Friday, May 11, 2012

Sight and Sound Movie List: La Kozak

(Editor's note. La Kozak never need beg for anything. What happened was that I had no plans on doing a further top ten than my own and Der Fersko, but when La Kozak heard of this, she kindly though firmly inquired why she was not ask. Thus was history made.)

I basically had to beg Evan to let me do a top ten because, unlike Marc, I LOVE a top ten. (I prefer a top five, but you take what you can get). Also, unlike most people, I love all movies, even and perhaps especially the terrible ones. I can’t help it. I’m addicted to cinematic adventure. I’m also madly in love with anything produced before 1974. I love plenty of movies made after 1974, but I am more “in like” with them than “in love.” Are you nervous about this list yet?

10. He Who Gets Slapped (1924, Victor Seastrom [sic]).  This is one of the most poignant movies ever made. Just thinking about it makes my soul hurt and I will never forget the first time I saw it, late one summer night on TCM. Surviving silent films are rare, but the world is lucky to still have this one. Besides, you can’t go wrong with Lon Chaney.

9.  Star Trek (2009, J. J. Abrams).  I know, I’m going contemporary, science-fiction, book-based series remake -- this is dangerous territory. But I will physically fight you like James T. Kirk in the bar scene of this movie. Maybe you hate the overuse of lens flares, but you know what? I like to think of the future as a bright, shiny, unnecessarily complex and chaotic place where Star Fleet Academy is located on San Francisco Bay and everyone has something funny to say. This is a good, new-old-fashioned action movie that’s witty, sexy and sets a genre gold standard. Seriously, if you disagree, I will fight you. Also? I am in love with Chris Pine’s eyebrows. #truth
(YouTube, how do you not have a clip of the bar fight scene? Internet fail.)

8. Fern Gully (1992, Bill Kroyer).  Like most children, I thought Fern Gully took place in the Amazon because it appeared to be a rain forest and the only rain forest I had ever heard of was the Amazon, but watching it later in life, there’s this one part -- and every adult has the same reaction to it -- where you go, “Holy shit, that’s a kangaroo.” Turns out, Fern Gully is an actual place in Australia? Location aside, this was probably the first feature length animated movie where the love story is not the main plot. And the main plot is actually pretty serious. This movie taught me that humans suck, and they sucked even before the internet. If you ask me, at any point, if I want to come over and watch Fern Gully, we will probably be best friends for ever.

7. Auntie Mame (1958, Morton DaCosta).  I don’t know what I wanted more growing up: to have an Auntie Mame or to be Auntie Mame. A semi-epicwhirlwind of quite alarmingly progressive view points, it always surprises me that Auntie Mame was made in the 50s, let alone allowed on the bigscreen. And of course, like most people, Auntie Mame is the one who taught me how to make a cocktail.

6. Gone with the Wind (1939, Victor Fleming).  I know some people view this epic as little more than the cornerstone of the southern apologist movement, but you can’t deny that it is truly epic. Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable are two such huge presences on the screen that every scene they share seems fifty feet tall, even when you’re watching it on a 9-inch laptop. (Let me bend your ear sometime on how Rhett Butler is actually a feminist). Next to Casablanca, it probably has the most remembered movie lines, from Leigh’s dramatic, “As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again” to Gable’s “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” -- giving the movie its iconic end.

5. The Breakfast Club (1985, John Hughes).  Everything I know about life, I learned from The Breakfast Club and MTV’s “Undressed.” I spent most of my teenage years wishing that John Hughes had directed my life, and I’m ashamed to say that most of my friends back then didn’t even know who John Hughes was. Luckily, I’ve gotten better at making friends since then. It also has one of the most iconic endings ever (after Gone With the Wind), thankfully popularized in the recent teen sensation movie Easy A.

4. The Sandlot (1993, David M. Evans).  A year ahead of the curve, The Sandlot set the tone for the childhood movies of the 90s, followed in 1994 by Richie Rich and Blank Check (seriously, what are the odds). This movie has it all: an almost unrealistically diverse rag-tag group of kids, a seemingly impossible problem, James Earl Jones, and a wealth of one-line gems that transition easily into real-life situations, e.g. “You’re killing me, Smalls.” Also? It’s about baseball.

3. When Harry Met Sally  (1989, Rob Reiner).  This is perhaps the most perfect movie ever made. I know you’re thinking, “Pfffft, rom-com.” FALSE. (I mean, true, but no, also false). In almost any movie, at some point the viewer must, almost by necessity, be coerced into following along with some emotion or scheme, but When Harry Met Sally is the only movie I can think of where that doesn’t happen. For as funny, clever and eventually heart-warming as it is, it’s never really forced. And that’s what makes it so genius.

2. Now, Voyager (1942, Irving Rapper).  This is a close second place. For most people, Bette Davis is a hard actress to like because she plays all the worst characters, but not so in Now, Voyager. I love Davis in her crueler roles, but she shines in the softer, still-defiant ones like this and Dark Victory (another favorite). Paul Henreid is charming (though I found him unsympathetic personally) and Claude Rains is the definition of debonair. Meanwhile, Gladys Cooper gave me nightmares in her role as the mother (see scene below). This movie stayed with me as haunting, sad and yet strangely hopeful.

1. The Great Escape (1963, John Sturges).  Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve McQueen, but I’ll never forget being eleven years old and falling in love with Richard Attenborough's ‘X’ in The Great Escape. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s based on a true story, or the idea that good will always win out, even if there are casualties along the way, but I just feel this movie has it all. There’s rollicking adventure, harsh reality, the bonds of friendship and wry, self-deprecating humor. And let’s not forget the greatest motorcycle chase in cinematic history.

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