Culture Comforts

The importance of a rich culture in our lives cannot be underestimated. The stories we tell ourselves and our families, the ones we read, listen to and watch in books, music, films and TV series are the soundtracks to our lives.

In no particular order, I have put together a list of my favourite films and TV series. To be honest, on another day it could have been a very different list as its a moving feast and am sure there are loads I have missed, and will probably add to. The choices are both films/series I really like because I think they are well made and moving or funny or both. There are some in there though that have links to parts of my life and a particular meaning.They are in their own way works of art that enrich our lives, tell powerful and funny stories, and move us to access our feelings.


1. The English Patient: part love story, part war story with two incredible leads and Laurence of Arabia epic level desert scenery
2. Into the wild; a beautifully shot, ultimately ravaging film about a young man’s search for meaning
3. Some like it hot: a joyous hoot of a film starring Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon and jazz; a family favourite every Xmas
4. Paris, Texas: a blend of road movie and modern western with superb cinematography and a great music score by Ry Cooder
5. Once upon a time in New York; a gritty gangster epic that charts the whole course of a lifetime of the characters in what was Sergio Leone’s final Director role
6. The Fabulous Baker Boys; the incomparable Bridges brothers, Michelle Pfeiffer, jazz and that rendition of making whoopee
7. Jean de Florette and Manon des sources: a search for scarce water, greed and vengeance all coalesce in this pair of beautifully observed films
8. Cinema Paradiso: a nostalgic boy to man story looking back on the films that influenced a young man growing up in Italy. One of the best cinema reveals of all time with the censored films clips at the end
9. Blue Velvet: David Lynch’s mystery thriller with corruption, crime and perversion lurking below American suburbia; oh, and ears in the grass
10. West side story; one of my early introductions to the modern musical, a gritty wonderfully scored Romeo and Juliet story of the sharks and the jets
11. The seventh seal: one of the first films i watched as part of a University film studies course where Max Von Sydow plays a chess game with death
12. Gladiator: Roman toga blockbuster with Russell Crowe (a cousin) with some of the best lines including after killing several soldiers in the Colosseum: “are you not entertained” (without a question mark)
13. A knights tale; a sweet film starring Heath Ledger about a would be knight in the Middle Ages and an unforgettable dance mix rendition of Bowie’s golden years
14. Boyhood: the life of a boy called Mason from early childhood to starting College; a stunning piece of filming which took many years to make as was filmed in real time with boy and family ageing naturally
15. Howl’s moving castle; not as well known as Spirited Away, the best known of the genre, but a mystical delight that tells the story of Sophie and her friendship with Howl and the house that groans moving around
16. The tree of life: quintessential Terence Malick story about a mid-western family in the 1950s, a study of the meaning of life with some stunning imagery
17. The big chill: a group of former College friends gather to commemorate the death of a friend who has killed himself. Funny and poignant in turn, with a wonderful Motown soundtrack and an early non appearance of Kevin Costner as Alex, who got dropped in the final cut
18. Shawshank Redemption; “get busy living or get busy dying” is just one of some of the many best lines in any film, an epic story, and the character of Red, who we all want as a best friend
19. The hunt for the wilder people: part road movie, part adventure story about growing up with two wonderful central performances and a huge dollop of humour
20. The commitments: a film about the setting up of a band in Dublin with a banging sound track of songs performed by musicians trained to act; oh and the Isle of Man boat has a guest appearance
21. The Jungle book: One of the original and highly influential cartoon films of all time, plus Baloo, Baggy and Mowgli and two of the most memorable film songs of all time
22. Saving private Ryan: the story of the search for three brothers and the most realistic evocation of war I have ever seen, the landing on the Normandy beaches
23. Das Boot: claustrophobia, boredom and terror in a U-boat; one of the greatest war films of all time
24. Once: story of unconsummated love or spiritual connection with the famous Oscar winning song falling slowly amidst the backdrop of Dublin
26. Witness; for me, one of Harrison Ford’s best roles as John Book who takes refuge in an Amish community in a cat and mouse chase with some nasty villains, and featuring a grain silo
27. Chef; a Head Chef quits his job and buys a food truck to re-ignite his creativity; family bonding and a sizzling of salsa
28. The Station agent: a story about the friendship between three characters, and an exercise of film making where more is less
29. Short term 12: a nuanced and compelling story of a compassionate twenty something helping at risk teens, shining a spotlight on her own troubled childhood
30. Lion: Dev Patel stars as a boy growing up in Australia who returns to find his lost family
31. Searching for Sugar Man: the story of an unlikely musical hero called Rodriguez: one of the strongest feelgood endings I have ever seen
32. Midnight cowboy: story of a con man and a Texas hustler trying to survive on the streets of New York, plus sublime music from Harry Nilsson
33. 7 years in Tibet: based on a true story of a young man who becomes friends with the Dalai Lama, maybe it was the scenery that was the most memorable
34. Amelie: a stunning comedy film about an ethical but naive woman changing the lives of people around her and the strange appearance of gnomes around the world
35. Kiss of the spider woman: a story about the changing relationship between two men in a South American prison cell which changes into something very different


