Saturday, September 17, 2005

 

My Top Five Favorite Films

These are films that made a significant impact on me when I first saw them, they resonated with me, stuck with me long after, and made me want to watch them again and again. These are films that I could watch anytime, and many, many times over. They entertain, enlighten and educate me about the world, about people and about relationships. Here they are in ascending order:

5- Say Anything: Perhaps this film, directed by Cameron Crowe and starring John Cusack and Ione Skye, still occupies my top five because of where I was in my life when I first saw it. At the time, it cut through the clutter of the typical John Hughes teenage romantic comedies of the day and gave audiences "real" teenagers, dealing with the tough issues of growing up and falling in love; of family loyalties versus branching out on your own. Skye's character is beautiful, intelligent and financially well off, yet she's still vulnerable. Cusack, in one of his best performances ever, embodies everyman/boy at that age, with all the doubts and angst and passion that drive teenage love. My two favorite scenes: Just after Cusack and Skye make love for the first time in the back seat of a car, he's shaking and she asks "Are you cold?" "No," he replies, "I'm happy." And, when things breakdown between them, the bold step he takes of standing outside her window, his boombox high held above his head, and Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" spilling out. I can't think of many more romantic moments in all of cinema history.

4- Groundhog Day: This film took me by complete surprise when I first saw it. With Bill Murray starring and Harold Ramis directing I expected a pretty silly comedy, but what they delivered left me speechless. There were laughs in the film, plenty of them, but at its heart it's not a comedy. It's a morality play. Murray is a cranky weatherman sent to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities with his beautiful, new producer (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman (Cris Elliot). When an unexpected blizzard strands them in this small town, Murray's character is forced to relive this same day over and over and over again. At first, he uses it to his gain (money, sex, power), then it brings him to desperation (but he discovers he can't kill himself no matter how hard he tries), then despair, as he realizes no matter how hard he tries he can't save everyone around him either (a lonely old man gains Murray's compassion, but no matter how many different ways he attempts it, he can't save this man's life). Slowly, as he observes himself and the life around him, he starts to grow, his soul begins to heal, he becomes more aware, enlighten of his role in life and he realizes the worth of this life, of friendship, of community and of love. Like Murray's character, I could relive this film over and over and over again.

3- The Godfather: The film has rightly taken it's place in American folklore. A prime example of a film improving on the source material. Legendary gambles that paid off in huge dividends. The most unlikely cast, combining to form the most perfect union. A tale of family above all else. It gave us some of the greatest lines ever recorded on film. If When Harry Met Sally... teach us how to relate to those we love, this film teaches us how to deal with the rest of the world. Is it because I'm Italian? Is it because this film takes place in New York? Maybe, but I don't think so. It's compelling in ways films don't know how to be anymore. It just seems to be a work of love for director Francis Ford Coppola, his chance to record the greatness of his culture, even as he tells the tale of one of its greatest blemishes. He makes us care when these people are injured and has us understand the reasons behind their brutality. The scope, the finely tuned performances, the music and the dialogue. There's little chance of this film ever leaving my top five.

2- When Harry Met Sally...: Is love fated? Is there only one person you're meant to be with? Is there a point in a relationship when is simply too late to have sex? This magnificent film doesn't just address these questions, it paints a portrait of friends and relationships that you want to come back to again and again. (I have more than 40 times). It makes New York seem like the best place in the world to live. It uses American song standards to remind us of (often ironically) of what's going on inside the heads of these characters. The actors ad lib and it seems as if they haven't missed a beat because, no film has ever seemed so real in its depiction of the things people say. More than anything, this film celebrates conversation, with friends, with lovers and with a friend that may one day become your lover. Watch it alone. Then watch it with a friend. Then watch it with a lover. Then watch it alone again.

1- It's a Wonderful Life: Some people say it's too sappy. Then those people can call me sappy, because I treasure this film above all others. When a man, on Christmas Eve, has given up and is about to kill himself, all those around him, all those whose lives he thinks he's made worse, turn to Heaven and plead for help. This man is too important to them to die. He's affected their lives positively is so many little ways, each day, these ways are invisible. He certainly can't see them. To him, his life is a failure. He didn't do any of the things he hoped he would do in his life. And now, midway through his life, because of the jealousy of a rival, he is brought to his knees. He's given up. But the world around him hasn't given up (largely in part because of him). An angel appears. At first, he confesses to the angel that he feels he would be better off dead, then he recants "Maybe you're right. Maybe it would be better if I had never been born." On this snowy Christmas Eve, at the very end of his rope, he gets his wish, and is able to witness what life would be like for his friends and family if he had never been born. And suddenly, all those invisible little things that he did right all his life begin to matter. His very existence matters. Films have tried for years to recapture this message, but none have ever met the power with which this masterpiece from director Frank Capra and James Stewart is able to convey it. This is more than a Christmas movie, it's a movie about life and friends and community and relationships and the basic intrinsic worth of every single human life on the planet.

Are these some of your favorites too? If not, what are yours? Let me know.


Comments:
I like lists. Everybody does. And, I appreciate your listing of your "top five". Ok, let me think here. Here's my top 2..and others..

Taxi Driver
Apocalypse Now
--
Raging Bull, The Godfather I and II, Halloween, The Shining, Don't Look Back, 8 1/2, No Direction Home, Requiem for a Dream, Das Boot, The Pianist, Jaws...
 
My list...

5. Simon Birch-This movie shows us that no talent or ability is too small to be useful in the larger community and what true friendship is all about.

4. The Hurricane (spelled correctly! woo hoo!)-This movie proves that even in the face of insurmountable obstacles, love and compassion can find a way. It teaches that freedom (and confinement) are a state of mind.

3. About a Boy-This movie is funny! Laugh out loud funny. But it is the kind of laughter that happens when one recognizes himself/herself or their neighbor in the moment. This movie is about being far less than perfect and that that is perfectly o.k. It is about forming a community and being in relationship with others. The theme song could be "I get by with a little help from my friends."

2. Pulp Fiction- This doesn't fit my personality at all. I hate blood and violence but can see past that in this film. It is all about relationship and the interconnectedness of the characters. Not everyone that is bad is all bad. Not everyone that is good is all good.

1. My number one favorite movie of all time... Momento. This is the most creative movie I have ever seen in terms of it's style. Not to mention its' underlying psychobabble. Do we choose are reality or does reality choose us?
 
Hmmm, may not agree with the list--however It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie of all time!!! Jimmy Stewart is the best actor for really "feeling" his roles; in my opinion.

Deanna
 
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