Top 10 Favorite Movies

I love movies. Drama, horror, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, etc. Hell, I even love a good musical (not Les Mis though, that movie was bad). I know the word ‘cinephile’ sounds pretentious, but it really isn’t. The definition is simply “one who is fond of motion pictures”. So, yeah, I’ll claim the title of cinephile. I took a few film classes in college. In high school I took Film/Video 1 and 2, and then convinced the teacher to let me take Film/Video 2 again and credit it as Film/Video 3 (which didn’t exist, thanks Mrs. Turner!) I’m not saying this to make it sound like I know more than I do, just to illustrate how long and deeply I love watching movies.

I also love making lists: favorite albums, favorite books, favorite TV shows. Lists like this spur conversation and debate. “Are you kidding me? How could you rank The Joshua Tree higher than Revolver?” “You don’t even have The West Wing on here!” And one thing that people love discussing is movies. So I’ve decided to combine the two and present to you a list of my to 10 favorite movies. I’ve written a few of my thoughts on each one; nothing spectacular or very long, just what was in my head as I made the list.

10. Fight Club (1999)

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Fight Club is just a great movie. David Fincher’s directing combines with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton at their very best to create a truly unique experience. The attitude of the film relates to everyone on some sort of deep subconscious level. A small, primal piece of us on some level craves that anti-establishment nihilistic outlook on life, the freedom that Tyler Durden gives to our narrator. I’m sure that most guys around my age would have Fight Club in their top 20 somewhere.

9. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

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I couldn’t not have a Wes Anderson flick on the list. He is kind of becoming a parody of himself at this point, but I love most of his movies. This one is an easy favorite for me. Not only does it have Anderson’s unique quirky style and quick dialogue, but it tells the story of 3 brothers on a journey of self-discovery through India. If you know me, you know that I am the youngest of 3 brothers, so I have always had a connection to this movie.

8. Psycho (1960)

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I love horror films of all types: slasher, supernatural, gore, sci-fi, and of course psychological. Alfred Hitchcock is the indisputable master of suspense and father of modern horror. Psycho is a perfect example of Hitchcock’s style and is a disturbing mixture of suspense, mystery, and violence; basically everything I love about the genre.

7. Cloverfield (2008)

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I’ll never forget being at the midnight showing for The Dark Knight and seeing a strange teaser for some type of monster movie. There was no title at the end, just the release date “1-18-08.” This launched the brilliantly done viral marketing campaign of what would be Cloverfield. Thankfully when it came out, it lived up to the hype. A perfect example of what a found-footage film should be, the script and acting are top notch. The way it is shot was not used as a gimmick, but as a pivotal piece of the narrative and storytelling.

6. Fargo (1996)

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Dark comedies are hard to write, but the Coen brothers have damn near perfected it. The utterly bleak snow-laden landscape serves as much more than a setting for the film, it almost acts as a character in itself. The actors all shine throughout the film, endearing us to the ‘good guys’ and making us turn our head in disgust at the ‘bad guys’. The imagery of the bright red blood on the stark white snow is an iconic look that cannot soon be forgotten.

5. Alien (1979)

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As I said earlier, I love horror films. Alien is a brilliant genre-defining story of, you guessed it, an extra-terrestrial alien that makes its way onto a spacecraft and ravages the ship and it’s crew. The sets and costumes are stunning, and the alien itself is horrifying and, in a way, beautiful. The film proves that often times the most disturbing and unsettling moments of horror, are in the dark quiet moments. The slow building tension of when and where the alien will be sets up perfectly timed huge scares. Alien is a lesson in pacing, an example of how great horror films should be made.

4. Almost Famous (2000)

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This movie holds a special place in my heart. A fantastically written story about a 15 year old kid in the 70s who aspires to be a rock journalist and lies his way into a job with Rolling Stone and winds up traveling the country with a rock band. My biggest passion is music, and doing that as a 15 year old would have been an absolute dream for me. The characters are so fun and well written, it’s one of those movies you can go back and watch over and over again and always enjoy.

