Sali Hughes on the films that shaped her life



MRS. DOUBTFIRE. HIS favourite film was Mrs. Doubtfire, and I’m still not over it. I could just about cope with the fact that my mate’s new boyfriend wore hoof-toed train­ers. I could even ig­nore his dis­parag­ing com­ments about women with tat­toos and in­sis­tence on choos­ing wine for the whole ta­ble with­out con­sul­ta­tion. But Mrs. Doubtfire? With all the thou­sands of ac­cept­able answers to a sim­ple ques­tion, he went with that. The man had found my limit.

Is it ever okay to judge some­one by their taste in films? I fig­ure I’m preach­ing to the choir here, but I’ve pre­vi­ously taken a dim view. A col­league once ad­ver­tised for a flat­mate, stip­u­lat­ing that those who pre­ferred Star Trek to Star Wars need not ap­ply. I told him he was a pil­lock, but Mr Doubtfire has caused me to won­der if I’m re­ally so far be­hind. Could I ever cul­ti­vate a last­ing friend­ship with some­one who be­lieved Dreamworks an­i­ma­tion to be bet­ter than Pixar? Meet The Fock­ers fun­nier than Meet The Par­ents? Some­one who, on Os­car night 1995, cheered not for Pulp Fic­tion, but for For­rest

Gump? I no longer have ei­ther the time or the in­cli­na­tion to build that wide a cul­tural bridge.

In my rel­a­tive dotage, I feel in­creas­ingly that a new per­son’s favourite movies are as re­li­able a qual­ity con­trol as their stance on Blur Vs Oa­sis, or Re­main Vs Brexit. One of the rea­sons we con­sume TV, mu­sic and films is to ful­fil our emo­tional and spir­i­tual needs, so our favourites are key sig­ni­fiers in our val­ues and world­view. Friend­ships are founded on this stuff, so why not search for cul­tural clues to the per­son be­hind the Sky+ box?

My judge­ment isn’t re­served for medi­ocrity. There are other proven in­di­ca­tors of per­sonal in­com­pat­i­bil­ity. Any man who loves Ja­cob’s Lad­der or even the great Apoc­a­lypse Now above all oth­ers may well be lovely and in­ter­est­ing, but ex­pe­ri­ence has taught me he’s also a bit bro­ken. Like­wise, if you can’t laugh at The Jerk or Wayne’s World, you’re go­ing to think my sense of hu­mour weary­ingly puerile and we have no future.

It’s not about in­tel­lec­tual snob­bery ei­ther. There’s noth­ing drea­rier than some bore who quacks on about their favourite films be­ing Seven Sa­mu­rai, Me­trop­o­lis or L’ata­lante, ap­palled at the very men­tion of a Clue­less, Boo­gie Nights or Cad­dyshack (I love all three — so shoot me). Your favourite film doesn’t need to be feted by the BFI or snot­tier broad­sheets. Peo­ple feel what they feel. But I’m afraid there are films that are ob­jec­tively bril­liant and films that are ob­jec­tively bloody aw­ful or, worse still, made en­tirely of “meh”. Lik­ing Mrs. Doubtfire is fine. I liked Shut­ter Is­land — it doesn’t mean I want it played at my funeral. “Favourite” is the damn­ing in­dict­ment here, be­cause re­ally, any adult who gen­uinely be­lieves that about Mrs. Doubtfire hasn’t seen enough films and has no busi­ness din­ing out when they should be welded to their DVD player un­til fur­ther no­tice.

It boils down to pas­sion. If some­one is un­in­ter­ested in my film col­lec­tion but ob­sessed with kung-fu movies, sci-fi or fan­tasy (none of which are my per­sonal bucket of pop­corn), then I know that, on some level, they’re my kind of per­son. Be­cause they care, be­cause they truly love film. And that, I’m no longer ashamed to ad­mit, is enough for me to love them. She dumped Mr Doubtfire, of course. He’s now back in the dat­ing game, pre­sum­ably seek­ing his Miss Evan Almighty.

Robin Wil­liams mulls over the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion: what’s your favourite movie?

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