where the wild things are

10. Where the Wild Things Are

Picking a favorite movie Spike Jonze film is tough, but Where the Wild Things comes to mind because I’ll always remember taking my dad to see it and hearing him say, “I don’t know why I’m crying,” when Carol (James Gandolfini) breaks down after lashing out at Max and the other Wild Things. I, too, was bawling during this scene. Kids are generally either cutesy or whiny in movies. Where the Wild Things Are showed childhood for what it is: a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Jonze made one of the best movies about brotherhood (Adaptation), one of the best movies about relationships (Her), and, with Where the Wild Things Are, one of the best movies about childhood.

ed wood

9. Ed Wood

Now here’s the movie I quote far too often with my friends and family members. Ed Wood is a film about the worst filmmaker ever to have lived, directed by a filmmaker at the top of his game. Tim Burton’s most character-driven film is also, unsurprisingly, his most creatively successful and heartfelt film. I’ve always found the love Burton has for Wood’s can-do spirit to be infectious. It’s an underdog story about a guy who’s never going to win, and yet you desperately want Ed to come out on top. Some artists may have the drive but not the talent, and, in the case of Wood, the character, it’s hilarious, sad, and almost touching that he’s always pushing forward, no matter how disastrous his films are.

rumble fish

8. Rumble Fish

A far superior teen angst movie than Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders.” Rumble Fish has images that run through my head on a weekly basis. The Motorcycle Boy’s (Mickey Rourke) introduction is about as great as an introduction gets, because you learn everything you need to know about the deeply troubled older brother of Rusty James (Matt Dillon) in a matter of seconds. Underneath the cool aesthetic and tough guy exteriors is a real sadness, though. There’s hellishness to this world, with nighttime scenes packed with smoke and dread. It’s an unpleasant movie as well as a thoroughly awesome one.

jfk

7. JFK

Fun fact: I once took a piss next to Oliver Stone and then got to tell him how much JFK meant to me as a kid — believe me, it wasn’t awkward at all. This is the movie that made me fall in love with filmmaking, where I started to consider the craft of visual storytelling. The way Stone filmed the various points-of-views was riveting and foreign to me at the time. Stone’s epic drama has always gotten flack for its accuracy, but accurate or not, it’s a great story about a man fighting to tell the truth, told through visceral, dynamic images. There’s an energy to Stone’s films I almost always respond to.

split

6. California Split

My favorite Robert Altman movie changes on a daily basis. Today, it’s California Split, a terrific buddy movie. Elliot Gould and George Segal are delightful as two desperate gamblers, and the way their relationship spirals downward packs an unexpected punch. Both California Split and The Long Goodbye are incredibly entertaining movies that end on surprisingly tragic notes. Altman knew how to lure you in with a loose, fun atmosphere, but then, when you least expect it, punch you in the face with real drama, and he did just that with his gambling picture.

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