the new canon
April 15, 2003 6:34 PM   Subscribe

"Once Upon A Classic." A Boston Globe article by Ty Burr (reprinted on the PT Anderson website) that lists the new "classic" film canon for the post-MTV generation. Here's the top five: 1. Pulp Fiction, 2. The Godfather, 3. Fight Club, 4. Run Lola Run 5. Amelie. Discuss!
posted by adrober (109 comments total)
Before the cries for The Matrix and Memento emerge, here's the rest of the top 10 he gives:

6. 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
7. The Big Lebowski
8. Memento
9. Boogie Nights and Magnolia
10. The Matrix
posted by Wingy at 6:57 PM on April 15, 2003

I'd put Pi/Requiem ahead of The Matrix and find room for either Rushmore or the Royal T's, but this is an accurate list and an insightful article. Being John Malkovich is another movie in the same vein. I'm 22, for what it's worth.
posted by pinto at 7:02 PM on April 15, 2003

Um. It is fantastic, don't get me wrong...

But The Godfather (1972) is not a post-MTV movie, is it?
posted by grabbingsand at 7:03 PM on April 15, 2003

Chasing Amy is my vote for best "romantic comedy" that is also a great film. Turning the classic boy meets girl story on it's ear and being both funny, touching and outrageous. A must see in my humble opinion.

Oh and it has comics in it so that helps.
posted by madmanz123 at 7:03 PM on April 15, 2003

I'm 20, I would say this list is fairly accurate for my age group. A quick look at imdb confirms this.

Consequently, the older classics are not available in *ahem* downloadable form, so my viewing habits are biased towards newer movies.
posted by FissionChips at 7:07 PM on April 15, 2003

I don't necessarily agree with the ordering of the list, and I haven't seen all the films on it, but it does seem like a pretty good list of modern classics in film. Interestingly, from my scan of the article, Burr seems pretty bent out of shape over the fact that the old classics aren't gathering as much attention anymore. It seems to me that this shouldn't be any more disheartening than the fact that not much of the post-MTV generation listens to a lot of swing music or jazz.
It seems more surprising (and perhaps somewhat disappointing) to me that literature is dominated by material that is mostly 50+ years old than the fact that cinema is mostly dominated by material that is from the last 10 years or so.
posted by Wingy at 7:09 PM on April 15, 2003

fission: I saw fellini's 8 1/2 in a dc hub last week...all 835 megs of it.
posted by pinto at 7:09 PM on April 15, 2003

Certainly Amelie... certainly Pulp Fiction...

Not Fight Club... no way... no how...

Requiem for a Dream would be my addition...

The Matrix... only because it defines a generation...

and Heat... the fucking best cops and robbers movie ever filmed... The godfather can stay off the list... not too many post MTV generation folk can relate to it, really...

Run Lola Run... well... Its as German as Ameilie is French... but it doesn't have the charm...

A movie must make you want to watch it again and again... Run Lola Run... that's a one time flick... fucking good... but you only need to see it once...

Classics, though...

Tough choice...

"The Professional"

Monster's Ball made me cry... it was simple... and oddly sweet... yet it expressed so much.

and no modern classics list would be complete without the king of them all, American Beauty...

American Beauty defines an entire culture... just like Amelie... but in it's own American way... Like Run Lola Run is distinctly German...

I would put Amelie at the top of the list... Followed by American Beauty... then Pulp Fiction... Heat, then The Matrix... We are defining a generation in film, arent we?

That's my top 5...
posted by LoopSouth at 7:12 PM on April 15, 2003

Yeah, wouldn't Goodfellas replace The Godfather?
posted by machaus at 7:14 PM on April 15, 2003

Interesting article. I don't agree with much of it but see where he's coming from. For what it's worth, I turn 35 next month.

About 10 years ago I enrolled in a BFA program in film production. On day one we had to stand up and introduce ourselves and state what our favorite film was. There were maybe 60 of us in the program. About 12 of the students listed films like Star Wars as the best film they'd ever seen. I sunk in my seat. I was going to spend 4 years working with these people? Eesh.

The most telling thing in the article, I thought, was the quote from Hanson about the difference between Tarantino and the wannabe Tarantinos. No doubt a great number of the people he spoke with for their top 10 won't actually be making movies and I'd bet that the rest, even if they didn't list the "classics" among their top 10, are more than aware of the films, if not inspired by them.

The part of the article that I take most exception with is his statement that The Graduate is visually dated. I've seen the film over 50 times and would argue that it's not.

For the sake of interest, here's my 10 most watched films, in no order: The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge, Five Easy Pieces, Funny Games, The Third Man, Fight Club, The Thin Red Line, Who's That Knockin' on My Door, David Holzman's Diary. Number 11 would be Stardust Memories.
posted by dobbs at 7:24 PM on April 15, 2003

Okay article, though I've noticed sites like imdb have made it easier for film enthusiests to develop encyclodedic knowldege of films, I know several people that can name the cinematographer on "Touch of Evil". I think a lot of people are far more familiar with older films than this writer thinks. And Wong Kar-Wai and Kieslowski are esoteric? You can rent that stuff at blockbuster. No mention of Takeshi Kitano either, I don't think this guy cares for foreign films at all.

I'm glad people are still talking about Fight Club, it's hard to believe it bombed at the box office.
posted by bobo123 at 7:24 PM on April 15, 2003

I found 'Run Lola Run' both plodding and pedestrian. *rimshot*
'Lola' means grandmother in Tagalog.
posted by eddydamascene at 7:33 PM on April 15, 2003

God, this is almost sa bad as when told me that "other books I would enjoy" are the very same as the ones on the top shelf of my bookcase.

