EIGHT for the 80s
LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988, Martin Scorsese) Though not surprising that Scorsese is on here, Im going to catalogue this in chronological order. Scorsese really likes to have the camera in a constant movement in order to imply that audiences are voyeurs, and practices this technique in most of his films. He also does this in LTOC, but what is so interesting is that in the scenes which portray Christ on the cross the camera is completely still. As he is a devout Catholic this comes as no surprise as the stillness serves to really enhance the perceived divinity of Christ himself. Thats kick ass. And thats why I love Marty.
PRINCESS BRIDE (1987, Rob Reiner) My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. No explanation needed.
COLOR PURPLE (1985, Steven Spielberg) This is an incredibly simple and common and beautiful story that spans a lifetime. Its actually incredible that Spielberg didnt receive a Directing nod for this- not only was it a fantastic movie, but it was nominated for 11 Academy Awards! Thats almost as bad as Scorsese losing out for Raging Bull to Robert Redford for Ordinary People!
E.T. (Steven Spielberg, 1982) This was the first movie I ever remember seeing, I think I was 3 or 4. This film is pretty much why I originally wanted to work in films (though at the ripe old age of 4, I was all set to start an acting career. What a mistake THAT would have been). This movie is the number one friendship movie I have ever seen, possibly one of the great love stories of our times. I mean a little boy and an alien become best friends and protect and love each other at all costs, despite obvious cultural differences and language barriers and epic obstacles (hello government agencies!). Beautiful.
GANDHI (1982, Richard Attenborough) I'm going to pull out a background in history and political science and just throw this out: I know this film is riddled with historic discrepancies, but the fact is (and listen up Slumdog haters) ITS A MOVIE. Even movies based completely on fiction embellish so many aspects of realities they try to portray. And Ben KIngsley captures the spirit of a man greater than most actors ever could. He's completely haunting. In a good, very cool Sir Ben kind of way. And props to Daniel Day Lewis cameos. Holy prophetic.
MISSING (1982, Costa-Gavras) Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek completely rock what they've got in this film. Its brilliant. Watch it.
ON GOLDEN POND (1981, Mark Rydell) This movie is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartfelt. Its funny in the simplest and most real of ways and it really digs to the heart of the human spirit. Henry Fonda's portrayal of Norman Thayer floors me every time. When I first saw this I really connected with it. Which is odd, I admit because I was 9. I guess I just really dig a good cynic.
RAGING BULL (1980, Martin Scorsese) Right. So Im going to start by saying that of the 8 films DeNiro and Scorsese have collaborated on, this is hands down the best. I know what you're thinking "What about Taxi Driver Jill?" (See the 70s). This movie is just cool. Thats it. Its entertaining, its action packed, its incredibly realist. As paradoxical as it may seem, sometimes movies that dont feel like movies, are the best. And its stylish. And its true to Scorsese's themes- idolizing Madonnas, demeaning broads. The scene in which we meet Vicky LaMotta is not coincidentally similar to that in Taxi Driver in which we meet Betsy- clean white clothes, these pure looking women, one on a pedestal brought to life in slow motion, one perceivably out of reach (as depicted from the other side of a steel fence). I really dig that.
SEVEN for the 70s
STAR WARS (1977, George Lucas) This really needs no explanation. And its a nice reminder to anyone being turned down for funding that one day you too could be laughing all the way to the bank. The bank of epic filmmaking success.
ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN (1976, Alan J. Pakula) Im a bit of a sucker for a political thriller. This is the best one of all time in my books. It just falls together so nicely and theres something comforting about the picture quality from the 1970s- that grainy, old faded polaroid look that just feels natural. Like what films should be. This film has been imitated and admired by other great directors who followed, and for good reason. Its beautifully choreographed, well acted, but not overdone. Its very understated considering the events that unfold. And its smart. I like that.
NETWORK (1976, Sydney Lumet) This movie is incredibly profound and eerily predictive in terms of what it implies about media. I only saw this film recently but I was instantly impacted by the message. William Holden, though not the lead, is another primary reason I loved this film. Past his prime perhaps, but the man delivers. A true gentleman and a hell of an actor.
TAXI DRIVER (1975, Martin Scorsese) I'm not going to lie- the first time I saw this movie I was disturbed beyond belief. It was only in the past few years that I really came to appreciate it, then like it, and then love it. My adoration of this piece truly was an evolution. Ive always been a fan of films and filmmakers but it wasn't until I got to high school that I began really WATCHING the films I would see. Watching how they were made, how they were shot, how the characters developed, and so often came apart again. I think part of what is so fantastic about Scorsese- and this is no way demeans the hard work of other great directors- is that every element of every shot in every film is so deliberate. Its so crafted and built and then viewed. It really is an art.
DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975, Sudney Lumet) This was the beginning of a beautiful stretch of time that was primarily spent watching Al Pacino movies instead of doing homework. Ive taken a lot of heat for liking this film, but Im going to stand behind it. Once again, I'm motivated by preference, and I do find this movie entertaining- and oddly heart wrenching. Im not usually one for story-book endings (unless it truly does serve the interest of the story, and not the funding of the film), but Im still really sad every time I see the ending. And not to ruin it for future viewers, but things do not fare well for good old John Cazale. (Fun fact: John Cazale only ever starred 4 films, and all 4 were either nominated for or WON best picture. This film, Deer Hunter, The Conversation, and The Godfather. Six films if you count Godfather 2 and 3. But that makes the fact far less fun).
THE CONVERSATION (1974, Francis Ford Coppola) Ok so Im bumping this one up, and out of order but it flows really well with the whole John Cazale conversation. This movie is crazy. I mean that in the best way possible. Ive seen this movie about 5 or 6 times and every single time Im still nervous for Gene Hackman during the hotel scene.
