Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Emily's Top Ten

The other day in my class I mentioned a film as being my favorite of all time and my kids were like, "But I thought you said that other movie was your favorite of all time."

Oh. Oh I guess I did.

It's hard to choose one out of so many good ones.

So I'm going to list my top ten in no particular order. If I were stranded on a desert island with DVD player and 10 movies of my choosing - because, you know, that could easily happen - these are the films I'd choose, arranged only in the order in which they occur to me. And don't give me any crap about old movies, either. I happen to prefer films made after 1990. Sue me.

1) William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
I've seen this over two dozen times because I teach it every semester, usually twice. I know almost every line word for word and I never get tired of it. Baz Luhrman managed to capture the energy and tragedy of the original story in a contemporary package. Shakespeare would have loved it. I still cry at the end.

2) The Matrix
Come on, who doesn't love the first Matrix film? You spend half the movie dying to know what's going on and when you find out it kind of blows your mind. The fight scenes are incredible, but most importantly it's more than just eye candy. It's about something. When I came out of the theater the first time I saw this film I was excited and couldn't stop discussing the issues at hand. I still feel that way when I watch it, as long as I put the other two in the back of my mind.

3) Hero
The most beautiful film I've ever seen. I spent my entire time in the theater with jaw hanging open. It's a Chinese martial arts film supposedly about a hero who wants to kill the emperor. But it's not really about Jet Li's character. This is a love story told three ways and each way is separated by color and style. And as we get to the truth the style gets less and less mystical and more grounded. And in each story there is sacrifice as we also get closer and closer to what it means to love someone. As each story unfolded I cried again, this time for a different reason. And I still cry when I watch it, after I close my mouth in awe of the cinematography.

4) Pitch Black
Pay no attention to that crappy sequel, this film is genius. I'm not usually a fan of horror but this is a story about much more than monsters that eat people in the dark. This is about our own dark impulses and what makes someone a "good person". Would you be willing to die for complete strangers? Who's life is more valuable in the scheme of things? It asks multiple ethical questions it doesn't necessarily answer one way or the other. And Vin Diesel owns the screen. This is one of the few films I own that I enjoy throwing on late at night and watching just for the hell of it.

5) Garden State
Zach Braff is the king of stories about those of us who didn't exactly fall in line with society's plan. This movie is about people who are all waiting for their lives to start and they're doing it in Jersey. Natalie Portman is adorable and Peter Sarsgaard is a tragic yet honest representation of what we all fear becoming. It's an incredibly simple story told with subtlety as Zach's character begins to wake up and learn how to live. Its speaks to me.

6) X-Men 2 (X-Men United)
When the bad guys break into the house and start abducting adolescent mutants Wolverine goes on a crazy badass rampage you can't help but get excited about. Magneto rips a guy's blood out through his pores. Rogue uses her power for something positive. Explosions ensue. And the scene where Nightcrawler breaks into the Oval Office is one of the best opening scenes in the history of the action pic. But most importantly, the film carries the major theme of the comic - good and evil is not always easy to identify, and we can't change the nature of who we are but we can choose to do the right thing.

7) The Paper
This movie made me want to be a journalist. I know almost every line of dialogue by heart and I quote this film liberally on a daily basis. I love the fast-paced comedy, the constant sense of time pressure that is the most fun part about working for a newspaper. And I absolutely adore Michael Keaton in everything, but especially this. I used referenced The Paper in an essay I wrote that won me a journalism scholarship in college. Unfortunately, working at a small town North Carolina newspaper with Brownie Futrell is not the same as working for the New York Sun with Randy Quaid and Rovert Duvall.

8) Reservoir Dogs
A handful of adrenaline-driven criminals trapped in a warehouse with secrets and fear. What could be better? I love stories that are confined to one location and a short period of time - which will hopefully get me known as the writer to call when you need to make a big idea look good on the cheap. If they had used unknown actors in this film in could have been made for about $10, but then it might not have been so genius. I love stories that make me cry for the bad guy, and I cream my pants for a story where somebody dies in a wave of tragic irony. Reservoir Dogs has it all.

9) Star Wars episode IV, a New Hope
Perfect story structure, a perfect example of the old hero's journey, good comedy, good action and a side trip from the perspective of minor characters. Plus a hot chick who manages to kick major ass while busting out clever one-liners without the support of a bra. And my favorite line ever put on film: "Travelling through hyper-space ain't like dusting crops, boy." We'd all do well to remember that.

10) Office Space
There are probably more quotable lines in this film than any other in existence and they never get old. I think this film may have even saved my life. Back when I was working in a miserable cubicle at that small town NC paper I saw this movie for the first time and it was like a smack in the face. I was Peter. I knew I had to get out of there, and fast. So I quit and became a teacher until I figured out what I did want to be. It turns out I want to be a screenwriter. If I'd never seen that Mike Judge classic I might still be taking two hour lunches and napping in front of my computer screen with my hair obscuring my face so it looks like I'm checking the AP wire.

Honorable Mentions: Galaxy Quest, The Emperor's New Groove, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Osama.


  1. The Paper that's one I would forget, but I really like a lot.

    Great list.

  2. Nice list. I'm working on mine, but I have soo many that I love....
    I don't think I will be able to make it to Roman Holiday :( because I'm working all day :)... soon we will do cinespia again. I will call you sat night to see, but we're filming at the Golden Oak Ranch in Santa Clarita and usually we get released around 8pm.
    Cheersies. What happened with the assistant job thing?

  3. Its nice reading a Top 10 list with movies on it that people actually WATCH.

  4. OMG - Fast Times at Cinespia - heck yeah. Barring unforeseen complications, it is so on.

  5. Nice mix of movies there.

    I don't particularly like older movies either. Only like a few here and there. Nothing wrong with that.

    I'd have a tough time coming up with my top 10. Have to think about it.

  6. I love Hero! SUCH a great film. I read in some screenwriting magazine how this was communist propoganda, and I didn't quite catch that. I thought it was about, you know, a bunch of karate-people flying around and beating each other up. And stuff.

    Great list.


  7. "Come on, who doesn't love the first Matrix film?"

    Uh... me?

    Visually, I'll absolutely concede that it's great gobs of ooey-gooey fun, but in terms of story, I find it incredibly stupid and nonsensical and derivative and anti-intelligent. Plus, come on-- it's really really hard to buy into any movie which tries to offer Keanu Reeves as any sort of Messiah.

  8. Well you're certainly entitled to your opinion.

    These are the movies I'd take. You take your own.


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