My favourite films

  1. 1. Synecdoche, New York

    • 2008
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎✍︎ Charlie Kaufman
    • 👥︎ Philip Seymour Hoffman
    “This is everyone’s experience. Every single one. The specifics hardly matter.”

    This is a pretentious film and i feel pretentious putting it up here, but it is, genuinely, just that good. It’s ridiculously ambitious and, despite its high concept and pathetic main character, it taps into that universal fear of mis-spending the only time one has on earth — i was bawling my eyes out by the end, after two hours that felt like four.

    In which i get the conspiracy pinboard out…

    I’m obligated to provide my own theory here, and i’m not sure it makes much sense, but here goes.

    Synecdoche, New York takes place in layers within layers. Caden Cotard, in Warehouse 1, casts Sammy Barnathan to play himself in Warehouse 2 — who himself casts someone as Sammy-as-Caden in Warehouse 3, and so on, and so on. The invisible hand at the top of the chain of warehouses is of course Charlie Kaufman, in the real world, what we might call Warehouse -1. But the real story takes place only in implication, in a layer we’re not privy to.

    Caden Cotard is a fictional character, the creation of “Warehouse 0”’s Ellen Bascomb, evidently a cleaner of some sort. (I would note that the name Ellen is suspiciously similar to El, the Hebrew term for God — that might be a stretch, but you never know with these things.) He serves as a coping mechanism through which she can consider her own broken home life. He has all of her problems — a continuing sickness, a fraught relationship with his child, and a profound mopiness — but equally has achieved all her ambitions: not just a mere cleaner, he is a celebrated artist, and a ladies’ man, to boot.

    Caden himself is perpetually stuck as a model of Ellen at the time of his creation. He never gets any worse or better, always being about as sick as he ever was, and no amount of joy or pain can stop him from snapping back to his depressive equilibrium. Back in Warehouse 0, though, the story of Caden works, and Ellen slowly begins to turn her life around. She needs the concept of Caden Cotard less and less, a process that is reflected in the slow demise of Caden’s world. Sammy — from the Biblical Samuel, who heard voices from God — takes his own life; he falls out of the world much as Caden is falling out of Ellen’s. Ellen herself eventually shows up, much as Caden might oversee the plays inside his own, to tell him he is no longer needed. They have swapped places. Ellen is now the artist she always wanted to be, but Caden remains the lowly cleaner from all those years ago.

    The last time we see Caden, in an emptied out grey world, he meets with Ellen’s mother. Perhaps it’s her funeral, and her daughter brings out the idea of Caden one last time, in the same realm of imagination that the memory of her mother has now been consigned to, to put them both to rest. He knows how to do the play know — and she knows how to do her life.

  2. 2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    • 2004
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎ Michel Gondry
    • ✍︎ Charlie Kaufman
    • 👥︎ Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet
    “What do we do now?” “Enjoy it.”

    I dearly wish Jim Carrey was in more dramatic works. His comedy doesn’t appeal to me at all (too American), and yet, every time he shows up on a drama, he fits into the role like a glove.

  3. 3. Back to the Future

    • 1985
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎✍︎ Robert Zemeckis
    • ✍︎ Bob Gale
    • 👥︎ Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd
    “When this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit.”

    There is not an ounce of fat on this thing — they don’t make ’em (’em being blockbusters) like they used to!

  4. 4. The Truman Show

    • 1998
    • Australia the United States
    • 🎬︎ Peter Weir
    • 👥︎ Jim Carrey, Ed Harris
    “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented.”
  5. 5. Gremlins 2: The New Batch

    • 1990
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎ Joe Dante
    • 💄︎ Rick Baker
    “Fire! The untamed element. Oldest of man’s mysteries, giver of warmth, destroyer of forests — right now, this building is on fire!”

    This and The Fifth Element are on here for similar reasons — it is so terribly rare to see within the Hollywood system such an unabashed, unfiltered expression of pure creativity. I broke down laughing too many times to count.

