Sunday, November 8, 2015

100-something Movies You Should See If You Like Movies: M-P

Continuing a dynamic and somewhat subjective list of truly excellent movies for people who like all kinds of movies.  For a more thorough explanation of the methodology behind these recommendations, check out part 1 here.  Newer entries will be labeled u1, u2, u3... uX depending on when I add them, so use your internet word searcher and check back in several months to follow my ongoing chronicle of the best that Hollywood has to offer.  Links to other sections are appended at the bottom.

Mad Max: Fury Road –

My dad’s remarks upon the credits roll were something like, “Wow.  That was two hours of crazy.”  Who could have summed it up better?  As with Edge of Tomorrow, you can condense pretty much the whole plot into two separate lines of dialogue.  Why does George Miller keep making these films 35 years after the one which he made on practically no budget and almost nobody has seen?  Maybe he regards it as his duty to absolve the action genre of its many modern transgressions.  If the old guy can’t fix what’s broken, he’ll go insane.  What a movie.  What a lovely movie.

Mars Attacks –

This probably doesn’t belong on the list because it really wasn’t that funny, practically speaking, and Natalie Portman’s acting stinks, but I once wrote a pretty thorough breakdown of Mars Attacks’ cynical, realist political themes contrasted with Independence Day’s liberal, pacifistic idealism, so I’ll use this newer, lazier article as an opportunity to pimp my older, much more detailed article.

The Matrix –

Because what list would be complete without it? Your list is already dead.

May (u1)

I got a little carried away working my night shift and accidentally wrote about a page of commentary on May in coincidental enthusiasm and boredom. Suffice it to say that May is a delightfully oddball yet also reflective horror film about isolation, female sexual desire, and obsession with aesthetics. It’s probably not for everybody, but those for whom it is are certain to love it.

Memento –

I really want to write about this one in more depth. If someone asks me what my favorite movie ever is, I usually refer them to Memento, but now that I have this list I need not do that anymore. Now, where was I?

Memories of Murder (u1)

Memories of Murder is unlike any movie you’ve ever seen, unless you have seen Mother. This may be the best entry point to Korean New Wave cinema, intermittently hilarious, suspenseful, and dizzying in its presentation.

Men in Black Trilogy –

If someone mentioned Will Smith to me three years ago, I’d instantly associate him in my head with Men In Black. Then Will Smith decided to have kids and become Obama’s little whiny female pug dog. What a shame. All three of these are hilarious in a weird and nonconformist way. The writer and director of Men In Black would go on to produce and partially direct the short-lived cult television series Pushing Daisies, a most delightful program no one cared for until its second season was lying in the coffin.

Midnight in Paris –

Midnight in Paris could easily have been a cheesy, exploitative romantic comedy weighed down by too many celebrities, time-travel gimmickry, and tourist destinations gratuitously snuck in for advertising, but instead Woody Allen made a funny, pensive, and appropriately pretty film about a screenwriter going through an Existential Crisis and reevaluating his blind romanticizing of the past. Though it concerns unfulfilled love, defeatism in artistry, and inter-family squabbles, Midnight In Paris doesn’t mar its light tone with a lot of made-up movie conflict, as the story’s mostly about Owen Wilson thinking that he wants one thing, thinking he wants another thing, and finally coming to terms with what he really wants.

Minority Report –

The music in Minority Report is really disappointing, too often sounding like fill-in, generic John Williams background scoring. I don’t think I can say anything negative about the film besides that, given how accurately and humorously it skewers recent ‘advances’ in individualized marketing and the surge of the surveillance state in a probably misguided, certainly mismanaged War on Terror, all while investigating big philosophical questions about free will and its relationship to foreknowledge. Everybody runs, John Anderton.

Moana (u1)

I will admit that Moana is far from a perfect movie. In fact, I could probably fill a page or two with things I would change in it – some irritating lines of dialogue, a lame song in the middle act, the way her hair never stays wet very long. It’s also the first Disney movie in a really long time I can envision myself watching over and over again without getting bored, like Shrek or How To Train Your Dragon (both of which it resembles a lot), as well as the first Disney movie in a while that didn’t have some severely dating social agenda to grind and just contented itself with telling a good story about two people learning to respect each other. I’m still in shock at just how great it was. I. Am. Moanaaaaa.

Moon –

Moon is irregular, slow-burning speculative sci-fi that emphasizes sympathetic characters over action, potently asks what makes one human, and examines the justifications one group makes for harnessing another to its profit. It’s also an incredible one-man show for Sam Rockwell if you care about that sort of thing.

Moonrise Kingdom –

Young love and khaki scouts realized through the whacky mind of Wes Anderson. I totally want to ask some girl, “What kind of bird are you?” Then I’ll know if she has good taste in movies.

