Lights ... camera ... action, what makes a film great?
As the QFT shows One City One Book author David Park's top movies, Una Brankin asks local personalities to choose their celluloid favourite
They can make us laugh, cry, cringe and jump out of our seats, but just what is it that makes a film a true great? For some, the grandeur of a big screen epic like Avatar or The Godfather is enough to stimulate the senses, for others it might be a goofy comedy or a cheesy action flick. When it comes to picking your favourite movie, there really is no recipe for success – all it has to do is make you feel something, or remind you of a happy or poignant moment in your life.
As part of this year's One City One Book initiative, the Queen's Film Theatre in Belfast has been screening four personal favourites of Belfast novelist David Park, who is this year's chosen author for his latest work, The Poets' Wives.
But if you had to pick just one film as an all-time favourite what would you go for? We asked a number of well-known local people what their definitive choice would be and who they'd like to play them on the big screen ...
Favourite film: Uncle Buck (1989)
Director: John Hughes
The 55-year-old UTV Live presenter lives near Strangford Lough with her husband Ivan and sons Roger and Henry. She says:
"Uncle Buck has been my favourite film for about 20 years. I love the story, about a couple who are forced to go away unexpectedly and have no option but to ask the inept Uncle Buck (John Candy) to look after their two young children and their rebellious teenager. Buck is a gambler – not a very good one – with an unhappy girlfriend and from the minute he arrives in a backfiring, beaten-up old sedan to take up his babysitting duties in this middle-class residential area, it descends into chaos.
It was one of Macauley Culkin's early roles – he played the eight-year-old nephew Miles. There is such a funny scene when the two little ones lie about washing their teeth, and Uncle Buck tells them he has a friend in forensics who will be able to have their toothbrushes analysed, so they scurry off and brush them in a big panic.
Although Buck has all these disasters, it's quite tender and moving at times. All three of the children end up loving their uncle, who they originally treated with contempt. As for who'd play me? No comment!"
Favourite film: The Godfather (1972)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
The 49-year-old Newry-born singer/songwriter from The 4 Of Us lives in Carlingford with his wife Cliona and children, Sarah (4) and James (2). He says:
"I've seen the The Godfather about 15 times and never tire of it. I love the way it starts with a big Italian-American wedding with people drinking too much, just like an Irish wedding, and ends with a christening scene, brilliantly interspersed with all these assassinations.
The film studios were horrified by all the interior shots and thought the film was too dark, and that Al Pacino wasn't a big enough star for the main part – they wanted Robert Redford, who wouldn't have been right for it at all – but they were proved wrong on both counts.
I liked Part II as well, but the original is a masterpiece and the score is flawless.
"The Godfather Part III was just a disaster, though – it took the Bourne and Lord of the Rings trilogies for Hollywood to get over dodgy part threes after that one, I think.
To play me in a biopic, I'd probably pick some unknown guy who can play a guitar and sing. I wouldn't be fussy, as long as they didn't overact!"
Favourite film: Atonement (2007)
Director: Joe Wright
The 42-year-old Portadown-born visual artist, whose work is mentioned in all three of the hit 50 Shades books, lives in Belfast with her partner Mark Benson. They are expecting their first child in three months' time. She says:
"I rarely watch films of books I've read but this adaptation of Ian McEwan's brilliant novel was so beautifully shot and acted. It's epic and tragic and really stayed with me. I loved Joe Wright's Pride And Prejudice too. He's great at those big panoramic shots, like the one at the dance in Pride And Prejudice, and the really iconic one of the beaches at Dunkirk in Atonement. He's a very painterly director – he can tell a story without words, which is what painting's all about. Visual language.
It's a very sad film about how one tragic mistake – a little girl's lie – has such an impact on the lives of others. The ending is so poignant and Vanessa Redgrave lends it such gravitas, as this person trying to atone for her guilt through fiction.
To play me on screen, I'd like to be very self-deprecating and say Kathy Burke – or deluded and say Angelina Jolie! But I'll go for Samantha Morton. She's a great actress."
Favourite film: Blue Valentine (2010)
Director: Derek Cianfrance
The 31-year-old Coleraine-born actress is single and lives in London. The former Hollyoaks star is currently filming the second series of the hit drama The Fall, with Hollywood hot-property Jamie Dornan. She says:
"Blue Valentine is a love story that charts a couple's relationship over the years from the beginning when things were great, towards the end of their relationship when they are pulling each other and their family apart.
The performances are so raw and real. It's utterly heartbreaking to see this couple who love each other damage each other so deeply.
There are stand-out performances from both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, with one of the most beautiful songs that will stay with you: You and Me by Penny & The Loafers.
It's hard to decide who'd play me in a biopic, but I guess because I'm an actress, I'd like to say I could carry it off myself!"
