Friday, November 30, 2012

November 2012 Film Wrap-Up

File:Bananas (movie poster).jpg
Bananas (Woody Allen, 1971) = 3.5

Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979) = 4.5

Project X (Nima Nourizadeh, 2012) = 1.5

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The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) = 4

The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991) = 4

Cabin Fever (Eli Roth, 2002) = 3.5

Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh, 2012) = 3.5

File:Godfather ver1.jpg
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) = 4

The Inbetweeners Movie (Ben Palmer, 2011) = 3.5

The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012) = 4

Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley, 2011) = 4

V/H/S (Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, et al., 2012) = 0.5

Gerry (Gus Van Sant, 2002) = 3

Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979) = 5

The Idiots (Lars von Trier, 1998) = 4

File:Cape fear1960s.jpg
Cape Fear (J. Lee Thompson, 1962) = 3

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (Mary Lambert, 2005) = 2

The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman, 1960) = 4.5

Trash Humpers (Harmony Korine, 2009) = 2

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012) = 4.5

THE BEST = I don't watch a lot of war films, but oh boy, Apocalypse Now completely blew me away. An astonishing feat of filmmaking that everyone should see. I don't even see it as a war film. It's about the human psyche more than anything. 
THE WORST = V/H/S, without a doubt. I very rarely give out half-a-star ratings, but this movie thoroughly deserved it. You've got To get an idea of how much I loathed it, I literally enjoyed the nudity more than anything else in the movie. That's a first for me.

Notes: Three of the films I watched this month were rewatches: The Silence of the Lambs, Cabin Fever and Urban Legends: Bloody Mary. I'm glad to have finally seen The Godfather. Now I'll no longer be heckled when people ask me if I've seen it. Just for the record, I didn't think it was phenomenal. Epic, but I didn't care too much for the characters. Stalker would be the most complex film on this list. It gave me a headache, but I did appreciate the artistry behind it. Gerry is a strange little film for those into minimalism, but I can't say I really loved it. I only started checking out Bergman's films this year, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. The Virgin Spring was brilliant. If you want something really fucked up, watch Trash Humpers—one of the weirdest films I've ever seen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is everything I hoped it would be, and I'd rank it among the best coming-of-age films of the 21st century to date.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Director: Stephen Chbosky
Writer: Stephen Chbosky (novel and screenplay)

I, I will be King
And you, you will be Queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day
                                          ~ David Bowie, Heroes

There are certain movies you watch at pivotal moments in your life that shape your outlook on the future and perhaps even change you as a human being. I imagine The Perks of Being a Wallflower will be that type of film for many adolescents (and maybe some adults) around the world. Over the years, Hollywood has bombarded us with countless movies about teenage lives. Some have worked, but plenty have dismally failed due to lazy writing and threadbare characters. Perks is very well-written, and the characters are almost painfully authentic. Chbosky achieves the sincerity that John Hughes mastered in the 1980s. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that Chbosky adapted his own novel. He has had a relationship with these characters ever since he concocted them for the page. With full creative control and nurturing hands, he has successfully transitioned them to the screen.   

The centrepiece of Perks is Charlie (Logan Lerman), who is embarking on his freshman year of high school. Charlie is introverted and subdued, and only connects with his English teacher, Mr Anderson (Paul Rudd), on his first day. He soon finds company in two senior students—Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), who welcome Charlie into their clique. Charlie is content, having found people who appreciate his quirks and observational skills (hence the label wallflower). We see Charlie feed off this newfound attention throughout the film. He does things he wouldn't have done before falling in with Sam and Patrick. If you've read the novel, you'll know what those things are. I will not mention them in this review, for Perks is more than just a sum of its parts. The plot is secondary to the film's messages and emotional energy.

Some people will go into this film expecting a comedy with relentless gags. If you're one of those people, I urge you to change your expectations. Yes, there are laughs to be had, but the film doesn't strive to be a comedy. The humour is subtle and often comes at the most tense moments. This is so much better than a film that wants nothing more than for its audience to laugh, and forgets to devote attention to making us care about those telling the jokes. 

