I'm not a person with a lot of favorites. I don't have a favorite color. I don't have a favorite food. I don't have a favorite in a lot of categories. There are a lot of things that I'm enthusiastic about but they all come with different qualifiers for why I like them. For me almost every high ranking choice in any category ends up being like comparing apples and oranges. There are just too many factors to why I like something, or don't like something that it's really hard for me to elevate one thing above another. So, one of the most dreaded questions I am ever asked is what is your favorite (fill in the blank). I was asked a few of these this month, and though I dread these questions, I'll do my best to answer them.
Sean Cloran asked me to distill my list of favorite movies down to ten or less. That one I can actually do. My top ten list of movies has been pretty consistent for a number of years and only contains six movies. there are a bunch of other movies that hover around those four remaining spots, yet none has taken permanent purchase yet. My top six will almost certainly surprise anyone who follows this blog or my work.
As a side note, I don't like the book that this movie was based on.
When this movie first came out I was living in New York City and I think I went to see it every day for two weeks taking different people, or repeat viewers with me each time. Much of the movie is otherworldly, poetic, dreamlike, haunting, in its deliberate meandering pace and gorgeous black and white photography and accompanying musical score. The plot here is basic, yet keeps you on the edge of your seat for all of its small key moments which are in fact momentous. I also, as I write this, realize that Wings of Desire with its story of an angel who wants to be a man is also the Pinocchio story. It's a truly beautiful movie with a really disappointing sequel.
I'm not sure why this movie has resonated with me so much. Based on Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" George Stevens' adaptation is beautifully filmed and full of excellent performances. I often wonder why Elizabeth Taylor is still a celebrity and not a former actress who has fallen into obscurity over time having not made a movie in decades. Watching this, however, there is no doubt how she became a star. I often have a hard time reading novels, or watching movies in which the protagonist makes bad, self destructive decisions, but this movie is just a winner all the way through.
This is one of a handful of movies that after I first saw it felt compelled to watch it again immediately. This movie is gorgeous in every way imaginable and features amazing performances by my two favorite actors on the planet, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk and Tony Leung Chiu Wai as neighbors who discover that their spouses are having an affair. This movie which was apparently improvised over several months could not possibly have been made simply from following a script. So much of the movie is told through the character's body language and expressions and not through dialogue, yet with no doubt as to what was taking place within them. Deliberately paced with gorgeous cinematography, costumes, and a perfect soundtrack, this is simply a gorgeous movie. Wong Kar-wai is one of my two favorite directors of all time.
I think I was one of about 6 people total (I kid you not)who saw this movie during it's American theatrical release. This may be the bleakest movie I have ever seen and it's absolutely brilliant. It stars John Hurt as the voice of one of two dogs who escape from a research lab. While the horrible things done to these dogs have nothing to do with it, the same lab was also doing research with the plague. Fearing the dogs may have contracted it and brought it out into the world, they are hunted down. I wore out my VHS copy of this making people watch it. One the dogs hit the beach I always feel compelled to make an excuse to leave the room because it's an incredibly hard ending to sit through. Like my other picks I can't recommend this movie highly enough.
I like other Wes Anderson movies better, but when I first saw this I left the theater thinking that I wished I had made this movie.
I'm sure I provided a lot less analysis than people may have wanted, but I think really examining the stuff that resonates with us too closely is a dangerous act. I don't want to know why something has such a strong impact on me, I'm just happy that such a thing exists.