Natalie Stendall is a freelance writer based in Birmingham. She is interested in the ways film interacts with the novel – from literal adaptations to author biopics – and explores these on her website Writer Loves Movies. Natalie has recently covered adaptations at the London Film Festival and is working on a book about visual storytelling.
Film 1 – The film you’ve seen more than any other
I’ve watched Jason & The Argonauts (1963) every year for almost as long as I can remember. The physical presence of Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion skeletons, moving statues and mythical beasts are more impressive and magical to me than any CGI. Watching it today takes me back to cosy Christmas afternoons, home from school, watching it with mum and dad and an old-fashioned tin of Cadbury chocolates.
Film 2 – The Classic you’ve never seen
Gone With The Wind has been on my watchlist for years. I’m beyond enthusiastic about film adaptations and fascinated by the process of turning novels into films. But my hankering to read the book first often leaves me feeling backed-up and gridlocked. Winter is always a good time to cosy up a with a book so, Gone With The Wind, your time is coming.
Film 3 – The film that will definitely give you a lift
Amy Heckerling’s Clueless is my go to comfort film. I was a teenager when it was released in 1995 and I felt like it was speaking directly to me. I was in awe of Cher with her snappy dialogue, Alice bands and tartan mini-skirts. It was only later that I discovered the film is a modern re-telling of Jane Austen’s Emma. Like Austen, it’s quick-witted and insightful, brimming with neat little social observations.
Film 4 – The so-called masterpiece that deserves a re-visit
I was underwhelmed when I saw The Master in cinemas back in 2012. Hype can do that to a film. Since then I’ve seen and loved Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard Eight and Phantom Thread. I even bought a copy of The Master recently, determined to give it another chance.
Film 5 – The film you wished you’d made
I wish I’d written Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay for Adaptation (2002) – a film about the adaptation of an un-filmable book. So many of our day-to-day conversations about film come back to plot and story structure. In Adaptation Kaufman does the seemingly impossible: he takes these ideas (and an abundance of screenwriting mantras) and dramatises them in glorious meta-cinema. Kaufman is the film’s neurotic main character, struggling to write a screenplay without a story. His dry comedy skewers the formulaic, plot driven storytelling of Hollywood cinema, while reluctantly accepting its inevitability.
Film 6 – The film that had the biggest effect on you
21 Grams changed the way I viewed cinema. While I was a student, it was screened by the university Film Society along with House Of Sand & Fog and The Dreamers. Part of Iñárritu’s ‘Death Trilogy’, 21 Grams is told from three different perspectives, each connected by a tragic car accident. It’s bleak and difficult to re-watch. But it opened my eyes to a different kind of cinema; a poetic cinema that delivers so much more than entertainment. From then on I was hooked.
Films 7 & 8 – Wild Cards
It’s hard to think of a prettier film than Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel: the costumes; the intricate architecture; the red and purple interiors; the patisserie. I don’t think I could ever tire of Ralph Fiennes’ performance or Alexandre Desplat’s eclectic score.
But if I was lost on a desert island, Andrea Arnold’s films are the ones I would miss the most. With her 4:3 aspect ratio she captures intense human emotions; reveals the warmth and wildlife of denigrated urban spaces and makes visible the experiences of people who are too often ignored. The closing images of female unity in Fish Tank (2009), never fail to move me. Its formidable soundtrack communicates so much.
The rogue disc
Top Cat: The Movie (2011). I went along to review this for a local newspaper expecting a fun, if childish, animation. It was the most tedious 90 minutes of my life.
Read more of Natalie’s (fantastic) content on writerlovesmovies.com