Blasphemy!

As a classic film fan, I'm more inclined to watch the oldest Judy Garland over the newest Channing Tatum. If you're reading this blog, maybe you're the same way. There are millions of reasons why I would rather spend my time viewing a gorgeously lit black-and-white film instead of a...well, whatever headache the Transformers series is. However, I'm not immune to our modern movies. I'll admit to being a huge Will Ferrell fan, and I'll certainly catch whatever new thing Disney/Pixar is doing. Being a fan of the oldies, it's sometimes dismissed that you'd like anything else. It's true that Knocked Up isn't my favorite movie (yes, I heard a girl say that once and yes, I cringed), but there are quite a few that rank alongside Dangerous When Wet and The Third Man in my book. I'll limit myself to only eleven here, and I'm excluding Disney/Pixar releases because that could take over all eleven slots.

Disclaimer: The following list is based purely on my opinion -- it's not by any means supposed to suggest that the movies I'm mentioning are giving Citizen Kane or Vertigo a run for their money in the pantheon of Great Movies. This is not meant to induce fisticuffs, I swear. Also, I consider anything after 1970 modern. Strictly my opinion.


When Harry Met Sally.
I was skeptical of this film for a long time. Like many movies, it's been given a lot of build-up and after the disappointment of Sleepless in Seattle (instead of listening to people talk constantly about An Affair to Remember, just watch An Affair to Remember), I was ready to be saddened again. Imagine my surprise when I caught WHMS on TV one night and absolutely fell in love with it. I couldn't buy it online fast enough, and then I watched it three more times within a week. First of all, Billy Crystal is so incredible. He added little touches to Harry that really make him into a flesh-and-blood creation. Meg Ryan is fun as Sally, too. The script is clever and sweet, and the music by Harry Connick, Jr. deserved its Grammy award. Good stuff all around.

The Princess Bride.
Another Rob Reiner film that is universally adored, and with good reason. The Princess Bride is such a wonderful mixture of things -- you've got the Errol Flynn swashbuckler, the swooning love story, the hilarious characters... It's a conventional fairy tale that feels fresh and timeless, like the best fairy tales should. Plus, can we talk about how fantastic a certain Cary Elwes is? If anyone inherited the title of Errol Flynn's heir, it's him. Really, I could just name the whole cast and praise them until Christmas came around, but you can watch the movie and see for yourself.

Young Frankenstein.
YES. This is how you do a loving homage that still feels original and edgy. I cannot thank Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks enough for writing this amazing screenplay, for directing this beautiful film, and for acting the hell out of a crazed scientist. I love that Brooks stuck to his guns and filmed on actual B&W film stock, and that he used legitimate props from the original Frankenstein films from the 1930's. I honestly cannot watch another Frankenstein movie again without laughing about something this one did. It's just too brilliant--in casting, in cinematography, in music, in everything.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
When my mom first told my sister and I about this movie, it seemed too good to be true. Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees made a film together? And it's completely set to songs by the Beatles, with the only dialogue being narration by George freaking Burns? Fate intercepted and a few days later, my mom came home with a DVD copy she randomly found at CVS. This film holds a really special place in my heart, precisely because it's bonded my sister and me. That's why I'm extremely protective of it. It was a box office failure, and it's extremely hard to find another person who either knows what it is or appreciates it. Maybe it's the rose-colored glasses I have regarding it, but I find Sgt. Pepper's to be a very fun and entertaining flick. It. Is. So. Good. You can read about my love for it here.

The Artist.
This film provided me with one of my most enjoyable theater-going experiences. My mom and I went to one theater to see Casablanca, and then after that we immediately went to another theater to see The Artist with my sister. This movie just knocked me out. It was so lovingly done, and it really encapsulated so many wonderful moments. I pre-ordered the DVD and to celebrate Bastille Day, my best friend Alex and I ate crepes and watched it. He was just as thrilled as I was. The best part about The Artist, though? Jean Dujardin. He deserved his Oscar, for sure.

OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d'espions (or Cairo, Nest of Spies).
Speaking of Jean Dujardin... From the same director as The Artist, OSS 117 is a very funny spoof of '60s spy flicks, although it's set in 1955. Dujardin is just incredible, I wish he would do an American comedy. The director, Michel Hazanavicius, is amazing. He really gets the flavor of classic films and seamlessly applies it to OSS 117 and The Artist. One of the DVD extras was a behind-the-scenes feature, which is great because you get to see how hard everyone worked to make it feel like it came straight from the time period, including using old film cameras. The movie may be in French, but my friend Alex and I quoted it for days.

