Promises, promises! We’re trying our damndest to get the first episode up by the end of the day tomorrow - and will be slicing together episode 2 in the near future. In the mean time, take a listen to the new Counter Cinema theme song! By me, Pete!
Dan's 25 Favorite Films Of All Time, Part 4, The Finale!
21. Se7en (1995) - David Fincher has a way of making movies that always makes me happy and creeped out at the same time. I even like Panic Room and Benjamin Button, two films the majority of the population did not care for. But at the top of his game, Fincher made Se7en, a dark and creepy thriller that has an ending that stays out even to this day. I think some of my favorite aspects of this film are how visually dark it is. You always feel like you’re crawling out of a sewer with every murder that happens. The unnamed city feels like New York, yet is vague enough that you know that wherever it is, you don’t want to be there. There’s so much rain! It’s always wet and gross. While the murders in this film are grotesque, the characters are redeemable. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are just two cops trying to find the psycho who’s killing all these people according to the seven deadly sins. You understand them and their problems and anger. And you understand how a man can take them to the edge. Kevin Spacey shines as John Doe, the serial killer. He’s only in the last half an hour of this film, if even, and his performance stands out more than anyone’s. It’s a good film if you’re not in the mood to feel clean and happy for a day. And the ending churns your stomach on a first viewing. I remember thinking, “Oh my god, they actually did that? Ballsy.”
22. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - Sure, James Cameron is a egotistical prick. But damn can that man make an action movie. Terminator 2 has always been, and will always be, my favorite action flick. I’ve always been an Arnold guy. His action movies make me way happier than anything Stallone, Segal or Van Damme ever did. T2 has just the right amount of drama and sci-fi to make it different, and the action segments still to this day make me want to watch it again. Arnold jumps onto the back of a pickup, runs up to the windshield of a semi and unleashes the clip in his assualt rifle into T1000 before flipping the truck onto it’s side. That is just pure fun. The bad guy has cool tricks, things blow up, and the machine, the Terminator, learns the value of human life. Maybe we can too.
23. The Thing (1982) - John Carpenter and Kurt Russell make good entertainment. See Escape from New York. See BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. The Thing is a great horror movie because it uses freezing cold temperatures to confine the characters into a small place and paranoia of each other to freak the fuck out of the audience. Who is the good guys? Are there any? But what really puts this film over the top for my favorite horror film is the special effects and puppets/animatronics. It’s gross. But hypnotizing. Look at that gross bastard above. Love. It.
24. Toy Story (1995) - Any of my friends will tell you that I am a total nerd when it comes to animation. They give me a lot of shit about seeing all of the films in theaters. I was there opening day for Up, my second favorite Pixar film to date. I own a large selection of old school 2D Disney animated films. Why? Cause they are good stories. And none of them have a better story than Toy Story. I love this film as a kid, because it was a kid’s film, but now I love it because it is just so damn clever. There isn’t a moment in there that wasn’t carefully thought out and delivered perfectly. Sure, it changed the way animation was done, but it wouldn’t be at the top of my list if it wasn’t a genuinely good story. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, and it keeps me laughing 15 years later. What more can you ask for?
25. Young Frankenstein (1974) - I love you Mel Brooks. I don’t know what happened to you lately, but you are a funny, funny man. But this is your masterpiece; Gene Wilder is the central character and Marty Feldman is perfect for the role of Igor. The play on words, the stupidity of all the characters, the simplistic nature of the jokes and Gene Wilder’s crazy eyes make this Mel Brooks’ masterpiece. It’s packed with laughs from beginning to end, so many great lines that there is no way I could pick just one to put on this to entice you to see this treasure if you have not already. So just make a yummy noise and see it.
That’s it! Hope you enjoyed! If you want, see Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.
16. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) - One of the most recent films on the list, this was a little beauty that slipped through the cracks when it was first released and has gathered a bit of a cult following since it’s release on DVD. Besides that fact that Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer are great in their roles, I firmly believe the greatness of this film began with Shane Black. Black use to be an action writer in Hollywood, penning some of my favorite action films (Lethal Weapon and Long Kiss Goodnight). He disappeared for a while, then returned in 2005 with his first directorial film, KKBB. The dialogue is fast and witty, the action is fun and the plot is another one that becomes the cliche it mocks (see Hot Fuzz on Wednesday’s post). It’s also a decent film noir-esque piece, it gets really dark at times; people lose fingers, RDJ watches a the life drain from a girl inches from his face, daughters get abused… But it evens that out with sharp voice over and fun characters. It will be one to enjoy for many, many years to come (also, if you like this film, see In Bruges).
17. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) - I saw this movie when I was in middle school at it floored me. I read the book in high school, and although I was disappointed that it was superior, the film still holds up on it’s own. The change in the characters is astounding. Jack Nicholsen rocks it as R.P. McMurphy, a man pretending to be crazy to get out of jail. Along the way, he sees some true nutcases, drooling on the floor and such, but for the most part, these guys are normal people who just don’t have the backbone to declare what they want from the evil (and perfectly played) Nurse Ratchid.
"What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin’? Well you’re not! You’re not! You’re no crazier than the average asshole out walkin’ around on the streets and that’s it"
It won the Grand Slam at the Oscars (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay) and is one of three to do so (the others being It Happened One Night and Silence of the Lambs). All the actors in this film are superb and the story of a man giving a bunch of crazies some hope and some guts is all I can ask for in a great movie.
18. The Princess Bride (1987) - I use to watch this movie every day when I was a kid. And I mean every day. Sometimes more than once. My grandparents told my mother not to bring our VHS copy when we visited because they were tired of watching it. My father and I would act out the sword fighting scenes (which, at my young age, I called “sword figgin’”) and the battle between Fezzik and The Man In Black where I would play TMIB and just on his back (as the Giant to my small size) and he would slam me against the door to our crawl space emulating the fight on screen.
[SLAM AGAINST DOOR]
Mom: Stop it! You’re going to break the damn door!
Dad: Sorry, Hon.
It’s one of those nostalgic films that I love from my childhood, but watching it today is still just as fun. The writing (William Goldman again!) is quick and clever and fun as hell to watch. All the people in this film are perfectly suited for their roles and understand the jokes. Plus, I will always be a sucker for fencing, in any film.
19. Rear Window (1954) - I’m a huge Hitchcock fan, I think his body of work (although some of it isn’t top notch) is quite an accomplishment. Rear Window is my favorite. I love the voyeuristic aspect of the film, and the ills that come of boredom. Stewart plays the wheelchair ridden photographer full of suspicion as if he was born to, and Grace Kelly (besides looking beautiful as always) fits right into the role of his socialite girlfriend. Watching the story unfold, you have your doubts of Stewart’s suspicions, that his neighbor across the way has killed his wife and disposed of her body, but learn to accept them as fact just as the supporting cast does. And as the master of suspense, Hitchcock knows just how to make you squeal in your seat as Mr. Thorwald comes to confront Stewart for digging into his life and revealing what may be murder. It’s also quite a feat seeing as the story never leaves the apartment complex. All 112 minutes take place within an apartment and its back courtyard, you feel cramped just as Stewart does, yet you never feel bored. It may not be Hitchcock’s darkest (Vertigo) or his scariest (The Birds), but as far as I’m concerned, it’s his best.
20. Rushmore (1998) - This Wes Anderson gem may be his darkest, which might be why I love it so. It may also be due to the fact that it was the first film I saw of Wes Anderson’s, and the one that made me fall in love with him. But Anderson has a great touch for subtle moments of great comedy and his visual style is unlike anyone else’s out there. You can look at a Wes Anderson movie and know it’s his by one shot. Bill Murray breaks out of his usual comedic smart ass to play the subdued Herman Blume, and has some of the best parts in the movie. It’s a different kind of comedy, not one that everyone enjoys, it’s not the normal Bill Murray humor, or a raunchy comedy humor, it’s a unique brand that I happen to love. I think of all of Anderson’s stories, Rushmore is the most concise and humorous. I love The Royal Tenebaums, but Rushmore just has an extra edge that Tenebaums does not. Most of the characters in Anderson’s films are people you would never want to meet or be friends with in real life, but somehow you love their and their flaws by the end, and this is never more true than Jason Schwartzman’s Max Fischer. And seriously what an amazing last shot.
