OK, time to get this over with. Truth is, I have little right making a list of this sort, but it’s the internet, and it’s a blog, and this is what we do. There are many movies I wish I could watch again, or watch period, before making this list, but I was asked, so here we go. I’ll try to add another five to this list sometime after the other guys give the rest of their lists. These are in no particular order. Sorry if that’s against the rules, Reid. Some of them are more thrown together than others. I also apologize for repeats.
The Squid and the Whale
I’ll try to avoid repeating too much of what Reid said about this, but, like Reid, I’ve watched it more than most on my list. For a movie to at times be as uncomfortable as this is and still be so thoroughly enjoyable is no small feat. Both the acting and writing do a great job of showing that when adults are made vulnerable, they often still act just like children in their defense mechanisms. This movie allows us to learn about adults, children, and all the relationships in between while still allowing us to laugh at ourselves through the sadness, knowing that each of us at times behaves just as absurdly.
There Will Be Blood
Ambitions can be deceptive. I’ve heard gripes against this film that the oil man and the preacher are each just liberal stereotypes of what big businessmen and religious people are like. This might make sense if each of the characters weren’t so distinct and powerful. These are character studies far before they are critiques of a worldview. How many businessmen does anyone know with the ruthless violence of character of Daniel Plainview? These are men possessed by their ends and we have the painful privilege of watching them disintegrate by their means.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
It sounds like a somewhat far-out premise, but all of the emotions and experiences are pretty common. The sense of loss that Joel feels from his memories being erased is really no different than the sense of loss that anyone feels at the end or failure of a relationship; over time, all the good memories melt into the bad ones and lose their luster. None of them can be held in the way they originally happened. So even though having your memory medically erased like Joel is impossible (for now…), the viewer still knows everything he and Clementine are going through. However, Kaufman and Gondry allow those emotions to take on the colossal reality that we can only imagine; what better representation could there be for the end of a relationship than having a house slowly and beautifully collapse around it? Better still, perhaps, is the end realization that no person, and no relationship, is perfect, and to hold on to one, you might have to be OK with that.
Kill Bill Vol. 2
Here Tarantino finds a sensitivity and femininity that he’d never shown before, but without sacrificing his hard edges. Sure it’s not as action-packed and doesn’t have as many cinematic tricks and references as Vol. 1, but Vol. 2 brings the story that Vol. 1 is always looking for.
I’ve heard complaints that the last fight is too anti-climactic, but I don’t think it could be better. By that time you nearly want them to reconcile; you even think they might just get back together, but The Bride sticks to her mission, getting her revenge even after a reconciliation of sorts (and the most endearing use of the C-word ever put to film), and allows Bill to die with some dignity. It’s a moving and triumphant moment.
Little Miss Sunshine
This movie seems to have a little bit of everything and does all of it well. It’s vulgar and honest without being offensive, simply because the characters are so sincere. It speaks to some of life’s biggest struggles while still being light-hearted and immense fun, and it says things about our culture that the angst-ridden teen still buried within us has wanted said in a popular film for so many years (“Life is one fucking beauty contest after another”). Regardless of age, each of the characters is still vulnerable and searching--stubborn, but still willing to learn.