scenes in Steven Spielberg directed movies.

10. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

Steven Spielberg Provides An Update on the Second Tintin Film ...

Spielberg’s first foray into the world of motion capture is occasionally forgotten when discussions around Spielberg’s most dynamic films arise. Unfairly labelled by some as an animated Indiana Jones film, The Adventures of Tintin packs enough of an individual punch with scenes of audacity bravado as to clearly stand on it’s own two feet. None more so then this cracking opening tracking shot as the camera follows the mischievous Aristidis Silk through an outdoor market. Shot largely from the ground up the camera stops on a street artist painting a portrait of a young man who’s back is to us. On completion the Artist shows his finished article, it’s Tintin as familiarised in Herge’s collection of stories. It’s the first of a number of lovely moments in a vastly underrated film.

9. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

That Moment in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): First ...

“Are we the first?…Are we the first to arrive?” Yes, I annoyingly shout this whenever I go to a friends or family members house for dinner etc, in my head it never gets old, however some of the invites have dried up over the years.

The opening scene of Close Encounters is packed full of mystery and red herrings (see the headlights come out of the dust) and sets the scene perfectly for the wonders that are to come. Subtle and made with practical effects, it hooks the audience straight into the story. Where did these planes come from? Why does the old man claim the sun came out at night and sang to him? Great stuff.

8. Always (1989)

Opening scene to the Steven Spielberg film, “Always” (1989) - YouTube

A very brief moment here in one of Spielberg’s least appreciated films, but it is a moment of perfectly dexterous showmanship. Two sleepy fisherman whiling the hours away when in the background, entering the shot from above a seaplane making an unexpected landing. The plane disturbs the fishermen from their slumber but it’s breaking system doesn’t seem to be helping much. The camera stays transfixed as the plane stealthily approaches the stricken boat with its panicked occupants and just as the we the audience grip the corners of our seats as the Fishing boat is about to be made into two the plane lifts off, tickling the tops of the heads of the fishermen, who duly make a swift exit into the lake. You can watch the whole wondrous 55 seconds here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upPHSDqj5x0

7. Munich (2005)

Munich (Part 1) - YouTube

Changing tone completely now, we have one of Spielberg’s most controversial films, Munich. Starting with opening titles that tell us “the following is based on real events” we are greeted by a group of men trying to scale a fence outside the Munich Olympic village. They are given a helping hand by a group of unwitting American athletes, all the while John Williams, tense heart beat of a score pounds away in the background and Janusz Kaminski’s bleak cinematography creates an atmosphere of incredible unease. We are then thrown into the middle of the terrorism plot as we watch them change clothes, load up their weapons and move to their targets apartments. It is nerve shredding tension that never lets up in the two and half hour running time that is perhaps Spielberg’s best kept secret.

6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Fun with Franchises: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989 ...

Who doesn’t love a good origin story? Who loves them even more when they last no more than 10 minutes? Indiana Jones’s third adventure is just a fantastic film, it really is, it’s packed full of laughs, family bonding and adventure. None more so than this opening salvo that returns Indy to his childhood as a Boy Scout. The casting of Sean Connery is often talked about as a stroke of genius by Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas but do not underestimate the casting of the late River Phoenix as a younger version of Harrison Ford. His screen time may be very short but that introduction of the character, including the origins of his fear of snakes and the famous scar on his chin is beautifully put together.

I could have quite easily included all four Indiana Jones films opening scenes in this top 10 as they all start with a bang in one way or another, but I plumped for Last Crusade (and spoiler alert one other) because it gives Indy a little bit of backstory, and 10 minutes in we are already grinning from ear to ear.

5. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan: 21 facts you didn't know? Mel Gibson was ...

I know what you are thinking, FIFTH???? Well, it’s only so low because strictly speaking it’s not the opening scene, which of course is the old man (who I won’t name in case hasn’t seen it yet) visiting the war cemetery.

Taking 25 days to shoot with over 1000 extras the Omaha Beach landing is the most visceral attack on the senses. With no accompanying score the audience are asked to dodge the bullets and mortars and they come whistling across the soundwaves as we catch glimpses of limbs being blown off, men being incinerated, men being mowed down by relentless machine guns. We want to look away, we want it to be over but we don’t.

Personally the for me, Spielberg’s greatest achievement with this scene is making the audience realise that these were not trained killers, they were ordinary men sent into an extraordinary/hellish world to try to defend their freedom. That first 25 minute is one hell of a History lesson and one that should never be dismissed as just entertainment.

4. Jaws (1975)

Top 10 Movie Opening Sequences | Some Films and Stuff

Dur-dum………Dur-dum……..Dur-dum. Ok if you’ve never seen Jaws, then why are you reading this blog? No only kidding, but if you’ve never seen Jaws you have been stood next to a body of water, where somebody, usually your dad has made the Dur-dum sound, and you know what that means, that your dad is implying there is a man eating shark in that water. It’s universal, it’s know globally, that’s the brilliance of it.