“This is another example of Hollywood getting it wrong. Sony says, ‘we’re doing Spider-Man in 3D.’ The director doesn’t say, ‘Hey, I want to make the movie in 3D.’ The studio says, ‘You want to direct this movie? You’re doing it in 3D, motherfucker!’ That’s not how it should be. I’ve tried for the last seven years to get filmmakers excited, and they all hung back while Pixar and DreamWorks did animation and me and a couple others did live action. We prove the point, and now filmmakers are being told to make their movies in 3D.”—James Cameron on the state of 3D. via Deadline Hollywood
6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) - Growing up, I was never much of a western fan. I never understood why people would sit through what I thought was 2 hours of long scenic shots that eventually got to a couple gunshots. My grandfather was a huge western fan and would yell at me as I rolled my eyes at his choice in films. It was my parents who knew the gateway to my current love of westerns. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is not like most westerns, it has two of the most popular actors of their time flashin’ their pearly whites for the camera while cracking jokes. It isn’t that gritty. But goddam is it fun. William Goldman (a man who wrote two films that ended up on this list, stay tuned!) penned this great game of cat and mouse set in the Wild West. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are two of the most charismatic outlaws ever put on film. Katharine Ross isn’t bad to look at either. I was completely in for the ride the entire way, laughing my way until one of the best freeze frame endings ever placed on celluloid.
7. Die Hard (1988) - I love action movies. I love almost all of them. Even the really bad ones (coughLongKissGoodnightandLastActionHerocough). They keep my entertained. In a world where I will never get in a shoot out or save a beautiful ladies life, I can live vicariously through the action stars who do so without flinching an eye. James Bond was never really my guy, he was too slick and he had all those toys to help him (I’m a big fan of Daniel Craig’s portrayal). John McClane was just like everyone else. He was just a tough smart ass from the streets of New York, with a dirty mouth and bad luck. His marriage is in the shitter and he comes to mend it, only to be thwarted by one of the coolest bad guys ever, Hans Gruber. In his first feature film, Alan Rickman nails it as the evil money hungry foreigner who won’t let anyone get between him and his fortune. The kills are sweet, the laughs are high, and Carl Winslow eats some Twinkies. I watch this flick every Christmas. Ho ho ho.
8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - It’s a rare experience when I see a trailer for a film that wows me just as much as the film. Usually, a great trailer leads to a disappointed feature, but in the case of ESOTSM, the teaser (still my favorite to this day) and the film went hand and hand in perfection. Jim Carrey isn’t a goof and Kate Winslet knocks it out of the park, but what really sells the whole story is the camera tricks and maneuvers applied by Michel Gondry. His strange way of blowing my mind started with his music videos and all of his little tricks were applied in this film. It doesn’t hurt that it’s written by Charlie Kaufman, one of the most peculiar and fascinating writers on the market today and scored by the glorious Jon Brion. This film is another one that touches on one of my favorite themes, which is summed up perfectly by Gondry himself, “It’s about memories. How we are our memories, and how our memories affect our lives. Losing them – before you die – is tragic.”
9. Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001) - Oh, Amelie. How I adore thee. This was one of the few films I purchased the day after I rented it. It was that good. This movie just makes me feel good. It’s quirky, funny and romantic. And not in a goopy gross way. The colors in the film make you feel warm inside and want to fall in love. The music makes my day, I can listen to that soundtrack on my iPod all day. And the sequences where they introduce people by listing their likes and hates is brilliant. I really wish that was my idea.
