This was much harder than I thought it’d be; I haven’t attempted a comprehensive list like this in about a decade. There are at least 55 films I could likely swap with the bottom third of the list and not feel bad about.
- Princess Mononoke (1997)
- Three Colors: Red (1994)
- Children of Men (2006)
- Millennium Actress (2001)
- The Night of the Hunter (1955)
- The Godfather (1972)
- Tokyo Story (1953)
- Tree of Life (2011)
- 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)
- Spirited Away (2002)
- Mulholland Drive (2001)
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
- The Bicycle Thief (1948)
- A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
- Whisper of the Heart (1995)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
- My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
- The Lion King (1994)
- Star Wars (1977)
- Only Yesterday (1991)
- Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
- Ran (1985)
- The Princess Bride (1987)
- Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
- Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2003)
- Yojimbo (1961)
- Psycho (1960)
- Late Spring (1949)
- Sunset Boulevard (1950)
- Taxi Driver (1976)
- The Fall (2006)
- Dark City (1998)
- Suspiria (1977)
- The Shining (1980)
- A Little Princess (1995)
- Casablanca (1942)
- Inglourious Basterds (2009)
- Rear Window (1954)
- The Vanishing (1988)
- Beauty and the Beast (1991)
- Ratatouille (2007)
- Brooklyn (2015)
- Alien (1979)
- On the Waterfront (1954)
- All About Eve (1950)
- Departures (2008)
- Jurassic Park (1993)
- The Night of the Living Dead (1968)
- Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
- Summer Wars (2009)
- Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
- The Thing (1982)
- Jaws (1975)
- The Apartment (1960)
My little blog turned 5 years old today. On one hand, I haven’t been the most prolific blogger. It has had numerous fallow periods. But it has always been here for me when I need it. Writing about movies is therapeutic for me. It does me a lot of good to have a place where I can write what I want, when I want, at my own pace.
That I have picked up some followers along the way amazes me. Again, I’m not a full-time or even part-time blogger. My output leaves a lot to be desired. But every comment, every view I get makes me happy. That my writing has an audience of any size makes me happy.
So here’s a little present from me to my readers, to celebrate today, a few things to commemorate my blog’s 5th anniversary. Below are some top 5 lists: five posts that I’m proud of, five great blogs I love, and later tonight, my 55 favorite films of all-time.
Thanks for reading, and I’m looking forward to what the next five years will bring!
Five posts of mine I’m proud of
I was still figuring out what this blog was going to be when I tried a just-for-fun experiment: seeing what I could learn about movies I loved by looking at the opening shots. It was the first time I realized just how much fun writing about movies could be. After that, I tried to keep writing only pieces I could really enjoy writing.
In which I make the case for one of my most deeply-held beliefs about movies: that adapting books to the letter is much less important than capturing their spirit.
I sometimes dabble in writing about TV shows, and Game of Thrones is a favorite of mine. Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from criticizing it when I think it’s merited. I do feel vindicated by this piece, though: the show’s sixth season was widely praised as one of its best, and it dialed back much of the empty shock value that nearly made me give up on the show in favor of the intrigue and epic sweep that made it so gripping in the first place.
I was going through a bout with depression when I wrote this piece, about another mental illness I’ve been grappling with my entire life. I was extremely nervous about hitting “Publish” on this piece, but I’m so glad I did.
This one means a lot to me for so many reasons. As an American, it’s important for me to remember what I love about my country in an election season that has so often given a megaphone to those who would enforce the worst, most narrow-minded instincts upon the entire populace. Brooklyn is a beautiful film that reflects a country that I can be proud of.
This piece also meant a lot to my mom. It is as much a tribute to her as it is to the movie. After she read it she told me with tears in her eyes how much it meant to her. Four months later, she passed away. I don’t think I have it in me to watch Brooklyn again now. But it is a special movie to me for that reason, and this review will always have a special place in my heart.
Five blogs I love
Anna over at Film Grimoire hasn’t posted in a couple of weeks, which means I haven’t been able to read her lovely writing about movies as often as I’d like. Her reviews are straightforward, honest, and excellent. She is also a tireless promoter of other excellent bloggers; her monthly favorites lists are required reading.
They really aren’t assholes, try as they might to convince you otherwise. Matt, Jay, and Sean are passionate cinephiles whose love for movies and writing about them is so infectious, that even if they were assholes I’d still love their site.
Rob at MovieRob watches so many movies, half the fun is simply seeing what he’s watching next. His monthly Genre Grandeur blogathons are always a lot of fun as well, to both participate in and to read when they’re finished.
