My favorite movies

Since I (finally) have a little time, I thought now would be a good time to recount my favorite movies. The list has changed from time to time, but I think I can make a good case for the ones below.

(And yes, I'm a little bored, but for the next couple of weeks or so, I'm want to keep the stress at a minimum. That's why, if I post here, it will be mindless stuff like this...)

I'll categorize them by genre until the Top 5...

Romantic Movies that Resonate with Me:

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - An old-fashioned swash-buckling retelling of the old legend that deftly balances action, romance, and comedy. With the exception of Kevin Costner, the cast is exceptional, with Alan Rickman as the bad guy, Morgan Freeman as the sidekick, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as the fetching Maid Marian. Rousing musical score and a love song by Bryan Adams.

Lost in Translation - Captures as well as any film the feelings of spacial disorientation and isolation one feels in another culture. Oh, and features Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson in her underwear...

Notting Hill - When we were in Russia a few years ago, Louis explained to my friend Kostya that he didn't like Hugh Grant films because it didn't seem like "he's a real man." Kostya then referred to unmanly things as "Hugh Grant things." One day, he posed the question, "What is the female equivalent of Hugh Grant?" He then answered his own question, "Well, of course, it must be Hugh Grant."

I mention this because Notting Hill is a great film, Hugh Grant is outstanding in it, and it features Julia Roberts with her fastball.

Moulin Rouge - Big, bombastic, and ultimately bittersweet musical that, maybe better than any of the other three reveals the true nature of love as sacrifice.

Great Action Movies Starring Unqualified Badasses

In the Line of Fire - An older, seasoned Clint Eastwood stars as a Secret Service agent that failed to save Kennedy in 1963 and is charged with protecting the President from a would-be assassin 30 years later. He woos Rene Russo talking about pigeons, tells John Malkovich that he'll piss on his grave, and gets the better of Fred Dalton Thompson. Badass...

The Last of the Mohicans - Similar movie to Robin Hood (action, romance, memorable music), but with much more gravity thanks to the badassery displayed by Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye. Ever the method actor, Lewis lived in the woods for the duration of the movie and lived the frontier life, even sleeping with a powder rifle. It shows. "Stay alive, no matter what the cost! I will find you!"

Desperado - Great gunfights, a dry wit, Antonio Banderas as Robert Rodriguez's badass answer to the Man with No Name, and machine gun guitar cases. And Salma Hayek with her fastball...

The Great Escape - No women in this movie, but it involves a bunch of Allied Soldiers breaking out of a Nazi prison camp, and Steve McQueen in a badass motorcycle chase. Took my dad to see it at Drafthouse a couple of years back on Father's Day - one of our best bonding experiences ever...

Highly Rewatchable Comedies

Blazing Saddles - Of Mel Brooks's films, The Producers has the funniest scene, and Young Frankenstein is probably the best actual movie, but Blazing Saddles only gets better every time I see it. Cleavon Little's turn as a Bugs Bunny-like black sheriff in a frontier town is the fulcrum of the movie - he grounds the movie as the straight man.

Office Space - The quintessential movie about life in a cubicle. Other than the musical number from The Producers, the four funniest things I've ever seen came from Mike Judge: the "No Laughing" and "Great Cornholio" episodes of Beavis and Butthead, the King of the Hill episode where Bobby goes to women's self defense class, and the Dietrich Bader scene in Office Space.

Anchorman - Everytime I watch this movie, I discover another nugget I hadn't noticed before. The last time, I noticed Brick holding the grenade in the fight scene. Probably the most quotable movie here.

Movies About a Time and Place that are More than the Sum of their Parts

Dazed and Confused - Filmed in Austin when I was in high school, Richard Linklater's film about the last day of school in 1976 captures the essence of the high school experience better than any movie I've seen. Linklater cast Matthew McConaughey after meeting him in a bar, and needless to say, it was a part he was born to play...

Out of Sight - The first and best Steven Soderberg/George Clooney corroboration, and maybe the best adaption of an Elmore Leonard novel. Clooney is a crook with a heart of gold, and a pre J-Lo Jennifer Lopez is the no-nonsense federal agent on his tail in more ways than one.

Swingers - All about guys being guys in LA, this was the movie that made Vince Vaughn. Like McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, he pretty much plays himself as Double Down Trent.

Indispensable Christmas Classics

It's a Wonderful Life - I'm a big fan of the lost ending, by the way...

Scrooge (1952) - The definitive version with Alastair Sim, the definitive Scrooge.

Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) - As strong a statement against the cynical commercialism of Christmas as anything I know, and features a great jazz soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - Ingeniously recreates every little annoyance of the modern American Christmas experience. Marked the end of Chevy Chase's comic prime. Not given enough credit as a classic.

And Finally, The Top Four

The Empire Strikes Back - I'm convinced the popularity of Star Wars can be traced back to the greatness of Empire. A coked-up Carrie Fisher still looked great, and numerous plot twists ended with one of the best surprise moments in movie history. Chuck Klosterman considered it to be the defining movie of Gen X in an essay in Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs.

Raiders of the Lost Ark - The first Indiana Jones is the quintessential adventure movie - it reads and plays like a comic book, with dashing leads and an ironic ending that doesn't exactly resolve everything. Karen Allen was the best Indiana Jones girl, and she's back for the new one this summer.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy - Taken as one long movie, the three LOTR films may be the most impressive cinematic achievement in history. The books explore themes of good v. evil, the consequences of sin, and and of the paradoxical necessity of war to achieve peace (Tolkien implicitly drew from the two World Wars), and do so in an exquisitely crafted world. That Peter Jackson and company were able to tell such an unwieldy story effectively on film is remarkable.

The Blues Brothers - Pure escapist film where director John Landis liberally deviates from the narrative form at every opportunity for whims such as musical numbers by James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, random bazookas shot by Carrie Fisher, expensive superfluous car chases involving Illinois Nazis, and John Belushi being John Belushi. Everything a movie should be, and will never be topped. I will not argue this...

For the record, three of the top 4 came out in 1980 or 1981. Harrison Ford is in two of them, as are Carrie Fisher, John Rhys-Davies and Nazis. Don't know why that is, but just thought I'd mention it.


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