Elaine Shute is a volunteer programmer at WERU-FM, a community radio station in Downeast Maine. Her show ‘On the Wing’, a three-hour eclectic mix of music, airs on alternating Mondays, and can be streamed on demand. Here are five films that have stayed with her….
1 – Breaking Away: I love a coming-of-age story, and – along with To Kill a Mockingbird – this is the best one I know. Follows a group of working class friends in an Indiana college town, each trying to find his place in the world after high school, and centres on Dave, who is obsessed with bicycle racing and all things Italian – to the point were he tries to pass as an Italian exchange student, when he falls for a sorority girl. Sweet, poignant, and very, very funny (Dave’s father’s panic when he catches his son shaving his legs, so that he might cut his racing time is a standout). A great ensemble cast, including hysterical turns by a very young Daniel Stern, and, especially, as Dave’s father, Paul Dooley, who practically walks away with the film. A small, unpretentious film that, satisfyingly, actually won an Oscar for best original screenplay. I watch this whenever my spirits need a lift.
2 – After Hours: Only years later did I discover that this is a Martin Scorsese movie. I saw the poster, and walked into the theatre thinking I was going to see a comedy, not the stuff of nightmares it turned out to be. Griffin Dunne plays Paul, a bored computer programmer who, on a whim, pursues a mysterious young woman (Rosanna Arquette) he meets in a Manhattan coffee shop one night, and ends up in an lurid, urban version of Alice in Wonderland, after losing all his money out the window of a cab. Eccentrics, lunatics and psychotic characters abound, as he tries to make his way back to the safety of the Upper East Side – and you’re never certain he’s going to escape in one piece. This one stayed with me primarily because it incorporated elements of my own bad dreams. Saw it one additional time, because a friend asked me to go with her. Don’t ever need to see it again. Ended up naming my son after the lead actor.
3 – Something Wild: Beware of picking up free-spirited women in coffee shops. Here’s another case where that goes spectacularly wrong…then right…then wrong (near fatally so), before… well, I won’t spoil it for anyone who has yet to see this marvellous Jonathan Demme roller-coaster of a film, which incorporates comedy, romance, violence, and a terrific soundtrack, and introduced me to one of my favourite bands, The Feelies. Melanie Griffith turns in her finest screen performance. But Ray Liotta just about walks off with the film.
4 – The Haunting: Is Julie Harris actually hearing a creepy old house speak to her? Or is she simply going mad? Terrifying screen version of the Shirley Jackson novel. A gothic horror story in which you never actually see the horror. There is neither ghost, nor serial killer on the loose. But what could be more frightening than slipping uncontrollably into madness? Quite simply the scariest film I’ve ever seen. Leaves The Shining in the dust.
5 – The Untouchables: Operatic in its grandiosity, brilliant in its imagining of Al Capone and his gang pitted against G-man Eliot Ness in Prohibition-era Chicago, combining the talents of two creative geniuses, Brian De Palma and David Mamet, and filmed for maximum popcorn-scarfing entertainment value, Untouchables is vulgar, violent, funny, and brilliantly cast. Luckily my whole family loves this movie. I make them watch it at least once a year.