The movies

Cinememe — 15 memorable movies in 15 minutes (sort of), Part III

True North Perspective's Managing Editor takes a strictly personal trip down a cinematic memory lane

By Geoffrey Dow

The following is adapted from a post originally published at

Fifteen films in fifteen minutes!
(May not actually be do-able in 15 minutes!)

Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen movies you've seen that still keep a powerful hold on your mind. The first fifteen you can recall within no more than 15 minutes.
  1. Bliss, 1985: I saw this on first release and have seen it again and again and again. This painful depiction of love, lust and the traps one can set for oneself, this movie is at once a painfully funny black-comedy, a heart-breaking romance and withering social critique, with bits of surrealism thrown in for good measure. It has a closing seen almost as powerful as Sam returning home after seeing Frodo sail off to the Grey Havens in Tolkien's version of The Lord of the Rings. I still start weeping minutes before that devasting closing voice-over: "He was our father. He told stories, and he planted trees." What an epitaph. What a movie.

  2. Henry V, 1989: When I first saw this movie, I was convinced that Kenneth Brannagh was the reincarnation of Orson Welles; sadly (and like Welles), Brannagh doesn't seem to have managed to live up to that promise. But still, his Henry V is a bloody brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare's play, respectful of the original source material but fully aware that film and stage are two very different beasts indeed.

  3. The Wizard of Oz, 1939: I saw it as a wee boy-kid, as an adolescent, as an adult; I've seen on television, on video and in the theatre. The Great American Fairy Tale, this is one of those movies that speaks (and sings!) to just about everyone. The Wizard of Oz is scary and goofy, cynical and maudlin — all that, and much, much more. You know: a classic. Really.

  4. Casablanca, 1942: Speaking of American fairy tales, Casablanca has to be on any such list. Humphrey Bogart's reluctant hero, the brooding, cynical and tortured Rick Blaine is utterly compelling, as is his supporting cast (which includes not nearly enough Peter Lorre for my tastes; but that's almost always the case with him). Some of the sexual politics have, um, not aged well (I can no longer manage anything like a sympathetic smirk when Claude Rains' Captain Renault takes yet another young and attractive refugee into his office for an exchange of sexual "favours" for a visa) and, yes, the story manipulates its audience with no more shame than Captain Renault, but — damn it! — when the manipulation is as good as it is here, it's hard to complain too much. As for Bogey and me, Casablanca surely was "the begining of a beautiful friendship".

  5. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, 1999: I'm almost embarrassed to end my list with this one, but what the hell — it is a mighty memorable movie. Foul-mouthed 3rd grader heroes, political satire, great songs, a plot that actually makes sense (more or less) and a generally hilarious anarchic sense of humour all serve to make this movie one for the ages. But be warned: If the very idea of songs with lyrics like, "Shut your fucking face, uncle-fucker" twist your undies into a knot, it might not be your cup of tea. For the record, both my brother and my mother agreed it was one of "the dumbest" movies they'd ever seen after I'd foisted it upon them. My mileage, obviously, varied quite a lot.

Well. Where's Rushmore? Where's Election? And what about Apocalypse Now? Or Manhattan? Or Jésus de Montréal? Or Citizen Kane or The Meaning of Life or High Noon or, or, or ...

Nevermind. This was supposed to be done in one sitting ("15 minutes" was the original formulation) and so I have done. Maybe someday I'll put together a list of "best", rather than "most memorable". For now, this serves pretty well as a snap-shot of what I currently think of as memorable movies.

16 September 2009 — Return to cover.