Horror is my favorite genre, and horror writer Michael Thomas-Knight runs a superb site that covers horror from all angles: films, fiction, interesting attractions, and more. I always know I’ll find something fun whenever I visit.
Joshua Hoffine’s horror photography has been some of my favorite horror in any medium over the last few years. He doesn’t update his blog very often, but the behind-the-scenes looks at his photography are wonderful. If you love horror like I do, please check his work out!
(Coming later, my 55 favorite movies!)
I haven’t written here for a while. Here are some thoughts I spilled last night to get the gears moving again. Some spoilers below for the movies discussed.
Beauty is something we can all immediately recognize, even as we can never agree to a person what is and isn’t beautiful.
Beauty is one of the aspects of a movie I respond to most of all, even if I can’t exactly define what makes a film beautiful. At least not in a way that I can apply consistently from movie to movie.
For example, I loved Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. But is it beautiful? Dazzling, sure. Visually stunning, absolutely. But I’m not sure I’d call it beautiful. Not as a whole work. There are certainly gorgeous shots, but beautiful shots can’t make a whole film beautiful any more than a few individual words can make a whole poem beautiful. My favorite films often have the same appeal of poetry to me; at their best, they evoke strong, specific emotions.A good poem can transport me into the mind and heart of the poet. Good movies can do the same thing.
What about my favorite film of Cuaron’s, Children of Men? I would call it one of the most beautiful of all films. Yes, it takes place in a grimy, miserable universe. Yes, it tells a story rife with death. But it’s a deeply humanist film, and its visuals are propulsive and actively serve the storytelling. The beauty of the images and the beauty of the story culminate in that tracking shot near the end when a brutal battle is interrupted, for a moment, by the sight of a baby. The moment is Cuaron’s masterpiece, taking an element that could have been mawkish all on its own and building to it with precision until he created a symphony of images and narrative that was as moving as any scene I’ve seen in a movie theatre.
Just as there’s more to making a painting truly beautiful than recreating a beautiful scene, the most beautiful films are always more than the sum of their parts. You know how much I love Hayao Miyazaki, and no one would argue over how beautiful his films are. He is the 21st century standard for imaginative filmmaking. And yet for as much as I love Miyzaki (Princess Mononoke will always be my favorite film) I don’t think he’s responsible for the most beautiful Studio Ghibli movie. That honor goes to Only Yesterday, the bittersweet drama by Isao Takahata. Its visuals aren’t as lush as Miyazaki’s (or even those in Takahata’s lovely The Tale of Princess Kaguya). The story, of a 27 year-old woman looking back on her childhood while casting an uncertain eye to the future, isn’t as obviously moving as the rich, propulsive plots of other Ghibli films. But there’s a quiet beauty constantly humming beneath the surface. Every scene is rich with life, sometimes sadness, sometimes delight, but mostly just everyday familiarities, moments that sing with truth. Sometimes the most beautiful thing an artist can provide is empathy.
Of course, there’s more to beauty in art than humanist affirmation. Have you ever read Flannery O’Connor? She specialized in southern Gothic tales of mean people doing cruel things to each other with passages that, out of nowhere, evoke feelings of something divine, even apocalyptic. The beauty in a Flannery O’Connor story is not the type that inspires wistful reflection. It is always at odds with the material, fighting through it, giving you fits because the mere suggestion of a shred of beauty in a story like A Good Man is Hard to Find seems so at odds with the material. And yet it’s undeniably there, made somehow more potent by its suddenness and brevity.
Those moments of beauty are my favorites. They pop up so unexpectedly and have the sort of permanent impact on me that truly inspires. For this reason, there might be no more beautiful film than The Night of the Hunter. Charles Laughton’s only film as a director tells a tale that is as dark as the woods at night. At times it is demonically sinister. It is filled with cosmic dread. And then, it finds the beauty. The scene where Shelley Winters body is found submerged at the bottom of the lake still retains its horrific power, even as it evokes the same feelings of grand religious paintings. The scene where Robert Mitchum chases the children through the swamps is one of the most deathly frightening chase scenes ever filmed, culminating in his character screaming one of the most fearsome screams in cinema history. The standoff at the end between Mitchum and Lillian Gish’s kindly caretaker of orphaned children is almost literal in its divine imagery, pitting Mitchum’s satanic false preacher against Gish’s guardian angel. It wouldn’t work if it weren’t for the film’s total conviction in its imagery. It wouldn’t be so powerful if it weren’t so convincingly ugly, if it weren’t so divinely beautiful.