Friday, September 12, 2014

A Fistful of Influence! (Brad's Picks)

A couple of days ago I was tagged on Facebook by my buddy (& former co-cineAWESOMEr) Jeff Wildman to whip up one of those "15 Movies That Stuck With You" statuses.  I started to type up my Top Ten films, but stalled much as I love those movies, I got nothing else to say about them right now.  They're great.  They sum up my tastes perfectly.  Still, Jeff's status got me thinking.  What are the movies that molded me into the Film Freak that's currently clacking away on this blog post?  Last year, I was lucky enough to capture Martin Scorsese's Jefferson Lecture at the Kennedy Center.  He called it "The Persistence of Vision," and a good chunk of was devoted to discussing the movies that shaped him as a director.  I've been mulling over these films since the lecture, and Jeff's status was just the excuse to get them up on ITMOD.  Again, these are NOT my all time favorite movies.  These are simply the films that steered my tastes.  Some of them seem obvious, a few others maybe not so much.

5.  Pickup on South Street:  Growing up an 80s/90s kid, Black & White was old & boring.  I wish I could claim a youth filled with culture and erudite thinking, but I pretty much matured strictly on a diet of Schwarzenegger & Star Wars (more on that later).  During those early years on the planet, I managed to catch a few of the inevitable classics (Psycho, Casablanca), but they never connected with my dumb kid brain.  In my teen years, as I (and everyone else) was obsessing over Quentin Tarantino, I discovered Samuel Fuller through the documentary The Typewriter, The Rifle, & The Movie Camera.  As guys like QT, Jim Jarmusch, & Tim Robbins gushed over his genius, I got curious.  I first watched The Big Red One, Shock Corridor, & I Shot Jesse James.  I thought they were interesting, but I still didn't understand the big deal.  Pickup on South Street knocked me out.  Despite a plot firmly rooted in The Cold War, Pickup is a mean little crime story with a very modern sense of cynicism.  "Don't Wave That Flag At Me!"  Richard Widmark is one of the most likable unlikable characters ever.  A beautiful bastard that sent me running into Film Noir - The Big Heat, Kiss Me Deadly, Sweet Smell of Success, Touch of Evil.  This set off a chain of events that lead me all the way to Citizen Kane - a movie that genuinely lives up to the hype, as Citizen Kane really is The Citizen Kane of Movies.  Black & White = old & boring?  Only children & idiots believe that.

4.  Death Race 2000:  Kids love all kinds of movies (unless they're Black & White as established above) - Indiana Jones, Airport, Plan 9 From Outer Space.  Good, Bad, Wonderfully Bad. They all live on the same playing field when you're young.  Some kids grow out of the crap films.  Some grow into ironic enjoyment - a nasty trait that I sometimes fall into.  But I'm pretty sure I would be a hipster asshole if not for Roger Corman.  His movies represent a can-do spirit that I find tremendously uplifting, and no other film embodies that "Where There's A Will There's A Way" attitude better than Death Race 2000.  You may not have the budget, you may not have the talent, but you've got an idea.  That's enough to make entertainment.  I love that.  If the world blesses me one Death Race 2000 for every Transformers I have to suffer through than All Is Right.

3.  Hellraiser:  It was a big deal the first time I sat down to watch Clive Barker's original horror.  I was a born scaredy cat.  When I was probably far too young, I braved a peek at both The Shining & Alien, and survived thanks to some strategically placed hand blocking.  Horror held an attraction, but I also worried that it was all Devil Music, a one way ticket to a fiery inferno. Then one day a classmate of mine told me that Hellraiser was cinema's greatest achievement.  I'm not so sure that's true, but to shut him up, I got my hands on the VHS.  It was scary...really freaking scary.  And it was badass.  The makeup.  The gore effects.  The monsters.  I'd never seen anything like it.  I went running to the books. I read the original novel, as well as The Damnation Game.  Clive Barker finally got me to Stephen King, and Stephen King pretty much cemented my interest in spook stories.  It's a genre I don't deal much in lately.  Modern Horror stories feel repetitive if not redundant.  I've got my favorites, I dare you to do better.

2.  Reservoir Dogs:  Before Quentin Tarantino I pretty much got all my entertainment through action movies.  Five minutes into Reservoir Dogs, I discovered that I could get as much enjoyment out of a conversation about Madonna as I could from a lightsaber duel.  1992 was a game changer.  Independent Cinema.  The Auteur theory.  I started reading books about filmmaking.  I became a movie nut, not just a fan.  When Pulp Fiction finally came around I was already preaching Tarantino's gospel.

1.  Star Wars:  I can't even remember a time before Star Wars.  Almost all of my early baby photos feature me clutching upon some Kenner action figure.  Simply put, I would not be ME without George Lucas.  I'm sure the same can be said for a lot of folks my age.  However, I don't really talk too much about it these days.  I spent the first 19 years of my life obsessing over Luke, Han, & Leia but the hurt of The Phantom Menace was so strong that it took several years before I could even watch the original trilogy without the sting of remorse.  You'll probably never see a Star Wars film get recognized on one of my Top Ten lists.  Not just because of the Phantom Menace burn, but because Star Wars is practically fused with my DNA.  I may say that Unforgiven is my favorite film, but Star Wars probably floats in the ether right above it.  It's time to drop the baggage, I need to give Lucas' originals another watch.  100, 200, 300 views?  I can do 301.


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