October 13, 2007

Some of my favorite movies

It's a bit of a difficult task seeing as there are so many, but I've decided to make a list that maybe you can consider next time you don't know what to rent. Let me just mention at the beginning as a disclaimer of sorts that while most of the films in the list are the kind that people would love to label "pretentious" on imdb, I am not one of those posers who condemn hollywood as a shallow and commercial money-reaping machine. We should be judging films for whether they're good or bad--not where they're coming from and how much money they're spending/making. I love to be exposed to, influenced and inspired by a wide varitey of things be they silly or serious. So just like I'll be bopping to Bruce Springsteen one minute then jumping around to 2pac the next, I'll watch Mean Girls and I'll watch A Bout de Souffle and call me crazy but I'll like them both; just in different ways.

In order of preference:

1. Ratcatcher
I'm not sure I can even begin to describe how beautiful, hauting, and touching this film is. I'm afraid putting it into words will ruin it's magic (I sound totally lame but it's true). I could talk about amazing foreshadowing techniques, choppy montage, a child's inner conflicts, the director Lynne Ramsay's sheer genius etc but I prefer not to bore you with my intro-to-film-studies-level antics. What I will say is that when it ended I was hit by the sad realization that no movie I see for a long long time will probably be half as good as this one.

2. Buffalo '66
It was my dad who first introduced me to this movie back when I was fourteen or so, which goes to show that people of many ages will be able to appreciate its aesthetics. It depicts an endearingly absurd love story against a backdrop of bumblefuck buffalo--if there's anyone who can make a bowling alley, a Denny's and a motel appear stylish then it's greasy old V. Gallo. The cinematography is beautiful and the grainy blue-greyish film quality adds to the retro vibe.

3. Bagdad Cafe
A touching and sometimes kooky film about two very different women who form an interesting friendship. I have fond memories of watching this because everything about it was a learning experience for me. It's what opened my eyes in my early years to the capacity of simple, slow moving stories to evoke subtle emotions and in that sense, I think it helped shape my taste not just for cinema but for literature also.

4. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Four words: best gangster movie ever. It has awesome plot twists, hilarious dialogue, good camerawork, and a badass soundtrack (Dusty Springfield, E Z Rollers and Castaways to name a few)--I really couldn't ask for more.

5. Manhattan Murder Mystery
One of the lighter Woody Allen comedies that satirizes the traditional crime suspense. It was a toughie to choose between this and Allen's Manhattan but I wanted to include a mystery (if we can call it that) on the list and this happens to be the only one I've ever genuinely enjoyed, besides the occasional Columbo.

6. Morvern Callar
A rare case in which a genius director, a fantastically off-beat actor (Samantha Morton) and a great soundtrack do wonders to an unexceptional story about a girl's vacation.

7. Coffee and Cigarettes
The lame title doesn't do this fantastic collection of short films justice (particularly because I've been very anti-smoking ever since I quit a few years ago...a bit hypocritical of me but whatever). The stories all involve people sitting around drinking watery coffee which doesn't sound like much but if you're someone who enjoys random trivial exchanges and awkward silences then trust me, you will love it. I basically love most of Jim Jarmusch's films for similar reasons: Permanent Vacation, A Night on Earth, and Down by Law are all greatly recommended also.

8. Tony Takitani
The movie was good although it wasn't exactly mind-blowing. The reason why it's on the list is because I'm a big (I'm talkin huge) fan of author Haruki Murakami (whose short story the film was based on) and the director Jun Ichikawa did an admirably good job of translating that unique Murakami-atmosphere onto the screen. I think movie renditions of novels rarely achieve this level of success. Perhaps this would be difficult to sense for people who don't speak Japanese which is a shame...But still, Ichikawa seemed to get the subtle details just right and I find moments of directing genius much more touching than dramatic plots and such.

9. Don's Plum
It's about one night in the life of a group of obnoxious kids who get together at a some diner like they do every saturday, and hang out and talk. Nothing really happens from beginning to end and some may argue that it's boring but I quite liked the aimlessness of it all. What's more, there are no sappy narrations from the future in this movie, none of that "look at us, we used to be so young and happy but now we're grown up and everything has changed and nothing will stay the same so cry for us, cry!!"stuff--it's very simple, straightforward, and charming.

10. Kiki's Delivery Service
Studio Ghibli's productions are incomparable to that of their fast falling American counterpart Disney in terms of both story and animation quality. Kiki is just one of my favorites among others such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

to be continued, maybe...


Linda said...

i agree with tony takitani. i'm a huge fan of murakami too! his brand of loneliness if really difficult to translate onto the big screen, but i think ryuichi sakamoto did an amazing job with the score.

stumbled upon your blog, def like it. i spent 3 yrs in australia (but my parents are in hong kong and i go to college in the US). am going to tokyo over winter break, so stumbling across your blog made me even more excited!

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