Author / Film Critic M. M. Leonard (https://mmleonard.com) and I will be bringing you a new series where we debate the merits and demerits of various films. We will let you, based on the comments below the debates, decide who won. We will try to keep this going until it goes 15 rounds or one of us gets knocked out…so please read our reviews and get commenting 🙂
As someone who only occasionally watches movies, I very much consider myself the underdog in this fight, but hey, so was Rocky right? I did take one film appreciation class 20 years ago so time to put it to good use.
Though I despise having to pick favorites or rank things, I realize “Top 5 / Top 10” type lists work well with blog posts. As such, I’m taking a stab at a “Top 5 Favourite Movies” posts by way of an introduction to my tastes in movies. I think you will find they are quite eclectic.
A couple of comments:
- I have tried to pick from a diverse range of movies spanning genres, times, foreign films, etc.
- If you ask me what my Top 5 movies are in a month’s time, the list may have changed. What will not have changed is that the movies I list below are memorable movies that I will always love because they resonated with me. If you haven’t watched them, I encourage you to do so.
Without further adieu, the list of “My Top 5 Favourite Movies”:
1. Pi (1998) by Darren Aronofsky
“The Torah is just a long string of numbers. Some say that it’s a code sent to us from God.”
This is an intense psychological thriller. The protagonist is a brilliant mathematician who is pursuing the secret of “Pi”; not as in “apple”, rather, the “3.1415” kind. His computer spits out a mysterious 216-digit number as he conducts his research. What is this number? A shady group of business people think it is the secret to forecasting the stock market. A sect of Jews thinks it is the secret name of God and a door to esoteric knowledge and power. His mentor had a stroke researching the secret of the number and the protagonist himself is on the verge of a total breakdown.
One of Darren’s Aronofsky’s best movies (along with Requiem for a Dream) before fame got to him and he produced such tripe as “Noah”.
2. Princess Bride (1987) by Rob Reiner
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
The best fairy-tale ever, full of charm and wit. This movie is sprinkled with delightful characters throughout – save perhaps for the Princess Buttercup – who make the movie utterly engaging. Some of the scenes, driven by dialogue more than action, e.g. the battle of intellect between Westley and Vizzini, will stay with you for ever. Though the happy ending is expected, the plot has several interesting twists and turns along the way.
3. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) by Irvin Kershner
“Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”
I watched this movies as a 5 year old when it was released in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Needless to say, it gave me nightmares. This movie is all about arguably the greatest movie villain created, Darth Vader. My little heart leapt out of my chest when Lando opens the door to the dining room in Cloud City and Han, Leia, and Chewbacca see Darth Vader siting at the table – what a way to be introduced to the concept of betrayal. Perhaps the movie will always be known for the mind blowing plot twist at the end of the fight between Luke and Vader. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pull your head out of the sand and watch this movie!
4. Underground (1995) by Emir Kusturica
A thought provoking, satirical, tragicomic film about the modern history of Yugoslavia through World War 2, the Cold War, and the Yugoslav Wars. Explanation for the title: One of the characters, Marko, leads a group of friends and relatives into an underground cellar where he cons them that World War 2 is still continuing for 20 years. The people in the cellar manufacture weapons that Marko sells and profits from enormously. The scenes from when the chimp, Soni, blows a hole in the wall with a tank and the inhabitants of the cellar head out for the first time in two decades are poignant and heart wrenching. World War 2 may be over but war still blights their land.
5. Ex Machina (2015) by Alex Garland
“And for the record, Ava’s not pretending to like you. And her flirting isn’t an algorithm to fake you out. You’re the first man she’s met that isn’t me. And I’m like her dad, right? Can you blame her for getting a crush on you?”
A brilliant slow boiler of a thriller. Caleb believes he is conducting a Turing Test on an android, Ava, that his billionaire boss Nathan has built. Ava is a captive in a glass cage and is clearly intelligent. His interactions with Ava make Caleb begin to wonder what the real purpose of the “test” is ? Is he the android? Is Nathan playing him? Or is Ava?
A little about me. I consider myself knowledgeable about movies. At one point in my life, I wanted to go to film school and direct movies like many other teenagers, except reality set in and I chose a more stable path. As a hobby, I devoured film. Foreign films. Documentaries. All of the acclaimed movies and the cult classics of the past. My top 5 favorite films are:
1. Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino
“Now that’s a tasty burger.”
This is the movie that made Quentin Tarantino a household name and made him a target of controversy for language, tone, and subject matter. When I first watched this movie in my early teens, I didn’t quite understand what I was watching. Over the years, it grew to become my favorite film. It was the movie that resurrected John Travolta’s career. It put Samuel L. Jackson on the map. It was the first movie that made me consider wandering the earth for a living.
2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Irvin Kershner
This is science fiction space operate at its finest. The heroes of Star Wars get chased across the galaxy and end up at Bespin. Luke receives training from Yoda. Han seeks help from his old friend and original owner of the Millennium Falcon. The tale is dark and personal and makes the hero make the most difficult choice of his life. Many people felt empty leaving the theater with a cliffhanger in 1980, but the story grows in stature each year as nothing has come close to beating this as the best Sci-Fi film of all time.
3. Drive (2011) Nicholas Winding Refn
He is the drive with no name. I almost didn’t want to see it when the previews came out, but when I finally saw it on DVD while in a foreign country, it blew me away. I watched it back-to-back, then watched it every night for a week. I broke down each scene cut of the movie. It was masterful. The shooting script was only 81 pages and the crew worked to cut it even more to allow as much acting and scope and breath in the film and the result is a beautiful film. It was the best movie I had seen in a decade.
4. Fight Club (1999) David Fincher
“The first rule about fight club is …”
This is another poorly marketed film in the late 90s. When I eventually saw it I was blown away. When I see an epically constructed film, I don’t usually attribute it to the actor. I look at the DVD cover and look for the director. “David Fincher … who is that?” I looked him up and he was the same guy that did Se7en. “Oooh, that is why it looked so dark. What else did he do? The Game? Holy cow! This guy is amazing.” Sixteen years later David Fincher remains my favorite director today.
5. Die Hard (1988) John Mctiernan
“Get the detonators.”
Die hard is the greatest action film of all time. It is also the greatest Christmas movie of all time. It made Bruce Willias an action star. It proved yet again John Mctiernan is one of the best in the action genre (until his little fiasco). The poster pretty much captures it all. This was the movie that started the trope off. Everything after was “Die Hard on _______.” What the movie got right was having Alan Rickman (in his first role) play the villain almost from his point of view. He is just an entrepreneur who wants to collect his interest on the beach.
Now on to our first debate (ROUND 1: Batman v Superman Review)