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Monday, June 21, 2010

Dirty Dozen: Teebore's 12 Favorite Movies

Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting a "Dirty Dozen" blogfest on his blog, in which he asked the participants, "what movies have changed your life? What movies have changed you as a person? What movies are your ultimate enjoyment from start to finish? If you could only round up twelve, what movies would be your Dirty Dozen?"

Here are mine. Bear in mind, as in most of my lists, these are my personal favorites, not the twelve movies I think are the best, ever. This list is largely driven by nostalgia, personal significance, re-watchability, and theme. 

12. Deep Blue Sea

I know, I know. You're saying "wait, isn't that the movie with LL Cool J, where the mutant sharks eat Samuel J. Jackson? What is that doing on any "favorite movie" list?" To which I say, read that sentence again: this is the movie with LL Cool J where mutant sharks eat Samuel L. Jackson. How is that not awesome? It's like Snakes on a Plane, only it's not trying so hard to be awesome that it sucks.

Deep Blue Sea is basically a bad SyFy movie, only with a better budget and LL Cool J explaining the theory of relativity. It's the stupid younger brother of Jaws. Whereas I love Jaws for its Hitchcockian direction and suspense, at 1 AM after a hard days work, I don't want to sit through artsy to get to shark attacks; I just want to see giant sharks eat people. And that's where Deep Blue Sea comes in. Yes, it is a terrible, terrible movie, but it knows that, and I know that, and neither of us deny it. And I can't deny that when I see it on TV, I'll stop and watch long enough to see at least one shark attack. You know what? I won't have to wait long. 

11. Clue

I am somewhat known for being a person who can laugh at the same thing more than once. If it was funny the first time, it'll still be funny the thirty-second time. Which is just a preamble to establish that there is probably no movie I laugh at more consistently than Clue, despite having watched it countless times. It runs the comedic gauntlet, featuring sight gags, physical comedy, humorous wordplay, and a fantastic cast. I also love the setting, of a dinner party in a mansion filled with secret rooms. I want to live in such a place, and drink scotch in the sitting room, and fire off witty puns. Whenever I watch Clue, I get to do such things.  

10. LA Confidential

While I love plenty of the film noir classics like Maltese Falcon or Chinatown, this neo-noir is easily my favorite of them all, and one of those movies I can come into at anytime and easily slip into its world. Like any good film noir, the moral center of the film is always shifting, always relative, and as a result, the characters are stunningly nuanced and complex. Kevin Spacey is always fantastic. Kim Basinger basically invents the post-modern femme fatale. Russell Crowe would win awards for later roles, but his turn as the thuggish Bud White remains one of his best. And Guy Pearce (who would go on to star in another great neo-noir, Memento, and has fallen off the map recently) matches him line for line all throughout. Toss in the wonderfully-realized period settings, from the costumes to the music to the mood, and a fantastic supporting cast in Danny Devito, James Cromwell and the always-excellent David Strathairn, and I can't help but be engrossed. 

9. Newsies

A nostalgic favorite, I loved this movie as a kid, and as I grew older, and my appreciation for musicals, Christian Bale, and turn-of-the-century American history grew with me, I was able to look past the now-obvious and varied flaws in the movie and continue to enjoy it. While its examination of labor relations is obviously simplistic (this is a Disney musical aimed at kids, after all) I can't deny my younger self wasn't completely taken in by the story, and I can still fondly recall that naive idealism. And I'll never get sick of Christian Bale singing about his dream for a better life.  

8. Gattaca

A smart sci-fi film about the power and persistence of the human spirit that, like the best science fiction, is more about the characters than the science. The John Locke-ian "don't tell me what I can't do!" Ethan Hawke and the misanthropic Jude Law carrying the movie, and Michael Nyman's score is haunting. The themes in this one have resonated with me since the first time I saw it, and repeat viewings only strengthen their impact.

7. Transformers: The Movie

One of the earliest movies I can vividly remember seeing in the theater and being completely awestruck by. Lil'Teebore trembled at Unicron eating a planet, mourned the loss of Optimus Prime, laughed at Grimlock's puns and thrilled at the ascent of Rodimus Prime (only as I got older did I realize what a chump Rodimus is). I can still remember racing around the backyard after seeing it, all charged up and playing Transformers, kicking Galvatron's ass or re-enacting the Optimus/Megatron fight to the sound of "The Touch", and all of those memories reverberate to this day.

Plus, it has a phenomenal voice cast (Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Eric Idle, and Orson Welles, in his last performance, as a frickin' TRANSFORMING PLANET), Megatron lays waste to the Autobots within the first ten minutes in a scene that is just HARSH, Optimus Prime responds in kind in one of the greatest scenes in movie history, and it features easily the best soundtrack to come out of the 80s.

