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.: October 2006 --> Barry Mike's 5 Film Recommendations

Barry Mike's 5 Film Recommendations

» At a recent event, I spent some very pleasant time talking film with Barry Mike, managing Director at CRA. (One of his more intriguing suggestions was to recruit a group of people to read Shakespeare s Henry V, then spend a weekend afternoon watching first the Lawrence Olivier film version of the play, and then Kenneth Braunagh's. One is pro-war, one is anti-war, and both are different from the play. Discuss.) Before we left, he promised me a list of 5 "must-see" films, and here it is. "It's a very individualistic, idiosyncratic list. But then, isn't that what every list like this should be?"

  1. Either "Seven Samurai" or "Yojimbo" by Akira Kurosawa. The former is an epic on the scale of Lawrence of Arabia. Unlike, Lawrence, however, it is not psychological. It's more operatic, building slowly to a great crescendo, with an all-too-bitterly ironic coda. The latter is the progenitor of spaghetti westerns (Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars is a remake of Yojimbo.) The irony of these Japanese masterpieces is that one of Kurosawa's great influences here is none other than John Ford's great late 1940s John Wayne westerns.
  2. The Maltese Falcon. This remake of Dashiell's Hammett's novel was the breakthrough role for Humphrey Bogart. He creates the role model that has set a standard for two or three generations of "tough guys."
  3. The Apu Trilogy: Pather Panchali, Aparajito, The World of Apu by Satyajit Ray. Okay, it's three films, it's obscure, it's got subtitles. You need to strap on your seatbelt and prepare for marathon trip through a part of India that is fast disappearing. But if you make it through to the end, you'll feel like you've experienced a journey through life itself. Very rewarding.
  4. Some Like it Hot. If you've never seen this 1950s Billy Wilder comedy with Tony Curtis doing a great imitation of Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon at his best, and an iconic Marilyn Monroe, you're missing a classic.
  5. Apocalypse Now. You've probably seen this strange, chopped together epic masterpiece, loosely based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. What gets me every time is the combination of Coppola's fabulous visuals with Michael Herr's voice over narration (Herr wrote one of the great masterpieces of war reporting: Dispatches - a must read.)

What's on your list of 5 Must-See Films?

 [ 10.27.06 ]


1 Joe vs the Volcano

2 Tootsie

3 Diner

4 After Hours

5 Close Encounter of the Third Kind

The Natural
The African Queen
Star Wars IV: A New Hope
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

hmm, there's a lot of movies I like, narrowing it to 5 is a difficult task. But a must-see is:

1) Shawshank Redemption - A truly great storyline, unexpected twist, a story of friendship, love, betrayal and revenge. As Andy (Tim Robbins) says, "It comes down a simple choice, really. Either get busy living, or get busy dying." [ ]

2) Saving Private Ryan - One of greatest made war stories, realistic and superb acting. [ ]

3) Pulp Fiction - Quentin Tarantino masterpiece, no other movies could be like this one, where in this movie different stories were told, yet related to each other, creating flawless storyline. [ ]

4) Forrest Gump - "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." [ ]

5) The Godfather - Superb. Brilliant. [ ]

I have twenty-one 5-star films on my list, and I'd be hard pressed to narrow it down to five, but if I did it would be: To Kill A Mockingbird, Spirited Away, Network, Ikiru, and Double Idemnity.

I like Barry Mike's list, as far as what I might put on a "best movies ever" list. But, I have two "favorite movies" that aren't on it, that I'll list here:

"North by Northwest" - from the first second of the title sequence until the end, it's like a perfect enactment of some kind of classic religious puppet theatre ritual, replete with symbols, colors, mysteries, etc.

"The Blues Brothers" - besides being the epitome of 1980s America-as-a-series-of-gratuitous-car-crashes culture, it's a slpastick comedy, a buddy picture, a road picture, and the great music video-era musical starring a dozen or so of the classic artists of the 20th century performing signature songs. (I guess it's also like a classic religious puppet theatre ritual!)

Hmm. I'm another one of those "twenty different films" people. But in no particular order here are a few:

The Seven Samurai
Princess Mononoke
The English Patient
The Lord of the Rings

I haven't actually gotten to see Ikiru yet, but I'm told I'll probably prefer it to Seven Samurai when I do. I chose Princess Mononoke over M-E-L's choice of Spirited Away, because while I also love that film, I think PM has more seriousness and thus a lot more to say. And there's nothing in SA, to me, that approaches the throat-clenching numinous beauty of a few of the moments in PM (particularly, anything involving the Great Forest Spirit). I think that The English Patient has been unfairly dismissed by some as a "chick movie." LOTR (all three in one) is uneven, and very traditional, but still an enormous achievement. Amelie just makes me happy.

I wish I could think of a few older movies to put on this list - there are so many worth seeing, from Gigi to Chaney's Phantom of the Opera to Blood of a Poet to Intolerance (despite its many, many flaws) - but this is what comes up off the top of my head.

And I've recently discovered a fondness for the original Wicker Man, but I don't think it could ever make my top 5. I do think it's a perfect movie for adults for Halloween, though.

1. Kurosawa's samurai films as a group, but, of course, Seven Samurai is the best. The long version. I would never say "it's not psychological;" on one level, it's a meditation on the samurai code of honour (Kurosawa came from a samurai family), which is a psychology unto itself.

2. The films of Jacques Tati. It would be hard to pick one over the other, since they're all variations on a theme. That rarest thing in the collective-art world of film, a unique sensibility.

3. Apocalypse Now, on the big screen, in 70 millimeter. (Sigh. Oh for the giant screens of the past).

4. Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup. Mesmerized me when I saw it at the age of 17. A great, great film that a lot of people despise because it ignores the rules of story-telling.

5. Run Lola Run. Not as heavyweight a contender as those above, but for its pure kinetic energy a minor masterpiece.

Gone With the Wind
Lawrence of Arabia
It's a Wonderful Life
Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington

I could go on, but you only wanted 5....

If Lucy Fell
Mixed Nuts
Groundhog Day
Alice(Woody Allen)
Winter Sleepers
(No Shame)

I won't fault that list - they are all great movies, and anyone who hasn't seen them is missing out.

But if you like Kurosawa, then you really have to put Ran on any such list. It's his version of King Lear, visually stunning and at times shocking even if you know the play. It is a story of moral and physical decay. It is, as my friend Avi said, like watching the end of the world.

Extremely hard, since I try to see a lot of films. Five that spring to mind right now:

1) Withnail and I
2) Rushmore
3) The Big Lebowski
4) The Battle of Algiers
5) Manhattan

Heavy on the comedy, I'm afraid, but Battle of Algiers should balance that out. This list will change by tomorrow, but there it is...

godfather I and II
touch of evil
the general
bride of frankenstein

last year at marienbad
a touch of evil
all about eve
miller's crossing
yellow submarine

I've enjoyed the comments on my original posting -- this could be an endless discussion. I'm also glad to see that much of the commentary has been on which Kurosawa to see (Rashomon -- path-breaking, indeed; Ran -- brilliant and visually stunning, even if the Regan/Goneril daughter role is a bit more like Lady Macbeth --still, she's chilling; Ikiru -- far too sentimental for me.) I thought I'd throw one other not so well-known Kurosawa into the mix: "Hidden Fortress." Sheer fun -- and an obvious progenitor and influence on Star Wars (see where the idea of C-3PO and R2-D2 came from -- not to mention Princess Leia.)



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