Friday, 4 January 2019

101 Great Films

I used to teach Film Studies. It was good fun, and about as easy as it sounds.

Because of this, people sometimes ask me what films that they should have watched. They think I have a Proper List in my head, and that I can tell them the Right Answer. And then they can watch the Right Films.

Or maybe they're just asking for recommendations. They're bored of the usual stuff, and think that I might know lots of cool, offbeat, esoteric stuff, that will stimulate their intellects and hearts.

When they do this I nod wisely, purse my lips, and then stare into the distance, trying to communicate the majesty of cinema.

What I'm really doing is thinking, "What films are there? I can't think of any. Except Star Wars. Better not say Star Wars."

Anyway. I've decided to create a list of my top 100 films. Which was stupid for a number of reasons. Firstly, there's too many great films. Getting it down to 100 is ridiculous, and I've definitely forgotten something crucial. And I've had to miss off some great stuff, that makes me sad.

Yes, I'm sorry "The Guest". I love you, but there wasn't room.
Please don't kill me with guns.

Also, what does 'top' mean? Is this a 'Sight and Sound' style list of films we should all know, if we want to be proper film buffs? Does Citizen Kane need to be in there? (It's not.) Should it be representative of all the various genres, and include significant films that moved the art form on? (It isn't, it doesn't.)

In the end I've gone for 'Things I like.' Which seems about right. Though it does mean that my top 100 probably isn't that different from Empire's top 100. And may indeed seem very mainstream.

Thing is, my taste in film is pretty simple, I think. I like to be engaged by the medium. I want images and sounds that excite some emotion. I've never been one for subtle, quiet movies. I know some people get a lot from films with ladies staring sadly out of windows, in silence, for ten minutes at a time. But I like stuff to happen, and ideally I'd like that stuff to be an exploding helicopter.

So here's my provisional list of the 100 films I like best. Except it'll probably change as soon as I put it down. And it's 101 because screw you it's my blog and 100 is too hard.




American Beauty
American History X
American Psycho
An American Werewolf in London
Apocalypse Now


Back to the Future
Blade Runner
Blade Runner 2049
The Blues Brothers


Casino Royale (2006)
Children of Men



The Dark Knight
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Dead Man’s Shoes
Die Hard


Edward Scissorhands
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


Face Off
Falling Down

A Few Good Men
Fight Club
The Firm
Flash Gordon
Four Lions



The Girl With All the Gifts

The Graduate
Grosse Pointe Blank
Groundhog day


Halloween (1978)

Hot Fuzz
The Hudsucker Proxy


In The Loop
It Follows
It’s A Wonderful Life

John Wick


L.A. Story
Little Miss Sunshine
The Long Good Friday
Lost in Translation
The Lost Boys



The Matrix
Mean Girls
Midnight Run
The Muppets


A Nightmare on Elm Street
Night of the Living Dead

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Out of Sight


Peter’s Friends

The Princess Bride
Pulp Fiction

A Quiet Place

The Raid
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Reservoir Dogs
The Royal Tenenbaums

Shaun of the Dead
Shawshank Redemption
Silence of the Lambs
The Sixth Sense
Stand By Me

Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country
Star Wars: A New Hope
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back


Terminator 2
This is England
Total Recall
True Romance
Twelve Monkeys
Twenty Eight Days Later

The Untouchables
The Usual Suspects

What We Do In The Shadows
When Harry Met Sally

Withnail and I






Monday, 24 December 2018

Christmas Past

Good evening, you lovely people. I don’t know about you, but I’m right in the middle of Christmas Eve, and I feel delightful.

I thought I’d share a little story I wrote, this time last year. I was asked to create an alternative take on the Nativity, for reading at a midnight church service. Apparently they read it out, to those assembled. I don’t know what the reaction was - I was miles away watching that episode of Father Ted with the lingerie department. But here it is. I hope it brings your some Christmas cheer. 

Christmas Eve

The Nativity is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I mean, it’s nice. I’m not saying it’s not nice. It’s just…

I was expecting it to be different.

Look. It’s my fault. They tell you not to time travel to points of great historical significance. Not until you’ve done it a few times.

