Monday, August 24, 2009

20 Favorite Films (since 1992): Part 1

This video has already been widely posted across the internet, but here is Quentin Tarantino naming his 20 favorite movies since his first film Reservoir Dogs was released in 1992.

In response, I and the other Following Preview writers Matt Lingo and Nathan Kerce have created top 20 lists. Who knows when the others are coming; I tell them to write things and usually nothing happens. Here's my list, encapsulated in an unaltered post I made on the DVDTalk boards *which itself was taken from the CHUD boards), with short explanations about each title. Remember, this is a list of my twenty favorite movies, not the 20 best movies. There's a whole world of difference between those two words, and the latter is, of course, endlessly subjective. I made one change, which I posted at the bottom of the list.

As a bonus, there's a short bit of thought on what has been Tarantino's most controversial choice right before the notes about the change.


I think when you boil it down, a film can do two basic things: it can speak to you on a personal level, and it can be entertaining. Off the top of my head, here's 20 films made since 1992 that I feel I could sit down and watch at pretty much any minute because they fulfill both of those goals to some degree. The list might have been drastically different if I spent more time on it, but whatever. Everything on the list is a favorite, not a "best".

The main thing that may differentiate my list from others' is that, as per my second criteria, I tend to favor lighter movies over darker ones. Several dark movies, like Requiem For a Dream fell just short of my list because I didn't consider it a film that I could sit down and watch at the drop of a hat.

Almost Famous
[ DVD| 2-Disc DVD]
A potent reminder of the thrills and disappointments of meeting those you idolize. It's a movie that captures a lot of feelings, but I think that particular feeling is the one it captures the best.

Amélie (2001)
[ 2-Disc DVD]
Poetically written, performed with charm, directed with flair.

Battle Royale [Director's Cut] (2000)
Like Tarantino, I'm putting this one on my list. Even if the film is slowly being digested by its own hype machine (it is not banned in America and never was), I do think the violence hits home. Some of the movie (especially the scene in the lighthouse) is stomach-churningly brutal.

Casino (1995)
[ DVD| Blu-Ray]
A host of great performances in a visually dazzling setting.

Chasing Amy (1997)
[ DVD| Blu-Ray]
As someone else said, I don't really give a f--- what anyone thinks about Kevin Smith, and I think all four of his first films are pretty excellent. Since then, he's had highs and lows that are worth debating, but in the 90's, he made excellent movies.

Children of Men (2006)
[ DVD| Blu-Ray]
The most potent thing about the film is how firmly set in reality it is. It's hard to believe almost every part of the movie won't come true in some way or another, more than any other sci-fi movie I can think of at the moment.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
[ DVD]
Admittedly, Jennifer Jason Leigh's character gets tiring to listen to, but I have always thought this was one of the Coen brothers' best movies. It's also perhaps the only one with dazzling production design and visuals. Not that I don't like The Big Lebowski or Fargo, and I almost put The Man Who Wasn't There instead, but I think this gets left by the wayside.

I ♥ Huckabees (2004)
[ DVD| 2-Disc DVD]
I don't want to make it out like this movie is excessively deep or meaningful, because it's not like I live my life by the principles of a very silly comedy movie, but I think people don't take what's being said seriously enough. You have to give the ideas in the movie enough weight so that you're seeing the events and thoughts the way the characters see them, but that doesn't mean it has to actually mean the same thing to you as it does to them. When it comes to an issue or topic like faith, I don't think people have the ability to see it both ways, as a lark, but a good-natured lark that one can give a little credence to. Which is ironic, because seeing something both ways is exactly what the movie is about.

J.S.A.: Joint Security Area (2000)
[ DVD]
Another one where I agree with Tarantino. J.S.A. is the Jackie Brown of Park Chan-Wook's films: underappreciated and amazing.

Jackie Brown (1997)
[ 2-Disc DVD]
I like a leisurely film, and the first two-thirds of Jackie Brown really take their time. Robert Forster is excellent.

Léon: The Professional [International/Director’s Cut] (1994)
[ 2-Disc DVD]
A great protagonist and a great antagonist, performed with panache.

magnolia (1999)
[ 2-Disc DVD]
I wish other films this long were paced this well. Starting with Aimee Mann's cover of "One", the film moves like a singular force across the screen, and it has the hypnotic narration of Ricky Jay to boot.

The Mist [Black and White Version] (2007)
[ 2-Disc DVD| Blu-Ray]
Scoff if you want, but I think this movie is excellent. To me it felt like a spiritual cousin to Night of the Living Dead, and the black and white version only adds to that.

Office Space (1999)
[ DVD| Blu-Ray]
The epitome of an easy-to-watch movie. The actual plot sucks, but the movie breezes by and remains funny regardless of how often Comedy Central plays it.

Primer (2004)
[ DVD]
One of the rarest kinds of movies: a movie that almost reflexively insists you watch it again right after it's over.

The Science of Sleep (2006)
[ DVD]
A purely personal favorite. Unlike most of the other movies I listed, I don't expect others to share the sentiment, at least not on the same level (I bet most people will find it impenetrably quirky) or see in it what I see in it, and I don't care.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
[ DVD| Blu-Ray]
I considered picking Hot Fuzz because of how excellent Edgar Wright's direction is, but Shaun just barely edged it out because it feels a little more fine-tuned.

The Signal (2007)
[ DVD| Blu-Ray]
Another completely personal favorite. It seems like few people saw this one and those who did didn't think it was that great, but I really, really liked it.

Toy Story 2 (1999)
[ 3-Disc DVD]
Woody as a collectible is one of, if not the best idea that Pixar has ever had, as far as I'm concerned. It really is genius.

The Truman Show (1998)
[ DVD| Blu-Ray]
Jim Carrey's best performance. I feel like he's a little too aware of the potential accolades in Man on the Moon, but here he really gives it his all, earnestly and honestly, elevating an already-good movie.

I saw Anything Else several years ago, and I didn't think it deserved the kind of flak it took. When I saw the trailer, though, I had the same reaction to Jason Biggs as Devin from CHUD did. I don't know what changed between the time I saw the trailer and the time I saw the movie. I haven't watched it since, but I thought Scoop and Hollywood Ending were worse than Anything Else (the former because it was basically just depressing to watch how long Woody would fumble to come up with a joke).

The one change I made to this list was swapping The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou for I ♥ Huckabees. Here's the short blurb I wrote about Zissou:

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)
I see Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums on other lists, and I think they're great movies, but I have always felt like the pacing of the former stutters and that Zissou is funnier than Tenenbaums while retaining most of the emotional punch.

Note: Seemingly in response to the internet's reaction to Anything Else on Tarantino's list, Roger Ebert made it his "Overlooked DVD of the Week" the same week Inglourious Basterds opened.

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