My Favourite Movies: Numbers 28, 32, 41, 23, and 40
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this to you before, but I have autism.
And one of the major components of my autism is my decades-spanning obsession with movies.
Previously in this blog I wrote about my top five favourite movies, and also how that was only a sliver of a much larger list.
This list- in its current, 14th edition- contains fifty-five movies. In a recurring feature in this blog, I’m going to write about why I love all of them, and what impact they’ve had on my life. But I’m not going to do it in order, because that wouldn’t be interesting enough.
I’m going to write about them five at a time in a totally random order, which better suits how my feelings about these films shifts over time.
Here’s the first five.
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
I’ve gone back and forth on this movie over the years. Sometimes I’m completely won over by its anarchic, summery spirit and sometimes I think Ferris Bueller is a creepy, dead-eyed sociopath.
But for some reason, this is the John Hughes movie that’s stayed with me the longest. It’s the only Hughes movie on the list, though I might have watched The Breakfast Club more often.
I remember when I first encountered this movie. I was ten or eleven, and it was summertime, and so after I rented it from the video store I watched it about five times in one week. Two of my cousins visited that week and my family went to Casa Loma together. I remember hanging out on a stone wall by the parking lot drinking boysenberry pop, telling them how awesome Ferris Bueller was, because they hadn’t seen it, and looking forward to showing them the movie that night.
Every time I watch Ferris Bueller I’m back in that head space: it’s midsummer, I’ve got no responsibilities, and I’m rocking a sugar high.
That is, unless I get distracted by the fact that Ferris Bueller is kind of an asshole. But the sweetness of the film, and the soulfulness of Cameron, usually make up for that fact, or seem to obliterate it completely.
- Charlotte’s Web
This is a strange movie, an exercise in extremes. Parts of it are a total disaster: mawkish, sentimental, over-indulgent, poorly executed, or some combination of the above. The animation struck me as amateurish even when I was a kid.
But the best scenes in this movie rank among the best scenes in any animated movie I’ve seen, and Mother Earth and Father Time is the second best song written by the Sherman Brothers in their lengthy, prestigious career- topped only by Feed the Birds.
Charlotte Web’s elegant acceptance of death and evocative portrayal of the passage of time is equal to the book, and yet there’s some truly appalling subplots here as well. Worst among them is Wilbur’s friendship with a loser duckling which results in a song that would induce suicidal tendencies even if it didn’t get stuck in my head for weeks at a time.
But then there’s Debbie Reynolds’ serene voice work, the wholesale lifting of passages from the book, and- as mentioned before- the raw yet dignified handling of Charlotte’s death.
I’m always left wondering how a movie manages to be simultaneously so graceful and so clumsy.
Apparently I have some kind of horrible fondness for teenagers who are charismatic assholes. I watched Rushmore a lot when I was a teenager and in my early twenties, but it seems to resonate with me less now, and I haven’t seen it in a few years.
I was a lot like Max when I was twelve, and one of the reasons I was drawn to Rushmore in my teens was the pleasure I took in seeing Max repeatedly knocked around by fate and the other characters. I don’t particularly like who I was when I was that age, though I’m more at peace with it now.
Wes Anderson, the director of Rushmore, constantly communicates deep pain and suffering in his work. He seems obsessed with death and loss. This also resonated with me when I was younger, because I had undiagnosed P.T.S.D. The movie’s portrayal of people so stricken by grief that they can’t connect with other people meant a lot to me at a particular point in my life when I was struggling with that same problem. It means less to me now, because I’m not feeling lonely these days. But I still appreciate Rushmore, and I’m deeply grateful that it was present for me during that time in my life. This montage still makes me tear up just about every time I watch it.
- Dumb and Dumber
This is one of the most joyful movies I’ve ever seen. There’s so much happiness here. So much joie de vive. It is a celebration of the worst, basest human instincts, and it warms my soul. Christ, I’ve seen Dumb and Dumber so many times. An inexcusable number of times. It’s so fucking stupid. But it is convincingly, persuasively, winningly stupid. It manages to be so dumb that it totally redeems itself. It also makes me laugh every time I see it, during all the same moments that it’s always made me laugh. It is comfortable. I can step out of the cold, mean world again and again for the rest of my life and find it waiting. There’s a place for movies like Dumb and Dumber. I wouldn’t want to watch them all the time, but I can’t imagine my life without them.
- Singin’ in the Rain
I love that I get to write about this movie right after Dumb and Dumber because these are probably the two happiest movies I’ve ever seen. They feel connected because of this, even though they have nothing else in common.
Singin’ in the Rain will make you happy no matter who you are and no matter what situation you’re in. You could have just seen your whole family gunned down by terrorists and Gene Kelly and company will make you feel good inside.
I also believe, with all my heart, that Singin’ in the Rain is the best movie ever made. I don’t mean that it’s my favourite- it obviously isn’t- I mean that I think it’s the apex of the cinematic artform in all categories. In terms of acting, writing, cinematography, editing, and anything else you could think of, it is perfect. And not airlessly, suffocatingly perfect like some Great Movies- there is life here, and electricity, and fun. It is effortlessly enjoyable and never feels important, or like a homework assignment. And in spite of its seeming spontaneity, it is one of the only movies ever made in which I can’t find a single flaw.
So why is it only number 40 on my list? I don’t feel compelled to watch it all that often. On most days there are approximately thirty-nine movies I would choose to watch before this one. And- even though it is technically immaculate and by most standards a great achievement- the dance/dream sequence with Cyd Charisse bores me (that’s the only scene where the movie feels Important).
But every time I get around to watching Singin’ in the Rain it makes me happy. That’s what makes it a great movie, and that’s what makes it one of my favourites.