My Five Favorite Movies
5. "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
Trailer for "The Wizard of Oz" 75th Anniversary IMAX release
"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore..."
Directed by: Victor Fleming
Starring: Judy Garland, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan
An obvious childhood favorite, "The Wizard of Oz" is a film that I can watch anytime, anywhere. The music, the characters and the unforgettable dialogue all fuse and make for the perfect family-friendly movie. During Dorothy's big moment singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" I consistently get goosebumps and have tears begin to swell up in my eyes. And of course, hearing the cackle from The Wicked Witch of the West still gets me the shivers, but in a good way unlike when I was younger.
"Oh, she bit her dog, eh?"
Being such a quotable movie, it's practically impossible to find someone who doesn't recognize "There's no place like home" or "I'll get you my pretty! And your little dog, too!". My favorite line has to be from the Cowardly Lion while he is badgering the Scarecrow and Tinman. "How long do you stay fresh in that can?" cracks me up every time!
WHY it's a favorite: The main thing I look for in my favorite movies is whether or not it generates a powerful emotional response from me. This film absolutely does that. To be entirely honest, it may have nothing to do with the film itself. It may be because each time I watch it I am transported back in time to when my mom and I would be cuddled together on a pile of blankets and pillows scattered about the living room floor, dipping graham crackers into chocolate icing while singing along.
4. "The Prestige" (2006)
"The Prestige" Trailer
"Are you watching closely?"
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine (and David Bowie!)
Now - I am a HUGE Christopher Nolan fan. It regularly takes people five or six tries to guess my favorite of his films. As much as I love Batman (A LOT) and Christian Bale (also A LOT) and Nolan's "The Dark Knight Trilogy" (a whole bunch = "A LOT") there is something about "The Prestige" that slides it ahead of the rest of Nolan's work, including "Memento" and "Inception". (To quote Bruce Wayne, "Quit smiling, it's not a joke...")
"Now you're looking for the secret. But - you won't find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled."
The way this film twists and turns to keep you guessing while two rival magicians battle back and forth makes for an exciting viewing experience. At one point you want to root for Angier (Jackman) and then he does something awful and makes you swtich to team Borden (Bale), but don't worry, he'll do something just as terrible and you will always be on the wrong one's side when it comes down to it. From the diary plotline switch-a-roo to Batman and Wolverine passing Scar-Jo back and forth, the story is a wonderfully constructed maze of story arcs. The way that the script pulls you back and forth is not only memorable once, but each time you rewatch. With every viewing you are sure to notice something that you hadn't the last time. I still do, and I have seen this movie around fifty times!
WHY it's a favorite: One thing that Nolan's films haven't regularly done for me is cause that emotional reaction I mentioned. This is the one film that I can say had the little empathy-hairs standing up on the back of my neck. One scene in particular that chokes me up every time is an exchange between Borden and his wife, Sarah (Rebecca Hall). They are screaming back and forth at one another after Sarah exclaims how she "can't live like this any longer" all while there young daughter sits in the hallway listening. The most heart-wrenching dialogue takes place at the very end of the conversation. Sarah asks a question that is repeated several times in the film only to receive a much different answer from the other times - an answer that causes her to end her own life soon after.
Sarah: "Do you love me?"
Alfred Borden: "No. Not today."
3. "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (2000)
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Trailer
"You will find a fortune, but it will not be the one you seek..."
Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson
In the Coen brother's typical style, "O Brother, Where Art Thou" is a comedic twist on Homer's "The Odyssey". Our heroes encounter sirens, a cyclops and it all begins with a brilliantly worded monolgoue from a blind prophet that warns the three escaped convicts of the troubles that lay ahead. It's a beautiful and fun-filled journey that includes an incredible soundtrack.
"We thought you was a toad!"
The back and forth banter between Everett McGill (Clooney), Pete Hogwallop (Turturro) and Delmar O'Donnell (Nelson) have my sides aching from laughing starting at the very first conversation. Having a brutal southern twang on most of their words certainly helps, such as saying warshed vs. washed. (Delmar exclaims, "All of my sins have been warshed away!" after being baptized.) I don't regularly listen to blue-grass or country music, but I was quick to purchase this soundtrack immediately after seeing the film. "Man of Constant Sorrow" performed by the Soggy Bottom Boys (recorded by Dan Tyminski, Harley Allen and Pat Enright) is the easy favorite to most listeners with many more catchy tunes to follow along. (a.k.a. "A mighty fine a pickin' and a singing'!")
