Sunday, March 27, 2011

Favorite Movie?

Just about everyone I know has asked me that question: what's my favorite movie? I've brought it on myself. Between keeping a blog devoted to reviews, incessantly quoting the movies I've seen a hundred times, and dropping random trivia about actors and filmmakers, to the people I know, I'm the movie guy.

As strange as it might seem, I can't answer that question. Everyone always get this puzzled look and ask how someone like me could not know what my favorite movie. I always say it's because I can't narrow it down to just one. Even going by genre, I expand to lists of ten or more until whoever asks gets bored or frustrated.

How do you even define favorite movie? Is it a movie I've seen countless times and thoroughly enjoy each and every time? I suppose, but a lot of films fall under that category: Ace Ventura, The 'burbs, Austin Powers, The Naked Gun, and more. I can say which I enjoy more depends on my mood when I see them. Is it a movie I appreciate more each time I see them for their technique in filmmaking such as The Third Man or Rear Window? There are some cult movies I cherish probably because no one else enjoys them. What about the movies I acknowledge as superlative, but aren't the kind I'd want to watch on casual Friday? Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List are stellar films, but they're so harrowing and shocking I don't want to watch them on a regular basis.

There are the times I try to champion a little known film. Sometimes, I've said I have many favorites, and one of them is Aguirre, the Wrath of God. That usually results in a blank look and an uninteresting explanation that probably scares them off from ever seeing. I've made countless recommendations to friends because of something I think they'll enjoy I love only to have my spirit and enthusiasm for the title crushed when they tell me it was the biggest pile of you-know-what they've ever seen. It can hurt to discover something you love is hated. Instead of bringing them into an exclusive fold, you question your reasons for being a part of it.

Another hazard of naming a favorite film is someone might assume they will know everything you like based on that. I like the zombie films of George Romero but have gotten into arguments about why I think the Resident Evil movies are a pestilence that should be eradicated and not the "awesomest zombie movies ever!" My family says I'm a movie snob, and I admit I have a strong degree of movie arrogance. I pride myself for looking for more in a movie than mindless entertainment, but I'm something of an elitist about it.

Then, there are the changing winds of fate. In the past, I've named my favorite movies, only to realize months or years later I didn't much care for them anymore. Aliens was my movie for the longest time, but now I'm burned out on it, both because of how many times I've seen it and the number of the send-in-the-marines-to-blast-the-space-bugs imitators since then. I used to watch A Christmas Story in the summer, but now I barely catch a few scenes when it plays for 24 hours straight on Christmas.

The bottom line, by naming my favorite single movie, I feel like I tie myself down to it and let it define my tastes. As much as I want to be wowed by the work of Stanley Kubrick, I also like Wayne's World. Rather than limiting myself to one film or one type film, I'd rather say I'm a fan of movies. I may not like all movies, but I like all kinds of movies.


  1. I can never limit myself to one, either. There are too many great films and too many types of movies to compare across genres.
    "Casablanca," "It's A Wonderful Life" and "The Wizard of Oz" all qualify as favorites, but so do "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "The Fifth Element" and "Children of Men." I find it real easy to watch any of these on any given day, and I get something new out of them on each viewing.

  2. I love many movies, but my favorite (as you know, Mark) is "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," and has been for many years. It has a rare combination of qualities that make a movie great for me: Not only impressive in all the typical categories (script, acting, special effects), but deep enough that I'm still learning about it after 100+ viewings. Not only that, since I saw it as a kid (in the theater and many times after that), it has nostalgia attached to it.

    The only movie that's threatened "Roger Rabbit" in my top spot is "Quiz Show."