Britain’s incumbent Mr Cinema and double bass player, the much-respected critic Mark Kermode, has a brilliant new series on BBC Four on movie genres. It’s a masterclass in cinema and screenwriting from the master of cinema critique.
I’d recommend the program to anyone interested in studying, making or just watching films.
Each episode has now been made available on the iPlayer for up to 12 months.
I’ve included a helpful list of some of the alternative movie streaming sites you may not be aware of.
I wrote this list of the films for me so I could hopefully get round to watching them all one day.
But then I thought other people might like to see the list too.
Here it is.. (with some idle comments of mine to perhaps discuss in the comments section below)
Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema
Episode 1 – the Rom-Com
This genre is not everyone’s cup of tea, some say because the films are always the same – so predictable. But that’s the idea. Girl meets boy, boy meets girl, boy meets fish, things and stuff, get back together, the end. Except, for one, they don’t always get together and for two… oh look here’s the list. Watch them and make your own mind up…
Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks in 80s rom-com Splash.
Splash (a bit dated but still a charming boy meets fish tale and a great one to start the series with).
The Shape of Water (see below)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (see above)
Bickering road trip and that cafe scene.
500 Days of Summer (I remember enjoying this. I can’t remember why. Perhaps they don’t get back together at the end.)
When Harry Met Sally
Blue Beard’s Eighth Wife (nope, me neither)
Sleepless in Seattle
Serendipity (as much as I like John Cusack, mostly for owning the record shop in Hi Fidelity, the one based on Nick Hornby’s book, I think this might have made me a bit ill.)
The Lady Eve
Bringing Up Baby
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Love Actually (definitely made me ill)
Hugh and Andie in 1994’s popular Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (a rather scary film and btw it’s ‘Magic mirror on the wall’, not ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall’. It is.)
Letter to Brezhnev
Follow the Fleet (with Fred Astaire)
The Kiss (first filmed kiss in 1896)
The Gold Rush (with Charlie Chaplin)
It (1927 rom com rather than the one with the clown monster that lives in drains)
The Gay Divorcee
3 Idiots (This looks brilliant. I love Bollywood movies I just wish they weren’t so long. Three hours reading subtitles in one sitting is impossible for me and my attention span.)
Kal Ho Naa (see above)
The Naked Gun
La La Land (I couldn’t get into this and I generally love musicals. #bored.)
The Philadelphia Story (I could never get into this one either and I’m a big James Stewart fan. Some people like it.)
The Philadelphia Story: Katherine Hepburn, John Howard, Cary Grant and James Stewart
You’ve Got Mail (I preferred the original Little Shop on the Corner with James Stewart playing a confused romantic bastard – till the final scene, that is.)
Top Five (I thought he said Top Gun for a minute. I hate films about planes and teeth. Top Five is about a comedian who wants to act. Not much better.)
His Girl Friday
Bridget Jones’ Diary (how many times are Hugh Grant movies on this list? I like Hugh Grant btw. He plays Hugh Grant as well as Tom Hanks plays Tom Hanks and Michael Caine plays Michael Caine.)
Christmas in Connecticut
How Stella Got Her Groove Back
The Big Sick
Annie Hall (almost forgotten about Woody Allen. Some of the lines in Sleeper are still my second favourite lines – if anyone else is old enough to get that reference.)
My Best Friend’s Wedding
But I am a Cheerleader
Love is Strange
Love Simon (a genuine movie, not just a pay rise request to my editor, Simon Lambert)
Groundhog Day (another great insight in how to deal with insurance salesmen among life’s other quandaries, such as not being a dick)
The Truth about Cats and Dogs
Singing in the Rain
Something’s Gotta GIve
The Fly (I worked in a cinema when this was on, saw it about 20 times and discussed it at length with colleagues. Never saw it as a rom-com. Still don’t. But it’s not my show. Crocodile Dundee, which I saw about 65 times was the massive rom-com of its time. It was on without a break for the entire six months I was at the cinema. Most films lasted a week or two. I can probably still recite the script. ‘No you’ve got the lens cap on’. ‘That’s not a a knife, that’s a knife.’ Hilarious. At the time.)
