Team Plot introductions: Ash Ward

To give you a bit of an insight into the team working behind the scenes at Plot, and bringing you the content on this blog, we thought we would each take some time to introduce ourselves.

We're going to share 5 movies that influenced us, that sparked our love of film and hopefully give an insight into why we each became a part of Plot Movies.

A little about me

alt

It is not a throw-away statement when I say my life has revolved around cinema since the age of 6.

As the youngest of three, I was exposed to cinema from a very young age. This ranged from the 80's schlock horror of 'Killer Klowns from Outer Space' right up to the drama of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (cheers Mum). I devoured as many films as I could get my hands on, be it video taping off of the TV or spending my pocket money on video rentals from the local shop and soon acquired the incredibly original nickname of "Barry Norman".

This obsession has carried through my life and has provided me with the touchstones of memories. I spoke to my wife-to-be for the first time at a friends house during a viewing of 'The Matrix Reloaded', we kissed for the first time following a 5am post-club watch of 'Nightmare on Elm Street' and our wedding in September contains so many cinematic easter eggs, it makes 'Iron Man 2' look like 'Eraserhead'.

This is an obsession I wear on my sleeve. Literally. I have an arm filled with tattoos from some of my favourite films. It is an obsession I can not wait to pass down to my future offspring.

In fact, film is not an obsession. It's deeper than that.

It's my first love.

With the history lesson behind us, let me now introduce to you the films that have shaped the person I am. The cornerstones of my soul if you will :

1. Jaws (1975)

alt

This is where it began. Not with a bang, but with the vicious death of young Chrissie Watkins.

'Jaws' is my favourite film of all time, it has never changed and barring some celluloid miracle, it never will. I can hand on heart say that this is a flawless piece of cinema with every single component at the top of its game. It's terrifying, it's warm hearted, it's filled with adventure, it's the ultimate cinematic experience.

It also had more of an impact on me than just a fascination with the film. There are one of two ways you can go following your first viewing, you can develop a crippling phobia of sharks (one Plot contributor can testify to that) or a lifetime fascination with them. Despite living in London all of my life, it's when I'm by the sea that I feel most at home and a lot of the credit can go to Spielberg's film for this connection.

'Jaws' is more than a film to me, it is several life lessons wrapped up in a thrilling chase. Life lessons that are vital and not found in the big blockbusters of today regardless of quality.

Quite simply, it's my patient zero.

2. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

alt

Oh John Carpenter, you crazy bastard.

Following an unstoppable run in the 80's, Mr Carpenter had the cinema world at his feet. He could have made absolutely anything, but instead he made a supernatural love letter to Chinese martial arts and the American wild west.

Whilst 'Big Trouble' isn't my favourite John Carpenter flick, it was my entry point to his world. I caught it late one Saturday night on Channel 4 and fell head over heels with the insanity on show. It was Indiana Jones without the effortless cool and I must have rented it 4 or 5 times over the next 6 months. This was before the internet, let alone before IMDB so it took the helpful video shop guy refusing to let me take it a 6th time until I had watched 'The Thing'. Those were the days when you only needed a note from your folks to be able to rent 15/18 certificate films and in the weeks that followed, I devoured every John Carpenter film I could get a hold of.

So sure, it's not the greatest film of all time but it is a testament to timing. I could have missed that late night TV airing, I could have had a video shop clerk who didn't give a shit and I could have had a parent who didn't trust me with finding my own way with films.

But I caught the viewing, listened to the old dude and had the coolest mum and that is what led me to the genius of John Carpenter and genre cinema.

3. Do the Right Thing (1989)

alt

I was debating whether or not to put this on my list. Not because it did not have an impact on me, or shaped me in anyway. If anything it's because it had such a huge influence on me that I wouldn't be surprised if you the reader found it unbearable.

See that photo up top? Yeah, I'm the pasty white dude who isn't nearly as cool as he thinks he is. And that is why I debated whether or not to include this, but I have to be honest and suffer the consequences.

