Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Five Films

A trend has been started. Film Geek posted the five films that changed his life. My buddy Primal Scream guy did one. I think it's a really cool idea. So, for your amusement, I post such.

To really think of films that changed you. Not films that amuse you, but actually had a real impact. Narrowing it down to five is hard, but here goes: The five films that changed my life.

5. Being There. Peter Sellers as the oddball Chance Gardiner is pure genius. The film is flawless in sustaining gentle, understated humor. On some level, I related to Chance being so out of step with the world because so often I feel that way. The world hums along at a rate and manner that I feel totally at odds with at times.

It is a film that makes me feel good. After all, as Chance says:

...And if you give your garden a lot of love, and if you work very hard and have a lot of patience, in the proper season you will see it grow to be very beautiful...

4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Aren't we all, in some way, fighting a system that threatens to dehumanize us? Nicholson gives his best ever performance as Randle P. McMurphy who is ultimately destroyed by a system that values order and protocol over humanity. Sounds like where you work? You betcha.

3. The Elephant Man. I can not fathom someone watching this and not being moved.

I think of Dickens: "It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. "

2. Amadeus. How do the merely talented contend with genius? Does it eat them up inside with jealousy? Is there rage against God because of it? How does a creative life continue with the knowledge of limitations? Every artist must resolve this issue or be eaten up by jealousy. This film knocked me out.

At the end, while being wheeled down the hallway of the asylum, the elderly Salieri cries out: I am the patron saint of mediocrity! I absolve you! I absolve you!


1. Apocalypse Now. No kidding, I debated whether to put Hamlet. (1948, Sir Laurence Olivier) at number one, but Apocalypse Now clearly outranks it. People at first thought that this was just another indictment of the Vietnam War, but time has shown that the film has a much broader meaning. This is just a metaphorical journey of the soul with the warning that when we look into the darkness, it also looks into us (to paraphrase Nietzsche). Brando is so awesome as the insane Kurtz and the narration by Martin Sheen is unparalleled. Simply a flawless film, but one to be viewed sparingly.

As a friend said as he returned a tape soon after I loaned it to him: "It began to hypnotize me. I began watching it in the morning as soon as I got up."

Bad way to start the day, dude. Start with coffee.

Well, that's my five. A very tough assignment. Enjoy. Do a list yourself.


Bobbb - Citizen of Earth said...

Great picks man
I would be hard presses to find 5 better films

These were life influencing for me as well

Anonymous said...

Great list. From another die hard apocalypse fan, it's worth noting that the film is very closely based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness; even some of the dialogue is taken straight out of that late 19th century (I think) novel.

Anonymous said...

Hey mon --

I like your list, and concur on a fair portion of it. My distaste for Mozart (I have tried), sadly, prevents me from extracting deeper insights from this film.

By happenstance I checked out from our library "Being There" about a month ago. I hadn't seen it in years, and am still thinking about that final scene with Chance walking on the water, unsurprised. Monster film.

Others which have stuck with me for some time:

During college I watched a screen version of King Lear, shot in black and white on the Jutland Heath (Denmark) in winter. No music. There's no pomp and circumstance for this king; society is barely post iron age. Paul Scofield does the honors.

The Lion in Winter. What family doesn't have its little ups and downs?

Dr. Strangelove. Peter Sellers, Gen. Ripper, Kubrick, Slim Pickens, precious bodily fluids and nuclear annihilation. YEEEHAAAAA!!!!!!!

I really like John Sayles' movies. Maybe it's his consistent indictment of ruling class and the pitfalls of capitalism, or the fact that NOBODY stages a period piece with such excruciating attention to detail. I just unearthed a copy of Eight Men Out from its moving box tomb, lost for years. My son Jack announced after seeing it that he wanted to play baseball when he grows up. What a great film.

But, Matewan is my favorite. I latch on to anything WV as a displaced son in this foreign, appalachain culture of TN. But I clearly remember a newspaper customer of mine when I passed out Charleston Gazettes in Kanawha City as a 14 year old. He'd talk for (what seemed like) hours about the mine wars of his youth. Clearly the defining event of his life. The dignity of work, the importance of proper appreciation for one's labor, not by compensation only, the essential nature of benevolent management -- and the evil of adversarial management: these are crucial issues in every person's life, much more so than I ever realized (prior to the crushing weight of adulthood). Fortunately, for most of us, it plays out less violently than the coal miners of souther WV during the early part of the last century.

eclectic guy said...

have to say I debated about Hamlet with Olivier. really like that one, but it sounded a bit snobbish and so it didn't make the final cut.

i saw Matewan at a theater on Summer's street and it was a total fiasco. these guys kept having big trouble with the projector and the audince was not happy. the continuity was shit and a fair showing of the film was not had.