Manhattan Murder Mystery
Punch Drunk Love
This is Tobey Maguire. Unrecognisable without the Spider-Man tights over his face.
Superman (ruined by not having a hyphen)
Spider-Man (gotta love a film with punctuation halfway through a one- word title)
Piranha Woman in the Avocado Jungle of Death (also known as Cannibal Woman in the Avocado Jungle of Death if that clears it up).
Episode 2 – the heist
Kermode takes us on a journey forwards and back through the much-loved money-grabbing genre to show us how so many successful movies are but a slightly new adaptation of the basic structure. He shows how the 1960 classic starring Richard Attenborough and Jack Hawkins, The League of Gentlemen, resembles more recent hits such as Reservoir Dogs, Ocean’s Eleven and Mission: Impossible. We love a loveable rogue or 11.
And the nominations are…
The Asphalt Jungle
The League of Gentlemen
Jason Bourne and the guy who advertises Nespresso coffee machines in the fun heist flick Ocean’s Eleven. He’s called Ocean and there are 11 of them if you’ve not seen.
Sexy Beast (Gandhi playing a violent gangster)
Double Indemnity (a brilliant movie about insurance. But the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair in which Pierce Brosnan plays a better-than-James-Bond Bond character is my favourite movie about insurance. Rene Russo is the insurance investigator. One of my regular go-tos, along with Denzel Washington in The Equalizer.)
The Matrix (trilogy)
Baby Driver (this looks fun, I’d not heard of this one)
Set It Off
Ocean’s Eight (as one might expect, it borrows much from Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve and Thirteen but the lovable bad guys this time are women)
Anne Hathaway being great in Ocean’s Eight.
The Italian Job (the original one, not the slick but wrong remake)
Inception (one day I will have watched it enough times to understand it. I think I’m nearly there. The computer graphics whizz did it.)
That Sinking Feeling
The Wolf of Wall Street (Hate to admit as a financial journalist, I’ve not seen this. There’s enough of that kind of greed in the City pages every day.)
The Big Short (However, this is one of my all-time favourites. Bullshit versus spreadsheets. In the closing credits, Michael Burry, played by Christian Bale, who called the credit crisis and made a fortune, is said to now be investing in water. Judging by the weather of late, he maybe on to something. Here’s what he is actually doing.)
Point Break (frankly I never got the appeal of this, much to my editor’s disgust. Simon’s a big fan.)
Point(less) Break: Keanu Reeves is a cop who infiltrates a gang of surfers, one of whom is Patrick Swayze. They dress up as ex-Presidents to rob banks. And then these two kind of fall for each other.
Heat (classic Pacino, De Nero double act, rather than Bullock, McCarthy featured in this trailer but hey, it’s near enough)
The Departed (a difficult and drawn out watch, I felt)
City on Fire (Hong Kong movie, starring Chow Yun-fat)
Mission: Impossible (don’t really get it. I like a plot, me)
The Wrong Trousers (yep even Wallace and Gromit followed the basic rules of the genre)
The Great Train Robbery
Dog Day Afternoon
The French Connection (that car chase! Fascinating to hear Kermode’s explanation of how it came about)
WHERE TO WATCH THESE MOVIES
The advent of streaming has resulted in a plethora of new services where you can sign up to and watch movies as well as box sets to binge on.
Frustratingly some of the older movies, even the classics, can be unavailable and the DVDs are often hard to track down.
Here are some of the most common streaming services.
£79 a year, or £7.99 a month, £39 a year for students – includes some free movies and TV shows, plus pay to rent or buy. The big perk for the terminally impatient is you get speedier delivery of stuff you buy in the virtual physical shop.
All sorts of packages available, from movies on a 14-day free trial then £7.99 a month to Sky Sports FROM £7.99 a month.
Free month then from £5.99, £7.99 or £9.99 depending on whether you want to watch on multiple screens or in HD and Ultra HD.
Free for 30 days then £4.99 a month. No contract. Geared more to fans of The Kardashians and that kind of thing.
Sky for mobile device – is no extra cost for Sky subscribers, otherwise sign up for Sky TV from £20 a month and then this.
Various packages through a plug-in box that records and pauses live TV, plus movies to rent or buy – available to its broadband subscribers.
One-month free trial, £11.99 a month thereafter.
