Jeff's Favorite Movies
Groundhog Day (1993) - A few years ago a colleague (with a big
heart) told me that this film was being used as a Buddhist training film.
This made perfect sense to me as I'd already identified it as the best
Buddhist film I'd ever seen. Ok you probably find this surprising. A
couple of points:
The old homeless man is so similar to the Buddha's discovery outside the
palace grounds that there is suffering and death in the world (which he'd
never seen before).
In the early iterations of GD, Murray's character selfishly manipulates the
world around him (presumably believing this will make him happier). The happiness
never arrives as shown largely by repeated rejections from Andie MacDowell's character.
In the end he is going out of his way to help others realizing that if he doesn't
this could be his last Groundhog Day and there for his last chance to help.
The Green Wall (La Muralla Verde) (1970) - This Peruvian
film was listed in Siskel and Ebert's "If we owned a movie theater" list
of ten films. This is a slice of life film about a family that carves a
farm out of the jungle (hence the title). It presents a balanced view of
an everyday family trying to make a better life for themselves. A rare
find if you get a chance to see it. I caught it in the Newburyport
Screening Room, north of Boston.
Walkabout (1971) - This Nicolas Roeg film follows two children
from just before they are abandonded in the Australian outback to just
after they are "rescued". The title comes from the Aborigine they run into
who is in his solo coming of age ritual, the "walkabout". The juxtaposition
of the characters' worlds (advanced/technical vs. primitive/natural) appears
on many levels. I've seen this film a few times, but everytime I watch
it I find another gem of insight into the human condition.
Multiple Maniacs (1971) - This John Water's film is one of his
best and is his own personal favorite. Starring Divine, it manages to repeatedly
upstage the absurdity of the plot more times than I can count. I remember
seeing it in Berkeley for reasons that I can't recall. Definitely not for
the queasy. The climax of the absurdity is squarely in the "lobster scene".
Again, this is pre-mainstream Waters, you've been warned!
9 1/2 Weeks (1986) - This film deserves credit for its Nicolas
Roeg like cinematography, the scenes that caught my eye from this perspective
Basinger alone in her kitchen. The kid popping into view at the top
of each swing on a swingset and the cat lapping up the spilled milk (I
think these were both in the same scene). The camera for the cat shot is
literally on the floor, a very Roeg like technique.
The Nakamichi tape deck doing its unique tape flipping action in Rourke's
apartment. This shot is in the advertising / commercial photography world
style, but is that style at its best.
I liked the protrayal of the older artist that Basinger convinces to
do an exhibit; the artist is clearly in a far different world than the
New York art scene. She visits the reclusive artist and finds him staring
at a (trout?) he's holding, completely overcome by the beauty of the animal
in his hands. Having convinced him to do the exhibit at the opening the
artist is completely out of his element and obviously uncomfortable. While
much of the movie deals with the exploitation of Basinger's character,
this theme is reflected in a more subtle way in the character of this exploited
True Stories (1986) - This David Byrne film (of Talking Heads
fame) weaves together dozens of human interest stories clipped from newspapers
around the country:
"Lonely Bachelor Hungers for Love" - World Weekly News - The background
for John Goodman's character, a nice guy with a really big heart looking
"Loving Couple Hasn't Spoken for 31 Years" - World Weekly News - Husband
played by Spaulding Gray. Gray is tremendous in this film.
"Off with Their Hats!" - World Weekly News - About the absurd hat fashions
of society ladies, displayed in the movie in a runway fashion show. I believe
Byrne's wife did the fashions in the movie which brilliantly satirize haute
It's a bit odd that most of my favorite films fall into either the 70/71
era, or 86. I'm not sure why this is.
Natural Born Killers (1994) - This is masterpiece of surrealism,
if you can tolerate the violence. A sense of unreality exists through most
of the film, culminating with the escape scene. The casting choice of Woody
Harrilson's father (which I won't divulge), is by itself a surrealistic
stroke of genious!
A psychological perspective I had on this (which may or may not be accurate in real life)
was that I saw this couple as not perceiving the world around them as real.
This impression could just be due to the cinematography as art or it could
be a statement from the film makers that by not seeing the world around them as real the
main characters were capable of doing great harm without feeling any regret.