6. Citizen Kane

Long before I ever saw it, I knew this movie by its reputation, frequently topping critics "best film" lists as it does, and from the various scenes parodied by The Simpsons. I knew all about "rosebud" and the film's place in the history of American cinema. So I fully expected to be letdown when I did finally watch it for the first time and instead, was blown away by it.

Lots of people talk about all the cinematic innovations Orson Welles introduced with this film, such as deep focus or low angle shots, but what resonates for me is Welles' Charles Foster Kane himself, a magnetic and larger-than-life character that completely draws you into the story. His presence hangs all over the film, even in the scenes for which he's absent, and in the end, the movie has told the story of a complex and fascinating character. Of course, it is beautifully filmed (a textbook example of the power the cinematographer can have on the narrative) and features a groundbreaking score, which doesn't hurt. To this day, despite having watched it countless times, I always notice or take away something new every time I see it.  

5. Dogma

While there are other Kevin Smith films which I find much more hilarious (and I'm a huge Kevin Smith fan), without a doubt his treatise on faith, belief and organized religion is my favorite, and hugely responsible for helping me come to terms with my own faith at a time when it was in disarray.

Besides, any film that features Jay machine-gunning an angel's wings off, Matt Damon passing judgment on a room full of Disney-esque executives and Alan Rickman as the sardonic, tequila-swilling Voice of God is a-ok in my book.

4. The Shawshank Redemption

Thanks in large part to TBS and TNT, I have seen this movie about the power of hope and friendship, in part or in whole, probably thousands of times, and it never, ever gets old. I can come into it at any part and become completely immersed. That, combined with the subtle, nuanced performances from Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman and an evocative score, makes it a favorite. 

3. A Few Good Men

There's a weird chicken/egg thing going on with this movie. I've liked it since the first time I saw it in it original theatrical run. Independent of that, I came to appreciate the television writing of Aaron Sorkin (of West Wing/Sports Night/Studio 60/pedeconference fame). Sometime after I cam to love Sorkin's writing, I made the connection that Aaron Sorkin wrote the play on which A Few Good Men is based as well as the screenplay, and now I wonder if I like Sorkin's other work because of this movie, or if I like this movie because I like Sorkin.

Whatever the answer, I adore this movie. It's another one that I can watch at any time, from any point int he film. For a brief period of time when I was much younger, I contemplated becoming a lawyer, and that was more or less because of this movie. Much has been made/parodied of the whole "you can't handle the truth" bit, but the fact is this film is packed full of great lines like that. Heck, the final showdown between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson (from which the truth line is pulled) has probably a half dozen great bits without even including the rest of the movie.   
2. Great Expectations

I fell in love with this movie as an angsty teen, and continued to appreciate it after leaving that angst behind. I'm not a huge fan of Dickens, but this film succeeds by putting aside the majority of Dickens' repetitious "plight of the working class in Victorian England" material and focusing instead on the unrequited love story (repositioning it to modern day Florida and New York with Ethan Hawke as a struggling artist). In addition to another fantastic score, I also appreciate the lighting and vivid colors on display. Color is rarely something I recall from movies, but its the first thing I think of in relation to this one.  

1. The Empire Strikes Back

No facet of pop culture has had a greater impact on my life than Star Wars. While I love all the films to varying degrees (yes, even the prequels), when forced to choose but one, the current favorite is Empire. Not because of the bleakness or Boba Fett, but for the training sequences on Dagobah, the harrowing battle on Hoth, the constant and unending pressure on Han that culminates in one of the greatest declarations of love in cinema history, and the introduction of Billie Dee Williams' smooth-as-silk Lando Calrissian.

Darth Vader is one of fiction's greatest characters, and Empire is his movie, the pinnacle of his villainy as he runs roughshod over the Rebellion, cracking a whip in unrelentingly pursuit the Millenium Falcon and all but bitch slapping Luke Skywalker before delivering the shocking revelation that defines the entire Star Wars saga.


  1. A wonderful selection. it is hard to pick 12 films but like you I chose 12 that I have really enjoyed in my lifetime.

    Have a good day.

  2. Deep Blue Sea is a great movie! My daughter loved it (Along with Lake Placid) when she was like 3. It was weird. Great list!


  3. @Yvonne: It was hard to pick twelve, though the hardest spots were 11 and 12, as I've carried around a rough approximation of my ten favorite movies in my head for awhile now.

    @Justine: Lake Placid is a fun one too, though for me, sharks > alligators. :)

  4. wow... i haven't seen a lot of these:

    Deep Blue Sea- yeah it's crazy and a good ride. But the list is so short- and this gets a spot? Ka-razy!

    Clue- never seen it

    LA Confidential- never seen it

    Newsies- we share the same feelings for this movie. Also, we sang songs from this in Jr High Choir

    GATTACA- awesome. also, i like being a nerd and understanding the title

    Transformers- is this the one where they all dance to Dare to be Stupid?

