Not to piss on George Orwell or nothin’ since 1984 is one of my favorite books, but, screw Citizen Kane. It’s in black and white for shit’s sake; the cinematography is not exactly ahead of its time like much of Orwell’s visions. Sure, it’s a good movie, but great? Mmm, only if you think Orwell’s steely eyes make for good acting. No, I’ve got my own favorites you archaic ol’ movie critics.
It is an incredibly difficult task to ask me what my favorite Top 5 of anything is. Most of what constitutes my Top 5 for any given list depends on how many bills came in the mail yesterday, what time the cats want to be fed, and my wife’s horoscope. Or, maybe I’m just moody. But, there are some movies I can watch over and over again, these more than others, for particular reasons.
5 – Saving Private Ryan (1998) – This one narrowly beat out Platoon as my favorite war movie. While Platoon was so gritty it was heartbreaking, Saving Private Ryan added a more specific human element by narrowing the focus of its wartime drama which resulted in me crying like a little bitch at the end. In the beginning of the movie, an aged veteran wonders “Was I good man?” before the movie launches into a heart-pounding D-Day sequence that makes you never want to go to war while making us think this movie is all about Tom Hank’s character. Oh, the swerve on that one. While these days I question the necessity of war – some of the characters in the movie do as well – I find it hard to spit on the humanitarian spirit of this movie (though some critics consider the movie’s plot to be a bit ham-fisted). By the time this one was over, I was also asking myself if I were a good man. I still ask myself if I’m a good man every time I see it. [As a bonus, the name of this film resulted in one of the more clever porn movie titles ever, Shaving Private Ryan.]
4 – Meatballs (1979) – Bill Murray as a camp counselor. That right there basically screams “instant classic.” What sets this comedy apart from other comedy of its time for me are all the nut-ball characters among the counselors and the kids they’re in charge of. In particular, as I was at the time something of a misfit myself, I identified with Chris ‘Who?’ Mackepiece’s character who wasn’t much liked by anyone but Murray’s character ‘Tripper.’ Not to rest solely on the strength of characterizations, the movie plots a conflict with a rival camp that results in one of the most inspiring rally speeches (by Murray) in cinematic history. I could recite the speech even now not having seen the movie since last year, but I suggest you watch it instead. While by now the cinematography sure seem dated (digital re-mastering in aisle five, please!), the movie’s themes – the power of friendships and determination – certainly are not.
3 – Rocky (1976) – Rocky defined then, now, and forever the cinematic underdog archetype. You couldn’t get more of a longshot than boxer Rocky Balboa at the start of this movie. Pit him against one charismatic asshole of a champion in Apollo Creed, and you can’t help but place all your money on the guy you know is going to lose. Only, by the time the fight enters the last round, after Rocky gets up after Micky is yelling at him to stay down, you think this meat bag can win. Shit, you still think Rocky can win after he gets back up and goads Apollo after you’ve seen the movie for the fifth time! [Partly the music’s fault; a flawlessly scored movie by Bill Conti.] I still recall seeing this movie in the theater with my father and everyone was literally cheering the screen for Rocky to win. You don’t forget stuff like that, ever (particularly the fact that Stallone acts in this one). Now, Rocky is the film by which all other underdog films are judged by.
2 – Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1982) – The sucker punch of emotions, wicked animation, and of course the music results in one of the greatest movies of all time and certainly the greatest movie musical of all time. (Chicago and Grease are also great but are nowhere near my Top 5.) The main character, Pink; this guy’s got issues. Not only does he have an abandonment issue with his father dying in WWII, that abandonment issue results in mommy issues as well. He has alienated himself so thoroughly that his wife takes up with another man, leaving Pink to construct a mental ‘wall’ to keep others out. (As Pink is a musician, his ‘wall’ also manifests itself through his art, providing biting social commentary.) Give Pink some drugs while he tries to break through all the madness and you’re left with one really f’ed up movie. Oh, and his teacher doesn’t like him, not one bit. Many people believe Roger Waters was insane when he wrote The Wall but that belief depends on where you think that fine line between madness and genius actually is.
1 – The Matrix (1999) – Forget the sequels for a moment and consider this movie on its own terms. When this movie came out I was just beginning to get deep into philosophy. While many philosophers deride The Matrix for superficially addressing its philosophical topics, the sheer number of philosophical conundrums raised by noir rebels and the guardians of the titular ‘matrix’ alike is mind-boggling (pun intended). Then there’s the matter of the special effects which were groundbreaking for its time, set a standard, and almost twenty years later have aged well. Throw in some awesomely choreographed kung fu and bullet riddled carnage, and this is a great movie for people who enjoy having their thoughts provoked while fists fly. I can recite this movie almost word for word much to the annoyance of basically everyone. I suspect you’re all Agents…