SFC DVD MVPs

I haven’t been able to get out to the theater in the past week, so I don’t have a fresh review in the hopper yet.  I’ll probably see A-Team soon, so there’s that.  For now, I thought I’d fill the void with an exercise I like to attempt from time to time.  The old “10 movies on a desert island” game.  Not original, obviously, but a fun game nonetheless.  I’m always surprised by people’s answers.  The desert island format is perfect, because it’s all about what you want, by whatever definition you choose.  The bullshit is cut away.  It isn’t about the best movies, or the coolest movies, it’s about the movies you personally couldn’t live without.

I’m extremely interested in the list of basically anyone who would be reading this.  I also want to get mine down for posterity.  I’d like to look at this in a few years and see how it stands up.  Like a stoney time capsule.

OK, here we go.  This is probably going to be pretty hard.  I can think of like 20 candidates off the top of my head.

1) The Fellowship of the Ring– It’s pretty easy to start here.  I’m the biggest Tolkien nerd on the planet, and this movie was excellent.  Nearly perfect, even.  I’m still just as impressed as I was when it came out.  The same cannot be said for The Two Towers or Return of the King.  Those two definitely don’t make my desert island cut.  It’s odd that Fellowship is so much better considering they were shot all at once.  The book is also the cream of the trilogy, so that’s part of it.  But it doesn’t tell the whole tale.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say there had to have been a director switch.  In Fellowship everything is done right, whereas the last two are littered with obvious mistakes.  The only plausible explanation I can think of is that something changed in the screenwriting process after the first movie’s script was written.  Even this doesn’t sound very likely.  The LOTR great divide is like the Pythagorean theorem: there is no answer (c-squared).

2) V for Vendetta- V for V was a big hit among my group of friends when it came out, and its been near or at the top of my list ever since.  The graphic novel is also incredible.  I’m a big fan of Alan Moore, obviously.  Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, a whole slew of solid British character actors, and an unbelievably accurate aesthetic delivered by the Wachowski Brothers.  The fighting is superb, too.  Forceful and direct.   The bros went away from that kung-fu bullshit they got so attached to in The Matrix.

What really takes V for V to the next level for me is the way it can move you.  To anger, to hope, even to tears.  The sequence where Portman is in prison reading the dead lesbian’s letters is some of the best filmmaking I’ve ever seen.  Perfect.  Just perfect.  This movie kicks ass.

3) Congo- Yes, I’m aware Congo is bad.  But it’s just the right kind of bad, baby.  The kinds of bad that brings the laughs.  There’s a part of me that just wanted to fill this list with Surviving the Game, I Robot, and all my other badder faves and be done with it.  But then I thought about what would actually happen if I took those travesties to a desert island.  I would imagine after a few years alone my possession of a Constantine DVD would start to seem like a pretty cruel joke.

Still, there is no way I would ever go anywhere without Congo.  Tim Curry’s turn is Herkermer Homolka is, by far, my favorite acting performance of all time.  I would never want to live in a world where I couldn’t watch him try to find those diamonds.  “We must follow the gorilla, where she leads!”

4) Rushmore- Another no-brainer for me.  I loves me some Wes Anderson (still), and Rushmore is his crown jewel.  It’s also Bill Murray’s undisputed finest hour.  This was the role that changed the way he acts, and paved the way for his attempted transition to serious actor.  In a way, he’s been trying unsuccessfully to re-create it ever since.

I would imagine Rushmore would make the list of virtually everyone I know.

5) Sleepy Hollow- This is similar to the Rushmore pick, in that I basically just took a favorite director, and picked what i consider to be his best work.  I realize most of you probably think Burton has done better, but this is my jam.  Ask five different people what Burton’s best movie is and you’re likely to get five different answers.  I literally did this the other night.  The answers were Sleepy Hollow (mine), Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Batman and Peewee’s Big Adventure.