    Citizen Kane- never seen it

    Dogma- i also LOVE this movie- anything to do with Angels (fallen or otherwise) being jealous of humanity is a win for me

    Shawshank- you said it

    A Few Good Men- never seen it

    Great Expectations- i'm pretty sure i've seen this, but i have no thoughts about it apparently

    Empire Strikes Back- i KNOW that this is the best one, but in my childhood i formed a deep love for Return of the Jedi (probably having to do with teh fact that we owned the EWOK movie and watched that all the time) so that's what i have to go with

  5. well you can read anne's comments and know which ones i haven't seen because the list is the same.

    ALSO - there are NO FLAWS in newsies. None. Well, i guess we don't see Christian Bale naked so we could call that a flaw

    Love Dogma so much. SO MUCH

  6. @Anne: Deep Blue Sea- yeah it's crazy and a good ride. But the list is so short- and this gets a spot? Ka-razy!

    I know. It IS one of my favorites, no doubt, but as I was going back and forth over what got spot #12, I decided to go with that over something else, just because it represented a TYPE of movie I really like (the awesomely over-the-top action movie, and disaster movies, especially ones involving large animals) and because I figured it would stimulate some conversation.

    Clue- never seen it

    Crazy! You should rectify that ASAP. It's an often-quoted movie amongst some friends.

    Transformers- is this the one where they all dance to Dare to be Stupid?

    Hells yeah! And the Eric Idle-voiced character leads the dance.

    Plus, in a testament to how awesome that movie is, that's probably my least favorite scene in it.

    Empire Strikes Back- i KNOW that this is the best one, but in my childhood i formed a deep love for Return of the Jedi

    Jedi was my favorite for years, and I probably love the last third of the film(from Luke's revelation to the end, Ewoks and all) more than any other sequence in any of the movies, but nowadays the first two-thirds are kinda boring.

    The speeder bike chase (which is pretty much the FX high point of the movie)? Meh. I mean, back in the day it inspired me to pretend my bike was a speeder bike as I whizzed around the court, but it doesn't do much for me now.

    Also, Han is pretty much neutered in Jedi, and Harrison Ford is given very little of consequence to do.

  7. A Few Good Men - excellent! And I totally forgot LA Confidential.
    Your description of why you like Deep Blue Sea is priceless.

  8. @Falen: ALSO - there are NO FLAWS in newsies. None.

    I'd cut out the Anne-Margaret character. She's largely pointless and I can't stand her song.

    @Anne: More on Jedi vs. Empire. To be clear, I don't like Empire more because it's the "best" of the Star Wars movies. I genuinely do enjoy it more, and come back to it more often.

    @Alex: And I totally forgot LA Confidential.

    It's funny the movies that, looking at other lists, I completely forgot about. There's movies I considered for the list and dismissed, and then there's the ones I just didn't even think of, and probably should have at least considered.

    Your description of why you like Deep Blue Sea is priceless.

    Thanks! That's the one I have to work the hardest to justify. ;)

  9. Haven't seen Dogma...

    Loved Star Wars!

  10. GATTACA was such an amazing sf movie, I can't wait to see whether the plans to make a TV series out of it, will come true or not. Andrew Nicoll, the director of GATTACA had many cool sf movies after it as well.

  11. I remember watching Gattaca on TV years ago. I loved it, but I had no idea what movie it was (this must have been before I knew of the existence of IMDb, or perhaps before there was such a thing as IMDb). When I was making my own list for this thing today, I thought about it, but since I never found out what the movie was called I refiled it under "lost & not yet found". Imagine my glee when I found it on not just one but (so far) two other lists today!

    So thank you for Gattaca.

  12. @Ibdiamond: Haven't seen Dogma...

    You should definitely check it out!

    @DEZMOND: I hadn't heard about a Gattaca TV show; that could be very interesting, if done right. And Nicoll has done some great stuff through the years.

    @Cruella Collet: So thank you for Gattaca.

    You are most welcome. :)

  13. Never visited, but loving the selection.

    But Empire Strikes Back? Not Return of the Jedi? I guess I'll have to let this one pass...

  14. ANOTHER shawshank fan. This movie has been on so many lists (and mine). May I ask, what makes you choose Dogma over, Chasing Amy or Clerks? I thought the latter was so much better :o) but that's just me!

  15. ok, wait. Let me get this straight. You give me crap about Ghost Whisperer and you have Deep Blue Sea in you top 12?! At least Ghost Whisperer has a great pair of tits!

    Clue- Fantastic!

    L.A. Confidential- Awesome, though I only saw it once.

    Newsies- Never seen it and don't have any interest.

    Gattaca- Still don't like and I've watched it multiple times because I keep trying to like it. I just don't.