Hey, where's Brazil? (take that, Amazon.)
posted by Samsonov14 at 7:34 PM on April 15, 2003

Wierd. I didn't realize how out of touch I am.

I've seen the Matrix, and 12 Monkeys, and Boogie Nights, but none in the top 5.

Obviously I'm an uncultured philistine. I shall slink back into my cave and lurk.

posted by JB71 at 7:34 PM on April 15, 2003

Well, I can't claim too much fault with that list, as I've all of them. And it appears that I've been beaten to the punch with the obvious additions of Requiem for a Dream, Pi, Goodfellas and American Beauty.

I guess there are always classic-feeling films like Schindler's List, A Beautiful Mind, and Shawshank Redemption. Or the movies that everybody saw, like Silence of the Lambs, Braveheart, Groundhog Day and the Sixth Sense.

And can I be the crass fellow who suggests we add Terminator 2 to the list of modern day classics?
posted by mosch at 7:35 PM on April 15, 2003

Funny, i just read this article through the pta website myself.

Wingy: I'm with you on the jazz/music comparison. I don't know about the literature part, everyone I know reads mostly current stuff. (Not saying it's better, it's just what we read.)

I basically agree with the list, except maybe replacing Godfather with GoodFellas like machaus says. And if I was making it, I'd reorder a little and replace Amelie with Donnie Darko.
posted by dogwalker at 7:36 PM on April 15, 2003

I can't fucking beleive I left out Terminator 2: Judgement day...

Special effects would never be the same after this flick...

I am a fan of older films though...

So I would include films like Breakig Away... or The French Connection... (Hell no... not Chinatown...) Cool Hand Luke... Papillon... that an epic that movie was...

North by Northwest... hmm... Carrey Grant anyone? hehe...

Die hard... kindof set a new standard for action flicks...

The Shawshank Redemption.... One of the absolute best adaptations of a novel (well.. novella) ever made...

Akira... 'nuff said...

Dark City... what a set design... The Matrix would have never existed if it wasn't for this flick...

The Fith Element... If you think about it... there is no other movie like it out there....

Clerks... for setting the whole Kevin Smith thing into motion... Gen Xers have to have some thanks for this movie...

Shit... it's next to impossible to define a generation in film... period... That is the beauty of VHS and now DVD... we can see it all... let the movies speak for themselves...
posted by LoopSouth at 7:38 PM on April 15, 2003

These threads always end the same way, with people listing their favorites and debating the usual things. That said, no Heathers? No Say Anything? No The Player? No Breaking the Waves? No Office Space? No Local Hero? No Chungking Express? No House of Games? No Iron Monkey? No Tampopo? No Do The Right Thing? No Bull Durham? No Fish Called Wanda or Ferris Bueller?

All those were made post-1980. Sigh.

and Wingy? How is cinema "dominated" by post-1980 films? How can you measure this sort of thing? Style? Influence? Rentals? Sales? (Don't forget that film grammar has evolved, and elements from many groundbreaking films (Birth of a Nation, The Battleship Potemkin, Citizen Kane, et al) have been around for a very long time and are still used today.
posted by Vidiot at 7:39 PM on April 15, 2003

And what about "Goonies"

come on... who grew up in the 80's that didn't like this movie no matter how bad it was... ??
posted by LoopSouth at 7:39 PM on April 15, 2003

Recent movies that stand out in my mind are Memento, Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense, Lord of the Rings and The Royal T's. Natural Born Killers, Eat Drink Man Woman, Crouching Tiger, Life Is Beautiful, also get honourable mention.

Sorry loopsouth, but Heat sucked ass.
posted by ashbury at 7:39 PM on April 15, 2003

T2 beats Magnolia on any given screening. A drawn-out junky story and a rain of frogs vs a man who's composed of liquid metal? No contest.
posted by Samsonov14 at 7:40 PM on April 15, 2003

T2 beats Magnolia on any given screening.

Not in my apartment.
posted by dogwalker at 7:42 PM on April 15, 2003

I wathced Natural born killers the other day.... a few days after watching Heat...

Heat floored me...

Natural Born Killers made me glad that there aren't very many art house film directors with money...
posted by LoopSouth at 7:44 PM on April 15, 2003

Last post... I promise...


What a perfect movie...

No character was left un filmed... there were no "meanwhiles".... and a perfect ending...

Not a single hole in the plot I could find...
posted by LoopSouth at 7:46 PM on April 15, 2003

Okay, if "Amelie" can be canonized, then I don't feel badly making a case for an action movie: Die Hard. Whether it be Die Hard On A Bus or Die Hard On A Boat -- that film spawned enough imitators to prove its influence on that genre.
posted by herc at 7:47 PM on April 15, 2003

and anyone see this ---> here?
posted by LoopSouth at 8:05 PM on April 15, 2003

natural born killers was the best american film of the early 90's. yeah, better than pulp fiction.
posted by oog at 8:07 PM on April 15, 2003

Not a single hole in the plot I could find...

Speaking of which, The Usual Suspects was damn fine too.

This is the problem with top ten lists. You can't limit them to just ten unless the field is small to start with. I can't really name my top ten books, my top ten albums, top ten actors...
posted by ashbury at 8:08 PM on April 15, 2003

I am Jack's failure from film school.
posted by TeamBilly at 8:19 PM on April 15, 2003

Ha! Even the author of the list couldn't keep it to top 10. Nos. 6 and 9 are both pairs of movies.
posted by smackfu at 8:24 PM on April 15, 2003

And what about "Goonies"

come on... who grew up in the 80's that didn't like this movie no matter how bad it was... ??