Now on the face of it, who wouldn’t take Chrissie up on her offer for a touch of skinny dipping, fortunately for Tom Cassidy, too many sherbet lemons meant that he missed out on a night time sea based frolic and Bruce therefore had to waltz in the waves with Chrissie alone, albeit a tad aggressively.

A lot of the success of Jaws was down to onset mechanical failures, proving once and for all that the things you can’t see are far scarier than those that you can, and this opening scene continues to terrify to this very day. A real stomper.

3. Bridge of Spies (2015)

Bridge of Spies Film Locations - [otsoNY.com]

I make no secret of my love of Bridge of Spies, I think it is a piece of immaculate film making that demonstrates that classical methods can still be effective. In an almost dialogue free game of cat and mouse the opening 10 minutes of Bridge of Spies, is a lesson in meticulousness and attention to detail that can be sadly lacking in the current age of quick cut superhero dominated cinema.

There is a quiet assurance on display here, a calmness to Mark Rylance that embodies his performance throughout. It’s one of Spielberg’s quieter opening scenes but it’s massively effective, who is the man? Why are they after him? It’s a quite wonderful opening to a wonderful film.

2. Minority Report (2002)

MINORITY REPORT (2002) - The Arrest of Howard Marks - YouTube

How do you explain a rather tricky concept to an audience without overdoing the exposition? Simple, show the entire process from start to finish in one nail biting, ass kicking 12 minute opening salvo. It worth pointing out that as slick as Spielberg is here, this is another Janusz Kaminski masterpiece. The saturated grey and blue tinge adds to the cold atmosphere of a man going through the personal turmoil of watching his life unravel as his adulterous wife is locked in the arms of her suave lover. Meanwhile, Det Anderson (Tom Cruise) pieces together the future crime, almost in balletic fashion as Schubert’s No8 Unfinished Symphony plays dauntingly over the action.

As the time ticks by we know already they are against the clock to prevent the crime, we are totally engaged from the get go. The arrival at the street the Mark’s live on a moment of pure beauty as the pre-crime officers descend on zip-wires onto the lush, green, parkland. The slight delay whilst Anderton confirms that Howard left the door open all add to the palatable tension.

It truly is a most wonderfully choreographed scene, it’s Spielberg at his most playful.

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Long-lost Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark footage found on ...

Quite possibly the greatest opening of any film, never mind a Spielberg film. It’s quite difficult to imagine now, but coming off the back of the disappointing 1941, Raiders of the Lost Ark was considered a huge gamble by the studios involved. The Wonderkid had come unstuck with the commercial and critical failure of 1941. In order to start to rebuild his reputation, Spielberg has claimed that he has never been so prepared to make a film as he was for Raiders. Every scene had a storyboard, every minute detail was planned in advance, this film had to come in on budget and on schedule. He achieved both, with scene after scene of perfect action and adventure.

The opening scene has got everything, thrill, spills, gore even humour, note Indy’s face when he grabs the branch to prevent himself from falling into the Abyss, only for the branch to slightly give way, this was no superhero, this is was an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation etc.

If filmed today, this scene would have been edited within an inch of it’s life, imagine if you will Michael Bay shooting this opening scene, but thankfully Spielberg allows the scares and the claustrophobia to prevail, Douglas Slocombe’s cinematography and Norman Reynolds stunning production design instantly transports the audience into this hellish, booby trap ridden cavern.

Then the crowning glory, the rolling boulder, pure genius. The brilliance of Raiders is that as breathtakingly stunning this opening sequence is, it doesn’t peak here and keeps going for the next 100 or so minutes. The opening sequence isn’t even my favourite in the movie, I reserve that for the truck chase, but this is Spielberg at his most prepared, at his most free, at his most playful, he is here to entertain and boy does he ever. What a way to introduce you to one of Cinema’s most iconic heroes.


I dedicate this blog to commemorate the sad loss of Allen Daviau 14/6/42 – 15/4/20 – a true Spielberg legend in every way.

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4 year old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

The case of two dusty roads

In preparation for the (at time of writing) December 2020 release of Steven Spielberg’s 33rd feature as Director, West Side Story, I have decided to attempt to put some more Spielberg blogs together. I have previously written about how Spielberg’s films, themes and styles changed thorough each of the last 5 decades, you can read some of those here if you wish.

Interestingly enough, I thought one of the few advantages of quarantine would be I could watch more films and write more about them, this hasn’t been the case so far, as looking after easily bored kids take priority when I’m not doing my day job. I am however, the newly crowned house champion at Monopoly and Uno, although I’m trailing in last place in Twister due to being the most inflexible man on Earth.

Anyway onto the blogs, I like the idea of doing a series of Top 10 blogs based around Spielberg, so that is what I will be working on, however, to get me back into the swing of things, a more standard essay on Spielberg’s first two Cinematic films (in Europe at least) Duel and The Sugarland Express.

