Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Movies of My Life

 “You can map your life through your favorite movies, and no two people's maps will be the same.” - - - - - - - - Mary Schmich


To enjoy this little motion picture distraction, it helps to have been raised in a movie saturated culture with the means and leisure to indulge such celluloid fantasies. But I will leave the sociological observations at that and wander down my own particular Movies of My Life.

A couple of disclosures: I was not a movie fan as a kid, it just wasn't something that interested me. In high school movies were for dates and the object of the date was not primarily to enjoy the movie. I do remember in the summer before my senior year in high school going to the art theatre in Ann Arbor to see
David and Lisa. I remember this because we had to leave early, the guy I was double dating with thought people speaking in poetry was .... well not something he understood. It was several years before I saw the movie again and remembered how different the use of cinema had been in that picture. Twas my first introduction to movie as art.

My further disclosures: Dialogue is paramount for me, followed by images and music. There just
aren't enough stories to really make a difference. You know: the Hero, the Jesus story, Buddies films etc. I also am not a big actor and actress fan. I dislike and avoid movies based on the cast a lot more often than I go to one because of an actor. Yes, I had my Woody Allen phase and Martin Scorsese is brilliant. Finally, I lived in L.A. for fifteen years (1975-1990) and more than willingly got into the movie mania of that city. Since L.A. I have drifted very far away from motion pictures, mostly due to cable television; the last seven pictures I have seen in a theatre are: 3 Lord of the Rings and 4 Harry Potters.

So then My List, in some sort of semi-chronological order or not:

David and Lisa (1963) because it was the first, even though I didn't get it for several years.

Fantasia (1940/seen by me in 1969) I am sure I saw this on television on a Sunday night Wonderful World of Disney before I got to see it on the big screen. I really don't know if the rumors about Uncle Walt doing LSD are true or not, but many, many tens of thousands of moviegoers equate Fantasia with some really awesome trips. Count me among them.

The Graduate (1967) One of the most significant Hollywood movies of its time and pictorial placeholder for the Boomer Generation. There was the whole Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack story. The Buck Henry screenplay and my first coyote-Mrs. Robinson. Plus the emergence of Dustin Hoffman was made even more stunning by his next film...

Midnight Cowboy (1969) If The Graduate was the dark side glossed over, then Midnight Cowboy was the dark side without edits and the Ratso character played by Hoffman stood in stark contrast to Benjamin Braddock from The Graduate. By the way, Midnight Cowboy was the first and only X-rated film to win the Oscar for best picture.


A Clockwork Orange (1971) The last X-rated film to be nominated for best picture. And yes "X" meant something very different 30+ years ago. Stanley Kubrick had come a long way from 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. 2001 does not make my list, but I am not sure why not.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) With apologies to Johnny Depp, who I really like, but in this case the remake had no chance against the sheer brilliance of Gene Wilder in the original. Now that I look at my list it appears this may be the only "children's film" or fantasy to endure my personal test of time. Unless of course, you count the Lord of the Rings Trilogy which was brilliant even with the exaggeration of the war and violence plus the unfortunate loss of Tom Bombadil & Goldberry.

Harold and Maude (1971) The (year) on this list is when the movie was released, I am not really sure how many I saw when they first came out, probably most of them. Harold and Maude just had, well, Harold and Maude, and darkness and Cat Stevens before he found his faith.

La Grand Illusion (1937) OK, I am fairly sure I did not see this one when it first came out, but it was my first introduction to "foreign films" and I still remember the night in Cambridge where I saw this Jean Renoir classic.

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Knew nothing about it, saw it in Hermosa Beach with someone I love and with the RHPS onstage cast, whose name I cannot recall (the cast not the lover) and well it was at a late night, double feature picture show.


Annie Hall (1977) I moved this up from the "other" list. It was really a seminal film and deserves to be in my life changing list, even if it does not stand up to what Woody Allen has done to his reputation.

The Deer Hunter (1978) Was the second Vietnam film of 1978, the first was Coming Home with Jane Fonda. The Deer Hunter had DeNiro, Walken, Streep and Michael Cimino and was a break-through picture about how we as a society would deal with the destruction that Vietnam caused at home to those who served, those who opposed and every one who suffered the ultimate loss.