6) Fletch- There are movies that make me laugh harder than Fletch.  In the past two years alone Bruno, Pineapple Express and Macgruber all accomplished that feat.  But there is just something about Chevy Chase in this role that really speaks to me.  There are a lot of reasons to dislike him, and he definitely made some bad movies.  But when I watch Fletch, I feel like I’m seeing a really unique kind of comedic genius at work.  Nobody ever did it quite like Chevy Chase.  This is him at his absolute best.

7) The Royal Tenenbaums- Am I lame for putting two Wes Anderson movies on my list?  It’s hard to tell how people feel about him these days.  It seems like there’s some antipathy.  I know a lot of people were really disappointed in The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited.  I suppose I was too.  But Darjeeling was still pretty decent and Life Aquatic has really grown on me the past few years.  I actually think it’s a pretty awesome movie now.

Regardless, the Royals Tenenbaums is the last slam-dunk on my list.  Great look, great cast, great laughs, great soundtrack, and all kinds of feeling.  I love almost every character in the movie.  I care about them.  Aesthetically, Wes Anderson reached his peak here.  You could probably say that about almost every aspect of his filmmaking, actually.

After this it gets harder for me.

8) * The Empire Strikes Back- I hesitated over whether or not to include this.  Obviously I’ve always been a huge Star Wars guy, but I feel like my fandom has really been taking a beating these last ten years.  All the new movies, with the possible exception of Revenge of the Sith, were total garbage.  I’ve grown to really dislike George Lucas.  I loved Return of the Jedi as a kid, but can now see in it the beginnings of the nonsense that was to come.

But no matter how fat and lame Lucas gets, I always want to have the option to travel to a galaxy far, far away.  Star Wars has been a part of my life for over twenty years.  And Empire Strikes Back is still an awesome movie.  By far the best of the trilogy.  I’ve been fascinated by the ice planet Hoth for as long as I can remember.

*This stupid smiley face was, of course, an accident.  Happens automatically when you follow an 8 with a ).  I’m gonna leave it in there. I sort of like it, in some perverse way.

9) Boogie Nights- I always forget about this one while compiling my top ten lists, but I really shouldn’t.  Boogie Nights is a fine choice no matter what you’re in the mood for.  Want to laugh?  the scene where Scotty tries to kiss Dirk Diggler is one of the funniest of all time.  Then there’s that whole segment where Dirk and Chest Rockwell are doing too much coke and spiraling out of control.  The music stuff, that crazy robbery scene with Tom Jane and Alfred Molina, there are laughs everywhere.

But it isn’t a comedy, at least not really.  Most of the film builds toward devastating failures by virtually all of the characters.  Things sort of work out in the end, but there is a good hour devoted to everyone ruining their lives (with extreme prejudice).  Macy kills himself, the colonel goes to jail for child pornography, Amber Waves loses custody of her kids, Rollergirl gets disrespected by that guy in the limo, and Dirk Diggler gets the shit beat out of him by the hillbilly who, oddly enough, had just paid to watch him jack off.  Drama!

Great style, an all-star cast, and a plot that draws you in.   Boogie Nights has it all.

10) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford- I really agonized over this choice.  There were many legitimate candidates.  Jesse James might seem like a weird call, but I’m all up in this movie’s business.  It seems like most people I talk to either haven’t seen it or weren’t impressed, and I just don’t get that.  The narration that opened every scene was superb, as was the accompanying cinematography.

Pitt and Casey Affleck both really get it done as well.  Oscar-caliber performances in my humble opinion.  Ditto for Sam Rockwell.  as a matter of fact, the cast was full of believable performances.  And the story of Jesse James and Bob Ford is awesome.  It was a great call to tell it from Ford’s perspective.  I award big points for creativity.

OK, so that’s my list.  Honorable mention goes to Old School, Pineapple Express, The Prestige, Surviving the Game, and Gone, Baby Gone.  All were considered.  So was Macgruber, actually.  I’m going to see it again, and it may very well push its way onto the list.  I’m still laughing from the first viewing.

