Movies you should see

I would call this a "Bucket List" but I fear you might think I actually meant you should see The Bucket List, which you shouldn't. If anyone you know tells you they're going to see The Bucket List, give them this list instead. They'll thank you on their deathbed. If anyone you know tells you that they loved The Bucket List, do not give them this list. They're a lost cause.

*List under construction*

Films which have subtitles

M- A cinematographic masterpiece that approaches the complicated issue of mental illness and mob mentality in a shockingly modern way. It's German, get ready for subtitles and a haunting score. Fritz Lang is the shit, if you'll pardon the expression. He's best known for Metropolis, but M is my personal favorite.

Ran- Japan's emporer of film takes on Shakespeare and gives us this tragedy that is epic in every sense. A warlord tries to divide his kingdom amongst his three sons with disastorous results.

The Seven Samurai- This movie inspired The Magnificent Seven. An oft-plundered village decides to hire samurai as protection. Their hires are diamonds in the rough. This film has a great sense of humor and great fight scenes. An action film for the ages.

The Hidden Fortress (Which was the inspiration, in part, of Star Wars: A New Hope)- A jidai geki (gee, I wonder where Lucas came up with the name Jedi...) which means period piece. An epic told from the point of view of two droids peasants who stumble into the adventure of their lives when they decide to travel with Obi Wan a graying general who's transporting the princess Leia of a defeated royal family.

Audition- This Japanese film explores how love can be blind and dangerous. Fragility is perverted, control is reversed, and it can be very unclear whether what you are seeing is real or imagined. Starting off light and then turning backer than black. If you liked Seven you will love Audition.

Film Noir

Gilda- Drop dead gorgeous and full of subtleties that few movies of its time posessed. This tale of love and betrayal is one for the ages. Put the blame on mame.

The Lady From Shanghai- Orson Welles captures Rita Hayworth's charm and beauty and uses it for evil in this intriguing film where nothing is as it seems. Metaphoric imagery abounds.

Chinatown- Roman Polanski's neo-noir that takes paranoia and corruption to an entirely new level. This is easily his greatest masterpiece and reflects a haunted tone that's been found in every single one of his subsequent films.

The Maltese Falcon- The mythos and sheer charisma of this film is magnetic. The best Whodunit? committed to celluloid. Bogie for the win.

Casablanca- The most romantic and metaphorical movie in pop culture. Films this well-made are rarely popular with the masses. It manages to be all head and all heart. A script the likes of which you'll never see again, and the soundtrack to end all soundtracks. You will fall in love with Bogie.

Double Indemnity- The iconic film noir. A beautiful dame, a jaded protagonist and a devious plot gone awry. Sink your teeth into the pulp. Feast your eyes upon the contrast.

Mildred Pierce (After which you must watch Mommy Dearest)- Joan Crawford's tour de force of the self-made woman from a hard-knock background. Can a career girl really have it all? Not in noirland...

The Third Man- Post-war paranoia and corruption grips the mind of a pulp-novel author as he navigates the twisting streets of a Europe trying to heal itself, looking to solve his dear friend's murder. Oh, Orson Welles, you had me at "Hello."

Seven- The neo-noir so black it's like midnight in a coffin. It closes in around you and twists your stomach. When you think the psychopath's wretched plot cannot get any worse, it does. Drenched in rain and faithless in humanity, this movie will haunt you. Just when a retiring homicide detective thinks he couldn't get anymore jaded, the most unthinkable of crimes begin to occur.

Westerns, which are really operas in ten gallon hats

The Magnificent Seven- The same plot as The Seven Samurai, except it's set in Mexico and stars Yul Brenner. Yul Brenner kicks ass, that is all you ever need know.

High Noon- The western that's not a western. It ditches the gunslinging and mesa-heavy landscape shots and replaces them with killer plot and dialogue. It's a commentary on the Red Scare and blacklisting hidden under a cowboy hat. The lawman has turned in his badge and is fixin' to get outta dodge when he hears tell that his ol' nemesis is a'comin' on the noon train.

The Searchers- This is a very long movie. If you stick with it, you r patience will be rewarded. The Duke and his young nephew set out to rescue his neice who has been kidnapped by Native Americans. This beautiful color film takes on the complicated issue of racism that will make you think and leave you haunted.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly- This is the definition of awesome, as far as I'm concerned. An opera that has barely any singing, but would be lost without its iconic score. The Man with No Name gains an unlikely travelling companion when he hears of a grave full of stolen Confederate gold. This pre-quel to Fistful of Dollars examines the atrocity of war and greed.

