Mindy’s Top 5 Movies
Mindy’s Thoughts: FYMFB has a special post this week; in honor of my birthday (yesterday) I am doing a top 5 list of my favorite movies. This is not a review of those movies, more like an overview of why they are my favsies. Let’s jump in, shall we? In order from oldest to newest (but in no particular personal order) I present to you the five best movies OF ALL TIME.
The Shining (1980)
The Shining is an American psychological thriller film directed and produced by the amazing Stanley Kubrick. It follows the story of Jack Torrance and his family (son Danny and wife Wendy) as they live in a creepy old, possibly haunted or possessed, hotel for the winter. The movie is based on the Stephen King book (released in 1977) but deviates from the book plot enough to piss Stephen King off.
Let’s get an obvious statement out of the way: because The Shining is a Stephen King based book/movie, the plot is entirely about a writer struggling with addiction. Jack, played by Jack Nicholson, is a recovering alcoholic that is barely hanging onto the sobriety wagon when they get to The Overlook. Within a week, he’s selling his soul for some bourbon.
On a sidenote, while it absolutely works in this story, I’m sick and tired of Stephen King’s life story being retold every single time he writes a god damn book. We get it, bro! You’re a writer and have struggles with addiction, you don’t need to rehash it for all of eternity. Moving on!
I love this movie for so many reasons, but the biggest one is of course Stanley Kubrick’s directing/producing. The Shining remains timeless, despite being filmed in what could be a very dated time period. The score is perfect and highlights all the right moments. The hotel becomes a living being in this movie, interacting with the family, mirroring Jack’s psyche. While there aren’t many actors in the movie aside from the Torrance family, the acting is top notch; Jack Nicholson always plays a very convincing crazy person and Shelley Duvall was practically born for this role (well, aside from Olive Oyl in the live action Popeye). Shelley Duvall is one of my all time favorites, which makes sense as she now spends her time flashing car headlights into the Texas wilderness to communicate with alien lifeforms.
If you recall, I did a review last year of The Shining Forwards and Backwards which I feel presents all these parts of the original movie in a really beautiful and obvious manner. All of the elements are masterfully laid out and Kubrick’s direction is entirely responsible. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite Kubrick movie, but The Shining might be it.
Die Hard (1988)
The original Die Hard starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, and Bonnie Bedelia, was adapted from a book titled Nothing Last Forever, released in 1979 by Roderick Thorp. The basic character profiles and some of the character names originated from this story, but this was not meant to be the movie it became. Originally the book was written in hopes that it would turn into a post WWII movie starring Frank Sinatra, then it was going to be adapted into the Commando sequel. After everyone passed on it, they decided to make it into Die Hard and eventually cast Bruce Willis.
Bruce Willis’ character, John McClane, is an every-man; he’s a cop, but he’s not a superhero. He gets hurt constantly and by the end of the movie is barely limping along, covered in blood and dirt. This character is not necessarily a ‘good guy’; his marriage is failing, he’s argumentative and possibly a bit controlling, he’s distant from his kids, he later develops a drinking problem (between Die Hard 2 and 3). Despite that, he saves the day time and time again with nothing more than his handgun, intelligence, and fast reflexes. Why does he do it? Because he has to, because he doesn’t want innocent people (his family included) to get hurt or killed. People can relate to John McClane as played by Bruce Willis because we’re all that person, just trying to make it through each day with our lives, families, and sanity intact.
Please note that this is why Die Hard 5 (and 4 — to an extent) is a failure of a movie, it’s because we stop seeing McClane as ourselves or our brother/father/friend, and start seeing him as a cold and impersonal superhero. In the 5th movie he has machine guns and spends time just killing random people in Russia, because why not? Anyway, this is not a review of why the later Die Hard movies are shit, so we should move along.
Aside from Willis’ character, the other great part of this movie is the supporting cast, specifically Alan Rickman and his crew. They did a great job as the evil henchmen, Alan Rickman even faked a convincing German accent for most of the movie. It seems out of context to watch this movie now, considering it was written in the 70’s and released as a movie in the 80’s, all before the Cold War ended, all while East Germany still existed. We live in a different world now, so while this movie does feel a little dated at times, that doesn’t take away from the fantastic pacing and action that fills Die Hard from start to finish.
The Lion King (1994)
Compared to the other four movies in my top 5 list, The Lion King may seem like a strange selection but I truly believe there is no better animated film than the 1994 Disney classic. Aside from beautiful and truly artistic animation work, there are so many talented voice actors that starred in the film: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean!), Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and the list goes on.
What isn’t to love about this movie? It has been a favorite of mine for over 20 years, but as I get older the reasons why I love it so much have changed. As a child I loved the art, the music (amazing!!! thank you Tim Rice and Elton John!), the story itself. As an adult it gets me right in the feels, thinking about my family, about life, about the world, about the fact that I’ll die one day. It’s even become a common way for me to talk about death, that one day I too will become the grass.