  6. 6. Twelve Angry Men

    • 1957
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎ Sidney Lumet
    • ✍︎ Reginald Rose
    • 👥︎ Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb
    “You think he’s not guilty, huh?” “I don’t know. It’s possible.”
  7. 7. The Fifth Element

    • 1997
    • France
    • 🎬︎ Luc Besson
    • 👥︎ Bruce Willis, Mila Jovovich
    “Yes, she knows it’s a multipass! Anyway, we’re in love.”
  8. 9. The Grand Budapest Hotel

    • 2014
    • the United States the United Kingdom
    • 🎬︎ Wes Anderson
    • 👥︎ Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori
    “You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilisation left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed, that's what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, fuck it.”
  9. 10. The Northman

    • 2022
    • the United States the United Kingdom
    • 🎬︎ Robert Eggers
    • 👥︎ Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman
    “I will avenge you, Father! I will save you, Mother! I will kill you, Fjölnir!”
  10. Tom Hanks in old-age makeup looks wistfully towards the night sky while sitting in front of a campfire

    11. Cloud Atlas

    • 2012
    • the United States Germany
    • 🎬︎ Lilly and Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
    “Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present.”

    This is one of those marmite movies that everyone either loves or hates. Me personally, i loved it — give it a shot!

  11. A young white woman with vibrant red hair, dressed in a ’90s-ass tracksuit, runs across the streets of Berlin

    12. Lola rennt Run Lola Run

    • 1998
    • Germany
    • 🎬︎ Tom Tykwer
    • 👥︎ Franka Potente
    “The ball is round; the game lasts ninety minutes — that’s a fact. The rest is theory.”
  12. Three guys at the pub wielding pool clubs for weapons

    13. Shaun of the Dead

    • 2004
    • the United Kingdom
    • 🎬︎ Edgar Wright
    • 👥︎ Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
    “We are not using the Z-word!”

    I hmm’ed and hawed for ages trying to figure out which of the Cornetto trilogy to include. What cinched it for Shaun of the Dead is the scene where Shaun’s mum reveals she’s infected and that she just didn’t want to bother him — a perfect nugget of emotion in the middle of all the rom-zom-com.

  13. A man looks on at night in the ruins of an abandoned building, lit only by a fire behind him

    14. The Thing

    • 1982
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎ John Carpenter
    • 💄︎ Rob Bottin
    • 👥︎ Kurtjeff Russelbridges (They’re the same person, let’s be honest)
    “Nobody trusts anybody now, and we’re all very tired.”
  14. Two cross-dressing white men in sparkling dresses playing instruments in black and white

    15. Some Like It Hot

    • 1959
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎ Billy Wilder
    • 👥︎ Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe
    “Water polo? Isn’t that terribly dangerous?” “I’ll say. I had two ponies drowned under me.”
  15. A young East Asian man looks at the rock he is holding while his father busily tries to rescue items behind him in their flooded house

    16. 기생충 Parasite

    • 2019
    • South Korea
    • 🎬︎✍︎ Bong Joon-ho
    • 👥︎ Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun
    “How should i describe it… a belt of trust?”

    This film always gets put on those “super depressing dark movies that will make you want to blow your brains out with a magnum revolver” lists, and i’m like… really? How can you not just have fun spending time with these horrible people?

  16. An abandoned playground, now overgrown with grass, is populated by plants in the shape of humans

    17. Annihilation

    • 2018
    • the United Kingdom
    • 🎬︎✍︎ Alex Garland
    • 👥︎ Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh
    “We’re disintegrating — our bodies as fast as our minds. Can’t you feel it?”

    The best way i can describe this is “if 2001 were made by botanists”.