Interested to see some lists, if any of you feel up to posting one.  It’s no easy task, even for a fully trained and licensed Stoney Film Critic.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “SFC DVD MVPs

  1. In no particular order:
    Rambo (the fourth one)
    Rocky IV
    Die Hard
    Bottle Rocket
    Step Brothers
    Fletch
    Cool Hand Luke
    Real Genius
    Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, New Orleans
    Thin Red Line

    • Also, really love The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and would love to wedge that in there.

    • big hatt

      a few reactions to your list:

      1) I wish I liked Bottle Rocket more. When I watch it I see a good filmmaker who hadn’t fully developed his craft yet. Many people I respect consider it the funniest one, and I’ve just never felt that way. Its funny, but I’m not that into it. I feel shame about this.

      2) You turned back the clock more than me. Another source of shame is that I have little or no connection to almost anything that came out before my time. It’s a weakness. And I’m not even necessarily talking about old classics. Even the 70s and much of the 80s are beyond my grasp. I saw Ordinary People for the first time a few months back and was really impressed. It made me more aware of my blind spot. I plan on addressing this issue via netflix. Still haven’t gotten around to netflixing. I am so lame.

      3) Bad Lieutenant fills the “Congo role” on your list I see. every list should probably have one. People are fiercely loyal to their favorite bad movies.

      4) Never seen Rambo. I think maybe I’ve always hated Stallone without realizing it. I’ll tell you what movie of his I liked though: Copland.

      • No need to worry about Bottle Rocket. I’m knocking it off my list. The Big Lebowski was an egregious oversight on my part.

        Oh, and a point of clarification: In the desert island exercise, I am not necessarily selecting the films that I believe to be the best ten ever but rather am viewing it as a list of the ten most re-watchable films.

      • And I actually believe that the new Herzog directed Bad Lieutenant is a great film.

      • And despite my moniker, I’m only 30, so it’s not like I’m ancient…

      • Big Hatt

        That’s basically the way I handled the exercise too. You gots to factor in the re-watch. Ultimately thats what kept The Prestige off my list. Not nearly as cool when you know whats coming. All my choices are movies I’ve seen many, many times and not grown tired of.

        I had you pegged at around 30. I’m 29 (blogging really came around at the perfect time to capture our age group). But your list is much more old-school than mine. I had hoped mine would turn out that way too, but realized upon serious reflection that virtually all of my favorite movies came out in the last 15 years or so.

  2. Radius

    That #10 was my favorite. I like how you picked long movies, exception being Rushmore(can’t remember Tennenbaum’s length) which is what you would need to get ya through. Always been a closet Fletch fan, but afraid no one in our crew liked it, so I never brought it up.
    I admire your sticking with Anderson, can’t say I’ve done it, I admit to abandoning ship awhile ago. Don’t know if I’ve seen a better set design than Sleepy Hollow, I watch it every year when I get the first sense of fall. “Empire”, can we even discuss that out loud? It’s like how the Muslims can’t draw a picture of Mohammed, or something.

    • Big Hatt

      It definitely doesn’t seem like Chase gets much traction in our crew, but he really had it goin’ on for a while there. If I were 20 years older he’d probably be my favorite actor of all time.

      I have fantasized about living on that Sleepy Hollow set. By far the coolest looking movie I’ve ever seen.

      So many conflicting emotions about Star Wars. How did Lucas become such a fat fucking loser? The guy used to be such a legend in my eyes and now he sickens me.

  3. Beans

    Wow, great exercise going on here at SFC. I’m planning on spending a little time thinking over my list this weekend (I am a total loser), but I was surprised by how much your list reflected a couple that came straight to my mind.

    “Boogie Nights” will certainly be on my list somewhere, along with one of Wes Anderson’s joints. Hatt, I was very surprised to see r boi Chris Nolan absent from the list. “The Prestige” was one that immediately came to my mind when thinking of Desert Island movies. I actually have thought that additional viewings allowed me to better understand the nature/science debate going on throughout the film. Still not sure if it can beat out either of the Batman cuts though.*

    My main reason for making a quick comment though, is this: Who on Earth doesn’t appreciate “The Assassination of Jesse James”? From the second the film opens with Pitt running his mangled hand through the wheat field, I was hooked. The movie’s almost 3 hours long, but I watch it every chance I get. Pitt and Affleck are simply perfect in it. As you mentioned, the narration was captivating, and I thought the score made a big difference as well. I can still hear those violins. I challenge anyone to watch that movie through the early train robbery scene and NOT be hooked all the way through.

