Monday, February 26, 2007

Top 10 Movies

Richard Lopez, over at Really Bad Movies, is asking for a Top 10 Film list.

It's impossible to share this sort of thing without feeling a bit too exposed. Where are the romantic comedies? The life-affirming thrill rides?

My answer? Right where they belong - on someone else's list.

My list is pretty constant, with maybe one or two variables. That part was easy. It took, however, several days to write cogent explanations for my choices. And then to realize my explanations aren't really that cogent.

In no particular order:

Apocalypse Now - If you think Platoon is a good movie, stop reading this list now. This is not only the quintessential Vietnam movie, not only the quintessential war movie, but the quintessential movie movie.

The American Friend - Directed by Wim Wenders, based on Patricia Highsmith's "Ripley's Game." Sorry, folks, but this blows the Matt Damon version out of the water. Features cameos by directors Nicholas Ray and Sam Fuller, and one of the finest performances of Dennis Hopper's career.

Mulholland Drive - Lynch's masterpiece, in my opinion. I never tire of the way potential cinematic gibberish transforms into art, or the way the narrative defies logic and/or explanation, yet continually invites both. Quoth the Cowboy: "A man's attitude goes some ways toward how a man's life will be. Is that somethin' you agree with?" Totally!

The Fourth Man - Paul Verhoeven's "art" film has been called a black comedy, but to me it is the perfect psychological/spiritual thriller. I love movies where it's unclear if what you're seeing is actually happening or not. Tons of overt, but beautifully rendered, symbolism. In Dutch!

Sorcerer - An amazing example of 1970s filmmaking, when violence was ample and without apology, and the blood was that ever so slightly off-red color. Gritty, disturbing and utterly existential. Roy Scheider's finest hour as a small-time mobster on the run. "Ask for Nat Glick."

Goldfinger - Sean Connery + Gert Frobe + Oddjob + Aston Martin DB5 + naked girl painted gold = Iconic Bond.

Oldboy - Quite possibly the most emotionally draining film I have ever seen. Incredibly violent, relentlessly depressing, hopelessly shocking, and entirely engaging. Revenge is a dish best served cold? Not if it's dumplings!

Rushmore - Hey this is sort of a comedy! Men seem to like this movie much more than women, which I find interesting. I identify with Bill Murray's world weary character, not Max Fischer (whose absurd optimism frustrates me - surprise!). A very touching film, to my mind. More touching than funny, actually.

After Dark, My Sweet - The old "down on his luck ex-boxer/nuthouse escapee (Jason Patric) is seduced by a lonely beauty of iffy morals (Rachel Ward) and lured into a kidnapping scheme bound to go wrong by a shady ex-cop (Bruce Dern)" routine. How do you spell double-cross? N-o-i-r.

Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead - The best hard boiled dialogue I've ever heard. Characters named Jimmy the Saint, Critical Bill, Easy Wind, Franchise, Pieces, Mr. Shhh, Baby Sinister, and The Man With the Plan populate this flick. Jack Warden's performance as a retired wiseguy/Greek chorus steals the show.

Labels: ,


Blogger EEK! said...

Rushmore is definitely on my list. I admit I judge people on how much they get/like Wes Anderson movies.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Great list ... I had forgotten all about American Friend .. I'll definitely have to add it to my Netflix queue

3:42 PM  
Blogger richard lopez said...

absolutely love rushmore. one of the best comedies of the past 10 years. it's slow burn takes a bit to get into, but once it has you the film ramps up the absurdity.

favorite scene: max tries to kill murray by pumping his hotel room full of bees!

1:56 AM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

Sorcerer! Wow, I think you're the first person I know who's actually seen or remembers the movie, and definitely the first to include it on a list of Top 10 Faves.

1977. A friend and I are at one of the first mall multiplexes in Austin: The Northcross Mall Six, I believe. For some reason - considering the film was a bust when it came out - Sorcerer is playing on two screens. Somehow, we wound up in the second screen, and there was absolutely no one else in the cinema. On another occasion, I'm sure we would've been up to no good, but the movie pretty much riveted us to our seats.

Tangerine Dream! I think I even owned the soundtrack at one point. Back when electronic music seemed so far out.

I don't know if i've seen the film since it came out (30 years!!!) but I still have memories of it. youre right, Schreider was great. Will have to look for it. Especially since the original - Le salaire de la peur [Wages of Fear] (1955), with Montand and Charles Vanel - is one of my favorite films. The most existential film ever made, perhaps.

American Friend is also on my list of 100 Favorites. Love Bruno Ganz. Apocalypse Now is also on the list. And you're right about it being THE film on Vietnam. Ever read Michael Herr's Dispatches? Apocalypse Now seems sane after that. (What was your judgment on Redux?)

Haven't seen Fourth Man, Old Boy, or After Dark My Sweet. Fourth Man definitely intrigues me.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Steve Caratzas said...

Eek! - Sadly, I hate The Royal Tennenbaums, so I wonder what you think of me now!

Cowboyangel - Yes, I'm almost positive I'm the only person living with Sorcerer in his Top 10 Films list.

I really can't stand The Wages of Fear, and I wonder how much of this is due to the fact that I saw Sorcerer first. I find Wages too evocative of the "I Love Lucy" era, somehow, i.e. men who resemble Fred Mertz with baggy pants hoisted up near their armpits. Dunno, I really wanted to like it.

I own the score by Tangerine Dream on both vinyl and CD!

The American Friend and Bruno Ganz: both most excellent!

Apocalypse Now: I prefer the original version over Redux; the French plantation scene was good, though.

9:22 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

Wages of Fear = I Love Lucy. I had never quite made that connection. But you say that as if Ricky & Lucy couldn't be existential.

Redux didn't quite work for me either. Seemed redundant and rambling at times. But then I've seen version 1.0 so many times that it's hard to adapt.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Elise Burns said...


I join you in love of Rushmore, but the I have to say that I love The Royal Tenenbaums as much as if not more. The flashback scene of Richie's breakdown, where he's only got one sock on, gets me every time.

I'm also with you in your love of hard-boiled dialogue. Which leads me to the question, did you see/enjoy Brick?

1:53 PM  
Blogger Steve Caratzas said...


Hope you're well.

I don't recall the scene you refer to in The Royal Tenenbaums; I vaguely remember Gene Hackman wearing a beret in the film. That's about it, mercifully.

After, Rushmore I really wanted to like the movie, but just did not.

I did see and rather enjoyed Brick.

7:08 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home