Written by Various Artists


Silver screen smilers

Having a bank of surefire pick-me-ups has never been more important. We asked the Standard Issue gang to share the films which they have on speed dial when they need to escape. We’re thinking they’ll currently have them on a loop.

Not just summer loving: Grease is a year-round mood-lifter. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Jen Offord presents Sister Act (and to a lesser extent, Sister Act 2)

If ever there were a time for a role model, seamlessly fusing religion and female empowerment, surely the time is now, and surely that role model is, and always has been Sister Mary Clarence.

SMC was sticking it to the man before I even knew what a man was (not technically true, but you know, about the patriarchy and all that), and doing it via the medium of song.

Sister Act posterNot just any old songs, songs that helped quiet nuns and latterly quiet school children find their voices, while metaphorically administering a kick in the balls to the establishment.


Ordinarily, I wouldn’t want anyone to kick DMS in the balls, but this is fiction after all and it all comes good in the end (plus DMS had it coming, to be fair).

Twenty-five years (vomits in own mouth) since I first witnessed quiet nun giving it large with her all-new-and-improved “Hallelujah!”, and 23 years since I first saw quiet boy belting out a falsetto “When Jesus Waaaaaa-aaaaaa-aaaashed” I still turn to them in times of (admittedly not all that serious) crisis. You can’t help but belt it out with them.


Alison Carr gives you Steel Magnolias

Want to laugh? Want to cry? Then cry a bit more? Then you can’t go wrong with 1989’s Steel Magnolias, a celebration of female friendship and the power of a new hairdo.

Steel Magnolias posterSix very different women meet up in the local beauty parlour where they put the world to rights while getting their nails done and their hair teased.

Small-town gossip sits alongside the big three – marriage, birth and death, in that order (spoiler?). It all has the potential to be a bit Channel 5 Afternoon Film (NOTHING wrong with that), if it weren’t for the all-star cast.

Queen of my heart Dolly Parton has the biggest hair while dishing out sage Southern advice. But it’s Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine who steal the show.

Their constant sniping and one-liners are joyous and hilarious, but their bond is unbreakable. Is the film emotionally manipulative and a bit naff? Sure. Will my colours always be blush and bashful? Forever.


For Sally-Anne Hayward, Grease is the word

My friend Jenny and I could recite the entire movie of Grease. Jenny was in love with Danny and I was in love with Kenickie.

As far as we were concerned: “We go together like ramma lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong.”

If I’m feeling blue this film cheers me up. If I’m feeling happy this film makes me even happier. I can’t even sing, but I belt out all the lyrics to all the songs at the top of my voice and don’t give a shit that I’m ruining it for anyone else watching.

Trust me – give it a go.


National Lampoon posterAshley Davies likes to join the National Lampoon’s European Vacation

Many years ago during an interview for a super-cool job, I was asked what my favourite film was.

The arsehole who lives in my mouth blurted out: “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” before the sensible human in my head had a chance to make up some shite about Antonioni.

It’s not even my favourite movie, and it’s not even that good (it’s full of horrendous national stereotypes), but there are elements that make me la-ha-ha-augh like a halfwit.

Sometimes it’s just Chevy Chase’s deadpan expression, but the funniest part is when teenager Randy (Jason Lively) spots a couple making out and utters the following immortal line – a line my husband and I always repeat when we see a couple getting amorous in public: “Dad, I think he’s gonna pork her.”

Having written all this down I feel suddenly ashamed at how childish I am. And I didn’t get the job. Obvs.


While you were sleeping posterSarah Millican reaches for While You Were Sleeping

Romcoms with Sandra Bullock in are very Com. Not just Rom. While You Were Sleeping is my go-to cheerer upperer.

Sandra plays Lucy who is us. We’ve all lusted after a bloke we never spoke to, had a crummy job and lied to a family about who we’re engaged to.

With the lightest of touches, WYWS warms your heart, makes you see Bill Pullman in a VERY different light (which Independence Day only strengthens) and proves that Christmas films can be watched any time of year (see also Elf and A Muppet Christmas Carol which I am still watching on a loop and it’s now February).

It’s also very clear that Christmas IS a time for families but it doesn’t have to be your own. The film is still one of my favourites even after the following story threatened to ruin it forever.

I was bunking in with a friend of mine in Brisbane one time, let’s call her Julie, and we had a rule that as the hotel room was so small, when we used the ‘bathroom’ (toilet), the other one would put the telly on loud so that all the splatterings and possible groaning would be drowned out.

One morning, Julie said, “I’ll use the bathroom first.” I said, “Shall I put the telly on?” and she said, “No need, I’ve been.” I said, “When?” and she said “While You Were Sleeping”. JUST WOW.

Yeah, you know that film where Sandra Bullock squats down beside the man she’s pretending to be engaged to, who is in a coma, and curls one out.


Jesus Christ Superstar posterSarah Ledger loves Jesus Christ Superstar

When I’m fed up, I watch the 1973 film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. Filmed on location among the ruins of Advat in Israel, it’s intense, fervent even.

It opens with a load of hippyish types getting off a bus in the middle of the desert and putting on a show. A rather camp troop of Roman soldiers in purple vests with long ungroomed locks cascading from beneath glittering helmets parade about menacingly.

Jesus is blond, bearded and – quite rightly as it turns out – anxious-looking; Judas is young, black and clad in orange velvet flares. It’s as much about the 70s as it is about the Bible. Dancers leap and pirouette sweatily through scaffolding and a ruined temple and there are a couple of unflattering close ups of vibrating uvulas as the singers hit the high notes.

