There aren't many films made about photographers - or good films, at any rate - so it's been quite hard to make this list. However, I was watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty recently, and it inspired me to take on the job!
1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 9/10
Ben Stiller plays a daydreaming 'negative asset manager' at Life Magazine just as it publishes its last issue before going online. He apparently loses the negative from legendary photographer Sean O'Connell that was supposed to be the cover image, and the film describes the lengths he goes to in order to find it. He enlists the support of a woman he fancies at work called Cheryl Melhoff (played by Kristen Wiig), and he has various calls from a guy called Todd at eHarmony as he tries to send her a 'wink' online. He starts off his profile by skipping the 'Been there and done that' section because he hasn't been anywhere or done anything 'noteworthy', but, by the end of the film - as you might have guessed! - he's changed beyond recognition.
The film has a likeable cast and is chock full of very funny or moving moments. My personal favourite is when Walter is hiking alone in the mountains of Afghanistan and he gets a call from Todd. After bringing him up-to-date, he says, "I'm gonna keep this short. I have to make oxygen choices." It makes the list because it's obviously 'about' photography, and you might even say that it has the theme of 'photographer-as-hero', with both Walter and Sean being involved in photography. And you can't beat the big reveal at the end, when we finally see what was in negative 25...!
2. Crocodile Dundee 9/10
Now, I have to confess that this is not a movie I love because it has something to do with photography; it's a movie I love that just happens to have something to do with photography. I guess you might say it's a bit tenuous, but Sue Charlton (played by Linda Kozlowski) is a reporter who does take pictures with her camera during the film - and anyway, it's my list, and I'll choose any films I like!
If by some chance you've never seen this film, it's about Sue's journey to Australia to interview Michael J 'Crocodile' Dundee (Paul Hogan), who has recently survived a crocodile attack. She gets her story - surviving a crocodile herself at one point - and invites Mick back to New York, where he's like a fish out of water. It's a lovable romantic comedy, with Mick's laconic, Aussie humour a perfect foil to Sue's looks and sophistication.
3. Message in a Bottle 9/10
This is a film in which the photography itself is the star. I guess I should call it the cinematography, but, from the opening credits that linger lovingly on rolling breakers, it's clear that the look of the film is important. It's the tale of a man called Garret (Kevin Costner) who loves the ocean but who has recently shut down emotionally after losing his wife. He pours out his grief in a 'message in a bottle' that just happens to be found by a reporter called Theresa (Robin Wright). When she manages to track him down, they become close, but Garret's dead wife and the ocean threaten to drive them apart.
4. The Big Year 8/10
This is a kind of buddy movie - or road movie - that takes an interesting if obscure subject and makes you care about it. I'd never heard of people doing a 'Big Year' before, but it's apparently a popular competition in the States for 'birders' who want to see (or hear) as many species of birds in North America in a calendar year as possible. The film tells the story of two men, Brad and Stu (played by Jack Black and Steve Martin), who are trying to beat Kenny Bostick's world record of 732 birds. They at first won't admit they're making the attempt in case it pushes Kenny (played by Owen Wilson) to ever greater heights, but they become friends along the way. We see the three of them as they travel round the US, from Alaska to the Everglades, picking up sightings as they go. It's a very tight contest, but nobody knows exactly how many birds his other rivals have seen. When the film culminates in the release of the results in a birding magazine in January of the following year, we find out if Brad and Stu are successful - not just in their quest but also in the impact the 'big year' has had on their lives.
If you like Jack Black, Steve Martin and/or Owen Wilson, that's more than enough reason to see this film, but, from a photographic perspective, the standout moment is the mating display of two bald eagles as they grab each other's talons and cartwheel towards the earth, pulling out just before they hit the ground. I'd never seen such a thing before - in fact, I didn't even know it took place! - so it was a gripping moment that really gave you a sense of why all these people should devote their lives to bird-watching. They are 'birders' rather than photographers, I suppose, but they all have cameras, and that's good enough for me!
5. The Bridges of Madison County 8/10
Clint Eastwood plays photographer Robert Kincaid, who happens to meet housewife Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) as he tours Iowa in the 1960s, taking pictures of the local bridges. She shows him around, and, as they get to know each other, she faces a choice between the man she falls in love with and the man she married.
6. The Memory Book 8/10
This is the story of budding photographer Chloe Davenport (Meghan Ory), who finds an old photo album from the 1970s at a flea market. She is initially cynical about love, but she is inspired by the pictures of what seems like an ideal romance and is moved to try and track down the couple. She is joined in her search by bartender Gabe Sinclair (Luke Macfarlane), and, as the film progresses, we find out if they are able to find the couple - and true love.
7. Straight from the Heart 7/10
Jordan Donavan (played by Teri Polo) is a photographer from New York is frustrated when her boyfriend doesn't propose to her that she agrees to go on a blind date with a rancher named Tyler Ross (Andrew McCarthy). At first, it doesn't go very well, but, as they grow closer, there is the hope of romance...until Jordan's boyfriend comes to try and win her back.
8. The Perfect Bride 6/10
Molly White (Pascale Hutton) is a fitness instructor-cum-marriage counsellor who runs a Bridal Boot Camp course. One of the grooms (Nick, played by Kavan Smith) is a photographer who seems to be having doubts about his impending nuptials. Will he go ahead with the wedding, or is Molly too much of a distraction...?
9. Love on the Slopes 6/10
Alex (Katrina Bowden) is a copy editor based in New York who agrees to try out a few extreme sports in order to enter a travel writing competition - even though she is not sporty in the least. Her guide Cole (Thomas Beaudoin) is disgusted at first, but she wins him over by facing her fears and offering to help with the local arts festival.
10. Merry Matrimony 6/10
An ad exec for a fashion magazine (Jessica Lowndes) is offered the dream job of organising a Christmas wedding, but she is forced to work with a photographer who is also her ex-boyfriend (played by Christopher Russell). Can she keep things professional, or will old feelings make her job impossible?