film.I'm loath to admit this -- for fear of being adjudged correctly the shallow beast that I am -- but film genuinely has made my life better ... well, as far as any sort of entertainment or hobby can add value to one's life, better. I'm not suggesting that film or the movies can substitute as a raison d'etre, let alone fulfill the half-lived life, but, film has indeed provided yours truly with a healthy dash of interesting distraction and a lagniappe of flavorful joy to a somewhat dull, yet fairly-centered existence (though some would challenge my being centered, whatever that means).
I still get excited when I go to the movies, especially if I get to share the experience with someone I love. The chocolate almonds (for my kids) and gummies. The popcorn (of which I take a small amount). The bottled water (my seriously large man-gut can't take Coke anymore) or a latte for me and a date.
I can remember my first "event" film that my mom took me and my younger brother, Chad, to see. I was 4 1/2 and he was probably 3 yrs old. There we were, my brother and I, holding hands in our PJs and robes, queued up outside the small neighborhood Fox Theater in the dark, waiting to get in. It was Disney's The Artisocats, and I (ever the critic) remember being disappointed that it wasn't as good as 101 Dalmatians, or some of the other Disney fare that I had seen aplenty.
.When we share the films that we love with others, we are necessarily sharing insight into ourselves and into what makes us tick. How many times have we been out having a nice cocktail with a person of the opposite sex and play the get-to-know-ya game of "so, what're your favorite films?" If your dreamboat/hunk o' desire on a first date tells you that his favorite movie is Taxi Driver, and that he can't imagine his life without it, you should rightfully be concerned and not go out on a second date with dreamy mcsteamy. (You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Er, no, dude, I'm not talkin' to you. You frighten me.). If you tell me that Woody Allen is your man, then I predict you love New York, have an above-average IQ, and are likely to be a hypochondriac, or at least find short, balding, Jewish hypochondriacs funny. If I tell you that I like films that are ... well, let's beg off because I'm about to share that in a jiff, n'est pas?
.It's fairly axiomatic that in today's America, film plays a hugely important part in our culture. Water cooler conversations are oft peppered with the movies we saw over the weekend -- and don't forget the office pool for who'll win Best Picture or Best Actress for this year's Golden Globed Oscar Thingys. Just look at all of the (quite good, really) film criticism readily available for us at the click of a mouse or local paper. We all of us are critics, cinephiles and champions of our favorite movies. Pastors routinely draw analogies using films present and past in their sermons. Movies themselves use classic film lines to make dialog snappy (yes, you Mr. Tarantino). Film is ubiquitous ... and most of it is total shite. Rare is the truly great film, can I get a witness?
When I was about 9, I came down with chickenpox for the 3rd time (not a typo) and my little brother Chad for the first. So, mom being the great lady she was, took us down to the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood to see the wholly age inappropriate "Freebie and the Bean" in full geodesic and graphic glory. I can remember during certain raunchy scenes with shoot-outs, or transvestites, or cars crashing through bedroom walls, she would lean over and remind us, "this is just a movie, and these people aren't really dead," or "that man really isn't a man dressing like a woman in real life. Okay, wait a minute, maybe he is on second thought." Lovely mom. And, even though I have rarely taken my kids to see an age-inappropro movie, still I have given my two sons similar warnings of when to cover eyes, or as Vince Vaughn would warn his little one, "ear muffs."
.This week, as my 13 yr-old son had his own version of the chickenpox (a virus with accompanying nasty sore throat), he called me two or three times mid-day to tell me, "Dad, I just finished watching the best movie!" He watched this week: The Book of Eli, Reign of Fire, and Blackhawk Down. He loved being able, in spite of his "dad, I'm dying" dramaturgy, to just chill and enjoy a film by himself. We all know the feeling, son, and I'm glad you do too.
.So, here are eleven films that I'm not saying are the best in cinematic history, but that are films that I've enjoyed immensely or have influenced me profoundly each in their own small way, and I'm happy to share these with you, Dear Reader:
Everyone Says I Love You (Woody Allen, director) is one of those films that always makes me happy when I see it. Roger Ebert said a similar thing, if memory serves, about his having a smile on his face throughout the screening of this movie. My favorite scene occurs between the former spouses (Woody and Goldie Hawn) as they reminisce and sing and dance magically along the Seine at midnight. Yes, it is a musical; I own my very hetero appreciation of the musical.
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Woody Allen films for your viewing pleasure:
Manhattan Murder Mysteries
Hannah and Her Sisters
Purple Rose of Cairo
Citizen Kane (director, Orson Welles) rocked my world when I was in middle school. Black and white, amazing lighting with crude but effective special effects and makeup and a great story (how do you like your roman a clef served, Mr. Hearst?). Best movie of all time? Top Ten for sure.
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Orson Welles films for your viewing pleasure:
The Third Man
Touch of Evil
Lawrence of Arabia (director, David Lean) was lovingly restored when I was in college. My best bud (now professor) from UCLA dragged me down (actually, I was skipping several steps in front of him) to the old Shubert Theatre in Century City to see this amazing film on the big screen as God intended (David Lean did have a god-complex). The vast vistas. The deep colors that drench the screen with their hue-rific mesmerizing effects on the retinas. The score that today is recognizable within the first few notes. Can't get much better than this film.
Re: the photo above, I can hear Peter O'Toole saying to Omar Sharif, "Aqaba!" Exactly so, TE. Btw nod to Toad (of his blog To The Manner Born) for his suggestion of our reading "Hero" (biography of TE Lawrence) from a previous FatScribe post.
