I made my first movie when I was in 7th grade and at the time I knew very little about film as a craft and art form. Making movies made me pay attention to film as an art, whereas I see a lot of fellow filmmakers did a lot of cinema studying before ever touching a camera. I’m someone who learns as I go in hopes of expertly honing my craft by the time I graduate film school. Below are some my most treasured films and ones that really pushed me to the place I am at now.
1.) Eternal Sunshine (2004) I fell in love with this film like many did mainly because the way Michel Gondry executed Charlie Kaufman’s brilliant script. First of all I automatically admire a director who can really embrace a Kaufman script because they are so intricate and abstract. Gondry’s devotion to using in camera effects makes this movie stand above the rest. Is it the best movie of all time? Well, who’s to say. But it’s the movie that made me really see this medium as art and sheer brilliance to depict a fervent struggle to save love through a man’s subconscious. Just breathtaking.
2.) The Science of Sleep (2006) So why am I listing another Gondry movie that most would say is far inferior to Sunshine? Well I saw Science of Sleep before Sunshine actually and I remember walking out of the Esquire with my socks knocked off. I had never seen something quite like it before and I loved Gondry’s use of stop animation (reminded my of Burton’s early works) and just the overall study of dreams/sleep in a magically unique way. It really made me reconsider the way I made films. Ingenious.
3.) Sideways (2004) What can I say, 2004 was a good year. So Sideways was the first Alexander Payne movie I saw (I grew to really like About Schmidt and Election as well). So this was a movie that I found genius in character study and the contrast of old friends and future goals in life. Pitching a movie about a clinically depressed failed novelist and his horndog soon to be married best friend going to wine country for the weekend sounds like a great comedy, what can I say. Mixed with perfect paced editing, understated but beautiful cinematography, terrific performances and a very talented, under rated director you get my #3.
4.) Psycho (1960) Ok, yeah I am trite. But it’s a classic for a reason. All I really need to say is Hitchcock’s technique for building tension has yet to be surpassed to this day. The last shot of Norman Bates in that movie will forever stay with me. This is how you make a movie, folks.
5.) Requiem for a Dream (2000) So following Darren’s “Pi” came this very disturbing film that literally caused me to lose sleep when I first saw it. It was the film I saw use the “snori cam” which is a rig mounted to the actor. The shot of Connelly going down the hospital with the stretcher with that rig was pure chilling. Aronofsky’s use of amazing extreme close-ups, split screens, wicked fast cuts, and brilliant sound design made this film a cinematic masterpiece that stays with you. Beyond potent.
6.) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) “Holy crap, that was the best ending I have ever seen!” I exclaimed when the credits rolled on my first viewing. I mean Chief smothers his best friend to put him in a better place, picks up the impossible sink, hurls it out the window and escapes. Spot on writing, unbelievable performances from the ENTIRE cast (Billy Bobbit, great young actor)! This is cinema at it’s best to show the raw emotion of being unhinged. It’s a classic for a very good reason, folks.
7.) The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) Wait, you’re not picking Tim Robbin’s other masterpiece from that year?? Well, guys the Coen bros’ mainly overlooked film took it. Roger Deakins has a gorgeous, classic style he brings with his patented feet tracking shots to his fast push-ins that all lend to pure whimsy. This movie made me think twice about the invention of the hula hoop and really made me pay some serious attention to Deakins. (FYI Barton Fink is my favorite Coen bros movie but we are talking about sheer film inspiration here).
Without these seven films I would not be the same filmmaker I am today with visuals, pacing, storytelling, etc. These may not be my very favorite all time movies but they shaped my proverbial cinematic toolbox.Read less