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A Personal Insight: James Hanton's five films that made him


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These five films all mark some pretty significant moments for me personally, and it means a lot to share them. So here they are.Max (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) in Mary and Max (2010)

1. No Country for Old Men (2007)

Up until now my childish mind had decided that War of the Worlds (2005) with Tom Cruise was the best film ever made. Needless to say, I had not seen a truly great movie, or at least one I recognised as truly great. That all changed with No Country for Old Men, which left me in something of a daze.

It was everything about it. The detail of the story, that terrifying performance/haircut from Javier Bardem, and a complexity that went a bit over my head first time around. In my confusion however, I found myself relishing the Coen Brothers’ neo-Western. The script and the execution were unlike anything else I had ever seen. I wasn’t used to films this brutal and sparse on dialogue, least of all ones with close-up shots of moody old men. No Country remains among my personal favourites and made me a long-lasting fan of the Coens, as well as educating me in what good filmmaking actually looks like.

2. Love Exposure (2008)

There is no way to summarise this four-hour Japanese epic in a pathetic paragraph or two - the genius work of the controversial Sion Sono. I caught a trailer for Love Exposure on Film4 once and was utterly spellbound. “A fairytale… beyond your wildest imagination” it promised me. I stayed up from 11pm until 3.30 in the morning to watch this, still the latest I have ever stayed up willingly that has not involved alcohol.

Love Exposure is lewd, confusing, tiring… and truly unlike anything else. It is a maddening story of Christian critique, perversion, attraction and manipulation. Asian cinema can come across as a bit peculiar for Western audiences, but this is on another level. This violent fable took the experience of cinema to a new level for me. That late night of watching something truly unique and special will stay with me forever.

3. The Runaways (2010)

Oh this? This is a decidedly average bio-drama starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, and Michael Shannon forces a boy to throw dog poop at them. That, and it charts the brief fame of The Runaways, one of the very first all-female rock groups who in the 1970s were somewhat revolutionary. As a film, this is decidedly so-so – a portrayal of misspent youth is fine, but this is a bit too stylistic in its depiction of raging hormones. What makes this film special for me though is not the film itself, but the music.

After seeing this, I started listening to The Runaways albums. That got me into Joan Jett, Suzi Quatro, and classic rock more generally. I had finally broke away from the limited mix of music that had stayed with me since childhood, and found something more. From there, I found my current taste of metal, goth and industrial. Music means so much to me and I see it as a part of who I am – so I could have come out very different were it not for stumbling across this movie.

4. Mary and Max (2010)

My favourite film. This story of a pen-pal relationship between a young Australian girl and a disabled man in New York is endearing, hilarious and deeply sad. The fact its all in claymation makes it all the more visual and engaging. Such a simple story sucked me in and probed every part of my brain for some kind of reaction, before I finished the film in tears. It's utterly beautiful.

It's important as well. A lot of the film is from Max’s point of view, and it is a very positive image of disability. It is one that accepts the limitations it imposes on everyday life while also looking at how Max incorporates it into his identity. This forms part of a script that is full of charm and wit, while capturing what is at the heart: a moving story of friendship and maturity. Please watch it.

5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

I had never heard of Mad Max before going to the cinema with a bunch of school friends to see this. I had not even seen any trailers for the new film – all I really knew was that Tom Hardy was playing some gruff bloke who doesn’t speak much. This is the first film I ever saw in cinemas that I was totally unprepared for.

Two hours later, my ideas about what was possible on a movie screen had been utterly shattered. Mad Max: Fury Road rewrote the rulebook on how intense you can make an action movie. The sheer lunacy of it, combined with cut-throat action and such a distinctive aesthetic, won me over within minutes. I could feel my heart working overtime, my eyes constantly agape at George Miller’s vision of an apocalyptic future. In hindsight, this magnificent and bat-shit bonkers road movie leaves me with one permanent thought: “This is by the same guy that made Babe?”

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