Originally posted to Facebook Notes
I was just commenting on someone else’s page as to the kind of movies I really like. There are a main three categories of movies I gravitate toward:
Dystopias (world gone way wrong)
Plot Twists (ones that aren’t transparent)
Mind F#(%s (movies that really mess with your head)
There are a few other movies that I like sometimes but generally they fall under a specific heading. Yes, sometimes it even includes ‘chick flicks’ and also includes ‘coming of age’ type movies. Usually they are movies with well thought out plots that aren’t just a lot of shallow fluff, often having some good humor in them, but generally I like them because there is something (or multiple somethings) in them I identify with.
So my list of movie favorites. Let’s start with the first three categories since they tend to be the ‘darkest’:
Matrix (original) – Warchowski Brothers with Keanu Reeves
This one still ranks high on my list because there was so much packed in there if you really dig into it. Not only did it include a good plot twist half way through and represent a dystopian world, but it also messed with your head. Any true Warchowski brother’s fans would be at a loss if they didn’t look into the two books that inspired this film. Even the names of just about every character have meaning when compared with the roles their characters play in the story. And there’s easter eggs everywhere! This is the kind of a movie where the first time you see it, you are walking out of the theater pushing timidly on the walls to see if they are really there.
1984 – George Orwell (John Hurt version released in, you guessed it early 1984)
If you are gonna list dystopias you really need to include one of the fore-runners of them all. Great mind f#$* too! If you like the Orwell outlook, it’s also of interest to dig up the old Yvegeny Zamyatin “We in paperback as it was said to be an inspiration for Orwell to write the book. Of all the versions of 1984 made, this one is probably the most true to the feel and plot. It’s too bad Orwell chose to put a date on his book, because other such efforts probably will not be seen as relevant anymore. (I read the book first in the Clinton era and the similarities of things seen as ‘atrocious’ at the time the book was made were rapidly becoming ‘commonplace’ at the time and are all but entrenched around us now!)
Twelve Monkeys – Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt
A real good dystopia with a lot of mind f%* going on as well.
Bruce Willis is torn between a future world after a horrible plague that sparks of living in a madhouse where criminals like himself are used as guinea pigs in an experiment involving time travel hoped to prevent their horrible existence from ever occuring.
I recently dug up the experimental short film La Jetee that inspired this. It is a foreign piece that was done almost completely in still frame images with narration.
Brad Pitt plays such a good psycho in this one, it’s almost scary!
Fight Club – Ed Norton, Brad Pitt – written by Chuck Pahlaniuk
I heard all the hype about this movie and generally I don’t like movies with hype. I avoided seeing it for a long time and finally caught it much later on cable.
It is a great dystopia that loves to mess with your head with a few plot twists thrown in as well. I later went back and read the book, and it messes with your head even more.
I can’t say any more about it because the first rule about Fight Club is not to talk about it! Just see it for yourself!
Blade Runner – Harrison Ford
Besides the fact I love Rutger Hauer, it’s a really good film. A cop in a trapped on a dystopic future earth not too far off is tasked with the job of chasing down rogue humanoid robots that are becoming more and more lifelike in a future Terran existence that is becoming less and less like living.
Based on the story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Phillip K. Dick, it carries a lot of the same overtones and questions as modern movies such as AI and I Robot and even Terminator.
Dystopia honorable mentions:
Charleton Heston films: Planet of the Apes (original), Soylent Green, Omega Man
Chuck did some great Dystopias back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. They seem cheeseball now looking back but they really did dig out some heavy philosophical questions if you looked below the surface. And of course, Omega Man (probably the cheesiest of them all) was the basis for the recent Will Smith movie, “I am Legend”
Terminator (original) – everyone remembers the first one “I’ll be baaack”. And who can resist counting down the ‘officers’ in the police station scene? Make a drinking game out of it!
Red Dawn – almost akin to a coming of age flick in a dystopian WWIII scenario. I just think they got it backwards. Russia was the bad guy and China the good guy. WOLVERINES!!!!
Logan’s Run, Gattaca, The Handmaid’s Tale, Fahrenheit 451, The Island, THX 1138, Dark City
Comedic dystopias: Idiocracy, Wall-E
Demolition Man- Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Leary – I still remember the line from Leary about the future consisting of ‘a 40 year old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas drinking banana broccoli shake, singing “I’m an Oscar Meyer wiener”‘
Even the blatant product placement of ‘Taco Bell’ was done almost in jest.
