Given a request for some movie suggestions this morning, I thought I’d turn a list into a bit of an explanation as to why I like these films as much as I do. Be forewarned, I choose some movies that I’d get called pretentious or an idiot for, but I reserve my judgments on some of my favorite films. This list is also by no means inclusive, but simply what currently comes to mind. I’m going to start with a breakdown by director, because a lot of my favorites come from certain directors, and I hunt down their other movies to see if they are as good.
“The Dark Knight” – While “Batman Begins” was the start of a new version of the Batman story, it’s in the sequel where the new tale really shines. Done with the obligatory origin story, Nolan can get to the real meat of the story, utilizing storylines from “The Killing Joke” and “The Dark Knight Returns” to craft an excellent tale of morality and to give a satisfactory answer to the question as to why Batman doesn’t just kill the Joker and save countless lives throughout the years. Gary Oldman makes an excellent Commissioner Gordon, and of course everyone and their mother has stated how great Heath Ledger was as The Joker.
“Memento” – An earlier film, the beginning of The Brother’s Nolan writing/directing cooperation, this is a prime example of utilizing non-chronological narrative to make a unique film. Alternating between a black-and-white back story and a color story presented in reverse, it is a puzzle that is a joy to decode. Seeing the end of the story at the start of the movie doesn’t give away a thing in this story of an anterograde-amnesiac, and is worth several viewings.
“The Prestige” – Like “Memento”, Christopher Nolan used the plot of the movie – this time the art of magic – to direct the flow of the story. It is in that spirit that the film has three distinct parts to it, including an amazing “prestige” ending, with an unexpected twist. More amazing performances pulled out of Christian Bale and Michael Caine here, as well as an entertaining David Bowie as the scientific great Nikola Tesla. He gives the best line too: [on following his obsessions] “Well at first. But I followed them too long. I’m their slave… and one day they’ll choose to destroy me.”
“Inception” – Can’t leave this one out. Besides being in love with most everything that Joseph Gordon Levitt’s done, this movie is an even deeper puzzle than “Memento”. Who cares if the top stops or not, the ride there is where it’s at. Somehow he created something more vivid than the infinite landscape of a real dream, and I loved it. Also, that rotating hotel fight is kick ass.
“Brick” – His directorial debut, Johnson’s film-noir is the second on my list with JGL, this time as the main character. A creative homage to old detective films like “The Maltese Falcon”, but set in a high school. The story doesn’t flow completely, but the characters make it worth it.
“The Brothers Bloom” – His second outing, Bloom is a witty and funny story about two brother con artists and their final game. Rachel Weisz is intriguing as the shut-in “hobby collector” Penelope, and Mark Ruffalo uses his charming presence to make a rather convincing high-class thief.
“Donnie Darko” – A trippy story marking the start of a trippy film making career. Featuring a foul-mouthed Jake Gyllenhaal as the title character, Patrick Swayze as a pedophile motivational speaker, and Seth Rogen in his first film role, this time-travel based film is lovingly crafted to fit the 1988 Virginia setting. Encompassing a larger universe, it makes you wonder what other stories of this nature could exist outside of Donnie’s own superhero story.
“Southland Tales” – Taking the oddness to the extreme, this meandering dystopian future/present film concerning America three years after a 2005 terrorist attack in Texas can make you feel lost. Again time travel comes into play, as well as the alternate universes of “Donnie Darko”, visions of the armageddon from a psychic pornstar, and a view of how easily technology could entrap us now with the proper political agenda being pushed. Kelley purposefully cast against type, and pretty much every actor in the film is a big name/face (Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Dwayne Johnson, Sean William Scott, and a slew of Saturday Night Live alums). There are 3 graphic novels that go along with the movie, comprising the first three chapters of the story, followed by three distinct sections that are titled, giving a sense of a sprawling novel. Plus, there are twins named Ronald and Roland, and I figure that’s good enough for the suggester. Be warned though, this is probably the most divisive of the films on my list.
That is it for now, though there will be plenty more where this came from. I’ll update you when part two is out.