Both films are road movies, both feature scenes of desperation, one is a no-holds barred, seat of the edge thriller, the other, based on real events, is a story of divided families, mistrust, and a reckless pursuit of potentially unattainable goals.

If we take a look at Duel first, a battle of good against evil, a tale of triumph over considerable adversity, it is the story of man versus technical beast, as Dennis Weaver’s wimpish salesman, David Mann (that’s M.A.N.N) Duel’s the unstoppable, pollution spewing oil tanker, with it’s anonymous driver, culminating with one of them succumbing to a gear crunching, metal- scraping end. That is the simple premise and Duel, originally made and released in the US as a TV movie of the week, never needs to delve any deeper than that, just hold on and with a complete lack of pretension and pointless subplot, Duel just gets on with it. Imagine if you will the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a half hour short and you get the idea

The Sugarland Express on the other hand, allows almost begrudgingly a little bit of character introduction and development. We meet Lou Jean Poplin, an almost annoying Goldie Hawn, as she helps her very slappable husband Clovis, played with particular mardiness by the always watchable and sleaze inducing William Atherton, break out of a minimum security prison to go and reclaim their baby son who has been taken into foster care due to the inept couples various indiscretions. En route they steal a car from the fantastic Mr and Mrs Nocker and kidnap and hold hostage Police Officer Maxwell Slide. The problem with the Poplins, and this is one of Sugarland’s Achilles heals, is that they are very difficult to root for, they are not very nice people and watching it now we are on the side of the authorities.

What characterises both as Spielberg films is a sense of isolation, in Sugarland’s case from Officer Slide, here the latest incarnation of the normal everyday guy caught in extraordinary situations, a staple of Spielberg films that has continued through his entire back catalogue. Both Slide and Mann are caught in situations that neither prepared for and both to a certain extent, (especially Mann) are being toyed with by protagonists and in the case of the Slide in particular, are being used as a bargaining chip to greater goals.

Mann and Slide also share a redemptive journey, they both prove to themselves that they are more than the bookish worms that they start out at the start of the film, again another trait that graces Spielberg work for generations to come, such as Brody overcoming his fear of the water, or Dr Grant embracing his responsibility of surrogate parenting. Don’t forget both Brody and Grant could have left the impending chaos to the experts but choose not to.

Early on in Duel we eavesdrop on a phone call between Mann and his wife, who is haranguing him for not standing up for her whilst being harassed at a party the previous evening, asking Mann to be more manly. Note here how Spielberg point his camera slightly away from Mann whilst he is being berated. We are embarrassed for him, in the way when you can listen into an argument on a bus or a cafe, here Spielberg utilises his favourite shape to help hide the fact that we are listening in.

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We eavesdrop in the hope that he doesn’t notice

So the simple question I always ask myself when watching Duel is, why does he not just turn round? Why does he continue on this path into danger? I feel the answer lies in the fact that David Mann has never stood up to any challenge in his life, this is his chance to prove himself, pass this ridiculous test of manhood.

Likewise, there are a number of opportunities where Slide could have escaped his captives, but over time he starts to bond with them and almost develops a sentimental attachment to them, even though there were numerous occasion where as driver of the car he could have changed the course of the narrative.

From a direction point of view we have Spielberg desperately trying to showcase his abilities, Duel is insanely flashy movie, with Spielberg using every camera trick that he has in his arsenal, from close up tight shots of the petrified Mann to extravagant belong shots of Mann’s car screeching to a terrified stop as viewed from the under carriage of the trucks beast like belly.

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The Long shot of isolation, a tale of man against beast

Likewise Sugarland contains a wondrous moment midway through when Spielberg produces a tracking shot through two moving vehicles including dialogue between both vehicles. Its a beautiful shot that once again showcases the young directors sheer dexterity with the camera.

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The dazzling 360 degree camera shot in Sugarland

What also dominates both films, and is in fact a rarely mentioned theme that runs through Spielbergs work in the 1970s in particular, is the Director’s almost disdain for the locals. In both Duel and Sugarland the general American public are almost looked down upon as redneck hicks, who have low IQs and are less that warm and welcoming to strangers. You can also throw in the local fishermen in Jaws and the white trash hill dwellers who Roy Neary of all people, looks down upon in Close Encounters.

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Low IQ Locals in early Spieberg films

In one of Duel’s most captivating scenes, Mann is sat in cafe trying to figure out who the mysterious driver of the truck might be. In Mann’s head everyone is a suspect, he looks down on these people, he trusts no one, he has an air of superiority to him, he spells out RYE to the waitress in the cafe to ensure she gets his very simple lunch order correct. He ends up confronting a man simply because of the way he dresses.

In Sugarland, we have the previously mentioned Nockers who are easily hoodwinked by the Poplins, who are hardly the greatest of con artists. Add to this Buster Daniels the drunkard who Slide is taking home before he is accosted by the Poplins. What follows is a stream of incompetence from the strong arm of the law to local shopkeepers and townsfolk, who are never portrayed as being too high on the social scale.