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other epic films for your viewing pleasure:
The Right Stuff
The Great Escape
The Royal Tenenbaums (director, Wes Anderson) is Wes Anderson at his sui generis best (though Wes does acknowledge a passing resemblence to Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons). Wes Anderson is one of the few director/auteurs today that I'll go see whatever he puts out. Love Gene Hackman, Danny Glover (misguided friend of misunderstood communist dictators), and Bill Murry in this.
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Wes Anderson films for your viewing pleasure:
RushmoreThe Darjeeling Limited
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Star Wars (director, George Lucas). Not much to add here. I can say, though, that I have a huge admiration crush on Mr. Lucas for what he built up at Skywalker Ranch (including the amazing private library) and at the Presidio with LucasFilm, LucasArts, THX, and ILM. That's one hard-working dude from Northern Cal, and it all started with a humble yarn about a hero's transformational journey across the galaxy with good friends at his side. Isn't that all of us, Dear Reader?
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Lucas films for your viewing pleasure:
American GrafittiTucker: The Man and His Dream
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Howard the Duck (Just kidding ... making sure you're paying attn.)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (director, Steven Spielberg) is my favorite Spielberg film. I guess I'd have to confirm a previous posting by yours truly and say that Spielberg is our greatest living filmmaker. Not bad for a Long Beach State grad. Go Cal State system. You gave us Eva Mendez, Andy Summers (The Police) and Steven Spielberg! (and ... FatScribe? You poor, dumb bastardos.) This film freaked me out when the little boy kept trying to go outside and play with E.T., with him squirming in his mum's arms, pointing up to the sky saying, "toys." I especially love the scene when he's in the middle of the desolate road at midnight and he looks up at yells "Ice cream!" to the passing UFOs. Classic Spielberg, no?
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Spielberg films for your viewing pleasure:
Empire of the Sun
_______________________________________________________________________Enchanted April (director, Mike Newell) is one of those movies I've seen over a half-dozen times. There is not a sour note to be found in the entire film. All of your favorite Brits are here: Joan Plowright, Alfred Molina, Polly Walker, Michael Kitchen, et. al. If you haven't seen this enchanting film (sorry, I had to), you owe it to yourself.
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Newell films for your viewing pleasure:
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
It's a Wonderful Life (director, Frank Capra) has been seen by my family almost every year for the last 35 years or so. It's a holiday classic and I have yet to tire of Capra's masterpiece. I mean, who can ever tire of Donna Reed? Hulloh!
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Capra films for your viewing pleasure:
Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonIt Happened One Night
Chariots of Fire (director, Hugh Hudson) is my favorite film about faith and overcoming religious snobbery. Great true stories make the best films in my humble opinion. David Puttnam (producer/studio exec) has no idea how many young, impressionable folks like me he inspired to think about or aspire to get into the business.
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other foreign films for your viewing pleasure:
Room with a View
Hope and Glory
Trois Couleurs (three separate films Blue, White and Red) (director, Kieslowski) should be on everyone's list of trilogy films that have been seen, appreciated, and then shared with others. I honestly was dumbfounded the first month or so after I had seen them all, finding myself in quiet moments thinking about these films, and the acting, and the monumental task of directing them all. If memory serves correctly, Kieslowski put this troika together as an homage to France (he's Polish, but worked quite a bit in France or they funded his films), hence the three colors of the French flag. Sidebar: I always found it interesting or evocative that their colors are opposite the American flag. The Enlightened of the Salon v. the Law of Nature and Nature's God crowd and their manifest destiny.
White (Julie Delpy) is my least favorite, though still excellent and recommended. Blue is the saddest of the bunch, and most crushing to watch. Juliette Binoche plays the survivor of a family tragedy, who tries to honor her famous and talented and revered husband by completing an attempt at an EU anthem. And, Red brings it all home with a mash-up of the previous stories that don't all necessarily connect accurately or with any real effort at continuity. It's more of a reference to the previous material that's nice to notice or spot. Irene Jacob completes the murderers row here of the French beauties. Gawd, she just kills in this role of a young woman, struggling with some personal things, and then an acquaintance by happenstance (a retired French magistrate) decides to take things into his own hands to push "fate" along for her, perhaps righting some past wrong of his in the process. The ending (which is the shot above) will take your breath away. A masterwork by a master. (is that a tautology?)
Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other French films for your viewing pleasure:
Jean de Florette
My Father's Glory
My Mother's Castle
La Femme Nikita
Alien (director, Ridley Scott) was the quintessential film that scared the living hell out of me when I was a boy. I can remember nights when my older brothers couldn't sleep because they saw some movie called "The Exorcist," and I thought what's the big deal. Just a movie. Until when I was 12 and I saw this. I literally spent 90% of this movie watching through my fingers and hands and jacket pulled over my head.
.Each summer, my sons and I head down to San Diego to surf and skateboard and just hang out with cousins and uncles and do nottin' right after we do nada. Each night we always watch a movie that my brothers and I watched as boys to pass the cinematic baton so to speak. This last summer my boys (then 12 and 10) and a nephew (13) finally got to experience Alien. "Dad, we don't wanna watch that one! Uncle John, it won't be scary!" Ten minutes into the film (shown at 10 pm, of course), the big couch was packed with five people with several heads under blankets. After the movie, we took a midnight stroll around Banker's Hill over a rather bouncy footbridge spanning a 90 ft. ravine. The kids were amply freaked out and screaming good and loud. We then hiked it back home for 1am leftover pizza and then up at 7am for more of the same.
.Fatscribe's cinematic predictive algorithm suggests these other Ridley Scott films for your viewing pleasure:
A Good Year
.So, there you are. What are your favorite films that impacted and entertained and scared you?