Unforgiven- Clint Eastwood's masterpiece. This tale of a washed-up gunslinger forced back into action reflects all too well the actor's life. What happens when you've resolved to change but the world refuses to accept it?

Movies so good that they defy categorization

The Godfather- A story of family and the cruel irony of love. No matter how much we love someone, our efforts to protect them and shelter them always backfire. A rich American gothic.

The Godfather Part II- The brilliance in paralleling the story of father and son can make this film a little hard to follow because of all the secondary characters. Pay attention. Turn off your phone. The American gothic starts anew. No matter how mard you try to hold onto something, or someone, they can slip through your fingers. Robert DeNiro is flawless.

JAWS- Moby Dick meets the American action movie with a little Hitchcock thrown in for the jump-factor, this equals the first summer blockbuster and my personal favorite movie of all time. Suspense builds up in this film like a pot slowly coming to a boil. The summer is hot, the resort town is crowded, the urgency of catching the shark closes in around the characters like a snake constricting. Everytime they try and catch their breath, it squeezes a little tighter. Robert Shaw is the ultimate Ahab. Man vs. Nature, except nature is a killing machine that has 420 million years of evolution on its side. Bring it on!

Raiders of the Lost Ark & Indina Jones and the Last Crusade- Lucas and Spielberg got together and wondered why no one ever used all the great pulpy action TV shows tricks to make a great movie. So they did it themselves. The stunts and effects are the #1 reason to watch this movie and the killer dialogue is #2. Could anyone be as charismatic and embody machismo as much as Harrison Ford as Indy? I don't think so. He was written to be Bond, The Man With No Name (see The Good, The Bad and the Ugly above), and Rick (see Casablanca above) all rolled into one whip-toting, ladykilling, booby-trap-dodging, walking archaeology encyclopedia badass. These movies are just plain good old fashioned family fun. Sublime.

The Untouchables- Easily my 2nd favorite movie of all time. A very close second to JAWS. Costumes by Armani. Directed by Brian DePalma, who you can also thank or Scarface.  Take the visual beauty of The Godfather and combine it with the entertaining action of Indiana Jones. This movie is as close to perfect as a genre film can get. Sleek and sexy. It's only hinderance is Kevin Costner.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf- Think you've had some uncomfortable social moments? You ain't seen nothin' yet. A train wreck so grizzly it will make you squirm, but so juicy that you can't look away. Dame Elizabeth Taylor is sublime as the crass Martha, disemboweling the men around her with her casustic tongue. She chews up the scenery and you will love it. A professor and his wife invite the young new faculty member and his wife to their home, and then they take everyone hostage in their sadistic games.

The Royal Tenenbaums- I almost don't have words for this movie. The acting is perfect. The script is ingenious. The set design is unbelievable. The soundtrack will move you to tears. This movie is funny, inspiring, heartbreaking and truly unique. This is a story of how genius comes at a cost. I adore all of Wes Anderson's movies, but this is one is truly exceptional. Incomparable. Divine.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert- Speaking of divine... Get down on your knees and thank this movie for giving us Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce. If it wasn't for a pink bus, sequined dresses and ABBA blasting across the Aussie outback, Memento and The Matrix may have been very different movies. Two drag queens and a tansgendered woman embark on a roadtrip to bring their show to a resort. As roadtrips do, it changes their lives. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll lip-synch. The acting is fantastic.

Alien- Ridley Scott's otherworldly suspense thriller. This movie truly defies categorization, it's sci-fi, it's horror, it has pangs of film noir. Every shot is a work of art. A commercial freight ship stops on its way home to respond to a mysterious signal, and they find something more terrifying than anyone could imagine. H. R. Giger's creatures and set pieces are jaw-dropping. The effects are done with miniatures, so they stand the test of time.

Aliens- James Cameron's well-known sequel to Alien. This movie is an action thriller. Still plenty of good jumps and a great concept, but no where near as artsy and conceptual as the first movie. Still, you must watch for the excellent plot and one of the best lines in all of movie history: "Game over, man! Game over!"

Groundhog Day- I was tempted to file this one under the comedies, but you really can't. This movie is effortlessly profound. It will appeal to people of any religious persuasion and will make anyone laugh, and think, think hard. A snotty weatherman finds that he keeps living the same day- and must discover how to stop the cycle.

