On Facebook I was challenged to come up with a list of 15 films that changed my intellectual DNA
. At first it was tough to come up with more than 6, but it ended up being more difficult to winnow out other films I found of import in my life.
On top of it, I shared this list with Bruce, who came up with a list of his own. My list is annotated for the first 15; Bruce's list follows in paragraph form; then I've added a list of other films I've found memorable.
Anyway, here's my list:
1- The Shameless Old Lady
- Based on a Bertolt Brecht story, when an old woman's husband finally dies, she decides to live a life of pleasant pleasure. While her children argue about who will get her belongings when she dies, she goes about disbursing her possessions, sharing her funds and free time with her grandson and his prostitute girlfriend. It was the first time I remembered going to a film with subtitles without anyone else. Saw it in a suburban Philly PA movie theatre in 1968.
- I saw this in a Times Square movie house ages ago, when 42nd Street was sleazy, and people didn't usually go there to see the films. A much idolized "bad boy" rock star is co-opted by his handlers, big business and government bureaucrats to clean up his act, while marketing all sorts of product but the whole scheme backfires. Strong object lesson - Michael Jackson should have watched it.
3- West Side Story
- I was in, oh, maybe 7th grade and went and watched this six times in seven days. I had no idea who Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim nor Lenny Bernstein were. Not sure if it was the gang warfare stuff, the idea of macho guys dancing in a pack or the gritty fantasy [for me] of urban ghetto life.
4- Animal Farm
- [animated] I think
the film I saw was released in 1954, which would make sense since I saw it as a kid. It forever etched into my brain the image of Orwellian nightmare societies, the link between corruption and power and the near futility of railing against the same. Even the pro USA agit-prop TV series Rocky and Bullwinkle
that I had begun to watch religiously, couldn't over-ride the ecoomic social class warfare components of Animal Farm for me.
5- Babette's Feast
- A classic. What happens when a successful restaurateur flees and goes to live in a remote fishing village ...but he still can't get away from his artistry, and eventually fetes the villagers. Later I enjoyed a second pleasure when some dear friends had the feast staged at a nearby restaurant while we all watched the film together between courses.
6- Yellow Submarine
- I drove 40 miles in a broken down 1959 orange Fiat with 5 other people to watch this in a barn like auditorium in a booze-free town in rural western New York State. We were all doing LSD and sat in the first row of the auditorium. The townspeople referred to us as "their" hippies.
7- Alone in the Wilderness
- At the age of 50 Richard Proenneke went and moved to a wilderness section of Alaska to live there, alone. [well, except for occasional visits from bush plane pilots]. Once there he built his cabin, foraged and hunted for food, gathered firewood and studied the world around him. He filmed a year of his endeavors on an 8 mm camera that later got converted into video.
8- La cité des enfants perdus [The City of Lost Children]
- co directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet the film has the eerie quality of the computer game Myst, with a bittersweet story line and a penchant for Victorian era sci-fi technology. And while it wasn't the first time I'd ever seen Ron Perlman on screen, his presence in this film captivated me.
- Terry Gilliam's classic bureaucratic dystopian nightmare, I'd watch over and over again, though not all at once. Too close to the idea of a corporatist/fascistic state for my comfort level; far better than the tedious rendition of 1984 featuring John Hurt and Richard Burton, yet the subject matter was the same.
- Ed Harris as Jackson Pollack. Violent, tempestuous, passionate. I had to buy a copy to keep. First time I recall seeing a film about an artist that seemed real.
- Fritz Lang 's silent film opus. Worth it for the special effects alone, considering that it was filmed in 1927 long before CGI or conventional color or anything else considered ho-hum innovative nowadays.
- An arrogant, [though not unlikable] thinks-he-knows-it-all psychiatrist is assigned to work with a new patient, K-Pax, who reports he is from outer space. The new guy is quickly able to help his peers suddenly do better for themselves and confront their personal demons and get ready to go back out in the world. That was something that neither the doc, nor the hospital staff evidently had been incapable of accomplishing. The psychiatrist, stymied, suddenly finds new meaning in what it actually takes to help another soul in trauma.
- No theme; just a rich, lush, sensual movie that kept me captivated. It reminded me of another, similar film I'd seen as a kid, Ecce Homo, which was equally exotic, tho' more ribald. But that was no comparison for Baraka's lushness.
14- The Endless Summer
- A lush, color saturated film [as I remember it] about surfing filmed around the world. I think I saw it in February, trudging through snow. Never made me become a surfer, but opened my eyes to exotic places.
- I saw Costa Garvas' dramatic depiction on the dictatorial takeover of a weak democratic government in Greece in a theatre just across street from the University of Buffalo [NY] campus. The street riots in the film were stunning; the manipulation of the newscaster disturbing and the film's message fit the times [1969-70]. Nevertheless, viewing it in no way prepared me [or the rest of the audience
] for walking out the front doors into to a real tear-gas riot-squad uprising taking place on the street between the police and college students.
I'm adding one more memory not of a movie - but of a movie house, the Wayne Avenue Playhouse. It was up the street from where I lived as a young teenager. Run by a family, staunchly independent, who chose to show films they liked, the prices were still cheap enough for kids who collected bottles for movie money. Every summer they had an annual silent film festival, at some time each year an operatic film [I still remember first seeing Puccini's Tosca there] along with many films that people in the neighborhood would have seen otherwise. The place surely opened my eyes to watch for original cinematography. Bruce's most enduring films list
: [the top 3] Carmen Jones
; Dangerous Liaisons
; All About Eve
. [The rest of the list] 7 Brides for 7 Brothers
; Gone with the Wind
; Now, Voyager
; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
; Streetcar Named Desire
; La Dolce Vita
; Is Paris Burning?
. Finally, not to be forgotten [what Bruce says is "...the best gay porno film ever made
..."] The Gage Brothers' Kansas City Trucking Company
. Other films that I found memorable
[in no particular order]: The Wizard of Oz
; Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up
; Midnight Express
; Manchurian Candidate
[the Angela Lansbury version
]; Seven Days in May
; Disney's Fantasia
; Soylent Green
[thought Charlton Heston's character pretty dumb for not having figured it out sooner
]; David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth
; Kurosawa's Ran
; The Full Monty
; My Beautiful Launderette
; watching Midnight Cowboy
kept me from moving back to NYC; Sly Stallone's Rocky
[I saw it in Lake Placid, NY, and was briefly startled not to be in Philly when leaving
]; Beautiful Thing
; The Fisher King
; A little Trip to Heaven
, with Forrest Whitaker, an actor who'd I'd watch in anything
; To Kill a Mockingbird
; Moulin Rouge
; The 5th Element
; Fight Club
; 12 Monkeys
; Dangerous Liaisons
; Is Paris Burning?
; like Bruce, I, too like Tim Kinkaid's [aka "Joe Gage"] gay porn trilogy
[which actually have story lines
]. I am sure there are others, but...
Labels: cinema, favorite films, favorites list, film buffs, films, movies