A note from Patrick: This concludes our series of introduction pieces where we talk about some of our favorite movies so you can get to know us a little better. If you missed my favorites or Taylor’s favorites (with some more of mine), then be sure to check those out.
And with this. . . Feature Presentation is off and running!
1. School of Rock (2003)
Fired from his band and hard up for cash, guitarist and vocalist Dewey Finn finagles his way into a job as a fifth-grade substitute teacher at a private school, where he secretly begins teaching his students the finer points of rock ‘n’ roll.
As someone who went to a private school, where I was made to wear a uniform, not allowed to wear nail polish, and only really sang religious hymns in music class: I relate deeply to this film, specifically the kids and their experiences. This is my feel-good, always-return-back-to film. I can watch it over and over again and literally never get sick of it. I can recite it from the opening shot and quote it on a daily basis. School of Rock is one of my favorites because it shows how important the arts are in schools and for children. It shows that kids should be free to express themselves and not to conform to what others expect of them. It’s also my favorite of Jack Black’s performances. He seems most at home with incorporating comedy and music which are his two of his strong suits. I love that Black’s character, Dewey, learns that it doesn’t matter if you’re famous or successful, you just need the music and the passion. With all that, you can stick it to the man.
And of course, a special shout out to that soundtrack.
2. Clue (1985)
Clue finds six colorful dinner guests gathered at the mansion of their host, Mr. Boddy – who turns up dead after his secret is exposed: He was blackmailing all of them. With the killer among them, the guests and Boddy’s chatty butler must suss out the culprit before the body count rises.
I am a huge fan of the trope of a group of people stuck in one place together (i.e. The Breakfast Club, Lord of the Flies, etc). Mixing this trope with my favorite genre of murder mystery, obviously, comes Clue. The incredible cast is led by the iconic Tim Curry who performs the craziest murderer reveal monologue ever. (I’m out of breath every time I watch it). The humor is so smart and witty and leads to some the most quotable lines in cinema. Clue is the epitome of the murder mystery genre that movies and books make references to it all the time. Movies like Knives Out and Bodies, Bodies, Bodies use plot devices created and made famous by Clue.
3. Like Crazy (2011)
A British college student falls for an American student, only to be separated from him when she’s banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa.
Like Crazy is the feature debut from director Drake Doremus and continues to be his best film. It became an “indie darling” at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival when it was picked up by a distribution company the night it premiered. The film’s screenplay is based off a 50 page outline which the actors used to improvise almost all of the dialogue. This makes the story and performances so authentic and impactful. The camera work and direction by the first time director is at-moments striking and subtle. The sequence in the airport to depict the passage of time of the two characters being lonely and apart is a stand out. Along with the technical aspects of this film, what I love about Like Crazy is that it is simple. Its not a “happily ever after” story. It follows what happens in real relationships every day and this is never really shown in movies. It breaks the romance genre while being a romance film.
4. The Social Network (2010)
On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at this computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room as a small site among friends soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history…but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.
Now, I knew I wanted a David Fincher film on this list because he is my favorite director but I went back and forth between this and Zodiac. Although, Zodiac is brilliant and arguably perfect, The Social Network outweighed it just slightly for me. This is the first film I remember becoming fascinated by on a deeper artistic level. It was the film that I remember wanting to sit and analyze over and over again because of its cinematography, performances, writing, etc.
Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher were the perfect pairing for this story. Sorkin’s style of fast-paced, wordy monologues works brilliantly with the fact that these characters are geniuses. Of course they would talk like this. Yes, Fincher usually does thrillers, but in a way The Social Network is suspenseful. It is about the creation of the “monster” that is Facebook that essentially kills people’s careers and reputations. And let’s not forget that this kickstarted Andrew Garfield’s worldwide fame with his laptop smashing scene.
5. Strangers on a Train (1951)
A psychotic socialite confronts a pro tennis star with a theory on how two complete strangers can get away with murder – a theory that he plans to implement.
Alfred Hitchcock films like Psycho and Rear Window are unmatched, but Strangers on a Train is the most unique to me. The carousel sequence makes me just as anxious as I was the first time I saw it. The use of pace and sound levels and tempo make it so visceral. The frame through the fallen eyeglasses showing the woman being strangled is one of the most recognized. People know they have seen it but usually can’t place what film it is from. It is a masterclass in use of mirroring and depth perception that isn’t quite used in movies today.
Credit: Each plot synopsis comes from Letterboxd via TMDb.
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