b Papa Dog's Blog: My Desert Island Movies

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

My Desert Island Movies

Mama Dog and I were talking t'other day about our desert island movies...if you were trapped on a desert island (with, apparently, a TV, a DVD player, and a power source that can be used for watching movies but for some reason not for summoning rescue), and could have only five movies with you, which ones would they be?

I always figure the main consideration is that the movie should be something I know I can watch endlessly without tiring of, so all the ones I picked are ones I've seen at least ten times:

1. Diner. I couldn't call this the best movie ever made, but I have to call it my favourite movie. I am a Diner Guy. It's hard to explain the appeal of this movie to someone it doesn't speak to. I was actually afraid to show this movie to Mama Dog, and balked in doing so for many years because I thought, irrationally, that our relationship might suffer if she watched it and didn't like it. I should have known better. She has now seen all of Levinson's Baltimore picture and really liked them all. Our marriage is secure.

2. Miller’s Crossing. Again, not everybody quite gets this one. I really didn't the first time I saw it. For some reason it became an entirely different movie to me the second time I saw it. I remember watching it with a couple of friends at L. Wong's place in Vancouver. When it was over, she said, "That was great, let's watch it again." So we rewound it and watched it again. It's the only movie I've ever done that with.

3. Casablanca. It's such a cliché to list this as a favourite movie. For decades, it was everybody's favourite movie. But there's a reason for that: it's a great fucking movie. It's the crowning miracle of the studio system. How could something this perfect come out of that assembly line? What I love most about it is the supporting ensemble. The tiniest speaking parts are played exactly the right way by exactly the right person. Like Leonid Kinskey as Sascha...that moment when Rick tells him to take poor drunken Yvonne home, and then cautions him to bring her right back. Sascha says, mournfully, "Oh, Rick." Like he wants to sound indignant about it, but is really just bummed that the boss is always a step ahead of him. It's a great little moment, and the movie's filled with them.

4. North by Northwest. It is necessary there should be a Hitchcock movie on the list, and this is the one I've always thought of as his greatest entertainment. Actually, now that I think of it I'd kind of like to watch it again now.

(A barely relevant aside: around our house, this movie is known as Northmeal West. That's because, in Elizabethan times (and earlier, I suppose), "meal" was a common suffix. Piecemeal, for example. What that means is "piece by piece." Inchmeal was a word, too, meaning "inch by inch." The "meal" suffix indicated that you take the noun preceding it, give it a double, and stick "by" between them. Poundmeal = pound by pound. Daymeal = day by day. So Northmeal West = North by Northwest.)

5. The Wild Bunch. "If they move...kill 'em." What other director would chose the moment his credit appears on screen to have his movie's protagonist make such an unheroic command? Sam Peckinpah, of course. The thing a lot of people don't get about Peckinpah's movies is that almost all of them are love stories, and this is maybe his greatest. All the love, of course, is between terrible men who kill people, but that somehow makes their unwavering devotion to each other and to abstract principles of loyalty all the more affecting. The tragically separated Pike Thornton and Deke Slayton have a frustrated romance on the same grand level as Inman and Ada in Cold Mountain. The difference is, Jude Law wasn't tortured by the thought that Nicole Kidman was a better man than he was.

Okay, so what're yours?


Blogger Twizzle said...

Hi Papa Dog,

I am pretty sure that at one point you and I watched a video and liked it so much that we watched it again immediately thereafter. Oh wait -- that was Frankenheimer's commentary track on The Manchurian Candidate. It just seemed like we watched it over again.

Okay -- my desert island discs would be as follows:

1. O Brother, Where Art Thou
Great music, witty dialogue, George Clooney's a babe, and visually stunning.

2. A Clockwork Orange
This movie (and the book) had a huge influence on me as an impressionable teenager.

3. Vertigo
Love that Jimmy Stewart. Great colors. Great score. Ending is a real shocker -- takes my breath away every time.

4. Breakfast @ Tiffany's
Audrey Hepburn's personal charm and sense of style is irresistable in this movie. Delightful love story, even though the George Peppard character is supposed to be gay (in the book).

5. Wall Street
Okay -- perhaps this doesn't deserve the honor of being among my top 5, but it was, at one time, my very favorite movie. This was in the eighties, when it came out. Gordon Gecko was the best corporate villain ever. And I loved Charlie Sheen's line in which he reacts to an abstract painting at Darryl Hannah's house: "Looks like the artist was on shrooms!" Oh, and the big-ass cell phone that Gecko is talking into at the beach. What was that, a toaster?

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll be happy to know that I've still never seen Diner.

paul Anonymous

6:59 PM  
Blogger RachelleCentral said...

Got to contribute to a movie discussion.
My top 5 would be:

1. The Heartbreak Kid. I can watch this again and again and Charles Grodin is still always exquisitely funny and the scene where he is on his honeymoon and his new wife is eating breakfast and has egg all over her face still makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

2. Psycho. Which Hitchcock to choose? Has to be this, for creepy Norman Bates, the famous shower scene and all the other reasons this movie has become a classic.

3. The Pawnbroker. Someone once listed this in his list of movies I HAD to watch - which included Witness for the Prosecution, Citizen Kane, and other notable movies. I did, and I wasn't sorry.

4. Scarface. Love Al Pacino, except for when he overacts. And I don't think he does in this "say hello to my little friend" flick. Michelle Pfeiffer doesn't do a bad job, either.

5. The Sound of Music. The first movie I ever saw that I wasn't scared of. (I was a weird kid; I had nightmares from The Parent Trap.) Made me love the movies, and I'm still partial to that kids-singing-on-a-mountaintop-while-wearing-curtains scene.

6:19 AM  
Blogger chi_town_chica said...

I haven't seen "Diner" either... but I fucked its Assistant Editor the summer before my senior year in high school. So it has kind of a special resonance for me.

3:29 PM  

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