The scoring of both films follows similar traits, with John Williams’s whimsical first Spielberg score captures the isolation and open highways in Sugarland perfectly, whereas Billy Goldenberg’s Hermann esq score perfectly adds to the tension and fear of Duel. Goldenberg’s score can be found in its glory on the following link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjEcmWvcmjY

All the Spielberg hallmarks are in both of these films as he hones his craft to enable him to move onto bigger things. What happened next propelled him almost by accident into the stratosphere, but what we witness in these two fraternal films, is a young Director packed full of self belief, something that almost 50 years later is still going strong.

The tragedy of Rebso and the wait for a Jedi

The Emperor's New Score: The Story of the Return of the Jedi Music

Several months ago I wrote a blog about my earliest experiences of Cinema and the way it changed my life forever, feel free to read it here. That was a tale about the wonders of seeing a film called Star Wars and its sequel the Empire Strikes Back in this cavernous dark room on a screen the size of a football pitch. It had changed my life and given me the love of cinema that has never left me 37 years later.

I wouldn’t say I became a Cineaste straight away, I was only 5 years old at the time, but the seeds had been sown and the excitement of walking down the plush carpet corridor of any screen room has never left me, the thrill of seeing that giant screen even today is one of my happiest sights, even if the following 2 hours or so don’t always live up to the wondrous promise.

What was certain, I was now obsessed with all things Star Wars. This is a blog post about how Star Wars fuelled my imagination as a kid, made wet School holidays bearable and the indescribable pain of having to wait see the latest installment.

Star Wars was my life growing up, a classic case of good vs evil. In the 1980s, ITV would occasionally show Star Wars on a Sunday night and it was a big event, it was as important as Cup Final day, sure to be talked about at School the following day, not just by pupils but by the teachers as well. I always remember our headmaster at primary school doing an assembly on the diversity of Star Wars and how characters like Chewbacca were generally just accepted for who they were and how Yoda, diminutive in size, was a giant of ability and self belief.

It was everywhere in the 1980s , every little glimpse in a magazine or on a poster was enough to send a tingle of excitement through me. Star Wars figures were all the rage, not just the figure itself but the back of the packaging had an indexed role-call of all the figures available. A handy little Christmas list that could be left in places where Fr Christmas would easily be able to take note.

I used to spend hours pouring over this small piece of card admiring the ones that I owned and dreaming of the ones that would hopefully arrive the next time those reindeers “jingled all the way”. It even made the weekly shopping trips with Mum to ASDA bearable as she would just dump my brother and I in the toy isle where we would just stare at the rows of figures, desperately practicing our puppy dog eyes so that when Mum returned we could convince her that Luke Skywalker in Bespin Fatigues (number 46) was worth £1.99 of anyone’s money.

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Of course this was the 1980s, there were no games consoles (not that I’ve personally ever been interested), we did have a ZX Spectrum which would take 3 days just to load up one game, so during wet school holidays there was only one thing for it, it was time to build Star Wars bases. My brother and I would lay all the figures out on the carpet and take it turns to pick one each at a time until all were gone. It was similar to the way you picked players for the School playground football matches. It was sadly always the same ones who got picked last.

Anyway, embracing the diversity of the Star Wars universe we mixed all Rebels and Imperials together, we were not going to let political nonsense get in the way of us building a true battalion. We both had our favourites, I always had to have the AT-AT driver (number 30 on the above card) and the Rebel Commando (number 7) and my brother always had Bib Fortuna (6) and Nien Numb (13). Strangely Ben Obi Wan Kenobi always seemed to be left until last, I blame the annoying and cumbersome plastic cape that meant he couldn’t sit or do anything. Once the “teams” were picked we set off to separate parts of the house to construct our bases, this was the best bit. I always had the stairs and the under stairs area and my brother would have the TV cabinet and lounge window and armchair.

The bannister of the staircase was made with white circular spindles which the gaps between made for excellent sentry posts. My sentry’s would be made up of a diverse collection of characters, there was always a biker scout, possibly an Imperial Royal Guard and for the element of surprise General Madine possibly borrowing Han Solo’s Endor coat as a cunning disguise.

