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  • Writer's pictureEllen Cheshire


Updated: May 5, 2023

On the 1st May I spotted this #30DayFilmChallenge on twitter and thought that it would be fun challenge to both choose the films, and watch them. It seemed particularly apt given that my 50th birthday fell in May, so I was already pondering my first half century as film fan - read my blog on 50 films from the last 50 years.

Day 1 The first film I remember watching was seeing at the cinema, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) produced by Walt Disney, at the Muswell Hill Odeon on 26 February 1974. It's been a while since I'd watched this in full (usually clips for teaching, Brand Disney & gifs!), but it still holds the attention. Animation exquisite. Songs delightful. Right amount of humour/scares/romance. Wonderful! (And I didn't hide under my seat this time!)

Day 2 A film that I like that starts with the same letter as my name. I loved Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) d. Michel Gondry, w. Charlie Kaufman when I first saw it on 30 June 2004. So much so that I subsequently bought the DVD. But not sure I'd watched in 15 years! Did I still love it? Yes I did. A bittersweet love story between Clementine (Kate Winslet) & Joel (Jim Carrey) overlaid by a mind-bending, time-warping layer of quirky narrative confusion from Kaufman. Great supporting cast.

Day 3 A film that has more the 5 words. I chose A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949) d. Tay Garnett as today (3 May) is also Bing Crosby's birthday & I'm a big fan of Time Travel movies. Here, an American mechanic (Bing Crosby) from 1912 bumps his head & finds himself in Arthurian Britain of AD 528. Using his technical & musical know-how he really shakes things up. Not seen it for years, still as fun! Particularly the song 'We're Busy Doing Nothing' sung by Bing Crosby, William Bendix and Sir Cedric Hardwicke, composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Burke. The anthem for procrastinators everywhere.

Day 4 A film with a number in the title. Having recently watched Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema on Spy movies, I was intrigued by the set up of 3 Days of the Condor (1975) d. Sydney Pollack. A bookish CIA researcher (#RobertRedford) nips out for lunch, and when he returns all his colleagues have been murdered. On the run he has to learn who to trust and new less-bookish skills. Suspenseful/paranoiac spy thriller.

Day 5 A film where a character has a job you want. I’m lucky to be doing the job I want. But there's a pastime that I’d always wished I’d taken up and if I had may have led to a very different job! Synchronised Swimming. So watched Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) d. Mervyn LeRoy. Esther Williams stars in this biopic of Annette Kellerman who became a star with her innovative water ballets on Broadway. The film ends on a real downer, don't worry all OK in real life. Stunning choreography by Busby Berkeley.

Day 6 My favourite animated film. OK, so this one’s a bit of a cheat as it is a mix of live action and stop frame animation, but it was the first ‘animation’ film that popped into my head. Alice (1988) directed by Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer. Definitely NOT for kids. Live action Alice interacts with stop-frame puppets. It's grungy, it's grotesque, it's disturbing. Love it! Takes familiar characters but no dialogue. Captures the uneasy elements of Alice in Wonderland novel - you can read my blog on this film here.

Day 7 A film that I never get tired of. This one’s easy! The Big Lebowski (1998) d. The Coen Brothers. Written about it. Watched it so many times. So quotable. Always spot something new. There are lots of films I love, but this is definitely my fave, one that I can endlessly watch and never tire of. At first it appears like a shaggy dog story, to mirror The Dude, but on repeated viewing you appreciate its precision, humour and all round excellence.

Day 8 A film where I liked the soundtrack more. Has to be Moulin Rouge (2001) d. Baz Luhrmann. I love the film, but I loved the music so much that I bought both CDs that were released, and now when I hear the originals, I think ‘prefer the Moulin Rouge versions’. Set in Fin de siècle Paris, A penniless writer (Ewan MacGregor) gets caught up in the excitement & sexuality of the MR nightclub falling for its star (Nicole Kidman). The interpolation & integration of pop songs is something to behold. Looks great - you can read my blog on this film here.

