Friday, April 15, 2011

What's Your Favorite Movie? Part 1

I’ve seen this in a number of places—lists of some random guy’s favorite something or other—in numerical order, chronological order, whatever.  Movies are a popular subject and it’s pretty interesting to see which movies most people like.  I read one the other day by some guy who did an alphabetical list of his favorite foreign films.  Twenty-six movies I’d never heard of. 

So I’m asking myself: what kind of narcissist blogs a list of movies he likes?  I mean who cares, right?  Having said that, here is part 1 of my A to Z list of my favorite movies. 

Disclaimer: All movies are the original versions.  No remakes, no sequels, except where noted.  “The” doesn’t count as a movie that starts with “T.”  Numbers aren’t spelled out unless it’s how they appeared on the movie poster.

A is for Annie Hall (1977)

There are a lot of great movies that start with A, especially if you count the flicks that start with “A” or “An.”  American Graffiti is a great movie and you can’t go wrong with Airplane! or American Beauty. But Annie Hall is the best.  It’s not just because it won awards and it’s not just because it’s a Woody Allen film.  It’s just a great story with some great actors and some classic scenes.  Christopher Walken as the suicidal Duane Hall.  The anti-Semitic Grammy Hall (“Grammy?  What did you, grow up in a Norman Rockwell painting?”), and a really poignant ending that makes you want to watch from the beginning again.

B is for The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

This was a tough one.  My first thought was  The Breakfast Club because I was the same age as the characters (thought not the actors) when it came out.  It spoke to me, as did all John Hughes films and I still watch it whenever it’s on. I also thought of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  This was almost my favorite—a great buddy film with two great actors and a fantastic script.  But the scene with the bicycle and the song knocked it out of first place for me.  The Best Years of Our Lives is a great story.  Three men returning home from the horrors of war, but they’re not as excited as they should be.  Reentering their old lives is actually harder than fighting an enemy shooting at you.  A little long, but not one slow moment.

C is for Casablanca (1942)

This was a no brainer.  I suppose Citizen Kane is the popular answer and Caddyshack is a classic.  But there really isn’t anything better than Casablanca. Bogart. Bergman.  A great love story that brings Bogart to drink (which is the Bogart version of tears).  A very tense, compelling story. And some of the most memorable movie lines of all time—except for “play it again, Sam.”  Never happened.  

And it was written by a Penn State grad!

D is for Double Indemnity (1944)

Diner, Dog Day Afternoon, Dr. Strangelove…all fantastic “D” movies.  But I love film noir, and Double Indemnity is one of the best.  It’s amazing how something as bland as insurance fraud can become filled with passion, murder, mystery, and some genuine, rapid-fire, film noir dialogue between Barbara Stanwyck (Phyllis) and Fred MacMurray (Walter, pre “My Three Sons”):
Walter: You’ll be here too?
Phyllis: I guess so, I usually am.
Walter: Same chair, same perfume, same anklet?
Phyllis: I wonder if I know what you mean.
Walter: I wonder if you wonder.

Good stuff.  And it’s got Edward G!

E is for Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex* But Were Afraid To Ask (1972)

Not one of Woody Allen’s best but still pretty funny.  Great cameos from Burt Reynolds, Tony Randall, and Gene Wilder, and some funny scenes of Woody Allen being chased across a field by a giant breast, and a rabbi as a contestant on the game show “What’s My Perversion?” (he wants to have pork fed to him by a dominatrix).  In truth, I couldn’t think of any other “E” film I liked.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was good but I think I liked the concept of the story more than the film itself.  The Exorcist…yeah, I guess.  Tough letter.

F is for Forrest Gump (1994)

This wasn’t easy to pick since I also loved Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Four Weddings and A Funeral.  But I really loved Gump for the way it unapologetically travelled through time, putting Forrest in scenes of real history and making me question whether or not he was real or fictional. But on top of the visual effects was a terrific story of a truly innocent man going about his life with nothing but the kindness his mother taught him.  And he turns out to be a pretty successful man for that.

