February 09, 2008

43 Favorite Films (Part Four)

I've been going through my 43 favorite films and television series and it's time for another installment. Here are the previous sections: -Part One- -Part Two- -Part Three-

The Hudsucker Proxy

I'm a fan of the Coen brothers, but I tend to be fondest of those that are less popular within their body of work. I'm not a Fargo or O Brother Fan, but Hudsucker is, for me, an irresistable little gem of a movie. Quirky and highly stylized, the lightspeed dialogue and beautifully unified art direction have kept this one fresh for me even after a dozen viewings (at least). It's probably their lightest film (in terms of theme), and I think critics have hit them pretty hard for that, but it remains a favorite for me.

Favorite Scene:The Conference Room discussion after Hud takes the plunge.

Movie Moment:

The Elephant Man

David Lynch is known for his oddball films, but this one and the next are oddballs within his body of work for their straight-forward narrative. The Elephant Man is not only sharply written and directed, with Lynch's standard star and smoke fetishes abounding, but the acting here is astronomical. Sir John Gieguld, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Sir John Hurt make a veritble round table of incredible knighted actors. This is a profoundly moving film that, while sad, is a beautiful and redmptive work of art.

Favorite Scene: Favorite is a strange word for this scene, but I have to respect the scene where John Merrick gets some unwanted visitors. This might be the most difficult 5 minutes of film I've ever watched.

Movie Moment:

The Straight Story
There are few films that bear more fitting titles than this one. It's about Alvin Straight, who sets out to see his estranged brother three states away on his lawn mower. As with The Elephant Man, this film is strongest in its simplicity and silences. Lynch sneaks up on you with a pretty straight-forward metaphor of life that is powerful in its patience. Richard Farnsworth puts forth a fantastic portrayal. It's about aging and reflecting on life, but acheived with a light touch. This film, like real-life nostalgia, contains mixed aromas of joy and pain that makes the experience neither entirely good or bad, but strangely sweet.

Favorite Scene: The final scene.

Movie Moment: Alvin: When my kids were younger I used to play a game with them. I'd give each one of 'em a stick, one for each one of 'em, then I'd say, 'You break that.' Course they could real easy. Then I'd say, 'Tie them sticks in a bundle and try to break that.' Course they couldn't. Then I'd say, "That bundle... that's family."

Before Sunrise / Before Sunset

Before Sunrise is a surprisingly moving film. With very little story line other than "two strangers meet in a strange city and magic happens" the story is more a portrait of a generation that it is a narrative journey. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have an honesty about them that makes their encounter riveting.
Favorite Scene:

Before Sunset is the sequel and it takes place nine years later. Both of the characters have moved from idealistic dreamers to beleagured hopers. And their reunion is exciting, not only because they reawaken the dreamers within each other, but they do it for the audience as well. I watch the film and think "I remember them like this, I remember me like this." Their aging is not strictly viewed through sadness or regret. As much as it is tinged with pain, their "sequel-selves" demonstrate the kind of maturity that is painful to acquire, but priceless. As Roger Ebert puts it: "One thing I know for sure: When you're 20, you know that one night could change your life forever, and when you're 40, not only do you doubt that, but you're sort of relieved." These movies have a strange power over me that I can't quite explain. I'm only a couple years behind the ages of the characters when both films were made. And while their circumstances don't mirror mine I connect at deep levels with their existential journey.

Favorite Scene:

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