What’s your favorite movie? Some people can answer that very easily, others have a hard time.
Answers I’ve heard from others to that query have included Fight Club, The Wild Bunch, The Mummy, The Princess Diaries (parts 1 & 2), Avatar, Good Will Hunting, and Step Up 2 .
But what’s my answer? That’s the question.
(Incidentally, this is #45 in a series of 47 posts about movies, with topics selected by my friend, each given to me after the previous one is written. For more information, check out #1 here.)
Well, actually, it’s a question I’ve answered a few times over my nearly 47 years of existence, and this post is my attempt to remember all those films and share them with you.
Dumbo (1941 – directed by Ben Sharpsteen and a bunch of other people)
Honestly, I barely remember this movie now, but apparently I saw it as a young child in the cinema. Not when it came out, obviously, as that was 39 years before I was born, but at some point when I was a young child. The story is about a baby circus elephant that is mocked for his oversized ears, which eventually prove to be the key to what makes him special, and it’s full of all the emotion and charm one would expects from a Disney film of this era. At the same time, it was apparently deliberately made to be quite simple (that is, inexpensive). I think now my perception would be that it’s a bit slow and maybe even dull, particularly in light of fast moving modern day fare, but I guess as a young kid it was just about my speed.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 – directed by Stanley Kubrick)
So, sometime after Dumbo, I was introduced to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the psychedelic science fiction classic about humanity’s development and the way that is influenced by an unseen alien presence. It’s slow, it’s cerebral, it’s got a 10 minute scene just full of trippy colors and lights and a close up of someone’s eye. But it’s also the first film that got me thinking about filmmaking and how it is done, and if you can engage with the story it also has one of cinema’s most chilling villains and one of cinema’s most heroic moments. It’s no longer my favorite, but for a long time I think it’s the movie I would have identified as such.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975 – directed by Milos Forman)
For some strange reason, my parents took me to see a number of movies as a kid that were clearly inappropriate for someone my age. These included Black Sunday, The Seven Percent Solution and The Eyes of Laura Mars, which all traumatized me to some degree or another. One of those movies which was relatively less traumatizing than some of the others was One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, which came out when I was 5! But it wasn’t until much later that I saw it again and went through a period where I would have identified it as my favorite movie, where the idea of an emotional and tragi-comic human drama felt like the peak available artistic experience.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952 – directed by Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly)
This is the movie that came on TV during a lonely Summer vacation out to Colorado. I let it start because there was nothing else on, but I fully expected not to enjoy it. I imagined it was going to be 2 hours of non-stop singing and dancing, and that sounded completely unappealing. But what emerged was one of the funniest, most enjoyable, most joyful things I had ever seen. I went back to the movie numerous other times over the years, and as I matured to a place where I was happy to have something less intense as my favorite movie, it took the stop spot. I’ve written about this film before: it’s full of really good dancing, it’s got some performances, and it has a story that works on multiple levels.
Singin’ in the Rain is still my favorite film, and has been for a long time, and really there aren’t any others that have had that distinction. But, given that, there are still a few others worth mentioning…
Presumptive Favorite Movie:
Star Wars (1977 – directed by George Lucas)
I don’t think I ever called the sci-fi fantasy classic my favorite film, but for years I pretty much compared every movie I saw to it, and unfavorably. So you know, it deserves a mention.
Based on the Evidence:
Summer Time Machine Blues (2005 – directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro) & Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016 – directed by Taika Waititi)
If you look at what films I have rewatched the most and what I have written about the most, you might assume that either of these movies are my favorite film. And they are certainly amongst them, even if I wouldn’t give either the top spot.
La La Land (2016 – directed by Damian Chazelle)
I just saw this movie on the plane, and loved it. It’s too recent to know how high up on my list of favorite movies it is, but it’s going to be there somewhere.
The Little Mermaid (1989 – directed by Ron Clements and John Musker)
Full disclosure: back when this movie came out, I saw it in the cinema an astounding four times. With four different people. I think I went to see it originally because the showing for Back to the Future part II was sold out. I later hated Back to the Future part II, but I loved The Little Mermaid. That seems funny now, but back then it was the first of a new wave of Disney films that filled the movies with Broadway-style music and staging, and so it stood out as something fresh and exciting that I hadn’t seen before. And I thought Sebastian the crab was pretty funny when he said, “You got to bat your eyelashes…like thees….”
And it wasn’t that I was fully enamored with The Little Mermaid. It was more like I kept hanging out with a friend, and we’d decide to go see a movie, and I’d wind up saying, “You know what was surprisingly good? The Little Mermaid…” And off we’d go.
So, never my favorite movie, but worth a mention I thought.