On one occasion I tied a piece of string around one of the spindles and attached the other end around the neck of Rebel Soldier (number 62) and let him swing down to attack enemy troops if they ever breached the defenses I was assembling on the back of the sofa. In fact, and this is actually quite difficult to type, but my Rebel Soldier actually came to a tragic end. I took him outside for a mission one hot sunny day and attached him to a small plastic carrier bag (now 10p at Tesco). The idea was that I would throw the Rebel Soldier up into the air and as Gravity did its worst, as he plummeted towards the Earth the air would inflate the bag creating a parachute that Rebel Soldier could float down to Earth and attack the enemy. Rebso (as I affectionately called him) had completed several successful missions and was about to return to base when out of the corner of his eye, he spied a pesky Gamorreon Guard among the Begonias. He had to attack, that was his job, but we weren’t set up for another mission yet, but Rebso only had the safety of the team in his head, that’s the kind of guy he was. He launched himself before we were set. The parachute was tangled around his legs………..it was twisted………..it wouldn’t inflate. He reached the apex of his flight and hung momentarily in the air before that old git Gravity swept in. Rebso turned in mid air to give me a metaphorical thumbs up but then plummeted. It’s ok, its Rebso he will have a plan, the parachute will unfurl I thought……….no it didn’t. Rebso tumbelled towards the ground, wrapped in this plastic death blanket……worse still he was heading away from the flowerbeds and to the hard concrete. I can still hear the thud of plastic on stone. We found Rebso’s decapitated body lying on the floor next to his own severed head, witnesses say that he had no name, I told everyone…….i know his name. RIP Rebso.

It wasn’t just the figures that we picked at random, the spaceships also went through the ignominy of having to wait to hear their name called out. There was 2 big ones, the Falcon, always mine, or the Rebel Transporter, which my brother was quite happy to have. Then came the smaller short range fighters, there was an X-Wing, a Tie-Fighter (with detachable wings) and a Y-Wing which was the coolest of the toys. My brother got the Y-Wing, small compensation for never having the Falcon and I took the X-Wing. We would take one wing each of the Tie Fighter to create a shield bunker at our bases and leave the circular pilot pod as a neutral ground bunker (usually somewhere near the coffee table).

Once the bases were constructed and each figure had been fully debriefed on what their role was to be in the upcoming battle, we would invite each other for a friendly look round each others bases. I would always be impressed by my brothers ingenuity of hiding a Stormtrooper in the ginger jar on top of the TV and how the fireplace now resembled a fortress of impregnability. He too would note admiringly how the falcon had been submerged by an old car blanket creating the element of surprise if we were pinned back to the edge of our lair. I had come up with unusual subplots for some of my characters and I would run through these with my brother before the battle so he understood. For example, Lando Calrissian (in Skiff guard disguise) would mutate into Chewbacca (Hulk style) if he was cornered. I always loved characters that metamorphosed in stories and always felt Star Wars lacked that, so I made my own.

So after all the pleasantry’s it was time for battle, however, it never really ever was time for battle. We realised that the creation of these bases and finding all these hidden places to hide figures and spaceships was the main fun. The actual battles themselves were rather limp affairs, a couple of laps of the lounge with the Millenium Falcon firing laser cannons at my brothers base, he would counter attack with a stealth Y-Wing mission, but neither of our hearts were really in it as we didn’t want to destroy what each of us had spent most of the afternoon preparing. We were always saved by the intergalactic “tea’s ready” holler from the Empress of the Universe herself, Mum. It is with deep regret that the majority of figures are long gone now, sold at various car boot sales for a pittance when I was a moody “too cool for Star Wars” teenager. One survived, just, my now silver C3PO who lost an arm in battle still makes his annual appearance as an unexpected guest in my Mum’s nativity scene each Christmas. Apparently I thought there didn’t seem enough people witnessing the birth of Jesus so I added him to the throng, and as a result every year since you can find him hanging out with the shepherds and kings.

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I have two other Star Wars related childhood memories that will never leave me. The first was Christmas 1984, the height of Star Wars toy mania and one of the happiest times of my childhood. Now we weren’t particularly rich as a family but we certainly weren’t poor and we always did pretty well out of Christmas, but 1984 took it to the max, I still don’t know how Fr Christmas managed to get everything on the sleigh and in my room. Now the tradition in our house was for all mine and my brothers presents to be spread out across our shared room so that when we woke up we would be greeted, hopefully, with a room of wonders. The presents weren’t wrapped which in a way made it all the more magical.

Picture the scene, 3am 25/12/1984, my older brother switches on the big bedroom light, oh Lord have mercy. I was 7 at the time and you cannot comprehend as an adult that pure unadulterated feeling of happiness. To the left of my bed was a brand new sparkling white BMX with blood red tyres and handlebars grips. At the end of my bed, balanced rather precariously was the mighty Lego Castle, my brother had the equally impressive Lego technique car which once built had literally blew the minds of every visiting child for the next 3 years with its moving parts.

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Lined up alongside the lego boxes were 5 Star Wars figures each, obviously still in boxes. These were merely the aperitif to the piece de resistance that was sat to the right of my bed – a Millenium Falcon in box with strangely French writing, a lot of kids had these, I guess as Fr Christmas visits England after France he had some left over.

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This was it, I never needed anything again, ever, to coin a term used by young folk these days, I was living my best life. I was the luckiest boy in the whole world and I will never forget that feeling. My brother had the Rebel Transporter so he was happy. The room was finished off with a collection of other goodies, some chocolates, NOW that’s what I call Music 3 on vinyl, we’d got NOW 1 the Christmas before and we had kind of already become obsessed with the NOW universe. There was also a selection of books, one in particular stood out from the rest.

