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Top Ten Movies with... Lauren Beukes

Lauren Beukes is a novelist, TV scriptwriter, documentary maker, comics writer and occasional journalist. Her eclectic mix of media represents a true creative junkie, whose expressions have a social, futuristic and pop culture zing, which is why she's one of South Africa's most exciting authors.

She won the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award for her novel Zoo City, set in a fantastical Johannesburg where guilt manifests as spirit animal familiars and dark things lurk beneath the surface of the pop music industry.

Her previous works include Moxyland, a dystopian cyberpunk thriller set in Cape Town under corporate apartheid and Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past, a collection of biographies.

Lauren's directorial debut, a documentary called Glitterboys & Ganglands premiered at the Encounters Documentary Film Festival this year and has opened a whole new medium for Beukes to channel her desire to create cool, meaningful and reflective art.

Follow her on Twitter @laurenbeukes or catch the latest on the next big thing at LaurenBeukes.com. Right now - enjoy her take on film with her Top Ten Movies...

"I’d like Frank, the bunny from Donnie Darko to play me."

I can't watch movies without...

- ...smarts, great writing, intriguing characters, an inventive, surprising and ideally subversive plot, whether it’s about alien parasites or witty teens feeling alienated.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- I had to Google this. Google says: Mustafa II, sultan of Turkey (1695-1703), Alexey Fyodorovich L'vov, composer, Pat Garrett, American Western lawman, Allvar Gullstrand, Swedish physician (Nobel 1911), Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of Equatoriaal Guinea, Kathleen Kennedy, American film producer, Marky Mark Wahlberg, and Irene Urdangarin, granddaughter of King Juan Carlos I of Spain, to name some of the highlights. (5 June)

What is the first film you remember watching?

- Fantasia, Walt Disney’s musical medley starring nubile young centaur maidens, menacing ballet dancing crocodiles, a hippo in a tutu, frost fairies, dinosaurs and Satan himself. No, really. Night on Bald Mountain where the devil unfurls his wings from the peaks and unleashes his ghouls and demons scarred me horribly for life.


What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- Drawn Together: The Movie, which was just awful, nihilistic, claw-your-eyeballs-out-and-bleach-your-brain stuff. Worse than my two other worst movies: Crank 2 and Gingerdead Man 2 put together, and such a disappointment because I loved the TV show, which was dark as hell, but hilarious, with scathing social commentary for, oh, at least one season. I don’t know how you go from Clara, the white-bread religious fundamentalist princess who believed that legalizing gay marriage would cause an outbreak of Nazi-riding dinosaurs (and it does!) to this utterly cynical, wholly soulless blight upon the imagination. I will never, ever get those ninety minutes of my life back.

Which movies have made you tearful?

- Off the top of my head: Up, Finding Neverland, Lilo & Stitch, Dancer in The Dark (I didn’t cry, I sobbed and so did most of the theatre).

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- I got within a metre of Angelica Houston, Bill Murray and Gwyneth Paltrow when they were filming a scene from The Royal Tennenbaums outside a friend of mine’s house in Brooklyn, New York, trying to get an interview. Unfortunately, security decided I was a stalker and chased me away.

What's your favourite movie line?

- I can never remember movie lines. I asked my Twitter followers for theirs and chose my favourites. (This is very revealing about the people who follow me).

“Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown.” – Ghostbusters
"I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." – They Live
“You’ve got red on you.” – Shaun of the Dead
"If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes." - Blade Runner
"I shot him with a small revolver I keep near my balls.” Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Oh wait, I remembered two I really like and actually remember.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." – The Princess Bride
“Oh good, my dog found the chainsaw” – Lilo And Stitch

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- I have a friend who says I look like Michelle Williams, but really, I’d like Frank, the bunny from Donnie Darko to play me. That’s how I feel… inside.

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- I would LOVE to do a screenplay based on the short comic I wrote for Vertigo’s Strange Adventures anthology, All The Pretty Ponies, about mind-riding for kicks, poverty tourism and one of Sao Paolo’s biggest illegal industries: kidnapping.

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

The Prestige- The Prestige ...the story of rival illusionists is impeccable storytelling, inventive, surprising and utterly brilliant, with back-stabbing, betrayal, sabotage, love and a cameo from David Bowie as Tesla. It’s a twisted masterpiece set at the end of the 19th Century.

- Children of Men
...a harrowing, gritty, very real-feeling bleak near future thriller about a world without children. The single-shot camerawork is incredible, particularly in the shocking scene in the car and the escape through a raging gun battle in a refugee city. It’s a film with a keen social conscience and perfect characterizations.

- The Audition
...a terrifying Japanese horror based on the novel by Ryu Murakami, about a film producer who auditions for a new wife. It starts slow and builds to a horrifying fever-dream. The part with the phone and the bag made my cover designer, Joey Hi-Fi, scream like a Justin Bieber-fan, and fall off the couch.

- Session 9
...my second favourite horror movie of all time about a construction crew dismantling an old asylum, which only sounds terribly cliché. The psychological build-up to the human atrocity of the final scenes is just devastating and makes it truly horrific, unlike 100% of all tiresome torture porn slashers. And the last thirty seconds made me want to weep in terror.

- LA Confidential
...Twisty 40s noir at its best with a plot so densely, intricately complicated that a second viewing is almost certainly required to unravel all of it. Fine acting, great mood, killer story involving tabloid journalism, a violent cop with a weakness for troublesome beautiful dames and more twists than a koeksister.

- Spirited Away
...a beautiful, evocative, imaginative, wonderfully surreal animated movie, ostensibly for kids. I love practically all the Miyazaki movies, but this one, about a young girl who has to work in a yokai bathhouse after her parents fall under a terrible spell, is far and away my favourite. The ambivalent No Face is terrifying and sympathetic and if I’d seen this as a teen, I would have pined for a dragon boy as my love.