3. The Shining (1980)

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Oh look, another horror movie! The Shining has it all: ghosts, hallways overflowing with blood, Jack Nicholson breaking through doors with an axe. What more could you ask for? The cinematography is stunning. The story is relatively simple, but wonderfully told. It’s a twisted look at the dark side of humanity, what happens when we are trapped in a claustrophobic space and left to our devices? Maybe our psyche creates an entire haunted hotel? Or maybe it was haunted the whole time? After all, you’ve always been the caretaker…

2. Pulp Fiction (1994)

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Quentin Tarantino could make a case for being my favorite director, definitely top 3. Honestly it was difficult for me to not put 4 of his movies in my top 10, but I had to spread the love to be fair. Pulp Fiction is a character driven movie. Dialogue is Tarantino’s specialty (as well as feet and samurai swords), and that is what makes Pulp Fiction really stand out from the rest. All the conversations are quick, witty, and real. The non-linear plot structure really helps us to put the overarching plot into the background and focus on what is happening at that exact moment of the film. A whole other element is the level of violence in the film. You never know when something seemingly normal is going to result in brutality. Even though it is number 2 on my list, Pulp Fiction is probably the movie I have watched the most in my life, and that is not likely to change.

1. Super 8 (2011)

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Super 8 really caught me by surprise, though I’m not sure how because I am a real sucker for anything attached to the name J. J. Abrams. I’ve described the film to people as ‘a combination of E.T. and The Goonies (now this year I’ve described Netflix’s Stranger Things as a combination of E.T., The Goonies, and Super 8). I can’t stress enough how much I love this movie. It looks amazing, sounds amazing, and the actors are brilliant. The chemistry between the kids is unlike any I’ve seen with actors, even at that age. The way that Joe deals with the loss of his mother through connecting with the alien and helping it escape is truly heart-warming. The moment when the alien looks Joe in the eyes, seeing him as only his mother could, as Joe says, “Bad things happen. I know bad things happen, but you can still live,” is one of my absolute favorite moments in all of film. I see my childhood self and my friends in those kids, running around their small hometown causing mischief and making ‘movies’. That is probably the reason I love this film so much. Yes, movies are fun and entertaining, but when it comes down to it the best films are about an emotional connection.

Stay Gold (Don’t Let Em Get You Down)

There are certain albums and bands that just fit perfectly with certain seasons. I think I may have written a bit on this thought before. Catchy, sing-along pop-punk is perfect for summer. For me, fall is when I tend towards emo based music and things with ‘earthy’ tones, if that makes sense. Winter is obviously for acoustic singer-songwriter vibes. Every once in a while, though, an album is released that fits perfectly in between two seasons. That is what I’ve discovered in Butch Walker’s 8th solo studio album Stay Gold.

Butch is truly an anomaly in the music industry. Since his stint in 90s rock band Marvelous 3, he has embarked on a career filled with writing, producing, and performing some of my favorite songs and records. His production resume includes Fall Out Boy, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, All Time Low, Keith Urban, Weezer, Pink, Brian Fallon, and countless others. His solo albums number among some of my favorites, with 2015’s Afraid of Ghosts landing in my top 10 favorites records of that year. Although Stay Gold is a completely different record in almost every aspect, it has rapidly become my favorite record in his solo discography.

Stay Gold is at its heart and through-and-through a rock n’ roll record. From the opening guitar notes of title track “Stay Gold” you can feel the youthfulness and energy that surge throughout the album. There is an excitement, a vigor for life that is palpable throughout the record. Butch does a fantastic job of combining some of my favorite elements of music to create a sound that is both familiar and unique. Weaving the alt-country-esque twang, the in your face guitar attitude of classic rock, the ‘whoa-ohs’ and sing along chants of pop rock, and the Springsteen inspired storytelling together to create an experience that embodies the exuberance of being young and free. It’s loud, it’s fun, it’s reckless and raw. It just feels like being a teenager during that time between summer ending and fall kicking up; running around with your friends, windows down, causing just a bit more trouble before school swallows you whole again.

When I try to describe the way this album feels, the word I keep coming back to is ‘youth’. I feel like I’ve used it, or a variation of it, a dozen times already, but it just fits. Youthful energy and young love, thats what the record is at its essence. Of course it has its slower moments, songs like “Descending” and “Record Store,” but they still have a sense of hope to them, a feeling of adolescent optimism.

I had the honor of seeing Butch Walker perform at the 40 Watt in Athens about a week before Stay Gold was released. Honestly, it wasn’t like any show i’d ever been to. He commanded the crowd throughout the entire set with an energy and vigor unlike any i’d seen, especially from a guy nearing 50. As I watched him strut across the stage in his denim vest, shaggy hair, and red bandana around his neck, slaying guitar solos, and effortlessly endearing hundreds of people to him I couldn’t help but admire him. He’s just got it, whatever that classic intangible ‘it’ is. To me, he is the embodiment of a true rock n’ roll dude. And if he is the shining example of rock music to the world, that is quite alright with me.