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As mentioned earlier and in a previous blog, my first real experience of Cinema was a Star Wars / Empire Strikes Back double bill, which had changed my life, simultaneously introducing me to the thrilling world of Star Wars and the even larger world of Cinema. So when in the summer of 1983 Return of the Jedi came out of light speed at the local picture house, my 6 year old self was as giddy as a, well 6 year old schoolboy quite frankly. The snag was that my parents were not major Cinema goers and we didn’t go. Everyone went to see that film………..we didn’t. It wasn’t even mentioned. I perhaps wouldn’t have minded so much but to rub salt into those particular coarse injuries, my dad worked just around the corner from the Cinema and walked past it twice a day on his daily commute, so he must have known about it. Besides he was clearly on the phone to Fr Christmas on a regular basis, ” Yes St Nick, its these space toys, I’ve no idea where they are from”. So I had to wait. The second part of this predicament was that we didn’t have a video player in 1983, or 1984, or 1985 for that matter, in fact we didn’t get a video player until November 1987. That was four and a half years since its release, an absolute lifetime when you are that age and have no concept of time to compare it against. I seemed to be the only one of my friends who hadn’t seen it. They would tease me with mini-spoilers such as Luke does a somersault on a floating boat, Yoda is in it, Lando becomes the coolest dude in all the Galaxy etc. I collected the Topps Return of the Jedi sticker album that gave hints of some of the action, but it was the St Michael book that acted as my visual trailer into the film. I read that book cover to cover several times. It depicted the action of the film in vivid detail, culminating in Vader’s redemption and the victory of the Rebels at the Battle of Endor. It described in detail Luke’s removal of Vaders mask to reveal in the words of the book “eyes filled with love”. Cleverly the book didn’t show a picture of Sebastian Shaw in Vader regalia so I was left to my own imagination to picture what this battle scarred face would look like. It became my main aim in life to see that face with its “eyes filled with love”.

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So November 1987 arrived and dad had bought us our first ever video player, a MATSUI from Curry’s. It was amazing, I remember recording Grange Hill, Zammo, Ziggy et al. That Christmas I recorded Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom which was the big BBC Christmas Day blockbuster movie, the following day ITV showed Ghostbusters, again recorded, this time with my brother carefully pausing the recording during the adverts, but there was only one film I was interested in committing to VCR that Christmas and that was on ITV on New Years Day 1988, it was Star Wars. I recorded it and as soon as it finished I ripped out the little black square on the corner of the tape that would prevent anyone recording over it. I finally owned Star Wars, I could watch it whenever I wanted, and oh boy, I sure did. At this point I still hadn’t seen Jedi and even the events of Empire were beginning to fade from my young memory.

Then it happened one night in Spring 1988, completely out of the blue. It was a Friday night, my dad came home from work and called me into the kitchen. I remember him distinctly saying “Hey, I wondered if you wanted to watch this tonight”. He pulled from within his coat a yellow Bolton Library video case. Bolton Library never rented videos in their original boxes, they always placed the tapes into their own branded boxes, it was probably to stop people nicking the original video box covers. I reached out for the yellow box, shaking with nervous anticipation, I cracked it open, and there it was in all its glory Return of the Jedi on VHS.

The next half hour was a bit of a blur, I seem to remember running upstairs and putting on my pyjamas, even though it was only 4:30, I put on my dressing gown and Mr T slippers and went and sat in my favourite chair with the video queued up. Tea was no longer required, we had to watch this and right now. The lights were dimmed and the oh so familiar “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…….” appeared on the screen like a reassuring friend. Then BOOM the yellow STAR WARS logo shot across the screen and off into the star filled distance. The rising from the bottom of the screen was the oh so familiar yellow font, but the words were different. It said Episode VI for a start the RETURN OF THE JEDI. From that moment I knew I was in love with a piece of video tape.

The film was everything I hoped for, the first act set in Jabba’s Palace, a suitable upgrade to Episode 4s Mos Eisley cantina, then a brief stop with our old friend Yoda, who brought the audience up to speed with a quick recap of the main events of Empire, before taking a well earned rest. Then the film for me really came into its own. The three way battle, on the ground on Endor with the Ewoks (loved them then, still love them now), in Space, as Super awesome Lando leads the rebel attack, ably assisted by Nien Numb and the imperious trap fearing Admiral Ackbar, and finally in the confines of the Emperor’s throne room as Luke, Vader and the Emperor embarked on the World’s weirdest job interview. I still wonder to this day how the BBFC gave Jedi a U certificate, I still shudder when the Emperor electrocutes Luke. This was a genuinely terrifying moment for a child to watch.

