Writing a Top Ten list is not as easy as it first seems. For all of us mad movie junkies who have packed together in a dark theater a couple times a week for two years now (!!!!), picking a mere ten films from all of the great cinema we have been blessed with is a daunting task indeed.
With so many great films to choose from, how does one go about whittling them down to only ten? A couple of ground rules to begin with. First, I would only include films which I watched with the group in the theater (sorry Short Term 12.) Second, I am only sticking to films that I had never seen before. If not I’d end up with an entire list of classics. Even with those two rules in place it was still no walk in the park. Some just had to be cut loose.
So here we go, with much deliberation and only a wee bit of cheating, in no particular order, my Top Ten Favorite Film Club Movies:
#1 – Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights
My absolute favorite film-going experience. Ever. Everything that I love about film and about going to the movies and more was epitomized that night. First, the film. Amazing, incredible, hysterically funny and sad, heartbreaking and heart lifting. Truly one of the greatest films ever made. The ending made my heart swell with joy and eyes swell with tears. Second, the music. Ynicorns, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Thank you!!! What a rare and special treat that was. Watching it again without Ynicorn’s score will never be the same. Third, the sold-out crowd. What an amazingly diverse crowd of young and old. I think my favorite part of the whole evening was walking out of the theater behind a four generational group of ladies which I could only assume was great-grandma, grandma, mom, and daughter. I can only pray that if I live that long, someone will be kind enough to take me to see City Lights. No matter how old it gets, it will forever transcend time and generations and make us laugh and cry together for ages to come.
#2 – Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin
When we first saw the trailer for Blue Ruin I just knew it was going to be good. Once we finally got to watch it I was amazed at how good it truly was. Taut as a piano wire, I was on the edge of my seat breathlessly waiting for it to snap. Boy does it snap, in a cacophony of bloody, violent and tragic revenge.
#3 – Cédric Jimenez’s The Connection
I’m not really sure what to say about The Connection. It’s an incredibly textured and tightly woven crime epic that is every bit as on par from the likes of Martin Scorsese or Michael Mann. It felt a little long yet every scene seemed vitally important. I desperately need to see it again to fully digest this one.
#4 – Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice
Wow, what a long, strange trip it was, and I loved every minute of it. I’ve got to admit that I’ve been a HUGE fan of P.T.A. for a long time and have loved every one of his films, so it was no surprise that I’d flip head over heels for Inherent Vice as well. This is another of those films that I’ve got to see again (and again and again) to fully appreciate, but that’s the genius of P.T.A. I truly believe he is the Kubrick and Altman of our times rolled into one. We wait years for his films are always delivered a seminal work of art that takes viewing after viewing to pick apart the layers and suss out the threads and connections. Inherent Vice is a masterpiece that I look forward to discovering for years to come.
#5 Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Best Picture. Best Director. Best Screenplay. Best Cinematography. Finally, the Academy got it right! Birdman was another of those rare films that not only met but far exceeded my highest hopes. With it’s unconventional editing Bridman is genuinely a unique film experience that never rests. The screenplay’s dialogue feels more akin to sparring; combined with an unrelenting jazzy drumbeat the film’s intensity is pushed even higher. I think that may be the best way to describe Birdman: Intense.
#6 Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel
I’ve been obsessed with Wes Anderson’s films since I was nineteen and picked up Rushmore on Criterion. His hysterical dialogue, brilliant ensemble casts and insane attention to details make his films ripe for multiple viewings and endless quoting and The Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception. Again, it’s another one I’ll love watching over and over again.
#7 Leonard Abrahamson’s Frank
Frank was another of those films that managed to exceed all my expectations. What a bizarre, absurd, funny and tender little movie. It somehow nailed all the points that make a quirky indie comedy truly funny which is no small task. Plus the soundtrack, played by the actors themselves, kicks ass! Did I really make Frank’s Most Likable Song Ever my phone’s ring tone? Yes, yes I did. Oh, and did I mention Frank is based on a real person? Life is definitely stranger than fiction.
#8 David Zellner’s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
Like an ominous and haunting dream. Rarely do we see a performance by an actor or actress who can portray such a believable character plagued by obsession and a tenuous grasp on reality. Rinko Kikuchi really blew me away in Kumiko. Months later and I am still thinking about this one. Where did she get the map to find the VHS tape in the first place? Did she bury it herself? Is she really that crazy??
#9 – Noel Marshal’s Roar
#9 – Kornél Mundruczó’s White God
Try as I might, I could not pick one of these over the other. Both films were cast with scores of untrained animals wreaking havoc and leaving destruction in their wake. And both films were unlike anything I had ever seen before. Roar was one of those movies that when you try to describe it to someone you end up sounding like a crazy person because there is no way to put into words just how freaking insane this film really was. It is a totally unique piece of cinema history and I’m so glad I was able to experience it. White God was shockingly brutal and violent and, well, human.
#10 tie – Felix van Groeningen’s The Broken Circle Breakdown
& David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Again, these were two that I could not separate. Both were phenomenal, emotional and powerful films. Both made me cry uncontrollably. And I never want to see either ever again.
And because 10 is such an arbitrary number….
#11 – Felix Herngren’s The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
For those of you who saw it, you know why it’s here. For those of you who didn’t, well, you really missed something special. Not only the amazingly hilarious film, but the great crowd and that magical feeling in the air when everyone is laughing and cheering out loud together. It was a great night.
Honorable mentions: The Zero Theorem, Infinite Man, Amira & Sam, Finding Vivian Maier