1. A film you saw as a child (if you never saw one until the brink of adulthood, leave this space blank).
Witness I saw a lot of films as a child. But one that is still revered by me in the present day is Witness. My mother took me to see this in the theatre. I was 8 in 1985. The fact that the film centers around a child of similar age truly impacted me. Not sure I should have seen it; stark violence. But a great film by Peter Weir that the mainstream enjoyed as well.
2. A film you haven’t seen yet but anticipate very highly and positively. Why?
Summer with Monika for some reason, I am very behind on Ingmar Bergman. And I know that he shares the same views on life from what I have read; and his obvious influence on one of my favorite filmmakers, Woody Allen. Now with The Criterion Collection’s release of this film on DVD, its access will grow. Good to know after I watched the Woody Allen documentary. Summer with Mika’s approach to the impact of women on youth will resonate strongly with me.
3. A film a friend turned you onto or gave you as a blind gift, not sure whether or not you would like it, or
something you were invited to see in a similar sense and felt gravely disappointed. What impression, if any, has it left?
Metropolitan I was a teenager and have never viewed it again. At the time, I felt the film came across pompous. That these people got to make a film; and decided to take that time, money and effort to make a pretentious monument to self -adulation frustrated me. I feel that there are more important, poignant themes to search through and for with such a powerful medium.
4. A film you stumbled onto without knowing what it was about and the impression it left on you.
Lanatana I watch re-watch this film frequently. Masterfully woven multi-layered tale. The acting is superb. It satiates on a ‘whodunit’ level; as a family drama; as a statement of middle age. Wonderful storytelling. Fantastic direction as a quietly tense and stressed organism.
5. The kind of film you would be willing to subject a child to, be it your own or somebody else’s, on the idea that they ought to be opened up to that kind of experience.
The Dreamers I suppose when I read this question, it sounds as if most people would deem it unfit – so I specifically chose an NC-17 film. I think IRREVERSIBLE and HAPPINESS are required viewing, but understand that most people can’t/don’t want to watch those. So I choose the Dreamers. Bertolucci paints a warm feeling of passion and rebellion. As he his infamous for, there is a great amount of nudity in this film. But as an American, I feel that my country is far too uptight about nudity. And this film illustrates that nudity does not equal pornography; and that human body is what we all have under our clothes. Our sexuality is something to be celebrated. The film is a love letter to film; especially French film; and film as rebellion. It also explores demagogue and mouthpieces and talking vs action and culpability.
6. The kind of film your father and/or mother would like. If they have separate tastes, feel free to put in two entries on this number.
Mother: Brief Encounter my mother and I discuss film constantly. So there are many that we love together. And while HITCHCOCK is our most common love; I have to go with Brief Encounter. She showed me this fil when I was in my late 20’s. How beautiful and gentle. A story of an affair without the torrid visions of present day. And the gentle innocence of love vs duty (a theme I often find in Japanese film). This film is a good one with a spouse as well; as that thing line of intention and actual action can be haggled over.
Father: BLUE VELVET just an excuse to watch it. My dad turned me on to many films Scarface, Bullit, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Alien, Blade Runner, Bad Timing, Liquid Sky . But when he told me to go rent Blue Velvet, my world was ardently impacted. What vision. What cynicism. What storytelling. Phenomenal film that discusses my favorite subject, the realistic pessimistic underbelly of the human.
7. The kind of film you would fear may someday be banned in your own country. Why?
Happiness starting at an NC-17, it is close. But throw in the subject matter; and you are close to be done for. I saw it in the theatre (Kendell Square in Cambridge). I love this film and watch it frequently. Alas, I have to watch it alone because no one else can tolerate it. But I think things should be discussed not hidden or suppressed. I also think that the pedophilia angle over shadows other great aspects of Solondz’s derision of American suburban life.
