10 really great movies

Since I spend so much of my time on this blog, and indeed my waking life, talking about crap films, I figured I should write a few words on movies that I really like. Because not everything is horrible....just most things. I'm leaving out the guilty-pleasure favorite movies like St. Elmo's Fire and Return of the Jedi in favor of ones that I think have some real craft and soul in them.

1. BROADCAST NEWS (1987) - They've been showing this on cable a lot lately, probably because of its alarmingly prophetic commentary on the decline of TV journalism. Basically, everything that this movie satirized now happens on every TV news show, every day; manipulative news, idiotic news, news as entertainment. I didn't really appreciate it when it first came out, but now it seems utterly hilarious and deep. What I did appreciate when I was 12 was the love story, which still seems distinctively true and bittersweet.

2. CUTIE HONEY (2004) - The live-action version of the "Cutie Honey" manga character, directed by Hideaki Anno, who also did "Neon Genesis Evangelion" (which is my favorite piece of narrative art ever). Kind of Kicks Ass. A wonderful collage of retro-Ultraman special fx, perverse videogame villains, gratuitous music videos, and that uniquely Evangelion-esque aesthetic combining heart-wrecking melancholy with super-ADHD pop goofiness. A bit on the exploitative side, but apparently so is the source material.

3. RUSHMORE (1998) - Probably my favorite movie ever, just because I really, really, really, really, relate to that kid who writes the plays with the ill-advised battle scenes. I like how the movie finds a way to completely confuse love, obsession and violence inside an atmosphere of relative sweetness and light. And awesome music.

4. FAREWELL CHINA (1990) - A fairly obscure film by Clara Law, about a Chinese guy who comes to the U.S. looking for his lost wife, who came before him. The Saddest Movie I Have Ever Seen. The Saddest Chinese Movie Ever, and the Chinese make some pretty sad-ass movies. Except in this one, see, they bring over that monolithic sense of loss and futility and add it to American insanity, so you get this special kind of fusion tragedy. So sad I think it made me physically stronger.

5. BARTON FINK (1991) - I generally try to hate movies about Hollywood or the film industry, and I generally succeed. But this movie is deep because it skewers so comprehensively the whole leftist-wannabe-revolutionary-introvert-artist type with details that are so realistic, yet situations which are so absurd. And it's beautifully shot, and John Goodman is one of the best actors ever.

6. VANYA ON 42nd ST (1994) - When I tell people I "like Chekhov," I'm sort of posing; I really just like this movie. It's one of those aging-taste things, to be sure, because I fell asleep while watching it the first time. But I fall asleep during a lot of good movies. But basically I can be won over to any movie that celebrates the futility in love. The adaptation to Mametese is so lovely, it's like all those Mamet plays strained through a heart-shaped sieve.

7. BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986) - OK, it's a bit stereotypical. But the Chinese characters are strongly articulated in this movie, despite the fact that many of them are demons. Also, they are fighting alongside the equally stereotypical dopey Caucasian heroes, forming a multiethnic front against evil that you just don't see that much of anymore. And the dialogue is hilarious: "...Son of a bitch must pay." Not nearly as racist as, say, "Ocean's 11."

8. RESERVOIR DOGS (1992) - An excellent example of the First Thing You Do Is Really Good And Then You Become A Ridiculous Hollywood Filmmaker Who Believes His Own Hype rule of filmmaking. I think this movie is deep because every character who touches a gun dies, except possibly for Mr. Pink, and he probably dies too.

9. AFTERLIFE (1998) - A rather spacey concept, but also a cool anthropological study. The scene where the trainee counsellor convinces the teenager NOT to choose the pancakes at Disneyland as her favorite memory ever, gets me every time. One of those stories that just kind of glows with nostalgia and tenderness. Also fell asleep during this movie on first viewing, but it was a really comfortable bed I was on at the time, so.

10. TAMPOPO (1985) - OK, I gave up trying to think of a worthwhile not-Asian movie that I had seen more than 20 times that didn't have C-3PO in it. I guess I have kind of an Asian bias, or a slant, if you will. Anyway, this movie is just a bunch of vignettes about food and sex and cowboys, etc, and has given me a lifelong weakness for lightly fried rice with scrambled eggs and ketchup. It ain't right that the guy who directed this movie committed suicide, while the Brett Ratners of the world live on. It just ain't right.

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