Day 9 A film I hate that everyone else loves. Well I can't speak for everyone but Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) d. George Miller is currently 97% on Rottten Tomatoes. The first time around I didn't watch it all the way through, gave up after 20 minutes. But gave it another go for this challenge. The reviews focus on the awesome action, the gigantic sets & the impressive production and costume design. Which I agree with. But plot/character weak, & so didn't sustain my interest. Would be interested in more Furiosa (Charlize Theron).

Day 10 My favourite superhero film. As this was one of fave films of the 2010s it can only be Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) d. Ramsey, Persichetti, Rothman. Such a witty screenplay, voice performances excellent and love all the different animation styles. Would happily watch a spin-off of all of these spider-peeps - you can read my blog on my Top Ten Films of the 2010s here.

Day 11 A film I like from my least favourite genre. Well, my least favourite genre is 'slasher horror' movies, but I quite like Popcorn (1991) d. Mark Herrier. A group of film students put on an all night horror movie marathon. But then the Horrors get a little too real. A not quite so good blend of popculture/teen slasher as Scream, which came a few years later. But has some fun with horror conventions. The first half is quite playful, does get a little more icky in the second half.

Day 12 A film that I hate from your favourite genre. One of my favourite genres is Time Travel movies, which when combined with 80s nostalgia should have meant that Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) d. Steve Pink. w. Josh Heald/Sean Anders/John Morris, should be right up there. But a spectacular fail… So did it improve on a 2nd viewing? No, it was far far worse. Rotten Tomatoes has this at 60% & its sequel, which I've not seen, at 13% - so how bad must that be?! Just, no!

Day 13 A film that puts me in deep thoughts. So I’ve not seen Last Year in Marienbad (1961) d. Alain Resnais in almost 30 years, since I studied it at A Level, but at the time I recall musing over it, being challenged by it – and have often thought about it, so was pleased to have an excuse to revisit it. The plot is both simple and enigmatic. Did they or didn't they have an affair? But this isn't really the point. Are they dead? In heaven or hell or purgatory? Is this a Time Travel or Time Looping narrative? Cast/Design gorgeous.

Day 14 A film that gave you depression. For this I'm thinking about contemporary social injustice dramas/docs which leave me depressed/angry. A filmmaker I admire who's long-worked in this field is Ken Loach recent examples being Sorry I Missed You and I, Daniel Blake (which led me to sign up as a volunteer for Citizens Advice). So chose to watch one I'd not seen The Angels’ Share (2012) d. Ken Loach. A far more caper-ish entry into the Loach/Laverty oeuvre. Four rascals on community service carry out a daring theft of the world’s most expensive whisky. The darker reasons for them being in trouble dissipates & therefore quite upbeat (for Loach),

Day 15 A film that makes me feel happy. This is one I’m always happy to watch, know so many lines & has many scenes which make me laugh - Notting Hill (1999) d. Roger Michell, s/p Richard Curtis. With two very charismatic leads, Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, playing two very likeable people in an attractive part of London, with him surrounded by lovely /supportive friends (played by a whole cast of scene-stealers). A delightful fairy tale romcom.

Day 16 A film that is personal to me. My Cousin Vinny (1992) d. Jonathan Lynn, w. Dale Launer, was a film that we first watched on a perfect family holiday in the Mumbles, and then it became a family favourite played on special occasions. Vincent Gambini (Joe Pesci), is a newbie New York lawyer who heads down to Alabama to help two young chaps accused of murder – yes it’s a comedy. A very very funny one. Great chemistry between Pesci & Marisa Tomei (who won an Oscar).

Day 17 My favourite film sequel. This was an easy one, Before Sunset (2004) d. Richard Linklater, starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. A sequel to Before Sunrise (1995) with the same trio. 9 years after their one night together, Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), meet in Paris where he’s been promoting his novel loosely based on their earlier meeting. They’ve an hour or so until he has to leave. Or does he? Love the naturalness between the two, and Linklater’s 9 year apart trilogy. (Fingers crossed for a 4th).