8. A film that strikes you as honest and genuine, something that is at the top of its form or without comparison.
So many… Cool Hand Luke, Midnight Cowboy, Nothing But A Man, Ratcatcher, Irreversible, Chinatown, Manhattan, Deconstructing Harry, Network, Videodrome, Blade Runner, Paths of Glory, Ikiru, Good Morning, Osaka Elegy, Tokyo Story, Drunken Angel, Tampopo, My Life to Live, The 400 Blows, The Dark Knight, Memento, Sullivan’s Travels, Lone Star, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Sling Blade; A Taste of Cherry, The Wind Will Carry Us, Double Suicide (Shinoda), The Eel, Umberto D, The Bicycle Thief; I could go on. So many
9. A film that has tried to strike the same chord in you as number 8 but ended up being something lowly and pathetically predictable by the end. Considering your selections, would there be anything to reconcile between both ends of this spectrum?
AMERICAN HISTORY X this falls into the category of what I call, “The Afterschool Special”. See also “Lost in Translation”, “Precious”, “Crash (2004)” – (I still love you Don Cheadle) – to I am sure what crap I won’t watch like The Help, The Blindside. AMERICAN HISTORY X gets the win because I am a skinhead (look it up. We’re not racist). I also worked at an ad agency at the time; and my department had a few meetings with Tony Kaye to do a spot. He is an amazing photographer. Check his early Guinness ad with the gay couple. Beautiful. And so is AHX. But it was so badly done. Beverly D’Angelo and Elliot Gould did an amazing job of acting. Stellar. And yes, Edward Norton did a spectacular job. But what was there to do was so vapid. Older bro goes to jail, works with a black guy, learns humanity and racism == bad; but can he save his brother in time? I miss my dead dad! Oh god. So banal, makes a good project so trivial. The only deal with surface themes here. Humans are far too complex to try to portray in black and white (like how I did that?). Plus they fucked the Anti-Heroes because they are arrogant Hollywood douche bags who thought no one would notice. I do like that they built in the “Aryans in prison deal with Mexicans and are race traitors” subplot as an impetus for Ed to question his ideals. And I still will watch this film again and again just because it entertains and frustrates me.
10. If there’s one film that was to be sent off to a distant life-inhabited planet somewhere or perhaps to an uncharted and unexplored island or nation somewhere whose people never knew anything of film, what would you send them?
SALO or Sex in the City –to show that we are deplorable race and no other species should waste their time with us. See also: Avatar
1. The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, Les douze travails d’Asterix.
2. Once upon a time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan).
3. In the city, En la ciudad ( Cesc Gay).
4. Unloved, (Kunitoshi Manda).
5. Time bandits, (Terry Gillian)
6. Father: Kelly’s Heroes / Mother: Son of the Bride, El hijo de la novia (Juan Jose Campanella).
7. Salò or the 120 days of Sodoma (Pier Paolo Pasolini).
8. Head-on, Gegen die Wand (Fatih Akin).
9. Amelie (Jean Pierre Jeunet)
10. The mirror (Andrei Tarkovskiy).
1. Witness. My family thought that since the film was about Amish people, it’d be a relaxing, sweet family drama, instead of a violent crime drama. The murders freaked me out as a little kid.
2. Shampoo, because I recently read a bio of Hal Ashby that said there was so much personal furor around the film. Also, it has been recommended a few times by different friends.
3. The Woman in Black. It was supposed to be the grand return of the Hammer imprint. The scares were adequately paced but the story was terrible. Also, Daniel Radcliffe cannot yet carry a film by himself. He’s typecast as Harry Potter and cannot yet be seen as anything other than the boy wizard. Further, his character in the film did everything but his job. The character is a lawyer. Throughout the film, he’s attempts to save people from fires/drowning/ghosts. He treasure hunts, fights, digs up graves, but he does very little lawyering.
4. Tie me up! Tie me down! I saw it when I was 12, and while it was not Almodovar’s best film, the happy hedonism and openness in tone (i.e. how much he welcomed and appreciated weirdness and gender-bending) and the random nudity had me seeking out his other films.
5. Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown. Everyone should be exposed to Almodovar.
6. Mother: The Passion of the Christ. My mother thinks she’s being pious by secretly enjoying the violence.
7. Irreversible. Anything by Gaspar Noe could one day be banned in Canada. Any marrying of intense violence with sex/rape makes Canadians uncomfortable. Sex and nudity is kosher, but truly violent sex and rape in cinema treads a line (We’re a nice people. Rape isn’t nice).
8. Do the Right Thing
9. 25th Hour. Edward Norton was great in it, but Spike Lee pulled all the same tricks from Do the Right Thing and made the picture rather derivative (i.e. having a character soliloquize all the racial epithets he could think up intercut with a montage of stereotypes. Loud colours and bright lights. NYC wank, etc). Further, there was an entire section of the movie shoehorned in in order to be the first film to address 9/11. The protracted 9/11 scene detracted from the movie, was tonally off, and was a superficial examination of the event.
10. The Night of the Hunter. Everyone should see this film, especially aliens so they can understand that life on earth is difficult, fucked up, but can be survived and done right with a little effort.
1. When I was six years old, my older brother was enlisted to take me to see Eugene Lourie’s “The Giant Behemoth” at a grindhouse-type movie theater in a rough part of town. I was fascinated with dinosaurs, but disturbed that the radiation emanating from the title character was so powerful that it char-broiled any humans unlucky enough to come near. What’s worse, the theater’s bathroom was so disgustingly unsanitary that I demanded to be taken home to the safety of our well-scrubbed porcelain. On the ride back, I learned to my dismay that we wouldn’t be returning to see the rest of the film. Because of this, “The Giant Behemoth” gained more significance in my childish imagination than it deserved, a fact made clear when I finally saw the rest of it on television ten years later.
2. Film critics I respect have praised Jacques Rivette’s 729 minute “Out 1,” which I hope to see one day. It seems that such a significant time investment made by cinephiles who could be watching three or four films in that same time frame fairly guarantees that the film is a masterpiece…or not.
3. That would be Zack Snyder’s “300,” the DVD of which was given to me by a close friend who admired it. I was mildly intrigued by the CGI, but repulsed by its unwavering salute to fascist ideals. Isn’t this what Paul Verhoeven satirized in “Starship Troopers?”
4. A chance late-night viewing of Tinto Brass’ 1964 comedy “The Flying Saucer” starring Alberto Sordi and Monica Vitti shook up my pre-teen world with its absurdist and surreal humor. A year later, I experienced a film flashback during the opening scenes of Fellini’s “8 ½,” another surreal late-night experience.
5. “The Night of the Hunter” imparts two important lessons to any viewer, child or adult: 1) Don’t trust authority figures, and 2) don’t expect your talent or imagination to be appreciated in your lifetime.
6. My father loved westerns, and I’m sure he would have savored “The Assassination of Jesse James” (though not so much my current western fave, “Meek’s Cutoff”). My mother, who dragged me to see Douglas Sirk’s remake of “Imitation of Life” when I was too young to comprehend it, would have enjoyed Todd Haynes’ reworking of “Mildred Pierce.”
7. “A Serbian Film.” I haven’t seen it and don’t care to, either, but – however horrible an experience – it’s superior to the limitation of artistic expression by governmental decree. (And I understand the U.S. release is censored, so perhaps we’re already there.)
8. Buster Keaton’s “Sherlock, Jr.,” which puts cinema under a microscope and makes you laugh at what you see.
9. “The Artist,” which wowed AMPAS with its novelty despite a shopworn script, by-the-numbers direction, and simplistic depiction of Hollywood’s transition to the sound era. Are there no contemporary filmmakers using silent cinema for something other than a parlor trick?
10. “Arrivée d’un train à Perrache” by Louis Lumiére. Let’s start them at the beginning.