08 May 2012

My Top Twenty Movies of All-Time


Very recently, I was flattered to receive an email from Cole Abaius of Film School Rejects, and he spoke to me of a great need. "Mr. LaTulippe," he said to me in words that I am in no way completely making up, "You are a gifted near-cleric on the ways and means of not only filmmaking, but film criticism. Sight and Sound just completed their once-every-ten-years list of the Best Movies Ever Made, and they chose not to include you in their discussion because, I assume, your talents and opinions would have just overwhelmed them. But I'd like to compile a similar list based on the opinions of you and some of your contemporaries - who are CLEARLY beneath you, I might add, but still within a modest sphere of commonality - so that we might discover what 'We' think and love about film."

And besides the kind and, again, in no way fabricated compliments he offered, I thought this sounded like a lovely idea. Even though Cole is terribly misguided.

I'm a fan of movies, of that there is no doubt - I feel like you HAVE to be, to some extent, to work within this industry with any vitality or purpose. But I'm not nearly the all-encompassing film fan that many of my friends and colleagues are, encyclopedic in their knowledge and love of the medium. I'm...commercially-nuanced. I didn't start really digging into film until my early 20s. I'm not well-versed in the classics or the "foreign stuff". I'm bored by most silent film. I loathe musicals. Against these titans of film criticism and theory, I'm a peony peon.

However, there's this one thing, and this is what made me want to participate more than anything else - I know what I like. I know what I love. And most importantly, I know WHY I like and love things. Also, I'm not afraid to be thought a fool (especially since, you know, the people who think such a thing are kind of, you know, correct), and for a few films on the list, I'm sure I shall be thought on - you'll probably get an unhealthy fucking kick out of my #2.

But fuck it - this is for fun and science, right?

To call it a "Best Of" is a little misleading, and I like the trend recently that's moved towards more of a Here's What I Like the Most than Here's What I Consider to Be the Paragons of Film Despite My Preferences. I'm not sure what the latter accomplishes anymore, unless POPULAR MECHANICS starts putting together one of these lists. Therefore, these are the movies I love the most, plain and simple. It's a fluid list - what's here today might not be here tomorrow - but it's generally pretty accurate. It was both easy to put together (I think about this kind of thing all the time) and tough to fill out in a way that made me happy. It doesn't include the OLDBOYs and the GREAT ESCAPEs and the DAZED AND CONFUSEDs, all of which might be there on any given day. But this is the way things are today, and so for the greater good, I take a stance.

Thanks once again to Cole for thinking of including me with so many true luminaries.


20. OLD YELLER - Made me cry when I was little. Makes me cry now that I'm "big". Will make me cry when I'm little once more. Learning about loss is a huge part of life, and this movie made it easier to accept the world in that way for me.

19. ROYAL TENENBAUMS - If you asked me what it is I love so much about this movie, I couldn't point to one thing or another. It's just imbued with funny loveliness from top to bottom. Wes Anderson shouldn't be my style, but this movie somehow is.

18. CONTACT - It's a magic trick, that movie about aliens with absolutely no aliens in it. I know Jodie Foster is pretty much lights-out in everything, but this is my favorite performance of hers.

17. CHINATOWN - The first time I watched this and fully understood the script - not just the incest thing, but the all-encompassingnessosity of it - I recall being knocked the fuck over. If I ever even APPROACH writing this spectacular one day, I'll pee myself.

16. A FEW GOOD MEN - Speaking of that writing thing, Aaron Sorkin can do it. And when someone asks you to point to the best writer's best work, I point to this. It ticks all of the boxes and every single actor in the film is square on top of their game.

15. AMERICAN PSYCHO - Listen, don't ever be friends with someone who doesn't like AMERICAN PSYCHO or thinks there's something wrong with you for loving it. There is something wrong with THEM, and it's probably something dangerous and vile. These are the things I have to teach you.

14. SWINGERS - Even before I knew I wanted to work in "the movies", this movie made me want to move to LA and just hang out. It was the DVD I'd throw in every time my waking days on the East Coast sucked and I knew I wanted to strive for more. Still the movie I most often watch when I need a push of some sort.

