Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oh For Christ's Sake...Another Goddamned List?! Enough Already!!!

So anyway, the missus and I had an interesting (well, to me anyway) conversation the other day. We were arguing about what to watch on TV. Well, not so much arguing as debating…vigorously. We have upwards of 700+ DVD’s in our collection and sometimes picking one is…difficult. Sam argued that we have way too many movies and we’ve probably only watched most of them once or twice. I countered that I had likely watched all of the movies in our collection that I actually like at least three or more times. That’s when it dawned on the both of us that A: we actually have a much more differing taste in movies than we ever thought, and B: after almost 14 years together, neither of us really has a good inkling of what the other’s absolute favorite movies even are.

I know what kinds of movies I like. And I know what kinds of movies she likes. I’ve commented before that my absolute favorite movie is The Empire Strikes Back while Schindler’s List is the best film I’ve ever seen. I already made my personal distinctions between movies and films in a previous post – I’m not going to get into it again here except to say that I do consider Empire a film as well (it also has that fun popcorn quality that let’s me justify calling it a mere “movie” too). I have no earthly idea what my wife’s favorite movie ever is. That might seem shocking if not for the fact that I doubt she has a fucking clue what it is either! Sam is a girl out of time. If she had her druthers (whatever the fuck a druther is?) I would imagine she would be most at home living either in the aristocracy of Victorian England, or as a one of the Ingalls’ children in that Little House out on that fucking prairie. I know she lives for Jane Austen and the sisters Bronte. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d wager that Sense and Sensibility is her favorite movie (the one with Keira Knightly). But who’s to say for sure when even she doesn’t fucking know!!!

So here I am…again. Back to plague you guys with another list (go ahead – start cursing my name and whatever else about me you want to insult…I’ll wait). Done? Good…let’s continue. This all made me curious as to just what were my favorite movies. I’ve always had an inkling of an idea – I’d just never put any kind of organization to it before. If I had to pare down my video store of a DVD collection to a select few, say 10 or a little more, what would they be? So, after some extended reflection, here it is…my favorite movies…ever. The ones I don’t think I’d ever like to be without. The “deserted island” list, if you will. These are the movies that, should I encounter them randomly on television, I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and watch them, regardless of where they are in the film. I’m sure you’ve already uttered several insulting iterations of fuck towards me, and my family…and my entire lineage for that matter, because of this. But please, don’t feel obligated to come up with your own list this time (unless you just really want to), I’m just doing this for me really. I’ll include the film, the year it came out, the director and primary cast members – just in case you aren’t familiar or whatever. So…in no particular order:

The Empire Strikes Back(1980; dir. Irvin Kershner; Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher; composer – John Williams)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the composers of said films in this list. After all what kind of film music nut/second-rate third-rate wannabe film composer do you take me for? So…yeah, Empire. What’s to be said about this that hasn’t been already? It’s arguably the finest sequel/second act ever produced – in any medium. It’s possible there’s just too much to love in this film.

Schindler’s List(1993; dir. Steven Spielberg; Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley; composer – John Williams)

I’m of the opinion that this is arguably the most well-crafted, haunting film ever made. That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong. I saw this in the theater twice. Both viewings left me shaken (and bawling like a wee girl). And I honestly felt like something had been stirred in my soul. If that’s melodramatic, well…sorry, it is what it is and that’s just how I feel about it. It still makes me cry to watch, especially the last 10 minutes or so. And the music (particularly the main theme) is one of the few pieces I’ve ever heard to illicit a tearful emotional response from me. Don’t know if that means anything to anyone else, but to me it’s a lot.

Moonstruck(1987; dir. Norman Jewison; Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis; composer/arranger – Dick Hyman…that has to be the most awesome unintentionally filthy name ever!)

Don’t know if you’ve ever seen this little gem of a film. If not – you owe it to yourself to watch it as soon as humanly possible. It’s not a drama, it’s not a romantic comedy, it’s…Moonstruck. It’s a singular entity that stands out from any other film ever made. It was nominated for six Oscars, winning three (Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress). I’ve never seen a movie with more charm or character – and some of the most memorable dialogue ever put to paper or film.

Sneakers(1992; dir. Phil Alden Robinson; Robert Redford, Sydney Poitier, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, David Strathairn; composer – James Horner)

You’ll note I put the entire main cast above. And with good reason – this is one of the best ensemble movies ever. It wouldn’t be even half as wonderful should any one of those actors not be in it. Everyone in it is (was) top notch, and the combination of talent plus direction, screenplay, story, etc. makes this one of the most memorable heist/caper/whatever flicks ever.

The Shawshank Redemption(1994; dir. Frank Darabont; Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman; composer – Thomas Newman)

Fucking Forrest Gump!!! Don’t get me wrong, that was also a fantastic picture. Hell, 1994 was a great year for movies period. Had it not been for Forrest Gump however, I think the acclaim for Shawshank would have been much greater. I love a good, long, methodically paced, well-acted, well-shot, well-written, character-driven drama – and Shawshank is the poster-child for all of that. Despite that it’s often bleak and dreary, it’s also just a beautiful film throughout.

