The Films that Shaped my Story Telling Skills

Last month I talked about the books that have influenced me.  I want to dedicate the first posting of each month to disscuss story. Not writing tips, there are plenty of blogs about that out there. I want to focus on story. The stories that shape us and the different kinds of storytelling out there. I began with the books of my youth. Later I will touch on the books that shaped me later, that are shaping me now. Along the way I would love to hear from you dear reader! What kinds of story have shaped your life?

Today I want to talk about the films that have played a big part in my life. Again, they are in no particular order of importance just what came to my mind first. Telling a story has many facets and these films captured my imagination just as much as books.

From these films I learned just as much from reading. Great story telling comes in all sorts of forms and ways. Films are an indeliable way to paint a picture. Different from books, movies have their own scope. Whearas in a book, much can be much examined in that a movie is unable. A film however can get up close and personal with certain aspects that were perhaps overlooked.

Let’s start with the classics

Double Indemnity– This film starring Barbara Stanwick and Fred McMurray is the standard to which I compare all Film Noir films. She is a seductress who entangles insurance man Fred in her plan to kill her husband and make off with the life insurance money.

Stalag 17– POW’s in a WWII German prison camp try to figure out which among them has betrayed them. Is it the black marketeer portrayed by William Holden who seems to manage to get more than the necessities from the guards? Or is it someone else? If you enjoy back story as I do, check out the commentary track too.

Roman Holiday– Audrey Hepburn’s debut film and a lovely, down to earth love story. A princess yearns to have some time to her self and ends up falling in love with a man she should not.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s– This film was ahead of its time in so many ways. As close to a realistic love story in how two people come together despite themselves getting in the way.

Casablanca– Have you been to Rick’s Cafe American? Then you must stop by for a visit! It’s not the most realistic portrayl of WWII with some gaping plot holes but the performances by Bogart and Bergman overcome them. Great lesson for writing, sometimes you ignore the plot holes in order to focus on the characters.

Blazing Saddles– Fond memories of my Pops introducing me to world of Mel Brooks and inappropiate humor altogther. Lead to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and all things British actually.

The Eighties

Goonies– First movie I recall seeing in the movie theater and still one of my favorites on a rainy day. I would love nothing more than to go an adventure for a pirate ship in my backyard.

Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, St.Elmo’s Fire, Sixteen Candles– Need I go on here? I have seen them all! They still speak truth about growing up.

The Outsiders– I have to say I have never read the book but the film is chock full of “I forgot this guy was in this movie!” moments. A gang of outsiders find themselves on the run after a fight goes too far.

Alien(s)– The first three of this series are works of art. Especially the sequel, better than the first film. It’s just not a horror film. There are larger questions looming beneath the surface about our place in the world and the great “what if” upon encountering aliens.

The Nineties

Terminator– Especially the first two. Falls nicely into the whole dystopic theme I discovered in my teens. The idea of changing the past the save the future and the consequences of doing so is fascinating to me.

Glory– Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick tell the story of of the first African American battle unit in the yankee army. If you don’t cry during this film I don’t know what to tell you.

Saving Private Ryan– Steven Spielburg’s film honoring the men who fought on the beaches of Normandy, not sure if it would end well. I would also recommend watching Band of Brothers.

Schindler’s List– What else is there to say?

Clueless– As if?! This movie totally holds up today and is the best modern update of Jane Austen’s Emma. Bridget Jones’ Diary is a comparable update on Pride and Prejudice.

These were the films that have shaped me as much as the books I have read. Next week I will touch on television series. All of it has shaped the stories I write today.

There are so many films but these were the ones that came to mind. Were there any films that you feel should be added to the list?


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