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A Personal Insight: Jo Bullen's favourite films


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Just an exploration of some of my all-time favourite films! 

1. The Breakfast Club (1985)

I first saw this when I was about fifteen, taped off the TV on a flickering VHS. Fifteen is definitely the right age to encounter this one – I suspect if you’re much older, you just get frustrated with the characters! Instead, I was captivated by the group dynamics and the fantastic one-liners. Each of the Club have been my favourite at a different time, but I probably always come back to Bender as the most fascinating character. To be honest, I’m still hoping for a sequel, because I need to know what happened on Monday at school (luckily fanfiction is more than happy to fill in that gap!). 

2. About Time (2013)

Richard Curtis might have made more well-known films, but this is my top choice. The casting helps, as it combines three of my favourites in Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Margot Robbie, and who doesn’t like Bill Nighy anyway? Yet it’s the story which keeps me coming back for more: an entirely ordinary romance, but with a splash of time-travel. There’s more than a hint of Curtis’ Doctor Who episode ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ as well. Plus the wedding dress: oh, goodness - the wedding dress! 

3. Rent (2005)

Admittedly, this film adaptation is nowhere near the same as seeing this Tony Award-winning rock musical on stage, but given that it features most of the original Broadway cast, it’s not a bad compromise. It holds a special place in my heart as I saw the musical whilst visiting New York and subsequent repeat listenings of the soundtrack mean I know almost every word. It’s also nice to see the musical taken from the stage to locations around the city, making it feel much realer. I’ve found it to be quite a Marmite-film though, as I’ve yet to find anyone else who likes it!

4. Josie and the Pussycats (2001)

When I was at school, all of my friends had this film, and we must have watched it together at least once a month. Based on the Archie comics, it’s set in the same world as the TV series Riverdale and has become a bit of a cult classic. Again, it’s highly quotable, has an epic soundtrack and somehow seems even more relevant now than when it was released, as it looks at the power of the global music and film industries. It’s kitsch, but in a really self-aware manner – the fourth wall feels like it could be broken at any moment, and you’ll probably never look at Alan Cummings in the same way again.

5. Dirty Dancing (1987)

Whilst it’s a horrible cliché, this is my girls’ night film. Whenever we have a get together, you can almost guarantee this will be put on. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it, rewound certain sections, sung along and pre-empted lines. I’ve even been to an outdoor screening in the pouring rain – that’s how dedicated I am to this film. Whilst Patrick Swayze is obviously the main attraction, the whole film is a joy to watch, and is surprisingly gritty in places – worth a second watch if your main memory is the final dance sequence.

6. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

It’s more fashionable these days to celebrate more modern Disney princesses, such as Belle, Tiana or Elsa, who embody more feminist ideals. True enough, Aurora probably has the fewest lines of any of the official line up and it spelled the end of Disney’s fairytale adaptations for some time due to its mixed critical reception. But this film is a visual tour de force: Walt Disney wanted every frame to look like a work of art, and that’s exactly what you get. To think this was created without any use of computers is mind-blowing. Add a soundtrack which more than nods towards Tchaikovsky’s ballet, and you get this beautiful film.

7. The Great Gatsby (2013)

Having taught this book at least once a year for eight years, I’ve seen this one more than a few times, yet it’s always a pleasure. Whereas watching Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) for the nth time has taken the shine off of it, this adaptation always feels fresh, clever and captivating. The soundtrack produced by Jay-Z doesn’t sound like it should work, but somehow it really captures the spirit of the story. Leonardo DiCaprio is, obviously, brilliant, but the whole cast pulls together to make something I think F. Scott Fitzgerald would have been proud of.

8. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

This film has another great ensemble cast, including Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I have to say, rewatching it now, I’m startled by the fact it’s only rated a ‘12’, because its sexual references are less than subtle! Despite that, and the rather cringy poem main character Kat delivers at the end, this film is witty and clever in a way that modern teen films just aren’t. It never patronises its audience and the lead characters are so likeable that it’s impossible not to root for them to succeed in the end.

9. Inside Out (2015)

This film is so much more than a kids’ film, and deservedly won the Oscar for Best Animated Film. I love how it tackles such a classic problem – a child’s sadness at moving home – in such an inventive and fresh way, giving ways for children to articulate how they’re feeling in new ways. Of course, Bing Bong and his storyline are standout in so many ways – I defy you to watch and not get a tear in your eye. This film really is the whole package and I could never recommend it to enough people. 

10. Little Women (1994)

I’ve saved the last spot for a film which not only inspired my love for the series of books, but has inspired my dissertation topic. It might not be the most inventive, the most highly-acclaimed or most popular film of all time, but to me, it’s the equivalent of a cosy blanket and a hot chocolate. The cast are perfect and it’s a fair adaptation of the novel, cutting out some of the less Hollywood-friendly fare, such as Meg’s domestic woes and Amy’s quarrel over a stall at a community fair. My only disappointment in this film is that there was never a follow-up adapting the remaining books in the trilogy!

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