As 2009 has progressed the mysteries of The Phantom Band have been steadily revealed. With their debut album Checkmate Savage (Chemikal Uinderground) released in January to a swathe of critical acclaim with terms like ‘early contender for album of the year’ liberally bandied about, their initial identity confusion appears to have been ironed out. No longer changing their name before every gig or wearing bags over their heads, the Glasgow-based folk-meets-krautrock sextet combine humour with a very black outlook. Their single ‘The Howling’ was released in May and after a lengthy UK tour in the spring, the band are next set to hit the summer festivals. For more information check their website or MySpace. LUCY HURST
1- Gregory’s Girl (1981)
It’s basically a film about a girl trying to get in the school football team and a boy falling in love. Sounds terrible doesn’t it? It’s not. For no other reason than watching protective 15-year-old Gregory being patronised by the hip 12-year-old who is trying to pull his sister, watch this film. If you ever felt awkward at school, watch this film. If you’ve ever been in love, watch this film. To say that discovering the lighting tech at our gig in Stirling was Andy from Gregory’s Girl was one of the highlights of The Phantom’s British tour would be no understatement.
2- Grease (1978)
Why is Grease my favourite film? Is it because Olivia Newton John is cinema’s hottest ever sex kitten in skin-tight trousers? Possibly. Is it because she looks even hotter as the sweet girl next door? Probably. Is it because all the songs and the whole film make me so damn happy? Absolutely. Is it because John Travolta had the great idea to base it on the teachings of The Church of Scientology…?
3- The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (1974)
My favourite of Herzog’s documentaries. The super slow-mo footage of the ‘ski-fliers’ endlessly falling, first through the air then cart-wheeling in the snow as they misjudge a landing, accompanied by Popol Vuh’s eerie soundtrack sends me into some kind of fugue state each time I see it. I’ve never been interested in ski-jumping but Walter Steiner makes the sport seem like an absurd yet necessary escape route out of the world.
4- Dead Man (1995)
I chanced upon this film on late night TV back when they used to show interesting stuff in the small hours (Alex Cox’s Moviedrome on BBC 2 in the early 90s was an invaluable education). I couldn’t believe this film existed; Johnny Depp looking like Buster Keaton in a plaid suit playing the reincarnation of William Blake, in an expressionist Western directed by Jim Jarmusch, sound-tracked by Neil Young – surely not? I love the deadpan dialogue; Crispin Glover’s disturbingly irrelevant monologue, and Iggy Pop as a transvestite cannibal describing a Philistine as ‘a really dirty person’. I still wonder if this film actually exists.
5- Highlander (1986)
I remember when I was a kid there was always some film I really, really wanted to see. I would briefly glimpse a poster in the video rental shop and it would be enough for me to go home and fantasise about it for weeks. The first time I think this happened was with Highlander. It was about Scotland; it had sword-fighting and Sean Connery in it; the soundtrack was by Queen! Are you kidding?! What was not to like? Incidentally quite a lot when you watch it now, but back then it seemed like it was easily the best film I had ever seen.
6- Nightbreed (1990)
This movie reminds me so much of the summer when I was 16. My friends would come over and we’d record loads of ridiculous songs onto a tape recorder then get drunk and watch Nightbreed. In the middle of the night we’d go out walking in the countryside, sometimes there would be this fog hanging over the fields, but it would be really light as well because the moon was so full and the sky was clear. The movie itself was marketed as a slasher picture but it is in fact more of a fantasy/horror/superhero movie. OK, it is a little stupid but I used to be a big Clive Barker fan and it represents to me all of the films I used to love when I was growing up.
7- Blade Runner (1982)
Aside from an amazing Vangelis soundtrack that helped spark a nerdy love for electronics, it’s perhaps the first film that made me really consider my humanity philosophically (‘maybe we’re all replicants?’ – that sort of thing). The first band I ever did a live gig with was (is) named Voigt Kampff, after the test in the film. Also, I had the wants for Sean Young, even with her androgynous Kraftwerk aesthetic. The opening scene in the hover car, with the firey towers in the distance is just like when you drive past the oil refinery in Fife. I’ve seen things…
8- Wild at Heart (1990)
We need a David Lynch film in the list. I was initially drawn to Wild at Heart because I really like ‘Wicked Game’, the Chris Isaak song that made it famous, and I love the way the soundtrack seeps onto the screen infecting the narrative like a musical, as when Nicolas Cage breaks into Elvis and a live metal band suddenly forms his backing group. The concept of travel (and escape) denoting psychological shifts references another great road-movie/musical, The Wizard of Oz (1939), and it uses the concepts of commodity and freedom to paint a nightmarish picture of the American Dream. Like all good David Lynch films, Wild at Heart touches you in ways you don’t want. And it’s Nick Cage before he was shit.
9- Carlito’s Way (1993)
Carlito’s Way is my favourite film. The cast are all excellent and Carlito Brigante is, in my view, Al Pacino’s last great performance. Sean Penn has never been better as Kleinfeld, the crooked shyster lawyer. Even if he’d been awful he’d have deserved the Oscar for his White-fro/tracksuit combo. Benny Blanco is also a great turn from John Leguizamo. The period detail of mid-70s New York and the soundtrack make it. And the end set-piece in Grand Central Station betters that of The Untouchables (1987) – another of De Palma’s nods to the Odessa Steps scene in Battleship Potemkin (1925). Every time I watch it I still think Carlito will make it.
10- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Every Christmas I get drunk and go to see It’s a Wonderful Life at the pictures. It’s the least challenging, sentimental load of nonsense I’ve seen and I cry and cry every time. Sometimes in summer I remember it snowing when I left the cinema. It never has. Sometimes you just don’t need more piss and vinegar.