And today for something completely different… not sure I really have time for this post but giving it a go anyway.
My best movies
Now, this is a difficult subject – or easy, depending on how you view things. In short, I like too many different movies to say that there is one that is really the “bestest”. I’ll just give a list of movies that I can watch again and again and impress me each time; that’s as close to “best” as I can get. In no order except the one in which they popped up in my head.
The Usual Suspects
Immensely intelligent crime/thriller, and watchable even after knowing the plot thoroughly. All-star cast with Kevin Spacey as primus inter pares
Amongst many powerful war movies, this one stands out for me (Bridge on the River Kwai would be another top fave of mine). Different for its lack of action rather than a focus on blood-and-gore, written from the perspective of the “wrong side”, and not in English too.
Pioneered (or at least perfected or taken into the limelight for the first time) many things we now take for granted as far as cinematography is concerned. Non-linear story-telling, odd camera angles. A classic story of how money does not make happy, told with wit and conviction. Would take this to a desert island if I could only bring one movie. Maybe.
The Lord of the Rings [trilogy]
Not much to say about this one that hasn’t been said elsewhere. Everything works in this fantasy masterpiece, especially in the expanded versions on DVD.
2001: A Space Odyssey
One of several Kubrick movies in my list; the Shining could easily be in here, too, except I am not the greatest fan of horror and there are already two of him in here. Lots of things don’t happen in this movie, and you’re just left staring into space. Deliberately slow, but sooo beautiful. Also gets you to think about the man-machine relationship (for that reason I left out another sci-fi cracker about a similar subject, Blade Runner). Cheaper than an acid trip but with the same effect.
A Clockwork Orange
Both easy on the eye, a tribute to the seventies and Beethoven, as well as a disturbing view into the mind of a violent youth, and a social commentary on the power of government. Total win. The competition for Citizen Kane to be brought to the desert island. Maybe I’ll try to smuggle one of them in my butt crack.
Despite two largely failed “sequels”, the original is still the best action sci-fi movie around due to a clever plot with enough depth to keep you thinking, the use of “bullet time” (IIRC), and lots of nice action in general. It does sit on the edge of the list though.
Among so many Pixar hits, I pick this one… it’s got everything and it’s got little to no weaknesses. Up runs it close second though, and would be better if it wasn’t for its weak middle section with talking dogs and suchlike nonsense.
To me, still the best Coen brothers effort. More jokes than you can poke a pointy stick at, biting humour, great acting, hilarious script. Re-watchable to the nth degree.
Second tier: good but not great
These are the movies that I do really like but lack something (don’t ask me what) that prevents them from entering the Walhalla. I think it’s that all movies up there are good in more-than-one way, in my opinion; they combine for instance really good action with interesting philosophy, or very good acting with a very good script. In this second list the outstanding qualities tend to be limited – still IMHO – to only one “category”.
But this should maybe be in the list above. Jack Nicholson runs away with this movie that is witty, scary, and very well executed. Another Kubrick classic.
The Holy Grail
The Life of Brian
The former I find has more cracking jokes; the latter wins in the “social criticism” department. Two extraordinarily funny Pythons, worth seeing over and over and over until you know every fecking joke in there… and still piss your pants while synching them.
Even more clever than the Usual Suspects, and taking non-linearity to extremes, it does lack in the acting department, preventing it from being “up there”. Still an amazing movie.
Laputa, Castle in the Sky
(or Nausicaa, or Spirited Away, or yet another Studio Gibli)
The pinnacle of Japanese anime, each of these movies are amazing. But until I’ve seen all of them I find it unfair to put any one of them up in my top list. Laputa is truly marvellous, but I’ve heard Nausicaa may even be better. Better? Wow.
Very good, yes, very good… but romance is not my forte. Brownie points scored for featuring chess in a positive way.
Once Upon a Time in the West
Maybe not even the best western that I know, but for that I would need to see the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly a few more times. Until then, this is of course very very good. Minutes of nothing happening, the score, and massive lead roles. Gripping.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Of all Kaufmann’s movies, I find this one to stand out. Carrey shows he can act like an adult if he needs to (as in The Truman Show). Insanely clever, combined with energetic lead roles and good supporting ones. More twists and turns than a road through the Alps.
Bridge on the River Kwai
as explained above
I’m sure there are more but this should be OK for a while. What have I forgotten…?