Far From Heaven
Todd Haynes, 2002
I know that the art of the homage isn’t really a genre, but if it were, Far From Heaven would be the all time greatest. A melodrama clearly paying respects to 1950s soap opera great Douglas Sirk, its artifice only heightens its emotional content. Julianne Moore is a stunning Jane Wyman successor, Todd Haynes’s stylistic choices burning in the memory like an unforgettable painting.
The Shining Stanley Kubrick, 1980
The Shining isn’t a horror masterpiece for nothing: Stanley Kubrick works hard to build a nightmarish atmosphere, Jack Nicholson convinces us that his descent into madness is relatively ambiguous, and Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd are victims we want to save. I saw it only recently, but it feels like I suffered through its calamitous horrors just yesterday. Its scares are impossible to forget.
Taxi Driver Martin Scorsese, 1976
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro are a match made in heaven, and Taxi Driver is the result of an artistic partnership that works so well that the constraints of a masterpiece are as inevitable as going to preschool.
The Silence of the Lambs Jonathan Demme, 1991
I love to tell everyone that I watched The Silence of Lambs last summer in the pitch black, beginning at 1:00 in the morning. It’s how it should be watched — a horror movie so eager to frighten (and so good at it too) deserves respect. I’m ashamed that it took me so long to watch it, but I’m not ashamed in terms of how it hit me. While it is undoubtedly a great horror movie, it is realistic enough to feel like it’s live, not a movie thought up by some intelligently twisted minds. Jodie Foster is a knockout, and Anthony Hopkins is fearsome in the best of ways.
Blue Is The Warmest Color Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013
I hate having to defend a film’s artistic merit when innocents pass it aside as a lesbian quasi-porno flick — they assume that you’re leering instead of being a party to deep emotional movement. This is my favorite romance film, not because it features uncomfortably exploitative sex scenes (which are actually the film’s only flaw) but because the relationship seen on screen feels so real. You feel as though you know
these women, and as three hours pass by and watch their relationship blossom and eventually die, you’re left as heartbroken as they are. No, I won’t be watching it twice, but only because its moods and textures will never leave me. Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos are excellent.
Whiplash Damien Chazelle, 2014
Whiplash is the kind of movie where leaving the theater is like a cool walk in the park following a mad dash away from a killer. As intense as any horror movie could ever be, it is an instant classic, and certainly the most sweat-inducing cinematic experience I’ve had all year. J.K. Simmons is positively mesmerizing as its sadistic villain, and Miles Teller asserts himself as a talent to watch as a protagonist whose at-first unbreakable confidence nearly collapses as the film treads into its darker, bloodier territories.
Boyhood Richard Linklater, 2014
Most of us don’t really realize we’re getting older until a milestone hits, a la college, marriage, retiring, etc. It’s hard to be retrospective, see every detail previously experienced with clear eyes and land with appreciation. Boyhood, a miraculous endeavor in filmmaking (it took over twelve years to film), captures just what a magnificent thing aging is, and how even the smallest of moments during our lifetime can be seminal later on. The lives of the characters would seem average if realized in a smaller project — but as hours go by and we really get to know them, we
realize that everyone has a story to tell, and that in itself, is more epic than Ben-Hur could ever be.
House of Games
David Mamet, 1987
The sands of time have left “House of Games” as a hidden gem only really celebrated by Roger Ebert, who declared it to be one of the “Great Movies.” There’s a reason why he’s my writing inspiration — even when he’s wrong, he’s right, and vice versa. But he surely isn’t wrong about House of Games. In terms of it being a great movie, I have, perhaps, never agreed with him more. The dialogue is a dancing sequence in a Technicolor musical, so exquisitely choreographed that its lack of realness makes it even more infatuating. It’s the kind of thriller that
keeps us guessing until the very end, never letting up and never letting its enigmatic undertones dissolve.
Magnolia Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999
Every once in a while, a massive film like Short Cuts or Magnolia can come as a life-changer, giving you a wider perspective on life itself, a wizened attitude immediate. This Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece will forever be the movie of his career, so unmistakably odd yet so unmistakably human that the characters, the dialogue, pass by with documentary candidness. Strange that it’s so cinematic.
Network Sidney Lumet, 1976
Satires as fatalistic as Network rarely come by, and, being blessed with one of the greatest screenplays of all time and a startlingly excellent ensemble, it nearly slices our brains in half with its ultra sharp dialogue and well-conceived monologues. Its overall concept is ludicrous yet manages to seem believable. So convincing are the situations and scenes that we feel as though we’re watching an immensely cruel, but also immensely funny, documentary about the problematic media.