Sunday, November 06, 2005

Movie Meme Time!

by Tom Bozzo

I've seen a few varieties of this meme around the Phantom Scribbler pixieverse (at pig-puppet, Evensong Martini Club, Badgerings, and PS). List your fifteen favorite movies from the last fifteen years is how the Internet Movie Database staff inspired it, and it's how I'm doing it. Until the last couple months, I've been following moviedom much less faithfully in the last three or four years than in the previous eleven or twelve — for some reasons, hmm.

Here are fifteen since 1990. Ranking them would hurt my brain, so the list is alphabetical.

A Mighty Wind
Best In Show

"This Is Spinal Tap" would surely make a '25 from 25' version of the meme, but it is disqualified by its eightiesness. Apart from being very funny, in contrast to offbeat movies with comic elements that film marketers and certain critics mistakenly call "hilarious," these Christopher Guest mockumentaries routinely reward re-viewing on DVD; when renting either, do not skip the deleted scenes, e.g. Meg Swan (Parker Posey) explaining to Hamilton Swan (Michael Hitchcock) what makes him a "great asshole lawyer." These are extensively improvised affairs, and "Best In Show" holds together much better overall. "A Mighty Wind" feels like it was subjected to a vicious forced edit to achieve its relatively brief running time, but the demented soundtrack carries the day.

The Big Lebowski

Choosing a Coen Brothers entry was tough — "Miller's Crossing," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and/or, of course, "Fargo" could just as easily have made the list — the slacker epic's undercurrent of geniality gets the nod.

Flirting With Disaster

When I was more able to feel secondary social anxiety (i.e., anxiety over others' social anxiety), the mortification that befalls Ben Stiller in David O. Russell's identity caper was acutely painful. Likewise, Matthew Broderick is on the receiving end of quite a bit of mostly self-inflicted mortification in "Election." A theme?

L.A. Confidential

Both of these crime classics are artfully made and supremely entertaining.

The Last Days Of Disco

I probably should have "Barcelona" here, but this anti-"Saturday Night Fever," where the dancing is bad and the battle is between obnoxious yuppies who desperate to be hip and obnoxious club owners who maybe should just take their money, improves a bit on the slightly too-stiff "Metropolitan" (technically eligible, and which I also like a lot). Chloe Sevigny might have done well to have learned from her character and steered well clear of Vincent Gallo's execrable "The Brown Bunny."


John Frankenheimer's hard boiled IRA thriller abuses a poor Audi S8 in ways no S8 should suffer. It made me really want an S8. Solid performances from DeNiro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, and Jonathan Pryce make it a keeper.


In a way the anti-"Election," Wes Anderson's universe works its best here (vs. "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," which was overwhelmed by the overtness of its artifices), as there's a core of truth to Jason Schwartman's activities-obsessed prep school dork. It also marks Bill Murray's first outing in the late middle-aged sad sack role a la "Lost In Translation" and "The Life Aquatic."

Shallow Grave
The Straight Story

This is the David Lynch movie I could take Suzanne to — and, in fact, did, in our early courtin' days. As a result, it is special to us. Also, "Blue Velvet" (1986) is too old.


This is a good west coast counterpart for a double feature with "The Last Days of Disco," made with as much visual flair from director Doug Liman as its minuscule budget would permit. With a bit more budget at his disposal, Liman committed a brilliant rave scene to film in "Go."

Three Colors: Red
Three Colors: White

Of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, "White" is arguably the place to start, as poor Karol Karol's climb out of the gutter (offering a gloss on the present unrest in France) follows a relatively conventional and antic narrative flow.

The runners up:

The Double Life of Veronique

If it were enough to have Irène Jacob look fabulous in the titular double roles (the doomed Polish Weronika, and the not-doomed French Veronique), this would top the list. It gets a minor demerit for ultimately going nowhere.

The Fifth Element

Almost could make it on style alone. Almost.

Ghost World
In America

Both of these made very favorable impressions on DVD, either could move up the list if they hold up to a repeat viewing sometime.

Lost In Translation

This could take Rushmore's spot on the list; it's just a little too new.

Three Colors: Blue

I've considered this the most inert of the Three Colors, though it's been growing on me as repeat viewings reveal Juliette Binoche to be playing something more than near-catatonia.
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