13. A CHRISTMAS STORY - I have copies of this on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, a special Blu-ray gift set, and sitting on my DVR. And yet the only time I watch it every year is on Xmas Eve/Day. Believe me: this is the highest praise I think I could ever give anything.

12. THE GRADUATE - Somehow, this will define for CENTURIES what those first few months of post-college feel like for people who don't have anything lined up and/or bang their father's best friend's wife and then their daughter. Kicks you in the balls with love and then manages to sneak depression into a fake happy ending by letting you know: this shit almost never works out.

11. SE7EN - Remember the first time you saw this, and all you could say was, "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK, man?" A full 17 years later, that's still how I discuss this movie with people.

10. LOVE, ACTUALLY - Let me put it to you this way: my JMU roommate played college football, can pretty much beat the shit out of anyone on the planet, and has dated hotter girls than you've ever seen. And every year this movie makes him so giddy that he throws a wine and cheese Xmas party, watches this, and cries. And I respect him for it. Because I love it that much too.

9. BOOGIE NIGHTS - The most perfect interweaving of multiple characters and storylines ever, in my estimation. Probably my prototypical If This Is On TV I'm Watching It No Matter What's Happening Film. Still floored by the huge prosthetic dick at the end, and I watch a ton of porn, so that should tell you something.

8. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND - Almost every film that deals with love - including the one that I wrote - really doesn't have anything new to SAY about love. You just try to preach in a way that's funnier or more relateable or more interesting. But this film goes above and beyond that by exploring the mind of someone who's trying to ERASE love from their mind, as we've all wished we could at times. Getting inside that is brilliant, and it's one of the last true original films I've seen.

7. CINEMA PARADISO - I like to think that, in his later years, Frank Capra got a chance to see this movie and then just humped the film canister until he died. This is the reason they put "heartwarming" into the dictionary. And as good as the entirety of the movie is, the ending is so note-perfect on every level that it should have its own course of study in some advanced chain of mathematics.

6. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE - Hey, it's the highest-ranking movie on my list that prominently involves multiple rapes! If someone said that sentence to you on the street, you'd punch them in the mouth. But think about how layered and confident and absolutely chilling this film is - can a leopard ever actually change its spots? Call me crazy, but in real-world terms, this is a more visionary film that Kubrick's 2001.

5. PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES - My favorite film from my favorite director and the first ever R-rated movie that I was allowed to rent on my own. I have a MASSIVE soft-spot for this film, as my father was a traveling salesman while I was growing up and was often away from home. This helped me understand not only that life and the ways it can grind you down, but how to not only WRITE with compassion but actually HAVE it for other people. Well...most of the time. Also taught me a comedy staple: sugar is nice, but it'll never be a sweet as you'd like if you don't take a bite of dirt every now and then.

4. FIGHT CLUB - On one level, this is a masterpiece not only of filmmaking but of adaptation and bringing to life the idea that you've got to hit rock bottom before you can ever truly see clearly. That means wildly different things to different people, but there's something eerily similar about the way most of us choose to fight back against mediocrity when we feel suffocated by it,and this movie NAILS that, albeit in the cleverly abstract. Also, yes, hitting people is just cathartic sometimes.

3. THE PRINCESS BRIDE - Likely what I would consider the most perfect film on my list in that it can be watched and enjoyed by literally anyone, anywhere at any time. In industryspeak, we call this Four Quadrant filmmaking, but in reality, this is so much more than could ever be encompassed by a term or an idea. It's a beautiful, funny, wit-crammed love letter to filmmaking, to imagination, to love, to life. There's not a moment of it that I dislike, which I don't know that I can say about much of anything.

2. TOP GUN - Fuck you. It's fucking awesome and it always will be. The End.

1. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION - If there's one piece of writing/filmmaking that I put above all others (and likely always will), it's this. It's everything - beautifully shot, brilliantly acted, written without a single discordant note, and somehow full of life and spirit even though its encased in the four walls of a gray, dark, ominous prison. It's able to channel its message into one simple line - "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'." - and, just when it's knocked you down, it picks you up and carries you home. It is, in no uncertain terms, the movie that unquestionably made me fall in love with movies. It's why I'm here and it's why I do what I do. What else is there?