  17. A young, handsome, clean-shaven white man with trim blonde hair holds a young white brunette in fancy clothes as she puts her arms out standing on the deck of a ship while the sun sets behind them

    18. Titanic

    • 1997
    • Canada the United States
    • 🎬︎ James Cameron
    • 👥︎ Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet
    “And so they lived happily together for three hundred years, in the land of Tír na nÓg — land of eternal youth and beauty…”

    I’m man enough to admit i cried like six times in a row. It’s a great film and you’re all just going to have to deal with it.

  18. A woman with long, jet-black hair, seen from behind, wanders onto a pavilion in a steampunk Lisbon as the vibrant blues and purples of the sky stretch out in front of her

    19. Poor Things

    • 2023
    • Greece the United States the United Kingdom
    • 🎬︎ Yorgos Lanthimos
    • 👥︎ Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo
    “I am finding being alive fascinating.”
  19. A concerned white woman of middle age with untidy strands of black hair, wearing a jumper, looks in horror at a typewriter whose contents we do not see

    20. The Shining

    • 1970
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎ Stanley Kubrick
    • 👥︎ Shelley Duvall, Jack Nicholson
    “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
  20. In a darkly-lit office with low ceilings, an *extremely* scruffy white man with messed-up brown hair and glasses gazes into a seemingly endless hole behind the door, accompanied by a well-dressed black-haired white woman in black sitting nonchalantly on an office chair behind him

    21. Being John Malkovich

    • 1999
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎ Spike Jonze
    • ✍︎ Charlie Kaufman
    • 👥︎ John Cusack
    “You see the world through John Malkovich’s eyes and then, after about fifteen minutes, you're spit out into a ditch on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.”
  21. In a darkly lit cave, a group of people, some holding up torches, all of different colours and creeds, are partying, while a man speaks to them from a ledge above

    22. The Matrix Reloaded

    • 2003
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎ Lilly and Lana Wachowski
    • 👥︎ Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss
    “Where is he now?” “He’s doing his Superman thing.”

    I will, one day, be impaled on a pike for speaking the truth — the truth that The Matrix Reloaded is better than the original. My argument is quite simple: where The Matrix is just a plain good movie, Reloaded is both a good good movie and a good bad movie: it works just as well sincerely as it does ironically. Keanu Reeves fights a hundred PS2-looking Hugos Weaving — what more could you want‽

  22. Cillian Murphy gasps for air as he is completely bathed in the Sun’s scorching orange light

    HM. Sunshine

    • 2007
    • the United Kingdom
    • 🎬︎ Danny Boyle
    • 👥︎ Cillian Murphy, Cliff Curtis
    “It’s like… taking a shower in light.”

    The first of the honourable mentions — not quite good enough for the main list, but it does feature my favourite depiction of outer space in a film. Space is beautiful (intoxicatingly so, even), and vast, and so, so cold, and so, so hot, and so, so dangerous, and it wants to kill you, and you still can’t look away.

  23. Two costumed heroes lean into each other, while sitting on a ledge… upside down, as the skyline of the city in front of them stretches from the streets at the top to the sky at the bottom

    HM. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

    • 2023
    • the United States
    • 👥︎ Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld
    • 🎼︎ Daniel Pemberton
    “You put on that badge because you know if you don’t, someone who shouldn’t will.”

    On an object level, the story here is complete nonsense to anyone who hasn’t overdosed on Marvel Comics ’member-berries — but i’m more than willing to overlook that for the stellar accomplishment of every single technical aspect. This is a true audiovisual feast, and i’m glad to have seen it on the big screen while i could.

  24. A bewildered blonde white man in a business suit looks lost for words as he is placed in front of several 1950s-style news microphones

    HM. The Hudsucker Proxy

    • 1994
    • the United States
    • 🎬︎ Joel and Ethan Coen
    • 👥︎ Tim Robbins
    “Mr Levin, 37!” “36.” “Walk. Down.”

    I’m the only person who’s ever watched this film, so eh, even though in my heart of hearts it’s hanging out around number 60, i thought i’d give it a boost. It’s like Willy Wonka for grown-ups!

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