LoopSouth, please read this review of A.I. Part c in particular.
posted by donth at 8:26 PM on April 15, 2003

1. Pulp Fiction, 2. The Godfather, 3. Fight Club, 4. Run Lola Run 5. Amelie

All films which celebrate, glamorize, or otherwise "hero-ify" murder and/or drugs. Interesting. Oops...not Amelie. But then, perhaps the director's cut will have Amelie plunging a needle into someone's chest, or witnessing male rape.

On a serious's a damn, damn shame that the "post-MTV" crowd (as a whole - sweeping generalization are bad, m'kay?) either (a) doesn't know about, or (b) doesn't care enough about true classics to include them in "favorite film" lists, which in this context means anything filmed before, say, 1965. You remember Cary Grant, right? And Katherine Hepburn? And Gene Kelly? And so on.
posted by davidmsc at 8:33 PM on April 15, 2003

Yeah, wouldn't Goodfellas replace The Godfather?

If you want a pale comparison (godfather is one of the greatest movies of all time with almost every mob movie coming after being influenced while goodfellas was simply a good movie)

Seven. What a perfect movie...

'cept the ending was predictable from a mile away.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 8:51 PM on April 15, 2003

Presumably, this is a "classic film canon" for young, white, American males? Because otherwise it seems awfully funny how almost all of the films on the list are targeted at that demographic.

Also, I really just can't see the Matrix as a "classic" film. Sure, it was fun and had great special effects and style and all that, but it's not exactly profound. It's influence on film is likely to be fleeting and limited to big Hollywood-type pictures. And let's face it: once those special effects start to look dated, it's cultural stock is going to go WAY down.
posted by boltman at 9:23 PM on April 15, 2003

Davidmsc hits the nail squarely on the head. Does a movie have to be both violent and smugly self-referential in that knowing pomo kind of way to make this list? I suppose these do define a generation pretty well, but they fall far short in terms of quality and resonance.

All of the movies in this top 10 are all kind of entertaining, but largely disposable (as much as I loved Magnolia, I wouldn't want to sit through it again). I'd put practically every Wilder, Herzog, Fellini and Truffaut film over every one of these in terms of timelessness, thoughtfulness and resonance.

I realize that this is off topic and reactionary, but if I can convince one person here to check any of those directors out, it would be worthwhile. To put it anotherway, why waste your time and money on Sum 41, Blink 182 or even Green Day records, when you haven't even heard of the Jam or the Buzzcocks? That's not a completely direct analogy, but it more or less captures the spirit of the thing that I'm trying to say.
posted by psmealey at 9:26 PM on April 15, 2003

Fear and Loathing but no Rushmore? What the hell?
posted by btwillig at 9:33 PM on April 15, 2003

it's a damn, damn shame that the "post-MTV" crowd either (a) doesn't know about, or (b) doesn't care enough about true classics to include them in "favorite film" lists

sorry, but I disagree. maybe i'm taking too strong of a futurist viewpoint, but i'm all for "out with the old and in with the new".

sure they're good movies, but they are so old. Citizen Kane and Birth of a Nation were both groundbreaking in technique, but their stories are so irrelevant to the post-MTV crowd that anyone who favors them over 'new classics' is suspect.

Does a movie have to be both violent and smugly self-referential in that knowing pomo kind of way to make this list?

I doubt the violent part. I count only 4, maybe 5, (of the total 12) that are violent. And I found the list entirely lacking in the pomo self-referential department. Only 1 features characters talking to the camera, and most pale in comparison to 'new classic' self-referential tv programs.
posted by dogwalker at 9:34 PM on April 15, 2003

herc: I'd put Lethal Weapon (1987) above Die Hard (1988). The deal Shane Black got for that screenplay changed Hollywood, IMHO, and ushered in a new generation of elite writers. Some people say 48 Hours (1988) had more of an impact on the buddy-cop genre, but I think Lethal Weapon is the defining action film of the 80s.

The only thing I didn't like about the article was the inclusion of Amelie and The Matrix. I don't understand why people get all gooshy over that movie. It's almost insulting, it's so cute. It's like the French A.I. I loved both The City of Lost Children and Delicatessen, but was extremely disappointed in Amelie.

The Matrix, while it was a well-crafted film, is not the great philosophical work people claim it is. I don't believe the Wachowski brothers really intended any of the "hidden meaning," and see it as no more than the current generation's Star Wars. Hope I'm wrong, but the sequels will probably be laughable. You can only steal so much cyberpunk, and the genre's not new to fans anymore.

Have been watching mainly Asian movies for the past few years, so I'm probably as out of touch as someone who doesn't even watch movies at this point. My five favorites, though:

God of Gamblers, Legend of the Dragon (Stephen Chow), Willie Dynamite, Battle Royale, and Wild Zero.
posted by son_of_minya at 9:35 PM on April 15, 2003

but their stories are so irrelevant to the post-MTV crowd that anyone who favors them over 'new classics' is suspect.

That should be "anyone from the post-MTV crowd who favors them..."
posted by dogwalker at 9:35 PM on April 15, 2003

Am I too old, or shouldn't The Breakfast Club be mentioned here, somewhere? That movie pretty well defined my generation.