I grew up in a poor part of London with a rich, multi-cultural environment where as a white kid, I was the minority. But it was all I ever knew and I wasn't world wise enough to think this was anything but normal, near enough all of my friends were from Caribbean or Moroccan families, same goes for my peers at school and the sports teams I played on. Because I was embedded in this atmosphere, I never experienced racism first hand. Not against me (no shit) but definitely not against any of my friends or peers.

Until this point, my movie watching habits were based around the ridiculous, gory or downright bad. Both my best friend and I would watch 'House Party' on a daily basis, quote Eddie Murphy's 'Raw' at each other (then get a smack from any adult over-hearing us) but one day, we took a plunge on 'Do the Right Thing'. Like every other film in this article, it was the local video shop that placed it in our hands. To two 12 year olds, it looked like another hood comedy for us to sink our teeth in to. Well, swing and a miss because instead, my eyes were opened to a whole world of bullshit.

It's a weird experience to watch a film with someone you're so close to and realise that your lives are completely different without you having any input or decision in the matter. This is a film that told me the world is not fair, that people are not treated the same and that it's okay to get mad about it. Sure, it sounds naive as hell and I completely understand any scepticism thrown my way, but I was blind to the world around me until I saw this film.

You want to know another reason why it's on this list?

Because it's a flat out masterpiece of cinema from a director who sadly will never top it.

4. Dazed and Confused (1993)

alt

Richard Linklater's 1993 flop taught me one of the most important cinematic lessons I could ever learn. Not every film has to be about something.

That may sound trivial but until I saw 'Dazed and Confused', I had segregated films into "the powerful", "the funny", "the deep" and anything that didn't fit into one of these boxes probably wasn't worth my time.

Set in Austin, Texas on the last day of high school, Linklater follows round a bunch of students and well, that's pretty much it. Linklater is a genius when it comes to capturing the mundane and making it seem like the best kind of life, something he replicated later on in his career with the sublime 'Boyhood' and by all accounts has nailed again with 'Everybody Wants Some!!'.

But it is 'Dazed and Confused' that buried itself into my heart and launched the careers of the A-listers now top lining some of the biggest films of the decade. And it really isn't about anything other than having a good time and being young.

And that's alright...alright, alright.

5. Paradise Lost (1996)

alt

I was a passive fan of the documentary, but it was the 'Paradise Lost' series that really brought home the power these film makers have and the difference it can make on so many peoples lives.

Directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 'Paradise Lost' follows the trials of three teenage boys who came to be known as the West Memphis Three in West Memphis, Arkansas. The teenagers - Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin - were accused of the murder and sexual mutilation of three prepubescent boys with little to no evidence other than they were the weird kids in town.

The story came to me via my ever growing love of punk rock and around the time I started digging Black Flag, singer Henry Rollins had arranged a tribute album with the proceeds going to the defence fund of the three boys. Three boys, one of which was on death row, who were charged with a vile crime because they wore black and listened to Metallica. This story spoke to me in so many different ways and I soon became hooked on the trial.

This is a series you have to see from start to finish, because you realise just what the film makers did for these three boys and the power of film that brought their story out of a small town in Arkansas to an out-raged world. It took until 2011 for the boys to be released but without these films, they could never have seen the light of day again.

Most recently, the effect that 'Blackfish' has had on the way we treat marine life in captivity has further highlighted the importance of documentary cinema, the work of Errol Morris has been lauded for the effect it has had.

This was the last lesson I learned, I can't wait to learn more.

Come on dude, they're just films!

My whole life, I have dealt with the attitude they are just films. I know it is an obsession and I don't expect anyone to share this level of fanaticism.

But they aren't just films. They are pockets of life to learn from, whether it's discovering a love for the sea or provoking a sense of injustice because someone like you is suffering when they shouldn't be. Films are life lessons, experiences, joy, pain, sometimes boredom!

Films are everything to me.