Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gathering with old friends from college at a Bar Mitzvah this morning, the topic of great movies came up.  Working with interns this past summer, I discovered an appalling lack of film literacy, specifically as to those that people “of a certain age” might appreciate and cite often (i.e., old, old people like me), peppering their conversations with references and quotes that go right over their barely-post-adolescent heads. 
This list is what I consider to be a bare minimum for cultural literacy -- if you want to interact proficiently with, say, Generation X fogeys.
It was suggested to me to share the list, so posting it on this (old, unused) blog seemed appropriate.
As a percentage, what’s your movie-of-a-certain-age score?
Dennis’ list of movies that people of a certain younger age should have seen (in other words, get to it). Criteria for this list is not particularly laid out, but generally:
·         Impact on popular culture (i.e., conversations littered with quotes and references); if you want to understand what us old fogeys are talking about….
·         Highly entertaining/funny
·         Little before the late 60s, and nothing after, say, 2002; this reflects my own age, and also the expectation that those of you born in the late 80s/early 90s would have seen later classics already
·         Does not include those popular movies that everyone has seen (e.g., Star Wars, Raiders, The Matrix, etc.)
·         I would happily watch any of these if I came across it playing on cable or on a plane.
¨  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Newman and Redford at their best.
¨The Sting – or, wait, is this Newman and Redford at their best?
¨  Apocalypse Now – Another classic Francis Ford Coppola movie, with both Sheen and Brando. 
¨  Life of Brian – Monty Python is one of the biggest cultural touchstones for humor among Gen X.
¨  Monty Python and The Holy Grail – Contains perhaps the most Python quotes per minute.
¨  The Meaning of Life – Not as much impact as the other two Python movies here, but great nevertheless.
¨  Annie Hall – Woody Allen at his best, with a combination of drama and humor.
¨  Manhattan – Better than Annie Hall?  No, but damn close, and a paean to New York.
¨  2001: A Space Odyssey -  There’s the score, of course, perhaps the first great Sci-Fi movie of the modern era.
¨  The Godfather Saga (I, II and III) – Duh.
¨  Goodfellas – Scorsese is easily one of the top five directors of all time.  This is his best.
¨  Casino – Another Scorsese masterpiece, and again with DeNiro
¨  Mean Streets – the first Scorsese and DeNiro gangster masterpiece.
¨  Taxi Driver – along with Mean Streets, reflects NYC of the time, completely different from NYC today.
¨  Midnight Run – Goddamn, this is a funny movie.  DeNiro shows his humor chops.
¨  Scarface – De Palma tackles the criminal genre, and is the I Ching of modern gangster rap culture.
¨  Casablanca – Bogart and Bergman; arguably the best non-audience-tested ending of all time.
¨  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – many great Clint Eastwood “Man with No Name” spaghetti westerns; this is the best.
¨  Blazing Saddles – Mel Brooks in top form; combines pratfalls and fart humor with scathing social satire.
¨  History of the World, Part I – Many Mel Brooks movies, but this is another lodestone of contemporary quotes.
¨  National Lampoon’s Animal House – Been to a crazy college party since 1978?  You have this movie to thank.
¨  Jaws – Dah-dum.
¨  Rocky – Sylvester Stallone made one great movie.  This is it.
¨  Saturday Night Fever – Contender for best movie soundtrack ever, and symbolic of a certain time in a certain place (NYC in the disco era, bridge and tunnel guys included)
¨  Ronin – My favorite car chase sequences, with no CGI, and a Mamet storyline, with De Niro and Frankenheimer.  Duh.
¨  Get Shorty – The last great Travolta movie, with an Elmore Leonard story.
¨  Grease – You know you loved Danny and/or Sandy.
¨  Alien – Ridley Scott blew us away.  If you like this, consider James Cameron’s take in Aliens.
¨  The Road Warrior – Mel Gibson, pre-craziness, exploded onto the scene with incandescent heat.
¨  Lethal Weapon – Gibson and Glover (re)launched the buddy-action-drama-comedy genre.
¨  Airplane – The most quotable movie of all time.
¨  Caddyshack – Early Bill Murray made four classic comedies; add Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield, and voila.
¨  Stripes – Another early Bill Murray classic, with Harold Ramis and John Candy.  Can’t stop humming the theme song now, can you?
¨  Groundhog Day -- One wishes that Murray and Ramis didn’t have a falling out; this is them at their best together.
¨  Blade Runner – Ridley Scott strikes again, with Harrison Ford in the first and best example of future noir.
¨  Fast Times at Ridgemont High – Cameron Crowe explodes out of nowhere with Amy Heckerling directing that captures LA valley life for high school kids.
¨  Almost Famous – The second Cameron Crowe flick here. 
¨  Jerry Maguire -- …and the third Cameron Crowe flick, this time with Tom Cruise.  Almost good enough to make me not regret seeing Vanilla Sky.
¨  An Officer and a Gentleman – Worth watching for the final scene alone.  Also, steers, queers and mayo.
¨  Night Shift – Michael Keaton blew us away in his debut, and the first of his shtick is the best.
¨  48 Hours – hey, could that funny kid from SNL make it as an comedic action hero?  Yup.  And back before Nick Nolte went crazy.
¨  Trading Places – Let’s try that Eddie Murphy comedic partnership thing again.  Wonderful.