X, that was.
posted by padraigin at 9:42 PM on April 15, 2003

I'm with you on Matrix, minya, actually I thought Cronenberg's eXistenZ was a film in the same vein that was more thought provoking.
posted by btwillig at 9:43 PM on April 15, 2003

im such a sucker for an excuse to list my favorite directors:

in no particular order...

wong kar wai - ashes of time, in the mood for love ('94 & '00)
raul ruiz - hypothesis of the stolen painting, time regained ('78 & '99)
louis malle - dinner with andre, vanya on 42nd street ('81 & '94)
lars von trier - the element of crime, breaking the waves ('84 & '96)
peter greenaway - the pillow book ('96)
andrei tarkovsky - the sacrifice ('86)
takeshi kitano - kid's return ('96)

ditto the comments about missing aronofsky

if you really wanted to "define a generation" wouldn't you have to throw ferris bueller's day off in there somewhere?
posted by juv3nal at 9:52 PM on April 15, 2003

oh crap, forgot about lynch. i like lynch. though i like twin peaks (the series not the movie) better than his actual films.
posted by juv3nal at 9:55 PM on April 15, 2003

I would add Alien. I whole heartily agree with adding Dark City. Then there's the whole Friday the 13th dynasty. Not a great film, but it sure made its mark on pop culture. Then there's Full Metal Jacket and Platoon. And, no post-80's film list is complete without Apocalypse Now.
posted by Juicylicious at 10:03 PM on April 15, 2003

It is also somewhat telling that if you take out the Godfather, the average release date for these movies is 1998. Is it really possible to get anything remotely approaching the historical perspective necessary to develop a "canon" with films that are so recent? I personally doubt it.

What would be more interesting is to make film students compose a list of their favorite films that are more than 10 years old.

on preview: actually, Apocalypse Now was made in 1979. Hardly post-80s. Or are you referring to its influence on the post-80s crowd?
posted by boltman at 10:09 PM on April 15, 2003

Ahhhhh how right you are. I first saw Apocalypse Now in the early 80's. I guess I never thought about when it was originally released. But you must admit, a great film.
posted by Juicylicious at 10:12 PM on April 15, 2003

Bueller? ... Bueller? ... Bueller?

He's sick. ... My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with a girl who saw Ferris pass-out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious.

posted by bright cold day at 10:19 PM on April 15, 2003

what's with all the love for dark city? it is to tim burton's entire career what tori amos is to kate bush. or something. and the editing...ucccch! someone, please take that editor off speed, the michael bay shoot-for-the-edit aesthetic ruins films like this.

what, no jarmusch? or wes anderson? many of my faves were left off, but those are the two directors whose idiosyncracies are engaging instead of ingratiating.

i'm glad that many films with strong visuals made the list, but many of those are so incredibly superficial.
posted by pxe2000 at 10:29 PM on April 15, 2003

All of the movies in this top 10 are all kind of entertaining, but largely disposable

The Godfather had a profound effect on movie making. (not to mention one of the greatest movies ever made) That's not disposable.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 10:37 PM on April 15, 2003

Wake me when Jackie Chan remakes The General.
posted by wobh at 10:45 PM on April 15, 2003

Chasing Amy is my vote for best "romantic comedy" that is also a great film.

Cameron Crowe's Singles was so much better, and capture the MTV generation much better.

For that matter, why has nobody (I think, but I scanned this thread fairly quickly) mentioned Kids?

Big respect for the shout-out to the Duderino, though.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:46 PM on April 15, 2003

Other movies that should be up for consideration are Donnie Darko, American History X, and The Ring. And I think Spirited Away should be a classic, whether or not anyone else does.
posted by stoneegg21 at 11:03 PM on April 15, 2003

Look, are we ever gonna praise Brain Candy in here, or do I have to go out and blow that fucking critic myself?
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:05 PM on April 15, 2003

Also, I really just can't see the Matrix as a "classic" film. Sure, it was fun and had great special effects and style and all that, but it's not exactly profound. It's influence on film is likely to be fleeting and limited to big Hollywood-type pictures. And let's face it: once those special effects start to look dated, it's cultural stock is going to go WAY down.

I disagree. A movie doesn't have to be extremely "profound" to be a "classic" or to have a long-term effect. Neither does it need timeless special effects. Look at Jaws. I'd say many people would look at that as a classic (certainly had its impact on the industry and future filmmakers), yet: 1) not very "profound", philosophical, etc. and 2) even though I don't think the shark looks all that bad (today's CGI often looks worse), I still hear people remark at the "fake-looking rubber shark".
posted by Stauf at 11:07 PM on April 15, 2003

I was in the shower thinking about it and I was trying to think about the qualities that define a "classic." I came up with the idea that a classic is something you can go back to time and time again and find yourself (a) entertained and (b) further enlightened. I think the reason "Citizen Kane" is often marked as the best film ever is that even if you hate it, you're still bound to get something new from it each time you watch it. At least I find that to be true.

As for the list as presented, I have the biggest problem with "Fight Club." I think the first half of Fight Club is brilliant in creating a mood and atmosphere that is resonant of our generation's (post MTV) general malaise. However, I think the plotting and the "final twist" is amateurish and silly. I'm surprised more people don't see it that way too... maybe I'm just a grump.

I am, though, very glad they included "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia." I think those are the 2 most important movies I've seen in the past 10 years or so. I agree that Magnolia is hard to sit through, but that still doesn't diminish its overall effect. I think P.T. Anderson has an incredible and highly unique vision... his films capture the world in a way I rarely see in even the artsiest of films.

