Saturday 5 March 2022

Rob's International Film Festival, aka Riff70

 March 26th is my 70th birthday. I have decided to celebrate it by holding an international film festival. International not in the sense that the films are international (they are decidedly not, as you will see below), but that I have friends in many places, and I hope some of my friends will join me film watching once or twice in the week leading up to March 26th.

I will be watching a film a day from March 20th to March 26th, and complementing the films with  menus of my choice. I won’t share the menus. Suffice to say that hotdogs and popcorn both feature but so do other dishes.

The films I’ve chosen are films I know and like, and haven’t seen enough of. None of them is particularly demanding. It’s supposed to be good fun. So, for instance, I chose not to include the Russian film Leviathan , which is excellent but gut wrenching. I also chose not to include Casablanca which is The. Best. Film. Ever. Made. But I’ve seen it several times recently.

My choices won’t be everybody’s, but there are themes or associations for all of them, so I invite you to pick your own.

And while you watch I hope you will choose to donate to one of my fundraisers. I have two, one for Blood Cancer UK and one for Action For M.E. 

(Circumstances are different now to when I planned this event. Many people will find their attention, and their donations, taken up with Ukraine. So be it: you can still enjoy the films.*)

Blood cancers are killers. A lot of research is going on and breakthroughs occur regularly. But it is a very expensive business. Blood Cancer UK puts a lot of its budget into funding research. Go here to donate to Blood Cancer UK.

ME is a horrible soul sapping illness which often affects its victims for life. Action for M.E. supports people with ME and funds research into the causes and possible cures – there are none at the moment, but biomedical research, which has been increasing worldwide in the last few years, is beginning to allow for a greater understanding of what is going on and what we might do about it. Go here to donate to Action for M.E..

And so to the films.

Sunday 20th 

I will start RIFF70 with

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Perhaps it is coincidental that the first film of each of the Star Wars trilogies is the best (I’m not counting the middle three). I saw Star Wars when it came out in the cinema, yes, I am that old. I still try to teach toddlers in buggies the ways of the Force, sometimes to the bemusement of their parents. The Force Awakens shades it for me, just jolly good fun all the way through.

If you don’t have it or don’t like it, then I suggest 

- any sci fi film (even Life of Brian – it has a sci fi sequence)

- any film with Carrie Fisher in it

Monday 21st

RIFF70 day 2 will be

Miss Sloane

It has Jessica Chastain in it. What’s not to like? One of a small bunch of films that is even better to watch the second time. When you know what going to happen and why, there’s an extra joy in seeing it unfold behind the scenes. And the penultimate scene - when she begins to repeat the opening monologue, and you get quick, almost millisecond, shots of Daniel reacting because he’s realised what she’s doing - is a tour de force of editing.

If you don’t have it, then get into the spirit with

- any conspiracy film (Manchurian Candidate – the original, not the remake)

- any film that you enjoyed as much second time round

Tuesday 22nd 

RIFF70 day 3 will be

The Ipcress File

I’m talking about the 1965 film here, not the TV series which is apparently being released around the time of RIFF. Not sure how I feel about that; I’ll probably try it, but I won’t finish it if it doesn’t measure up.

This is a film from my childhood. Or somewhere vaguely near my childhood; I don’t remember when I first saw the film, but I got the book in my early teens and there was a period when I re-read it two or three times a week for several months. I would say it’s iconic (over used word, but if everybody else is using it, so will I) in several ways. Those glasses; and the use of physical architecture to frame shots. So reminiscent.

If you don’t have it or don’t like it, then I suggest

- any 60s film with non-vertical shots (you could probably go the 50s for those as well)

- any spy film. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy would do. (There hasn’t been a film of The Honourable Schoolboy, though in some ways it’s the best book of the Smiley trilogy. And the BBC missed it out of its rendition of TTSS and Smiley’s People. Probably mainly for the same reason the film of The Ipcress File deviated from the book. They couldn’t afford a Hong Kong shoot, just as the producers of The Ipcress File probably drew the line at a Pacific atoll.)

Wednesday 23rd

RIFF70 day 4 will be

Baghdad Café

Slice of life, small town Americana. Miniplots, social issues, fish out of water. Lots of clichés there, but a happy vibrant film. And a scene stealing cameo from Jack Palance.

If you don’t have it or don’t like it, then I suggest

- any other small town America film. There are a lot to choose from: Paris, Texas; Three Billboards…

- if not America, then other countries. Bulgaria’s The Lesson

- or any film with a famous actor in a bit part stealing the scene

Thursday 24th

RIFF70 day 5 will be

Seven Samurai

Number 2 in my list of best films ever. Bravery, comradeship, the meaning of life. And death. 

I might follow up with The Magnificent Seven, which would feature highly in a list of Remakes Nearly As Good As The Original. The Yul Brynner version of course. Denzel Washington is always watchable, but his version should have been left in the cutting room.

If you don’t have it or don’t like it, then I suggest

- get hold of it. It’s too good to miss

- any “against the odds” film.

Friday 25th

RIFF70 day 6 will be

The Station Agent

I like this film a lot. Very watchable characters, a fair bit of quirkiness. And Peter Dinklage – pre Game Of Thrones. It has the feel of an adaptation of a book, but it’s an original screenplay. Economical direction and great feel for location.

If you don’t have it or don’t like it, then I suggest

- any random group of people film. For some reason my mind is drawn to Went the Day Well.

- films about trains

- films with librarians in: Party Girl; The Name Of The Rose; Fahrenheit 451; The Shawshank Redemption (yes - he becomes the prison librarian)

Saturday 26th - my birthday

RIFF70 day 7 will be


It’s a food film. No, it’s a love film. No, it’s a western. It has noodles in it; it has gangsters; it has a showdown. The finest mixing of genres you could imagine.

If you don’t have it or don’t like it, then I suggest

- any film that mixes genres: Blazing Saddles - western and food (remember the baked bean scene).

And that will be that.

Join me in ten years’ time for Riff80.

*And finally if you haven't donated to Ukraine and want to, here are two options:

The Red Cross DEC appeal

And to donate direct to the Ukrainian war effort or humanitarian aid, use the links on this page: