Monday, August 31, 2015

What Do Your Favorite Films Say About You?

When that recent Tarantino interview came out, so much of the film loving Internet was aflutter (a Twitter?) with opinions about the valid, constructive criticism Quentin had regarding the film It Follows. Yet among my friends, more dispiriting was the fact that Tarantino himself loves to badmouth a different film which many of us hold in high regard - his own carchase/slasher masterpiece. Yes, I'm talking about Death Proof!

Personally, I hold that film above Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds. Of course a few took exception with my opinion on this, but many people on my Facebook wall chimed in and declared Death Proof to be their favorite Quentin Tarantino film altogether. Which I guess goes to show you how subjective taste can be. Sure we can back up our opinions with this or that "fact", but in the end, it's all very personal.

If you press someone to give you a list of their Top-10 or more films, what you'll get is a pretty good glimpse into who that person is. You will not only be able to know what they respond to visually, but emotionally as well. In a way, a list of someone's favorite films can be even more insightful than the much lauded Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Pretty much every time I look at my own personal favorites list, I find myself thinking, "Perhaps it's time to  shake this list up Craig?" Yet when I try to think of what I'd eliminate, I'm at a total loss. Even though I now prefer Kill Bill (as a whole) to Pulp Fiction, I cannot bring myself to remove Pulp Fiction from the top of that list. That's the movie that made me who I cinematically am and introduced me to things like the French New Wave and Hong Kong Cinema. I'm so resistant to removing films from my list that my Top-10 is actually a Top-11 because I couldn't bring myself to remove anything to make room for Y Tu Mamá También.

Looking at my Top-11 I see so many recurrent themes and visual tropes. Lots of bittersweet endings and films about eras ending. There's also lots of brown in the color pallets and an overall mid-century flavor to much of the design. Of course most of the films use source music to underscore scenes and feature hyperbolic camera moves...except for the ones that don't. Some of the films on the list are even from the same year. Does that mean something?

When I saw the 1962 commedia all'italiana classic Il Sorpasso for the first time last year, I fell instantly in love. Upon trying to figure out why I responded to it so strongly, I came to the realization that though this movie pre-dated me by twenty-one years, it was made specifically for me. It checks off pretty much every element on the list of things that I respond to in cinema. To quote my own review: "It’s a road movie that luxuriates in the settings and side characters, it expertly balances comedy and drama, it features a passive main character who is propelled along by a charismatic rascal, the pop songs are expertly placed and the photography is beautiful." Of course I loved it, it was pretty much predestined.

So is it now time for my Top-11 to become a Top-12? I've come to accept the fact that none of those core movies are going anywhere anytime soon. They are part of who I am. They're like those islands in Inside Out. My relationship with them can change, but they will always be there underscoring everything else that I watch. I will love or hate something for the ways it is either similar to, or different from those core films. The only choice is to add, right?

But then again, Il Sorpasso doesn't bring anything new to my personal canon. It's merely a variation on several extremely well known themes in the pre-existing, "Craig Canon". Perhaps I should only incorporate a new film  to the list if it adds something new to my understanding and appreciation of cinema. Or perhaps I should just accept who I am. Like they say, you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

For the curious, here are my Top-11 films. What are yours? What do they say about you?
  1. Pulp Fiction
  2. Ed Wood
  3. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  4. Taxi Driver
  5. L.A. Confidential
  6. Buffalo '66
  7. Annie Hall
  8. The Godfather Part II
  9. Boogie Nights
  10. Chasing Amy
  11. Y Tu Mamá También


  1. You know, so many of your films would make my top films list (especially Annie Hall and Y Tu Mama Tambien) so because of that the ones I haven't seen I'm interested about! This is a great post too by the way, great idea!

    1. Thank you very much. Hopefully you like the ones you check out. What are your favorites?

  2. That's a pretty great top 11, really. I'm never very good at gleaning what people's favourite movies say about them but I still love seeing top however many lists. I can probably do my top 5 (Rocky Horror, Grease, Velvet Goldmine, Laura, Charade) but have never been able to make a top 10 because there are SO many essential favourites to fill up the remaining 5 spots. (No idea what it says about me other than, maybe, I like glitter and death? Ha. And I respond more to emotions expressed through song?)