They say that knowing someone’s favourite things is liking peering into the windows of their soul. I’m thinking that came from Abraham Lincoln… cause he went from being a badass president to a badass vampire hunter in the span of centuries. And I’ll tell you what, that’s a pretty awesome transition.
As I venture forth trying to find any semblance of identity and meaning in the weird happenings of this mundane, entropic and probability ridden world – I’ve decided to look within the things that have persisted in my life.
Inspired by a dear friend who had sent me a movie suggestion and watching the latest adaptation of Ghost in the Shell (and actually really enjoying it – but that’s worth another blog post all together), I wanted to look into the types of movies I’d recommend to everyone I meet. My “essentials” guide to movie watching. I will warn you dear reader, my tastes aren’t very refined and I’m not a dignified “movie goer” that will recommend movies that will be to the tastes of everyone. These movies are ones that have had lots of resonance with me and my life – rather than it being a list of films with delve into the classics. I’m not trying to show off my movie-going credentials – but give stories to why certain things have stayed with me through time in hopes to understand myself and the world better. So there might be a chance I’d put Dude, Where’s My Car? over The Godfather. And if I do, I hope you don’t judge me too harshly or get offended by my sensibilities.
Alright so going in with a few self-defined caveats (and this will make me look like the uncultured swine that I am):
- I don’t do well with “old” movies. Yes, I will be the first to admit – I didn’t love Casablanca when I watched it, I don’t remember the Godfather movies (although I will get onto them ASAP) and any black and white movie really puts me off. While I truly, truly appreciate their iconic status in popular culture and their longevity through the numerous references that are made tirelessly throughout the years – I have no patience for them. I’m truly a terrible byproduct of the Millennial generation – in which i have tirelessly tried to appreciate older movies but don’t.
- I’m really not a big fan of horror or action movies. I don’t think there’s either any of these in the list. Horror movies are either way too terrifying or way too boring. Real horror to me are ones that psychologically tell something truly terrible about humanity rather than spirits, ghosts or just gore. Action movies are things you watch cause it’s safe to see at the cinemas with friends. But I do appreciate them no doubt – especially in dating situations.
- Again – this list is just movies that have truly affected me in some way. Not the greatest movies of all time.
Alright time to get the show on the road!
10. Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)
I say this as a 23 year old male, but romantic comedies at one point of my life – were the only thing in my life. I ate up every single romantic comedy that came my way and they were my life. The thing about romantic comedies however is that a good one is truly a diamond in the plethora of roughs. And it’s hard to find one that is both intelligent and balances the saccharine with wit so that it doesn’t become overbearingly cringe-worthy. My answer to this is Bridget Jones’ Diary.
I watched this movie back when I was still in primary school and I was Bridget Jones. Clumsy, despondent but so desperately a hopeless romantic, I worried about being a spinster and being eaten by Alsatians before puberty and became so very hopeful that as someone not conventionally attractive as me would find two people fighting for me like a terribly bad fan fiction about werewolves and vampires. Renee Zellweger was my heroine and Bridget was my avatar traversing the world with finding love but also trying to be happy with myself as a person. Out of all three movies, the first is still my favourite and still remains probably my favourite cheesy romantic comedy whenever I feel down. And even after more than 10 years, I still come back remembering how much I really haven’t changed concerning how I dream someday that someone as fine as Mr. Darcy would come to accept me just as I am
9. Jumanji (1995)
If you know me well, I make a point of pride about something never crying when I watch movies. Give me the most gut-wrenching emotional movie you have ever seen and I’ll probably shrug it off. Not because I don’t have a heart, but because crying is difficult. This is the one movie that got me however. Jumanji, is quite simply a masterpiece of a young kids movie that stayed with me at childhood. Never did a man make me laugh and cry and was so brilliant and a genius as Robin Williams. When he passed away, I clutched onto this movie and watched this movie as soon as I can so I could cherish as legacy to his name.
The premise of a man who is stuck in his childhood (or arguably lost it), haunted by the disapproval of his father, remains truly in love with the girl of his past, but is persistent in facing his adversities and helping others is a trope I dearly love in fiction and something that Robin Williams does so damn well in this movie and a few others. There are a few tear-inducing moments in this movie – but it’s filled with great comedic moments and animals. If you want to win me over – a good animal flick or documentary would send me over the moon. I dreamed I’d have a career helping animals when I was younger. I still do have that dream. But then again, I’d do okay with a pet… hopefully (rather than a safari worth of animals chasing me down).
Also featuring a precocious but immensely talented Kirsten Dunst, who went on to do other amazing films like Melancholia. I’ve heard they are going to make a remake. Please don’t screw it up.
8. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
For every film or anime aficionado, there’s a favourite Studio Ghibli film. Some love the coming of age classic Spirited Away, or the tragic and heart-wrenching Grave of the Fireflies. Porco Rosso has a special place in my heart as it was the movie that brought me closer to my year 7 crush at high school. But the ultimate Studio Ghibli film for me is Howl’s Moving Castle. It was the first Japanese film I watched subbed with my brother at local cinema and I was entranced.
There’s something quite mesmerising and empowering about Studio Ghibli’s films, but Howl’s Moving Castle was one that made me feel like life was worth so much. And that one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone in this world is letting them know how important and special they truly are. The animation is gorgeous and the story is so rich in symbolism and nuances yet so wonderfully simple at it’s core.
Hey, at least it wasn’t Kiki’s Delivery Service.
7. All About My Mother (1999)
There’s something very entrancing about Spanish cinema. The vibrant colours, the melodrama, the passion and flair and the quick fire responses. All About My Mother was my first foray into Spanish cinema and I’ve never looked back. Pedro Almodovar knows how to make a controversial film and he makes them damn well. This one in particular – not only introduced me to Spanish cinema – but made me fall in love with it.
If there’s one thing Almodovar knows – it’s how to portray the complexities, strengths and vulnerabilities of women. This film unabashedly is a tribute to women and it’s a compelling film – delving into strange terrain and throughout – you aren’t sure what to feel or where it would go next. The uneasiness of real or absurd and drama or melodrama is unsettling – but that’s a characteristic that makes the journey all the more effective and worthwhile. The film introduced me to so many different issues – and made me appreciate the women in my life a lot more. And as God is my witness, I really love a good Spanish melodrama.
6. Nurse Betty (2000)
A controversial choice – considering I’ve never seen it anywhere in a “must watch” film list. However this film resonated with me in such a wonderful way. What seems like a silly premise of a despondent housewife obsessed with a television character becomes a wild goose chase that is both heartfelt and hilarious. Something that so easily could just be tossed aside as a midday movie is a clever and empowering film about following your dreams and not letting anything get in your way. If I didn’t love Renee Zellweger enough in Bridget Jones’ Diary, this movie sealed the deal in what is probably her most compelling and best performance in her career. A pure hearted hero(ine) lost in the world but finding and discovering their own strength is one of my favourite tropes.
The script, the plot and all the characters just mesh really well. Morgan Freeman is amazing as the calm, but just as deranged as the heroine assassin, Chris Rock’s wild and brash sensibilities are used so well in this film and Greg Kinnear plays the conceited actor so well. While the movie rests on the shoulders of the main actress – the ensemble is just as good and truly make this a caper to remember.
And seriously, who hasn’t thought of chasing their celebrity crush… and thought of actually being in relationship with them?
5. Dogville (2003)
If there was a film that completely challenged me about how I viewed the world and how I viewed film in my youth, it was Lars von Trier’s Dogville. I remember frightening my teachers when I wrote a film report about this film when I was only 10 years old. It had gotten to the point where I was fiercely interrogated about my home life and why I was watching these types of films at home. It got even worse when I decided to do my next report on existentialism and About Schmidt.
Even how the film is shot is so clever. The narration, the set-piece, everything about it is brilliant as it is quite absurd to a normal film goer. The subject matter, bleak and dark. If there’s any director that can show the breakdown of a character and the evils that lie in the depths of humanity with such cleverness but with bite – it’s Lars von Trier. Sad to say, but this film made me much more weary and skeptical about the people around me. And around the time – it was quite fitting as well.
People reveal their true colours when they are put in situations where they are needed. I’m sorry I torture you all with my singing.
4. Amelie (2001)
I remember vividly where I was when 9/11 occurred. I was resting on the living room couch and went to go to the kitchen to grab a snack to eat before planning to go to bed. The television was on at Channel 10 news where Sandra Sully was reporting the night news and when I got back- breaking news had occurred and footage was shown of airplanes colliding with the twin towers. It was a horrible sight and one that stayed with me forever. I didn’t sleep a wink that night and I felt an overwhelming sadness that came over me. The “simpleness” of life, both my own and the rest of the world would change forever – and such an innocence that seemed like permeated the world was lost forever. I may have only been 8 at the time, but the tragedy wasn’t lost on me. I was a pretty sensitive kid after all, and grew up pretty unconventionally.
