The films that influenced me: Rob Stoakes


Rob StoakesRob Stoakes continues guiding us through the top 10 films that have influenced the way he looks at cinema. You can read Part 1 here. Adam Brannon will finish up this series of articles with his final five on Saturday. Read Adam’s Part 1 here.

This is part two of a two part series I am writing in celebration of my debut novel (which you will buy if you are a smart and attractive individual). You can read part one here to catch up, but if you already have, then on with the list!

5) Spirited Away

Anime and I have a mutual respect for one another. I praise it as an incredibly interesting artistic movement that has produced many great films and TV shows, and it in turn leaves me alone on the account that most of it is utter garbage. Much of it looks the same, relies on the same tropes over and over and has a bigger obsession with breasts than I do.

But I’m never willing to give up on anime, though, and Spirited Away is the reason for it. It is completely in its own world, a mash-up of different cultures and art styles. It also made me want to take up drawing, and it succeeded spectacularly for about three months and then ever since I’ve felt guilty for not drawing.

Again, not every influence has been positive.

4) Metroid Other M The Movie

SHUT UP, IT COUNTS!

I don’t care what you say! I don’t care if Yoshio Sakamoto made a rubbish game, cobbled together all of the cutscenes of that rubbish game and put it up as a movie! Well, if you want it to be judged as a film, Sakamoto, then fine; you asked for this!

Metroid Other M The Nonsensical Title is one of the worst animated films of all time. It’s sexist, outright glorifies abusive relationships, overly complicated, far too long, boring, and while the animation is passable for video game cutscenes, by film standards it competes with Pixar in the same way a gadfly competes with Conor McGregor.

It also helped inspire my debut novel. Not all of the idea, of course, don’t sue me Nintendo, at least wait until Ridley Scott’s lawyers are done with me over the Aliens ripoff. But watching Nintendo bungle one of the best female characters in gaming did make me want to see if I could do better.

3) Hot Fuzz

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the funniest film I’ve ever seen, I admit that, but it’s not what I would call the best. The tone is inconsistent, it doesn’t really have an ending, it really is just a 90 minute episode of Flying Circus. Which is fine, but if you’re wanting a full blown comedy film, then Hot Fuzz is the best one. Not my favourite; the best. Fight me.

If you want to learn how to write a film script, ignore film school and go watch Hot Fuzz instead. Personal preference aside, there is not one line you could add or remove that would make the film better. So many jokes come back multiple times, even in the background, and there are plot details up the wazoo that come back in surprising ways, but it never gets bogged down by them, instead moving at a lightning pace. It is stunningly tight (like your mum), full of great performances (like your mum) and is probably Edgar Wright’s best film (like your… mum?)

2) Duck Soup & Night at the Opera

The Lion King is my favourite film of all time, but I’ll be damned if these two don’t make for a close joint second.

You want to know where my sense of humour comes from? Point to Groucho Marx. In an era when most comedy was light-hearted pratfalls, Groucho Marx was a breath of fresh air with his clever wordplay and scathing, repeat scathing insults. He’s just bumbling and in-over-his-head enough for him not to be a bully, at least unless he’s meant to be, but it’s a fine tightrope that he walks better than anyone asides maybe Bugs Bunny.

The Marx Brothers went through some growing pains while transitioning from stage to film. Their earlier films showed their inexperience with the medium, the latter films were marred by rubbish Hollywood tropes distracting from the fun, but it’s Duck Soup and Night at the Opera where they hit that perfect balance. If you’ve not seen them now, go ahead. They are brilliant.

1) Withnail & I

This is actually the entry I most wanted to and most dreaded to write, because I watched Withnail & I for the first time in a state that is very difficult to describe and not exactly healthy. I wasn’t suicidal or even sad, but I was doing a lot of very silly things to myself.

Self-destructive behaviour like that scares me. Not because of how damaging it is, I just gave my sleep-deprived self a 20 hour nap and ever since I’ve been fine no matter what the voices in my head say, but because of how easy it is to slip down that hill and how hard it is to stop the slide.

And then I watched Withnail & I, the spookiest experience in my life.

Withnail is self-destructive. But he always talks about how great he is, how no one understands his genius, and that no one will give him the chance to be the great actor he knows he is. It is arrogance. He is, without a doubt, one of the most loathsome characters in film. And then the ending hits, and all of it is put into awful context.

Now, this film having a great protagonist isn’t the reason to see it. It is side-splittingly funny and a time capsule of Thatcher’s Britain, but I will never forget the moment of seeing Withnail in the rain shouting at monkeys, and realising that I was standing alongside him.

Withnail & I gave me the chance to step away from the monkeys and stop the slide and because of that, Withnail & I has had more of an impact on my life than any other film.

Adam will close the special articles with his top five on Saturday.

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