My nominations for other additions: "Election," "Wonder Boys," and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
posted by adrober at 11:24 PM on April 15, 2003

pxe2000: what's with all the love for dark city? it is to tim burton's entire career what tori amos is to kate bush. or something. and the editing...ucccch! someone, please take that editor off speed

You should rent the live-action version of Wicked City for a real flying psychic fight.

Mainly am commenting again because I hate myself for forgetting Shoot the Piano Player. Must have watched that movie a dozen times. Started listening to Charles Aznavour and Georges Delerue, even. Truffaut is definitely up there with the best of the old-timey directors.

Also, I think Apocalypse Now was included because of the recent re-release of the extended cut.

stauf: I think you're also right, but Jaws had a really solid human story to ground it. The best scenes didn't have any special effects.
posted by son_of_minya at 11:30 PM on April 15, 2003

Yeah, wouldn't Goodfellas replace The Godfather?

Blasphemer. Although Goodfellas makes an excellent double bill with My Blue Heaven (which picks up exactly where Goodfellas leaves off.

The Godfather has everything you need to know about American filmmaking, and America.

The Big Liebowski making the list is nice, but the definitive Coen Brothers movie is Miller's Crossing.

Given that MTV started on August 1, 1981, perhaps we can agree to define "film canon for the post-MTV generation" to include movies released after that date. Like L.A. Confidential.

I think Apocalypse Now was included because of the recent re-release of the extended cut.

Which demonstrated there was a reason they cut that stuff out in the first place.

Finally, I really disliked Fight Club, largely because I do not like being lectured on materialism by people making 20 million dollars per movie.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:43 PM on April 15, 2003

I think the first half of Fight Club is brilliant in creating a mood and atmosphere that is resonant of our generation's (post MTV) general malaise. However, I think the plotting and the "final twist" is amateurish and silly. I'm surprised more people don't see it that way too.

I completely agree!
posted by homunculus at 11:52 PM on April 15, 2003

the plotting and the "final twist" is amateurish and silly

You talking about the book or the movie? 'cause, you know, there was a book, which I admit isn't very MTV at all when you get right down to it.

(Snarky aside : I thought of randomly throwing an ellipsis in there every two or three words, then thought better of it.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:59 PM on April 15, 2003

Gotta add Heathers.
posted by jgilliam at 12:34 AM on April 16, 2003

It's disheartening really. I went to see The Apartment with a friend, which as far as I'm concerned is one of the greatest scripts of all time. To my astonishment, my moviegoing companion, a little younger than me (25), hadn't seen it. And she's a filmmaker.

I mean, I feel pretty bad that most of the movies I love are post-1950 (with the shining silent beacons of Keaton, Vertov and Eisenstein), but a fifteen year attention span is fucking ridiculous. Is Blade Runner, only twenty-one years old, the tech noir that has influenced just about every science fiction production design team since, now an aging dinosaur? Does no one remember Mike Leigh's groundbreaking Naked (a pesky decade old), which had more guts, street smarts and character than any of these ten films? Or even Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures (a mere nine)?

If today's filmmakers (and I can definitely believe the canon of this article, based off of the shoots I work on and the mystified looks I see when I mention names like Samuel Fuller, Howard Hawks, Lina Wurtmuller and Mikhail Kalatozov) are so dependent upon the crap that immediately hits the theaters, without digging into the magic that came before digital, then I truly fear the future of cinema.

Looks like film is heading the same direction music has (if it isn't there already). The previous generation went straight to Robert Johnson and the blues, and worked their way up to innovating the present. The current generation doesn't have a memory any earlier than the first Gulf War. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey (and I'm not even 30), I have to ask just what the hell is responsible for so stunning a drop in cultural foci between Gen Xers and Gen Yers?
posted by ed at 1:27 AM on April 16, 2003

These kids today... Youth is wasted on the young...

... Hey! You kids! Get outta my yard!
posted by jpburns at 4:48 AM on April 16, 2003

Citizen Kane and Birth of a Nation were both groundbreaking in technique, but their stories are so irrelevant to the post-MTV crowd that anyone [in the post-MTV crowd] who favors them over 'new classics' is suspect.

I firmly beg to differ. Citizen Kane is the story of a man with great ambition who can never be happy or content with what he has. How is this not relevant in times of an increasing distance between the very rich and the very poor? Besides, there's more to movies than "their stories." The circular structure of Citizen Kane, the use of deep focus, the sheer guts of some of the shots -- all these are worth considering and learning from. Also, to quote Roger Ebert, "The film's construction shows how our lives, after we are gone, survive only in the memories of others, and those memories butt up against the walls we erect and the roles we play." The Matrix was visually impressive, to be sure, but nothing in it matched the sweep, the drama of Kane's life.

And Birth of a Nation? No, I probably wouldn't get it on DVD, but it's fun to watch the techniques being born, and it's an uncommonly good portrayal of American attitudes circa 1914.

It's an admittedly imperfect analogy, but this seems like a contemporary visual artist deciding that Velazquez, da Vinci, or Gainsborough aren't relevant because he doesn't want to do portraits.
posted by Vidiot at 4:58 AM on April 16, 2003

On Fight Club...

I think there's a lot more going on with this film than people generally give it credit for. We all know that it's about the evils of the matierialism of the 90's (and beyond!), and how the desire for stuff destroys us as individuals. But how about a second look?

