My Five Favorite Movies.

Over the last couple months I’ve become a regular reader of the website Rotten Tomatoes.  Not for the reviews, really, but more for the featured articles they present on practically a daily basis.  They started simply as a review aggregator but have become a full-fledged movie news and features website.  It’s kind of cool.  One feature I find myself constantly looking at is the “Fave Five” in which they ask actors who currently have movies in theaters what THEIR five favorite movies are.

It’s an idea I dig because they don’t really seem like the PR fluff you normally get.  It’s not “What was your favorite scene to film?” or “Really, what’s *insert well known and notoriously dickheaded actor’s name here* like to work with?”  It takes a bit more work to actually pick out the five movies that mean the most to you.  So I did just that.

Jaws – 1975 – Directed by Steven Spielberg; Starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss
I love Jaws.  I cannot even begin to explain my love for this movie.  When I first saw it, staying up way later than I should one night as a child, on my 9 inch black and white television I was beyond terrified.  I had the volume so low for fear that my parents would hear me in the middle of the night, but I was glued to it.  The thing about Jaws that I remembered most is how terrified I was without actually seeing the shark.  Jaws does perfectly what so many movies have tried to do since then.  Build the tension, the horror, without showing you the thing you should be afraid of.  When you do finally see the shark?  It’s a nightmare come true.

The casting of this movie cannot be any better.  The main trio that takes to the sea to do battle with Bruce, the crew’s nickname for the shark after Spielberg’s lawyer, work together so well.  Their three very different personalities make for a great journey.  Robert Shaw as Quint is especially awesome.  And Roy Scheider delivers the line of the film, “Smile you son of a bitch!” as he destroys (or DOES HE?!?!?!) Jaws once and for all.

From all I’ve seen and read, Jaws was something of a tough shoot for everybody involved.  The budget ballooned up to 9 million dollars (Imagine a director getting in trouble for a huge 9 million dollar budget on a movie that grossed nearly $500 million dollars in the end).  And the troublesome mechanical sharks caused Spielberg to shoot many scenes without them, which is one of the things I loved most.  If every there was a ‘happy accident’ that was it.  This is the movie that launched the career of one of the most celebrated directors ever.  Say what you will about Steven Spielberg in 2012 (War Horse?), but he has made films that will last forever.  And it all started with three guys and a mechanical shark named Bruce.

Good Morning, Vietnam – 1987 – Directed by Barry Levinson; Starring Robin Williams
Good Morning, Vietnam is a movie I found sometime late in high school.  I didn’t know a ton about the Vietnam War.  I knew my dad had been in it and I knew we didn’t talk about it much in school.  That part always surprised me.  It’s a major event in US history, World history even.  It even launched a huge cultural change here in the 1960s.  It was never much of a class topic, though.  Something else this movie introduced me to was the ‘behind the scenes’ of the radio industry.  I always loved listening to the radio but always assumed that the life of a DJ, any DJ, was a glamorous one.  Like a television star.

This movie brought a far more realistic vibe to the front, though.  And sure it’s about military radio and military radio can’t be the same as fancy commercial radio…But the conditions they were in were anything but glamorous and it was the first time I ever thought to myself “I wonder how I’d do as a radio DJ?”  If you know much about my time in college that spiraled out of control and into a degree and a job as an engineer in talk radio.  You know what I learned?  Actual radio is very similar to the movie radio portrayed in that movie.  It’s very minimalist and mundane…Unless you are good at your job.  Then you can take next to nothing and spin it into gold.  That’s what Adrian Cronauer (The character played by Williams) did, and what I eventually learned is that Adrian Cronauer isn’t just a character Williams plays, he’s an actual former military DJ.  One of my radio classes even utilized a book be him called How To Read Copy.  It’s a fantastic read that I think really helped me develop in my on-air speaking, as short lived as those times were.

This movie isn’t just a love letter to radio, though.  It is, after all, a war story.  Lives are lost, friendships are forged, and battle are waged.  And it’s all set to a fantastic soundtrack, and surrounded by amazing actors (Williams is supported by Forrest Whitaker and Joe Pesci, among others).

The Shining – 1980 – Directed by Stanley Kubrick; Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers
The Shining is a truly horrifying and masterful piece of art.  It’s terror comes from equal parts cabin fever-induced hysteria and supernatural happenings.  I always kind of thought of that as the reason I love this movie as much as I do.  I don’t really know WHAT is happening.  Surely something else is in control of what’s happening…But what is it?