One of my favorite scenes, and in my opinion one of the most impactful scenes, is when Simba is visited by cloud Mufasa. Simba, a young lion man, has been ‘wasting’ his life doing nothing in a forest with his friends. Enjoying the day to day and never thinking about his purpose, his past, or his future. While there may be controversy around the origins of The Lion King‘s story (some say it was inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, other say it is a rip off of Japan’s Kimba the White Lion), I think there is no doubting that this movie conveys a truly human story that almost every person can relate with. We all struggle with our past and future, we all question “why am I here”. Some people find answers in religion, others find answers in their careers, or families, but there is no singular answer for us human beings. For Simba, he realizes after James Earl Jones talks some sense into him, that he wants more out of life than the day to day, that he wants to lead and protect others, that he wants a family, that he is part of the world and can’t hide from it for the rest of his life.
As with all fairy tales and Disney movies, there is a lesson to be learned from this film. The message in The Lion King resonated with me as a 9 year old and has continued to evolve with me 21 years later.
Casino is a 1995 American crime drama, starring a million people (seriously, just a huge cast), but most notably Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci. It was directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Nicholas Pileggi and Scorsese. On a sidenote, Pileggi is most famously known for writing the book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, aka the Henry Hill story, which was later adapted (by he and Scorsese) into Goodfellas.
Casino is about Midwest gangsters and a casino called the Tangiers (the code name for the real life Stardust), but the movie is really about all consuming obsession and how it will ruin you and everything you care about. Obsession with money, power, fame, love, even obsession over the details can eventually drive you crazy and drive everyone away from you. With a run time over over three hours, this movie is an epic tale, spanning a 15-ish year period from the early 1970’s to the mid 1980’s. Everything in the movie is authentic; the costume budget was over one million dollars alone, and each of the leads had 100s of pieces of custom made or vintage clothing, jewels, accessories, etc.I love this movie for so many reasons, for starters it’s a Scorsese film and I will watch anything that man produces. Past that, one of the biggest reasons I love this movie is Sharon Stone. She begins the movie as a hustler, as someone being hustled, as a manipulative woman being manipulated by the man she’s loved since she was 14 who just so happens to be a pimp. She is the most beautiful woman in the world, fiery and explosive, she’s the woman men want to be with and women want to be. Over the course of a decade we see her descent from glory into drug addled insane person, a shell of the person she used to be, before she dies alone in a hallway of a drug overdose. It’s sad, but the movie is a pragmatic cautionary tale; everyone ends up alone in the end.
Sharon Stone won a Golden Globe for her role, and an Oscar nomination — though Susan Sarandon won that year for her role in Dead Man Walking. Scorsese also was nominated for a Golden Globe for best Director but lost to Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. I don’t know if there is a better Gangster movie than Casino, despite it not even being on the AFI’s top gangster movies list.
The Departed (2006)
The Departed is a 2006 American crime drama, directed by the brilliant Martin Scorsese. The movie is based on a true American crime story about Whitey Bulger, a crime boss that basically ran Boston from the late 60’s to the mid 80’s. The story of Whitey Bulger mixes with a very popular fictional Hong Kong crime-thriller called Internal Affairs to create the story of The Departed. The movie went on to win a lot of awards, including Scorsese’s first Best Director Oscar, which he had been previously nominated for six times but never won.
When The Departed was released in theaters I was living in (the armpit of) California, and was very excited. I convinced all my dude friends to go see it with me, and roughly three hours after it started it was over and I just sat there disappointed. Later when it was released on DVD I rewatched it several times, feeling that same disappointment. Why? It just didn’t hit me the way other Scorsese movies had, I guess. Whereas Casino and Goodfellas (among many others) were like a punch to my face, The Departed was a slow burn. It follows a parallel story of two men, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio, and is essentially a played out thought experiment about the consequences of our choices. Both characters grow up in the same area, both are hand picked by their mentors/father figures to follow a life of crime and justice. The entire movie is a mirror; when there is a Matt Damon scene where he’s happily on a date with a woman, Leo’s character is in a hospital with a female nurse. While Matt Damon pretends to be someone he’s not in front of his family and friends, Leo pretends to be someone he’s not as an undercover cop. The Departed creeps up on you and makes you think about good versus evil, about life and death, about the nature of people, about what we’re all willing to do to get what we want.
While there is not a bad part of the movie, by far the best part is anything involving Dignam (Mark Wahlberg). When he’s not busy kicking ass or calling people cunts, he’s telling everyone to go fuck themselves and busting the real bad guys. While The Departed had an amazing cast (Martin Sheen, Leo DiCap, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon .. excuse me, MATT DA-MON, Alec Baldwin, etc), no one stood out like Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg was the only actor from the film nominated for an Academy Award, but he lost to Alan Arkin for his role in Little Miss Sunshine (boooooooo). There is such a cult following for Detective Dignam that there have been serious considerations of doing a sequel/spin-off with his character. I’ve been a huge supporter of that idea and would be first in line to see that movie, but who knows if it will ever be made.
The Departed is a thoughtful movie, more cerebral than Scorsese’s past flicks, and I believe is the last truly great movie we’ve had released in American cinema.