I bring this story up because I felt this film had been on a pretty unfair end of suggesting it’s success was only due to the tragedy of such an event. The film itself is a film for romantics and dreamers. It is one I truly keep close to my heart whenever I feel bad and pretty much gave me the philosophy I live with today and quite dangerously fuelled my fantasies and imagination of a more innocent, romantic world. It’s not hard to relate to heroine or the romantic interest of the movie and it’s so easy to get swept up with the whimsy, the Frenchness and the lightness of the film. Who wouldn’t want to be wooed by a dorky, dreamer that creepily collects discarded from photobooths and works odd jobs? Or a goody-goody social Samaritan who’s desperately trying to win over her soul mate?
This movie is an escape, and one that gives us hopeless romantics something to believe in. And I’m shameless to believe that when I keep doing good for others – that someday I’ll find my soul mate.
3. Her (2013)
If you had told my childhood self that one of the greatest and most touching love stories would involve a lonely writer and his OS, I would’ve laughed at your face. But here it was – even in my youth I hadn’t appreciated or even had the insight that technology would soon be something that overtook us and become practically our lifestyle.
This movie is basic but so very beautiful and very well done. A film about dealing with loss and the importance of love. All held by the sensitivity of Joaquin Phoenix and the expressive Scarlett Johansson, to which she was robbed of an Academy Award for Best Actress through just voice alone. The day voice acting gets truly appreciated like “normal” acting – that would be a good day – or better yet receive it’s own category in all the award shows. Love is at the centre of the entire film and it ruminates on the beauty, ugliness, complexities and the importance all in one – in a futuristic setting. While the premise isn’t original – the way it’s done is just brilliant.
Everything about this film is beautiful. The cinematography, the dialogue… This is truly the modern day love stories of all love stories. It’s hard to be lonely. It’s also hard to love. But love is so worth it.
2. Fight Club (1999)
I really like clever films. And Fight Club is a brilliant, clever film (yes I know about the first rule). This is one of those films where it takes multiple viewings to truly gain a strong appreciation for it and to learn something different with each viewing. But unlike most of those types of films – it’s one that hits hard upon the first time and you recognise the brilliance from the first watch. And the one-liners. Bloody brilliant.
Jam packed with so many themes, but extraordinarily compelling with how well done in all departments (the acting, the script, etc.), it was about time there was a film that dealt with issues such as masculinity, consumerism, existentialism and all that philosophical goodness. It’s extremely clever and brilliant – and doesn’t rest on simplicity but rather challenges numerous dichotomies that surround us – and asks that everyone needs to find their balance in the world.
And of course, I’ve just broken the first rule.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2003)
So it’s come to the end – and by now I’ve forgotten most of the movies I’ve written. I could’ve sworn Dude, Where’s My Car? was meant to be one of the 10 on the list. But I digress. I recall I said Jumanji was one of few movies that had made me cry? This was another.
Okay, okay, I know the joke was pretty heavy handed. But I’m really not sure how I can articulate how much I love this film. While it shares very similar themes with Her, there’s a distinct difference which makes me love this film just as much The science fiction elements while quite heavy, hits the message much harder that love is so many things. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world, and it’s the most gruelling thing. It can make us want to forget everything, but it’s also something that we desperately cling onto and something we would fight for. The film hits hard on how messy it can be, but how wonderful it is.
The film starts off as a simple love story but then becomes this sort of bizarre, surreal fantasy-like desperation that delves in finding the truth and running from regrets. The stakes become so very real and so very high – despite the premise and the visuals. The romance and the history between the two protagonists is witnessed unconventionally. Both wonderful and toxic, tragic and romantic but so very worth it. Everything about this film still to this day make me feel in awe of how such a masterpiece was formed.
Yes – I realise how inarticulate I got towards the end. But I get into such a mess discussing things that I love. Chances are you’ve already seen this films, but if you haven’t – I highly recommend these ones! They changed my life and contributed to what I am today.
Other movies I recommend (not on the list);
Dancer in the Dark, Never Let Me Go, Atonement, A Very Long Engagement, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, One True Thing, Volver, Tootsie, The Graduate, The Godfather Trilogy, The Truman Show, This is Spinal Tap, About Schmidt, Metropolis, In the Mood for Love, Mulholland Drive, Taxi Driver, Blade Runner, The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, Silence of the Lambs, Misery, A Streetcar Named Desire, To Kill a Mockingbird, Moon, Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, Barton Fink.
(Author’s note: I am in no way saying that this films are inferior to my 10. These films I adore as well – I’m just saying that the 10 I’ve listed were ones that had really affected me in some way and had contributed to my life in some way).
By all means, this list could very much change in a few years. However for those that will eventually ask me at some point which films I recommend, these are the ones I will reply with.