    • Beans

      That asterisk above was meant to lead to a footnote explaining how “Inception” might already be on my Desert List, in spite of having only seen trailers. Gordon-Levitt and Nolan teaming up? Um, yes please.

      • Big Hatt

        I was sure The Prestige would be on my list, but it fell just short. I still love it, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure it’ll be back. If I made a desert island list 6 months from now The Prestige could very well make it. Nolan is legit. Re-watched Memento recently. Still really awesome. If I made a top 20 list, Memento would likely make it.

        Jesse James is weird, because I watch it and see a movie that should’ve taken home truckloads of oscars. But the buzz, now and then, is just nonexistent. I don’t hear people disrespecting it, but most people haven’t seen it. And it doesn’t seem like the people who have are that into it. Maybe I’m wrong. Was definitely glad to see you and Radius throw your support behind it. Let’s start something.

        Can’t say I share your enthusiasm for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, although I respect that you respect him.

  4. A relative

    I picked movies that I must watch, at least part of, every time I surf by them – no order but I really needed 20.
    1. Shawshank Redemption – definitely not my type of movie – but brilliant – seen dozens of times.
    2. Apollo 13 – My dad worked in the space industry at the time – I know how it ends, but I still get nervous at re-entry – so I’d want that if I was going to watch again and again.
    3. Wizard of Oz – still scared of the WW – which is about the level of fear I would be able to tolerate on the island all by myself.
    4. GWTW – best romantic movie of all time
    5. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – Tracy and Hepburn and Poitier at their best – true classic
    6. Casablanca – oh, maybe this is the best romantic movie – gotta have Bogart on the isle.
    7. It’s a Wonderful Life – Jimmy Stewart is timeless in everything he does -but, if I didn’t have a pine tree to decorate on the island, this would remind me of childhood holidays.
    8. Any of the three original Star Wars- only SciFis I really love – and watching Harrison Ford over and under act is always a hoot.
    9. Sound of Music – what’s not to love – Nazis and young boys in matching leiderhosen, and Julie Andrews as a fallen, singing nun.
    10. SATC – leave me alone, I’m a middle-aged woman alone on an island wearing ragged palm fronds.

  5. I am going to add my list, in no particular order, because the topic is just irresistible.

    10) Blow
    9) Trainspotting
    8) Se7en
    7) The Shinning
    6) Closer
    5) Eyes Wide Shut
    4) Adaptation
    3) The Weatherman
    2) Anne Hall
    1) Boogie Nights

  6. KC Oracle

    1. Blame It On Rio – Demi Moore in minor role with small breasts. Michael Cane is hilarious.

    2 Alamo – with Billy Bob Thornton. Would have been a classic, if not for the prior ones that were puff pieces on Davey Crockett (although not without its charms) [If you are in San Antonio, see the Alamo – a remarkable place and event.]

    3. Airplane. Comedy at its finest.

    4. Fletch. I probably would not have remembered it, but seeing it on Big Hatt’s list, I remembered how great it was.

    5. Godfather I.

    6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

    7. Major League.

    8. Bull Durham.

    9. Hangover

    10. It’s a Wonderful Life.

  7. Helsing

    I like mostly fantasy and action. I want to say I like Clue but I can’t remember anything that happens in it. No real order except #1

    1. Big Trouble in Little China
    2. Indiana Jones: Last Crusade
    3. Anaconda? (didn’t want to choose Congo)
    4. The Hobbit Animated Film
    5. Willow
    6. The Yellow Submarine
    7. Time Bandits
    8. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
    9. Total Recall
    10. Boogie Nights

  8. Shane

    I know I’m like a month late on this one, but great call on #10. I’m a big westerns guy, and I think that one is really great and really underrated.

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