And that’s what I like about it: it’s not pretty but God, can everyone sing.

If it was made now, Mary Magdalene and Jesus would be played by Angelina Jolie and Bradley Cooper. They’d look lovely and be sexy and their wispy voices would be beefed up and corrected in post-production. In this version, everyone looks desperate and sounds fabulous.

My absolute favourite is Barry Dennen’s Pontius Pilate. Written as an exasperated sarcastic school teacher: “Who is this unfortunate, cluttering up my doorway?” he wrenches every last conflicted emotion from Pilate’s conscience and does it all with beautifully enunciated British vowels.

At the end, the bus drives away, leaving a trail of dust across the horizon and an empty cross on the hillside. Gorgeous. Watch it.


Elaine Malcolmson loves to lose herself in Lost in Translation

There are a number of aspects to Lost in Translation that can offer some optimism in the current climate of widespread grimness and dismay.

For a start, the film is calm enough to completely remove you from the bombardment of executive orders and post-facts. It shows us the wonder and happiness that comes from experiencing another culture.

Being amazed at the unfamiliar and taking comfort in what is shared and connections made. Because we are all humans, so what is so funny ʻbout peace, love and understanding? It reminds us of the beauty of places we have yet to visit, like cherry blossom in Kyoto, and of simple pleasures, like karaoke.

Above all though Lost in Translation maintains my hope that one day Iʼll run into Bill Murray in a hotel bar.


The Station Agent
Hannah Dunleavy
books a return ticket to The Station Agent

Perfect. Completely and utterly perfect. And there’s nothing better to cheer the sad right out of you than Tom McCarthy’s blackly funny tale of a trainspotter who just wants to be left alone and the broken people of a small New Jersey town who can’t stay away from him.

Shot on a budget of fuck all with a cast that becomes more impressive as time passes (including Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson and John Slattery), it’s a beautiful reminder that, while some wounds can never be healed, the people who give it go anyway are worth their weight in gold.


How to Train Your Dragon posterRowan Whiteside recommends How to Train Your Dragon

I’m a sucker for a good kids’ film, so my shortlist included Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book. But in spite of its lack of catchy tunes, How to Train Your Dragon won out. It’s a great story: it’s moving, exciting, funny and there are DRAGONS.

It’s the sort of movie you can watch over and over. There are triumphs, and crises, and (spoilers!) good wins in the end.

I first watched it my second year of university, back in the aeons of 2010. One of my friends watched it, then another, then another, until all of us had seen it.

And so it became the movie we watched when we piled home from a night out, drunk (and some of us more than drunk), munching on toast and drinking tea.

It’s my go-to cheer-up movie. After all, what could be more uplifting than turning dragons from fire-breathing villains to super-speedy friendly companions?


Hunt for the Wilderpeople posterJuliet Meyers reaches for Hunt for the Wilderpeople

I was only 30 seconds into the Kiwi film Hunt for the Wilderpeople when I fell in love with its quirkiness.

I don’t usually shriek with laughter if I’m watching a film alone, but I did in this, many times.

It’s not just funny; it’s spirited and full of heart about two written-off outsiders bonding and bringing out the best in each other while ‘on the run’ in the beautiful New Zealand landscape.

Similar plots may exist, but they don’t contain teenage hero/delinquent and idiot savant Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison). In addition to looking refreshingly different to the movie adolescents Hollywood churns out, he is one of my favourite big screen characters ever.

As he interacts with the film’s other two stand-outs – his grumpy foster uncle and his ‘drunk on power’ child protection officer, the dialogue sparkles so much that I’ve found myself quoting it over and over.


Legally Blonde posterHazel Davis wishes she could bottle Legally Blonde

I would quite happily pay to watch Reese Witherspoon sit and read the Metro out loud, so I was already going to love Legally Blonde.

But there is literally nothing not to adore about this film.

From the opening shots, you assume rather snootily that Elle Woods is to be scoffed at for her pink and perfect lifestyle. But it goes on to turn a bunch of stereotypes on their heads (apart from maybe the bit about rich people getting to the best universities and gays liking fashion but, shhh, it’s an excellent plot).

It champions hard work, kindness and believing in yourself. It cocks a snook at elitism. It features women being nice to women (which didn’t seem to be much of a celebrated thing in the movies back in 2001). And the good guys totally win.

You can start this film in the bluest of funks and by the end you’re weeping through Elle’s graduation speech (Spoiler alert: She totally graduates from Harvard) and feeling like you can achieve anything.

It’s punch-the-air cinema at its best. “You got into Harvard Law?” “What? Like it’s hard?”


Clueless posterSian Bevan’s teenage film crush Clueless has endured

I first watched Clueless as a teenager. It became the default film to watch with my flatmates when I was at uni, it became something familiar during a weird time in my 20s and it’s the thing I have on in the background whenever I’m doing something boring.

I play scenes in my head when I’m waiting for the bus and regularly tell people that, but seriously, I actually have a way normal life.

I instantly know I’ll be mates within anyone who describes a hot person as a ‘Baldwin’ and it makes me happy every time someone says the word ‘sporadically.’

I was about 27 before I realised it was based on Emma, and that made me love it even more.

The plaid, the jokes, the characters, the sheer, total, Paul Rudd-ing joy of it. My partner once suggested I would eventually get bored of rewatching it. As if.


Enjoyed this? Help Standard Issue keep going by joining our gang. Click here to find out how.

  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • pinterest

Written by Various Artists

Some of Standard Issue's brilliant women's carefully crafted words for your reading pleasure.