To follow some ideas of a friend of mine on the film: The central thesis of the film comes in the bathroom scene: "We're a generation of men raised by women." Both (*ahem*) main characters are raised by their mothers after their fathers disappear: this is a common theme in a society where divorce is common and favors the mother in the ensuing custody battle. The film is about the internal violence of being a male forced into an essentially matriarchal society. Remember the (SEARING) chlorine-on-the-hand (FLESH) scene? Notice the vaginal shape of the scar left behind? The Fight Club is a thinly vieled tool with which these men are forcibly inserting a pure dose of testosterone into a world in which such pure expressions of masculinity are taboo.

Which is a crazy cool interprestation of the film. But by far not the only one... A good case can also be made that it is primarily about thte act of rebellion in our modern world, taking anger at our society as a given, and then dealing with the problems of losing one's individuality in a movement (Project MAYHEM), when one had been setting out to establish that individuality in the first place. It's the internal conflict between the need for independence and the need for a place in society, as is expressed through the whole ending twist. (Which wasn't anywhere near the end, mind you. Amatuerish? In just about any reading of the film, it's an essential point in the film. Was the "Usual Suspects" amatuerish? If you're going to be pretentious, at least make a point about gender roles, goddamnit.)

And so on. The film really isn't pop, despite its amazing production quality. (Dude. Dust Brothers soundtrack!) If you're of the budgeted=crap camp, then of course there's little hope for your appreciation of the film. But don't brush the thing aside because you thought the plot twist was too cute.

posted by kaibutsu at 5:33 AM on April 16, 2003

I agree with most of the films that are currently on the list. Although, I'm sure a lot of people could make good arguments about the pros and cons of each film being considered a "classic". I definitely think that The Usual Suspects and Ferris Bueller's Day Off should have found a spot on the list... I really have to get around to watching Pulp Fiction one of these days.
posted by Caffine_Fiend at 5:38 AM on April 16, 2003

Yeah, I thought those were important aspects of Fight Club too, kaibutsu. It's a classic case of a film being marketed badly - I didn't see it the first time round because the trailer made it look so stupid, and only caught it on the rebound.

Edward Norton says much the same (about the poor marketing) in this good recent Guardian interview.
posted by rory at 5:48 AM on April 16, 2003

I dont think the article is about "summing up a generation", it's films that people believe are modern classics - big difference. And another snipe for those defending the old classics - a lot of people have seen the old-timers stuff but this list was about the new guys.

Must add that the Coen Brothers best effort is easily Fargo. And that Rushmore is the best Wes Anderson.
posted by meech at 6:22 AM on April 16, 2003

I've seen all the movies on the list and I feel the same way about some of them that I do about Led Zeppelin. Not my thing, but I can't deny the quality or influence.
posted by Cyrano at 6:46 AM on April 16, 2003

American Beauty defines an entire culture...

Didn't people say the same thing about Joe? I enjoyed American Beauty but I don't see it surviving.

One more voice for Rushmore.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:48 AM on April 16, 2003

Ew, Singles?

On the positive side: it may not be a very zeitgeisty movie, but The Princess Bride, anyone?
posted by furiousthought at 6:54 AM on April 16, 2003

I wonder if this growing list of "classics" is just a reflection of the posters here...........white men? Nearly all the films named are about white men (yes, I know Heathers is about white girls and of course the Japanese films, well...). I think only one person mentioned a Spike Lee film. I would say that Do the Right Thing, She's Gotta Have It and Malcolm X are all great films, but clearly didn't have enough white male impact to be considered classics here. I wonder how much different this classics list would be if it were posted on, etc.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with white guys. Some of my friends are white guys.

Just a thought. Continue on.......
posted by Juicylicious at 7:05 AM on April 16, 2003

I've gotta say, this list comes eerily close to my personal favorites. Was surprised to see Fear and Loathing... never got the impression that it resonated with many people. It certainly didn't make its way around the circles I run in like Fight Club or His Dudeness did.
posted by cratchit at 7:06 AM on April 16, 2003

Neither does it need timeless special effects. Look at Jaws.

But the genius of Jaws is not in its special effects. It's in its excruciating suspense and the way it prays on some of our most primal fears. (And I still doubt it would make many filmmakers of that era's top 10 films of all time list).

The Matrix, while a clever idea, is really all about the special effects. That's the aspect of it that made an impression on the culture and on other filmmakers. That's also what made it so enjoyable (it certainly wasn't Keanu Reeve's acting!). So it really is going to live and die based on the freshness of those effects.
posted by boltman at 7:49 AM on April 16, 2003

Donnie Darko? Cute 'n' all, but it had that terrible, terrible, 'and he woke up, and it was all a dream' ending. But who knew Tears for Fears could sound good again?

Do the Right Thing is in my top ten. But then, so is Bob the Builder: A Christmas to Remember (one, because of the enormous amount of pleasure it's given my son, and two, because it is plotted and paced and scripted to perfection - for a children's film).
posted by humuhumu at 8:12 AM on April 16, 2003

I'm pretty much in agreement with the list in terms of modern classics - but I my personal list of post-MTV classics would shakedown a little differently. BTW – I’m 32.

1. Shawshank Redemption - If this movie is on - even badly edited with lots of commercials - I'm watching it. This film is the most deserving movie of the term classic to come out in the last 25 years.

2. Willy Wonka and the Chlorate Factory - The. Best. Musical. Ever. There is not a single person I know who doesn't love this film and the impact on popular culture is evident in music (Veruca Salt), marketing (Apple's 'Golden Ticket' iMac promotion) to even other movies (Spy Kids paid homage to WWaCF). Robert Rodriguez has listed it as his favorite movie ever.