Finally we get to the moment I had waited for ever since I first read the St Michael story book, Luke was to remove Vader’s mask. Up to the very last minute I wondered what it would look like. There was even a slight tease as Luke removed the back of the helmet, delaying the moment for a few more tantalising seconds, then Luke unhooked the face part of the mask and with a low hiss there he was. Despite the deep scars and the top part of his head basically missing, St Michael had got it right, the eyes were filled with love, the characterisation had been described perfectly, it was not a disappointment. There were a few moments for me to take it all in, there he was the man behind the mask. Within seconds I was snapped out of it as Wedge Antilles went for the power regulator and announced to Lando that he was already on his way out. Of all the “punch the air” moments I’ve witnessed in my life, right up there with George McFly knocking out Biff in Back to the Future, is the Millenium Falcon blasting through the fireball at the exhaust port of the Death Star. “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAA” yelled Lando, as did we all.

In those days you could rent videos for the whole weekend for about £3. I think I watched Return of the Jedi about 8 times over that weekend and cried when we had to take it back. It still holds a very special place in my heart and is probably my favourite Star Wars film. My kids continue to be ignored when, everytime we drive past or walk through a forest I speculate loudly “Hey I bet there’s Ewoks in here”, I follow this with an embarassing dad “Be chuahaha” in perfect Ewok tongue.

As a rather bizarre postscript that following summer whilst holidaying in France, I was thrilled to see that the campsite we were staying on in Britanny was showing the Empire Strikes Back. Without any hesitation I took my seat at the front of the games room and it started. It was in French but I didn’t care, I was seeing it practically for the first time, i could follow it well enough. A few weeks later after returning back to England, I rented it from Bolton Video Library and watched it back to back all weekend. Oh Star Wars, what a time to be a kid.

Dominic Holder

A film fanatic father of three who writes to promote the beauty and wonders of Cinema. I am a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Disney, Marvel and anything that allows you to escape from the pressures of everyday life for a couple of hours. I believe that Cinema is a source of well-being and good for people. I consider it a privilege to witness the gifts and work of the thousands of film makers and collaborators who work tirelessly to provide us with films that main purpose is to entertain.

Huge thanks to Rob and the team at the Bearded Trio http://www.thebeardedtrio.com for all their support with this blog. They kindly published the above at https://www.thebeardedtrio.com/2019/10/the-tragedy-of-rebso-and-wait-for-jedi.html

Why we should all be eternally grateful that Spielberg made 1941

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A look at why Spielbergs most flawed film is one of his most important film  making experiences

There is a scene close to the start of 1941, where two young men are working in a restaurant kitchen. One is preparing the food on the grill, whilst the other is pot washing. They are both dancing to early rock n roll in preparation for the big Jitterbug contest that evening. As they dance, their work becomes increasingly erratic, the cook smashes eggs onto the grill, letting them cook with shell, the pancake batter gets sloshed onto the heat plate with reckless abandon and the pot washer sends ornaments crashing into the soapy water without a care in the world. If ever a scene could be used as an example of art imitating production, then this perfectly encapsulates the total chaos that is 1941.

Filming on 1941 started in October 1978. Spielberg coming off two of the biggest commercial and critical hits of the 1970s with Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind made him one of the most bankable name in Cinema. Not since Alfred Hitchcock had a movie Director been on Cinema marquees. This was no matinee idol such as Robert Redford, or box office kings such as Burt Reynolds or Jack Nicholson, this was a movie nerd who knew that the record-breaking Jaws and the studio saving Close Encounters gave him pretty much free reign over budget, script, and cast. So when he announced to family and close friends that his next project was to be a comedy based on the Pearl Harbour attacks of 1941, more than a few eyebrows were raised. The material itself is not something that lies to comfortably with Spielberg, he never fully manages to get a handle on it, however, Spielberg’s bravado and self-confidence at this point knew no bounds. There didn’t appear to be anyone to say “no” to him.

The production itself went on for a staggering 257 days and it is reported that Spielberg shot over 1 million feet of film. Michael Kahn, who’s breathtaking work on Close Encounters will be revered for generatrions to come, struggles to weave the spaghetti like threads of plot together and on a film that is crying out for a steady hand on the Editing rudder this is a rare concept album curio performance from the usually dependable pairing of Kahn and Spielberg. Working on a script provided by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis (who Spielberg would go on to greater success with Back to the Future in 6 years time), the screenplay was packed full of zany characters, each one displaying a cacophonic paranoia that drowns out any semblance of a cohesive story.

It’s quite stunning that 1941 was nominated for Academy Awards, but the nomination for Best Sound is beyond ludicrous. The one thing that 1941 is, is very loud. The montage cast call at the start of the end credits seems to emphasise this as each character is introduced with them screaming at the camera, only Robert Stack and Lionel Stander, who looks baffled throughout, get away without the scream.

