Alright, let me keep this 100. I hate listicles. And this, ladies and gentlemen, damn sure is a listicle. If it looks like a listicle, barks like a listicle, and smells like a listicle, you can be pretty certain it really is a genuine, bona-fide, organised, listicle. Generally, in the past, I have avoided making them because I feel deeply uneasy attempting to organise things that have a mystifying quality and compose them in some cute linear fashion, with a nice big bow and puppy dog eyes. Kind of like putting your tablets in some easy-to-swallow food just to avoid the sour taste of health. Don't hate on me though, I know ya'll love listicles. I'm feeling kinda freaky today so I've put one together. For real.
After much blood, sweat, and sharp pinches from belly-laughing, I have compiled and organised my favourite childhood films. You don't have to be some kind of marine biologist to know that this list is not supposed to be definitive, nor even accurate; my fixations on fads change faster than Donald Trump can say the word WALL. For the most part, however, this cute little list seems sufficiently thought out and I welcome the controversy and heated debate it will undoubtedly stir up all over the world. Marc Jacobs and those dreadlocks are about to become yesterday's news. Sidebar: We all know his response was insensitive, but holy shit the outrage bandwagon was overpopulated with people who were just born to be offended.
Virginia Woolf, a writer dear to my heart, wrote that there are relations between things that seem incompatible yet have some mysterious affinity. Films from ones childhood tend to appear in ones mind at the oddest times. Margaret Atwood, in her book about Science Fiction - or Speculative Fiction, as she intelligently differentiates the two - muses that "our earliest loves, like revenants, have a way of coming back in other forms; or, to paraphrase Wordsworth, the child is mother to the woman." Early influences hang in there, we just don't see them, because like mice, they are hibernating in the attic. Growing up in the nineties when films of that era informed how we experience the world, shaped how we ourselves have grown to perceive it, with our prejudices, in our humour, the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of it all, they too, hang around. Here are ten that hold some particular significance for me.
10) Addams Family Values (1993)
Well let's just say, between us squirrel friends, this film sets the tone for the list ahead, not to mention the kind of child-mind I had. But let's save all the psycho-analysis for my next think piece on Britney Spears' emotionally provocative VMA performance. Moving on. Everything from Addams Family Values' demented and subversive sense of humour, to it's splendiferous soundtrack, to it's cleverly selected all-star cast with their fabulously creepy wardrobe, I love. This film used to crack me up like a chocolate digestive and dunk me into a cup full of dark humour. The most endearing thing about these characters, is that despite their completely oddball existence, the ghoulish Addams family are actually much sweeter than everyone else in the film. Except Debbie, played excellently by Joan Cusack, the killer Nanny who has the intention murdering Uncle Fester. No matter how many time she tries to top him off, he keeps coming back, oblivious to her bad intentions. The pivotal scene for me, is when Wednesday (played by a hella ICONIC Cristina Ricci) and Pugsley, decide to sabotage their summer camp's thanksgiving musical and reek havoc on all the attendees. Pitchforks and torches were never so hilarious.
9) Batman Returns (1992)
I suppose no list would really feel complete without a superhero movie, and Batman was always my favourite. Superman was really vanilla, Spiderman always seemed like a hormonal wimp, and Captain America basically served as a childhood premonition that I probably wouldn't be a fan of Patriotism. Tim Burton's Gotham City was just deliciously cartoony yet also nightmarish and I always felt like this film had sharper claws than any of the other predictable mainstream superhero movies. I hate the genre now by the way. Except Nolan's Batman's.They were lit. I also loved that the Penguin (Danny DeVito) is purged of all those boring bird-themed gimmicks, and instead inflicted with deformed flipper-like hands, a dribbling mouth, and more personality defects than the cast of Dynasty at its peak. Burgess Meredith, who played the Penguin on the Batman (1966) TV series, was actually asked to play the Penguin's father in the opening of the film but illness prevented him from doing so. The film also features a twisted Michelle Pfeiffer in an S&M inspired cat-suit playing what was arguably her most iconic role. Meow, indeed.
8) Scream (1996)
Okay, okay. I obviously know Scream is not a children's film. This entry represents THAT newly released scary film that you really weren't allowed watch, and that all the kids seen and gossiped about in school. And if you didn't see it, you obviously pretended that you did and made educated guesses hoping to get them right and not seem uncool. I was allowed watch almost anything what I wanted because I had a cool Mother who was chillaxed about R-ratings. Or probably oblivious to half the shit I did watch. As long as there was nothing sexual I could watch whatever I wanted. Even first base was illegal. And that's when I was 16. For most people of my generation, I should point out, that notorious film was definitely Scream. Me, my brother, and my friends (I'm looking at you Niamh and Eefa), used to re-enact the bloody murders. Fortunately, these murders were on one another and also had the additional advantage of being imaginary. That film changed the game for slasher movies, and it's iconic killer mask is based on the painting "Scream" by Edvard Munch.
