Films That Didn’t Make My Top 10 List
Choosing ten desert island films for my upcoming event at London’s wonderful Cinema Museum on May 14th (a few tickets still available) has been a nightmare, mainly because I change my mind every ten seconds. (Is it only guys who love making lists?) I finally decided to limit my choice to ten films that directly influenced me, no matter how cheesy or unfashionable they were. That means only one arthouse flick and a few embarrassing British comedies.
One film that would have made the cut was Kubrick’s ‘2001’, which the film critic Anne Billson in her excellent ‘Film Database’ (now available as an e-book) couldn’t connect with – and I wondered if it was a film few women connected with until I remember that I first heard about it via my mother, who sat on the end of my bed and excitedly described the entire plot to me.
Time has been kind to the film, although the spaceships are now clearly static rostrum photographs (would it be utter sacrilege to suggest an alternative cut where they move?). What separates the film is its stretches of silence revealing the true vastness of space, its underplayed characters and its oblique message. I particularly love the encounter on the space station with Leonard Rossiter(!) in which the dialogue is awkward and strained by government restrictions on information. Anyone who complains about the oddly static performances misses the point; this is a future that belongs to the scientists.
When the signal finally goes out and awakens us to other possibilities in the universe, it will fill our eyes with so much wonder that a new renaissance can begin; it’s the ultimate optimistic film, so open-ended that it made the sequel ‘2010’ redundant before it arrived.
There isn’t a moment in the film which isn’t iconic – how many films can you say that about? If you’ve seen the viral online joke in which Siri replaces Hall (check out my Twitter feed @peculiar – I can’t upload it here as I’m in an airport) you’ll know how prescient the film was. And it’s still the most stylishly designed movie ever.
Okay, it got a couple of things wrong; Corbett Woodall didn’t live to be 150 and Pan Am went bust, but the underfloor-lighting-antique chair look didn’t hit hotels until around 2001, so Kubrick was on the money.
Most importantly, it’s a science fiction film (possible the only one) which achieves what it set out to do – to convey the epic scale of the undertaking, to speculate, to hope, to thrill and to reveal that there is more beyond our little planet than we can ever hope to understand.
The reason why I didn’t include it is twofold; 1. It’s simply too familiar, and I want to surprise the audience. 2. I didn’t see it until fifteen years after it came out (but then I saw it about 20 times).