10. Fargo (1996) - The second of the Coen brothers on my list. What Big Lebowski does for comedy, this film does with drama. Although, it does has it’s moments of dark comedy, which is probably why I love it so. The Coen’s have a great knack at creating interesting characters, especially the minor ones. One of my favorite roles of the movie is John Carroll Lynch as Frances McDormand’s husband. “Gotta have a breakfast, Marge.” The dynamic between the jabbermouth Buscemi and soft spoken Stomare is enough to make this film worth your time. But then McDormand’s pregnant cop and William H. Macy’s sniveling car salesman round this caper into a nice little snowball.
11. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) - I think a large part of my love of this movie stems from my love for Chicago. This movie is a grand showcase of all the glories of the city I dwell in. It’s a preposterous day, no one could do all those things in the city in one day, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a great place to live and this movie shows why. Ferris is such a larger than life character (and the only role besides Election I like Broderick in) that you just get sucked into his wake and enjoy every minute of the journey. I’m a big John Hughes fan as well, and this is the top of his list. Ed Rooney and Cameron create the perfect villain and best friend, equaling out the over-the-top lead character. There are so many great moments in this film and for a teen comedy there is a lot of growth (especially by Cameron, which is probably why he is my favorite), it’s just a fun movie. And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.
12. A Fish Called Wanda (1988) - I’m going to keep this one short. This movie is fucking hilarious. Kevin Kline alone is worth watching this movie for. Kline and Michael Palin make this movie worth watching time and time again, the scenes between the two of them are dynamite.
13. Harvey (1950) - James Stewart is a fantastic actor. In the game “Who Dead or Alive Would You Like To Hang Out With”, I always choose Stewart. He’s such a pleasant man. And that is exactly what this film is, pleasant. It’s the lighthearted story of a drunk who imagines he sees Harvey, a six-foot bunny that walks around town with him.
"Harvey and I sit in the bars… have a drink or two… play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people they turn toward mine and they smile. And they’re saying, "We don’t know your name, mister, but you’re a very nice fella." Harvey and I warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We’ve entered as strangers - soon we have friends. And they come over… and they sit with us… and they drink with us… and they talk to us. They tell about the big terrible things they’ve done and the big wonderful things they’ll do. Their hopes, and their regrets, and their loves, and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then I introduce them to Harvey… and he’s bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave impressed. The same people seldom come back; but that’s envy, my dear. There’s a little bit of envy in the best of us."
His aunt wants him put in the loony bin because he causes her much social humiliation when he introduces Harvey to her hoity-toity friends. It’s a story of accepting people for who they are and that sometimes being crazy is better than being as asshole.
14. Hot Fuzz (2007) - And the first return to my love of action movies. Although, this is mostly a comedy. I love Shaun of the Dead. And I know most people prefer it over HF but my love for action movies overrides my love for zombie movies, so this spoof makes the list. It’s a really funny film and it does a great job of mimicking the films it’s mocking. The last half and hour are an adrenaline pumping thrill ride, becoming the exact cliche the previous hour and a half had been mocking. Comedy and action is the way to my heart, and this gem nails them both.
15. Jurassic Park (1993) - Everyone loves JP. Especially those who saw it as kids. The age when dinosaurs were the coolest things to learn about in school. I will stand by the statement that Jurassic Park is Spielberg’s best. I always preferred the magical, earlier films of Spielberg, and Jurassic Park is the best of those. As a kid, it was a just a scary and amazing movie about creatures from millions of years ago. Now, it’s a call back to that time, but also a good piece of film. I think my favorite aspect of this film is the practical effects, the animatronics and puppets are a nice change in pace from the constant CGI of today. They need to make more films like this.
One of the worst questions you can ask a former film major upon the reveal of their degree is the somewhat inevitable, “So, what’s your favorite movie?” Fuck. Off. It’s a question that should (in theory) be easily answered, but I could never pick one film as a favorite of All Time. Mood, current company, age and life experience all contribute to a different answer. It could change by the year, the week, by the hour. It could be the last movie I watched cause it just made me feel great right now. What I’m saying is, How Could I Possibly Have A Favorite Film?
I’m going to take on a monumental task for myself. I’m going to try to narrow down my 25 favorite films of all time. It will probably be different tomorrow when this actually posts, but for right now, this is it. And I’ll provide a little insight as to why. The genres of the films break down like this:
These numbers are of course bare bones categories, as most of the ones on my list fall under more than one genre.