Mind F#(k movies!
Se7en – Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman
“What’s in the box????” Freeman is set to retire when he is assigned one last case with young partner Pitt, a serial killer with an extreme sense of brutality and symbolism. They quickly discern the pattern is following that of the ‘seven deadly sins’ when the killer (Spacey) eventually ends up in custody but with two sins still left un-played-out!
If this movie doesn’t give you the heebey jeebeys I don’t know what will! It messes with your head big time by the end with a great big twist just waiting for you! Brad Pitt is good in it but Kevin Spacey….. omg that guy can be so f#)($ed up sometimes!
American Beauty – Kevin Spacey
Spacey is a middle aged man with a typical (screwed up) middle age lifestyle: a feministic, overbearing wife, and angst filled teenage daughter, a whacked out neighbor and a dead end job. As it all starts to get to him and those around him start going to their own extremes, his life winds down some rather unexpected corners and turns.
As I said, Kevin Spacey can be so messed up sometimes. Another twist your noodle movie with some downright morbid plot maneuvers sometimes. I keep waiting for Spacey to come out with another huge Se7en or AB type movie. I like most of his other stuff too and some recommended L.A. Confidential for my plot twists as well as the Usual Suspects (both on my ‘honorable mentions’ list) but I saw through both of them even if they were OK movies.
A group of four friends get together every week to discuss and play around with ideas for a technical business venture. Two are interested in an ongoing project to reduce the weight of packages for shipping by generating a field around them. The others begin to lose interest in this project, so the two continue to work on it in secret only to find some strange effects on their ‘weeble’ test object – it seems to be suspended in a time loop. One of the two figures this out before the other and gets a crazy idea that if something ‘intelligent’ were inside, it could enter the loop at the end and get out at the beginning rather than bouncing back and forth – essentially going back a few hours in time. Then things really start to get intense. You’ll be watching the ending at least a dozen times and probably have to go to a plot guide online somewhere to fully understand all the subtleties of the ending of this one!
Named for the type of bullet used in military combat, a non-expanding solid copper round, thus dubbed a ‘full metal jacket, this is unfortunately based on truth rather than fiction. But if you really want a feel for how Vietnam messed with the heads of real American GIs, this is one of the better films to see.
(along side Platoon and Apocalypse Now).
Well worth watching if for nothing else than to catch some of the quotes from ‘Gunny’ “Sound off like you got a pair!”
A seriously twisted way of showing a film with a seriously twisted plot. It starts with a brief scene then jumps to the last day and moves backwards day-by-day revealing the plot leading up to the climactic scene witnessed at the beginning. You follow a man with a memory disorder who can’t remember anything that happened the day before and has to resort to leaving himself messages in notebooks, on mirrors and even on his body to function. But he still remembers always the day he lost his memory – the day his wife was killed in a horrific crime!
Honorable mention Mind f#*ks:
Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind – Jim Carrey got underratted for this film that starts in the middle, jumps to the beginning and ends again at the middle.
Less Than Zero – part of my Jamie Gertz crush, besides the sex scene she did (that messed with my head at that time), it’s a really f’d up story almost prophetic when it comes to Robert Downey Jr.
PI – a man obsessed with numbers starts to find there may be more to them than at first glance.
The Butterfly Effect – a young student prodigy prone to blackouts learns the secret behind his blackouts – a secret that drove his father insane.
Single White Female, Platoon, Clockwork Orange, Nightmare on Elmstreet (original), Carrie (original), Misery, The Number 23, Cruel Intentions
Plot Twist Movies
The Game – Michael Douglas, Sean Penn
A successful businessman divorcee comes face-to-face with his coming 48th birthday, the same birthday when his father killed himself under similar circumstances. But then his brother (Penn) buys him a unique gift in the way of an entry into a game that rapidly turns into too much for him to handle.
Even though I can’t stand Sean Penn outside the screen, this is still one of my all time favorites and top on my ‘twist’ list. Michael Douglas I’ve liked anyway ever since Wall Street. There are some nice mess-with-your-head elements in this movie as well but a great twist!
