Friday, September 19, 2014

Another Two Fistfuls of Favorites! (Matt’s Picks)

    It’s that time of year again.  Brad and I put down in stone (blog) the next ten movies in our lists of all time favorite films.  (See my 1-10 here, and 11-20 here).  The further into the list I get, the more weird I feel about it.  Not bad.  Just weird.  Of course, picking favorite movies is like picking favorite children.  Still, some kids are better than others.  And dang it.  Where’s Citizen Kane?  2001?  Hard Ticket To Hawaii?  I love those movies.  Well, maybe in the next installment.

30.  Cat People:  “Look at that boat…Look at that boat.”  I’m not a kinky guy.  But this movie drips in kink and I love it.  John Heard plays a successful me (you know, if I ran the zoo, and all that), wrapped up with a very special kind of femme fatale.  Nastassja Kinski is that fatale, a sweet natured girl with giant eyes and deep naivete.  They’re a perfect match, except for one thing.  Beautiful, deliberately paced, and with plenty of time spent on character, this weird mystery takes more than one unexpected turn.  Not for the easily upset, it features some rather unusual ideas, none too few of them depicted on screen.

29.  In a Lonely Place:  I’ve been a Bogart fan since I was around 10, when we got a VCR at my house and saw Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and Key Largo on a VHS my dad had.  Bogie was so cool, so tough, and so beautifully ugly.  Over the next 25 years, I watched those three films many times, and slowly watched others in his filmography.  But it was In a Lonely Place that struck me like a bolt of lightening.  Like when I read Henry Rollins’s poem I Know You, I felt my heart and soul were being ripped out and shown to me in their raw form.  Here was a film where my favorite actor was playing me, or at least the version of me I’m most ashamed of, most scared of.  I think it’s his best performance, and though the ending is a bit sensationalist, the movie feels like a brutally honest piece of self assessment by a writer about being a writer.

28.  Zardoz: "I have seen the future and it does not work."  It doesn’t get a heck of a lot more British-weird than this 70s masterpiece of the bizarre.  Sean Connery plays an ubermensch uplifted from the shattered remnants of humanity who sneaks into a pampered paradise of bored immortals.  Everyone plays it straight, no matter how crazy it gets.  And it gets CRAZY.  Zardoz is not for everyone…Scratch that.  Zardoz is not for most.  But for those lucky few, this movie is like no other and it’s wonderful.

27.  The Creature from the Black Lagoon:  I saw this film at such an early point in my life that I only have the vaguest sense of when it was.  I couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6, and it would likely have been on the Creature Double Feature, seen at a friend’s house (they had cable, and got Channel 56 out of Boston).  I’m sure it wasn’t the first monster movie I saw, but it was the one that stuck with me, that made me a lover of the genre.  And it was my introduction to the Beauty and the Beast plot archetype, which has remained a favorite of mine ever since.

26.  Escape from New York:  Kurt Russell is a one eyed monster getting all up in the Big Apple’s prison hole.  Great cast, great score, lots of awesome action, and Snake Plissken, one of the most ridiculously tough tough guys of cinema.  I don’t think anyone but Russell could have pulled it off.

25.  An American Werewolf in London:  Like John Carpenter’s The Thing, I’d heard a lot of negative stuff about this movie before I rented it, but just minutes in and I loved the Hammer Horror vibe, the humor, and the surprising twists.  I laughed and jumped and marveled at the horror.  The effects are some of the best put to film, the cast is extremely charming, and the story wonderfully tragic.

24.  The Iron Giant:  The design and animation are excellent, but the story is the thing.  A lonely boy living in Cold War era Maine finds and befriends a giant robot from outer space.  It’s a good movie all around, but the ending.  Man, it gets me.  Superman indeed.  Niagara Falls.

23.  The Virgin Spring:  A beautifully filmed medieval story that straddles Ingmar Bergman’s symbolic and visceral sides comfortably.  It’s gut-punch brutal and lyrically mystical in turns.  A family’s love, the destruction of innocence, and the calculated vengeance of a grieving man.  This was the movie that made me a Bergman fan, and it’s a darned fine film.  Human ugliness displayed in a beautiful package.

22.  Coffy:  The rough, tough, and sexy Pam Grier shotguns her way through the criminal underworld as a one-woman war on corruption.  Reveling in the weird fashion and décor of the 70s, while slinging slang and splashing house-paint blood, it may not be the best Blaxploitation (Trouble Man, maybe?) or the best Pam Grier film (Jackie Brown), but it’s my favorite, and my go-to.  It’s the film that brought me to the genre, and the one I find myself popping in the DVD player most often.

21.  Alien:  A fantastic cast of characters, stunning production design, wonderfully slow then nightmarishly fast pacing, and one of the most beautiful creatures ever designed.  It’s a haunted house on a space ship.  It’s a creature feature.  It’s a pretty darned good slice-of-life science fiction film.  Everything about this film is top notch.  But I think it really comes down to the script and performances.  (See my detailed review here).

-Matthew J. Constantine

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