WHY it's a favorite: Honestly - comedic enjoyment. Though the music is fantastic, the dialogue is what really makes the film a favorite for me. McGill's reasoning and antics throughout the movie make me crazy and wonder why the others follow his lead. The answer is cruel, yet simple - they are too stupid to know any better. (In McGill's terms, they are "dumber than a bag of hammers".)
2. "Blade Runner" (1982)
"Blade Runner" Trailer
"Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it?"
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah
Aside from the original "Star Wars" films, "Blade Runner" was my first Sci-Fi love. I used to watch it with my Dad over and over again. Not only are the characters and storyline incredible, for 1982 the graphics and special effects are AMAZING! Simply put, the overall look and feel is just super cool. (Not to mention the music is a must hear!)
"All those moments will be lost in time...like tears in rain. Time to die."
Personally, I prefer watching the Director's cut of this film - the one without the narration. It gives a sense the lead character, a Blade Runner named Deckard (Ford) is a Replicant himself. The climactic scene where Deckard battles the violent Replicant appropriately named Roy Batty (Hauer) there is not only entertaining action, but also some really moving and powerful dialogue. Listening to Batty talk about the things he has done and seen all while he is slowly dying always gives me chills. He's such a menace for the entire movie and in those final moments he unleashes a raw sense of humanity and emotion.
WHY it's a favorite: I have so many fond memories of watching movies at my Dad's house such as "Star Wars", the "Indiana Jones" movies and "Dune", but watching "Blade Runner" had a different effect on me than the others. It has always held a special place in my heart because I can distinctly recall the very time I saw the opening shot overlooking futuristic Los Angeles. I fell in love instantly and knew that I wanted to make movies. Something about the ominous music of Vangelis and the brightly colored lights speckled across the dark sky struck a nerve with me, in a good way. It solidified my passion for Sci-Fi.
1. "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994)
What do YOU think?
Which of my five favorite movies is YOUR favorite?
"Get busy living, or get busy dying."
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, Clancy Brown
It may not be everyone's absolute favorite movie, but I can't think of a time where someone said they didn't enjoy it. With that said, I regret to inform you (or remind you) that "The Shawshank Redemption" did not win one, single Academy Award. Not one. It was nominated for SEVEN Oscars including Best Picture and Screenplay, but it went home empty handed. People are shocked when they learn this news (it makes me nauseous just typing it) until they hear what other movies were released that same year, including that year's Best Picture winner. Two words for you - "Forrest Gump". Despite its lack of recognition, the film remains a strong fan favorite. It sits at #1 on IMDB's top 250 movies list - a list that is based on how viewers rank movies on a scale from one to ten.
"I find I'm so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope."
That was a piece of narration spoken by the recently released Ellis "Red" Redding (Freeman) at the end of the film as he is on his way to see Andy Dufresne (Robbins), a man who became Red's very good friend and escaped from Shawkshank. (If I could hire Morgan Freeman to read me to sleep every night, I would.) When Andy climbs out of the sewer pipe and falls into the disgusting stream filled with human waste, he desperately strips his soaked prison clothes and looks into the night sky with his eyes closed as the rain falls down from the heavens. It's a magnificent moment that is the perfect ending to Andy's horrendous experience at Shawshank prison and an excellent representation of the true meaning of the film - HOPE.
WHY it's a favorite: Again, with the emotional response stuff, oy! I can't count how many times during the viewing of this movie I cry. I mean, CRY. Not just tear up, but completely bawl my eyes out. What makes it so wonderful is that they are not all 'sad' tears. There are tears of joy, greif, reprieve and heartache. It's a mixed bag of emotions. Just hearing the soundtrack pulls at my heartstrings. You will cry - when Andy stands triumphantly in the rain - when Brooks (James Whitmore) releases his pet, Jake the black bird just before being released from Shawshank and then you cry AGAIN after Brooks is released and so terrified of the outside world that he hangs himself ("I don't like it here. I'm tired of being afraid all the time. I've decided not to stay.") - when Andy is working on his boat on the sunny beach Zihuatanejo and he turns around to see Red walking towards him with a glowing smile. During a wide-angle shot of the beach, you can see the two friends hug each other happily as they are reunited outside of the walls of Shawshank prison.
Awards or not, this IS a movie worth watching and adding to your collection. You will laugh, sniffle and cheer out loud throughout the story. I still do. It's one of those movies that you just can't switch away from when it's on TV - and you don't WANT to.
My Five Favorite Films Breakdown
"The Shawshank Redemption"
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
Joel & Ethan Coen
"The Wizard of Oz"