I have had a fascination with cinema ever since I was a small child. I really consider myself a 'film geek' because I am literally always quoting films or making references to films. In all honesty, I have probably seen about one thousand films in my lifetime. Out of all of the films I have seen, there are a handful of films that have influenced me either artistically and or as help in getting me through a difficult phase in my life. If I had to narrow it down to a list of ten films that changed my life, it would have to include the following:
1. "Lost In Translation" (2004)
A lonely, aging movie star named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and a conflicted newlywed, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), meet in Tokyo. Bob is there to film a Japanese whiskey commercial; Charlotte is accompanying her celebrity-photographer husband. Strangers in a foreign land, the two find escape, distraction and understanding amidst the bright Tokyo lights after a chance meeting in the quiet lull of the hotel bar. They form a bond that is as unlikely as it is heartfelt and meaningful.
This film taught me that it is okay not to know what you're going to be in life. The first time I saw this film, I had transferred to a new school with no friends and was unsure about what career path to chose. It was a very lonely, confusing time for me. In one scene, Bob tells Charlotte, "The more you know who you are, the less you let things upset you." This film motivated me to take the time to figure out what kind of person I wanted to be. The film is shot beautifully, has an amazing soundtrack and carries an important message to those who feel a little 'lost'.
2. "Kids" (1995)
Amoral teen Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) has made it his goal to sleep with as many virgin girls as possible -- but he doesn't tell them that he's HIV positive. While on the hunt for his latest conquest, Telly and his best friend, Casper (Justin Pierce), smoke pot and steal from shops around New York. Meanwhile, Jenny (Chloë Sevigny), one of Telly's early victims, makes it her mission to save other girls from him. But before she has a chance to confront him at a party, everything goes horribly wrong.
Even though this film was a little difficult to sit through, I took a lot away from it. "Kids" is a disturbing, graphic glimpse of teenage lifestyle during the mid 1990's. The teens in this film (some as young as twelve years old), engage in sexual activity, take drugs, steal and some almost beat a man to death. When the film was released, it's slogan was "A wake up call to the world." This film taught me the importance of putting honesty into a creation. This film painted a true story of what teens in the 90's were like. Though shocking, the film teaches the importance of keeping the youth on the right track.
3. "Buffalo '66" (1998)
Convict Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo) dreads going home so much upon his release from prison that he tries to get back inside. In desperation, Billy kidnaps Layla (Christina Ricci) from a tap dancing class and pleads with her to impersonate his wife and to accompany him home to visit his parents, Janet (Anjelica Huston) and Jimmy (Ben Gazzara). To Billy's dismay, Layla takes to her role enthusiastically. She breaks through to obsessive Buffalo Bills football fan Janet and the hard-edged Jimmy.
I really love the visual aesthetic of this film. Filmed in the 90's, but it looks like a 70's B-Movie. This film taught me to appreciate camera work, wardrobe and creative aesthetics.
4. "Paris, Texas" (1984)
A disheveled man who wanders out of the desert, Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton) seems to have no idea who he is. When a stranger manages to contact his brother, Walt (Dean Stockwell), Travis is awkwardly reunited with his sibling. Travis has been missing for years, and his presence unsettles Walt and his family, which also includes Travis's own son, Hunter (Hunter Carson). Soon Travis must confront his wife, Jane (Nastassja Kinski), and try to put his life back together.
This film taught me to appreciate the importance of color and visual satisfaction. The film uses a lot of blue, pink and red shades in every scene. These colors remind me of a warm, safe place that I hope to stay in for as long as I can. I love the scene of Jane in her pink sweater because the red telephone, red curtain and red lipstick all go together very well. I use color schemes very similarly to the film's in my own photography and film work.
5. "Eraserhead" (1977)
Henry (John Nance) resides alone in a bleak apartment surrounded by industrial gloom. When he discovers that an earlier fling with Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) left her pregnant, he marries the expectant mother and has her move in with him. Things take a decidedly strange turn when the couple's baby turns out to be a bizarre lizard-like creature that won't stop wailing. Other characters, including a disfigured lady who lives inside a radiator, inhabit the building and add to Henry's troubles.
This is the film that introduced me to surrealism. This is the film that introduced me to the work of David Lynch. I was fifteen years old when I first saw this film, and I have been obsessed with it ever since.
6. "The Shining" (1980)
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer's block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack's writing goes nowhere and Danny's visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel's dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.
My favorite film of all time! This is the film that introduced me to the work of Stanley Kubrick. "The Shining" gave me ideas about how to strategically use mise-en-scene and it also taught me the value of pace throughout a scene. I love how slow the film moves because it really puts an emphasis on Jack's mental downfall. The film also taught me the importance of score within a film. The score is made up of creepy moaning, screeching noises and a booming orchestra. All of the elements used in the film come together perfectly to portray a complete mental breakdown.
7. "Apocalypse Now" (1979)
In Vietnam in 1970, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) takes a perilous and increasingly hallucinatory journey upriver to find and terminate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a once-promising officer who has reportedly gone completely mad. In the company of a Navy patrol boat filled with street-smart kids, a surfing-obsessed Air Cavalry officer (Robert Duvall), and a crazed freelance photographer (Dennis Hopper), Willard travels further and further into the heart of darkness.
As someone who hates the idea of war, it might seem strange that I consider "Apocalypse Now" one of my favorite films of all time. What I really appreciate this war film is that it touches upon the after effects of PTSD in soliders. Unlike many American war films, Apocalypse Now is a raw view of the madness and insanity of war. In one of the first scenes in the film, Martin Sheen's character suffers from an episode of violent flashbacks of Vietnam, causing him to have a nervous breakdown in his bedroom. Like "Kids", I appreciate the fact that the film is so honest about something that isn't really talked about in our culture.
8. "Princess Mononoke" (1997)
A prince becomes involved in the struggle between a forest princess and the encroachment of mechanization.
This film...wow. Beautifully animated, amazing character development, great dialogue and it carries an extremely valuable lesson. Although I grew up watching cartoons, this was the film that taught me to appreciate animation and design. This is also the film that introduced me to Studio Ghibli and the films Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro.
9. "2001: A Space Odyssey"
An imposing black structure provides a connection between the past and the future in this enigmatic adaptation of a short story by revered sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke. When Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and other astronauts are sent on a mysterious mission, their ship's computer system, HAL, begins to display increasingly strange behavior, leading up to a tense showdown between man and machine that results in a mind-bending trek through space and time.
This is, without a doubt, Kubrick at his best. This film was very much ahead of it's time when it was released in the 1960's. And even though this film is almost fifty years old, I still believe it looks better than half of the films that have come out in recent years. I remember watching this for the first time and being in complete awe the entire time. It was almost like seeing something from another world or something from my dreams. Perhaps the greatest sci-fi film of all time, "2001" is a futuristic vision of the rise of technology and machinery.
10. "Blue Velvet" (1986)
College student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) returns home after his father has a stroke. When he discovers a severed ear in an abandoned field, Beaumont teams up with detective's daughter Sandy Williams (Laura Dern) to solve the mystery. They believe beautiful lounge singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) may be connected with the case, and Beaumont finds himself becoming drawn into her dark, twisted world, where he encounters sexually depraved psychopath Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).
My second favorite film of all time behind "The Shining". "Blue Velvet" is a dreamy, disturbing film that allowed me to romanticize film noir. Even though this did not come out during the era of 40's film noir, it definitely demonstrates it's roots. What I really love about this film is that it is able to take something dark and awful and compliment it with soft lighting, a dream-like soundtrack and romanticism of 1950's suburbia.