Since it's been awhile since we've had a column just on movies, and since I love movies, and since my wife's been out of town again (during her absence, I wound up once more watching a bunch of oldies from my DVD stash and a bunch of newies from Netflix), I thought I'd spend some time talking about stories on the screen rather than stories on the page. Bear with me--I promise I'll reprogram my GPS and get back on the mystery/literary freeway two weeks from now.
As fate would have it, I ran into an old friend from my IBM days in the supermarket earlier this week (yes, I was in there buying more TV dinners) and he asked me if I could suggest any good movies. Movie maniacs love to hear that question, and I dutifully rattled off a few titles. Afterward, it occurred to me that some of the films I had recommended to him might not be considered great--or even good. They were just movies I happen to like. Sure, sometimes the ones I like are good, in terms of critical acclaim, but sometimes they're not. A lot of my favorites never took home an Oscar or even came close, but they remain my favorites. Know what I mean?
I'm sure Rob and Leigh will know what I mean when I say that all this gave me the uncontrollable urge to make a list. A list, in this case, of what I consider to be the best movies I've seen. All are based on my opinion only; as they say on the news, this study is not scientific. In fact, the word "favorites" here simply means "the ones I found most entertaining." (Can you spell "guilty pleasures"?)
Enough excuses. Here are my thoughts regarding bests and favorites:
Best known: The Godfather
Best crafted: The Silence of the Lambs
My favorite: Die Hard
Best known: High Noon
Best crafted: Shane
My favorite: Once Upon a Time in the West
Best known: Star Wars
Best crafted: Blade Runner
My favorite: Aliens
Best known: Gone With the Wind
Best crafted: Casablanca
My favorite: The Graduate
Best known: Halloween
Best crafted: Psycho
My favorite: Silver Bullet
If you go beyond the basic five categories and wander into the murky forest of other genres and subgenres, I like To Kill A Mockingbird (drama), Raising Arizona (comedy), The Natural (sports), Dumbo (children), Apocalypse Now (war), It's a Wonderful Life (classics), Holes (young adult), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (adventure).
And don't forget cross-genre movies. My personal favorites are probably Blazing Saddles (comedy/western), Witness (mystery/romance), Galaxy Quest (sci-fi/comedy), Somewhere in Time (romance/fantasy), Sleepless in Seattle (romance/comedy), and yes, Cowboys and Aliens (sci-fi/western).
What are some of your favorite films, by genre? What are some that you consider well constructed, and/or well written? Do you find that the ones you enjoy the most are seldom the ones that got the best reviews? Or even the best comments by your friends and neighbors? For some reason, everyone I know (including critics) hated Lady in the Water. I loved it. And everyone I know (including critics) loved the remake of The Thin Red Line. I hated it.
I must confess that the above list would probably have been different a year ago, or even a month ago, and would probably be different next month or next year. I change my mind more often than a presidential candidate. But I do have a pretty reliable litmus test for which movies I think are good and which are not. The good ones are the ones I will happily watch over and over again. (I need to be educated--or bored silly--only once; I need to be entertained constantly.)
I feel the same way about novels and stories. Which reminds me--
Recalculating route …