The following list is ten movies that ‘define me.’ These are movies that changed the way I looked at cinema, and helped to craft my perspective on film in general. These are not necessarily my Top Ten favourite films, but one or two from that ten will be present.
In no particular order:
There Will Be Blood
From the moment I first saw Daniel Day-Lewis in In The Name of the Father, I knew I was looking at one talented man. Then I saw this movie, and I was blown away. This is one of the few movies that actually caused my jaw to drop at its aching perfectness. A masterpiece.
Proclaimed repetitively the best movie of all time, Citizen Kane may not be that, but it is breathtaking in its painfully honest portrayal of greed and heartlessness, the carelessness and ignorance of the human soul. It was the first film ever to touch upon issues such as this in the manner which it did, and coming from a twenty-something man, that was something rare indeed.
A Serious Man
Admittedly not my favourite Coen brothers movie, A Serious Man is nevertheless a vitally important reason why they are so great. Though I’m not a Jew, this movie spoke to my inner emotions and frustrations. I think of myself as a very different man to Larry Gopnik, though his distraught plight and repressed dislike of his own selfish situation is brutally honest and without mercy.
Dancer in the Dark
From its unique opening of various collaborations of beautiful art pieces as a fantastic score plays in the opening, to the depressing ending which I’m not ashamed to say is the ONLY film ending that has ever made me cry, Lars von Trier’s dogme-influenced musical masterpiece is a unique event that manages to capture something more than a camera could convey.
You probably know that this is my favourite film of all time. It’s an achingly hard decision to make, but all things considered, I’ve NEVER felt the way I felt while watching this movie. Every single tiny aspect of the way it was made was life-changing for me, and helped to confirm the suspicion that I was destined to watch and love movies.
A lot of movies have changed the way I look at films, but Persona changed the way I looked at “cinema.” There is a difference. Bergman reminds us we’re watching a film, and the film itself features some stunning acting and breathtaking cinematography, all thanks to Bergman, Sven Nykvist, Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson, as well as everyone else involved. No one had the brains of Bergman, and it’s due to his creative vision that films are made like they are today.
Eyes Wide Shut
An often ignored and hated Kubrick film, Eyes Wide Shut is actually a feast for the senses, and contains important messages about society, living, marriage, jealousy, hatred and discovery. Whether its Nicole Kidman’s brilliant (no, fantastic) adulterous monologue or Gyorgy Ligeti’s creepy piano theme whose notes play with a striking tune like a slap in the face, this slow-paced masterpiece which seems to go nowhere is actually a film to be re-examined and thought about.
Lynch’s most famous and probably his best film, this strangely scary and atmospherically surreal 150-minute masterwork is a strange, puzzling riddle with disturbing thematic echoes of the heartless mouth of Hollywood, rejection, sexuality and emotion. It’s a real ride.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Often mistakenly filed away as ‘long’ and ‘boring,’ Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi is in reality a beautiful analysis of human evolution, the creation and existence of life, and possibilities for the daunting spectre of the future, as well as alien existence and extraterrestrial intelligence. Embrace your inner Star Child.
Paths of Glory
If I had to pick a war movie that ‘defined me,’ I would scan through all the possibilites, but they all lead to Paths of Glory. It is a moving, determined and no holds barred awesomely truthful analysis of war and the tumultuous toll it has on its survivors, as well as the people who watch and run it all. Very powerful.
There you go. Ten Movies that Define Me. Some interesting picks there, I’m sure you’re thinking. Please, leave a comment with your thoughts and tell me what your ‘defining’ movies are.
Thanks for reading.
Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood:
They’re three great–no, fantastic movies from legendary director Paul Thomas Anderson. The films are epic mosaics of extraordinary colour and vision and they present amazing and enthralling tales. They’re all among my twenty favourite films, and this makes it even more difficult to pick the best one. An almost impossible task. But one I will attempt.
I’m not shy to admit that my personal favourite is Magnolia, but one of the other two follows very closely behind, and the third is an ever-lingering shadow trying to catch up. Just because it’s my favourite, does that mean it’s the best? Not necessarily. One of the others could be better. Let’s examine them, one by one, in chronological order, and see if we can figure it out.
Boogie Nights (1997)
This was P.T. Anderson’s second film, after the often-neglected Sydney (1996). It has a great ensemble cast of colourful characters, whose lives are all affected by involvement in the pornography industry. The cast is led by Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg), a young nightclub dishwasher who is discovered by porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds, the epitome of still got it) and propels to stardom through the films in which he ‘stars.’ He believes he is a big bright shining star, and along with his amateur kung-fu moves and a naive determination attempts to make it big. Anderson directs with grace, showing us beautiful tracking shots and a stunningly well-picked and suitable soundtrack. He recreates the 70s and 80s with the skill of experience, making a more realistic vision than we ever could’ve hoped for. Excellent.