Polanski's Apartment Trilogy: Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby & The Tenant- See linked blog entry for more information

Blade Runner- Ridley Scott sets his detective film noir in a distopian future full of replicants- engineered humans and animals. A few have gone rouge, and they mean to meet their maker at any cost. This sci-fi film noir makes us ask ourselves: How can you tell if you're real if your memories could be lies? Can our creater give us the answers we want? It is beautifully crafted and eerie.

Jim Henson's Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal- these cult classics bombed at the box office because most felt that they were too dark for children. But I disagree. These films were made to show children that while they cannot escape the bad things in the world, they can use their goodness to fight back. Powerful metaphors and endearing characters give these movies the power to win your heart and intrigue your mind.
Oh, and David Bowie in tight pants and more hair and makeup than RuPaul FTW.

Movies that are incredibly good and incredibly depressing
(Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any feelings of joyless-ness, comfort food binges or Kleenex stock gains that may result from watching these films)

Dancer in the Dark- You may think a muscial starring Bjork would be irreverent and fun. You're wrong. This tale of ultimate maternal sacrifice will break your fucking heart. You will be haunted by it for days and feel like someone punched you in the stomach after watching it. But the beauty will move you.

Requiem for a Dream- Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well all grow up and realize we'll never be veteranarian astronaut rock stars. Such broken dreams and their ilk are not the ones being eulogized in this film. The movie follows a mother, her son, his girlfriend and his best friend as addiction and dellusion wreak havoc on their lives. This film could easily be used in drug prevention programs.

The Bicycle Thief or Bicycle Thieves- (subtitles) All that stands between a man and destitution is a bicycle. This films is set in post-war Italy where work is scarce. The love the main character's young family shares is palpable and moving, as is their desperation. Love conquers all, but it can't put food on the table.

UP- Really, this movie belongs in the above category, but the first twenty mintues will reduce you to a quivering blob of snot and tears. A montage so flawlessly displaying a life full of love, devotion and broken dreams. This montage will be studied for decades for it's subtlety, grace and emotion. How they avoided melodrama and excess escapes me. The rest of the film manages to balance out the devastating blow the beginning delivers, but pales in comparson.

Movies that are incredibly funny and that you will quote ad nauseam for the remainder of your life
(Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any gastric rupture, urine soaked pants, or embarssing guffaws that may result from watching these films)

Super Troopers- Imagine the incredible feeling of power and authorty that being a state trooper brings. Now imagine that you and the rest of the troopers in your station are comedic misfits the likes of which haven't been seen since Stripes and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. These jokers are content screwing with local college kids and traffic violaters until a woman turns up dead on the side of the highway. As with most investigations, hilarity ensues.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure- Keanu Reeves peaked early. The script is fucking genius. Every line is so quotable and recognizable that in spite of all odds, this movie is hilarious. Two dopey high school students with big dreams are given the opportunity to save their academic careers by utilizing a time-travelling telephone booth from the future. The late great George Carlin acts as our Greek chorus, and you know the script must be good to sign on Carlin. Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!

A League of Their Own- Hysterically funny at times, hear WWII is a classic. Tom Hanks comedic timing is unsurpassed. Bonus: Madonna shoutitbreaking at others, this movie about women playing major league baseball after the men ship off tong dramatically "he ain't shuttin' me down!"

Ghostbusters- Almost every Bill Murray movie is going to make it onto this list somehow, but this one must come first. Bill plays the straight man- for the most part- in this wonderfully unique movie. One of the best scripts of all time. A trio of best friends who also happen to be dorky scientists stumble upon the secret to capturing ghosts, and just in time for some seriously spooky stuff starts to go down in the Big Apple. Sigourney Weaver is also a treat in this movie. Rick Morranis steals every scene he's in.

Anchorman- So few contemporary comedies dive headfirst into silliness. This is why I love Anchorman. There was so much improvasation and alternate takes that Judd Apatow was able to make an entirely different film: Wake Up, Ron Burgundy- The Lost Movie. Goofy, unexpected, and hysterical.

The Jerk- Steve Martin is a gift. All you need to know about this movie is in the first lines of dialogue, spoken by Martin: "I was born a poor black child..."

Young Frankenstein- God help you if this movie doesn't make you laugh. Gene Wilder plays the reluctant heir to Dr. Frankenstein's monstrous legacy. Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn join in on this fantastic send-up of the old Karloff films.

Clue-Who knew a movie adaptation of a board game could be so good? It's a work of pure, goofy camp, and it is sublime. Tim Curry at his manic best. What it lacks in technique, it makes up for in charm, big time!

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