First, the movies. Then the why. Then the why I put this list together. Here it goes:
1.) Braveheart (1995)
To me, the movie had it all. History, action, drama, comedy, thrills. Cinematography in Scotland was dashingly beautiful, featuring massive landscapes of Scotland's green highlands, hills, and valleys. The characters brought me into their meager lifestyle, but also the fire in their hearts. It looked real. It felt real. My brain and heart were captured during the opening titles when "Braveheart" streaked across a cloudy/misty frame. At times I was haunted, like when young William Wallace watches his dead father and brother carried back from battle. Some times laughed thanks to Stephen from Ireland. Other times, wildly entertained, like when the Scots won Sterling. Though historical inaccuracies are cited as a reason to knock the film, they bring creative cinematic licence for my entertainment. It is a movie, not a history book, kids.
2.) Sideways (2004)
I like writing. I like wine. I like hilarity in its darkest forms. The hi jinks of Miles and Jack were easily some of the most fun I've seen on screen without being over-the-top comedy full of swears and bizarre situations (remember The Hangover? Yes, I loved that film too.). But this film had heart. A man parades around California's Santa Barbara County with his sex-minded friend while his deep desire for literary competence boils at him. Enter wine. And Maya. And that famous, Oscar-worthy scene when they share their individual opinions of wine. Speaking of Oscars, I'm still sore that A Million Dollar Baby (2004) won over this film in 2005.
3.) Almost Famous (2000)
As I write this, I'm wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. There's a clue into where my musical proclivities and tastes lie. This film successfully encapsulates a musical period that is long-considered one of the best in music history - the 70s - and from a variety of angles without confusing the viewer. The band, the fans, the groupies, the record companies, the disapproving parents. And the not-so-subtle ode to Led Zeppelin didn't hurt, between Jay Baruchel's superfan character and deep cuts littered throughout the soundtrack. Cameron Crowe (writer, director, producer) took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for a reason.
4.) Ready Player One (2018)
"This is the Spielberg movie you picked?" You're damn right I did! From the DeLorean, The Shining, and host of other pop culture references from the 80s, RPO snagged me early and never let go. Z and his clan of Gunters got me too. This science-fiction flick projects a VERY possible existence in the near future, so the relevance nabs you too. A pure adventure ride, RPO follows a simple, but layered plot with contagious characters ... almost like riding in a well-produced video game with satisfying aspects of cinema. Spielberg cited this as the most difficult movie he has made to date (that's what happens when most of it is motion capture and CGI). Here's another unpopular opinion: the movie is better than the book!
5.) Jurassic Park (1993)
Do I need to say much more? When someone says "Jurassic Park," your brain plays the highlight reel of shots and scenes (which is practically the whole movie) - seeing dinosaurs for the first time, or the T-Rex smashing an automated Ford Explorer, eating a lawyer, "clever girl," and that harsh velociraptor roar. My favorite Halloween costume is undoubtedly my Dr. Alan Grant getup back in grade school with my best buddy, Steve.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Interstellar (2011), The Dark Knight (2008), Apocalypto (2006), Jaws (1975), Good Will Hunting (1997), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Gladiator (2000)
Trilogy Honorable Mentions: Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones (its fourth installment is a distant cousin, not a sibling), Star Wars (original trilogy)
Disclaimer: Ugh, so many good movies out there that speak to me! I'm sure I missed many. Needless to say, based on the list, I'm a big saga/epic movie guy.
"Random post, dude"
If you're wondering why I randomly posted this sucker, here are two factors that pushed me to the keyboard...
Factor 1: After the buzz of award season, capped by a host-less Academy Awards show, searching for movies remains a fruitless endeavor. Nothing really grabs my fancy at the moment. Something about all these films is dull and uninspiring. Not their fault. Hollywood is prepping for the summer blitz, usually starting in mid-May. I'm waiting to jam the theater then... so, now I'm looking back at the Favorites.
Factor 2: A ragtag group of creators mustered up courage, time, and money to produce a little show called Beyond the Backlot on YouTube and Facebook. Our host and crew heads to film locations and try to recreate iconic scenes from our favorite movies. We recently released our second episode - Back to the Future. What a thrill ride it was! Please check us out!