For the most part, these are the films that I would “take on a desert island with me” and I can watch time and time again and not tire of. The real winning quality of a great film is it makes me feel nostalgic for when I first watched it, but entertains me completely today as well. And there is nothing better than a film with repeat viewing potential, especially if it brings about small details and jokes that you never would catch on a first viewing. Anyone who can layer a film like that and create depth that requires multiple viewings and new emotions is Good News Bears in my book.
Without further ado, I present you my 25 Favorite Films Of All Time:
Almost Famous/Untitled (2000) - This one is special in the fact that it is the only film by director Cameron Crowe that I like. Say Anything is one of the most overrated rom-coms ever created and I don’t understand it’s appeal. I’ve given his other films multiple chances, but Almost Famous is the only one that holds up time and time again. All the performances are perfect for the film and it is one of the few movies where the director’s cut (entitled Untitled) actually adds to the story and makes it a better rounded experience instead of inserting additional footage that weighs down the plot and bores you. The fact that it is a the semi-autobiographical story of Crowe makes it even more captivating. The soundtrack has great songs that flow with the movie perfectly and I believe that the Tiny Dancer scene on the bus may be my favorite scene ever, showing the healing and uniting power of music. It’s Crowe’s ode to rock and roll, and it makes me smile the whole ride.
American Beauty (1999) - Alan Ball is a brilliant writer. Sam Mendes is a mesmerizing director. Conrad Hall is a beautiful, beautiful cinematographer. Thomas Newman is a wonderful composer. And Kevin Spacey is a perfect performer. All of these elements come together and form a stunning film about the dark side of suburban life. I would easily put Spacey’s role of Lester Burnham in my favorite performances of all time, his progression as the man-on-the-edge who stops giving a shit is fascinating. The supporting cast ties the film together. And although it does get a touch pretentious at points (see Floating Bag scene), it still stands on it’s own as a wonderful and picturesque film.
The Apartment (1960) - Billy Wilder’s film at the time of release was very risky business. A man allows his superiors to borrow his apartment for fuckin’? Nowadays, such business is not even remotely risque, but the character development and writing still hold up from 1960. Jack Lemmon is quite a sight as the constantly sick, low ranking employee that will do just about anything to get ahead. Shirley MacLaine is adorable as the woman stuck in an affair that is going nowhere. Fred MacMurray shines as the shithead boss who exploits those around him for his own personal gain. The relationship development between Lemmon and MacLaine is one of my favorite love stories. Lemmon starts off so alone and sad, flipping through the 5 channels available, eating a frozen dinner and getting cooked out his apartment so some other schlub can get laid, you have no choice but to root for this man to get a better life. It also helps that the two leads are quirky and fun to spend a couple of hours with. It’s almost a perfect flick, film-wise.
Big (1988) - As far as I’m concerned, this is the first movie Tom Hanks showed the world he had the chops for acting, and although he’s been in many great roles since, I still hold his portrayal of Josh Baskin as my favorite. His first of five Oscar nominations came with Big, and for good reason. He nailed the mannerisms of a 12 year old boy. There is never a moment in this film I don’t believe that Hanks isn’t a soon-to-be teenager. It’s also a cute and hilarious movie. Watching a child deal with real life problems is a funny stuff. Evidence here and here. It’s just one of those movies that makes you feel like a kid again, and I’m a sucker for a story line that advises you to hold onto youth as long as possible.
The Big Lebowski (1998) - I know this one is cliché. But I love me them Coen Brothers. I could watch this film every day and never tire of it. The acting, the characters, the costumes, the sets, and the writing (oh! the writing!) are all melted together for a perfect comedy. It’s a little too bizarre for some people, but this tale of a nobody loser who gets involved in a kidnapping is top notch in my book. I could go on and on and just list quote after quote that I cherish, but if I did that I would just about write the script here for you. It has more f-bombs and jokes per minute than any other film on this list. I love everything about it.