People get titchy when they talk about movies. To some, movies are like a religion with icons and saints and popes. Not so much for me. I’m not so fancy. I like what I like and I don’t want to hear it.
But in case you want to hear it, here are the movies that were there for me when I needed them:
1. Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. Visually juicy and the soundtrack is so good it makes me want to bite someone. Also, John Leguzamo’s Tybalt makes me want to bite someone. I love that saucy Tybalt. He is a true believer.
2. Almost Famous. "It's all happening." Also, the deleted scenes are awesome.
3. Brother From Another Planet. Early John Sayles, with lovely Joe Morgan. "Welcome to Babylon, Brother. . ." Hypnotic, low budget, full of truth. For example, a white guy tries to show that he’s a nice, non-racist white person by talking about how much he loved Ernie Banks as a kid. I like it when moviemakers sneak little bits in that you know they saw somebody do once and were so horrified and delighted that they had to put it in a movie. Getting to do that must be a very fine thing about being a moviemaker.
4. Smooth Talk. I liked John Hughes just as much as the next white girl in the eighties, but Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club left me with a feeling of having been at a party for two hours where I was only pretending to think the punch had vitamins. Then there was Smooth Talk with Mary Kay Place, Treat Williams and Laura Dern. Laura Dern is a brave actress, even at this young age. She is so gorgeous and riveting and her mother just hates her. I saw this film rendition of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” when I was seventeen and it made me know like no warning from any adult could that my friends and I were most vulnerable at the times when we thought we were invincible.
5. Carmen. The Carlos Saura flamenco version. I like it when the men dance fight over the girl. You know you are doing something right when two guys are dance fighting over you.
6. G.I. Jane. If I'm ever going through a really bad patch, I watch this movie and say to myself "The more people fuck with me the more I want to gut it out." This movie has been my go-to for bad days since 1998.
7. High Plains Drifter. Because, hello. He turns an entire town into a red hell. And I like those hip huggers so sue me.
8. Desperately Seeking Susan. My best friend Diane and I went into downtown Berkeley on the BART train to see it there. Probably the most transformative time I have ever had at the movies. That ding dongy soundtrack that plays when Madonna walks around lifts my heart and makes me know that my life is mine and that wonderful things are about to happen.
9. Into the Wild. I make excuses to show this to my students when I can. The soundtrack is soul-wrenching. Chris McCandless’ journey to find meaning in his place and time and circumstances will always be relevant. This movie is beautiful and unrelenting.
10. Godfather II. My favorite is when Don Corleone brings his wife a nice pear the day he gets fired. Next thing you know he's offing The Black Hand. I like a fellow who takes care of business and still thinks of bringing his wife a piece of fruit. Now that I think of it, my husband did that very thing today. He didn’t kill anybody, but he took a moment from a very hard work day to go into the hundred degree sun and bring me a fig from the tree in the backyard. For no reason. So, I like that.
11. After the Wedding. I like looking at Mads Mikkelsen. Those wide Scandinavian face planes kill me. He’s a good actor too, but really I could watch him make a sandwich and feel entertained.
Which movies make your list?
The sandwich wouldn't even be necessary.
Photo: Stephane Reix/EPA