Back to the Future (1985)
Arriving almost exactly in the middle of the ‘80s, Back to the Future is the default film of that decade. Its combination of science fiction, comedy, and drama offers the willing viewer two hours of slick and satisfying film making. In a time replete with perilous excess, it chose some of the better specimens (the DeLorean, Huey Lewis and the News) and in the years since, has drawn them into itself. A few seconds of that perfectly deployed synthesizer is enough to induce a memory of the film’s artwork. The video hire era began in the ‘80s, and its business model could not have been better served by Marty McFly. Later, my parents owned a video hire shop, a fluorescent and neon tribute to everything for which Back to the Future stood. The potential of Friday and Saturday nights, for a minor, lay in the wealth of empty cases on the shop shelf. This film was the fulfillment of that potential, in a style now impossible. Watch it, on VHS if you can, with friends on a Friday night. Order some takeaway and see if it doesn’t feel like home.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Little Miss Sunshine has such a place in my heart that, before even the first scene begins, the repetitive first chords from the film’s title track elicits from me an almost Pavlovian reaction of happiness and nostalgia. Michael Arndt’s charmingly clever script knits together a family that includes an uptight, unsuccessful motivational speaker, a suicidal scholar, a heroin-snorting grandpa, a self-imposed mute teenager, young Olive – an aspiring beauty queen, and a worn out, overly stressed mother attempting to keep the family together. What makes Little Miss Sunshine special, is that it isn’t a victim of the family drama genre pitfall where love conquers all. In fact, by the end of the film, none of the characters’ problems are even remotely resolved. Yet, with the final scenes showing the Hoover family pile into their broken banana-yellow camper van once more, something has definitely changed. Even as they sit in silence, there’s a sense of genuine understanding and unity between them that has possibly never existed before. It’s an unassuming film about a dysfunctional family, and a garish beauty pageant that manages to be genuinely hilarious, heartbreaking, and wise all at once.
Shrek 2 (2004)
Shrek set a new high for animated films by creating a piece that was not only enjoyable for children, but adults as well, with central characters that were anything but conventional. However, Shrek 2 shook the film industry and revolutionized the entire concept that is entertainment. The movie hits all the marks, starting with the iconic use of ‘Accidentally in Love’ in one of the best montage scenes used in film. Shrek 2 does a great job in showing us life for the ogre power couple since the events of the first film. In my opinion, the best working aspect of the film are its conniving antagonists; the introduction of Prince Charming and the Fairy Godmother establishing the standard villains should aspire to be. Also, it cannot be coincidence that Prince Charming bares intense resemblance to Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones, an example that further establishes Shrek as culturally and historically influential. For me it is both nostalgic and modern, making references to childhood movies such as The Little Mermaid and Lord of The Rings while at the same time being satirical in its representation of consumerism and the medieval depiction of Cops, titled ‘Knights’. I highly recommend everyone check out Shrek 2 this weekend and bask in the most important film in movie history.
Jorge Luis Fonseca
Ron Howard’s 1988 Willow is high fantasy and is so much fun. I first watched it as a child with my older brothers, and we still talk about it. Produced by George Lucas, it is Star Wars in Middle Earth and I have watched it more times then there are hours in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Extended Edition. Played by Warwick Davis (later to play Professor Filius Flitwick in the Harry Potter films), Willow is a humble Elwyn who must return a baby, Elora Danan, he has stumbled across to the Dikinis (humans). Elora’s destiny is to bring about the downfall of Queen Bavmorda whose powers are growing like an evil plague. Along the way, he enlists the help of a brash and down-on-his-luck swordsman, Han Solo, or was it Madmartigan, played by Val Kilmer. Led by Queen Bavmorda’s daughter Sorsha, the Queen’s men hunt Willow and his compatriots. The film is hilarious, but it is not just the dialogue and characters that keep bringing me back. The score by James Horner, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra is profound and every time I hear it I feel like I am being lifted off the ground. The film features gorgeous painted landscapes that I find so much warmer than CGI in films today. This hero’s journey sounds and looks amazing. I love films that create a sense of place, and Willow’s world is magical and exciting, and a place I love to inhabit for one hundred and twenty-six minutes at least every couple of years.
Art by Jorge Luis Fonseca