The Other Side of the Wind - dir. Orson Welles: it took more than 40 years for this film to be completed, with footage pieced together using Welles' notes and storyboards. The result is sharp, entertaining and trashy. If Citizen Kane had been made in the 70s, this would have been the result. One of the Master's finest works.
The Old Man and the Gun - dir. David Lowery: an unexpectedly gentle, thrilling and stylish caper with stunning performances by Redford, Affleck and Spacek. I especially enjoyed the film's attention to detail with Super 16 cinematography, controlled editing and its calm, cool pace. What a joy.
Blackkklansman - dir. Spike Lee: despite disappointing politics ('racism is bad!'), the film is so funny, charming and goofy that it wins you over in the end. Many scenes are fictional in nature and deviate from the protagonist's real-life story. Strong performances by leads such as Adam Driver propel the film.
Deadpool 2 - dir. David Leitch: this time, the sequel actually exceeds its predecessor. It's bigger, funnier and more re-watchable. Ryan Reynolds and co. clearly understand the character. My favourite line: 'I'm Batman!'
Bohemian Rhapsody - dir. Bryan Singer: it puzzles me to think that reviews for the film have been so negative. Whilst understandably edited to appeal to the broadest possible audience, the film doesn't willingly offend Mercury's memory and, although sanitized to some extent, presents him in his essence, i.e. the greatest rock 'n' roll frontman. Considering rock biopics are scarce and often uninteresting, what is there to be so angry about?
Cold War - dir. Paweł Pawlikowski: although bordering on cliche, Pawlikowski's beautiful romance is simultaneously hard-hitting, delicate and elegant. I really identified with these two lost souls who happen to fall in love despite less than ideal circumstances. The film also doesn't shy away from showing these characters' flaws, which makes them all the more endearing.
Mandy - dir. Panos Cosmatos: a cocaine-fuelled, blood-drenched carnage starring Nicolas Cage. That's about all you need to know.
Unsane - dir. Steven Soderbergh: in this low-budget indie thriller, Soderbergh channels Hitchcock, De Palma and the horror genre. The result is at times underwhelming, however the film's strong aesthetics, daring camera angles and relentless storytelling paper over the plot holes and offer a thought-provoking movie.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout - dir. Christopher McQuarrie: having rewatched it, I would now say this is the strongest instalment in the franchise. The reason for this? It's the first M:I film to become self-aware, taking into account Hunt/Cruise's penchant for dangerous stunts, as well as his advancing age. What we get is a more personal story about the protagonist's 'killer' job, his allies and his life.
Halloween - dir. David Gordon Green: this is an unexpected entry in my list. I realise it's also a questionable one. After all, David Gordon Green's sequel cum soft reboot is the latest in a string of largely uninteresting and dull movies. This particular movie, however, is perhaps the only one as good as the original. In a similar fashion to M:I Fallout, it's the first entry in the franchise to take its protagonist seriously.
'Let It Bleed' (1969) marked the end of 1960s hippie idealism and announced the world's coming of age into the darker and more troubled 1970s. The album was also a coming of age for the Stones themselves, who finally came into their own after a string of debut albums featuring R'n'B covers, Kinks and Beatles pastiches. This is an album I love listening to by myself in the evening.
'Elephant' (2003) by the White Stripes is a masterpiece of minimalistic, catchy and aggressive rock. Full of character, verve and spite, this band and album got me into rock 'n' roll in the first place. And for that, I am eternally grateful. Track after track, there isn't one bad song on here - from the iconic 'Seven Nation Army', to 'Ball and Biscuit' and 'Hardest Button to Button.' Really great stuff.
'Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia' (2000) is the Dandy Warhols' masterpiece. Painting a landscape of suburban bourgeois-chic, hipster counter-culture, the Portland band manage to comment on and subvert classic rock tropes. I actually had the chance to see these guys for the first time when I moved to London at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.
'Hang' (2017) by Foxygen is an excellent example of 1960s pastiche done right. Cocky, upbeat and completely uncynical, the band was once described to me as a 'mellow Rolling Stones.' Have a listen and figure it out. They're also a hilarious mess live. I really love this band. From orchestral sweeps to catchy choruses and guitar riffs, the album really demonstrates how sincere imitation can be the highest form of flattery.
'White Light/White Heat' (1968) by the Velvet Underground really impacted my approach to music in terms of songwriting. This is such a minimalistic, dark and gritty album, with very few choruses and hooks. Instead, Lou Reed and co. deliver an experimental art-rock jam loud enough to kick the speakers out of your amp. It's also got that really interesting Edgar Allan Poe-influenced short story 'The Gift', written by Reed and read by John Cale himself.
'Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid' (1973) is an amazingly simply and effective folk-rock soundtrack. Bob Dylan himself even features in Peckinpah's western. I used to listen to this album during the summer. It's relaxing, nostalgic and somewhat melancholic, with the classic 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' carrying the album.
'Why Try Harder' (2006) by Fatboty Slim Bit of an oddball one. It's a greatest hits compilation that features Norman Cook's work over a ten-year period, however is cohesive enough if it had been released as an album today. I love it because it really takes you back to the old days of 1990s electronic, acid-house funk - like disco, it's unpretentious feel-good music.
'Please Please Me' (1963) by the Beatles shows striking verve and cohesion for a band who's only just released their first songs. For some reason, I keep revisiting this LP every couple of years. 'Twist and Shout' easily stands out as the liveliest and most energetic track. Even the duds like 'A Taste of Honey' are charming enough to carry you through the rest of their efforts.
'Winter Nets' (2018) by Sports Team is the quintessential British indie Cambridge-educated post-punk 80s band. They're great. It's a shame their latest single, 'Kutcher', doesn't feature on the EP as it's a great example of the band's witty commentary on young love and romance. From the classic 'Beverly Rose' to more conventional rockers like 'Stanton', I've been listening to this album on loop since it was released.
'Dookie' (1994) by Green Day is a classic. I don't really have much to say about it. It's fast, it's dark, it's punk rock.