The Royal Tenenbaums.
This Wes Anderson film actually haunted me for a few years. My parents had rented it through Netflix (back when it was solely through DVDs in the mail) and I watched it, but I was far too young to get it. After that viewing, I would kind of see snippets of it in my mind and I would always wonder "What was that movie? What was it about?" I mean, that scene of Luke Wilson attempting suicide seriously stuck with me. Last year, I rented it from the public library and it was like finally solving a puzzle. I understood its subtlety, its humor, its complex relationships... I know that Wes Anderson is an acquired taste, but he truly awes me. Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel are my favorites from him, but I think all his work portrays a tenderness and sensitivity that can't be denied.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Oh man, this movie. It is HILARIOUS. Just looking for a photo for this post had me cracking up. Michael Caine and Steve Martin play con men who target the same woman, triggering a war between the two. Things get more outrageous, and it all ends in a surprising twist that I wouldn't want to spoil. The film was also shot in the south of France, so it's beautiful to look at too.

Chicago.
What's more fun than spending two hours in the 1920's with murderesses, tricky lawyers, cheating spouses, and saps who fall for those cheating spouses? The soundtrack is unbelievable, and the numbers are deliciously done. While unappreciated when originally done on Broadway in the 1970's by Bob Fosse (!), Chicago is certainly getting its due nowadays. I'm not a big fan of Renee Zellweger, but I have to admit she does a really great job here. Catherine Zeta-Jones is marvelous, and Richard Gere is the best sleazeball as Billy Flynn. Really, everybody contributes something good. Its critical praise and Academy Awards wins, including Best Picture, led many to believe that the movie musical was coming back, but unfortunately that hasn't been the case.

Zoolander.
My mom showed this to my sister and I probably a few years sooner than she should have, but it didn't matter to me that I didn't get some of the jokes then, and now I'll watch it and be infinitely surprised at things I missed. This movie is no doubt super ridiculous -- its premise is a male model (Ben Stiller) is brainwashed by a crazed designer (Will Ferrell) to kill the prime minister of Malaysia. Oh god, none of that even remotely conveys the greatness of Zoolander. There are so many quotable lines, hilarious characters (Owen Wilson's model Hansel is my favorite), out-of-nowhere situations, random celebrity cameos, and one teeny tiny cell phone. This is not a movie to be taken seriously, but it is a movie that you will seriously have fun watching.

The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Let me start by saying that I know this choice may elicit groans -- its emo subculture might alienate some, and the fact that it comes from the mind of Tim Burton might sour you on the film too. Like Wes Anderson, Burton has a definite niche and if you don't get it, you don't. I've been in love with Nightmare Before Christmas for a long time, and it was the catalyst for my fanhood of Tim Burton. He didn't direct it (that was the great Henry Selick), but it came from a poem he wrote and he clearly had input on everything. The movie is weird, scary, wistful, romantic, and very clever. The songs are haunting and beautifully done in every way. Jack Skellington is a surprisingly adult character for what's deemed a kids' film, and the voice work for him is brilliant. (Chris Sarandon, ex-husband of Susan and Prince Humperdink from Princess Bride, did the voice, but the singing was done by none other than Danny Elfman, who wrote this score and many more for Tim Burton and others. The crazy thing is you can't tell a difference between the two men's voices.) If you have watched Nightmare before and haven't seeked it out since, try it again. You might be amazed at what subtle things you missed, not to mention the song lyrics that just get richer with each listen.

What are your favorite modern films?

With love,
Michaela

Comments

  1. LOVE "When Harry Met Sally" and "The Princess Bride".

    My favorite modern films are "Pearl Habor", "The Breakfast Club", "Inglourious Basterds", "The Social Network", "Jeux d'enfants", "The Theory of Everything", "Singles", "Top Gun", "American Psycho", "Almost Famous", "Across the Universe", "Oh Boy!", "The Red Baron", "Nowhere Boy", "Shame", "Like Crazy" and "Dallas Buyers Club". Goodness, that's a lot! Oh, and I just saw "Freier Fall" last night and it's now one of my favorites too.

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  2. I forgot The Breakfast Club! I've been meaning to see Inglorious Basterds -- I like Tarantino a lot, especially Pulp Fiction. I haven't seen the others you mentioned, but I know of them. It takes a lot for me to see a recent movie.

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    Replies
    1. "Inglourious Basterds" is amazing! You should definitely check it out some time. I think you'd really like "Jeux d'enfants" as well. Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet are perfect together, not to mention incredibly attractive. :)

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    2. I love Marion Cotillard! I'll keep an eye out for it, thanks!

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  3. When Harry Met Sally is one of my all-time favourites. It's just a good all-around film that both men and women can enjoy.

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    Replies
    1. So true! The more I watch it, the more I've found it to be one of those movies that I can't get tired of.

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