I’ve decided to write a blog about movies, the one medium I might love more than (or equal to) literature. I know, how blasphemous of me, right? Well I grew up glued to the tv screen, when I wasn’t outside playing, devouring any and all movies. In high school, my best friend and I spent a few summers spending many hours at the movie store picking out the best, weirdest, and most terrible looking movies possible. Sometimes we would find the worst possible looking horror movies, play them with the volume down, and do all the characters lines. Yes, we had no boyfriends. That much is obvious.
Later in life, I decided I needed to watch every movie on American Film Institute’s top 100 movies of all time list. Thus far, I think I’ve only seen about 60 movies on the list, but it introduced an entirely new world of cinema to me, introducing me to amazing actors like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, William Holden, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, and wonderful actresses like Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Swanson, Bette Davis, etc. There are so many great gems from the “Hays Code” era of cinema that it’d be hard to figure out which ones are worth watching, thus this list was a great guide for me.
In more recent years I’ve branched out into “indie films,” renting those random movies at the store that I’ve never heard of, often starring an entire cast of D-list actors. Sometimes these movies are surprisingly amazing, and I have fallen in love with a few, and sometimes they are terrible and I immediately regret my decision and waste of $2.
Either way, movies are an adventure. If we only watched what Hollywood crammed down our throats, I think we’d be all the dumber for it. There are so many amazing talented filmmakers out there, who, for budget problems or lack of production value, are incapable of getting their movies seen by a wider audience, and that saddens me. I like to give the underdogs a try.
Granted, though film buff I may be (in some people’s eyes,) I am no match for a real master. I may have seen a lot more movies than the average person, but I have a few friends that could easily beat the pants off of me at Scene-it. Just a few though.
Anyway, for better or for worse, this movie blog is going somewhere. I’d love to share with you my top twenty movies of all time: some are old, some are new, some are relatively unknown, and some are huge. Also I would love to hear feedback, arguments, and responses with my readers outlining their favorite movies. I could talk movies all day if you let me. But here goes, in no particular order, my top 20.
1. Once (2006)
“Once” is a very cute little love story. It is the story of a street musician and a flower girl who meet in Dublin and decide to make some music together. It is simple, so simple the characters have no names, but there is an added dash of realism that makes the story even more touching and sympathetic. Since I first watched this movie in 2008, I have watched it probably twenty times or more. The music is equally as beautiful, and the film even won an Oscar for Best Song. Take that Disney. Since the movie was made (for very, very cheap,) the two main characters have gone on to create a band called The Swell Season and have toured all over U.S. and Europe.
2. Before Sunrise/Before Sunset (1995 & 2004)
I know, I’m cheating putting two movies in one spot, but these movies are sequels and counterparts and they work so damn well as a mini-marathon for the hopeless romantic in you. Another indie movie set in Europe about two beautiful people falling in love over a short period of time. I’m such a girl. This movie is different though, there’s no Hollywood bravado and dramatic romantic gestures. There is just a great script involving some of the best/most realistic dialogue I’ve ever heard in a movie, and two very interesting, supremely well-rounded characters that you can’t help but fall in love with. These movies hold a very special place in my heart. Don’t worry, they aren’t just chick flicks, I know several males that love them too.
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
I know, right? Now you’re thinking to yourself “what a damn girly girl, don’t you watch anything other than uber-romantic movies?” I promise you, I do. I’ll get to them! But seriously, this movie goes beyond romance film and into seriously skewed territory. Written wonderfully by Charlie Kaufman, the crazy man behind several other awesome mindfuck movies, this film dissects the inner workings of a relationship, and what really does happen after the “happily ever after.” It is, at times heart wrenching, uplifting, and certain lines and songs always give me goosebumps. It also reminded us that yes, Jim Carrey can act, and can be likable!
4. City Lights (1931)
Another street person in love with a flower girl, but this one is different! This one is #4 on AFI’s top 100 list, and for a very good reason: it is absolutely hilarious, beautiful, touching, and makes me cry every damn time. Charlie Chaplin plays his most famous character “The Tramp,” a hapless goofy bum who gets into mishaps, and this time he falls in love with a beautiful blind flower girl. There is a lot more to it, but I don’t want to ruin it, because you really need to watch it, now.
5. Heat (1995)
All you really need to know about this movie is that it’s fucking badass, and stars Al Pacino AND Robert De Niro before they both started making shitty movies. One’s a good guy, one’s a bad guy, shit gets real, banks get robbed, your balls grow a little larger for having watched it.
6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Hunter S. Thompson is one of my favorite writers, for many reasons: we both love booze and finding ourselves in ridiculous scenarios. Granted, I don’t do drugs or shoot things, but let’s face it, he did enough of both of those in his lifetime for the rest of us. While “Fear and Loathing” was never my favorite book of his (that would be “The Rum Diary,”) it was still fascinating to watch Johnny Depp absolutely transform himself into the stark raving madman Thompson could so often be. That Depp didn’t win Best Actor that year is a travesty. The movie is chockfull of Thompson’s signature one-liners as well as one of my favorite chunks in literature:
“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .
History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
That shit gives me goosebumps. Damn my lack of being alive during the sixties. Anyway…
7. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Hello men, you know you cried during this movie. Just admit it, it’s alright. This is one of about 3 movies men are allowed to cry during, without feeling like a wuss. The last 5 minutes of the film… gets me every. single. time. This is one of those films that, once I start watching, it’s hard to tear my eyes away. Maybe it comes from having a father obsessed with World War II, but I absolutely LOVE war movies. The bizarre spectacle of humans scrambling on a muddy battlefield fascinates me like few other things. I know, I’m morbid. Anyway, Saving Private Ryan was understandably nominated for Best Picture Oscar, but the fact that it didn’t win is a crime against man. F you “Shakespeare in Love.” Paltrow ain’t got nothin’ on Hanks.
8. Goodfellas (1990)
Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci: Mobsters. If that doesn’t entice you, you have no heart. It’s the story of a guy trying to make it as a mobster, killing people, awesome music, double-crossing… good ole-fashioned fun. I STILL can’t hear the ending of “Layla” without thinking of that one scene. You know the scene.
9. Zodiac (2007)