When I was a teenager I fancied myself something of a film buff. As I transitioned to adulthood, most of my obsession withered away. But in recent months I’ve been watching a lot more movies lately, and some of my earlier interests seem to be reviving.
In lieu of that, and in lieu of the fact that I want to produce content without it having to be too thoughtful (exams, papers, etc.), I have decided to foist one of those top ten lists upon you people. Admit it; you like them too.
The ordering is semi-arbitrary, but becomes less so as it approaches #1.
10. Jurassic Park (1993, Steven Spielberg)
This was my first monster movie. Perhaps it is not the work of art that, say, the original Gojira is, but, well, nostalgia is a helluva drug. For what it’s worth, it gave us the Goldblum laugh.
9. Army of Darkness (1992, Sam Raimi)
Look, I’m as tired of hearing about BOOMSTICK as you are, but this is still a timeless classic on par with Citezen Kane. Additionally, priests who are tempted to ad lib parts of the Mass after ordination may find the movie’s discussion about the proper use of words helpful.
8. Paprika (2006, Satoshi Kon)
The whole, “let’s develop technology that will enable us to enter into peoples’ dreams no one will ever misuse this,” angle could have led to a movie that was little more than a string of trippy sequences with little substance, but the late, lamented Satoshi Kon knows how to write a thriller. He’s also more of a film buff than an otaku, and his love for cinema is pretty infectious.
7. The Night of the Hunter (1955, Charles Laughton)
My thoughts on this one can be found here.
6. Andrei Rublev (1966, Andrei Tarkovsky)
This is a 3.5 hour foreign movie about a Russian Orthodox iconographer. If that description doesn’t scare you, then you should watch this movie.
5. Ratatouille (2007, Brad Bird)
I really like this movie because it takes an idea I’m not too crazy about (talking animal character who doesn’t fit in needs to find his place in life), and turns it into a statement about what it means to be an artist, not surrendering to mediocrity – art as a vocation, in short. It’s also the prettiest computer animated film made yet, and features a nice villainous turn by Peter O’Toole to boot.
4. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982, Nicholas Meyer)
If you pay attention during the scene where Khan is introduced, you can see books like the Bible, Paradise Lost, and King Lear sitting on Khan’s shelf. This movie really, really wants to be epic Shakespearean tragedy. It wants to transform William Shatner and Riccardo Montalban into Wagnerian opera divas. It is willing to invoke Amazing Grace and be totally serious. Somehow it accomplishes all that, because it believes in itself or something. Cumberbatch shmumberbatch.
3. Dr Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
I find Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey to be eminently rewatchable. The rest of Kubrick’s oeuvre…much less so. Still, even if he only made this one movie, he’d be high up in my books. This is the best comedy ever. The dialogue is golden; it contains, like six great performances more funnier than Seinfeld (three of which are played by one actor). It would take us until Neon Genesis Evangelion to get an apocalypse as neurotic and weird as this one.
2. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
My assumption is that, if you read this blog, you probably already have a good idea of why this would be on the list.
1. The Red Shoes (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
“A dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love can never be a great dancer. Never!”
This film is magic. It is like bathing in the dream-sequence of an aesthete, or drinking amarone and smoking a good cigar. Perhaps I oversell it; perhaps the subject matter is not to your taste – a story about a fictional ballet company somewhat inspired by Sergei Diaghliev’s Ballets Russes. Or, more particularly, about a ballerina and composer who are on the rise, and an almost Nietzschean impressario who is ruthless in his attempts to cultivate beautiful things. Perhaps you find the Technicolor a little too Technicolor. Perhaps you think the surrealistic ballet dance that goes on for nearly 20 minutes a bit too artsy or something. Perhaps you think that Moira Shearer shouldn’t have gotten involved in film. Perhaps you don’t like dancing.
Well then this clearly is not the movie for you.