They say, time travel, by all means. We’ve got the technology. Go where you like. When you like. Don’t kill anyone or tread on any butterflies, but go see some history. Just don’t go anywhere really important. Because you’ll be disappointed. Don’t go to Agincourt. Don’t go to see the Beatles at the Cavern.

Don’t go the the Nativity.

Because you’ve got an idea, haven’t you, in your head, of what the Nativity is going to be like. You’ve seen a hundred Christmas cards and displays in shops and adverts on TV. You’ve heard all the carols. You think you’ve got it nailed.

We all know the Nativity. Camels. Kings. Cows. Sausage rolls. Dog in a manger. Something like that. Snow - but nice, warm, glowy snow. Peaceful. Lovely, warm, snowy, quiet Nativity.


For a start. No snow. And yet, somehow, cold. How is that fair? Where’s the lovely warm glow? The lovely, warm, golden glow of Christmas?

No camels. No Kings. A couple of weird, beardy blokes - oh yes. But I’m pretty sure they’re not kings. Or if they are, they’re certainly not Kings of anywhere good. It’d have to be a Kingdom with pretty low standards of personal hygiene.

Plenty of sheep, fair enough. But also, ugh. Turns out sheep are great to look at, on a card, but rubbish when they are next to you, and you can smell them, and they are staring at you with those flat, terrifying eyes.

And plenty of Shepherds, obviously. They’re big lads. I suppose you get used to the idea of the Shepherds being about six years old, with little glue on cotton wool beards. As opposed to large, hairy blokes who look at you like they might kill you. They do not like you insulting their sheep. No. They get quite cross if you call their sheep ‘freakish’. And the language they use certainly didn’t get past the first draft of the Bible.

There’s Mary - she’s younger than I expected. And Joseph - he’s older than I expected. And neither of them are… um… well, neither of them are as white as I thought they’d be. Nothing wrong with that, obviously. But I’m going to be honest, I always thought of them being more or less English. Which now I think about it doesn’t make much sense.

Same for Jesus. Not as white as you’d think. And not as quiet, either. Let me tell you, whoever wrote that thing about “no crying he makes” was, franky, making it up as he went along. No crying he makes? Not for one second did that child stop making noise. He might be the saviour of the universe or whatever, but he was also a gurgling, squawking little bundle of noise and snot.

But I tell you what. It is strange, looking at Jesus. I mean, actual Jesus. I didn’t get very close. I thought that might be inappropriate. But there he was. The most famous person in history, just laying there, gazing about at the world.

I guess he must have been thinking the same as me. What’s all this… stuff? All these beardy blokes and black eyed sheep. And his mum and dad staring down at him, both totally freaked out.

If he is God - that’s what he’s meant to be, isn’t he, “God” - if he is God, then I suppose he must have felt a lot like me. He knows about all this stuff. He’s had a good idea of what it’s all about for thousands of years. But to suddenly be in the middle of it… it’s different. A bit scary. A bit smelly. A bit more real, maybe. And new. Somehow, completely new.

I don’t know how much he knew what was going on, this baby that we sing all the songs about. Was he laying there, thinking God thoughts? “Ah, here I am manifested in human form! To business!” Or was it more like, “I’ve got toes! They wiggle! I knew they did that, in theory, but man it’s fun to actually do it!”?

Or was it just total baby thoughts? Feeling warmth for the first time. Hunger. Pain. A bunch of emotions that don’t have names yet, all swishing about. How do you go from infinite knowledge, to that?

I wanted to grab him. I wanted to shout, “Don’t do this. Go back. Go back to being miles away. All this is better from a distance. I’m only visiting, and already I’m disappointed. How are you going to find hope, here? It’s not magical. It’s not mythic. It’s just a normal place, with some normal people. It’s impossible to get where you want to go, from here.”  

But of course, I didn’t say anything. I left him there, in the middle of that nothing place, and I came back here. Back to Christmas Cards and Advent Calendars. Things that made sense. Songs about a quiet baby surrounded by magical Disney animals.

It’s better. It feels more like the place Jesus belongs. My Jesus, I mean. Not that strange little baby in that cold, impossible world. He doesn’t fit here. And if I sing enough songs, maybe I can forget him for good.

The Nativity is not all it’s cracked up to be. I recommend you don’t go. Stay here. It’s far, far easier.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Time is Relative: Season 10 - part one.