Conan the Barbarian(1982; dir. John Milius; Arnold Schwarzenegger; James Earl Jones, Mako, Sandhal Bergman, Gerry Lopez; composer – Basil Poledouris)

Conan shares a similar infamy as A New Hope in that it was the film that was responsible for an onslaught of cheap, half-assed imitators for several years after its initial release. By most people’s standards, I suppose Conan itself is a cheap, half-assed attempt at film-making, dismissed by many as substandard. For me it’s a total delight – a jewel, rough around the edges perhaps, but priceless just the same. Like with Sneakers, I included the supporting cast above as they all make the movie better - greater than what it could have (should have?) been.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962; dir. David Lean; Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guiness; composer – Maurice Jarre)

I haven’t really looked into it, but I wonder if David Lean ever made a picture that was less than 3-and-a-half hours! A director known for making epic films, this was arguably his masterpiece, and most epic of all. T.E. Lawrence was a pompous, arrogant, egotistical, self-serving, showboat of a man. But there’s still something very special about this film, showcasing the finest hours of his life.

Operation Petticoat(1959; dir. Blake Edwards; Cary Grant, Tony Curtis; composer – Davie Rose [Henry Mancini – uncredited])

Yes – the pink submarine movie. Of all the fantastic war films ever made – I fall in love with the one that’s actually a screw-ball comedy. Honestly, I’ll watch just about anything with Cary Grant. I’d have to say that he’s likely my favorite actor and one of the greatest and most under-appreciated in all of Hollywood history. And I’m comfortable enough with my heterosexuality to admit that I may have a small man-crush on the guy – I’m cool with it. Yes…I know…he’s dead! But he’s just so cool, and suave, and sophisticated. Anyway…I actually didn’t even realize until a few years ago that this was a Blake Edwards film. I don’t know why, I just find that odd somehow. Again, if you’ve never watched it, you really should. It’s the very definition of fun little movie.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly(1966; dir. Sergio Leone; Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef; composer – Ennio Morricone)

I know Westerns aren’t exactly everybody’s cup of Joe. But this movie is more than just any Western. It’s the great Western – the masterwork. It transcends the genre really. It’s master storytelling at its finest, regardless of genre. And ol’ Clint is the emperor of bad-assery (sorry Sam Jackson, he’s even got you beat)!

The 13th Warrior(1999; dir. John McTiernan; Antonio Banderas, Omar Sharif, Dennis Storhøi; composer – Jerry Goldsmith)

Dennis Storhøi…where the fuck are you?!?! Seriously, this guy made this movie. If ever there was a European actor in desperate need of a big, Hollywood break-out, it’s him. I suppose we’ll just have to settle for his turn in the upcoming prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing (another film, btw, that I probably should have on this list, but will have to settle for runner-up status). For all intents and purposes, this movie should have been an unrivaled disaster. I suppose if one were to take its initial reception combined with box office results into consideration, it still could be. Luckily, it has a rather highly-regarded cult following – and rightly so. It’s just all kinds of big, stupid fun. The production was a mess; Crichton had to step in as director and editor to reshoot and recut quite a bit. And why not – it was his own material; he should know it better than anyone. Add to it that it also has one of the most awesome scores of Goldsmith’s entire career behind it, and everything sorta just fell into place. Lucky us.

Kingdom of Heaven (director’s cut)(2005; dir. Ridley Scott; Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, David Thewlis, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Eva Green; composer – Harry Gregson-Williams)

ATTENTION MOVIE STUDIO EXECUTIVE TYPE PEOPLE: When you’ve got a world-class director making a big-budget, period epic – let him do whatever the fuck he wants with it!!! Don’t try to whittle it down into something it’s not – like a 2-hour summer popcorn action flick. You’re just fucking up a good, or in the case of this film, AMAZING thing. Like most of you I would imagine, I watched the studio cut of Kingdom of Heaven and kinda went, “eh, ok…”. I know I’m not even remotely fucking alone when, after viewing it, I couldn’t help but feel like it was missing something – a whole fuckin’ bunch-o-something to the tune of nearly 50 minutes of footage to be precise. I really hope Tom Rothman, CEO of 20th Century Fox, felt like a total ass-hat after his cut of KoH bombed fantastically when it was released in May of 2005. And even more so after Scott was given the greenlight to recut it to his specs, and release it in limited theatrical runs and then DVD to excess lauding and applause. What should’ve been a serious Best Picture Oscar contender from Fall 2005 ended up a hacked-up mess. Luckily, we’ve all got the real film to enjoy whenever we want. Sure, the historical accuracy may be a tad, erm…flibberty-gibbertied, but what the hell – this is one awesome, spectacle of a film!


