Bro, here are a few of my favorites from over the years.
#1-2: DAVID FINCHER is hands-down my favorite director. He makes films all-at-once entertaining/profound, dark/hopeful, beautiful/ugly, etc. Se7en is my all-time favorite movie. A perfect depiction of three world views (idealism, cynicism, and isolationism) and their response to evil. So good!
#3: My friend said it best when he said THE TREE OF LIFE is “a movie about everything.” It contained some of the most visceral, personal, and microscopic scenes in any movie I have seen, yet documented the creation and eventual destruction of the universe. Is that a big enough scope for you? :-)
#4: ONE HOUR PHOTO is, in a sense, a horror film. It is absolutely terrifying, but it remains heartbreaking and deeply in touch with humanity. The film doesn’t let you compartmentalize the “good” and the “bad,” which I find refreshing. Robin Williams is SUPERB.
#5: Coppola apparently said that when he made APOCALYPSE NOW, he didn’t make a movie “about” Vietnam, it WAS Vietnam. This movie is modeled after “Heart of Darkness,” but stands apart from its literary heritage just fine. Some have said this movie/the book are about Man vs. Nature, but I say it’s about Man vs. Himself. Nature only facilitates the battle.
#6: Coppola’s daughter Sofia made this excellent film that depicts what it means to be a woman in authoritarian American suburbia. Prudishness becomes sexual, and youthfulness becomes death. Disturbing, this film was made from Jefferey Eugenides’ novel THE VIRGIN SUICIDES.
#7: ADAPTATION is Kaufmann’s crowning achievement. It makes fun of itself even while it succeeds. So brilliant. I found it very dark the first time I saw it, but laughed the whole way through the second time. That’s a good sign, right?
#8-10: WERNER HERZOG is quite possibly the greatest storyteller our generation will live to see. He seamlessly connects the ordinary and the profound, sometimes puzzlingly so. His insight into the human psyche is admirable, and his accent is so awesome that I practice my Werner imitation in the shower sometimes. I still can’t get it right!
#11: Just finished this one today…super awesome movie. BLACK NARCISSUS was all shot in studio and back-alleys, although you’d never guess because of the scope of the Himalayan setting. You’ll love this one.
#12: PATHS OF GLORY is an old Kubrick “war film” (whatever that means), and is one of my favorites. It portrays the politics and insanity of war, defines true heroism, questions the validity of war, and (perhaps most amazingly) never once portrays the German enemy. The only German we see is actually Kubrick’s wife who sings at the end. Fascinating.
#13: I saw DECEPTION for the first time on TCM at my Grandma’s, and I’ve been trying to find a copy since. Great filming, an excellent soundtrack, and superb acting make this one a must-see. A brilliant depiction of how obsession, power, sexuality, art, and violence intersect. Hellonius is one of my all-time favorite characters: he still puzzles me.
#14: CITIZEN KANE might be cliche, but it’s earned that reputation for good reason. Don’t get caught up in all the politics and power of the movie. Appreciate the camera work and soak in what it says about what people REALLY want. A Freudian classic, if you ask me!
#15-16: I know you appreciate SAM MENDES because of AMERICAN BEAUTY, but these are must-sees as well. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is quite possibly the most violent film I’ve ever seen, even though no one is directly killed! Mendes, amazingly, is primarily a man of the theatre. But he pulls off some of the most imagistically stunning moments in film, as is evidenced by the closing bit of ROAD TO PERDITION.
#17-18: These are two documentaries that are some of my favorites. KING OF KONG plays out like a epic of Homer, but is about a world record score for an arcade game. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON is a brilliant portrayal of the interplay between creativity, mental illness, and relationships. Fascinating, truly.
#19: ORDINARY PEOPLE is Redford’s directorial premiere, and is simply stunning. I have yet to see a better depiction of grief, depression, guilt, and family. Mary Tyler Moore IS the terrifying mother archetype in this movie.
#20: Please tell me you’ve seen PLEASANTVILLE? Great filmmaking all around, and does an amazing job of commenting on suburbia, idealism, the media, sexuality, race, rebellion, and the status quo. You’ll LOVE this one in spite of Tobey Maguire.
#21: SAFE is probably the most terrifying movie I’ve ever seen, but in a subtle way. A woman with 20th century syndrome (she’s allergic to processed household chemicals) seeks treatment any way she can. While dark, creepy, and almost alien in quality, it’s a fascinating commentary on the prison of domesticity, the quackery of self-help, and the destructive nature of suburbia.
#22: THE HOURS has to be one of the greatest films of all time. So personal. so timeless, and undeniably profound. The soundtrack is also excellent.
#23: I’m not even sure what to say about JESSE JAMES. This is by far Brad Pitt’s greatest role, and the film does such an excellent job exploring what makes a villain/hero, what constitutes fame/success, and how we come to hate the things we love.
#24: COLD MOUNTAIN may seem like an odd choice, but this movie stuck with me long after I watched it.
#25: Please, forget the hype. All the controversy distracted everyone from seeing the true success of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. This movie is excellent in every way, and should be appreciated as a piece of artwork instead of a political/religious statement. Gibson relentlessly humanized an event that is often elevated out of the realm of human understanding and experience. Bravo, despite your insanity, Mel!Read less