Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Desert Island Movies

I like to say that your favorite movie is not the same as your desert island movie, an idea I think I got originally from Martin. By the time you get up to 15 or 20, though, I think you're looking at the same two lists. These are the movies I'd happily watch over and over again.
  1. Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)
  2. True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993)
  3. Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1984)
  4. Metropolitan (Whit Stilman, 1990)
  5. Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee, 1995)
  6. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
  7. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002)
  8. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
  9. Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
  10. High Society (Charles Waters, 1956)
  11. Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)
  12. To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)
  13. Some Kind of Wonderful (Howard Deutch, 1987)
  14. Alice in Wonderland (Disney version, 1951)
  15. Quiz Show (Robert Redford, 1994)
If I expanded this to 20 I'd certainly need to take along The Dark Crystal. More movies I love: Wings of the Dove, The Ice Storm, Short Cuts, The Big Chill, Kicking and Screaming, Stand By Me, You Can Count on Me, The Sting ... and there's a bunch more that hold so much nostalgia value for me I'd be tempted to take them just to relive my childhood, stuff like Dirty Dancing and Willow ... but I'm trying to restrict this to films I enjoy without camp, since camp may fail me on a desert island. Can camp exist in solitude? (Or maybe I should say, I want to take films that I believe I'd enjoy even if I saw them for the first time this year, films that aren't colored by a protectiveness for my past enthusiasm.) And what about comedies? Would Clue or Soap Dish or The Man with Two Brains still be funny after umpteen viewings? (Have you see Soap Dish? It is hilarious.)

John pointed out that there is not one woman director on this list. What the F is this shit? Who are your favorite women directors? Don't say Sofia Coppola.


  1. i had NO CLUE ang lee directed sense and sensibility, wow.

    "gone with the wind" is probably at the top of my list. also the 1959 version of "imitation of life." not including movies with camp would be hard for me, as i'm not sure i could happily live on a desert island (where i was allowed to have movies) without "the birdcage," and "selena."

    i can only even name a few female directors. amy heckerling? catherine hardwicke? what is f IS that?

  2. Never seen Imitation of Life. I'll look for it. I always think of the '50s as a wasteland for cinema, so I was surprised that three of my picks are from that decade.

  3. can i say *Sofia* Coppola? ;)

    okay okay. off the top of my head there's Jane Campion, Sally Potter, Miranda July, Nicole Holofcener, Rebecca Miller, all of whom have made movies i enjoyed in the last decade.

  4. ooh, and a new one to me, Kelly Reichardt, who made Meek's Cutoff, which i want to see tonight possibly.

  5. Nope. Not her either. (I edited the post.)

    I also like Miranda July. Nicole H., not so much. What would you recommend by Sally Potter and Rebecca Miller?

  6. John and I both like The Anniversary Party which Jennifer Jason Leigh co-directed. I was looking at a list of women directors and noticed many of them were actresses first. Like, what, you have to prove yourself as an actress before people will trust you with a film? Or it's just easier to make enough money that way that you can then afford to direct.

  7. the Sally Potter movie I saw was Yes. it's sexy and written entirely in rhymed iambic pentameter.

    Rebecca Miller (daughter of Arthur, not that it matters) made The Ballad of Jack and Rose, starring Daniel Day-Lewis. love that one. she also adapted her own books, Personal Velocity and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, which I haven't seen yet.

  8. love The Anniversary Party.

  9. Oh, I love that movie! (The Ballad of Jack and Rose.)

  10. yeah, it's one of those movies that, for years after, makes me want to find other ones like it.

  11. Hey! Quiz Show would totally be on my list, as well! Sooo underrated and ridiculously quotable. (Although it always kinda bothered me that we're supposed to believe every dude on the street knows who Van Doren is...)

    Best cast, too!

  12. What was so remarkable about that movie was that it made you root for them as a couple unwittingly.

  13. Christen, yes, I love the cast of Quiz Show! What ever happened to Rob Morrow?

  14. My favorite Sally Potter movie is The Tango Lesson, even though it's self-referential to the point of ridiculousness, something about has stuck with me for years. Also, her "Rage" is very good.

    Hands down my favorite female director is Agnes Varda. You may have already seen Cleo from 5 to 7 but it only gets better from there...

  15. Sally Potter did one of MY desert island movies starring the fabulous Tilda Swinton...namely 'Orlando'. AM I the only one I know who LOVED it? ;)

  16. OK, adding Orlando, The Tango Lesson, and Cleo from 5 to 7 to my list!

  17. Wayne's World would absolutely be on my desert island movie list, though I don't think I'd say Penelope Spheeris is my fave female movie director. But then again, there are so few, so maybe she is, just by default.

  18. I think I'd pack Clueless before Wayne's World. They're both delightful though.

  19. E- Orlando and Cleo are on my list!! I was going to say Agnès Varda, too, and agree with Jane Campion.

  20. Oh, I meant "list of movies to watch," sorry if that was confusing. I haven't seen any of those yet. Thanks for adding your votes, B!

  21. And Clueless is definitely a favorite film. Definitely a desert island film.

  22. 'imitation of life" is really quite campy, actually. a douglas sirk "women's picture," or so it was called then. race relations, mother-daughter relationships, and lana turner. one of the saddest movies ever, and beautiful to look at.

  23. I'd probably put both Clueless and Wayne's World on my list if it were long enough, but WW would definitely win. WW basically taught me how to write, I think.

  24. i forgot to mention Lena Dunham's "Tiny Furniture". very enjoyable.