It kills me that Stephen King doesn’t love this movie.  I understand it goes off course from his original story, but the twists and turns is make service the story in such awesome ways.  When I hear about his preference of the version of The Shining he himself produced, I want to cry.  It’s awful.  It’s very long, badly acted, and just flat out poor.  There is no upstaging the insanity created by Jack Nicholson in his role as Jack.  It was the performance of a lifetime and something not even Nicholson himself has ever been able to top.

Furthermore, it’s my favorite film from Stanley Kubrick.  Kubrick isn’t the kind of filmmaker you see once in a lifetime.  He’s the kind of filmmaker you see once.  Period.  Once ever.  And while I’m not a fan of all of his work (I do NOT like Eyes Wide Shut), I see the merit behind all of them.  The dude was a true genius, so far ahead of his time.  It’s a shame we don’t get his movies anymore.  Instead we get Michael Bay pictures.  It’s a cruel world.  The Shining is exactly what the poster proclaims it is: A Masterpiece of Modern Horror.  It wins hands down any day against just about any other scary movie that has been or will ever be made.  I don’t want to say too much because I really don’t want to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, though surely EVERYONE has seen it.  If you haven’t, shame on you.  Go get it today.  You won’t be sorry.

Dick Tracy – 1990 – Directed by Warren Beatty; Starring Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, Madonna, and Glenne Headly
I love comic book movies.  They have a special place in my heart, even today.  They take me back to a time when I loved to read comic books.  I still do, though it’s way rarer now.  I make it to the comic book store once or twice a year.  Dick Tracy, to me, is the greatest comic book/comic strip movie of all time.  It captures, perfectly, everything a Dick Tracy movie should be.  This movie was Warren Beatty’s baby.  He produced, directed, and starred in the title role.  He tried to get it made for 15 years before it finally happened.  And when it happened, it was perfect.  He took great care to stay true to its origins, going so far as to limit the color palette of the movie to only seven colors.    It made the movie so vibrant and fun to look at!

The backgrounds, the city skyline, all of it was hand-painted to evoke that comic strip feel.  It doesn’t stop there, though.  One of the cool things about the old strip is the villains, they all look so strange and they all made a proper transition to film.  Flat Top  has a flat head, Mumbles (Dustin fucking Hoffman) speaks incoherently, Little Face has a gigantic head and tiny face, Lips Manliss…Well you can guess…And Big Boy Caprice (One of the absolute BEST Al Pacino roles) looks like a rat.  Throw in Madonna as Breathless Mahoney in, well, her ONLY good role, and what a movie.  Well she’s good in A League Of Their Own.

Ever since Beatty has been working to get a sequel made and I really hope one day it will happen.  I’ll watch old Warren Beatty in that trademark yellow trench coat and fedora any day.  Ever.

Beauty and The Beast – 1991 – Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise; Starring Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, and Angela Lansbury
I grew up in the 80s and as such was a Disney kid for a lot of my childhood.  Disney was on a roll for a while there, churning out numerous instant classics.  They do the same thing now through Pixar, but these movies were all hand-animated.  I’m sure I saw earlier ones in the theater but the memory of Beauty and The Beast sticks out.  It’s one of my more memorable theater experiences as a kid.  Three of us went, myself, my cousin Amber, and my Grandma Donna.  She picked us up one day after school was out and took us to see the movie at a theater that is now a Chuck E. Cheese’s.  I’m pretty sure this might be the only time I’ve ever gone to see a movie with my Grandma, but it was awesome.

The music from that movie is so lively and so catchy that you can’t help getting swept up in it, even today.  I think that’s one of the things missing from modern Disney animated movies.  The old ones really introduced kids to a lot of music that will stand the test of time (Who doesn’t remember Be Our Guest, Under The Sea, or Hakuna Matata?).  I know the newer movies aren’t really musicals, but it’d be nice to see once in a while (They tried with Tangled, I guess).

After we were done watching the movie we were trying to sing the songs on the way to the car and instead of taking us home, Grandma drove across the street to K-Mart.  This was a time when you could actually FIND a K-Mart.  I think they’re all gone now.  We went inside and she bought us both the soundtrack on cassette tape.  I still have that tape in my closet.  I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it.  It’s got a good memory attached to it.

Everything about that movie was so well done.  The characters are memorable, the actors are ridiculous, and the animation it perfect.  I wouldn’t change a single thing.  I love just about all of those Disney flicks, especially Lion King.  Lion King almost took this slot on the list.  But Beauty and The Beast wins out because of that theater experience.

Honorable Mentions:

The Last Picture Show

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Cool Hand Luke

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