People are always surprised to find out what my favorite films are, and they usually look at me a little strangely after making this discovery. You know that look that people give you in the South when they find out that you don’t go to church every Sunday? Yep–that’s the one. It never bothers me, though; only serves to make me even more proud to be an individual. People love what they love and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just happen to have a bit more eclectic taste than most people I know. My favorite decade for film is the 70s, but I still have so many movies to see before I can say for sure that these are my set-in-stone favorites. But for now, these are the movies that made me go “Wow!”
1. The Devil’s Rejects • directed by Rob Zombie
When guys find out this is my favorite movie, they say, “Cool!” When women find out, they say, for the most part, “Eww–you’re warped.” There are so many reasons why I love this film, and I would never finish this piece if I went into all of them. However, I will say that I believe this film is a fabulous homage to the vigilante movies of the 70s. It’s like Charles Bronson meets Charles Manson meets Charles Darwin; with maybe a little touch of Lucille Ball?
Rob Zombie is just pure genius to me as a director. He is a master of atmosphere, pop culture, and pure pathos–and boy does he know how to pick the right music for his films. That, my friends, is a very special skill and very few directors/producers know this or care. I’m not going to argue the fact that the actors in his films will never win Oscars, but they sure do bring their characters to life. Sure, there are some very sick scenes in this movie, but life can be very sick sometimes, and a lot of people do not have the balls to even attempt those scenes.
Make no mistake–this is a very violent and gruesome film, but as a work of art, it’s amazing. I wanted to post Ebert & Roeper’s review of the film from 2005, but embedding is not allowed, so I’m posting the trailer instead:
2. Pulp Fiction • directed by Quentin Tarantino
This one is pretty mainstream now, and even people who don’t like most Tarantino movies seem to like Pulp Fiction. This movie is fabulous, and at the time it was released, it was so revolutionary. I remember sitting at the theater, and when the opening credits began with that surf music and those retro graphics–I know my jaw hit the floor. I thought, “This movie already encompasses so many of my favorite things, and it’s only just begun.” The movie is loaded with fantastic performances, and much like Zombie, Tarantino is a master at using music to set the mood. Watching this for the first time was akin to riding your first roller coaster.
And I so wanted to be Uma in this one–so slinky, dark, and dangerous.
3. Dogville • directed by Lars von Trier
This is definitely a love-it or hate-it movie, and there is no in-between. I was curious about this film when it was at the local theater years ago, but I didn’t get to see it before they pulled it from the screens. I sat down one night with the DVD and I couldn’t pull myself away from it. The cast is stellar: Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, Stellan Skarsgard, Blair Brown, Jeremy Davies, Philip Baker Hall, Ben Gazzara, Chloe Sevigny, Patricia Clarkson, and the list goes on. It’s narrated by John Hurt, who provides a soothing voice that makes you feel like you’re in Whoville or at Pooh’s honey tree. But this film is not sweet, and it’s not soothing.
There are a number of reasons why this film is so badly hated by many: (1) it’s directed by von Trier, who is always described as being very “anti-American” ; (2) it’s follows the director’s Dogme 95 revolution, featuring limited props & sets, a low budget, and no special effects; and (3) it depicts the human race as being selflish, greedy, and disgusting . . . which we all know isn’t true . . . right?
I so love Nicole Kidman for doing this film. It’s very controversial and dark, but oh so telling. The film has no real sets or music or effects, but it’s very compelling.
4. Breaking the Waves • Lars von Trier
Yet another von Trier–this is the first film of his that I saw, and it was incredible. Again, not a happy film, but a depiction of real people, in real lives, and it’s just lovely. Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard are amazing. The film tells the story of Bess, a naive young woman who falls for oilman Jan. When Jan is on the oil rig, Bess prays to God to bring Jan back to her, and her prayer is answered–but not in the way that she had hoped. Jan comes home, but with a broken neck. Paralyzed, he can no longer make love to her, and he makes a special request of her that she’s not exactly sure she can handle.
WARNING: This movie trailer is definitely Rated R, for anyone squeamish about nudity or sexual situations. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
5. Requiem for a Dream • directed by Darren Aronofsky
Basically everyone I know who has seen this film hated it, mainly because “it’s the most depressing movie I’ve ever seen.” Well, yeah–it’s no walk in the park. But as far as film-making goes, it’s exceptional. And Ellen Burstyn’s Oscar-nominated performance is stunning. And Marlon Wayans is great, as well. This film is about addiction, despair, loneliness, desperation, and disappointment. But it’s so well-made and full of haunting images–it’s just beautiful. And it almost reminds me of some of the dreams I have when I have just started a new medication. Hmmm…
6. Magnolia • directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Seeing this film in the theater wasn’t quite as amazing as seeing Pulp Fiction for the first time, but this one did completely blow me away. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the trailer had drawn me in, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is an ensemble film with another stellar cast (Philip Baker Hall, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and William H. Macy–and even Tom Cruise). There’s no easy way to describe this film other than that everyone in it has a monkey on their back in some way, and it’s basically about love, pain, loss, and taking pleasure in the little joys in life, no matter how small. And surprisingly halfway into the film when the lead characters break into song, it works, and doesn’t throw me off in the least. I love, love, love this one.
Oh, and the Aimee Mann soundtrack is an A+.
7. Closer • directed by Mike Nichols
Yet another depressing one–imagine that. The acting in this film is definitely worth the price of admission. Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and Natalie Portman all really excel in this one. They fight, they love, they hate, they cheat . . . and you really can’t feel empathy with any of the characters. That’s a sign of good writing, good acting, and good direction in my book. It’s hard to decide who’s the sleaziest player in this film, but one thing’s for sure–they all deserve each other.
8. Amelie • directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet
This was another one of those “wow” films that I saw at the theater. I went to the theater, thrilled that it was playing in my area, and feeling like I was in on a little secret. When I got to the theater, I realized it wasn’t a little secret, because the theater was packed like a can of sardines. This was just a wonderful, beautiful, amazing little film, and it was the start of my girl-crush on Audrey Tautou.
Amelie has been sheltered from the real world by her father, who believes she has a heart condition. What experience she does have of the world fills her with wonder and surprise and major emotion. After performing a good deed, and seeing how happy the recipient was, she decides to devote her life to reuniting people and things.
Watching this film is almost like jumping down the rabbit hole into another world & you can’t help but to enjoy yourself.