The film's soundtrack is firmly planted in my brain, and I think it will take a few weeks or a bout of amnesia to rid myself of it (not that I really want to). Many movies use music as an accessory, so that the songs become background noise. Every song that plays during Perks courses through your whole body. Whether it's the melancholy of Asleep by The Smiths, or the empowering gusto of David Bowie's Heroes, the songs really get under your skin, and each one was chosen with purpose. You know a song is used perfectly when it feels as though it was composed specifically for that scene. I never realised how great Come on Eileen was until I saw Sam, Patrick and Charlie dance to it. Oh, and mixtapes have not been so prolific in a film since High Fidelity in 2000. 

The three leads are impeccable, and I cannot imagine their roles being filled by any other actors. Logan Lerman gives a precocious performance whereby he tiptoes on the line between shy and confident. Emma Watson is lovely and she manages to communicate a lot through subtle glances and gestures, so much so that the DVD should be released with subtitles for body language. As for Ezra Miller, I cannot wait to see him in more things. His presence is electrifying, and he thrives on the spotlight. He is a natural performer who will go a long way. Paul Rudd's performance as Mr Anderson is an important one. Anyone with a natural curiosity for learning wishes they had a teacher like him. I would say teachers like Mr Anderson exist, but do not come along too often. What I like about his role is how the "inspiring English teacher" trope is not exploited. Such a character has been done to death, and while Mr Anderson does inspire Charlie, their relationship does not become the focus of the film. When they say goodbye to each other, it doesn't seem manufactured. It's how things happen in the real world. 

I must admit the film did not resonate with me as strongly as the novel did. Charlie's observations as a 'wallflower' made the novel what it was, and there's only so much room for introspection in a film that runs for 102 minutes. I also didn't like how the film dealt with a certain tragedy in Charlie's life. The use of flashbacks is a bit gimmicky and made for an uneasy contrast with the rest of the film. Alas, this is only a small hindrance and should not drastically affect your viewing experience.

I think Perks will be remembered for saying the things plenty of introverts internalise but cannot articulate. I share a lot of Charlie's social anxieties, and there were more than a few "That's me!" moments. But I should stress that this movie caters for extroverts, too. It's not so much about the pain of loneliness as it is about the joy of acceptance and belonging. In saying that, the film does not shy away from the unpleasant aspects of growing up. We have messy break-ups, bullying, ostracism and unrequited love. A film about adolescence would not be complete without the things that hurt us. Perks espouses that we should suck the raw emotion out of every moment in our youth, because that moment is demoted to a memory once it is finished. As is stated in the novel, “...there was a time when these weren’t memories. That someone actually took that photograph, and the people in the photograph had just eaten lunch or something.” To liberate ourselves from the monotony of life, we have to cherish the immediacy of the moments that make us smile. It's great to be alive, isn't it?

4.5/5 stars.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The 10 Funniest Films I Have Ever Seen

If there's one thing all film buffs know, it's that humour is subjective. What one person finds hilarious is devoid of any laughs for another person. SEX! While I've got your attention, let me announce that The Hangover is one of the least funny movies I have ever seen, and I cannot understand the acclaim it receives (had to get this off my chest). I almost didn't make this list because I have not seen some movies that are generally lauded as the funniest of all time—most notably Airplane! I must note that this is not a list of my favourite comedies. Superbad is my favourite comedy, but I enjoy it for its heart and spontaneity more than I do for its humour. You won't find it on this list. Essentially, these are the ten movies that make me laugh the hardest. It was very difficult to rank these films, but I achieved it nonetheless. Let's begin at #10!

10. Animal House (John Landis, 1978)

This movie is an absolute riot. It's bursting with comedic energy and is largely propelled by the late John Belushi, who is hilarious as Bluto. This film works because the humour caters for everyone. It's a concoction of slapstick, toilet humour and wit, so you're guaranteed to laugh. Its influence on teen sex comedies is undeniable, but very few movies have replicated its charm. It channels a rebellious sensibility that teen audiences can relate to, and there is not a single dull moment to be found. Trivia: This was Kevin Bacon's debut film. Also, Donald Sutherland is very funny as a pothead English professor. 

9. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)

Ghost World doesn't necessarily achieve its laughs through jokes. Yes, there are jokes in it, but most of the humour arises due to the oddity of human behaviour. Thora Birch is the highlight here. She portrays Enid as a passive-aggressive misanthrope, and her delivery is effectively dry. Her stark honesty makes for some of the film's funniest moments. Take, for example, when she gets a job at her local movie theatre. A customer asks her if the theatre serves any beer. She responds, "I wish. Actually, you wish. After about five minutes of this movie, you're gonna wish you had ten beers." Steve Buscemi is also quite funny as the reclusive Seymour, although he is also responsible for some of film's more poignant moments. And yes, this is a very touching film and you shouldn't only see it for a laugh. It provides excellent commentary on suburban alienation and the superficial exterior upheld by sections of society. 

8. Billy Madison (Tamra Davis, 1995)

There are many people who believe Adam Sandler has never been funny. I beg to differ. There was a time when he starred in films that were genuinely funny. Sure, they weren't dripping with wit, but the gags were very accessible and great if you wanted a cheap laugh. When plenty of cheap laughs accumulate, you get one very funny film. Sandler is very believable as Billy Madison, but it is the late Chris Farley who steals the show as a sleazy bus driver. It's a very fun and enjoyable movie, and while it is often very crude, it has a lot of heart. It's also one of Sandler's most quotable performances. Throw out a "STOP LOOKING AT ME SWAN!" and watch how many people recognise it. P.S. I dare you to watch this and not develop an insane crush over Miss Vaughn (Bridgette Wilson). She was one of my first true movie character crushes.

7. The Meaning of Life (Terry Jones, 1983)

You can determine a lot about a person by asking what their favourite Monty Python film is. Personally, I cannot stand Life of Brian (not for religious reasons, either). I really like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, although The Meaning of Life is the film that makes me laugh the hardest. Most film enthusiasts would regard it as the weakest of the three, but this does not alter my decision. I assume most people don't like it as much because it plays out as a series of sketches rather than one complete story. This is probably the reason I like it so much. This is one of the few films where going over-the-top pays off. Whether it's live organ transplants or Mr Creosote exploding, this is one outrageously funny film.

6. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)

Admittedly, this is the only Marx Brothers film I have seen. My enjoyment of it suggests I should see more. While I was watching this, I was so fixated with Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo. These men just knew how to be funny. I use the word knew as though they learnt the art of humour from a textbook. I should clarify—these men naturally exuded comedy. I was in awe of them the whole time, especially Groucho. Whenever Groucho opens his mouth, you can guarantee some hilarious words will fall out. The slapstick scenes featuring Harpo and Chico and absolutely wonderful. A timeless film that will make you smile.  

5.  Deconstructing Harry (Woody Allen, 1997)

It's one of Allen's most challenging films. The plot is very unconventional and it borders on metafiction at times. Allen plays Harry Block, a writer who uses his family and friends as inspiration for characters in his books. This does not sit well with those close to him, and he must come to terms with his life and work while travelling to accept an honorary degree. In this sense, the basic outline is similar to that of Wild Strawberries—a film by Allen's idol, Ingmar Bergman. There are many flashback segments, and some scenes where Harry converses with characters from his work. It's rather surreal at times, but most importantly, it is extremely funny. The script is peppered with many classic Allen aphorisms, such as "The most important words in the English language are not 'I love you' but 'It's benign.'" Many people don't like this film because they think it's autobiographical and thus self-indulgent (Allen has denied it's about himself), but I rank it among Allen's best. 

4. Love and Death (Woody Allen, 1975)

I do not think this is Woody Allen's best film (check out Hannah and Her Sisters if you want that), but I think it is his funniest. It's the film he made right before the classic Annie Hall. If only Love and Death had the reputation of that film! This movie is Allen's parody of Russian literature (in particular the works of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky). The best thing about the film is that you can enjoy it without being well-read in Russian literature. Allen cares more about making a comedy than he does about making a period piece. I think I laughed AT LEAST once every two minutes throughout this. It's so damn funny and more people should see it. 

3. Kingpin (Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly, 1996)


First of all, I must give a shout-out to my pal Chris Elena, who agrees with me that this is simply one of the funniest movies ever made. I just cannot believe how underrated it is. I never hear anyone talk about it, despite the fact it is directed by a famous duo. The three main players in this film are Randy Quaid, Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray. How could you NOT want to watch this film with a cast like that? If you need more convincing, the plot centres around tenpin bowling (always fun!). This film made me laugh until my belly ached like hell. Watch it. 

2. Borat (Larry Charles, 2006)

This satirical mockumentary is, in my opinion, a modern classic. It penetrated the zeitgeist at just the right time. It got people talking. People loved it. People hated it. People REALLY hated it and filed lawsuits. It is certainly not for everyone, but I would like to think most people see the funny side of it. Under the guise of Borat Sagdiyev, Sacha Baron Cohen exposes the prejudices of the everyday American. A lot of the scenes are unscripted and the people Cohen talks to are unaware he is making a satirical film. Cohen portrays Borat with the right amount of naivety and innocence, and by the film's conclusion, you will have fallen in love with him. This is not to be missed. 

1. There's Something About Mary (Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly, 1998)

Theres Something About Mary Cameron Diaz Hair Hair  

I'm sure some of you are surprised that, out of all the movies I've seen, I consider this the funniest. I'm yet to find someone who loves it as much as I do, but like I said in the intro, humour is subjective. A lot of the comedy is in bad taste, but there's no denying the underlying current of sweetness this movie has. The film's climax is so ridiculous and over-the-top, but hilarious nonetheless. Everyone seems to remember the movie for the "hair gel" scene, but there are so many moments that are funnier than that. I never thought I'd say this, but seeing Ben Stiller wrestle a dog is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Oh, and Chris Elliott steals every scene he is in.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Top 10 Minor Film Characters Who Stole the Show

Earlier this year, I wrote a post entitled 10 Film Characters Who Deserved More Screen Time. Now, I'm writing a post about ten film characters who had very little screen time, but made the most of what they had. All of these characters have very few lines and do not appear on screen all that long, but make a mighty impression on viewers. Some may have no lines, and their mere presence is a highlight. Let's kick things off with #10!

10. Cab driver (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Chris Columbus, 1992)

There are a few creepy moments in Home Alone 2, but this must rank as the creepiest. Heck, 'creepy' is an understatement. This is scary. Sure, it's not that scary when I watch it now as a 19 year-old, but in my childhood years, I could barely watch this scene. What the above clip omits is Kevin's walk to the taxi, where he encounters homeless people, drunkards and all-round unsavoury people. Kevin thinks he has finally found a refuge in the form of a taxi, but the driver terrifies him. Props to the late Mario Todisco for pulling off such a menacing look. 

9. Clown (Billy Madison, Tamra Davis, 1995)

"Hey, kids, it's me! I bet you thought that I was dead! But when I fell over I just broke my leg and got a haemorrhage in my head!" Shane Farberman doesn't just play a clown in Billy Madison. Farberman is a party clown in the real world, so it's no surprise that he makes this brief but hilarious role look so easy. We see the clown take a fall early in the movie, and just assume his 15 seconds of fame (and perhaps his life) are over. Then this scene transpires as part of a musical number, and we all breathe a sigh of relief. 

8. Stage actor (A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

I was sad when I heard the news that John Clive passed away last month. His brief performance in this film is a very memorable one. Alex (Malcolm McDowell) is no longer a social deviant after being subjected to the Ludovico technique, but it seems the method pacified him to a dangerous degree. During a demonstration, he is beaten by an actor (Clive), before being forced to lick his boot. This is the ultimate act of degradation, but Alex has been conditioned to comply. Clive's performance is great because what begins as an obligation becomes enjoyment. He gets a real thrill out of making Alex lick his boot.

7. Japanese men (Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick, 1999)

This scene took me by surprise the first time I saw Eyes Wide Shut. The owner of a costume store finds two Japanese men sleeping with his teenage daughter in the middle of the night. This is the sort of absurdism Kubrick was renowned for. The scene has no connection to the story. It's just...there. On a side note, how wonderful is the grin that Leelee Sobieski flashes to Tom Cruise?

6. Jimmy Two Times (Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese, 1990)

Jimmy's appearance is very brief, but he is endowed with a peculiar idiosyncrasy that makes him memorable. It's a testament to Scorsese and actor Anthony Powers that, in a film packed with many visceral scenes, something as trivial as Jimmy's "I'm gonna go get the papers...get the papers" stands out.

5. Man in dog suit (The Shining, Stanley Kubrick, 1980)


Some say the guy is wearing a bear suit, although in Stephen King's novel, it's a dog suit, so I'll stick to that. Whatever it is, it's just as terrifying as any other scene in the film. Yes, that includes the room 237 bathtub scene. What makes this so horrifying is that we are given no explanation for it. Kubrick serves it to us on a platter, and our imaginations are left to run wild. The score makes it even more chilling, and when the camera rapidly zooms in, that just about does it for me. But that's not all. We are then met with unrelenting stares from the man in the dog suit and the man he just fellated. Apparently, all of this means something in the novel. The following is taken from IMDb's FAQ section for The Shining:

"Like the woman in room 237, this mysterious scene is explained in the novel, but not in the film. At one point in the novel, Jack is dancing with a woman at a masque ball during the 1920s, and he notices a young man wearing a dog mask and behaving like a dog for the amusement of a tall, bald man. This bald man is the man in the tuxedo later seen by Wendy. The woman explains to Jack that his name is Horace Derwent, a former owner of the hotel, and an eccentric Howard Hughes type figure who poured over three million into restoring it after WWII. The young man acting like a dog is Roger, a former lover of the bisexual Derwent, with whom he is still in love. According to the woman, Derwent told Roger that "if he came to the masked ball as a doggy, a cute little doggy, he might reconsider;" that is, he might have sex with Roger. Although no actual sex scene between Roger and Derwent is described in the book, such a scene does seem to take place in Kubrick's film, albeit obliquely."

4. Nanny (The Omen, Richard Donner, 1976)

This is a very unsettling scene, and one of the first in the film that indicates Damien is no ordinary child. It's the twinkle in the nanny's eyes, the shattering of the window, and the glassy eyes of Mrs Thorn (Lee Remick) as she holds on tight to her adopted son. Those are the elements that make this scene unforgettable. It's also effective how this suicide interrupts what would otherwise be a joyous celebration. It's completely unexpected. 

3. Pizza boy (Dog Day Afternoon, Sidney Lumet, 1975)

Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) attempt to rob a bank, but when cops surround the building, the situation turns into a hostage crisis. Sonny and Sal are more hospitable than your average bank robbers. They decide to order pizza for the hostages, and the pizza boy who delivers to the bank gets a moment in the spotlight. He is seen by cops, the media and members of the public. It is a full-blown media circus, and this guy who makes a living by delivering pizzas is in the thick of it. Upon handing over the pizzas, he exclaims "I'm a fucking star!" We all dream of being that guy.

2. Marshall McLuhan as himself (Annie Hall, Woody Allen, 1977)

This scene is Woody Allen's ultimate attack on pseudo-intellectuals. We've all been there. We're somewhere in public, minding our own business, when we hear someone prattling on about a topic they clearly know nothing about. We so desperately want to intervene and tell the person to shut up, or at least to get his/her facts straight. We don't, though, because we don't want to cause a scene. The joy of cinema is that such fantasies can be played out. Allen breaks the fourth wall and gets us to empathise with him. When the pretentious guy notices, he tries to justify his knowledge of Marshall McLuhan's teachings. Conveniently, McLuhan is standing a couple of metres away. He steps out from behind a poster and personally tells the pseudo-intellectual that he is wrong. This is one of the greatest cameos in the history of cinema.

1. Cosmo (Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)

Here we have a drug deal that goes horribly wrong. Dirk, Reed and Todd have gone to Rahad's (Alfred Molina) house with the promise to sell him cocaine. That cocaine is actually half a kilo of baking soda. They sit down on the couch, and if they didn't already have enough to be nervous about, there's a mysterious child named Cosmo who is setting off firecrackers just for the hell of it. Every time he lets one off, the three men become startled and it's hilarious. This makes for some excellent comic tension, and there are two great songs that underscore this scene: Sister Christian and Jessie's Girl

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Top 20 Favourite Films of All Time

In July 2010, I compiled a list of my top 10 favourite films. As a 17 year-old, I enjoyed watching movies, although my appreciation of the medium wasn't as intense or as informed as it is now. Here is the list from 2010:

1. American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)
2. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
3. SubUrbia (Richard Linklater, 1996)
4. The Pursuit of Happyness (Gabriele Muccino, 2006)
5. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
6. Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)
7. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
8. Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004)
9. The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985)
10. Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)

It's been a bit over two years since I made that list, and I have since seen some marvellous films that have been good enough to rank among my favourites. So, I've decided to make a new list, but this time, I'm extending the list to my top 20. It would be excruciating to merely acknowledge ten films, when at least ten more mean just as much to me. Note that this is a list of my 20 favourite films, and not my opinion of the 20 best films ever made. Eight out of ten titles from my 2010 list have made the new list, although most of those are in a different position. Let's begin at #20!

20. Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki, 2004)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives the performance of his career in this raw, often disturbing drama about two young adult males who are brought together because of something that happened during their childhood. The 'something' I speak of is very unpleasant, and causes Neil (Gordon-Levitt) to become a hustler and Brian (Brady Corbet) to develop an obsession with aliens. As I said, the material is difficult to watch at times, but there's an air of sweet melancholy that pervades this film, and it will linger in your mind for days. I also recommend Scott Heim's novel of the same name, which was the inspiration for this film.

19.  The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)

It's one of the first horror movies I ever saw, and still the scariest movie I've ever seen. Sure, some parts are funny on repeat viewings, but at its core, The Exorcist is one terrifying film that was ahead of its time. Many people refuse to watch it because it's too much for them to handle. I can understand that, although if you're one of those people, I strongly encourage you to give it a go (and then sleep with a lamp next to you if necessary). The only bad thing about this film is that it has indirectly inspired a bunch of mediocre to awful films about exorcisms or demonic possessions.

18. Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)


If The Exorcist is scary because of what we see, Rosemary's Baby is scary because of what we don't see. This is easily one of the most suspenseful films I've ever seen, and the pacing is absolutely perfect. I've only seen it once, but it impacted me so much (probably because I watched it after midnight). Mia Farrow is amazing, and Ruth Gordon (who won an Oscar for this) is extremely creepy as her mysterious neighbour. The ending disappointed me a little bit, but nonetheless, this is an absolute must for any horror/suspense enthusiasts. 

17. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)

Many regard this as Woody Allen's best film. I disagree, although I think it's in his top three. This film signalled a shift in the trajectory of Allen's career. Up until Annie Hall, Allen had made films such as Bananas and Love and Death, where the plot was either simple or non-existent, and the focus was on the jokes. With Annie Hall, Allen relinquished his "comedian with a camera" tag and proved he could make a film that was not only very funny, but also thematically rich and heartfelt. Unlike many modern romantic comedies which celebrate the blossoming of a relationship, Annie Hall looks back on a failed relationship between Alvy (Woody Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) and laments what could have been. The film is notable for Allen's camera trickery, and there are some techniques here that no one would have expected from Allen at the time. This film beat out Star Wars for Best Picture at the 1978 Academy Awards, and collected three other awards for Best Director, Best Actress (Keaton) and Best Original Screenplay. If you need more convincing to see Annie Hall, it features a young Christopher Walken in one of the funniest scenes in the history of cinema.

16. Scream (Wes Craven, 1996)

Scream is one of those movies that is scarier than you actually expect. The poster suggests it's just another run-of-the-mill slasher flick, but it's far from that. Wes Craven is playful and the material is never too dark, but when it wants to be, Scream can be incredibly unsettling. The opening scene featuring Drew Barrymore (pictured above) is probably my favourite opening scene of all time, and a terrifying one at that. Craven is a genius who knows what horror fans like, and this film is an homage to everything the slasher subgenre is about. A quintessential 90s film.

15. Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998)

Countless films have been made about the seedy underbelly of American suburbia, but few have been as effective as Happiness—one of the most shocking films you will ever see. Solondz examines the lives of several characters whose sources of happiness are things that society frowns upon. This film is not for everybody, although it's sorely misunderstood by people who think it glorifies paedophilia. The ensemble cast is a pleasure to watch, with excellent performances from the likes of Dylan Baker, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jane Adams. This is a film that doesn't waste a single one of its 134 minutes.

14. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984)


This film is probably the reason I love slasher films. I believe I saw it for the first time when I was six years old, and it scared the absolute hell out of me. It was then I realised that fear can feel good when it's caused by a movie. The most frightening thing about Freddy Krueger is that he strikes when you're dreaming. As a result, the film works on two levels. It's not only the slasher element that scares you, but also the prospect that sleeping could lead to death. The idea of prolonging your body's natural physiological processes is scary, because the thing about sleep is that it is inevitable. You know Freddy is going to come eventually; it's just a matter of when. The premise could have failed in a novice's hands, but Craven hits all the right notes to create a horror film that is just as fun as it is scary. 

13. Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004)

Alexander Payne is a master of blending humour and pathos, and I think Sideways is his best film to date. You do not have to have an interest in viticulture to enjoy this film. It's about more than two guys taking a trip to the vineyards of California. It's about friendship, love, infidelity and commitment. The remarkable thing about Sideways is how true it is to real life. Even the most zany elements of the plot are things you could imagine real people doing. Nothing's implausible. The highlight of the film is a conversation about "the life of wine" between Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Maya (Virginia Madsen), although the interplay between Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church is wonderful throughout.

12. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Chris Columbus, 1992)

No; I'm not kidding. I love this movie so, so much. It's one of the movies I grew up on, and I will never tire of watching it. As much as I like the first Home Alone, I think Lost in New York is the best in the series (do parts 3 and 4 even matter?). The crucial element in this film is New York City. The city becomes a character in itself, and Chris Columbus makes it look gigantic, employing plenty of wide shots and establishing shots. Macaulay Culkin is very likeable as Kevin, and Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are hilarious as bad guys Harry and Marv. Brenda Fricker is wonderful as the Central Park pigeon lady, and there's a wonderful scene between her and Culkin in the loft of Carnegie Hall which spoke to me as a young boy. I honestly think this movie deserves way more kudos than it currently receives. 

11. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)


You will not understand it. You may not even enjoy it. But, if you do not watch it, you will miss out on one of the strangest, most hypnotic film experiences possible. Watch it alone. Watch it late at night, with no sources of light around you except for your television. This is an absolute gem, and although I've only seen it once, I will never forget how it made me feel. 

10. Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)

I believe this is Allen's best film. There are so many important characters in the film, and Allen manages to successfully juggle them so that all the different storylines matter and eventually connect. The interplay between the three sisters (Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest) makes for compelling viewing, while Allen gives a top-notch performance as Mickey—a neurotic hypochondriac. At first I thought Michael Caine was an unusual choice to play Elliot, but as the film progresses, he eases into the role. Although the film is entitled Hannah and Her Sisters, it is the character of Mickey who is most interesting to watch. His search for meaning in life provides plenty of laughs and is some great food for thought. 

9. Stand by Me (Rob Reiner, 1986)

Stand by Me is the best film about growing up I have ever seen. There is not a false note throughout it. I was able to relate to everything the film had to say. There are certain films that make you nostalgic for a time when you weren't even alive. That's how I feel about Stand by Me. I wasn't alive in 1959, but by the time the film was over, I felt as though I experienced everything Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern went through. You know how you get up to some crazy shit with your friends on the verge of your teenage years? Well, this film is a tribute to that shit. And I use the word 'shit' with intent. It's how the characters in the film would talk. I dare you to not tear up when, at the end of the film, you read the following: "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?" That is painfully true.

8. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)


This film has a brilliant premise, and is entertaining from start to finish. Bill Murray's deadpan humour is hilarious, and Andie MacDowell is a convincing love interest. The film works so well because of its dramatic irony. We can appreciate the plot on a level Phil's (Bill Murray) acquaintances cannot. It's a clever film because it never explains why Phil had to live the same day over and over again. Sure, he was very selfish and the recurrence of February 2 was his payback for that, but that's all we really know. I like how there's some ambiguity there. 

7. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)

This is probably the most beautiful film about human connection I've ever seen. It's about two lonely people—one an aging actor; the other a young, married college graduate—who find each other in a city where everything is, well, lost in translation. The city is Tokyo, and good lord, it has never looked more spectacular.  This movie works for so many reasons, but the main one is that Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) never turn their relationship into an erotic one. This is not about sex. This is about companionship in a place where you can't really turn to anyone. The contrast between Bob's life experience and Charlotte's naivety is interesting to observe, and makes their relationship all the more intriguing. Lost in Translation is not always entertaining, but it is never dull. Even when nothing's happening, everything is so aesthetically pleasing that you can't afford to look away. It makes me sad that this is a fictitious film. I fell in love with these two souls, but I've got to accept they don't even exist in the real world. One last thing: the karaoke scene is very, very special. 