The Shawshank Redemption – Timothy Robbins, Morgan Freeman
Another actor I can’t stand (robbins) off the screen but I like Freeman so that more than makes up for it. This one is great because you really feel for Robbin’s character so the ultimate outcome is something you just wanna stand and cheer for. (I actually did, everyone watching it with me thought I was nuts when I stood up and yelled “he’s gonna throw the chess piece at the poster!!!”) And Bob Gunton makes such a good sleezeball as the warden. (just caught him in Patch Adams as the dean, same type of role!)
The Village M. Night Shamalyan
Besides having a touching love story interwoven in the tale, it’s a rather eerie tale of a rustic and antiquated village of simple folk hiding a terrible secret about their relationship with monsters living in the nearby woods.
Arlington Road – Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins
An ex-FBI agent turned college professor who specializes in espionage, terrorism and it’s effects on society and culture starts to become suspicious to the point of obsession about his new neighbor after seeing clues that lead him to believe he may be a domestic terrorist. This movie also qualifies as a good mind-f#(k film but is especially interesting for it’s sub-plot on how the media helps paint a false picture to fulfill the demonization of individuals involved in some types of public events. (consider what happens to the professor at the end and compare it, for example to what happened to Richard Jewell after the Olympic park bombing)
Plot Twist Honorable Mentions:
L.A. Confidential, Usual Suspects, The Crying Game, The Sixth Sense, Vanilla Sky, No Way Out, The Prestige, Entrapment, 13th Floor
Better off Dead
More damn subplots in this movie than you can count. Classic Cusack! “I want my two dollars!!!!” “i’m sorry I blew up your mom Ricki!” The semi-follow up from Holland was One Crazy Summer with Demi Moore and Bobcat Goldthwait. Not quite as good but still worth seeing.
American Pie (trilogy)
“And this one time, at band camp…” I got a real crush on Allison Hannigan after seeing these three. The characters are just loveable and the antics are just insane. MILF MILF MILF!
Johnny Dangerously – Michael Keaton, Joe Piscipo
What ever happened to Joe Piscipo? This movie still cracks me up every time I watch it. I’ve sampled more damn sound files from this movie “you fargin sneaky bastage!”, “it’s an 88 calibre… it shoots through schools” – and my favorite line in the whole movie most people don’t remember. ‘Johnny’ first meets Lil as she is auditioning for his nightclub. He turns on his usual ‘charm’ and gets completely rebuffed as she is playing hard-to-get. He pauses a second and says something akin to:
“I like you – you have spunk! fire! verve! angst….” *looks right at her chest* “… you’ve got those… I like those on a woman!”
Evil Dead III – Army of Darkness – Bruce Campbell
Another movie I have more damn sound samples from than I can count. “See this??? THIS…. is my BOOMSTICK!!” A really weird pseudo scifi, horror, comedy, hodgepodge that is just full of classic scenes. “Three books??!?!? they didn’t say anything about THREE books…. KLAATU BARADA *AGRPHEMHMPHL*”
Trois Hommes et un Couffin
For those of you that may have caught the American remake “Three Men and a Baby”, this was the French original that I caught on cable with subtitles before they even did the US version. As much as I like Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg, they couldn’t do justice to this film versus the foreign original! You’ll be laughing nonstop!
other great comedies:
Monsters Inc – I so love ‘boo’ – I usually watch Pixar stuff for the computer graphics, but their stories are really cute… “KITTIE!”
The Gods Must be Crazy – kiko!!! (there were actually 5 of these, I have copies of the first three)
Office Space – “yeah .. ummm .. yeah… we’re gonna need to move some stuff in here… yeah…”
Clerks I & II – the second wasn’t nearly as good as the first but still very cute
Raising Arizona – almost a mind f#$k comedy – really offbeat even down to the choice of music “get me that damn baby tai!!!” I tend to like Nicolas Cage stuff as well even if I don’t like the movie, I like him but this one is good, if not weird.
A Christmas Story – besides being a cute and classic holiday movie, I will always remember watching it with Dad and him remembering many things from his youth “You’ll shoot your eye out!!!”
Road Trip – almost a spin-off of American Pie, I can’t help but think that the ‘milking’ scene with Seann William Scott was probably something that ended up on the cutting room floor from American Pie.
Grumpy Old Men (both) – Burgess Meredith was precious and the ‘odd couple’ so remind me of my dad with his old friend Bob. And I don’t care what anyone says, Ann Margaret was hot in the second movie!
Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles
Just plain good movies
Stuff with great stories, backgrounds, cinematics or other stuff worth seeing
Big Fish Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney
I just like this movie for the way it weaves the stories. It reminds me a lot of the ‘big fish’ style story telling I learned from my father and even though it has a melancholy ending, it has an uplifting message – that we never die so long as people remember us in the stories they tell their friends and children.
Sling Blade Billy Bob Thornton
Just a good story. Billy was great in the role and fun to emulate – “mmm hmm, I reckon ahm gonna get me su’more taters – mmm hmmm” and one of the last great roles for Jack Ritter as the uptight friend and store clerk. But mostly just a really good story!
Never Cry Wolf
A true story about writer Farley Mowat’s choice to shuck it all and go study wolves in northern Canada. Even though there are a lot of animal “rights” type overtones, it’s still a very well told story with good acting almost in soliloquy since most of the movie it’s just ‘Farley’ by himself with nothing but the wolves. But you have to love the old inuit as well “what did he say???” — “uh, he say ‘good idea'”
More honorable mentions:
Rock-band movies: (hey, I identify with some of these)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch – spawned from a ‘drag’ show routine in New York, this is definately an ‘offbeat’ movie – some called this the Rocky Horror of the 90’s and I guess in some places it has been treated as such with people dressing up and acting out the roles shown on the film. It’s not the kind of movie you wanna sit around and watch with the kiddies, you’ll end up having to stop and explain way too much but quite the interesting peice of work! (and I think the female guitarist is hot)
This is Spinal Tap, The Ruggles, Eddie and the Cruisers, Crossroads, Blues Brothers
He Said, She Said – Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth Perkins (she is just so adorable)
She’s All That – Racheal Leigh Cook, another crush – anyone remember her doing the “This is your brain on drugs” ads before she got famous? Yeah, I had the crush even back then! lol
Serendipity, Say Anything (John Cusack – see more below)
more John Cusack films:
The Sure Thing – I love the professor in this movie and how she reads his story at the end. Kinda reminds me of my writing professor reading mine in college and also has overtones of Sally Kellerman reading Keats in Dangerfield’s “Back to School”
other: High Fidelity, Gross Pointe Blank
Get Even Movies:
The Jack Bull – John Cusack (also producer) made for HBO films. Track this one down even though the ending is depressing. I believe it was based on a true story and it one of Cusack’s better roles IMHO.
Quigly Down Under – Tom Selleck – great film! Good to see both Cusack and Selleck bringing back the classic American western where the good guy just tries to mind his own business and the bad guy gets it in the end! “just because I said I had no use for them, doesn’t mean I didn’t know how to use one!”
Big Jake (john wayne) – “I thought you were dead?” “I’m gonna kill the next man that says that!”
Payback, Get Carter, just about any old Eastwood or Bronson
Fat Man and Little Boy – another great Cusack flim!!! A must see about the scientists who built the first atom bomb(s). Cusack’s role was small but took what would have been just another pseudo-documentary and elevated it to a real human story/tragedy.
Bridge on the River Kwai (just be careful, you’ll be whistling that song for days!)
Guns of Navarone, Tora Tora Tora, The Dirty Dozen, Band of Brothers (series), The Patriot, Braveheart, Big Red One, Saving Private Ryan
Every now and again some get brought to my attention that I really like. I already mentioned the one that was the inspiration for 12 monkeys, Open Your Eyes was the original movie to the american Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise (and even starred the same actress, Penelope Cruz). A few others I found interesting include:
Avalon – an interesting dystopian style almost matrix-esc movie revolving around an illegal virtual reality MMORPG. I think they could have done a lot more with the story but perhaps in some ways, the things they left unsaid to more to get your mind racing.
Ma Vie en Rose (my life in pink)– probably not the kind of story most people would seek out but a very cute movie none-the-less about a young boy who dreams of being a girl and the problems it creates in his conservative family’s lives.
Metropolis – probably heralded as the grandaddy of all dystopias, a movie saved out of a vault and restored as much as possible. Interesting imagery.
Das Leben der Anderen (the lives of others) – based in east Germany just before the fall of the Berlin wall, this movie gives you a great view of life under statist tyranny through the eyes of one of the government spies.
Die Welle – German remake of the American TV movie ‘the Wave’ about a teacher that undertakes a project with his students to teach them about autocracy. It’s interesting to see this depicted from a ‘German’ perspective. “How long do we have to hear about Hitler? That couldn’t happen here again!”