¨  Beverly Hills Cop – The first really good solo Eddie Murphy flick.
¨  Diner – Barry Levinson has made a ton of movies, with some classics and some stinkers.  This is perhaps his most personal one, and every guy with male friends should see this.
¨  The Color of Money – Newman and Cruise.  Mentorship in many ways.
¨  Cool Hand Luke – Ain’t nobody ever was cooler than Paul Newman in this one.
¨  Risky Business – Iconic.  And sexy.  And quotable.
¨  The Terminator – The real debut of James Cameron, and the first watchable Arnold movie.
¨  Terminator 2: Judgment Day – The best Arnold movie.
¨  True Lies – Reuniting Arnold and James Cameron results in an American Bond flick, with humor; the second best Arnold movie ever.
¨  Total Recall – Arnold in a movie based on a Philip K Dick story?  Really?  Surprisingly good.
¨  The Breakfast Club – John Hughes is perhaps the most adored director for Gen X.  This is a large part why; those of us who went to high school in the 80s recognized not only ourselves, but our friends.  And enemies.
¨  Ferris Bueller's Day Off – Hughes strikes again, with Broderick and a template for teenage coolness.
¨  Say Anything – the most romantic movie for Gen X.
¨  The Sure Thing – Number 2 in the Cusack teen genre, but almost #1.
¨  Better Off Dead – Not as high in “quality” as the first two Cusack movies above, but definitely the funniest (especially the surrealist touches).
¨  Tampopo – There are three great movies about food on this list.  This is the top
¨  Eat Drink Man Woman – Ang Lee, Chinese families and values, and food.  Oh the food.
¨  Big Night – Uncompromising in his cooking, and his attitude.  Oh, the Italian food.
¨  The Princess Bride-- No, wait, THIS is the most quotable movie of all time.
¨  Wall Street – Michael Douglas owns this movie, and is more right than Olive Stone intended.
¨  Roxanne – Best Steve Martin movie; really.
¨  Die Hard – Bruce Willis has been the lead in two great movies; this is one of them, and presents a (then) unconventional action hero.
¨  The Sixth Sense – alas, even those who haven’t seen this know about the twist; when we saw it the first time, the surprise blew our minds.  The other classic movie with Bruce Willis as the lead.
¨  Bull Durham – Ain’t no better movie about baseball.
¨  White Men Can't Jump – Ain’t no better movie about street ball and hustling.  Harrelson is a revelation.
¨  A Fish Called Wanda – when I saw this in the theater, I could not stop laughing, even though I was in tears and clutching my sides.  I had to sit there until long after the credits so I could collect myself.
¨  When Harry Met Sally... – I admit it; I saw myself as Harry.  Even though I was two decades too young.  Now that I’m Harry’s age…
¨  Pretty Woman -- I saw this in the theater four times.  No doubt you have seen it too, but just in case, I had to list it here.
¨  Glengarry Glen Ross – David Mamet, David Mamet, David Mamet.  Learn how to sell.
¨  House of Games – I’m going to toss in some more Mamet here.
¨  The Spanish Prisoner – It takes a bit to figure out what’s going on, but then Mamet drops the cleaver and your mind is blown.
¨  Reservoir Dogs – everyone has seen Pulp Fiction.  Have you seen Reservoir Dogs?  This is the first time we really get to see Tarantino’s style.
¨  Wayne's World – party time, excellent.
¨  My Cousin Vinny – Who knew Joe Pesci could be this funny?  And Marisa Tomei – an Oscar!
¨  A Few Good Men – Of course, you can’t handle the truth.
¨  Clerks – Had to restrict myself to just two Kevin Smith movies.  This is the first, and defined the “Kevin Smith” movie genre.
¨  Chasing Amy – Classic Kevin Smith, with Ben Affleck not being a dick.
¨  Four Weddings and a Funeral – who knew Hugh Grant could make a career out of playing this character? 
¨  Heat – DeNiro.  Pacino.  Mann.  Done.
¨  Spanglish – grossly underappreciated Adam Sandler movie, in a serious vein, with James L Brooks directing.  The bonus feature with Thomas Keller is food porn at its most tempting.
¨  As Good as It Gets – The second of three James L Brooks movies on this list, and for nothing else, it makes it for the line, “you make me want to be a better man.”
¨  Broadcast News – one of the films that made me the person I am today.  I see myself as both the Albert Brooks and the Holly Hunter characters.
¨  The Usual Suspects – Mind.  Blown.  If you don’t know the twist, you better see it now, before you discover it…
¨  Good Will Hunting – yup, more quotes.  For a work by such young talents, it’s all that more impressive.
¨  Face/Off – John Woo at the top of his game.  Your suspension of disbelief will be stretched thinner than a condom, but you’ll also realize as you walk out just how good of an actor both Travolta and Cage were.
¨  The Shawshank Redemption.  The best movie ever made from a Stephen King story.
¨  There's Something About Mary – comes damn close to A Fish Called Wanda for sheer, side-clutching laughter.
¨  The Wedding Singer – Sweet Adam Sandler movie with the most awesome music.  The one with Sandler and Drew Barrymore that doesn’t suck.
¨  Office Space – you really cannot work in an office setting without seeing this movie.
¨  This is Spinal Tap – Eleven.  Exactly.  One Louder.

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