1. The wire: taut, powerful and believable story of drugs in Baltimore told from different perspectives of drug traders, the police, education and others
2. Breaking bad: the decline and fall of a school Chemistry teacher in a Faust like bargain with the devil
3. Pride and Prejudice: The BBC Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth one with the jumping into the lake of course; several re-watches possible and an all round warm comfort blanket
4. Mad Men: a series about American advertising starring a character called Don Draper; a metaphor of the American dream populated by complex characters
5. Chernobyl: a drama about the nuclear plant explosion in Russia in 1986, and observations on the Russian state apparatus
6. Band of brothers: a story of “Easy Company” part of the American 101st Airborne Division during the second world war, memorably kicked off by interviews at the start of each episode from the real men who fought: paradoxically as uplifting a series as I have ever seen about comradeship and bravery in battle
7, Succession: based on a dysfunctional global American media family who are even nastier to each other than they are to the outside world. Shakespearean in scope, you cant help but be fascinated by them and find your loyalties shifting
from one to the other
8. Olive Kitteridge: a study of family, marriage, ageing and the rest with the magnificent Frances McDormand as Olive, a retired Maths Teacher with a lashing tongue but a good heart
9. When the boat comes in: a story of the Seaton family in the aftermath of the Great War, with the memorable opening song of the little fishy on the little dishy
10. Our friends in the north: about four friends growing up in the early 1960s through to the mid 1990s in one of the strongest social observation prices I have ever seen; also launched the stellar careers of all 4 leads, if you know it/them
11. Detectorists: a loving ode to friendship, the countryside and metal detecting wrapped in a slowly unfolding dry and funny series written and starring Mackenzie Crook
12. Back to life: coming out of prison into her old life in a small coastal town isn’t a piece of cake; very funny and serious too
13. Borgen: a political drama about Birgitte Nyborg, a Prime Minister’s rise to power; you will be wandering around for weeks afterwards saying hi and tak in your best Danish accent
14. Spiral: upmarket police procedural and legal drama flowing the lives of Police Officers and judges in Paris; you can’t help but like the flawed characters even as they do some pretty shady stuff; especially Gilou
15. In the thick of it: satire about the inner workings of British Government and the creation of the wonderful bully Malcolm Tucker
16. Rita: a hidden gem I discovered by accident about an outspoken and rebellious schoolteacher with a complicated personal life
17. Dad’s army; you still catch them regularly on BBC2, the Home Guard protecting the country during the Second World War: lots of laughs plus a satire of the British class system
18. Flight of the Conchords: New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk comedy folk duo along with Murray the band manager; knockabout effortless humour and brilliant songs
19. Frasier: I never liked Cheers I’m afraid, but loved Frasier Crane, Niles, Daphne and Roz, a stage ensemble in a long running TV series
20. Yes Minister: made in the early eighties, this comedy carries scenes which could have come from yesterday in Parliament about the rise of James Hacker to Minister and Prime Minister
21. Show me a hero: epic about the housing crisis in 1980s Yonkers that went under the radar written by the Wire creator, David Simon
22. The Bridge: ill-matched cops Martin Rohde and more interestingly Saga Norén, a brilliant and socially awkward maverick detective, plus the Bridge itself that stars
23. In Treatment: the incomparable Gabriel Byrne as a troubled Psychotherapist doubting his own abilities; really interesting personal journey and credible stories of the clients

24. Clan/The outlaws: one of the international “Walter presents” series, four sisters plot the death of an awful brother in law; dark and quick witted with strangely likable characters

25. Unbelievable: based on the true story of Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped, and the two female detectives who followed the path to the truth, played by Toni Colette and Merritt Wever