Ok, what were the last five films you saw? Not just the best ones, not just the latest cinema or DVD releases, but also the ones you casually watched on TV when your brain was on standby, the films you rarely admit to seeing or simply forget to mention because they're too obvious or old or badly made.
It's an interesting exercise. With our list-obsessed, best of, worst of, hyped-up anticipatory culture, many fine movies get left in the margins, many average to bad movies might as well never have been made, while the vast history of world cinema lies beneath the surface of our attention, getting vaster and more ignored by the day as we merrily jet-ski our way through end-of-year lists, award ceremonies and teaser trailers towards a brighter tomorrow.
So, an old movie you discovered on TV, a recently-maligned blockbuster you caught up with, a DVD someone lent you, something you downloaded or even one you saw in a film club. They're all part of the rich pageantry of cinema. Here are the last five I saw:
1. White Mischief (1988):
Frightf'ly British tale of posh types in 1940s Kenya having affairs, cross-dressing and being fantastically decadent, bitchy and stiff-upper-lip about it all until the shooting starts. As one society gossip says of dashing womaniser Charles Dance: 'They say he can't get on with women, so he gets off with them instead!' Also has Gretta Scaachi looking amazing in a succession of fantastic 40s outfits and even better out of them, John Hurt wearing a funny hat and Sylvia Miles masturbating in a morgue. What more could you want?
2. National Treasure (2004):
Surprisingly enjoyable nonesense in the Da Vinci Code vein, but better than that lazily inept bore-fest. Of course, low expectations can sometimes be a film's best friend, and it's true I assumed this was going to be awful. To my surprise I found myself enjoying it, for the first half at least, as it sped along, tongue firmly in cheek, Nicholas Cage underplaying his oddball character nicely and Diane Kruger very appealing as the love interest sucked into the adventure. It outstays its welcome, too many protracted stunt and chase sequences, but as a family film, you could do a lot worse.
3. Inglourious Basterds (2009):
The usual from Tarantino; killer scenes, choppy structure, vivid performances. While Christoph Waltz has (rightly) gained all the plaudits for his turn as Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, there are equally fine performances from Diane Kruger (again), as German actress Bridget Von Hammersmark, Michael Fassbender as British agent Archie Hicox, Daniel Bruhl as German war hero/movie star Fredrick Zoller and Mélanie Laurent as Jewish cinema owner Shosanna Dreyfus. All are superb. So what if the basterds side of the story is a bit half-backed? Wouldn't it be churlish to find fault in something so cine-literate and entertaining? Yes, it would.
4. Everlasting Moments (2009):
Perfect example of the vast unseen world of cinema. This fine Swedish film's director, Jan Troell, has been making films for more than forty years, garnering five Oscar nominations along the way, and yet I'm sure I'm not alone in having never heard of him before. Everlasting Moments is the kind of immersive, emotionally complex saga European cinema used to make as a matter of course, and is, in its own quiet way, a masterpiece.
5. Office Space (1999):
Great comedy from Mike Judge that didn't set the world on fire when it came out first but has since gained a well-deserved cult status. The special tedium of office jobs is mined for comedy gold. Great cast, lots of quoteable lines and a major plot idea stolen from Superman 3. Also Jennifer Anniston's only good film. For everyone whose dream in life is to do nothing.