Over at Chud.com, the site that this column calls virtual-home, writer Devin Faraci has posted a list of his ten favorite films - films that he can watch any time, any day. They aren't the 'best' films he's seen, just the ones he loves on a near-primal level. I liked that criterion, and it got me thinking about my own top ten. These are the films I can watch at any time, that I'll see on television and stop to check out despite owning them. I can't claim that they're 'great' movies, just favorites. Feel free to use the comments section and let me know what yours are. As always, I'm interested in your opinions.
In no particular order:
1. Roadhouse - Patrick Swayze's greatest film and a film that I've seen, in whole or in part, more times than I can count. Gleefully preposterous, Roadhouse was released in 1989 just in time to send up and warmly embrace everything terrible and wonderful about the 80's. It presents a pop-philosophical worldview that's simultaneously ludicrous and seductive, and it yields up an unending treasure trove of terrific moments and dialogue. Lord, that dialogue..."Callin' me sir is like puttin' an elevator in an outhouse. Don't belong." "Pain don't hurt." "A bear fell on me." "I used to f@$% guys like you in prison." A true classic.
2. The Iron Giant - Brad Bird's first full-length animated feature, The Iron Giant is everything a family film should be - warm, sweet, sad, laugh-out-loud funny, and deeply moving. You know you've got something special on your hands when one word from an animated robot ("Superman") can make tears gather in a grown man's eyes.
3. Cool Hand Luke - Paul Newman was The Man. I think we can all agree on this. and he left behind no shortage of sterling performances. My favorite has always been, and I suspect will continnue to be, his work as Lucas Jackson, a small-town man with an authority problem that's a mile long and wide. There's endless pleasure to be found in the character work in this film, and while the ending ain't exactly a happy one (SPOILER!), the journey resonates with me in a profound sort of way. Also: eggs!
4. Super Troopers - Is there anything better than stumbling onto a piece of pop culture that feels undiscovered or half-hidden? Super Troopers, a low-budget cop comedy from the 'Broken Lizard' comedy troupe, is a rambling, shambling, half-baked flick full of the kind of comedy that one suspects was crafted during long hours spent toiling over a bong and/or keg. It's absurd and meandering and crass and intelligent and, best of all, it gets funnier every time you see it. Meow will you go and check it out?
5. North by Northwest - It's not considered one of Hitchcock's 'great' films as far as I can tell, but this fizzy espionage caper is still magic. Cary Grant was never cooler, and Grace Kelly was never hotter. It makes no sense that anyone would attempt to kill Grant with a plane, and yet the image of Grant running from a crop duster is an iconic one. This movie is just that enjoyable.
6. Clue - I'm not sure what the creative team behind 'Clue' was embibing when they crafted their terrifically entertaining film from a Parker Brothers board game, but I want some. Watching an all-star ensemble of comedy heavyweights snipe and flirt and freak out with each other as the people around them drop dead from Sudden Murder Syndrome is the definition of a well-spent rainy Saturday afternoon.
7. Groundhog Day - How is it that a film that repeats itself over and over ends up being endlessly rewatchable? Credit the genius of Harold Ramis and Bill Murray. To hear Ramis tell it, this collaboration more or less ended the friendship between he and Murray, and the world is a poorer place for that, but it's also a far richer place thanks to Groundhog Day, perhaps the deepest and most moving comedy I've ever seen.
8. The Usual Suspects - I've heard people argue that the punch goes out of The Usual Suspects once you know the ending, but that's a load of horsepuckey. Bryan Singer's first film is crammed full of great dialogue, solid acting, dark humor, and tough-guy machismo. The script is a finely-tuned machine, and like Lost, the fun isn't knowing how it all adds up, it's in appreciating just how much work and love went into crafting the puzzle pieces. Who is Keyser Soze? Ultimately I don't care, and neither should you. It's never the answer that interests me most - it's the riddle that precedes it.
9. Back to the Future - All that stuff I just wrote about a script being a finely-tuned machine? That goes triple for BTTF - a film that stands on its own as a bonafide classic (and a time machine in its own right - Marty's 'present day' is hilariously dated now). That's two Christopher Lloyd flicks on this list, which is the sort of odd realization that makes lists like these worth creating.
10. Indiana Jones and the last Crusade - It's not as good as Raiders, and it's not as dark as Temple of Doom, but there's something about Last Crusade that makes it more rewatchable for me. Maybe it's the goofily-compressed origin of Indiana at the beginning, or the quest for a relic that's not sought for destructive power, but rather for illumination and longevity. Maybe it's the way that Spielberg cuts from Indiana lecturing the Nazis on how Marcus will 'disappear, blend in - you'll never see him again' straight to a shot of Marcus blundering his way through a market asking for directions. Maybe it's the connection between father and son, and the love of family that suffuses the film. Maybe it's all in the sad, small wave given by the last remaining knight as his temple falls down around him as if signifying both a loss and a gain far greater than any simple cup.
What are yours? And why?