3. Godfather II – The best of the two Godfather films (ignore the third) this film displays the best and worst aspects of human nature as vividly as any movie out there. Godfather I is great but not as perfect as the second.

4. Raising Arizona – My personal favorite of the Cohen Brother’s films. Nick Cage is perfect as H.I. and Holly Hunter’s woman driven mad by her biological clock is handled perfectly. The chase seen with the dogs and the diapers is my favorite movie chase scene ever filmed.

5. Fast Time at Ridgemont High – The best High School Movie ever made. The cast is exceptional, the story brutally honest and funny, just like High school. The DVD also has one of my favorite commentary tracks. (Dazed and Confused is also exceptional in this genre)

6. La Femme Nikita – Great story, excellent acting and some terrific suspense in the final third of the film. It’s too bad that this movie had to suffer from a poor remake and an awful USA TV series of the same name. Nikita is far better than Run Lola Run.

7. Seven – I’ve got a love/hate relationship with this movie. I love the film for its acting and direction and storytelling. I hate the ending, it tears me up. Don’t open the box.

8. Trainspotting – The first hour of this movie is a non-stop barrage on the viewer. The pacing, the story, the acting – wow. When my three year old son is not home then chances are I’ll pick this movie first to watch. Certainly geared to the post-MTV generation.

9. Unbreakable – Burce Willis makes up for just about every crappy film he ever made with an exceptional performance in this movie. The approach to the common ‘superhero’ myth in this film makes it unique and watchable. The always talented M. Night Shyamalan directs Unbreakable to be a far superior film to both the Sixth Sense and Signs.

10. Office Space – While parts of this movie are a little slow – it still makes my top ten list. The portrayal of the lives of the new working class in the information age is depressing and funny. It captures all that is wrong with the way businesses are managed from the perspective of the workers. If nothing else this movie adds the phrase ‘federal-fuck-you-up-the-ass-prison’ to the vocabulary of everyone who watches it.
posted by DragonBoy at 8:14 AM on April 16, 2003

Oh yeah - I'm in agreement with ashbury on Heat. The movie sucked ass.
posted by DragonBoy at 8:15 AM on April 16, 2003

Vidiot: Citizen Kane definitely has a circular structure, deep focus, and gutsy shots. But so do dozens of movies from the last ten years. Just because Kane did it first, doesn't automatically mean it did it best. A movie with many tech advances does not make a classic.

Is Citizen Kane the only movie that shows an ambitious man remain unsatisfied with his life? Hardly not. There are current versions of the basic story, that relate better to the post-MTV youth. They will naturally choose the newer ones as their favorites and canonize them. They aren't on this list, but I'd say Vanilla Sky (or Abre Los Ojos) and The Game.
posted by dogwalker at 8:17 AM on April 16, 2003

Juicylicious: Nearly all the films named are about white men (yes, I know Heathers is about white girls and of course the Japanese films, well...). I think only one person mentioned a Spike Lee film. I would say that Do the Right Thing, She's Gotta Have It and Malcolm X are all great films, but clearly didn't have enough white male impact to be considered classics here.

Willie Dynamite is a classic black film. In fact, the reason I love it so much is that it's the anti-blaxploitation blaxploitation film. The main character actually grows as a person and gives up pimping.

If you're going to complain about the lack of black films being listed as classics, I think you should complain about the lack of classic black films, especially real post-1980 "modern" classics. I wish there were more, because I really can't stand watching movies with all white people in them, unless they're foreigners or extremely talented actors.

Whether you blame it on lack of opportunity for black filmmakers, lack of conviction, poor marketing... you just can't blame the audience for ignoring films that aren't there.

Malcolm X is one I would put on the short list; I just hate bio-pictures (the Medgar Evers and Jessie Owens stories are also great movies, but they're bio-pics). The Color Purple is a classic, too; but I hate chick flicks. Menace II Society definitely is also a modern classic, but it's not my type of movie either. There are definitely some great ones out there, but not nearly as many as there should be, and they don't make my top five. Sorry.

The only other all-black film that I would put in my personal Top 10 is Rockers (1978). Have been on the lookout for Jamaican films ever since, but have yet to see one that portrays a well-rounded world and characters like this one, especially without going over the top with violence.

Though it's based on a classic itself, Rockers is a truly original picture that creates a world entirely of its own. The story is basically a Bicycle Thief rip-off. I think every culture on Earth has or will make one (see Beijing Bicycle), but this is the first I've seen that actually works.
posted by son_of_minya at 8:22 AM on April 16, 2003

Donnie Darko? Cute 'n' all, but it had that terrible, terrible, 'and he woke up, and it was all a dream' ending.

ummm...I think you need to watch it again.
posted by dogwalker at 8:23 AM on April 16, 2003

I would choose Miller's Crossing over the Godfather, but it's just a matter of opinion.
posted by Beholder at 8:28 AM on April 16, 2003

since this has degenerated into the listing of mefites' top tens...

1. trust -- hal hartley, 1990. this is an incredibly personal choice for me, as i saw it under unique circumstances and it inspired me to become a filmmaker. imo it does the "weird stuff brewing under the surface of suburbia" thing much better than american beauty et al by contrasting the normal setting with the analytical, hyper-intelligent and strange characters and the unusual premise. for something as dialouge-driven as this is (and where the dialouge is so deadpan and stylized) the visuals, camera placement, and cinematography are outstanding, too.