JAWS (1975, Steven Spielberg) Another obvious pick I think, but sometimes obvious is for a reason. I saw this movie for the first time ever (yes, ever) last year. I know. I dont want to hear about it. But the important thing is that Ive now seen it, and more than once. My only regret about this movie is that I couldnt experience it in the era that it was released.
SIX for the 60s
THE ODD COUPLE (1968, Gene Sacks) I was in stitches the first time I saw this film. I'm not even kidding, I was on the floor. Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon are comic geniuses. I dig a lot of comedies that have come out in my lifetime, but theres something incredibly timeless and unique about the comedy and its delivery in this time. "I've told you a million times not to leave little notes on my pillow. 'Were out of cornflakes, F. U.'. It took me 3 hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar". Gold.
SOUND OF MUSIC (1965, Robert Wise) This was also one of the first movies I ever saw, and I have seen it over 100 times. I am 110% confident of that fact. I was a very focussed little girl and when I liked a movie, I LIKED a movie. And I watched it all the time. This film has become a cultural part of my life, and I dont say that lightly. It makes me incredibly nostalgic and I am always in the mood to watch this. This film is the Rolls Royce of enduring family classics.
OBCHOD NA KORZE- SHOP ON MAIN STREET (1965, Jan Kadar) I was originally drawn to this film because it was filmed in Slovakia and is a Slovak language film. Much to my pleasant surprise- it rocked. Big time. I focussed a great deal of my studies on Eastern European history and this film encompasses that, and Slovakia, and movies. Its a total variety pack of all things I love. Oh and it really captures the war's impact through the eyes of shopkeeper and town local in a tragic way. With a twist of unlikely friendship.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962, Robert Mulligan) The director didnt need a mulligan on this one! (Wow. I had actually thought that out in advance and still it just didnt quite bring it home). Straight up: I usually like the movie better. I rarely read the book before OR after seeing the film, its just the medium I prefer. But I will say that of the book/movie couplings I have enjoyed, this and the Pianist really do pay homage to their great written protoypes.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS (1961, Blake Edwards) Its a girl thing.
THE APARTMENT (1960, Billy Wilder) One of my favorite directors. One of my favorite comedies. It really rocks the whole 1960s soundstage feel, and I dig that. This actually is not even in my Top 3 Wilder films, but it was the first one I ever saw and I was sold. Im frequently surprised that no one has ever tried to remake it. But I'd like to keep it that way.
FIVE for the 50s
12 ANGRY MEN (1957, Sydney Lumet) Now someone did remake this movie and I'll tell you why it didnt work. IF ITS NOT BROKE, DONT FIX IT. This film takes place mostly in one room, with no one really coming or going. Sounds dull right? Wrong. Maybe its out devolved attention spans, but I dont think this film could have been successful if it was produced today. It would at the very least be a hard sell. Wheres the sex? Wheres the beautiful woman? Wheres the drama? Who the hell are our characters? That is why this film is timeless.
TEN COMMANDMENTS (1955, Cecil B. DeMille) I also saw this for the first time at age 7, andI thought it was a ridiculously sweet movie. That was right around the time I first saw Jolson, the Al Jolson biopic. Entirely unrelated, but a good memory. This is a favourite. Though Ive never watched them, I imagine its pretty much the Lord of the Rings of the 1950s, with a slightly enhanced religious theme, and fewer hobbits.
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954, Stanley Donen) Lumberjacks. Singing, dancing lumberjacks. Need I say more? I have no sweet clue how they ever got funding for this, but I'm so tickled that they did.
STALAG 17 (1953, Billy Wilder) This is one of my Top 3 Wilder films. Its unbelievable that there is a great comedy about German run POW camps in WWII. I realize that at the time no one was in the fashion of attempting a realist movie about Nazis, but Wilder was always ahead of his time. This brings me to..
ACE IN THE HOLE (1951, Billy Wilder) This movie, much like network, depicts a world in which no cost is too high for a good story. Oh wait, thats this world. What starts off with such promise ends in failure for our lead, and that failure is truly the foundation of the whole film. Brilliantly realized its foolishly dead on.
FOUR for the 40s
THIRD MAN (1949, Orson Wells) This film makes dutch tilts cool. Thats a fairly bold statement considering how popular they once were. Theres no real way to explain it, but this is one of those films that you watch and then you sit and stare at the credits thinking "Holy shit, that was incredible". Consider it a challenge, and do yourself the favor if you have not already seen it.
BICYCLE THIEVES (1948, Vittorio De Sica) When I first found out that this was the film that made Scorsese want to make movies, I obviously flipped out a little. When you watch this movie its so clear where Marty gets his inspiration from. This film essentially created a whole new genre. Not only did it inspire realist films in its aftermath, but it went one step further by not filming on a soundstage or hiring any professional - or even amateur actors. Its brilliant. Its pretty much what everyone I know does actually.
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944, Billy Wilder) This is my favourite movie. I love Barbara I love Fred, I love the story I love how a woman in the 40s played a greedy adulterated killer despite how incredibly damaging that could have been to her career at the time. I love how no one wanted to fund this film because they didnt think it would be a hit,let alone ever have any impact on film history or culture. I love the narrative, the film noir style, the set ups.Its just brilliant.
BAMBI (1942, David Hand) My dad and I used to watch this movie every friday night when it was just the two of us. Those friday nights are one of my greatest childhood memories. This movie puts more emphasis into the importance of family than most movies Ive seen in my lifetime. It gives depicts friendship in a remarkably honest way. Its the best coming age movie that ever drove home "coming of age".