I think a big part of why I like talking about movies so much here is that they’re not related to my academic background, nor do I have any personal stake in them, so there’s a very loose, noncommittal feel to it. Also, while I’m on a steady diet of comics, but my enthusiasm for the medium more easily manifests itself in drawing comics rather than talking about them. Talking about movies right now feels more like a crutch for when inspiration is flagging, but when I still want my hands and mind to be productive.
As is the case right now. Anyway, I needed to figure out how Malick figured into things.
1.Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
I’m running out of different ways to describe how much I love this one, and what it has meant to me over the years. It’s my favourite animated flick and possibly my favourite movie ever. At any rate, it deserves some time taking the number one slot.
2.The Tree of Life (Terence Malick, 2011)
I suppose it’s inevitable that The Tree of Life would wind up here; you don’t just make a movie about the nature of God, creation and suffering, and feature an aesthetic that serenely breaks most of the rules of narrative filmmaking and not eventually win me over with your bombastic pretentiousness.
It’s a movie that’s often compared with 2001 both in terms of the cosmic loftiness of its themes and in how it got major studio backing and a wide viewership despite its avant-garde sensibilities. And indeed to me it does feel like the two are companions, which is saying a lot, given how much of an influence 2001 was upon me. But here’s the salient difference: I ultimately don’t share the gnostic sentiments of Kubrick’s epic, while Malick’s Christian-inflected humanism is closer to my own heart.
I’m hard-pressed to find a movie that has this many of my obsessions all wrapped up in one package (it even has dogs, classical music, and dinosaurs). By the end it’s almost on the verge of self-parody, but I still get emotionally swept up in it.
3.Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)
Most movie adaptations of Shakespeare are mediocre because the entirety of his work’s essence is already contained within the text itself and the actors’ interpretation of it, making the addition of cinematic elements superfluous at best. But Kurosawa’s adaptation of Macbeth keeps the play’s taut dramatic structure, but wisely guts nearly everything else so that he can build his own unique idiom on top of it. When you take into account Kurosawa’s stature as the greatest filmmaker who ever lived, said idiom results in one of the most intense and striking movies I’ve ever seen.
For some reason I always forget about the man when I make these lists, even though I’ve been watching him since my teenage years. Seven Samurai is probably his masterpiece, and the one movie I’d recommend to aliens who wanted to understand the medium, but Throne of Blood is probably my favourite.
4.Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)
I think that the black and white expressionism of Eraserhead has actually influenced my inking technique somewhat, which is perhaps as much cinematographer Frederick Elmes’ fault as it is Lynch’s.
5.Watership Down (Martin Rosen, 1978)
It’s awfully low budget and scrappy-looking at times, but no other animated movie has Watership Down’s mythic sensibility, and few can as easily make me tear up. No other animated movie manages to dig into so much serious and complex thematic material while also feeling like a briskly-paced adventure story. Also it scared the crap out of me as a little kid.
6.2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
While in recent years I’ve come to the belief that Kubrick actually made a better movie than this (Barry Lyndon), I can’t escape 2001’s role in making me both a sci-fi and a movie buff.
7.Speed Racer (Wachowskis, 2008)
It successfully brings the energy and silliness of a Saturday morning cartoon to movies, and it does so with such unapologetic gusto. So many modern movie blockbusters want to be cool; Speed Racer has the courage to be dorky, and I love it forever because of that.
8.Evil Dead 2 (1987, Sam Raimi)
Also kinda like a Saturday morning cartoon, but in a more deranged and tasteless kind of way.
9.The Secret of NIMH (Don Bluth, 1982)
I think a big part of why I love NIMH more than most Disney movies is that, where Disney would be cute and winsome, Bluth goes for gothic weirdness, which is much closer to my own aesthetic (indeed, Bluth may have played a part in forming my psychological backdrop in that regard).
10.Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
Probably had more of a formative impact on me as a kid than any of the Star Wars or Indiana Jones movies. What can I say?
Stuff that was regrettably excluded: a Disney movie, a western, Barry Lyndon, The New World, Tokyo Story, Aliens, Raiders, etc.