Welcome to L.A. (1978) The most profoundly affecting movie I have ever experienced. This is not a recommendation, as most people who have seen it, really hate it. But I had a unique experience with this film and it has stayed with me for thirty years. Cast includes: Sissy Spacek, Keith Carradine, Sally Kellerman, Geraldine Chaplin, Harvey Keitel, Lauren Hutton, Richard Baskin, Denver Pyle. Robert Altman produced the film.

Apocalypse Now (1979) This was my favorite movie ever the first time I saw it and has never left the top of my list in thirty years. The original version not the Director's Cut. The struggle between Coppola and Brando both on and off the screen created this epic film about war on the other side of the universe.

Raging Bull (1980) Yes indeed this may be technically the best picture ever made. I loved it the first time I saw it and have never been able to sit through it again.

Reds (1981) A film that defined my primary relationship of the 80's. Again a story for another blog.

Blade Runner (1982/1997) In this case the classic film is much better in the Director's Cut, but either version is head and shoulders above any other near post apocalypse movie. The darkness and the rain just lock you into the lowest vision of humanity.

The Big Chill (1983) Yes, true movie snobs know that The Return of the Secaucus Seven is the more radical and militant version but the Big Chill struck a perfect note in the late sixties edition of my generation. Also many of my friends from the 70s & 80s claim the William Hurt character is me, an observation that I protest and resemble.

The Hunger (1983) and White Palace (1990) and The Tempest (1982) and Atlantic City (1980) and, of course, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). You do know who these films have in common right? Of these, the sleeper is The Hunger with one of the most erotic scenes ever filmed.

Brazil (1985) Terry Gilliam's masterpiece. You love it or you hate it. I would have no problem if Time Bandits or the Life of Brian was more to your taste.

Dreams (1990) I did see this one on opening day, in fact, I saw the first showing in Los Angeles by complete seredipity. Still one of those "days to remember" with Jimmy & Audrey but that is another blog for another day. Akira Kurosawa directed, wrote and dreamt the film. I don't know how it holds up today, I have never wanted to see it again; don't want that memory disturbed in any way.

Notting Hill (1999/seen my me in 2006) I know-what the fuck is this doing on my list?! Well other than delivering one of my favorite movie lines ever: "Happiness isn't happiness without a violin playing goat." This movie also defines another of my ill-starred relationships with just a girl.


Also:

The Hustler (1961)
A Thousand Clowns (1965)
King of Hearts (1966)
Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
The Lion in Winter (1968)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
M*A*S*H (1970)
Straw Dogs (1971)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
The Last Waltz (1978)
Das Boot (1981)
Koyaanisqatsi (1982)
Star 80 (1983)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Jean de Florette (1986)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Mindwalk (1990)
Philadelphia (1993)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Fargo (1996)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Two Towers (2002)
The Return of the King (2003)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

I reserve the right to add additional films in the future, particularly if they wake me in the middle of the night with a Doh!

4 comments:

AudreyLevy said...

Being the Audrey in "Jimmy and Audrey," who was fortunate enough to see "Dreams" with you that day, I can honestly say that had you not mentioned the memory, I might never have thought of it.

But now that you do mention it, I remember we went to Westwood and it was an extraordinary experience.

It is impossible for me to talk about my favorite movie or movies, because there have been so many.

I will say that "Gone with the Wind" made a huge impression on my when I was in the 7th grade.

Of the most recent offerings this season, I very much enjoyed "Benjamin Button." It moved me to tears and laughter, and all I ask from my film experience is to have it elicit emotion.

I'm easy - Jimmy used to say that I had round heels.

In any event, I will use this forum to shamelessly plug my novel about the life of Jimmy and Audrey, called "Noelle's Ark", which can be purchased for a mere $13.95 at NoellesArk.com, or Amazon.com, or BarnesandNoble.com or ordered by your favorite neighborhood bookstore.

And, oh yes, I wish all those who took the time to read this far, a Happy, Healthy, and Safe New Year.

I love you, Tim.

Audrey

Anonymous said...

Suggestion is Kurosawa's first film in color. Possibly Kagemusha 1980. One of the few films I would even buy.

rick said...

Great list......for me "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" was a big one....and I noticed no Star Wars or Indian Jones......

rick said...
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