I figured it was time to reconfigure my favorite films list. Some films I've grown out of, some I've grown into and some are just new. I have put a few TV shows on here as well, mostly only shows that I endorse in their entirety. If a show goes off the deep end after a couple seasons like Alias, Smallville, and every series by David E. Kelley, well, it didn't make the list. But shows that stayed strong and finished strong you may find here.
This list is not a comprehensive ranking of the BEST films ever made. To get on this list there are two criteria: 1) Excellence 2) Meaningful to me. That's it. I've tried to include a mention of my Favorite Scene for each film. You know that one scene in every movie that moves the film from "really like" to "want to buy the DVD". And I've tried to include great dialogue, screenshots, or video clips just to give you a taste of the film or a Movie Moment. Enjoy!
This is just Part One of the list. Part Two is here and Part Three, here.
Probably my favorite film ever. Redford’s direction teamed with fantastic acting by Fiennes, Morrow, and the incomparable Paul Scofield make for a stylish and personal modern tragedy. I love this period of history and this story is well-told. I’m fascinated by stories where new technological or cultural developments force us to revisit ancient themes and ideas.
Favorite Scene: When Charles Van Doren confesses to his father
Dan Enright: How much do they pay instructors up at Columbia?
Charles Van Doren: Eighty-six dollars a week.
Dan Enright: Do you have any idea how much Bozo the Clown makes?
Charles Van Doren: Well... we, we can't all be Bozo the Clown.
THE TRUMAN SHOW
Peter Weir is one of my favorite directors, and while this film may or may not be his best it affects me more deeply than any of his others. I'm not sure why. The premise is a fantastical one far beyond my own life experience, and yet there's a moment in this film that always finds me crying.
Favorite scene: Christof conducting the scene between Truman and his long-lost father.
THE PROFESSIONAL (LEON)
A great story beautifully acted by Natalie Portman (at age 11), Jean Reno, and Gary Oldman. Luc Besson is a master of lighting and creates some gorgeous moments here. The newer DVD release entitled Leon is the one you want. I'm not an action film fan, but this one's so smart it's hard not to fall in love.
Favorite scene: Hard to pick, but I'll say the Grande Finale
A MIGHTY WIND
For somebody who loves the funny, not a lot of comedies make it onto my favorite films list. But Christopher Guest has a knack for lampooning quirky sub-cultures that gets me every time. His mockumentary portrayals range from ridiculous, to mean-spirited, to tender. A Mighty Wind, is the most tender of his films, and it's stronger for it. Interestingly, his latest film, the followup to AMW is his meanest and his weakest. A Mighty Wind also plays to the Guest Talent Pool's greatest strength, music.
Favorite Scene: The Cocktail Party
Movie Moment: "Thank God for model trains, without them we never would have thought of the big ones."
WAITING FOR GUFFMAN
The most outrageous of Guest's films (aside from This is Spinal Tap - which he wrote but did not direct), WFG is a fictional doc about small town Blaine, MO which decides to undertake an original musical production to celebrate the its 150th anniversary. While I don't end up caring about the characters as much as I do those in A Mighty Wind, I laugh the hardest at this story that hits so close to my own personal experiences in community theatre. More fantastic music in this film.
Favorite Scene: (A tie) A Penny For Your Thoughts / Katherine O'Hara's description of "Less is More" acting.
Purple Rose of Cairo Cecilia is a mousy woman in a bad marriage and a go-nowhere life until a character from her favorite film looks out into the audience and sees her. Compelled by her devotion to him, the movie character steps out of the screen and the two run away together. The rest of the film deals with the implications of such a trasngression. This is Woody Allen at his best. Sharp, ironic, and raising questions about metaphysics in a spirit of fun. It's the Woody we miss most.
Favorite Scene: All the moments where the remaining characters of the film try to figure out what they should do.
Movie Moment: "Cecilia: I just met a wonderful new man. He's fictional but you can't have everything. "