And so we find ourselves in the fourth-quarter of 2014. Not withstanding the feeling that time seems to be running at an alarmingly accelerated pace, another thought has been rattling around my film-obsessed brain, recently. What will be the enduring, mainstream-breakout movie of the year? What will be 2014's Timeless Classic™?
I only ask because this is quite an extraordinary year of cinematic anniversaries. Ghostbusters celebrates its 30th birthday in 2014, Pulp Fiction turns 20, and Shaun Of The Dead is the beaming 10yr old in the room. Each of these movies came seemingly out of nowhere, gained a legion of fans and instantly cemented its place as an all-time favourite. Looking further back, this canon should rightfully include 1974's The Godfather Part II, a film which also features in many, many 'Best Of' lists. But since Coppola's gem is not only based (a bit) on a novel but also a sequel to his 1972 original, its success wasn't quite as unprecedented as its stablemates, here...
I first saw Ivan Reitman's Ghostbusters at Low Fell's Classic Cinema in 1984. My dad obligingly accompanied me (alright, took me) to see the film at the centre of a marketing storm, with each tie-in book, cereal box and pencil case bearing the iconic logo which has become more recognisable than even Darth Vader's glowering visage. Other than being slightly terrified by the ghost in the library, I adored every frame of the film (even if much of the dry humour went over my head at the time). With Star Wars living in stasis at that point, Ghostbusters effortlessly filled the gap for schoolyard chatter and exercise-book doodling (although the lack of action figures at the time seems odd, which only came later with merchandising for The Real Ghostbusters animated series).
Not that this was really a 'kids' film. The outlandish narrative captures the imagination of the youngsters, but for everyone else there's a very sharp comedy and action/adventure movie to enjoy.
Oh, and Sigourney Weaver. My word.
By the time Ghostbusters hit video-rental (which wasn't the three month gap it is nowadays, you young whippersnapper), it was instantly awarded the mantle of Go-to Movie for school holiday days slouching around the house, and not too much has changed. A sequel nobly tried to recapture the magic five years later (and it's a much better film than you remember), but the standalone awesomeness of the original is its greatest strength and continues to be to this day.
I'll be seeing Ghostbusters later this month at its anniversary screening.
Having not watched the already-notorious Reservoir Dogs at the time, 1994's Pulp Fiction was my introduction to Quentin Tarantino at Canterbury's ABC cinema, and is arguably his finest work. Probably the first 'film'-film I'd really appreciated, the scattershot timeline kept my brain fully active as it was bombarded with more quotable lines that I could hope to remember in one screening. Indeed, the re-watch value of Pulp Fiction is nothing short of phenomenal, and is the reason it stands head and shoulders above its countless imitators.
The kind of achingly hipster but undeniably likeable film that could only come from the mind of Tarantino, this was a breakout hit; a genre-flick that burst into the mainstream, and a 'cult' movie with a larger fanbase than many blockbusters. After three viewings during its theatrical run, this was a movie I bought the day is was released on VHS then subsequently wore out the tape and bought again (and since on DVD and BluRay, obviously).
Other than the clunkiness of the film's cellphones, Pulp Fiction is utterly timeless (especially as the phones are the only thing tying the story to any particular decade). The film came out of the blue, decided to hang around, and is still entertaining audiences twenty years later. I saw the anniversary screening of Pulp Fiction in May, and was pleased to notice that some members of the audience wouldn't even have been born in its initial outing. How's that for timeless?.
Ah Shaun, Shaun, Shaun. Coming off the back of semi-surreal TV sitcom Spaced and achieving far more than any pseudo-spinoff should be able to, Shaun Of The Dead was the surprise hit of 2004. I persuaded Mrs Blackout to come and see the film at Oxford Odeon (George Street) with the logic that while she's not a fan of horror movies, she loved Spaced and it'd be predominantly a comedy. To this day she hasn't let me forget that she spend the majority of the film hiding her face behind her hands (she really doesn't like horror).
While it's more of a cult movie than the others in this entry, Shaun's Britcom cast and exposure still meant it easily became the mainstream figurehead of the modern zombie movement (and the film is responsible for a lot of sub-standard imitators), and I have friends who love SotD that enjoy neither Spaced nor zombie flicks. Go figure.
This is another movie I bought on its day of release, and that I'm never not in the mood for watching (a feeling which ITV2 seems to have picked up on, if their scheduling is anything to go by. Although the frequency and quantity of their adverts means I always skip past it when I'm channel-hopping).
With a decade under its belt and little signs of ageing, this is a bonafide classic I'm going to be enjoying for years to come.
So, while it hasn't been by any particular design, that's the pattern. Will 2014 produce an all-time great? Has it already produced one? There have been films I've loved this year, certainly, but none which seem to fit the standard yet irregular-template of the movies listed above.
For example, I can envision me watching Guardians Of The Galaxy if/when it makes a return to cinemas, but with the Marvel machine behind it, Guardians was more of a finely-honed tactical-strike rather than a genuine surprise hit. June's Edge Of Tomorrow was the most fun I've had in the cinema for a long time, but, won't stand up to frequent repeated viewing (perhaps ironically) in the years to come.
And as much as Inside Llewyn Davis, The Grand Budapest Hotel and '71 have stayed with me, they're films, not movies. The Zero Theorem and Wish I Was Here certainly go towards bridge the gap between films and movies, but neither have had the mainstream breakout success to carry them into the future.
What's needed is a flick which works on more than one level; a title that you can switch-off to when you've had a busy week, bring you up when you're down, and interest you when you're bored. A film unlike any other, which you'll happily to pay to see again in five, ten, twenty or even thirty years, despite you already owning it on two (or more) formats. And with the best will in the world, I don't think I've seen that yet in 2014.
What's made an impression on you in this year? Big or small, what's been the one movie which you couldn't have predicted, but that's already taken a special place in your memory?
If you could pre-book tickets to 2024's anniversary screening, what film would it be?
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.