As I was doing my liveblog, I saw that the next thing that came up was The Searchers vs. something I don’t remember. Got me thinking … What are my favorite westerns? It’s my dad’s favorite genre, arguably, and I saw a shitload of them growing up. In fact, it’s a lot of those B-Westerns from the 50s that I need to help round out my list of movies over at Letterboxd. But what are my favorites?

Rio Bravo, without a doubt. Hawks made the same movie three times, but he got it perfect the first time.

Quigley Down Under. Yes, Tom Selleck in Australia. Not enough for you? Alan Rickman’s the bad guy. Who’s Alan Rickman? Hans Fucking Gruber.

The Cowboys. Spoilers here, but it’s from 1972 so I think we’re okay. This is the movie where John Wayne dies. And it’s brutal. And it sucks. But the end kicks so much ass, it’s okay. And that John Williams score doesn’t hurt either.

Tombstone. The far superior of the 93-94 Wyatt Earp movies, this one gets better every time I watch it. Kurt Russell recently came out and admitted that he in fact directed the film — which means we need him in the director’s chair sooner rather than later.

Shane. What do you think happens at the end? Watch how he sits on that horse. Could go either way? Nope. There’s one answer. And it’s the one that sucks.

The Professionals. Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin. Bad guy is Jack Palance. Sort of. It’s super fun, but also dark. Highly recommended.

Let’s try this. We’re gonna play a little flickchart, and I’ll let my stream of consciousness dictate what gets posted here.

Rocky II vs. The Tuxedo.

Really? This isn’t even a question. Stupid Jackie Chan movie …

Boys & Girls vs. Noises Off

I barely remember that I saw the former. No matter, though, because the latter is one of my favorite comedies of all time. HUGE cast. Tons of laughs. And I got to do the play in college! Noises Off wins.

House of Flying Daggers vs On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

This is another easy one. Sure, the former is pretty, but I actually actively disliked that film. I remember it being incoherent and stupid. Just because it’s foreign doesn’t make it good, folks. Bond wins.

Scream vs. Twins

It’s been a long time since I saw Twins, but Scream is a tour de force on many levels. Give it to the horror/comedy flick.

A Simple Plan vs A Goofy Movie

See why I love this website? I just laughed for about five seconds. Oh, Flickchart. Simple Plan. Sorry, Power Line!

The Living Daylights vs The Ides of March

Here’s a great one. This is actually pretty hard. I love, love, love the recent George Clooney film. But Bond is Bond! I think because I was left a little empty with Ides I gotta go with Bond. Bond – 2. Others – 0.

 

More to come…

Such is the title of a blogpost over at Letterboxd. You can look at it here. One of the things that the Letterboxd site does, as I’ve mentioned, is provide the ability to make lists that people can comment on. Now I don’t know the exact criteria tbat went into composing this list, but it is safe to say all of them have had their fair share of shitty reviews and detractors. According to the site, which catalogs this stuff, I’ve seen 41 of the 68 films, or exactly 60%. Now how many would I defend? Let’s see.

1. Alien3. I didn’t see it until three years ago, but it is nowhere near as bad as people say. It’s got problems for sure — killing off Newt and Bishop and Hicks is silly — but it is a very watchable film.

2. Constantine. Didn’t know people hated this. I dug it.

3. Halloween II (2009). I like it a whole lot more than Zombie’s first Halloween movie. It has an odd last act, but there are great moments through and through.

4. The Matrix Reloaded. Revolutions is crap. But Reloaded kicks ass, and it’s okay. Because it’s the first part of a two-parter, the unanswered questions aren’t problematic. And that car chase? Sheesh!

5. Femme Fatale. Cool movie. Brian de Palma, spies, sexy. It’s not amazing but it’s good.

6. Speed Racer. More Wachowski siblings. It’s JOY. It’s kinetic energy turned up to 11 and a whole lot of fun. Take your kids. Seriously.

7. Stargate. This movie is awesome. I can’t say that about any other Roland Emmerich movies.

8. Tron Legacy. See Speed Racer. But with a better score.

9. John Carter. People review this movie’s budget. They don’t review the movie. It’s fantastic.

10. Waterworld. I….well…

11. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Hey, Jar Jar haters. Get off the cross, we need the wood. It’s a fun movie. And it has one of the best pieces of swordwork ever put on film.