WALL-E(2008; dir. Andrew Stanton; composer – Thomas Newman)

Okay, so – once again, Pixar proved it could do no wrong. Even on a bad day, their least liked film (ahem...Cars) was at least entertaining and very well made. If it hadn’t been for a clusterfucked wave of “Curry Fever” overcoming Hollywood in 2008 (thanks to a silly little Bollywood-wannabe), this little gem might have been the first animated film to win Best Picture. And deservedly so. As it is, Disney didn’t even bother to make a push to even get it in the category – which is a shame because that goofy little robot was something downright magical.

The Dark Knight(2008; dir. Christopher Nolan; Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman; composers – Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard)

The other victim of the Slumdog hype machine, TDK offered the most gritty, dark, realistic, intense takes on Batman ever. Not to mention it was brilliantly executed in just about every conceivable way – and hands down the true best non-animated film from that year. And naturally, it got snubbed all to hell during awards season – save Heath Ledger’s overwhelmingly deserved posthumous Best Supporting Oscar. My initial reaction to it had me placing it even with, if not above my love for The Empire Strikes Back. Time has allowed me to be a bit more subjective. And while I still acknowledge that it’s a masterpiece of filmmaking, I too acknowledge that, as evident from above, there are at least 11 other movies I hold in higher regard overall.

Unbreakable(2000; dir. M. Night Shyamalan; Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson; composer – James Newton Howard)

Say what you will about all of M. Night’s other films, I believe Unbreakable is his finest work. Signs may have the honor of having one of the best compositional achievements in film from the last 30 or so years, but everything else about Unbreakable is better. If he’s serious about making a sequel, he really needs to get on it right away before the last few grams of mojo he has are gone for good. The whole Unbreakable universe just screams “FRANCHISE!!!” I actually have enjoyed all of MNS’s films (even The Happening), but I can kind of understand why a lot of the viewing public has turned against him over the last few. I’m not one to go so far as some and say that he’s raped my eyeballs with his “shitty” filmmaking. But I do see how each film since Unbreakable has become less and less accessible to the movie-going public.

My Fair Lady(1964; dir. George Cukor; Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison; composers – Frederick Lowe & Alan Jay Lerner and Andre Previn)

Yeah, that’s right fuckers…I’ve got a fucking musical on my list! A lot of people these days balk at the fact that MFL received the Best Picture Oscar. I’m of the opinion that it 110% deserved every accolade it received. And absolutely none of my opinion is based on the fact that I will forever be totally head-over-heels in love with Audrey Hepburn. I repeat…none of my opinion of this film is based on that. None. Nada. No. Zilch. Zip. Zero. Uh-Uh. No Way, Jose. Okay, maybe a little. Still, it is a great movie, with enough memorable songs and set-pieces for any other two musicals.

Fight Club(1999; dir. David Fincher; Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham-Carter; composers – The Dust Brothers)

I was really conflicted as to whether or not put this one in my main list. In the end though, I suppose a runner-up status is a fair shake. I can’t put my finger on what it is about this film, whether it’s the story, the cinematography, the editing, the performances – ah hell, it’s probably a combination of all of it, but I just love this movie. Too bad it didn’t get a better reception during its initial release because it’s an honest-to-goodness modern classic. And then there’s that twist that rivals the best of ‘em (I’m lookin’ at you Sixth Sense) – well, I didn’t see it coming anyway…at least not in the first viewing. All the clues are there in the opening minute if you’re a better problem solver than I am. This movie just speaks to me (as the bullshit artsy-fartsy sect of the human race would put it). I dunno, maybe it’s just a wonderful outlet for my inner non-conformist, anti-social anarchist that’s been dying to get out all these years.

Blazing Saddles – (1974; dir. Mel Brooks; Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn; composer – John Morris)

It’s almost disheartening that in our modern, stuck up, over Politically Correct-ified world a film like this being made today would cause a complete and total riotous uproar. I don’t care if it was written by black people, directed by a black person, starring nothing but an all-black cast, filmed by an all-black pre-through-post production crew, and funded by the NAACP, the I Have A Dream Foundation, the Black Panthers, and the United Negro College Fund – making this film today would be nothing short of scandalous. And that’s a shame – no – a crime really. This is the comedy of comedies. It is the highest standard of funny by which all comedies should ever hope to obtain. And even after the umpteenth viewing, it’s still the funniest goddamned thing I have ever seen (with Airplane! a close fucking second).

So…there it is – a semi-detailed look into my movie happy place. Do your eyes hurt? My eyes hurt. And my fingers…and my head. I may have gone a tad overboard on this one. I guess what may be most revealing is what isn’t on the list. No Star Trek. No Lord of the Rings. No Godfather. No James Cameron, or Tim Burton, or Stanley Kubrick, or Dick Donner. I admit it – in some cases at least, I like some weird shit. Well, hope you suffered through reading that as much as I suffered through writing it. If you want to contribute your own list, well…good luck fuckers!