Just Because: My 10 Favorite Movies!

4 Jul

I grew up religeously listening to Casey Kasum’s Americna top 40 every weekend so I am sort of addicted to countdowns. Here is the first of what i’m sure will be something I do semi regularily. As is tradition we will start with number 10…

10. Magnolia (1999) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0175880/

A few themes will reoccur in my list of films and this has a big one; forgiveness. Its a movie about a bunch of people who face lonileness, loss of dreams and despair. We see their pain and the way in which they connect with each other through this pain. Much is made about the start of the film and an event later which seem to be about randomness but it misses the point of the movie which is about connections and compassion for each other. William Macy is a particular stand out as a child quiz star who’s life has fallen apart since those younger days.

There is a humanity in Paul Thomas Anderson’s films that resounds deeply in me and this is one of his best. I highly recommend it and any of his other work.

9. High Fidelity (2000) Dir Stephen Frears http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0146882/

John Cusack may be my favorite actor. I will admit to having more than a small crush on him as well. This may be his strongest performance as a used record store owner who is recounting his past breakups and revisiting them. It is essentially a movie about growing up.  We can see th e ways in which Cusack is charming but also a jerk, through his self exploration he also begins to see he is a jerk and doesn’t like this about himself. He takes so much around him for granted and he comes to learn that there is more to everyone he knows and starts to grow up in the process. It is not all simple solutions but we see someone coming to grow as a person and it is both encouraging and highly entertaining to watch.  Don’t want to make it sound too somber because it also a very funny film with probably Jack Black’s funniest on screen moments.

8. A Very British Coup (1988) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094576/

This was originally a BBC mini series brought over to PBS as a movie. I am a bit of a political junkie and this one hooked me immediately. It is the story of a radical Labour MP who becomes Prime Minister. He has many dangerous ideas, nuclear disarmament, US bases off British soil, ethical investment and a host of ideas that upset the powers that be. He is subjected to a campaign by the intelligence agencies, media and civil service to drive him from power. He is aware this is coming and it becomes a very high stakes game for the future of the UK. Much political intrigue doesn’t resonate very true to me but this seemed plausable enough that I found it very gripping. Some of the actual incidents in the movie are now dated because of the politics of the time but I still think its very relevant, particularily the Rupert Murdoch news baron protrayed in the film.

7. Field of Dreams (1989) Dir Phil Alden Robinson http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097351/

This movie combines several of my great passions, baseball, sentimentalism and forgiveness.  Most of you have probably heard of the movie but if you havent its about an Iowa corn farmer who hears voices telling him to build a baseball field in the middle of his farm. He follows this advice and begins an odyssey to find redemption and forgiveness for himself and others. It is an extremely sentamental movie and it was one I will always remember sharing with my father. If you can put aside being jaded for a moment and let the love and forgiveness just wash over you I guarentee you will find it worth the experience.

6. Citizen Kane (1941) Dir Orson Wells http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033467/

Frequently referred to as the greatest movie of all time but I won’t enter into that debate. I do think it is a brilliant movie. Others have wrote about the new film techiniques and the brilliant acting and directing but I want to focus on the story. The story begins with the death of a famous newspaper magnet and aspiring politician Charles Foster Kane; and a newperson trying to tell his story by finding out the meaning of his last word “rosebud”. The newsman interviews the people in his life to understand Kane. It is fascinating to see a life story told from the people around a person instead of from the person himself. We see differant events told in differant lights based on the feelings of the person telling the tale. In between though we can get a very good picture of Kane himself, a man who was obsessed with a control that always eluded him. A very unhappy man who hurt many around him.

If you can get the version of this movie which includes the documentary “the Battle Over Citizen Cane” which documents attempts by William Randolph Heart to stop the movie (essentially based on him) from being made. It is a fascinating watch on its own and a great companion to the movie.

5. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Dir Victor Fleming http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032138/

What can I say about this? Fantastic music, stunning visuals, vivid technocolor and a tale that enthralled me as a child. I have seen this movie approx. 75 times and it never bores me. I won’t try to go into deep meaning about why because its a part of me from childhood I will never lose but couldn’t easily explain.

4. Boogie Nights (1997) Dir Paul Thomas Anderson http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118749/

My second Anderson film in my top ten is a story about a group of people working in the pornographic film industry of the 1970s. I very much considered making this movie higher on the list. It never judges the characters, it understands its characters, it even respects its characters. We learn about these people and we care about these people as it covers a decade or so of time. The music in the movie is perfect and the acting is superb. It is another extremely humanising movie from Mr Anderson and it ends on perhaps the best last line of any movie I have ever seen 🙂

3. Primary Colors (1998) Dir Mike Nichols http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119942/

I was very worried when my friend draged me to see this movie. I assumed it was going to be an anti Bill Clinton attack from the right or at best a simple minded political expose. It was so much more than this. I have been a political activist since I was very young and even worked for a time as a paid employee of a canadian political party. This movie gets it right. Many people go into politics with the best of intentions, they want to change things for the better, and they want to make a differance. Unfortuantely for these people the system breaks them down, so many want power at any cost and are really good at convincing you to overlook or let slide the little things till you realize somewhere along the line you have lost everything you believe in. It is a movie about how you can, with good intentions and intelligence, still sell your principles by inches. It resonated deeply for me and it expresses better than I ever could how you can’t compromise important principles for the team or for the hope of better down the road or even for the lesser of evils. In the end nothing is ever accomplished.

2. Amadeus (1984) Dir Milos Forman http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086879/

A movie about obsession set to the brilliant music and backdrop of Mozart’s Vienna. The story is told by rival of Mozart’s now in asylum having suffered a breakdown because he claims to have kill Mozart. He takes us through how someone’s love of something and urge to create could be lost in jealousy and obsession. Seeing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and recognizing his brilliance but viewing him as immature and uncaring about his work Sallieri sets out to destroy him for having a gift that no matter how much he wants it Sallieri can never have. The visuals are amazing and the acting is perhaps the best from top to bottom of a cast I have ever seen. Small moments and single words can make you wince and feel what each of these characters feel.

As a small note its hard to get to watch the original cut of the movie but if you can I recommend it. The directors cut adds footage that makes the character murky and detracts more than adds to the film. Even the directors cut is still an amazing film but I do think the original is better if you can find it.

1. Walt Dinsey’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116583/

Yes a Walt Diney version of a classic novel is my favorite film. Plese try to take this movie at face value and put aside your preconceptions of either disney or how this movie should be told because the movie stand very tall on its own merits. The music is stunning and epic; Alen Menken (an amazing composer) and Stephen Schwartz combine to give us songs that have deep meaning and touch on obsession, self doubt, poverty, prejudice and more. The movie takes on themes that are very adult for a disnet movie and has extremely dark images. One scene even has a major “religeous” figure singing about lust in one of the darkest scenes I have ever seen in a disney film. The animation is also absolutely first rate as one would expect of a disney movie of this period. The animators went to notre dame cathedral to make sure they got the visuals right and did a brilliant job. The voice work is top notch and conveys the depth of the characters and story. It has a minimum of the cutesy disney secens and even undermines the most typical of these types of scenes with some very dark humor. (Side note: Tom Hulce voices the hunchback and he played Mozart in Amadeus so he appears in my two favorite movies)

I really can’t recommend this enough. I was skeptical myself but I was hooked and enthralled within the first 5 minutes of the movie. I could watch it again and again for its visuals, its music and its depth of story.

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