There is hope in most of these films. And hope is something that can be hard to find. So you can watch any of these films with me. I’d gladly watch them again (and again and again). Or you can watch them by yourself. Just don’t miss them, here’s why.
- Fame (1980) — Okay, I’ll admit it. Fame shaped my life…probably informed my love of ballet and ballerinas. But that’s not why you should watch it again. Wim Wenders said that every narrative feature film is also a sort of documentary film of it’s time. So behind the actors in Fame some great documentary scenes from Times Square in the late 70’s — a documentary not to miss.
- Cinema Paradiso — The themes of the thread that attaches us to the past, moving from home, moving on — mortality. The opening image says it all…the long long thread back to mom. This film gets me every time.
- Blow Up — how did Michelangelo Antonioni so perfectly capture ‘mod’ right in the middle of it happening in England? It’s beyond me. But more importantly, it’s the wandering absence of narrative — an image maker in search of something and finding death. The Felliniesque ending with the mimes — brilliant. Plus, Jane Burken appears nude at 18 years old — what more do you need?
- Raging Bull — Robert De Niro chomped down on this role like a pit bull. One of Martin Scorsese’s best films. Nothing against Robert Redford or Ordinary People but — boy — did the Academy get it wrong that year.
- Gattaca – The inner struggle for perfection. The triumph of will. The beautiful images. “I never saved anything for the way back”. This movie teaches you to reach beyond your grasp, to give it all, and to not leave an excuse for failing.
- Dead Man – The dichotomy of Native American culture with the zany view of the white wild west – machine – is so interesting and compelling. The great performance by Mr. Depp, the music of Niel Young and the Jim Jarmusch style blended perfectly.
- Sense and Sensibility – this is not just a ‘chick flick’ — not at all. It’s a very great movie — stunning Cinematography and art direction. Great costuming. Great writing, of course, by Jane Austin. This film takes you back to a gentile, yet still imperfect, time.
- La Strada – one of Fillini’s more ‘normal’ films, and for me, one of his best. Not only does Giulietta Masina vaguely remind me of my own mother, she is absolutely innocent in this film. This is a tragic film. “I don’t know for what this pebble is useful but it must be useful. For if its useless, everything is useless.” Ahhh, there is hope in this film too.
- Strictly Ballroom – I was a professional dancer when I saw this film and I thought it spoke to me directly. Almost everything in the film related to my current life. I caught every insight into the dance world — every pun, every sarcasm, every irony. I laughed so hard that when the film was over, people in the audience looked at me like I was an insane manic.
- Deconstructing Harry – I like plenty of Woody Allen’s Films — maybe all of them — but there are a few that really stand out. This one brilliantly shows how a writer’s real life merges with his fiction.
- Everyone Says I Love You – Drew Barrymore, Allen Alda, Goldie Hawn — all in a musical about mortality and love. Thank you Mr. Allen, for this one. You truly are one of the great ones. Other Woody Allen Movies certainly worth watching again and again — Bullets Over Broadway, Manhattan, Anne Hall, Broadway Danny Rose, Match Point, etc.
- Gummo — The first time I saw this film, I hated it. I didn’t get it. I had to learn to love the brilliance of eating spaghetti in a bubble bath with a chocolate chaser. I had to get over my repulsion to appreciate the body slam of a folding chair. Such great performances from the slap fighters — scenes worth seeing again.
- Pickpocket – How do you film someones soul? Watch Pickpocket to see…I became interested in the film after hearing a radio program with writer Paul Schrader, who said that Pickpocket influenced him in writing Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. So I went to the Film Forum in New York City one raining October afternoon and became so involved in the pickpocket character that I totally forgot that I was in 2005 New York. The cinematographic grammar of Bresson is truly ahead of his time. He is able to place the viewer into the head of the pickpocket, strangely, by not showing the action you would expect a film maker to show. Schrader talked about Pickpocket as the first example he had seen of a film that is about the soul of the hero instead of about the actions.
- Ladri di biciclette — Maybe Schrader got it wrong and Pickpocket wasn’t the first film about a soul. The Bicycle Thief is about a soul and it’s from 1948. I didn’t want this list to get all “film schooly” but it’s hard to leave this one off my list. The story is so simple, so fundamental, so universal…I’d watch it any day…I’d stand in line.
Talk about man handling your dance partner — look no further. Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers was an incredible dance group formed in Harlem in the late 30’s and early 40’s and this is one of the few video archives — from the movie Hellsapoppin. These people pretty much invented the Jitterbug, which is the energetic derivative of the lindy hop and swing dancing. In particular, the lifts by the guy in overalls are insane.