You know how people are always asking you to recount the plots of old Doctor Who stories, briefly, and with pictures? And you know how you're never quite sure how to quickly and amusingly summarise those stories?

Well worry no more. I present to you, the Rob Reed guide to old Doctor Who. It's brief, occasionally amusing and - crucially - has pictures.

Today, we're looking at Season 10, which is from 1972, when we were considering joining the EU. Crazy times.

The Three Doctors

You know how Doctor Who is a Time Lord? Well, these guys are Time Lords too, except not as good. Doctor Who used to live with them before he ran off to have adventures and get his own TV show.

These guys did not run off to have adventures, and none of them have TV shows. They stayed in this super colourful disco room, wearing awesome capes playing with computers. You would think this would make them happy. But it does not. They are extra serious, all the time, and they don't know any girls.

They generally don't turn up in Doctor Who, because they are the ultimate buzzkill and he has asked them not to embarrass him. However, today they need his help, because a mysterious Space Hole has happened, and is sucking all their power away.

The Time Lords want Doctor Who to go in the Space Hole and find out where all their stuff has gone. However, he does not want to, because he is very lazy and also he does not like the sound of the Space Hole, and probably he would rather just start drinking now please.

So the Time Lords send another Doctor Who to help. Look - there he is, on the left. It's the guy who used to be Doctor Who, ages ago, when it was in black and white. Now there are two Doctor Whos, and  they can go into the Space Hole together.

They still do not want to, though. So they have closed their eyes. If they can not see each other, then no-one can see them, and make them go into a Space Hole.

The Time Lords go and get yet another Doctor Who to try to persuade the other Doctor Whos to get on with the story.

This Doctor Who is also from black and white times. And he is still in black and white, even though everything else is in colour. Which suggests that he was always actually, physically in black and white, and we never noticed because everything else was the same.

Or maybe the Time Lords just have black and white TV. Which seems like an odd purchase, given their decision to buy such a massive one. Maybe the licence is cheaper or something.

Back on Earth, Doctor Who finds himself threatened by these guys. They might look like shambling, jelly monsters covered in sick, but they are, in fact.... um...

Well, it's never properly established exactly what's going on with them. One thing's for sure, they're from another universe, and they want to eat Doctor Who! They get one of the Doctor Whos and steal him, and run off with him into the Space Hole.

They look a bit forlorn, to me. I think I'd be quite sad if I was one of them. They don't appear to have arms, or mouths, which presumably means they don't get to eat tasty snacks.  And they look a bit like pizza, which must make them hungry.

The Brigadier is already fed up of the story. It was bad enough having one Doctor Who, eating all his sandwiches and calling him a jerk for shooting at the aliens. Now there are two of them, and neither of them are helping fight the blob monsters.

Sergeant Benton is having a go at shooting the monsters. And taking it very seriously, too. Come on Sergeant Benton! You're shooting at monsters! If that doesn't make you smile, what will?

Eventually they all go off in the TARDIS to find the other Doctor Who. From the looks on Sergeant Benton's face, the Brigadier has just said something super racist, even for the 1970s.

Doctor Who number three has found the main bad guy. He's called Omega, and he's got an amazing face. Omega lives in the Space Hole, and stole all the power, and made the blob monsters. He's a Time Lord too. Pretty much everyone in this story is a Time Lord.

Omega is cross because he invented time travel, ages ago, and rather than say, "Thank you," all the other Time Lords let him fall into a space hole and never spoke to him again.

Now he's shouting about how great he is, and how he could kill everyone really easily, and how everyone needs to be lots nicer to him from now on.

Doctor Who isn't particularly bothered. He knows that the other Doctor Whos will show up in a bit, and they'll win for some vaguely nonsensical reason. He might also be wondering how great he'd look in Omega's shiny cloak, and coming to the conclusion, "Very great."

The Doctor Whos win, and Omega explodes, and they all go home in the TARDIS.

Doctor Who number one turns up and this point and says, "Hurray, we won!" even though he didn't do anything at all, and just sat in a magic triangle all day. This is pretty much how he behaved when he was in charge, so it is a fitting tribute.

Goodbye Doctor Who number one. You were bonkers, but we liked you anyway.

That'll do for now.

More of Season 10 soon.

Go back to Season 9 - here!