G is for The Graduate (1967)

Good lord, you're married
to Mel Brooks?
I liked The Great Escape. I really like Groundhog Day. I loved The Godfather.   But The Graduate ranks up there with the best of them.  A college graduate running from all the expectations people have of him, completely shattering whatever mold he’s been pushed into.  In many ways Benjamin Braddock is me, except for the affair with the older woman, the awesome red sports car, the fact that he’s played by Dustin Hoffman.  “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me…aren’t you?” is one of the most memorable movie lines…and scenes.

H is for His Girl Friday (1940)
This poster is for that movie?
Holy Misleading!

Watching this movie is exhausting.  Everything is fast about it—especially the dialogue.  It’s a really fun movie.  Even a little dark when the journalists care more about their story than the fact that an innocent man is going to get hung.  But Cary Grant is at his Cary Grant-iest.  The relationship between Grant and Russell is fantastic. 
Walter (Grant): There's been a lamp burning in the window for ya, honey... here (pats his lap)
Hildy (Russell): Oh, I jumped out that window a long time ago.

She hates him but can’t avoid his charm. No one can. And there’s a scene where Grant yells “get me Liebowitz” into the phone. That's great writing. 

I is for It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

I lost 8 grand and got away with it!
Hee haw indeed!
Hee haw! This is a tough letter.  So many movies start with “I” or “It” or “I’m.” But I didn’t have to think too long on this letter.  It’s A Wonderful Life may not be the best movie in the world, but this is a list of my favorites.  The story is a little trite, the scenes are a little corny, but I never miss a chance to watch it on TV.  In the days before NBC bought it, you could see the film literally dozens of times on dozens of channels during the holiday season.  That was part of the fun of it.  The ending bugs me a little (click here for a full explanation) and I don’t know who names their kid “Zuzu” but as Harry Bailey says at the end, George is “the richest man in town.”  Not richer than Sam Wainwright of course…

J is for Jaws (1975)

I was 6 the summer this came out so I didn’t see it in the theater.  But I knew the story.  And I truly had a fear of going too far out into the water.  It’s lost a little of its impact now that there have been so many documentaries about it and I know the shark didn’t work, it was named after Spielberg’s lawyer, etc.  It also took place on Amity Island which, to me, sounded like Amityville and that’s on Long Island and that’s where I grew up and…well you get the idea.

The Jerk was a close second place.  Classic Steve Martin.

K is for King Kong (1933)

Yes, I saw The King’s Speech and it was very good.  Would I see it again?  Maybe in a few years.  King Kong has held up for me not only because of the story, but because it’s like a little time capsule.  Blatant stereotypes verging on the offensive (the natives on the island, the Chinese cook…), great 1930s dialogue, including liberal use of the word “swell.”

           Carl Denham: [warning Jack about women] Some big, hardboiled egg  gets a look at a pretty face and bang, he cracks up and goes sappy!

L is for Life is Beautiful (1997)

This one came to me at the last second.  I was tempted to say The Lord of the Rings but backed off for the same reason I didn’t say Lawrence of Arabia—too epic.  Great films but they require a real time investment.  Life is Beautiful is amazing in that it was basically two distinct parts: the romance in the first half and the concentration camp story in the second half.  Roberto Benigni’s character sacrifices everything for his son, not only to keep him safe but also to keep him from getting too scared.  Heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time.

M is for The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

I really liked Memento but had no idea what the hell was going on.  I liked the idea of a guy trying to solve a mystery when the mystery is himself.  But for true staying power, I chose The Manchurian Candidate.  I admit that like Memento, I had no idea what was going on.  Look at the top of the poster: If you come in five minutes after this picture begins, you won’t know what it’s all about.  I first saw this on TV and jumped in about 10 minutes after it started.  What’s with the garden party?  Wait, Koreans?  Weren’t they just at a garden party?  Once I got the whole premise, I was hooked.  Who knew Frank Sinatra could act?  Who knew Angela Lansbury could be such a bad ass?

Stay tuned for the 2nd half of the list tomorrow…or some time soon after that.


Anonymous said...

"Quatermass and the Pit"!

Lieboblogger said...

Okay, but that's a TV series. Plus, who?