12. Dreamcatcher. I liked this movie. Butt aliens and all.

13. The Postman. I LOVE this movie. It’s epic. I watched it again last year and while it fell flat a bit, as it is kind of hokey, most of it played well. The hate makes no sense to me.

14. Death Sentence. It’s a good, dark drama.

15. Superman Returns. Best opening title ever. Nuff said.

16. Beverly Hills Cop III. I’ll never admit this is bad. It’s too much fun for me. Oh, Axel.

 

So 16 of 41. 40% of the 60% I would defend. Got that?

This has been a struggle for many years. I loved Before Sunset upon its release in 2004, but it wasn’t even in the top 3 for me that year. But remember — I was 20.

I’ve been saying for the last year or so that “someday Before Sunset will be my favorite movie of all time.” Today is that day.

I’m screaming it from the rooftops, ladies and gents. And most of you probably have no idea what the hell it is. And that’s part of the reason for my hesitation.

Before Sunset is a sequel to a film called Before Sunrise. The first film deals with these two 20-somethings who meet on a train, get off in Vienna, spend 14 hours walking around and falling in love until (spoilers, kind of) he has to go home. And that’s how the movie ends.

Nine years later, it’s 9 years later. Jesse, the American, has written a book and he’s on tour in Paris. It’s his last stop. Celine, the girl he met almost a decade earlier and the subject of the book, is in the bookshop.

That’s the movie. The film is 80 minutes long, and is just the two of them walking throughout Paris before his flight talking. They’re in their 30s now, and life is much different. Remember what I said about not going to the movies as much any more? I feel so connected to these characters. They are my favorite, simply because they’re regular people. Sure, Jesse has a book out but it’s a “minor” best-seller.

I could watch this movie every day. People say that about a lot of movies, and I usually call bullshit on it. However, in this instance, I believe myself.

I want to melt with these people. And the ending — the ending is one of the most sublime movie endings of all time. 80 minutes is far too quick.

In January, director Richard Linklater and stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke will debut the third film — Before Midnight. I’m of course going to see it, and it may be amazing. They know the esteem with which this film is held, and I’m fairly sure they won’t fuck it up. However, I really don’t want that movie to exist. Jesse and Celine’s story is over in my eyes after the end of Before Sunset. To give finality and actuality to what happens, yes, another 9 years later, kind of takes the piss out of the whole thing.

But that’s it. My number one. I can’t believe I’ve said it. I think I know what I’m watching tonight.

Just as I had said with The Lord of the Rings many posts ago, this is a movie I define as “a movie that shows why we make movies.” It has everything you could want from a film. There’s humor, there’s adventure, there’s passion, there’s scope, there’s battle. It may be one of the most anachronistic and historically inaccurate films ever made, but that doesn’t stop it from being so near and dear to my heart. Mel Gibson, before he revealed to the world that he was crazy, directed his second movie ever and it was pretty much perfect. It was written by a first-time scribe, Randall Wallace. Again, James Horner’s score is exemplary, and I recall many teenage days just listening to the score and dreaming the movie in my mind. I still tear up every time the last track plays, and I hear Wallace’s “freedom” cry in my head.

It’s hefty running time never feels it, and the passion that went into the film is totally visible on screen.

Braveheart has been my favorite movie for most of my life. I still love it. I will always love it. I even got a nice birthday present this year when I flipped channels in my hotel and discovered it on.

But tides shift. Things change.

The king is dead. Long live the king.

This is another one of those defining cinematic moments. I remember seeing this film with my father in fall of 1997 and, for once, not really knowing a thing about it. I knew it was a period piece, that it had Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger in it, and that was about it.

I had no idea what I was in for.

Based on James Ellroy’s sprawling novel of the same name, it tackles corruption and crime in 1950s Los Angeles through the eyes of three very different police officers. What amazes me most about this film is the adaptation. I read the novel about ten years ago, and that story has four or five times the amount of key characters and takes place over the course of seven or eight years. Director Curtis Hanson, with Brian Helgeland, co-wrote the screenplay that pares down the story immensely without ever letting up on the gas.

Titanic is truly a cinematic achievement and a marvel, and I love that film a whole lot. But I have always felt cheated that the big boat swept away all the awards from this film in 1997. Basinger did get a Best Supporting Actress statue, as well as the aforementioned pair for writing.