- Memento
...there’s a moment in this film, about half way through, where you, as hapless audience member are just WTF is going on, feeling hopelessly lost, but still riveted. Told backwards and forwards and sideways, Christopher Nolan’s unconventional noir about a man with no short-term memory trying to solve his wife’s murder is sheer genius.

- Pan's Labyrinth
...dark, beautiful, terrifying, haunting fairytale set during the Spanish Civil War. Guillermo del Toro’s imagination is staggering. I’m devastated he won’t be making The Mountains of Madness.

- Ladyhawke
...one of my formative films, Ladyhawke is a rich fantasy about a cursed couple – Michelle Pfeiffer is a hawk by day, her lover, the black knight Navaar (played by Rutger Hauer at his smokingest) is a wolf by night and the closest they can come to touching is in the moment at sunrise and sunset before one of them changes to animal form. A fast-talking petty thief, Mouse, unites them, with lots of intrigue, a mad monk in a ruined castle and a diabolically evil Bishop.

- The Wire ...it’s not a movie, but it’s my favourite thing and should be compulsory (compulsive) viewing for everyone. I’m going to get all Clockwork Orange on the world’s ass and force every single person to watch The Wire with their eyeballs pinned open, especially politicians and bureaucrats.

...and if you had to choose ten movies to watch with your toddler?

Lilo & Stitch - Lilo & Stitch ...smart, witty, funny, wonderfully twisted kids movie about a vicious, nasty and cute alien experiment who escapes to Hawaii and is adopted by a troubled little girl. The dialogue sings, the characters are surprising (the social worker/ ex-CIA Agent is Cobra Bubbles) and it made me cry.

- Rio ...we went in to this expecting an arb Ice Age-level movie. You know, inappropriate adult jokes, stupid physical humour, a mildly entertaining way to kill an hour and a half. But we were blown away by the music, by the plot, which rivals the best adventure rom-com movies of old (like Romancing The Stone) and the characters. Bumbling city parrot guy meets kick-ass independent heroine parrot, rumble with devious pickpocket breakdancing monkeys, get rescued (sort-of) by Tracy Morgan as a drooly bulldog and have to face down Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement as an evil ex-showbiz cockatoo who sings amazing lines such as “I’m invincible… like an abandoned school I have no principal” ending in an epic scene set during Carnivale.

- Despicable Me ...Gru is eeeeevil. And he has eeeeevil plans to steal the moon. Which all get horribly derailed when he adopts three adorable cookie-peddling tykes from the nearby orphanage as part of his eeeeeevil plan to infiltrate his eeeeeevil rival’s headquarters to steal back his shrink ray using cookie robots and… Oh, look, it’s fantastic and wonderfully eeeeeeevil. Go see it.

- Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea ...Miyazaki’s wonderful re-imagining of The Little Mermaid features a precocious goldfish girl who wants to be human without any of the dodgy sexism of the Disney version.  (Refer: Advice from A Disney Princess http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8xCgC3w1zs). It’s warm, whimsical and wonderfully peculiar, although the wave monsters are quite scary (and the tsunami bit is hard to watch now after recent events in Japan).

- Bolt ...although I’m horribly disappointed that Disney fired Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch, How To Train Your Dragon) because his version of a story about a delusional super dog who doesn’t know he’s just a TV star would have been wonderfully subversive, it’s a fantastic film as is. Witty, wise, perfectly formed with a would-be toughguy sidekick hamster and a Godfather-esque cat called Mittens on a quest to help Bolt find his human.

- Finding Nemo ...we still skip the shark and angler fish bits, because I find them terrifying, let alone a three year old, but it’s a great film. And unlike most other Pixar movies (which I love, don’t get me wrong), this one seems to have actually been made specifically for kids rather than grown-ups. 

- My Neighbour Totoro ...Miyakazi’s gentle fable about a giant fuzzy forest monster that befriends two little girls is slow-paced but captivating and the Cat Bus is seriously the coolest thing ever. I’m trying to find someone to build me a bunk-bed cat bus for my daughter.

- Kiki’s Delivery Service ...another Miyazaki classic, gentle, sweet with an amazing rescue scene at the end. It's about a teenage witch who moves to a new town and in trying to figure out her special talent, starts making deliveries on her broomstick. When my daughter was still two, she shocked me when I said, “Look, baby, Kiki is going to save Tombo from the zeppelin” and she replied, “No, mommy, it’s a dirigible” – a word she’d picked up from the film. That’s what I want from a kids’ movie, teaching my kid the important distinctions between airship varieties.

- Surf’s Up ...this kick-ass surfing penguin 2D animated documentary was, alas, sidelined by a far inferior 3D singing-and-dancing penguin movie. Cody dreams of leaving behind the joys of fish-sorting in the Antarctic wastes to carve up the waves. But getting a chance to enter the big surfing contest goes horribly wrong. Again, great female characters and Jeff Bridges is hilarious and brilliant recapturing his Big Lebowski persona as the loner ex-surf champ penguin who wants to be left alone.

- How To Train Your Dragon ...co-written by Lilo & Stitch’s Chris Sanders, it’s a smart, dark, very funny, surprising film about a sorta wimpy Viking boy who befriends the most terrifying of dragons to impress the tough cookie dragon-slaying girl. It’s actually a bit too scary and violent for my three year old, but it’s on my “can’t-wait-for-you-to-be-old-enough-to-watch-this-with-me” list along with Spirited Away, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.

Credit roll: Photography - Casey Crafford | Hair - Adrian Hartman | Location - Woodstock Industrial Centre

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.