I'm with Lolabola -- I have a hard time calling anything, let alone a movie, a favorite. There are so many, and “favorite” is such an exclusive word.
But I like talking about movies even better than I like talking about books, so for the sake of the tag, and because it's Oscar week, instead of "12 favorite movies" let's call this list "12 really good movies that stick to your ribs.”
You know the kind of movies I’m talking about: the ones that wander through your mind days, sometimes weeks, later. The ones that leave their characters in your heart like memories of good friends you’ve been meaning to call.
In no particular order:
High Tide with Judy Davis. Don't know if I can recommend this as a must see, but it moved me as only a kid with a mother who disappeared on her when she was five and rematerialized seven years later could be moved. I realize that means it's not for everyone. An early Gillian Armstrong movie. That’s gotta count for something.
Paris, Texas. Wim Wenders. See above.
Damage. Louis Malle's last film. I love the tragic structure of this movie, and the performances are amazing: Miranda Richardson. Jeremy Irons. Rupert Graves. Juliette Binoche. A friend of mine worked with Graves right after he made this film, on a small indie, and told me that Graves was almost undone by this production – so severely that he considered getting out of filmmaking. (Come to think of it, I haven't seen him around much since that indie -- maybe he did.) Apparently Malle was so ill during production with the heart trouble that eventually killed him that Irons acted like a proxy director and was a tyrant on the set. Took all the life and joy out of it. Even knowing that, I love to watch this film.
Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Even more relevant today than when it first came out in the ‘80s. And even more relevant today than when I first watched it almost 30 times on video tape in the ‘90s.
Rushmore & The Royal Tenenbaums. Okay: I’m doubling up. Which is cheating. But they’re both by Wes Anderson, and even though the folks who live in these movies don’t know each other, they inhabit the same world. I love that world. And I love being able to love Owen Wilson at his absolutely most adorable. Before the Dupree thing. Even before he saddled up with Jackie. You were cute in Shanghai Noon, Owen, but you were at your best with Wes.
Kolya. I recently rented this movie again after seeing it in the theatres many years ago. So perfectly sweet and tender without veering to saccharine. This one I can definitely recommend as a must see. And don’t go bitching to me about not liking subtitles: the rest of the world makes movies too. Damn good ones.
Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm. Absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous. With a story to chill your heart. And yes, this is the movie in which I first started nursing my crush on Tobey Macguire that Spider Man not only did not squelch but stoked. Yes, he’s half my age. Yes, it’s wrong. And yes, I don’t care. Because that’s what movies are for.
Manhattan. I’ve dished on this one to litwit already. ‘Nuff said.
Kitchen Stories. “Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” Ain't it the truth. Heartbreakingly subtle, but with maddening appeal for anyone who has ever loved a Norwegian. Or a Swede. Or possesses a prurient interest in ethnographic field studies. (There I go again offering too much information.) It’s all there.
The Mask of Zorro (1940) and Shane (1953). Cheating again with the bundling thing. But these two movies are all about my Bompa, who would make sure that all his grandkids were sleeping over when these were broadcast on TV maybe once a year (this was before video) so that we could pop a big bowl of popcorn, slather it in melted butter and salt, and line up in our PJs to watch the magic happen. It was through these two movies that my grandfather tried, I think, to teach us why justice mattered, and why it meant so much to him. (Or maybe he just thought they were great movies.)
I have two to go but it's late and I've run out of steam. To be continued.