Favourite film: Avatar (2009)
Director: James Cameron
The 61-year-old is a member of the Policing Board and is active in the Pagan movement. The widow of former UDA leader John McMichael, Shirley lives alone in Lisburn, close to her son Saul. She says:
"Most of my favourite films fall within the science fiction and fantasy genres. One film in particular that made a big impact on me was Avatar – not because of the actors but because the first time I saw the scene with the Tree of Souls, I was struck by the beauty and symbolism of the inter-connection between nature and spirituality of the indigenous people.
As a Pagan, I believe that the God/Goddess is in all living things, so this scene was very beautiful. Trees figure in many cultures from the Garden of Eden to the Norse Yggdrasil – the 'Tree of Life', which is the title of a very good Brad Pitt movie. The Tree of Life crosses all cultures because the ancients could see trees close up all of the time – they understood the symbolism of the sprouting seed growing into a trunk and branching off, sending out smaller branches and little twigs, to see what they may accomplish.
As in Avatar, the tree became a common symbol of life, ancestry, mythology, lessons of the spirit, history, lineage, and hope for the future ... and climbing to the heavens. And, yes – I do hug trees!
If I'd to choose someone to portray me, it would be the wonderful John Linehan, aka May McFettridge. He'd give everyone a laugh."
Favourite film: Shane (1953)
Director: George Stevens
The 52-year-old novelist is from Kilkeel and has written numerous works both under his own name and the pseudonym John Creed. He says:
"Shane is a Western directed by George Stevens from Jack Shaefer's novel, starring Alan Ladd as Shane, the gunman and drifter who enters the life of a sharecrop couple and their son. Great themes of good and evil emerge in a delicate interplay of the unsaid.
In one of the great film endings, the wounded Shane rides away, weary and burdened with his own sin, while the little boy's plea for his hero to return goes unheeded, the child's voice echoing in the great empty spaces of America.
To play me I would choose Buster Keaton, because he's a man abroad in a dangerous world, narrowly avoiding disaster with a certain unintended grace."
Favourite film: La Jetee (1962)
Director: Chris Marker
Oscars: none, but deemed the 50th greatest film of all time by the British Film Institute in 2012
The 32-year-old novelist from Belfast was last year's chosen author for the One City One Book title. She lives in London. She says:
"La Jetee is barely half an hour long, and isn't even described by its own creator as a film: instead, he calls it a 'photo-roman', like the photo-stories you used to get in comics. But it has haunted me ever since I first saw it, at 18 or 19. It was made in 1962 by the late French artist Chris Marker and tells, in a series of black and white stills, with a melancholy voiceover and a haunting soundtrack of requiem music, the story of a man who's sent forwards and backwards in time by scientists in an attempt to save civilisation after the catastrophe of the Third World War.
As he travels, he tries desperately to reach a memory from his own childhood: a day spent watching aeroplanes at Orly Airport in Paris, when he saw a man murdered, and the beautiful face of a woman watching that's obsessed him ever since.
It isn't giving too much away to say that he finally manages to reach the woman and they fall in love – but that their romance, like all of the best fictional romances, is doomed.
I can't imagine any casting director would trouble themselves over my life, but in the realms of fantasy, Samantha Morton is such a luminous actor she could make even the most banal scenes of me at my laptop scintillating."
David’s choices ... in his own words
“When selecting films to be shown at the QFT as part of this year’s One City One Book programme I tried to select ones that connected in some way with the themes and subject matter of my novel, The Poets’ Wives.
I chose To Kill a Mockingbird, which screened earlier this month, because the book and its film embody the power of art to affect how we see the world; The Lives of Others, which was shown last Sunday, because it depicts the struggle to assert human values in a totalitarian system, and Dr Zhivago because it is set in a similar historical period as the middle section of my novel. I also chose I Am Love because it portrays a strong woman fighting for her own happiness.
However, while I admire and enjoy these four films, my personal favourite is Babette’s Feast. Set in the remote western coast of Jutland in 19th century Denmark, it tells the story of Babette Hersant, who arrives as a refugee at the home of two elderly sisters who lead an austere and pious congregation.
She is taken in and acts as a cook for them over the next 14 years. When she eventually acquires a large sum of money she spends it all on preparing a fabulous meal for the sisters and their elderly congregation.
This mysterious and beautiful film explores the role of the artist and the true nature of spirituality. It is an experience to be savoured on every level.”
Win David Park's new book
The Belfast Telegraph is offering 60 readers the chance to win a signed copy of this year’s choice for One City One Book 2014, The Poets’ Wives by David Park. It deftly explores the relationship|between husband and wife through three women — Catherine Blake, wife of Romantic poet and painter William Blake, Nadezhda Mandelstam, wife of Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, and the wife of a fictional contemporary Irish poet who contemplates her husband's life during the days after his death. For your chance to win, email your name,|address and contact number to|competitions@ belfasttelegraph.co.uk by next Saturday, May 31