The First Of Five Lists | My Favourite Twenty-Five Movies Because Ten Would Be Stupid And Thirty Would Be Fucking Annoying

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“And if I show you my dark side, will you still hold me… tonight? And if I open my heart to you, and show you my weak side, what would you do?”
“The Final Cut”, Roger Waters (1983)

A list poem is one of the easiest kinds of poems to write because it doesn’t require either rhythm or rhyme. But that doesn’t mean you should write down anything helter skelter. Here’s a list of elements that makes a list poem a poem instead of just a list:
1) The writer is telling you something–pointing something out–saying, “Look at this” or, “Think about this.”
2) There’s a beginning and an end to it, like in a story.
3) Each item in the list is written the same way.”
“How to Write a “What Bugs Me” List Poem”, by Bruce Lansky (1996)

“My advice, to anyone willing to listen, is to find a notebook that fits into your pants pocket. Use a pen with a cap so it doesn’t explode in your pocket, and start writing down whatever you can remember. Even if it’s a favourite colour. Then, later, write down why it’s your favourite colour…. and pretty soon you’ve got a list.”
Me on my last post

The First Five: My Ultimate Twenty Five Movies
This is a list I finished last spring. It took me two years to put this list together. There have been some recent movies which, I think, may change the list but I’m posting it as is from the original. Most of the words come from notes I’ve made but, where the notes become illegible, I’ve borrowed some from published reviews. I’ll try to source them.

The Second Five: The Americanization of Emily (1964) b/w (James Garner, Julie Andrews); Giant (1956) (Rock Hudson, James Dean, Liz Taylor); The Prophecy (1995) (Christopher Walkin, Eric Stoltz); The Filth And The Fury (2002) (Sex Pistols — doc.); Network (1976) (Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall)

The Third Five: Pi (π) (1998) b/w (Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis); Apocalypse Now (Redux) (1979) (Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall); The Killing Fields (1984) (Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, Spalding Gray); Cool Hand Luke (1967) (Paul Newman, George Kennedy); Lawrence of Arabia (1962) (Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif).

The Fourth Five: Run Lola Run (1998) (Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu); Three Days of The Condor (1975) (Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway); City Of Ghosts (2002) (Matt Dillon, James Cahn); Touching The Void (2003) (Joe Simpson, Simon Yates); The Third Man (1949) b/w (Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton).

The Fifth Five: Once Were Warriors (1994) (Rena Owen, Temuera Morrison); The Great Dictator (1940) (Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard); The Devil’s Rejects (2005) (Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon); The Thing (1982) (Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) (Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh).

The Almost Six: Spartan (2004) (Val Kilmer, Derek Luke); The Station Agent (2003) (Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale); The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Mark Hamil, Carrie Fisher); Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (2002) (George Clooney, Sam Rockwell); Clerks (1994) b/w (Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson); Mississippi Burning (1988) (Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe).

The First Five…

Bladerunner (Directors Cut) (1992) (Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer) In every space film before Bladerunner the future was bright and shiny and you knew who the robots were. In the far, far away future of 2019 the streets are filled with garbage, the rain never stops, and the language is a mash of English and… well, “Asian” and “Other”. The original version (1982) was cut and hacked apart by the producers because they felt it was too dark and there was no pizazz. So they tacked on a happy ending and forced Harrison Ford to read a voice-over in his exciting monotone that felt like a AA battery being slowly but steadily forced up your urethra.

Based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, Director Ridley Scott finally got some control back and recut it to the original story and burned the recording of Ford’s voice. Basically Ford’s character is a Super Cop and has to hunt down four criminal genetic replicants (there are no robots). They just want to be human… which, then as now, is a crime. This movie changed the future of science fiction for the better.

Tora, Tora, Tora (1970) I love history, I love learning about… stuff. The period between 1912 and 1949 is my favourite period to study. When “Pearl Harbour” was released I didn’t have much hope for it as an historical document. But, Sweet Jesus, did it suck dog ass. Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Voight, Alec Baldwin, Tom Sizemore, Michael Bay and Jennifer Garner should all be punched in the throat for making this movie. They almost got the date of the Pearl Harbor attack wrong.

Meanwhile, “Tora! Tora! Tora!”, or “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!”, is the most accurate recreation of any historical event by filmmakers of any period. This movie used two crews, one led by American actors, producers and navy personnel, the other by the Japanese actors guided by the men who actually flew the mission. There is a complete lack of CGI, so the air combat is as real as it gets. The movie was an Oscar winning pioneer in the use of miniatures. There is a complete lack of romantic sub-plots, so the movie does what is currently unthinkable… it allows the events to be the driving force behind the movie.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked — due to a diplomatic error it was a surprise attack — Pearl Harbor in a preemptive strike meant to destroy the American Pacific Fleet. “Tora! Tora! Tora!” was the signal radioed back to the Japanese fleet by LtCmdr Mitsuo Fuchida (played by Takahiro Tamura), commander of the first wave of Japanese attack planes, to signify that they had achieved complete surprise over the American forces at Pearl Harbor. Fantastic film.

