I had the opportunity to go out for a delicious meal at a local burger joint with my parents before going to see the movie Food Inc. at an independent theater. On the car ride, the three of us, my mother, father, and I, had a brief discussion about what our top five movies would be:
Ma: The first Star Wars! Are you kidding me? Hands down. Seeing that at [some New York movie theater from the 70s on Astor Street] was phenomenal.
Dad: Yeah, the experience was great, but I’m just not into that sci-fi stuff.
Ma: [Looking at Dad like he has no idea what he’s talking about. Shakes her head.]
Dad: For me, Sophie’s Choice is definitely up there. Meryl Streep’s performance was riveting. [Dad never fails to love melodramatic tearjerkers and subtitled Holocaust movies]
Ma: [Nodding her head] That was a good one too. What about E.T.?
Dad: [Contemplating for a second before agreeing] E.T. was very good. American Movie would be up there for me. I met those guys at the Edinburgh airport.
Me: What about Jaws?
Ma and Dad in unison: Jaws! Yes. Jaws was amazing.
The conversation was short-lived but it made me wonder if I could even list my top ten movies of all time. Below I have attempted to do so in no particular order save the priority in which they popped into my head.
1. Cool Hand Luke
Hands down one of my all-time favorites. Paul Newman is one of the most gifted actors I’ve ever seen on the big screen. Quotes like, “what we have here, is a failure, to communicate,” and, “doing your job don’t make it right, boss,” resonate with me even as I now speak them silently towards the computer screen. I’m getting shivers just thinking about it. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid also strikes me as one of those genius films, just as The Sting and The Hustler do, but Luke takes the cake on this one. We miss you Paul.
2. Dawn of the Dead
Inspired by the zombie-master George Romero, the new remake of the classic cult film is sensationalism at its best. The scene where the guy is sniping zombies that look like movie stars is classic. The scene with the little baby zombie that is born in the back of the kid’s store is just brutally hilarious. The concept of an open mall free-for-all is a dream realized vicariously through the film. Zombie flicks don’t get enough credit for being cinematically stunning and sensationalistically (I made that word up) satiating. John Webster (remember the kid playing with mice in Shakespeare in Love? Yeah, that John Webster) would have loved it. I’m throwing out the props here for a genre that is way underappreciated by serious movie hounds. Props.
I mentioned E.T. and Jaws above in the prelude and both deserve their recognition, but Hook is one of those Spielberg masterpieces that gets shoved under the kid’s bed as childhood fluff along with old stuffed animals and small suits for the giveaway box. The sets for this movie are some of the best I’ve seen in film. It’s like Broadway came to the big screen and pulled out all the stops to achieve aesthetic brilliance. Dustin Hoffman was great. Robin Williams was great. Julia Roberts was great. Was there anything not great about this film; I think not. Watch it again and relive the magic that is childhood.
4. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
This is one of those that many will disagree with me on, but I’m comfortable with that. Wes Anderson is a flawless director with an eye for cinematography that is rivaled by few modern directors. The primary colors of this movie work in tandem with the mise-en-scène to create spine-tingling shots that tickle the senses. Bill Murray’s face at the end when deciding whether to blow up the Jaguar shark or not brings me to the verge of tears every time. The emotional complexity of Murray’s character would inspire Hemingway and captures the cruel honesty in the downfall and resurrection of a single man. Mark Mothersbaugh’s soundtrack and Seu Jorge’s Portuguese Bowie remakes also deserve recognition as they add a layer to this movie that serves as the cherry on the cake. I could write several masters theses on this movie, but I’ll leave it at that for now. We love you Wes and crew; never stop making films, ever.
I’m a sucker for Pixar, and Andrew Stanton and company delivered on this one. The lack of dialogue that people complain about just proves that a feature film can be carried by body language and action alone. Throw in some adult themes, spot-on social commentary, and gorgeous animation and you deserve a spot on my top ten. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton owned the pre-talkie era of film. Wall-E and Eva pay homage to these icons with their ability to capture our hearts without using the lexical diversity of a toddler. In a time when we can’t get away from sounds-we wake up and hear a news anchor on a television screen, go to class and hear a teacher preaching lecture, go to work and gossip with friends about other friends, drive home with music playing, fall asleep with the television on-I’m thinking a little silence is much deserved.
I started this article hoping to get through a top ten, but found that getting through a top five took longer than expected. I’ll leave part deux for tomorrow. Tonight I’ll fall asleep thinking about the space scene in Wall-E. Eva will float like an astronaut ballerina and Wall-E will follow befuddled with a can of compressed fire-extinguisher foam. With a background of stars (think movies), the can of foam will never run out in my dreams and these two will float forever. Drifting, drifting, drifting…
Goodnight you princes of Maine. You kings of New England.