£7.99 a month, try seven days for free.
Temporarily unavailable in Europe because of GDPR advertising permissions.
No monthly fee, pay to rent.
Sign up then pay to rent movies and TV shows.
A good place for the harder to find stuff. 14 days free trial then £5.99 a month.
Free seven days then 4.99 a month.
Pay to rent or own.
Worth checking for classic black and white movies plus all the other stuff the Beeb churns out, such as Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema. All free, once you paid you £150.50 annual licence fee, which covers all the BBC output from CBeebies through Question Time to the World Service.
Episode 3 – Coming of Age
Not my favourite genre. With the exception of Gregory’s Girl, which was probably as close to my teenage years as they come, I can’t say I’m particularly bothered about watching many more of these. These movies are about a quest for identity, usually an identity forced upon a young protagonist through some crisis or other. In other words growing up. And who the hell wants to do that? The soundtracks often of define these movies so to their credit, they do have some great songs.
Here’s the films…
Boyz N The Hood
The 400 Blows
Rebel Without a Cause (‘James Dean was just a careless driver…’: Half Man Half Biscuit 1985)
Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird was nominated for best actress in the Oscars. The film was the most positively reviewed movie in the history of Rotten Tomatoes since Toy Story 2 in 1999.
Lady Bird (I want to see this one – it’s something of a phenomenon)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (and all the other Harry Potters.)
The Breakfast Club (haircuts, brats and 80s angst. Simple Minds did the theme song, which was has stood the test of time.)
Gregory’s Girl (‘What’s your favourite number? A million and nine.’ Love it)
The Graduate (am I even allowed to say I didn’t like the movie, especially not the ending?)
Kes (is absolute British classic, the language is exquisite)
Persepolis (intrigued by this animated black and white story of an Iranian punk girl)
Saturday Night Fever (while I was listening to punk, this came out. Ew.)
ET: Cute? Or a badly embalmed Marty Feldman?
Pretty in Pink
Boyhood (this is the one that took 12 years to make, cleverly bringing the same actors back as they grow up. Clever doesn’t mean it’s worth watching.)
This is England
Fish Tank (Brit grit, with a tenuous connection to aquariums)
The Florida Project (been meaning to see this)
Stand by Me
Quadrophenia (Sting’s not the cool, hard mod he pretends to be but a timid hotel bellhop, much to the anger of the Phil ‘Park Life’ Daniels character)
Bend it Like Beckham (decent parental conflict and girls playing football. Inspirational)
Keira Knightley and Shaznay Lewis in Bend it Like Beckham. Beckham, first name David, was a Manchester United, Preston North End and England football player who was very good at taking curving free kicks because unlike a lot of young footballers he used to practise taking free kicks a lot.
Let me In
Dead Poets Society (Poetry is why we live. Stuff like that. And Robin Williams.)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare nicked all the best stories)
The Wild One
A Clockwork Orange (Coming of age? I suppose it is)
Girlhood (French. Looks excellent.)
Lindsay Lohan in her finest role in Herbie: Fully Loaded (not featured in this series).
Mean Girls (Girls being mean to Lindsay Lohan. Not right. She was great in Herbie: Fully Loaded)
Heathers (My era. And by the time I got round to watching it, felt cheated. Too mean. Was an 80s thing to cast girls as mean. The antagonist in Uncle Buck ruined what could have been a classic.)
Raw (Belgian. Bloody hell. Cannibalism as a metaphor for acceptance and conformity. This genre is supposed to be about the joys of being young. Eating people? Allez les Belges!)
The Virgin Suicides
Call me by your name
Blue is the warmest colour
Your Name (a massively popular anime that I’d never heard of)
The Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger, now 71, as we’d never seen him before. Terminator 6 has just been announced. He’s back and all that.
The Virgin Soldiers
Toy Story 3 (the great toys hand-me-down scene)
Episode 4 – sci-fi
Bad sci-fi can be as bad as cinema can get. But the good stuff takes on themes as diverse as loneliness, social commentary to the workings of the human mind itself. In this episode Kermode looks at what makes the perfect sci-fi movie and these are the films he uses to illustrate…
The first lot deal with time travel, yes!