    Transformers the Movie: Never saw it.

    Citizen Kane- Never saw it. Again, no interest.

    Dogma- Brilliant and hilarious.

    The Shawshank Redemption- Every time I try to watch this movie, I start doing something sleep. YAWN!

    A Few Good Men- Never seen it.

    Great Expectations- Seriously?

    The Empire Strikes Back- I can't choose between the three and I'm never going to.

    And LOTR, didn't make your list at all?! WTF?

  16. Who's the cranky-pants who has no interest in Citizen Kane?

    That and Shawshank are on my list (Shawshank is on everyone's it seems!)

  17. Palindrome - uhhhhh you need to see newsies.

  18. @Ginny the Sock Monkey: Never visited, but loving the selection.

    Thanks for stopping by, and for appreciating the selection. ;)

    But Empire Strikes Back? Not Return of the Jedi? I guess I'll have to let this one pass...

    I went into more detail in response to Anne's similar criticism, but basically, while I like the last third of Jedi more than anything, I like the entirety of Empire more than the entirety of Jedi.

    @The Alliterative Allomorph: May I ask, what makes you choose Dogma over, Chasing Amy or Clerks?

    Thematic relevance, basically. I love all of Smith's film to varying degrees, and there's certainly ones I find funnier or better written than Dogma (though I do think Dogma IS funny and well written), but Dogma came out at a time in which I was struggling with my faith, and it had a huge impact on me that resonates to this day, which is why it makes the list over arguably funnier or better Smith films.

  19. @Palindrome: ok, wait. Let me get this straight. You give me crap about Ghost Whisperer and you have Deep Blue Sea in you top 12?!

    I'm sorry, did I miss the episodes of Ghost Whisperer where, instead of whispering with ghosts, she fought mutated sharks alongside LL Cool J? If I did, then I take back everything I've said about Ghost Whisperer.

    At least Ghost Whisperer has a great pair of tits!

    To be fair, Deep Blue Sea has Saffron Burrows gratuitously stripping down to her underwear in order to use her wetsuit as insulation while attempting to electrocute a shark.

    And that sentence is another reason why: Deep Blue Sea > Ghost Whisperer.

    Gattaca- Still don't like and I've watched it multiple times because I keep trying to like it. I just don't.

    That's probably because you have no soul. "I never saved anything for the swim back!" Gets me every time.

    Citizen Kane- Never saw it. Again, no interest.

    You really should. I mean, even if you hate it, you should see it, just to be able to say you've seen the movie generally considered to be the best movie ever.

    The Shawshank Redemption- Every time I try to watch this movie, I start doing something sleep. YAWN!

    Again, no soul.

    Great Expectations- Seriously?


    The Empire Strikes Back- I can't choose between the three and I'm never going to.

    Usually I just say the Star Wars movies are my favorite, but if forced to choose, I go with Empire. At least now. It changes. Used to be Jedi. It was the original for awhile, until I stopped fighting the fact that compared to Empire and Jedi, it's kinda boring.

    And LOTR, didn't make your list at all?! WTF?

    Too soon. I haven't carried it around with me long enough, and it's not something that nostalgia can put on the list (yet). Plus, I was one of the few nerds who never read Tolkien (I tried the Hobbit once as a kid, but hurt my head when I banged it on my desk after I fell asleep during the 152nd description of some random Middle Earth flora) so I didn't have a personal connection to the material when I saw the movies.

    Give it a few years, and if I did this list again, it'd probably make it. They're definitely movies that I can come into at any time, at any point in the movie, and become completely immersed, which is my main main criteria for a favorite movie.

  20. @Inside Out: That and Shawshank are on my list (Shawshank is on everyone's it seems!)

    Shawshank is definitely a beloved film, and with good reason. Thanks for stopping by!

  21. You still get to see Jennifer Love Hewitt's boobs like every episode and that's like multiple days worth of great boobs. DAYS!!

    And LOTR the books are so boring! I read the Hobbit and the Fellowship. I will never read any more. NEVER!!

    Saffron Burrows? No. I don't think she's attractive.

    it's true though. I have no soul. It was eated by much cooler sharks than Deep Blue Sea. :D

  22. I love Clue - probably my favorite comedic movie. We quote it incessantly, particularly "flames ... on the side of my face..."

    Also Newsies is so great. I love the fact that they actually gave them boyish choreography. And it's pretty much the only movie I like Christian Bale in.

    It looks like this was a fun blogfest. Wish I'd seen it when it was going on...

  23. @SonshineMusic: Glad to find another Newsies lover!

    We quote Clue endlessly as well. "Communism was just a red herring."

    "I buttle."

    "Mrs. Peacock was a MAN?!"

    "Now I'm going to go home and have sex with my wife."

    "To make a long story short-
    -Too late."


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