  25. I really want to see that. Is it in theaters now?

    Another movie I'd like to watch about 50 more times is Funny Ha Ha.

  26. i saw Tiny Furniture a few months ago. i'm not sure how widely it played.

    Funny Ha Ha is great.

  27. 90% of my desert island list is movies that were released between when I was about 10 and 21: Goodfellas, Tombstone, The Princess Bride, etc.

    Another interesting list for me would be movies that I'm pretty sure were excellent but that I'd have a hard time watching again.

  28. Did you ever see Three Women, Elisa? You might like it a lot, judging by your list.

  29. Elisa, Vagabond is a good start for Agnes Varda. Ousmane Sembene's Black Girl. Chocolate is my favorite Claire Denis but the recent 35 Shots of Rum is a better intro. Denis' very race-oriented, political White Material comes out on dvd Tuesday. Neema Barnette's Civil Brand is some good realism. . Maria Novalla's Without a Trace is a delightful road film. Mira Nair's Namesake. Agnieszka Holland's Washington Square is my second fave Henry James adaptation after The Green Room, and Campion's Portrait of a Lady was up there. Chantal Ackerman (acquired taste for some). I boycott Dulac in deference to Artaud. Breillat's 36 Fillette is my fave of hers, starts at a lit reading. Siedelman's Smithereens was entertaining. Kelly Reichart's Old Joy, Allison Anders' Gas Food Lodging. Samira Makhmalbaf's Blackboards. A few choices there, Ian

  30. Oh yes! Sally Potter's Orlando with the fabulous Tilda Swinton. Also Jane Campion, and Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown and thirteen).

  31. Also, on the subject of women directors, Debra Granik's Winter's Bone is excellent...

  32. Brian, yes! That movie is sooooo creepy. I love '70s film, even the bad movies are fascinating.

    Ian, thank you for the recs!

    RK, Orlando is high-priority.

    S, I need to see Winter's Bone, heard lots of good things.

  33. PS to S: "movies that I'm pretty sure were excellent but that I'd have a hard time watching again" -- that would be a fun list to make! I remember thinking that about Girls Don't Cry and Dancing with Wolves.

  34. apparently altman dreamed "3 Women", scene for scene, complete with cast. creepy indeed.

  35. In the Bedroom is a great movie I'm not sure I could see again.

  36. Metropolitan is a fantastic film. I also love his Barcelona. I lost count of how many times I've seen it.

    The last thing I saw Stillman Muse Chris Eigeman in was "Malcolm in the Middle". Someone needs to put him and Taylor Nichols in a new film stat.

  37. Yes, I miss Chris Eigeman! I have such a crush on him.

  38. I also really liked "Orlando."

    Other women directors who come to mind:

    Donna Deitch ("Desert Hearts")

    Susan Streitfeld ("Female Perversions" -- *not* a porn film, in spite of the title -- this one also has Tilda Swinton in the lead)

    Barbara Kopple (great director of documentary films -- good one to start with is her "Harlan County," about a labor strike by coal miners)

    Janet Forman ("The Beat Generation: An American Dream," excellent documentary about many of the poets commonly categorized or referred to as "beat" -- best thing of its kind I've seen)

    Rose Troche ("Go Fish")

    Jodie Foster (she directed "Home for the Holidays," which I liked)

    Nicole Holofcener (she directed "Walking and Talking," "Lovely and Amazing,", "Friends with Money," and "Please Give," all of which I liked pretty much)

    Lisa Cholodenko ("High Art," "Laurel Canyon," and "The Kids Are All Right," all of which I liked)

    Lynne Littman (directed "Testament," devastating film about a town in northern California in the immediate aftermath of nuclear war)

    Floria Sigismundi (directed "The Runaways," the recent one where Kristen Stewart plays Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning plays Cherie Currie)


    A tentative desert island list of films for me, off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

    Z (dir. Costa-Gavras)
    Missing (dir. Costa-Gavras)
    The Ice Storm
    The Maltese Falcon
    Julia (Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, etc.)
    The Moderns (dir. Alan Rudolph)
    Bagdad Cafe
    Dr. Strangelove
    Testament (the film mentioned above)
    Rhapsody in August (dir. Akira Kurosawa)
    Hannah and her Sisters
    The Player (dir. Robert Altman)
    The Third Man
    Romeo and Juliet (dir. Franco Zeffirelli, 1968)
    Return of the Secaucus Seven (dir. John Sayles)

  39. Lyle, I see we have some desert island overlap. Thank you for all the recs.

    My favorite Kubrick movie, I think, is Barry Lyndon.

  40. Hey EG, thanks for crediting me with the favorite-vs-desert-island distinction! Just to further complicate matters, I also like to use a THIRD category: my favorite movie, for instance, is neither my desert island movie nor the BEST movie I've ever seen. Dig?

    I am kind of alarmed at how many of your desert island movies I know by little more than their titles. I'll have to update the queue.

    Winter's Bone is totally worth watching. Virtually the only professional actors in it were also in Deadwood, which is ALWAYS a good sign.

    (For the record, the best movie I have ever seen is Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, owing mostly to its David Webb Peoples screenplay. My favorite movie is Magnolia, which I saw six times in the theater. My desert island movie is Jaws.)

  41. Martin, I have always remembered the fact about Jaws being your desert island pick. (Your "best movie" distinction is of course very useful too.)

    I found both Magnolia and Unforgiven (like most Clint Eastwood films) too heavy-handed for my taste. That said, I'm wondering what the most heavy-handed film on my short list is. (It hardly seems fair to pick GWTW.)