Top 5: Favorite Movies

For those of you who continue to care, this is another post which will eventually lead to a populated “Likes” page on this website. As usual, I write and post to entertain myself, keep the writing skills fresh and maybe once in a while someone reads it.

Since I did a huge post about movies to see before Oscars night (and I continue to write “Oscars night”, plural, because of the SEO), I’ve been thinking a bunch about film in general. Some of you have been to my home and know I have an entire bookshelf, floor to ceiling, full of DVDs and there’s a few who know me from my west coast days when I had twice as many. I also have a subscription to every conceivable legal movie/television online service (including Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon, Crackle, Hulu Plus, Microsoft and Sony) and get every single movie channel. I go to the movies at least once a week (record: six), as you know from my last post, spend a bunch of time reading about them. I’ve written two screenplays, working on my third and have taken over 40 hours of screenwriting classes. So it’s safe to say that this is something of a hobby of mine (understatement to say the least).

My blind side in films is the so called “classics”, or the vast majority of films made before, say, 1980. I like a dense, complex story or dense, complex characters with top-notch acting that LOOKS real. Many of the so-called classics are a bit flimsy in my view (a simpler time?), and for some reason, American actors pre 1960 have a tendency to speak with annoying quasi-British accents. Though special effects a movie does not make, there’s plenty of scenes in old movies that look god-awful in comparison to today’s technology (obviously), and they stand out to me and are quite distracting. So, while I like some of these movies, the bulk of them don’t figure into my favs.

Finally, one last note, my Top 5 Favorite Movies are the movies that are my favorites, not necessarily the Top 5 Movies of All Time. I might do the latter in another post later on, but not today. These are movies that I keep coming back to at various points, ones that speak to me for their various reasons, movies that resonate.

Top 5 Favorite Movies/Trillogies/Series
5. The Way
2010. Director: Emilio Estivez. Staring: Martin Sheen, Emilio Estivez, Yorick van Wageningen
I’ve wanted to walk the road to Santiago since long before this movie came out. However, it’s probably the closest experience you can have making the 800km walk (from the French Pyrenees to the Atlantic Ocean) without getting off your couch. Like most people who wish to make the walk, Martin Sheen’s character has some ‘splanin’ to do to his soul, and there’s few better places to do it than on a two month hike. Beautiful and moving, subtle yet complex, this also falls into one of my favorite categories of movies: quiet. It’s like having a quiet drink, alone with your thoughts.

4. A Knight’s Tale
2001. Director: Brian Helgeland. Starring: Heath Ledger, Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But there are few movies that are as out and out fun as this one. People complain about the makeup and rock music over the medieval jousting, but they don’t get it. The filmmakers set out to make a film about what it was actually like to be these people, while showing you what it FELT like to be these people. If they showed you dirty, smelly, unkempt people who listened to flute music, that’s all you’d see. But to them, the girls wore makeup, the guys combed their hair and stadiums rocked out to Queen. It’s visceral, good-hearted and delivers a familiar message in a new way. Just plain good times. Plus, the cast of characters (except Shannyn Sossamon, who is ill-fitted for her role and frankly not terribly attractive, despite all the “beauty” references that go her way in the film) has an electric chemistry; Heath Ledger, Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk and Mark Addy are all first class actors.

3. The Motorcycle Diaries
2004. Director: Walter Salles. Starring: Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo De la Serna, Mercedes Morán
Another one of those films that falls under the category of “quiet”; you can just let this one wash over you. This is a road trip movie in South America in 1952. Che Guevara is a 24 year old medical student traveling around the continent with his best friend on the back of a broken down motorcycle. Together the two hit on women, get chased by angry townfolk (often the two are linked), run into cows (literally) and discover the heart and soul of a divided nation, as well as their compassion for humans in general. Beautiful, stark and spare, it’s based on the book written by Guevara and his friend together years ago, before the CIA took it upon itself to murder Che for his beliefs.

2. The Paper
1994. Director: Ron Howard. Starring: Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall
The Paper has just about everything you could want in a movie. It’s got a murder mystery, comedy, an all-star ensamble cast with top-notch chemistry and multiple love stories. All these strands are pulled together by Academy Award winning writer/director Ron Howard into something that’s fun and believable, all in just one day surrounding the events of people who work at a barely working newspaper. There’s virtually nothing wrong with this movie; even Randy Quaid’s acting is top level.

1. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
1969. Director: George Roy Hill. Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross
You’ll notice that I very much enjoy a good, quiet, character driven movie (if I had done a sixth film on this list, it probably would have been Away We Go, which is as story spartan as it gets, or Nobody’s Fool, which is all Newman). You’d think this would be a swashbuckling western with two famous bank robbers, but it’s really a tale about what we lose as we age and evolve, both as people and as a country. Newman and Redford are one of the best pairs in film history (unfortunately only doing one more together, another classic in The Sting), and the film’s story is really the two of them constantly being surprised and adjusting to what’s put in front of them, even as it consistently gets harder and harder with each passing scene. The story resonates and stays with you long after the final frame.