Our writers recount some impactful film releases in our latest Scrapbook, ranging from the personally profound, poignant provocateurs, or even features that have presented and maintained a purporting legacy.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The films that stick with us aren’t always those we enjoy. This is the case with me and A Clockwork Orange. I’ve never been a fan of Kubrick’s dystopian crime-drama, but its significance can’t be understated. For the first time, violence was aestheticised on screen. Back in 1971, this was a fresh idea. It offered audiences a voyeuristic pleasure which hadn’t previously been seen in cinema. In the process, it was condemned and consequently withdrawn and censored from British and American exhibition respectively due to being “morally offensive”. Few other films can lay claim to such a recognised legacy.
For these reasons, it’s cropped up again and again during my time at university. Whether I’m writing for Impact, or an academic essay, it’s always been there. Like it or lump it, A Clockwork Orange has had a major effect on the cinematic and censorial landscape, and on my professional life. As such, it fully deserves its place on our list of impactful films.
What Dreams May Come (1998)
Last year, the death of Robin Williams saw the world lose one of its foremost entertainers. Like most people I grew up watching many of his films, yet one such feature sticks out among the rest.
1998’s What Dreams May Come sees Williams portrays Dr. Christopher Nielsen, who tragically loses his children and then is killed himself leaving his already struggling wife Annabella to find a reason to live. Despite the loss of his children and his wife’s fall into severe depression, Williams’ character remains a good, heartfelt man even in the afterlife, which should be an inspiration to anyone struggling through hardship.
The majority of the film focuses on Nielsen being reunited with his wife despite potentially losing paradise. A clichéd, high-concept sounding premise one the surface, it’s one that works thanks to one of the most believable and heart-warming couples ever seen on screen. Be prepared for a hard tissue session with the emotionally impactful What Dreams May Come.
A Spike Lee Joint, Bamboozled unreservedly brings the impactful legacy of blackface performance into a contemporary context by focalising the film around a modern minstrel show. Protagonist Pierre Delacroix’s (Damon Wayans Sr.) attempt to get fired from TV network CNS by creating an immensely racist new programme backfires as Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show becomes an immense success.
Aspects of hip hop culture, “coonery buffoonery”, television and satire are interrogated for prolonging the detrimental impact of blackface minstrelsy in the United States and its cultural and racial attitudes. The power of exploitative media products like advertising and degrading imagery in gangsta rap are just some of the forces at work to illustrate how minstrelsy can very much be alive in contemporary culture, though through less obvious and acceptable avenues in Spike Lee’s demanding critique.
Lee’s use of hyperbolised satirical overtones juxtaposed with a serious subject matter too works in the film’s favour as an emotional provocateur. The climactic minstrel montage and following closing close-up of ‘Mantan’ (Savion Glover) addressing the camera is a difficult sequence to swallow, but epitomises the importance of Bamboozled‘s examination of blackface’s legacy.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko was an incredible directorial debut from Richard Kelly in 2001, and it is no surprise that the film has since become a cult classic. Donnie Darko tells the story of a troubled teen who narrowly escapes death one night when a jet engine comes crashing into his bedroom. His saviour? A vision of a large, grotesque bunny rabbit who leads him away from his house to tell him the world will end in 28 days, 06 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds.
With a brilliant cast and a top-notch performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, the mind-boggling Donnie Darko manages to explore society, teen angst, mental illness and time travel all within 113 minutes. As the film ends and the haunting track “Mad World” begins to sound, the impact of the film is truly realised in the feeling it leaves with an audience; one of both complete awe and confusion. It is this impact which draws in audiences time and time again, and the profound film has new layers to discover at every viewing.
Marley & Me (2008)
Dog lovers everywhere fear this film. Marley & Me carries the emotional weight of ten Forrest Gump’s, and stirs cute puppies in to make it even worse. The worst part about this film is its manipulation of making you laugh throughout and pretending to be a light-hearted comedy. Lies.
Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are the perfect couple, and treat Marley like a true member of the family. The whole narrative is a set up to destroy you, and its impact derives from your investment in Marley and the family dynamic. If, like myself, you are someone who respects dogs more than some humans, this film will carry more impact than any of these films. Marley & Me is deceptive. Do not be caught in its emotional trap.
Streets folding in half and a glass of water defying gravity are ideas one could only imagine of, and that’s the whole point of Inception, making the impossible possible in the only place they can be… dreams.
Christopher Nolan’s vision for the film is clear; inception is planting an original idea into an unaware subject’s mind via a shared dream. However, for an idea to be truly original to the person, how deep must it be planted within the mind?
Inception was the first film I described as my favourite whenever anyone asked me. It left my heart racing and a sudden urge to immediately see it again. Since its release, I have been extremely interested in the subject of lucid dreaming, and thus it seems appropriate to almost quote The Eurythmics – “sweet dreams are made of this [kind of film] and who am I to disagree”.
The tagline for 2013’s near-future romance Her reads, ‘A Spike Jonze Love Story’. Despite its simplicity, it’s likely the most apt shibboleth applied to a movie in years. Despite its futuristic setting, the director’s innovative cinematography, and the small detail that the central romance unfolds between a man and his computer… that’s exactly what Her aspires to be: the definitive film about love. It doesn’t manage it of course, but it’s the closest effort I’ve ever seen.
From the joyously poetical moments of their blossoming romance enacted to the backdrop of beach scenes and mountainsides, to the silent fragments of a past life that flicker onscreen as Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore signs his wife’s divorce papers. It’s a portrayal so apt it’s sometimes less a film and more a mirror, and it’s hard not see a little of it in every personal romance since.