A list of favorite motion pictures is never definitive. Its never concrete because new favorites are released and discovered everyday. So why post this list. Mostly to be able to look back years later at what I admired at this moment in time. Its also to get a glimpse at the films that helped me grow as a filmmaker since I made my first little homemade movies all those years ago.
JACKIE BROWN (1997): What you consider an OK Tarantino picture, I consider my favorite movie of all time. The screenplay cleverly mixes the crime genre with a parable about taking the chances you never took before (as Jackie slyly asks Max Cherry " If you had the chance to walk away with half a million dollars, would you take it") And of all of Quentins early works this remains to me the best looking, the long drawn shots recall a time where film did not have to be pop bang zip, but rather let you soak in every rich detail of the scene. The characters are richly developed through brilliant performances by the wonderful Pam Grier and Robert Forster, not to mention a brilliant supporting performance by Samuel L Jackson. A perfect movie… In my eyes yes
CASABLANCA (1942): Yes its an American treasure that im sure is on 100 other lists, but who can blame em. I saw this wonderful film at the age of 10 and have been thrilled by it ever since. The sprawling scenery all done in studio (a rare treat today without some cgi popping into frame), The melodramatic tone that never bores no matter how many times you see it, The rich screenplay that for its time broke so many rules and conventions. And the characters, those wonderfully rich characters that everyone knows and loves, yet never tire of. Its a rare example of timelessness, of film that is never outdated.
ZODIAC (2007): To choose a favorite on David Finchers Filmography is hard, there are so many to choose from. Despite the genius of the others (SE7EN, FIGHT CLUB), Zodiac to me is the perfect example of Finchers genius. The subject matter is just waiting to be turned into another run of the mill slasher film, but Fincher creates a tense drama that does not rely on constant action, but relies on strong characters to carry the story along, each with their own interesting traits , all while chasing this unknown killer.
GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002): Scorsese is one of those few directors that manages to stay interesting with each film he does, never once have I looked at a Scorsese film and felt bored or felt that I was seeing a repeat of his previous work (even the multiple mobster flicks manage to have their own unique twists). Of all the films he has directed this remains for me the most interesting. The screenplay and direction takes us back to a point that very few people are aware of in american history, and thats part of the magic of film, taking us to places we have never been before. Of all my top picks, this film has the best example of Production Design, and is a wonderful modern day example of what in studio work can accomplish rather. The screenplay’s quest for revenge theme remains fresh thanks to Scorsese being able to bring the best out of his actors, especially Daniel Day Lewis’ mesmerizing performance as Bill Cutting .
HALLOWEEN (1978): $30,000 grand and a creative visionary= The first film to scare the living shit out of me, and my favorite horror film ever made. John Carpenter gave birth to the slasher genre and it hasnt been bested since. He and co Writer Debra Hill were able to craft a film that gives audience characters you care about genuinely and as a result when being hunted by the silent killer, you cant help but feel for their plight. Not to mention the unique camera techniques that shift viewpoints throughout, you can first see from the eyes of the killer, then see from the other perspective, it keeps you on edge. The opening sequence shows a brilliant indie version of the Touch of Evil shot thats still jaw dropping even 7 years after I first watched it.
THE PRODUCERS (1968): Mel Brooks has always been a comedy idol of mine. Whether its turning the western on its head or telling fart jokes in space, he seems to be able to appeal to the basic human need to laugh at things both smart and silly. Yet its his directorial debut that has always stuck with me as an inspiration for how far the limit of comedy can be pushed and what is alright to write about. While the envelope has been pushed even further in recent years, this film still manages to stay shocking and hysterical years later. And Mel is able to balance the writing and directing well, he brings out a lavish tribute to the musical number while throwing his own dark spin on it, and takes the art of comedic timing and applies to the film in a way that still takes me aback.
MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN (1979): The Pythons: 6 men of pure talent and genius. They made 3 films together, each with their own strengths but LIFE OF BRIAN remains the most poignant even after 40 years. The writing combines tasteless humor along with intelligent social commentary on religion that only the Pythons could have achieved. When the released the film came under fire for being blasphemous, and its a wonderful example of not letting the outside elements get in the way of your film being seen even in the face of ignorant opposition, and even using it to your advantage (anyone know the tag line “So funny they banned it in Norway”?).
Oh, And the final music number… An absolute delight.
ITS A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (1963): Arguably the ultimate comedy, its scale and scope has never truly been repeated, which is probably the way it should stay. Its also a great testament to the range a director can have. Taking Stanley Kramer, the man who made the great message movies and giving him a comedy may seem like an odd choice, but as the result shows, it was a smart decision. The cast flourishes with rich performances from Spencer Tracy, Phil Silvers, and of course the always talented Ethel Merman (in what i feel is her finest performance). These elements combined show exactly how comedy in the right hands can achieve something great, and also shows how in the long run it takes more effort to make someone laugh than to make someone cry.
A SERIOUS MAN: Over the past year since its release this film has stuck with me. Like Fincher or Scorsese, its hard to choose a favorite Coen Brothers film. They have a unique way of telling a story without getting overtly complex yet at the same time revel in detail and plot twists. Its a nice mixture of the two that create fascinating character studies and quirky situations. A Serious Man shows the very best of all the Coens strengths from comedic timing to dark and brooding moments of depression. The Films simplicity makes it all the more engaging to an audience member and allows more personal connection with the characters. Rather than holding onto a broad idea, they scale back and allow us to step intot he shoes of Larry Gopnick (wonderfully portrayed by Michael Stuhlbarg) and experience his frustration. And the ending… chilling and rewardingRead less