Day 18 A film that stars my favourite actor. Has to be Bette Davis who I fell for in the 1980s when it was harder to get hold of all old films, but saw 30+. My faves are All About Eve & Baby Jane. But today I’m going to watch one I don’t remember seeing, The Star (1952), d. Stuart Heisler. There's something incredibly brave about Bette Davis taking on this role of a washed-up at 40 actress, only two years after her best acting Oscar nom for All About Eve. Some amazing/tragic scenes ie drunk driving with Oscar & the screentest.

Day 19 A film made by my favourite director. Don’t really have a favourite, but Billy Wilder is up there, especially as both Sunset Boulevard & Double Indemnity are in my top 20. But today watching one I’ve not seen for a while, A Foreign Affair (1948) d. Billy Wilder. Not a top tier Wilder/Brackett but a must-see comedy for Marlene Dietrich's performance as a nightclub chanteuse & Jean Arthur as a buttoned-up congresswoman who finds a new lease of life on a fact-finding trip to post-WW2 Berlin.

Day 20 A film that changed my life. Took some to think about this one, but then I realised the film was literally staring at me, as the poster for Mississippi Masala (1991) d. Mira Nair is hanging on my office wall. Is was a real pleasure to revisit this film. Denzel Washington & Sarita Choudhury are a charismatic and likeable pair of actors who play a young couple in love, who have to deal with their parents’ & their friends’ disapproval. Heartfelt & joyous, but also via her father’s backstory moving & important - you can read my blog on this film here.

Day 21 A film that I dozed off in. I only remember falling asleep in the cinema once, it was a hot day, a comfy seat & I was the only one there. But can’t remember the film. So going for one I dozed off in at home – Fight Club (1999) d. David Fincher, but that’s no reflection on the film rather than it’s 150mins and I started it after midnight. Brad Pit & Edward Norton are the perfect yin/yang combo as the magnetic Tyler Durden & the anonymous unnamed narrator. Energetic unsettling satire. Knowing the twist, a second viewing brings different rewards. Love the grungy Helena Bonham Carter in this.

Day 22 A film that made me angry. I’m not angry, just disappointed. Ok, was a little bit angry at the wasted money & talent that went into the The Wicker Man (2006) d. Neil LaBute. Usually reliable on & off screen talent here completely miss what made the original so special. A totally unnecessary remake of the Schaffer 1973 original. Was hopeful due to the decision to make this a society run by women, but that failed to be fully realised. Nicolas "I’m a police officer" Cage miscast. No sense of urgency or dread. Awful.

Day 23 A film made by a director that is dead. This could've been any one of 1000s of directors/films! Given the random nature of this day’s challenge & that it came up in a twitter conversation a few days before led me to Random Harvest (1942) d. Mervyn LeRoy who died 13/9/87. Amazing performances from Ronald Colman & Greer Garson is the post-WW1 romantic melodrama. But Blimey Charlie, that was even more of a weepie than I remembered. I remember crying at the end (which I did again today) but not how heart-breaking throughout. So full of love/yearning.

Day 24 A film I wish I saw in a cinema. I would love to have seen Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film Dial M for Murder in 3D. Will be watching it again today in 2D, but trying to spot the 3D moments. A cracking thriller. A hubby (Ray Milland) plans his wife's (Grace Kelly) murder. But when it goes wrong his wife's lover (Robert Cummings) & police (John Williams) investigate. Works well in 2D, but would've loved to see it in 3D. Updated in March 2023: Thanks to the Worthing Connaught got to see this in 3D - fab!

Day 25 A film set not in the current time. Having had such a lovely time watching the Mervyn LeRoy directed weepie Random Harvest on day 23 chosen another for today. Waterloo Bridge (1940) which starts on the first day of WW2 & then flashes back to WW1.

