I have planned on making this list for a long time. I always hear about people making their favorite movies or favorite books lists. I have pondered a long time what movies I would recommend to aspiring storytellers. All five have affected how I set up stories and how I view stories.
5. Arabian Nights (ABC/Hallmark mini-series) – I was a young lass when I saw this mini-series. In fact, it was the first mini-series I ever saw. This is a fun way to introduce Arabian Nights to younger children (think PG audience). The series does not follow very closely to the frame story but I really doubt we would like the Sultan if he was a complete and total homicidal maniac. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. But it is so much fun.
This series is really good if you want to understand how to hook someone into continuing to listen or read to a story.
4. The Fall – (Warning: This is a VERY, VERY dark film and is not at all appropriate for anyone under the age of 17. This is due to the themes and the occasional violence in the film.) This is one of the few R films that I could stomach watching let alone think was a good idea. I just like watching the beautiful filming. Unlike most films, the director had complete control over the project without interference from studio executives. It is the 1920’s in Hollywood and a stuntman is paralyzed from an accidental fall on the set of a movie. He befriends a young girl who broke her arm in a fall while working as a laborer in an orange field. The stuntman begins telling a story to the young girl to keep her entertained. The stuntman becomes suicidal when he realizes that he will never walk again. He makes the little girl help him get the pills that will help him kill himself by telling her a story that is becoming more and more dark and terrifying as his mind falls apart.
The film is brilliant because it shows how the storyteller and the audience do not have the scaffolding (meaning background knowledge) to understand a story. It is a fantastic way to explain to people who you may try to tell a story one way but they take it as another. It is among the most beautiful films I have ever seen.
3. Secondhand Lions – This film is worth the price of admission simply for having Michael Cane and Robert Duvall in it… talking like my Grandfather. (Yes, that is what a Texan accent sounds like.) Two uncles take care of their nephew for the summer. The uncles are very rich and they could have only gotten their money in two ways: as bank robbers or by adventuring in Africa.
The “Becoming a Man” speech is a great way to describe fiction and storytelling. I loosely paraphrase what my friend told me one of the writers for Doctor Who said at TARDIS-CON. “Of course we lied to you. You expect us to lie. That is why you watch the show. YOU LIKE IT!”
2. Big Fish – Tim Burton directed and is his least appreciated movie. It is about a son who is trying to find out the truth behind his father’s stories before the father dies.
It is about how a man’s stories make him immortal. All writers feel that deep need to be remembered (as do all humans). The movie also shows how one’s stories can grow in the telling and how close truth and fiction really is.
What is shown is a fantastical story about how tall tales and legends are made.
Both my Grandfather (who, sadly, died several years before I was born) and Father told tall tales. “Yes, I walked with Moses. I was there when he parted the Red Sea.” “Yeah, me and Lincoln were best buds.” They were too ridiculous to be true, but I loved being told those stories. This film is special because of that.
1. The Princess Bride – Yeah, do I really have to explain this movie? What can I say? Oh, yeah, WATCH IT!
I was about five when I first saw this movie. Every time I had a question about the movie, the Grandson asked that exact question I was thinking. It is a hard lesson to learn that “Life isn’t fair” but, the movie shows that you can still fight against it. The movie was perfect in keeping up with audience expectation. If you do not fulfill those expectations, your movie STINKS! (I will not name movies because that would be cruel and start a flame war. ) Also, probably the most quotable movie I have ever seen.
I hope all of you will watch these movies if you are interested in how stories are put together or just want to watch something new.
Until Our Next Meeting,
The Lost Writer of Rohan