I’m not good with lists. Too moody. Too fickle. But because I was asked, here’s a few of my favourite films, in no particular order.
(Note: for this particular list, I’ve defined ‘favourite’ as ‘something I can watch again & again & again’, not as ‘best made’ or ‘most insightful/compelling/thought-provoking/personally significant’ — all criteria I might use at some other time to describe favourite — see? like I said: moody.)
So. An incomplete list of movies I can watch again & again, off the top of my head, though no doubt I’ll think of others later:
Charade (Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant): romantic comedies have never been this classy & witty, before or since.
The Princess Bride: revenge, true love, evil villains, stoic good guys, hope, despair, comedy, sadness, sword fights, sparkling dialogue, and rodents of unusual size. Beautiful.
Before Sunset: in contemplating this list, I’ve largely left off movies I’ve loved recently because they haven’t yet endured the ‘repeated watching’ test. However, Before Sunset I saw three times in two weeks just this month. I love that film. It sums up everything I feel about the ordinariness and, conversely, the possibility of life.
Grosse Point Blanke: ‘you can never go home, but you can always shop there’. Hee hee hee, such a sharp, funny, adorable film.
Dead Poets Society: this film still fills me with childlike yearning to *be*, just be, just live free & express self, just live.
The Long Kiss Goodnight: ok, it gets a bit OTT, but I love Geena Davis in this film, especially that transformation scene in the water. Feel the power.
The Bourne Identity: energetic, classy. I love the sense of anticipation & discovery in a good amnesia story, & I love the way Jason Bourne gets calmer & cooler when the action heats up.
The Thing: the Carpenter version, I love the eerie isolation & the indeterminate threat. And I love Kurt Russell’s hair. In fact, I just love Kurt Russell.
Escape from New York: did I mention I love Kurt Russell? That brooding, snarling, prowling anti-hero. No, I didn’t love Escape from LA, no, I don’t want to talk about it (though Kurt Russell still looks fantastic).
Groundhog Day: you know, I reckon a lot of *my* days are repeats of the day before. Call me crazy. I love Murray’s exploration of his possibilities — especially the day he sits down & eats everything on the menu. I would so do that. I would do that first.
Breakfast at Tiffanys: the party scene. Even just the party scene. Hepburn’s charming & gorgeous, of course, but believable as a high class whore? Eh. Not important.
Fight Club: you want me to re-prioritise my action items? Plus, you know, it’s not so impossible to believe in the concept of a fridge full of condiments & no food. Not for me, anyhow. Smart film without being smug.
Sexy Beast: I can’t even explain why I’ve watched this film a dozen times. It’s powerful, ugly, & beautiful. It’s a little scary. Ben Kingsley is amazing, & awful.
La Reine Margot: brutal & beautiful, & I’m beginning to see a pattern to the films I like.
Brotherhood of the Wolf: And here’s another pattern — films that are gorgeous but probably don’t make a whole lotta sense. Man, the beginning of this film is fantastic. The ending is, well, not my favourite thing in the world, but some people love it. Check out the extended fight scene on the DVD, it’s superb.
Matrix: the first one. Just the first one.
Alien: in terms of scary films, this film has the lot. Robert McKee used it as an exemplar of an exceptional horror film in his lecture on the topic last year. (Yeah, a lot of people disagree with McKee’s supposedly prescriptive approach, but I think they’ve got it wrong — strictly my opinion).
Flying High: oh, c’mon, it’s funny!
A Fistful of Dollars: the original outsider, the man with no name, the drifter with the ambiguous moral code. And that’s just Eastwood’s character.
To be honest, I can watch almost all the Clint Eastwood films again & again (well, not the later Dirty Harry films from the eighties, or anything where he let Sondra Locke act). Same goes for Audrey Hepburn, and Alfred Hitchcock, now I think about it. Except for The Birds. I never want to see The Birds again.
Particularly, I would add to this list a bunch of movies that are just darn good, & I’ve watched them a million times, & they probably need no explanation: North by Northwest, Suspicion, Rear Window, Some Like It Hot, How to Steal a Million, Funny Face, My Fair Lady, The Lady and the Tramp, The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, A Few Good Men, Run Lola Run, Good Will Hunting, whichever Elvis movie it is where he’s the poolboy, oh, OK, some of the racing car driver ones as well, but not Flaming Star or the one where Angela Lansbury is his mother.
And already I’m contemplating a list of Movies I Never, Ever Want to See Again.
OK, that’s all I can think of right now. Once upon a time I would’ve put Star Wars & Donnie Darko on a list of favourites, but director’s cuts & remakes have dampened my enthusiasm. Art is often best left with a little bit left over, unexpressed. Or:
The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes — ah, that is where the art resides. -Artur Schnabel, pianist (1882-1951)