The Time Machine (great place to start, the special effects still impress)
Vertigo (using the rings of a tree to play with time)
Twelve Monkeys (more time travel)
Michael J Fox in the brilliant Back to the Future.
Some movies are worth more than one picture.
Back to the Future (time travel, comedy, rom-com, come on! The second one was rubbish though. Discuss).
Intersteller (from the director of Memento, Dunkirk)
La Voyage dans la Lune (one of the first moving pictures – you can watch the whole film on YouTube. All 13 minutes of it.)
Interplanetary Revolution (Russian. Russia beat the US in the space race and in the movie space race)
Comic Voyage (Russian)
Road to the Stars (Russian)
2001: A Space Odyssey (bleak but prescient – the villain is a computer bit like the PC I’m using to write this.)
Woman in the Moon
Sunshine (Danny Boyle used ex D:Ream keyboard player Brian Cox as a consultant)
Forbidden Planet (that Shakespeare again)
We were all young once. But not this young. If you don’t know what film this is you’re reading the wrong article.
Star Wars (I saw this with my grandfather from the front row of the impressive 1930s Odeon cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne when it came out. I was awestruck and bought the entire series of Marvel Star Wars comics that my mum then threw away. I daren’t look up how much they maybe worth now. My grandfather fell asleep. I had the C-3PO toy. My brother had R2-D2, which made that squeaky noise when you turned the head. Mine looked like I’d got an Oscar. I won.)
Alien (Sci-fi horror. And very boring)
Monument Valley (How Western imagery is replicated in space.)
Aside: This is Money’s consumer affairs editor Lee Boyce has a theory that every movie can be improved by setting in space. Please someone prove him wrong. He’s got an answer for every one we’ve thrown at him so far. He’s never seen Star Wars.)
The Ninth Configuration
Gravity (one of the rare ones that benefit from watching in 3D. Whatever happened to 3D TVs? Stupid fad part 94)
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (The Crusoe character has been used many times in space. It’s the perfect setting to explore loneliness – after desert islands.)
Solaris (another Russian one – deeply psychological)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (One Star Wars was enough! Discuss.)
Independence Day (aliens want to take over the world on the 4th of July but don’t realise the Prince of Bel-Air has tooled up).
The insanely watchable Will Smith in Independence Day.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (still utterly terrifying)
Planet of the Apes (terrifies me as well)
War of the Worlds
The Brother from Another Planet
Alive in Joburg
The War Game (introducing the faux documentary sub genre. This tale of nuclear war was banned by the Beeb. Sad. Not as sad as what the Radio 4 Today programme has become obviously)
Under the Skin (Glasgow-based sci-fi)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (RIP David)
A pic of David Bowie because I can. He was in The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Wall-E (modern classic dressed up as a kids’ film)
Silent Running (one of Kermode’s all-time favourites, I’ve not seen it – yet)
Modern Times (Chaplin movie)
Ex Machina (things are starting to get terrifyingly plausible)
Alicia Vikander as Ava the ‘human’ tobot in Ex Machina.
Blade Runner (anyone else find this a dark, turgid bore?)
Ghost in the Shell (Japanese anime)
The Matrix (overrated)
Scarlett Johansson in the ‘what if you could use 100% of your brain’s power’ movie Lucy.
AI: Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, who knew?)
Marjorie Prime (you can buy holograms of your lost loved ones and live with them, spooky)
Her (man falls in love with his computer operating system. Happens all the time.)
Blade Runner 2049 (one Blade Runner was too many)
Born in Flames
Dylan O’Brien as Thomas in another dystopian future, The Maze Runner.
The War Game
Robocop (a tale of corporate greed – always relevant, hello the banks)
The Hunger Game (dystopian future is fiction, right?)
The Maze Runner
A Wrinkle in Time
First Spaceship on Venus
Star Trek (that whale one was my favourite. It’s the only one I’ve scene.)
Space is the Place
Black Panther (brings us right up to date)
Chadwick Boseman is T’Challa, Black Panther.
Episode 5 -horror
For the final episode in the series, Kermode turns his attention to his favourite genre: horror. If fear is the greatest of all emotions, fear of the unknown even greater – and forms the basis for so many horror films.