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The film opens with a completely misjudged homage to Jaws, with Susan Backlinie reprising her role as the doomed Chrissie Watkins, only instead of a Shark this time she gets caught on the periscope of a submerged Japanese submarine. This cheesy, self-referential nod to his previous work is something that has thankfully not found its way into Spielberg work since, (with the possible exception of the cringe-inducing pseudonym Steven Spielrock on the production credits for The Flintstones, where Spielberg acted as Executive Producer), Backlinie is not the only Jaws alumni to make an appearance with Murray Hamilton and Lorraine Gary making an appearance. Gary actually screams more into the camera in her 5 minutes of screen time here than in all 4 Jaws films put together. We then move to the previously mentioned dancing chefs, a scene that culminates in a fist fight in the restaurant that results in a soldier having his face plunged into a cream cake. We are then introduced to John Belushi’s drunk, loud American pilot who ultimately has to chase his plane off down the street firing his gun as he goes, and of course he’s shouting. This is all in the first 10 minutes and it is quite apt when Robert Stack, playing Major Stilwell first appears on screen and says, almost to the audience, “this is madness”. The film continues with one eardrum bursting setpiece after another, which more often not culminated in a character screaming wide-eyed into the lens. But, perhaps most criminal of all, it’s just not funny.

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So why do I think this is an important film making experience for Spielberg? The free reign and lack of planning that hampered 1941 were eternally banished, never again would Spielberg go into production so ill prepared. One of the rare criticism I have ever heard labeled at Raiders of the Lost Ark is that some of the action sequences are over choreographed. Well yes, they are and for good reason. Raiders was meticulously planned, with each frame storyboarded and prepared, every fake snake and desert rock had its particular place, each battle-scarred truck had the exact amount of scorch marks, each piece of dialogue had a purpose to the plot. Spielberg was going in prepared, well and truly with no pedestal to preach from, he had to get this film right, on schedule and on budget, the result was an incredibly slick film that rose above its dusty landscapes.

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Spielberg also realised his own limitations with comedic material and has stayed away from all-out, and in particular, slapstick comedy since. He came close in 2000 when he almost directed Meet the Parents, ultimately being persuaded against the idea by his wife Kate Capshaw. Spielberg films are packed with humour but it is never allowed to dominate or take over. Comedy, along with romance, shares a filing cabinet, labeled “only to be used in case of emergency” in Spielberg’s office.

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There are moments of flair in 1941, but they are often displayed with a spiraling dizzyness that the camera battles in vein to keep up with.
Take the Jitterbug sequence that descends into an all-out brawl. At the end of the sequence the main protagonists, Wally and the downright disgrace of a character that is Stretch lie unconscious through pain and exhaustion, similar to how the audience feels at this stage.

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However, lessons are clearly learned throughout. Here Spielberg, who let’s not forget has always wanted to make a musical, really throws caution to the wind with an energetic dance contest that lent more than a passing influence to West Side Story and the recent box office smash Grease. Until the chaos rains down on screen, you can see a keen eye for choreography, which was later displayed to a much greater extent but smaller scale in the “Anything Goes” prologue to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In fact, the opening to Doom is an interesting comparison here. Once again we have a musical number that soon turns nasty as Indy crosses and double crosses in negotiations with the treacherous Lao Che. Here Spielberg manages to keep a tighter reign on the fisticuffs, carefully positioning the main protagonists. The utilisation of props to remove the attention away from the many kung-fu extras who have been brought in to swell the melee is expertly done, in particular, a giant gong doubles as a protective shield as Indy makes his escape through a nearby window. This blog was first written in March 2019, when the upcoming West Side Story was still in pre-production, I would like to think when we eventually see that film in December 2021 that it will be more Anything Goes than 1941.

There are moments where things work well in 1941. The scenes involving Robert Stack as Major Stilwell watching Dumbo in the cinema are very affecting, a nod to a rediscovery of childhood innocence, a quiet moment of respite, an escape from the horrors of the outside world, a safe, secure environment, as an audience member, there is a desire to pull down the seat next to Stilwell and sit and watch the rest of Dumbo with him. Spielberg’s more energetic films away from 1941 would often include such a scene, e.g. Quint and Hooper comparing scars on the Orca, or in Saving Private Ryan the squad sit in an abandoned church and tell stories of lost lifestyles back home, or Ray and Rachel share a lullaby in the cellar during a quieter moment in the terrifying War of the Worlds. The Major Stilwell/Dumbo scene was possibly a reminder to Spielberg moving forward that there needs to be a quiet time even in the most crash, boom, bang of films. You need to give the audience an opportunity to catch their breath.

Most importantly, perhaps, is what Spielberg learned as a result of 1941. He was not infallible, he couldn’t surround himself with “yes” men who would fail to have an opinion. He would know what it was like to not fully prepare beforehand and see the results as a consequence. He would know his limitations, and he would never again have a cast member scream into the camera.

For more reading on 1941 and all of Spielberg’s cinematic output please take a look at my 1970s blog.

Thanks for reading.

Dom

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com