Waterloo Bridge (1940) d. Mervyn LeRoy. Definitely a weepie! Roy (Robert Taylor) & Myra (Vivien Leigh) have a whirlwind romance, but then there are complications. Taylor handsome & charming (surely he'd have understood), Leigh one of the greatest screen actors & so beautiful.

Day 26 A film adapted from somewhere. This could've been any one of 100s of films, given my interest in film adaptations. But having so enjoyed watching an early 1990s Denzel Washington film for day 20 went for Much Ado About Nothing (1993) d. Kenneth Branagh for another Denzel fix. Best screen entrance! Branagh plays Benedict opposite Emma Thompson's Beatrice - a delightful pairing. A star-studded cast of A List Hollywood/British Thesps having a whale of a time bringing this Shakespeare comedy to cinematic life in the Tuscan sunshine.

Day 27 A visually striking film. The first film that came to mind was Wong Kar-Wai's In The Mood for Love (2000). Cinematography by Christopher Doyle & Mark Lee Ping Bin, which has bonus aurally striking music by Michael Galasso & Shigeru Umebayashi. Neighbours Mr Chow (Tony Leung) & Mrs Chen (Maggie Cheung) suspect their spouses are having an affair. Clarification turns to comfort turns to romance. Exquisite tale of loneliness & longing leading to love. Gorgeous visuals & music

Day 28 A film that made you feel uncomfortable. Well, close-ups of eyes make me feel uncomfortable, to the point where I have to cover my eyes! Which when coupled with a general seediness makes me doubly-uncomfortable, but it’s a great film for many other reasons. So chose Peeping Tom (1960) d. Michael Powell. There's something otherworldly about Carl Boehm who plays the destructive & damaged young man at the centre of this daring & disturbing look at the links between cinema & voyeurism. Unsettling, uneasy & definitely uncomfortable. But Brilliant.

Day 29 A film that makes you want to fall in love. Having watched its sequel Before Sunset (2004) for Day 17 seemed inevitable that Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse’s (Ethan Hawke) first meeting in Before Sunrise (1995) d. Richard Linklater would be the film for this day. Being the approx. same age as the actors & seeing them grow up adds extra poignancy. The naturalness of Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy's performances make this a real treat. You fall in love with Jesse & Celine as they fall in love. Watching it with the knowledge that there are two further films makes it a different experience.

Day 30 A film with my favourite ending. What could be more fitting than ending a month long celebration of film, where I have revisited old favourites & made new discoveries than watching Cinema Paradiso (1988) d. Giuseppe Tornatore. The ending would delight any film fan. This is as much a sweet-natured tale about childhood & friendship as it is about the magic of both film & going to the cinema. And the sense of community an independent cinema offers. Gets me every time.

As a bonus also watched the film which my mum named as the one with her favourite ending, Zatōichi (2003) d/w, co-edited by & starring Takeshi Kitano as a blind swordsman posing as a traveling masseur who arrives in a small town & helps various people who are being bullied by a local war lord + a pair of siblings seeking revenge on their parents’ murder. Gloriously bloody, funny & ends with a rousing tap dance!

Day 31 A little bonus treat to round off the #30DayFilmChallenge ‘the best sequel to a sequel’. Having watched Before Sunset for Day 17 (best sequel) & Before Sunrise for Day 29 (film that makes you want to fall in love) watched Before Midnight (2013) d. Richard Linklater. It would seem a brave decision by Linklater, Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy to take the Before films to this darker place. But then a couple who've been together 9 years aren't still the same as the first moments of romance in their 20s.

So that’s the end of my #30DayFilmChallenge. I really enjoyed thinking about and then watching all the films. So rare for me to revisit films event though I have 1,000s as there’s always something new to watch. But, going to take the time to watch more films I’ve kept/bought.

And fingers crossed for a fourth Before film!

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