The rest of the list. I think I’ll go alphabetical.
Almost Famous – This movie is really sweet without being really cheesy. This was before Kate Hudson decided to make nothing but crap. Her Penny Lane is absolutely delightful and irresistible. I like that this movie was played JUST RIGHT on all accounts. I feel like it could have easily been silly or smutty or forgettable. And instead it’s an utterly charming coming of age story. It has a killer soundtrack that is pitch perfect (I hated that pun, but the only other phrase that came to mind was “hits all the right notes,” which was SOOO much worse!) and just makes you feel really good. It also contains the very memorable quote that is what I will ALWAYS think of when I see Philip Seymore Hoffman now, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with other people when we’re uncool.”
As Good as it Gets – There are SO many Jack Nicholson movies that deserve a spot on lists about movies. I’ve seen the classics, and I do really like them (except Easy Rider, I am not cool enough to get what’s so great about that movie.) But this is the one that I really love. I’m pretty sure this movie still holds the award for the most laughing out loud I’ve ever done in a theater. And it helps that it is such a nice memory because my dear, since-departed Grandma was laughing right next to me. This movie definitely has its flaws. But it’s so funny! And so well acted. And has some really poignant lines and scenes to go along with the laughs. This is an often-quoted one in my life. (ETA- runner up for funniest movie to me, is The Ref. I didn’t see it in a theater though.)
Black Hawk Down – Now, since I’ve seen Band of Brothers, all other war movies have been measured against it, and found to be lacking. But I’m not counting that one here because it’s a miniseries. And also, I saw Black Hawk Down before I saw BoB. With that caveat, this is my favorite “war” movie. I read the book too. Of all the movies I’ve seen that are representational of actual events, this is absolutely the truest to the reality. Right down to very much of the dialogue. We can know that, because there is so much actual documentation from the event. I love this movie because it does not try to be romantic about war; it does not try to make you feel any particular way; it just gives a very factual representation of the experiences of the soldiers involved in this terrible incident in Somalia. I think a major theme could be summed up in the line “It’s about the man next to you.” It did stir up some strong feelings, though. It is amazing to see the reality of our soldiers and their courage and abilities. I encourage you to read the review. It explains very well what I love about this movie. I was pleased to see that Ebert gave it all 4 stars. It’s not a movie that I really ever see paid its due respect.
Elizabeth – If you were to ask anyone who knows me what my favorite movie is, I’ll bet they’d tell you Elizabeth. I don’t know if it still holds up as my number one, but it did for a long time, and it’s definitely still top 10. When I saw this in the theater when I was about 15, I didn’t love it. I was bored, and confused, and historical dramas are SOO not my thing, especially this particular era (I don’t care for Shakespeare either, sue me.) But I could tell that there was something great there. That the failure to love it was on MY part. So I rented it again a bit later, and fell in LOVE. In LOVE! It’s very complex and VERY dramatic. It tells a human story of an almost mythic figure. And Geoffrey Rush’s Walsingham (Elizabeth’s trusted advisor) is INCREDIBLE! Plus, there are not enough adjectives in this world to accurately give enough credit to the fabulousness that is Cate Blanchett. I found her before the rest of y’all! (Unless you beat me by loving Oscar and Lucinda back when it first came out.) Daniel Craig’s in it, too. So to everyone else he is James Bond, but to me, he’s always been “the priest from Elizabeth.”
Inglourious Basterds – This movie is sometimes gory and disturbing and even a little slow, but what really puts it in my “love” list, is it is SO FLIPPIN FUNNY! But not in a stupid comedy way. I’m not a huge Tarantino fan, but he NAILED this one. It is so stylish and cool. And really funny. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but once we got to the part where Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine tells his troops “we ain’t in the prisoner takin bidness, we’re in the Nazi killin’ bidness. And cousin, bidness is a-boomin’!” I was delighted and HOOKED. The roles were INCREDIBLY well-cast. And I know a lot of folks are down on Brad Pitt, but he is AWESOME in this. The first time I watched it, I spent a lot of the time wondering when Brad Pitt would be back on. I think this one isn’t for everyone. It’s a love it or hate it kind of movie. Some people I know are put off by it. I LOOOOVE it! Stylish and fun is how I’d sum it up. And I could quote the funny lines all. damn. day. But you have to actually SEE how well played those lines are. Interestingly, when we went to see this it’s because dinner ran too late for us to see District 9. THANK GOD!!!! Because THAT piece of garbage would be very near the top of my Most Hated Movies list. And I without a doubt think Basterds is the best movie I’ve seen in a few years.
