Movies that shaped me

by Abby Olcese

Created 07/07/12

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From the tender young age of 8, I wanted to be a movie critic. Every Friday I'd sit at the edge of my parents' bed, the weekend preview section spread out in front of me, reading the movie reviews and thinking "Man, I hope I get to do that someday." My viewing history has kind of gone accordingly. Now, I get to write about movies on my blog, and broadcast my opinions every once in a while on the radio. Not quite Ebert, but we'll get there yet! Below (in chronological order) is the list of movies that shaped my tastes and my critical views.

  • My parents' first date, and my favorite movie growing up. I sometimes re-enacted scenes in my room. One day, I'll meet Terry Gilliam and tell him how important his movies were (and still are) to me.

  • Monty Python was my life from ages 11-15. In seventh grade, I saw "Life of Brian" for the first time, and immediately recommended it to all my friends.

  • When I was about 16, my parents deemed me the right age to watch "Picnic at Hanging Rock." This was a movie they'd told me about over and over again growing up, so my expectations were high. Fortunately, "Picnic at Hanging Rock" is fantastic, so my expectations were met. Well played, Mom and Dad.

  • There are certain cultural experiences you're required to have in high school. You read J.D. Salinger and George Orwell for the first time, and you see your first Wes Anderson movie. This was mine.

  • After years of trying to find a copy of "Brazil" in the tiny Kansas town where I lived, I found a VHS crammed into a shelf of other old tapes in a firetrap used video and bookstore on our town's main street that always smelled like cat pee, but had loads of great movies. It was an example of a movie finding a viewer at the perfect time--smack in the middle of Bush II's second term, in a year when all my friends and I listened to was punk rock and 60s protest music.

  • One of the many movies I discovered in my college library's DVD collection--which served as my film 101 class over the course of three years. "If...." is the only movie I've ever experienced that made me feel as if I'd just spent two hours in a modern art gallery. It's completely reflective of its time and culture, and you can interpret it and identify with it any number of ways. Man, what a great movie.

  • Borrowed at random from the university library as a double feature with "Mad Max" after I'd just gone through an awkward breakup. Best random choice I've ever made. If you're at all interested in 80s London, this is your movie. The music, the costumes, the cultural issues are all a perfect little time capsule of the city in 1980. Also, nothing takes out your frustration quite like watching Bob Hoskins slice a guy's throat open with a broken bottle.

  • For me, watching this movie is like getting a great big hug and a cup of hot chocolate from someone you love after you've had a hard day. It immediately became my favorite movie the moment after I watched it. Graham Greene is such a thoughtful writer, and worked so well with Carol Reed. He's always got a lot on his mind when he writes, but never fails to tell a good story.

  • I saw this as part of an anthropology class about cultural violence, and it changed the way I think about violence on film forever. Knowing that the events on film really did happen, and seeing it the way Pontecorvo shoots it--in a realistic style with a solid dramatic through-line, makes you feel differently about what it is you're watching.

  • Ruined me for any other action movie ever. I love this movie the way some people love "Die Hard," except I love it more. I wish more movies were this awesome.


  • By Collection
    August 01, 2012
    08:17 PM

    Wonderful top 10 list! Did you study film at university? What's the name of your blog?
  • By Abby Olcese
    September 24, 2012
    02:56 PM

    Thanks! The name of my blog is No More Popcorn. I actually only ever took one intro film class at school--would love to have taken more :)