Jonny Potts is a Wellington writer and performer. His award-winning stand-up show Loose: A Private History of Booze & Iggy Pop 1996-2015 returns to BATS Theatre 19-22 August. He is the host of the podcasts The Year of Reading Massively and The Witching Hours. He’s on some form of stage around Wellington as often as he can manage, but mostly tweets fourth-tier garbage under the name @fastercamels. Here are five films that have stayed with him…
1 – A History of Violence: A few years ago I used to like nothing better than to get stoned and watch movies. I don’t really do that anymore, but whenever I think back to that time, it’s not the comedies or the prog-rock concert films or the wacky animation stuff that I remember, it’s this. This may be the ‘wrong’ Cronenberg movie to place on a list of faves but I loved it then and it holds up now. It’s not a ‘twist’ movie for me. People have trouble with it because there are no real surprises or something. Or they see the way the story is going to go and aren’t shocked by it. I am shocked by it. It’s a controlled explosion. That first shot is great. Viggo Mortensen is great. Leave it alone.
2 – The Counselor: I swear I’m not taking the piss here, I really like The Counselor. Yes there are massive problems with it. Massive. But it is drama at its most elemental. I used to think the ‘family dinner’ scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the worst possible position anyone could find themselves in. Now I think it’s the place the counselor winds up. All things move toward their end. It’s a bleak, tasteless and pretty tone deaf couple of hours, but I think about it more often than any other movie of the last few years.
3 – The Uncanny: It’s about cats being evil supernatural monsters or something. Peter Cushing is in it. I saw it on TV really late when I was about eleven and it still creeps me out. It’s probably the most honest example of a film that ‘stays with me’ in that it has vaguely haunted me for most of my life. I can’t say that about many films.
4 – Down On Us: Also known as ‘Beyond The Doors’ to cash in on the Oliver Stone movie. DJ’s Video Library in Whanganui had this on VHS, the medium on which it looks to have been shot. It’s about how the US Government killed Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, who in this reality didn’t play any of their own songs or command very big audiences. It’s terrible, but it has stuck with me. Why does it exist? What was the director trying to do? Why did these people agree to take part? And yet, I really don’t care to find out the answers to these questions. As long as I don’t actively seek out the reasoning behind this film, I can allow it to exist as a kind of mind-clearing totem of zen stupidity. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy low budget 1980s labours of love. A couple of years ago I did a show where I claimed Cliff Twemlow was the greatest man who ever lived (Google him, PLEASE). But Down On Us transcends the kind of pathetic charm that usually endears me to this kind of marginalia. This is a movie only Tim & Eric could love.
5 – Audition: Network is my favourite film of all time, and the first time I saw it my jaw dropped, slowly, over the course of the movie. The first two films on this list can elicit that sort of response as well. I like my serious movies to unfold with a kind of dreadful inevitability. But it can be hard to watch films like Network, A History of Violence and The Counselor in the company of others. I can see how people could find them pretentious, obvious and, well, preposterous. I suppose those sorts of movies need to run the risk of being seen that way in order to achieve what they do. So they are fantastic if you’re the sort of person with whom they resonate, but they can be infuriating if you can’t accept them on their own terms. Of course, some of the hardest films to watch with other people are horror movies, which people expect to find corny, lame, unintentionally funny. Maybe the only genre more problematic for group viewing is the ‘foreign film’, which is pretentious by definition and requires, of all things, reading. I have seen Audition once, in the company of others, and it scared the shit out of all of us.