Unashamedly my personal favourite, Anderson’s most sweeping, ensemble-casted film is ripe with emotion and deep, deep scars of humanity. The whole cast manage to give Academy Award-worthy performances, in my opinion. Anderson tells a story of cancer and cruelty, and the lasting effect such disasters have on the human mind and soul. Almost all the characters are hurt and feel alone, and many regret their past choices. The film’s screenplay is one of the most well-written pieces of the nineties, right up there with Pulp Fiction, a rather similar film. But Pulp never had the emotion and honesty of Magnolia. There was far less truth in Pulp, and it was more focused on the comic side of humanity, with a helpful splatter of violence. Magnolia has a unique knowledge of coincidence and chance, as well as ripping acting performances and a decent spoonful of heartfelt monologues. The coincidence theme is original and well-done, and helps to provide a more unique view of life in the San Fernando Valley and… life in general. Never have I felt the way I felt while watching Magnolia. Fantastic.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Now the real contest begins. I’ve plead my case for Magnolia, but There Will Be Blood is a close runner-up in my favourites. But is it generally a better film? Let’s see… The story is an honest one with nice factual anecdotes and a vital attention paid to detail. The perfect Daniel Day-Lewis delivers his career-best performance as oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, who lacks but two emotions: greed and hate. By the sweeping, stunning ending, the greed emotion has been overcome by the hate, which seeps through his skin and explodes out of his body in fits of emotional, frightening rage. In Plainview’s words, “I look at people and see nothing worth liking.” His relationships with people are all mostly fake, and he lacks any real respect or love for his son, whom he cruelly abandons. There Will Be Blood pulls no punches, and is painful in its truthfulness. The cinematography earned an Oscar, and with good reason. The beautifully recreated early 20th century is punctuated with a sweeping camera which makes for enthralling, amazing viewing. The soundtrack is also worth noting. As usual, Anderson picks music which perfectly matches the mood and atmosphere and provides a notable addition to an awesome image. Spectacular.
So there you have it. Three quick reviews of three long, beautiful films. So which is the best? While Magnolia is my favourite, I’m going to have to go with There Will Be Blood. Every aspect of this film was perfect, and its cruel defeat at the Oscars by the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men was a painful sight to see. The true fact is that TWBB is a cinematic success, whatever way you look at it, and is a true masterpiece which tells, brutally, the true attitude and atmosphere of a greedy, sinful era.
Anywho, those’re my thoughts… What’s yours? Leave a comment and let me know.
Thanks for reading.
Yes. Gasp you may, disagree you are welcome to do. We all have movie preferences, favourites, dislikes and opinions. But after hours and days of examining my favourite movies, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no movie on the planet I enjoy watching more than Magnolia. I actually have a Top 50 favourite films list which eventually I will post to the site with reasons, but the only thing I’m sure of at the moment is that Magnolia is my favourite. Here are 50 reasons:
1: This guy:
His movies are among the best ever made. Magnolia just manages to beat There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights, which are both high up on my Top 50.
2: Constantly wondering what Frank T.J. Mackey’s middle initials stand for.
3: DON’T YOU CALL ME LADY!!!
4: Jon Brion’s terrific, pacing score.
5: Strong, strong stuff here, boy.
6: Seeing all my good friends from Boogie Nights, plus Tom Cruise and Jason Robards, who are cool too.
7: These strange things happen all the time.
8: It’s not what you hope for, it’s not what you wish for, it’s what you TAKE!
9: The shape made by a coil of rope on the rooftop before Sydney Barringer commits suicide.
10: The funky music William H. Macy plays on his car stereo.
11: There’s no 13″ penises in this movie, yay!
12: Everyone singing along to Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up”.
13: 82% chance of rain.
14: No such film has evoked such anger when it was denied all three Oscars for which it was nominated.
15: The documentary “That Moment”
16: Respect the cock and tame the cunt.
17: John C. Reilly shining his flashlight into the camera.
18: Tom Cruise pronouncing the name Jeff as “Joff”
19: Do you still want the bread, water and peanut butter?
20: Jason Robards’s monologue, which was not long and boring but moving, powerful and awesome.
21: The casually obvious nods to “Short Cuts” and Robert Altman in general.
22: The usage of Supertramp in a brilliant shot just after William H. Macy enters the bar.
23: It’s not very safe for you here.
24: The deleted scene which was a part of Mackey’s seminar (“Form a Tragedy.”)
25: The extension of a three minute version of Aimee Mann’s “One” into about six, seven or eight minutes.
26: The subtle and unnoticeable usage of the words “sperm acceptode.”
27: John C. Reilly talking to himself in the police car.
28: Melora Walters making horrible coffee and demonstrating a strange physical ability with a long and difficult name and downsizing it to the simple and awkwardly unfunny “clicking jaw.”
29: John C. Reilly making very awkward conversation with Walters in an earlier scene.
30: The fact that the line “Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing me again” was borrowed from an Aimee Mann song, the superawesome “Deathly.”
31: John C. Reilly mooning the camera in an outtake.
32: Philip Seymour Hoffman in his first role as an actually likeable character (well, when you compare him to the disturbing, strange and unattractive character he played in Happiness)
33: Paul Thomas Anderson’s obvious nod to his favourite movie (and one of my favourites) Network in Stanley’s excellent meltdown scene… speaking of which….
34: What Do Kids Know?
35: Go to the card. Go to the fucking card.
36: Exodus 8:2
37: JCR’s gun falling from the sky.
38: PTA’s skilful nod to Bertolluci’s Last Tango in Paris
39: The heartbreaking meltdowns shared by so many characters.
41: The brilliant six minute prologue.
43: Marcy, don’t drag that couch any further!
44: It dares to be three hours long (any shorter would have seriously diminished its greatness).
45: Your host and my boss, Jimmy Gator.
46: Alfred Molina’s awesome cameo as William H. Macy’s boss Solomon Solomon (even though it’s got nothing on his performance in Boogie Nights.)
47: Get a calendar.
48: Stanley: You need to be nicer to me, Dad. Dad: Go to bed.
49: The tracking shot behind the set of What Do Kids Know.
50: The book says, “we may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”
Thanks for reading.