All The Presidents Men (Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman) based on the 1974 non-fiction book (same name) by the Washington Post reporters — Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward who broke the story — which eventually caused Richard Nixon, the American President, to resign. Fucking awesome story. The one, shining moment in capital J Journalism. Bob Woodward, a small part of the Post, but a rising talent, is spending a day covering Court cases when a group of men are brought forward over a minor break in at the Watergate Hotel-based Democratic Party National headquarters. But the lawyers for the men are all… well, basically they’re the top lawyers in the city. It also comes out that one of the thieves had a list of Republican fund organizers in his pocket. There are no small stories.

The movie is well acted, although I always find Dustin Hoffman to be annoying in that ‘you and your friends are pleasantly buzzed and that one fucker in the corner won’t stop moving in his chair’ way. What I’m saying is, Hoffman usually finds a way to kill the buzz. If the movie were made today it’d feel as though everything happened in a week, but ATPM actually uses some interesting techniques — just little directorial moves — to give a sense of time. The story ends too soon, Woodward and Bernstein got to a certain level in their investigation, but it has always felt to me that, with Nixon’s resignation and pardon, the rot and corruption in the system was never entirely exposed.

The closest any reporter has come to repeating what these two men did was what CBS producer Lowell Bergman did with The Tobacco Industry. In both cases insiders were responsible for a lot of the investigation, but unlike ATPM’s Deep Throat, tobacco whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand stood up in public. It’s an interesting comparison though. “The Insider” has some moments…

Our Lady of The Assassins (2002) Set in the drug cartel town of Medellin, Columbia this is guerrilla film-making inside an active war zone.

Fernando (German Jaramillo) is a successful gay writer who was born in Medellín, Colombia, but has lived in Europe for the past 30 years. He returns to Colombia after the death of his sister, who was the last surviving member of his immediate family. When he left Columbia, Medellín had been a beautiful, vibrant city. When he returns he finds it has turned into a drug-fuelled war zone. It’s fairly common in urban South America for gay men to “adopt” young men. Fernando, a wealthy man, takes in a teenage gang member. Fernando shows the boy, Alexis, the Old Medellín. The architecture and history of the city. Alexis shows him what Medellín has turned into.

“La Virgen de los Sicarios” was written by Fernando Vallejo, and based on his novel. Barbet Schroeder directed and filmed on location in Medellín, using a digital video camera in order to speed up production. The “actors” are, mostly, gang kids. The shots you can hear in the background are real. Very intense. About 30% of this was stolen from Mark Deming, at All Movie Guide.

Se7en (Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt) (1995) This movie is the coolest 125 minute movie ever made. Too bad about minutes 126 and 127. I’m not talking about The Incident at the end… I’m talking about Pitt’s character sitting in the (from memory) police car looking all comatose and shit. It just feels completely unnecessary. I get that they had things to say about Morgan Freeman’s character so the camera had to stay on After The Incident but Jesus, just put poor Pitt in the back of an ambulance, cover him with a blanket and let him drool.

Se7en, to me, was one of the most important movies made in the 1990’s. However, it wasn’t one of the most influential. There were at least two knockoffs of Se7en every year for a decade after the movie was released and most of them involved Morgan Freeman and/or Ashley Judd. But they were all horrible, predictable, garbage. The next movie, in that genre, able to stand in the same company as Se7en would have to be “The Devils Rejects” (2005).

Se7en is based, pretty loosely, on The Bible — always good for inspiring dark, rain filled, Armageddon-type of stories. The name of the City is never given, which was cool. The plot itself, which is pretty much impossible to explain without killing the movie, is just stunning when it’s fully revealed. Basically there’s a serial murder on the loose… which was probably the only thing that bothered me about the story itself, everything happens in a very small time frame. I would have liked to have had the murders happen a little further apart. But that’s a quibble against an excellent script, and one of the great really messed up Pitt characters. His best three movies have been Snatch, Se7en and Fight Club. It’s a little hard to remember but, once upon a time, Mr. Jolie was almost a character actor.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
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16 Responses to The First Of Five Lists | My Favourite Twenty-Five Movies Because Ten Would Be Stupid And Thirty Would Be Fucking Annoying

  1. aikaterine says:

    I’ve have “Our Lady of the Assassins” on order under your advisement from earlier last week. It better be good, mister “Bladerunner on my #1 spot”.