I was once told by a cinema scholar that you can no longer enjoy horror films once you become a parent, which might explain my growing aversion. There are notable exceptions. Yes that’ll be you Jaws, The Shining, Shaun of the Dead and An American Werewolf in London but on the whole aaaggghhh.
Thankfully, watching horror clips isn’t in the slightest bit scary. Here’s the list…
Get out (does what it says on the can)
Dawn of the Dead
The Blair Witch Project (low budget sensation)
Manhunter (featuring Hannibal Lecter)
The Silence of the Lambs (featuring Hannibal Lecter)
Angel Heart (Alan Parker made this demonic fairytale that still haunts me. A shift in direction from Bugsy Malone.)
The Wicker Man
The Shining (Great example of a movie that’s as good as the book. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is another one)
Jack Nicholson displaying his unnerving ability to make even a jumper look terrifying, in The Shining.
The Evil Dead (one of the original 80s video nasties)
Salem’s Lot (was it Starsky or Hutch? Anyway, further proof that Stephen King is the king of this stuff.)
Friday the 13th (80s nasty, still too terrifying)
Carnival of Souls
The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (one can only imagine that at the time, these were more terrifying than anything we see today?)
Nosferatu (see above)
Suspiria (1970s version)
Don’t (‘If you’re thinking of going into this house… etc: Don’t! It’s not even a movie, just a spoof trailer by Edgar Wright, who directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, for a movie that wasn’t made. But it sums up the genre and introduces the house as a regular character in horrow)
Shaun of the Dead (See above, pub though rather than a house)
Shaun (Simon Pegg of the Dead) takes a break from his job in the not-Comet electronics store to join slob mate Ed (Nick Frost) to watch zombies die on the way to the Winchester pub.
The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water (a horrific public information about drowning played out to scare children to death to prevent them from dying in puddles.)
The Haunting of Hill House
Jaws (you can also listen to the audio story, which was a recent book at bedtime on Radio 4. The descriptions of the monster stand the test of time and still sound fresh – given that every shark angle has now been covered. Thank you Sharknado 1-6.)
Never mind a bigger boat, Captain Quint (Robert Shaw)’ll need a bigger knife than that to take on the great white shark, star of Jaws.
Eraserhead (weird, right?)
The Orphanage (you can tell by the name that this isn’t going to be a happy orphanage)
Cat People (1942)
The Exorcist III
David Naughton in a happy moment with Jenny Agutter before he turns into a London-based wolf.
An American Werewolf in London (Rik Mayall! Oh how we miss him.)
The Phantom of the Opera (Lon Chaney, not Frank Spencer)
The Bride of Frankenstein
The Wolf Man (1941, Lon Chaney again)
The Howling (80s nasty)
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Japanese man slowly turns into scrap metal. It’s a versatile genre.)
The Fear of God
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Deranged (most of these films could be called this)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (nasty)
Eyes Without a Face
Onibaba (‘one of the scariest films ever made’)
He Who Gets Slapped (that Lon Chaney chappy again, 1929)
Night of the Demon
The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven’s brutal 1970s schlock. Bad guy get his penis bitten off. Stuff like that.)
It Comes at Night
Unfriended (Micro budget yarn about extreme social media)
When social media gets even worse than artificial intelligenceski influencing elections - Shelley Hennig in Unfriended.
Trollhunter (Trolls? Must be Norwegian. It is.)
The Brides of Dracula (Peter Cushing’s in this one.)
Witchfinder General (Vincent Price in this one)
Night of the Living Dead
Cockneys vs Zombies (a retirement home at the centre of a zombie apocalypse -looks hilarious, starring Richard Briers and his walking frame)
Red Riding Hood
The Spiral Staircase
The Badadook: when the monster comes out from under the bed and moves in.
Under the Shadow (set in Tehran)
Prevenge (a pregnant woman takes orders to murder from her unborn baby. Who comes up with this shit?)
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Carrie (Classic from the king of horror Stephen King. If anyone is thinking of elevating their writing from reader comments to books, Stephen King’s On Writing is about as good a self help as you can find. And if anyone doesn’t understand the relevance of Carrie being the final scene in the series, hold your breath and watch it again.)
Now download the lists, print out and tick off the ones to watch and have watched
The full list
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