Mother (u1)

Mother is unlike any movie you’ve ever seen, unless you have seen Memories of Murder. Of the two, this one packs more of an emotional punch and may linger longer for that reason. Bong Joon-ho cleverly builds the end into the opening credits, but one can’t understand the significance of it until the story has run its breathtaking course.

My Cousin Vinny –

Marisa Tomei stole George Costanza’s heart in this comedy and continues to steal the hearts of Boss Men watching it for the first time 25 years later. “She’s my fiancé.” “Well, that would explain the hostilities.”

Napoleon Dynamite –

Napoleon Dynamite isn’t typically categorized as great art by people of any persuasion, but you know by the time The Promise rolls that you’ve borne witness to something whole and something freaking sweet. Lucky!

Nightcrawler –

Everybody knows that Jake Gyllenhaal got robbed for best performance of the year, but Nightcrawler would still be gripping and provocative without his maniacal presence making it that much darker. Using a little explored or contemplated aspect of local crime broadcasting, Nightcrawler undoubtedly casts a shroud of sadism and exploitation over the integrity of journalism but goes even further by dramatizing the obsessive drive of human beings to create the finest, most arousing and impactful version of their craft, regardless of the human suffering they enable or ignore thereby. Nightcrawler’s level of violence isn’t that extreme in the big picture, but the utter callousness with which Gyllenhaal’s Lou treats it renders this one of the more outrageous and gripping thrillers of recent times, one that instantly earns its place alongside Taxi Driver as one of the great Crazy Guy classics. Nightcrawler is much more morally concerned than Taxi Driver as a story, though, and so I found it even more enthralling.

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure –

One of the most peculiar and entertaining comedies ever. Andy? ANNNDDDYY!

Perfect Blue (u1)

I will admit up front that I don’t admire Perfect Blue as much as some other movies on the list; in fact, one might view its inclusion as a kind of affirmative-action for alternative animations. But here we have to ask if affirmative-action is even inherently bad when it comes to cinema. If it’s good enough for the Oscars (and we all know the Oscars have never, ever honored crappy movies), then it’s good enough for us. Regardless of politics, Perfect Blue is still an entrancing thriller by all measures, whisked along by jarring transitions, freakish animated imagery, desperate violence, and a perspective that keeps getting more and more unmoored from reality as we know it. If you’ve already seen Black Swan, you should feel obligated to watch the crazier, more visionary original that inspired it. I should also note that this isn’t a movie to watch in public or with judgmental people, unless you don’t mind people thinking you’re weird.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (u1) –

Perfume can aptly be described as the anti-Les Miserables, employing much of the same apparel and décor but designed to polarize, repel, and offend. The sensualist movie manages to be at once massive in scope and incredibly tactile, and like Les Mis it’s highly musical, though it aims to be more eerie and haunting than anything else. For a great (and funny) video further extolling Perfume, albeit by sampling scenes taken from very late in the film, check out Twin Perfect’s video on it here.

Possession (1981) –

It’s really late in the evening/early in the morning, and I’m pretty certain neither I nor anyone else will ever understand what director Andrzej Zulawski was trying to say in Possession, so I’ll keep this short. Suffice it to say this film is way too abstract, illegible, and grating on the ears for 90% of viewers, but an equal proportion will also be revolted, mesmerized, and horrified by its scenes of absolute, out-of-control demonic torment, so in my mind it did exactly what a movie with a name like Possession should do.  By all means, though, feel free to hate upon it.

The Princess Bride –

One of those old movies that was actually better than the book, you know, back when books were kind of good. I’m kidding, of course. There have always been bad books. The Princess Bride just showed a little more effort than the rest of the bestsellers at its time.

Prisoners –

Once you do something you know is really wrong, it’s hard to do the thing you know will probably set it right. Prisoners’ crime mystery seems shoddy in a lot of places upon closer contemplation, but the phenomenal acting, direction, and cinematography more than compensate for its scattered logic holes.

Punch-Drunk Love (u1)

Does choosing the Adam Sandler-starring Punch-Drunk Love as my only essential P.T. Anderson flick over The Master or Magnolia or any of his more serious movies make me a simpleton? Maybe it does, but The Master and Magnolia only really succeeded in making me bored or angry, and there are lots of other movies that induce me to anger or boredom. On the contrary, there aren’t a lot of movies that made me feel quite the same as this, thanks to Jon Brion’s incomparable score, the unhinged soundscape in general, and Sandler’s surprisingly convincing performance as a toilet plunger salesman with lots of unspecified issues. Punch-Drunk Love thrives upon the kind of cringeworthy situations and crippling anxiety that permeate a lot of the Youtube videos I consume, but does so in a commendably entertaining way. I would urge anybody who doesn’t appreciate its brilliance to watch the first thirty minutes or so of the movie Krisha, which aspires to do pretty much the same thing and ends up being the most excruciating thing I’ve ever heard.

Fast-travel to other parts:


  1. Mr. Author, there's been a pattern of insubordinate behavior recently, leaving me out of your list. Do we still have an effective team?


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