    Luckily you worked your way back into my good graces with Tora, Tora, Tora.

  2. Gabriel... says:

    Obviously you’re thinking of the “original Bladerunner”. I guess I should mention that Bladerunner was inspired by a Canadian movie called “Heavy Metal”.

    Bladerunner DC and TTT are one and two on my list, but thanks to a change in format everything else will be completely out of order.

    ‘Our Lady’ is bleak, but living down there would probably have its occasional downer moments. Not so much anymore now that Canada is negotiating a free trade agreement with them… look at what we’ve done for America since 1990.

    TTT should be made mandatory for high school history classes. Actually, high school history classes should be mandatory as well.

    I think I’ll have the next list out on Wednesday. Matt Dillon and Rock Hudson make an appearance.

  3. For good or for bad…..I have linked your site to mine….God help us both.

  4. Gabriel... says:

    Now Monday, keep a positive mental attitude…

  5. thordora says:

    I love Blade Runner. I love the soundtrack, I love my memories of first watching it and thinking of all the possible worlds our world could turn into.

    Rutger Hauer was actually GOOD. That alone is scary.

    I like Se7en for Kevin Spacey, otherwise, meh. I liked the plot, but that sort of thing felt so overdone in the 90’s-the premillenial fever crap. Not a bad movie, I own it, don’t get me wrong-but I don’t feel as passionate about it as you do.

    Heathers on the other hand… EVAH!

  6. Gabriel... says:

    Mostly this list is about what I can/could remember last spring. If I could reliably remember Heathers (I keep getting it mixed up with “Pump Up The Volume”), there’s a good chance it would have ended up on my 25 List. But there have been a couple of movies just this year that would definitely make it on a new list

    Now that I’ve Wikied it, and my memory has been jogged, I should definitely rent it…

    To me Se7en was a complete turn from the “stick a knife in a co-ed” horror movies of the 80’s and early 90’s, and there were scenes in there which went further than anything I had seen in a horror movie to that point. I don’t want to give away the rest of the list but I’d put it pretty close to The Exorcist (the original… I don’t remember liking the DC).

    I loved Rutger Hauer in Bladerunner and forgave him outright for his next ten movies. I think it may have been the high-water mark for Sean Young’s career as well.

    The soundtrack, by Vangelis (insert props for the Greeks here), is something I’ve been meaning to buy for about 25 years. I had some of his work in the early 90’s but for some reason I’ve never been able to find him again, or when I did there was something else I wanted more.

  7. Justin Mohareb says:

    Did we se Se7en together? That movie has messed me up forever. I thought they’d stopped making flicsk like that after Reagan got elected.

    There’s a super large Blade Runner edition coming out this summer. Four different versions in a briefcase.

  8. Gabriel... says:

    We may have… the timing’s right. I seem to remember seeing a few movies with you and W*s. I may have even paid my own way a few times.

    Do we have to fight over the briefcase?

    Just so you know the second part of this comes out tomorrow night. Ooooooo… suspense.

  9. aikaterine says:

    The Greek people thank you for your props. And I have Vangelis laying around here somewhere. I’ll upload it if I can find it.

  10. Pingback: My Favourite Twenty-Five Movies Because Ten Would Be Stupid And Thirty Would Be Fucking Annoying Part Five Of Five « …salted lithium.

  11. Lew says:

    What?! No comedies? No Caddyshack, Fletch, Blues Brothers, Fast Times, Say Anything, 16 Candles, Sponge Bob, Anything with Michael Moore…

    I don’t get it. Giant, yeah. The other bunch of the list? Better get that Édith Piaf collection ready along with some clinical depressants.


  12. Gabriel... says:

    I don’t know… I don’t see any particularly depressing-for-depression’s-sake movies on my list, there’s no “Das Boot” or Ingmar Bergman. I was thinking about the lack of any straight-up comedy’s as I was posting the twenty-five movies. The list was made over a two-year period of movies I could remember being favourites, which was more important than the movies on the list. “Fast Times”, Caddyshack” and “Blues Brothers” are all on the extended list — so is “Bowling For Columbine” (despite the totally made up stuff about Canada — the mayor misspoke several times), they just didn’t crack the Top 25.

    If I was to have made the list during the ten months (or so) since finishing this one I might have added “Knocked Up”, but I’d have a really hard time finding space regardless because I’d also have to add “Zodiac”. The total list, for whatever it’s worth, was fifty-two movies long. There are two Laurel & Hardy Movies on it — “Babes in Toyland” (1934) and “Nothing But Trouble” (1944), as well as Buster Keaton’s “The Railrodder” (1965). Besides, “Clerks” was funny.

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