It’s a Wonderful Life – Whoa, big leap from a crazy Tarantino movie to a heartwarming Jimmy Stewart one. People tend to sort of roll their eyes when I mention this one. I think because it used to be on TV basically 4000 times a year. But did y’all every really sit down as a grownup and WATCH the whole thing start to finish? It’s so so so good. I think it offers the biggest sense of elation and love of humanity of any movie I can think of. George Bailey is sort of my hero. Just make sure your DVD isn’t scratched so that the movie cuts out before the last 5 minutes. Any of you who have actually seen the film will know how HORRIBLE that was when it happened to my husband. Who was so disillusioned that he never bothered to watch it in its entirety.
Jaws – I think Jaws is a masterpiece. I really think it’s one of the most flawless movies I’ve seen. It is just perfectly built. I mean, it inspired people forever after to be a little afraid of the water. I’m not gonna lie, even in a particularly big swimming pool, I can rarely go under the water without being haunted by scenes from Jaws. A big part of the genius of the movie is the way that they establish the terror and establish the shark without ever really showing much of anything. And yet they show you everything. Just not in the obvious, gratuitous way that most scary movies do. And the scene in the boat at night when they drink and compare scars and Quint gives that chilling monologue (awesome!) and they sing and the shark attacks? I think that is the best scene I’ve ever seen in any movie. It’s perfect. We came thisclose to naming our son Quint, that’s how much Brian and I love this one.
L.A. Confidential – I ALMOST didn’t include this one. There’s no question that it’s a great movie, but I don’t know if it still makes it to my LOVE list. But then I started thinking about the opening scene, and how I had that memorized still, and I was instantly transported back to being 15 and being obsessed with this movie, and I couldn’t leave it off the list. This was back before anyone knew who Russel Crowe was (I was in love with him as soon as I saw it.) But the whole cast is amazing. It’s very noir, and the plot has some twists and turns. It’s very well made and cool to watch. I’m not doing a good job of selling it, but this one actually is on Ebert’s Great Movies list, so there. Oh, one disclaimer, it is very very different from the book, for those who would care about that. A lot of people compare it to Chinatown, another good movie.
Pan’s Labyrinth – This is usually the one that comes out of my mouth when people ask what my favorite movie is. I feel like I should stop that, as I don’t watch it all the time like some of these others and perhaps I’m naming it because it makes me sound so cool to have this as my favorite movie. But I tend to describe it as dark and beautiful and terrible and totally magical. How could that not be a favorite? Warning: it’s subtitled. It’s Mexican made, by Guillermo Del Toro, and set in Spain. It is absolutely a thing of beauty and rich images. It is very layered. Telling a brutal story, and connecting that so well with fantasy, fantasy that you don’t know whether to be delighted or terrified by at times (and at other times, it is DEFINITELY the latter.) And, while some people don’t like what I call “choose your own adventure” style endings, where you’re not totally sure what the reality is supposed to be, this one is perfect.
Waitress – (There isn’t an Ebert review for this one.) I definitely can’t totally claim this as a Great Film; it isn’t terribly deep or profound. What it is is delightful. It’s the closest on this list to being a Chick Flick, but it’s better than the vast majority of those. It’s a little quirky. It’s not about a woman who needs a man to feel complete. And our protagonist isn’t perfect and wholesome. But it’s such a nice story, sometimes funny, sometimes touching. It makes my heart smile. And it will DEFINITELY make you want to live in a small town and bake pie.
So there you have it. Illustrated and everything. I tried to pick pictures that captured a scene or a theme that I really liked about the movies (except, they didn’t have ANY pictures of the scenes I love Elizabeth for.)
I totally wish I could sit and watch all these with you guys (and if you’re Matty, I pretty much have.) Just talking about them, and finding the pictures and reviews made me get all wistful and emotional thinking about how each one makes me feel. There are other movies that make me say “Oh my God, I LOOOOVE that movie!” (Zombieland, Crimson Tide, the Fifth Element and Quiz Show come to mind. I also have A Few Good Men memorized line for line in its entirety, I have watched it so much. Oh! And there’s an Irish movie called Once that I urge people to check out, and also it’s great soundtrack.) And I really do appreciate the Great Greats. But these are the ones I would call my favorites.
That was kind of fun! Maybe soon I’ll have to type out my favorite albums or something.
Now I just have to decide which one I want to watch tonight! (If I can stay awake. Not likely.)