6. The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985)

John Hughes had a gift for making films that touched teenage audiences, and I have no doubt that The Breakfast Club helped many teens around the world come to terms with adolescence. It's such a simple set-up: five students meet at their high school on a Saturday morning for detention. There's the criminal (Judd Nelson), the athlete (Emilio Estevez), the basket-case (Ally Sheedy), the princess (Molly Ringwald) and the brain (Anthony Michael Hall). As the day progresses, the five students realise how superficial their outward stereotypes are, and that they are all quite similar at their core. What makes this film so popular is that, no matter who you are, you will be able to empathise with at least one of the students. The dialogue hits so close to home, and is often outrageously funny. You forget that the five students are played by actors. They feel so damn real. The late Paul Gleason is wonderful as the short-tempered Principal Vernon. 

5. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)

Stanley Kubrick died before Eyes Wide Shut was released, but I am so grateful that he gave us this sensuous, mysterious film as his parting gift. This film has an isolating effect on me. When Bill (Tom Cruise) roams the streets of New York at night, I too feel like a lone wanderer. In a way, the film feels like a companion piece to T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Texturally, it is similar to Lynch's Mulholland Dr. Most people remember it for the orgy scenes, but the film is so much more than that. The last word uttered in this film is "Fuck", courtesy of Nicole Kidman. I feel as though that is a reasonable reaction to the film's cessation, for it will leave you in absolute awe. 

4. Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)

If Stand by Me is a great film about growing up, Superbad is a great film about hanging out. It may surprise you that I value this movie so much, but I'll try to explain why I love it. The dialogue is natural. This is how many teenage guys talk to each other, and it's no surprise that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg began working on the script when they were 13 (probably after jerking off to some Playboy magazines). The film never struggles to be entertaining. I love its fast pace. There's always something happening, and one mishap usually leads to another. While not exactly set over one evening, it almost feels like it, and this creates a sense of "being there". After all is said and done, it's the friendship between Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) that matters the most. Yes, it's very crude, but Superbad is also rather tender and is not only a movie for adolescent males. 

3. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)


My favourite Hitchcock, and quite possibly the best. It's a film that makes voyeurs of us all, and makes us feel as bound as its protagonist (James Stewart). I've seen it three times, and my appreciation has grown with each viewing. Raymond Burr is terrifying as Lars Thorwald, while Grace Kelly is sublimely seductive as Lisa. Thelma Ritter provides brilliant comic relief as Selma. It doesn't matter that the film is so confined in its location, for we use our imagination to widen the scope of things. It's one of those films where a grand climax seems inevitable, and Rear Window does not disappoint. 

2. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

Here's yet another film that terrified me as a youngster. I stumbled across this on cable TV when I was six or seven, and it's a miracle I did not defecate in my pants. In The Shining, the Overlook Hotel is the main character. Kubrick takes us through its long hallways and we're always afraid of what's around the corner. The place is so big that something ominous can't NOT be hiding in there. There are so many things in this film that only Kubrick could make scary—most notably the man performing fellatio in a bear suit. I just adore this film. I think of it as a nightmare conceptualised for the big screen.

1. American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)

First of all, if you didn't already know this is my favourite film of all time, then I can only assume you've been living under a rock for the past two years. This is one of the best directorial debuts of all time. Honestly, how the fuck do you make a piece of art like this on your first go? And I know not everyone considers it 'art', but this is my list, so I shall consider it so. In American Beauty, we have several people who start out as caricatures but end up as human beings. The myth of the idyllic American suburbia is torn apart, just as it was in Solondz's Happiness and Lynch's Blue Velvet. It's a film about appearances; about convincing ourselves that we are someone else. It's poignant and melodic, and it features a final monologue that will resonate with you for a long, long time. Best of all, it's very accessible. Here are characters you can relate to. You will see your own shortcomings in them. I've said it countless times already, but just see this film. You'll have a wonderful time. I've written about the film in greater detail here.