7) Beetlejuice (1988)
All the Champaign-drinking film critics tend to pan this film because they suffer from a disease known as taking-life-too-seriously-syndrome. But I don't care. All I know is that I was litch obsessed with it as a kid. A couple of recently deceased ghosts contract the services of a "bio-exorcist" - Beetlejuice, of coo-werse - in order to remove the new owners of their house, who are total A-holes. Sidebar: It was so great to see the epic return of Wynona Ryder (ONE OF THE GREATEST HUMANS) in the TV show Stranger Things, and also the acclaimed recent work of Beetlejuice himself, the inimitable Michael Keaton, who won a well deserved Oscar for Birdman. Keaton spent only two weeks filming his part in the film, which lasts 17.5 minutes out of the 92-minute running time. Also, he ad-libbed most of his scenes. AND it includes one of the most hilarious lip-sync scenes that features legendary talk show host Dick Cavett as a dinner guest. Sidebar 2: Watch Cavett's legendary interview with Bette Davis, it has supplied enough drag queens with quotes to see out the next 17 seasons of Drag Race.
6) Aladdin (1992)
Everyone who grew up in the nineties knows that the best characters in animated films were always the villains. That seems to have changed nowadays. My favourite was always Jafar from Aladdin, with his ambitiously applied eye-liner and his eccentric cackle. Although special holla-out to my childhood wolf-pack homies; Hades from Hercules, Ursula from The Little Mermaid, and Scar from The Lion King. Aladdin ushered in the modern era of animation. The cave of wonders sequence saw a major Disney feature employing computer animation for the first time, and the use of the late and beloved Robin Williams was one of the first films to use celebrity voices. However, every time I hear "A Whole New World" I legit want to find the nearest bridge and hurl myself off. You can blame my fourth class primary school teacher who made our whole class practice it over and over and over for our tone-deaf musical. I reason that's why so many kids exchanged school at the end of the year.
5) Spirited Away (2001)
Like most people, I have always adored Japanese animation, and there is no better introduction than Hayou Miyazaki. Anime was something I was obsessed with as a young teenager. Probably the most acclaimed animation director alive, this is without a doubt Miyazaki's masterpiece. During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl, Chihiro, wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts. Including her parents, and she ventures out on a quest to change them back. It was the first anime film to be nominated for (and win) an Academy Award. It also has the longest runtime of any other film nominated or winning in that category, and was the first film to earn $200 million in grosses before opening in the U.S. Essential viewing not only for animation, but for film in general.
4) Labyrinth (1986)
This should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me, as I am completely obsessed with David Bowie. Don't even get me started. The bible. I can remember him as long as I can remember anything. Labyrinth is the film that really introduced me to him, with his wig, his make-up, his voice, and his *coughs* bulging assets, he really was the best villain any childhood film could wish for. A 16-year old girl is given 13 hours to solve a labyrinth and rescue her baby brother when her wish for him to be taken away is granted by the stylish Goblin King, Jareth. David Bowie jumps in her window and snatches a child, the most frightening thing of all is how unprecedently good David Bowie is with children. I'd say he was a super-fun Dad. Comic-con produces numerous Jareth's every year, so if attending, watch your babies at all times. Sidebar: It was actually Jim Henson's kids that finally convinced him that David Bowie would be the best choice for the role, winning out over Mick Jagger, Prince, Sting, and Michael Jackson (the last one probably for the better).
3) Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
I honestly don't know how many times I have seen this film, and it never gets repetitive. It's also testament to the real genius of the late Robin Williams. When my older cousins Janice and Audrey would babysit me they would usually play this film and we would repeat every line. After a bitter divorce from his wife (played very delicately by Sally Field), an actor disguises himself as a female housekeeper to spend time with his children, who are held in custody by his former wife. Once you watch this, Aerosmith's 'Dude Looks Like A Lady' will never sound the same again. There is not much else to say, other than what a bright light Robin Williams was for so many children of my generation, and how truly missed he is. So much love for this classic.
2) The Dark Crystal (1982)
My grandmother used to rent this film for me over and over, I think she just wanted to watch it herself, to be honest. But after the first time, I was mesmerised. It is easily one of the darkest children's movies of all time, and also one of the most beautiful. It takes place in "A land of wonder," and its the tale of a nearly-extinct race, the Gelflings, who are trying to replace a missing shard to the Dark Crystal and establish peace among the different races of their universe. The buzzard-shaped Skeksis are the scary villains, they die and decompose before our eyes, eat the tendons of small animals and suck the souls out of the creatures they capture. It's terrifying opening scene, that features a savage cannibalistic murder, scared the bejaysus out of me when I first seen it. They were only puppets though, so not too barbaric. Never forgot this film.
1) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
There is probably no person alive who loves this movie more than my Mother. She watches it every Halloween, and every Christmas, and every Easter, and every other bloody month at this rate. The protagonist, Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn't quite understand the concept. The movie, which tells the story of an attempt by Halloween to annex Christmas, is shot in the old-school process of stop-action animation. Santa is held hostage by a sack of slime and bugs called Oogie Boogie (Ken Page of Broadway's Ain't Misbehavin' does the voice). And Jack unknowingly terrifies kids by delivering such presents as a shrunken head and a toy snake that devours Christmas trees. It is everything Disney could never be; odd, creepy, macabre, subversive, and wicked. And that soundtrack from Danny Elfman is ESSENTIAL AF. Not only my favourite childhood film of all time, one of my favourite films ever, full stop.
And so, there you have it. But seriously, watch that Bette Davis interview.
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