The interlaced storylines are executed perfectly, and it’s great to watch Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce’s stars rise.

This used to be my #2. The current #2 used to be my #1. What is it?

Aliens.

I kind of want to just stop there. That’s all you need to say.

I regard Aliens to be the best action movie ever made. It’s incredible too, considering that it’s the sequel to a horror movie. Alien is fantastic in its own right, and is one of the most intense movies you can watch. But that’s not the job Aliens undertakes. Aliens has one task, and that is to kick your ass hard while giving you an easy-to-follow story and relatable characters. And they nail it.

It’s hard to believe that the James Cameron who spent $250 million on Avatar, $200 million on Titanic and $120 million on True Lies was able to make this for $18 million (of 1986 money, to be fair). 

Just as Bella Swan is the absolute worst female role model in literary history, Ellen Ripley is the absolute best female role model in film history. She’s motherly in the way she protects Newt, but also can roll with the boys and doesn’t take shit from anyone — not even the Alien Queen.

“Because I blew it out of the God damn airlock,” she says to the Weyland-Yutani board. Yes you did, Ellen. And then you had to do it all over again.

Aliens makes you care more about its group of Colonial Marines in 5 minutes than last year’s terrible Battle: Los Angeles did in an entire film. Random and unfair comparison, sure, but it came to mind.

Aliens is on Netflix. Do it up.

In second grade, when it’s 1991, your favorite movie is supposed to be Home Alone. Or Beauty and the Beast. Or The Goonies. Which I still have never seen. Which people hate me for.

But no, I was the child bellowing at the top of my lungs how It’s a Wonderful Life, The Three Musketeers (1948) and Rio Bravo were my favorite movies. Thanks, dad. Anyhow, this is one of those early hangers-on that really sticks, and truly deserves to. It’s become a Christmas mainstay, but I believe you can watch it any time of year. Yes, the title may be saccharine and there is a cheese factor associated with it. But Jimmy Stewart is the man in his portrayal of George Bailey. This movie makes me emote like no other. Of course, the scene at the end (no, no spoiler warning. The statute of limitations on IAWL is up!) when George is told he’s the richest man in the world is heartwarming and tearjerking. But when George and Mary realize that they have the money to help keep the bank open — their honeymoon money — well that just about melts me in a puddle every time.

Parents, start your kids early on this one. It’s not an old-people movie. It’s pure joy.

Out with the new, in with the old. I mentioned many posts ago that Billy Wilder is in a lot of ways my favorite director was Billy Wilder. He’s probably best known for Some Like it Hot and The Apartment, but his POW drama Stalag 17 is my favorite. It’s one of those movies that builds tension so well and then cuts it with comic relief. William Holden won an Oscar for his portrayal of Sefton, the hoarder who nobody likes but everybody needs. There’s a German spy in their barracks, and only Sefton can sift (sorry) him out.

To say any more would be to ruin the joy of the film, but I highly recommend it. Also look for the sixth-most highest decorated (in WWII) soldier-turned-actor Neville Brand in a supporting role. He’s got one of those faces you just want to punch. But unlike first-most-decorated soldier-turned-actor Audie Murphy, Brand could actually act.

So far this list has been heavy on the movies that were made during my lifetime, but that will change soon, I promise.

Memento was probably the first time I realized what movies could do to you other than entertain. I was 17 and had just heard about this film with a weird narrative structure (it runs backwards — kind of) and was intrigued. It hit my local theater and I went to see it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was one of the most engrossing movie experiences I’ve ever had, and now, over a decade later, one thing still rings true: every time I watch it I pick up on something new.

If you’re unfamiliar, the film is about Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man who has a condition that doesn’t allow him to make new memories. He relies on pictures and tattoos on his body to tell him what is going on every single day. His mission? Find and kill the man who did this to him and killed his wife. But the catch is that the story opens at the end in color, switches to a black and white flashback, and then back to color. Don’t read anything, but this is what it looks like.

Image

The movie ends in the middle of the story, as the timelines converge. The coolest part about this though is that in the color narrative, we are given the exact same condition that Leonard has — we don’t know what happened before. It’s brilliant, and it’s one of movie karma’s greatest achievements that helmer Christopher Nolan has gone on to make The Dark Knight and Inception.

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