The films that influenced me: Rob Stoakes

Rob StoakesIn a series of special articles, Movie Metropolis contributor Rob Stoakes and founder Adam Brannon share the 10 films that changed the way each of them view cinema. We kick off with Rob’s first five, with Adam’s following later this week.

I don’t think I’ve written a more personal article on this or any other site. The Lion King review is perhaps the closest. But this is special, because recently my debut novel, Mother and Monster, was published.  And while I could do an entire article about the book and pestering you to buy it, I imagine you lot are more interested in films, I’ve instead decided to share something very personal; the ten biggest influences on me from the world of cinema.

This is not a list of my favourite films. This is not a list of the best films. Some of the films on this list are those, some are dumpster fires, but all of them have had an impact on me, as a filmgoer, as a writer and, perhaps most importantly of all, as a person. I wouldn’t recommend all of them, you might not enjoy them, but when the police find the bodies and try to figure out why I did it, this is probably where they should start.

10) The Little Mermaid 2

And speaking of all of these influences not being positive!

If you’ve not seen the direct-to-video sequel to The Little Mermaid, congratulations, your life is considerably better than mine. It’s such a blatant retelling of its prequel that it raises the question on whether or not a studio can rip itself off, but it has much poorer animation, much poorer voice acting, and the climax… actually, the climax in the first film was also a loud but flat thud, like a toddler slapping a piano, but that doesn’t make this one any better.

It is also the first film I ever reviewed.

Yep, about five years before joining Movie Metropolis, I did text reviews on a deep dark corner of the internet. It’s more of a comedy article review than the critiques that I now prefer to do, and it’s definitely not my best writing, but you never forget your first, especially when they’re as bad as this.

9) The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

A bit obscure this one, not sure if you’re heard of it, it’s only the most important film trilogy since Star Wars.

The importance that LOTR has with me, though, doesn’t have anything to do with the films. I love them, of course, but I was already a fantasy geek before seeing them. No, for me, the real joy of LOTR are the Special Edition DVDs. If you want the point where  my interest in how movies were made took off, here it is.

Before, outside of nerds like me, no one cared how movies were made. As far as the movie going public was concerned, movies were baked in great big ovens. LOTR changed that with its innovative and intimate look behind the curtain that is as fun to watch as the films themselves.

If you’re looking to get into movies, or even if you’re a casual fan, you can’t go wrong. And you can also buy my book.

8) Ed Wood

I’ve always been a big fan of obscure, weird so-bad-it’s-good schlock, especially the stuff covered by Mystery Science Theater 3000. But I’ve not put one of those on here because, really, all they are is just a type of film I like to point and laugh at. Not much can be drawn from them besides a masochistic enjoyment. I have weird tastes.

The life of the artist, though? That can be a lot more interesting, especially when it’s a life as strangely inspiring as that of Ed Wood. Because Ed Wood really is the worst director of his day, he is as bad as everyone says he is. But this biopic makes it impossible not to admire just how much he loves film. He’s not in it for money or for high art, or even to entertain anyone but himself, but simply for the love of creativity.

Which feels oddly tragic now, given that Tim Burton directed it, the low-rent Terry Gilliam wannabe who absolutely sold out years ago. It’s still his overall best film, even if I prefer Batman and The Nightmare Before Christmas as pure entertainment pieces. If you are at all of a creative mind-set, you owe it to yourself to watch this.

7) Grindhouse: Planet Terror & Deathproof

Now, if you’re after some schlock…

One of my absolute favourite types of schlock is the 80’s and early 90’s schlock headlined by the likes of Troma films, the Aussie and British video nasties, and especially the indie slasher scene. The oodles of gore, the neon lights, the constant synth music, it’s a glorious aesthetic.

What I love about the aesthetic is the creative ways that the filmmakers make up for glaring budget restrictions, both successfully and not. And the recent attempts to wholesale recreate it have followed that same philosophy to be some of the best films of the 2010’s. Machete, Kung Fury, Turbo Kid, Dude Bro Party Massacre, Hobo With A Shotgun, all right up my alley.

But the one that started the new wave, and my interest in it, was Grindhouse, with its inspired marketing campaign of making fake trailers for other films. A love letter to a great (and sometimes not great) era of film.

6) Disney’s Robin Hood

The Lion King isn’t on this list.

I know. I KNOW! I’ve already argued that The Lion King is the best film of all time, so why isn’t it on this list? Well, as a writer, I just took a lot more inspiration from Robin Hood.

In many ways, Robin Hood is the older cousin to The Lion King, despite often being forgotten amongst the canon. It’s a film that is more concerned with having fun characters and nailing down a specific tone than it is making narrative sense or having a structure. But while The Lion King is huge, overpowering and cinematic, Robin Hood is relaxed, calm and hypnotising.

And it sacrifices a lot for that tone because it is full of plot issues. The first third drags on for too long, important characters like Maid Marian are basically dropped halfway through, and it struggles to have any stakes until Robin Hood is actually in danger. But it’s not always about plot. Sometimes, the way a film feels is more important than how it actually holds up.

If you fancy checking out Rob’s debut novel, click here.

Rob will reveal his top 5 influential films next weekend!

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