2. harold and maude -- hal ashby, 1971. another extremely personal choice (my dad's favourite film, which i only saw after he died). the editing is outstanding, the performances, for the most part, are lovely (though some of the caricatured supporting characters can be annoying). not so much dated as a real product of its time that still has something to say to us.

3. stranger than paradise -- jim jarmusch, 1984. coming out squarely in the mtv generation, this is the anti-mtv movie with its long stationary shots and lack of flashy editing (and, some wags would argue, lack of point). two guys, their hungarian cousin, a car, and a long trip from cleveland to pensacola.

4. rushmore -- wes anderson, 1998. i'd be singing to the choir if i talked about my max fischer love, but (a) this is who i sort of wish i could have been in high school; (b) this is what hal ashby would have been making if he hadn't had that downward slide, and (c) dig the joseph cornell-esque visuals.

5. vagabond -- agnes varda, 1985. a similar idea to stranger than paradise, in which a successful businesswoman leaves her job to embark on life as a vagrant in france. days of heaven-worthy cinematography, and a heartbreaking central performance.

6. la belle et la bete -- jean cocteau, 1939 (?). fairy tale rewritten as the director's creative manifesto. charming special effects that you can do at home, and a sad instead of scary beast.

7. sullivan's travels -- preston sturges, 1941. "but with a little sex in it." the vagaries of hollywood at wartime and trying to find meaning in the machine. oh, and preston sturges could eat charlie kaufman for breakfast.

8. the adventures of baron munchausen -- terry gilliam, 1989, or kiki's delivery service -- MIYAZAKI hayao, 1989. just because.

9. steamboat bill jr -- buster keaton, 1923. great pratfalls, sweet story, and buster (swoon).

10. pandora's box -- g.w. pabst, 1929 or sunrise -- f. w. murnau, 1929. i have a hard time choosing, since the story of sunrise is poingnant and the film is so beautiful to watch, but louise brooks's performance is devastating.

before anyone gets on my case, i know i need a thesaurus to break my habit of using the word "heartbreaking".

oh and i am roughly in this demographic group and have made little movies myself, so i am somewhat uniquely qualified to answer this. :)
posted by pxe2000 at 8:53 AM on April 16, 2003

I think the most successful way to look at Fight Club is as a modern updating of The Graduate:

1. Benjamin Braddock/"Jack" is a young white men who has done what society has prescribed as the right thing to do (college/white-collar work), but is left feeling spiritually empty ("plastics"/IKEA).

2. Ben/Jack meets Mrs. Robinson/Tyler and starts up a self-destructive phsyical relationship that is, in an important way, gratifying.

3. Ben/Jack also become peripherally aware of Elaine/Marla, but as antagonists -- they're not conscious of any true attraction yet, and in fact treat them badly (and in a way that plays up sexual shame -- strip club/post-coital scenes).

4. Ben/Jack realize that their nihilistic lifestyle choice (Mrs. Robinson/Project Mayhem) is not actually the route to happiness, and rebel by gravitating toward that person who has given them the most authentic happiness (Elaine/Marla). The destructive force (Mrs. Robinson/Tyler) has a history with each salvation-conferring woman and is intent on seeing her/his will imposed on her.

5. Ben/Jack have to take radical action (breaking up a wedding and wielding a cross as a weapon/shooting himself) to liberate the girl and become unshackled of their tormentor.

6. The movie ends with the new couple holding hands while fleeing a wedding/watching skyscrapers fall -- there's no sense of just what the next step is, or should be, in this uncertain world, since they've rejected both the traditional path (married life & white-collar work/white-collar work) and the ultimately repressive "popular alternative" (casual sex/culture-jamming anarchy). Their aimless future is underscored by "The Sounds of Silence"/"Where is My Mind."

When I first say Fight Club, I was put off by its so-lame tirades on materialism, etc. -- I wanted something revolutionary, a good brain-scrubbing, and was frustrated because I didn't get it. Revisiting the movie, however, I saw what its real virtues were, and given the conditions under which this canon was built, I think it's probably worthy to be on there.

It is interesting that The Big Lebowski was selected to represent the Coens. I disagree that Miller's is their best film, and while I don't know that their best is necessarily Lebowski, I really think there's a lot to that film beyond its shaggy-dog jokes.
posted by blueshammer at 9:25 AM on April 16, 2003

Crap = Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, Run Lola Run (one of the most boring films I've ever seen, despite it's supposed 'brilliance'), Boogie Nights (soundtrack nostalgia aside), The Matrix (by far the worst movie on the list; I could give a shit how many geek wet dreams it fueled, it still sucked)

Good = Memento, Fight Club, 12 Monkeys, The Big Lebowski (by far the best movie on the list)
posted by mark13 at 9:37 AM on April 16, 2003

In defense of my offense on "Fight Club," nothing that was said really flipped the stubborn grandma in my mind. The basic argument is: you can apply really cool theories to "Fight Club" so it's a really good movie. But just because something is variably interpretable doesn't make it great: I can interpret "Dude, Where's My Car?" as a treatise on anti-Semitism in post-industrial America or Britney Spears's "Crossroads" as an anti-feminist response to a phallocentric world. Fancy theories do not a great movie make.
posted by adrober at 9:48 AM on April 16, 2003

Fancy theories do not a great movie make.

I quite like Fight Club just in and of itself, no fancy theories needed. But I love the succinctness of your above statement. Can I just pretend you were talking about every defense of Salo I've ever come across?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:57 AM on April 16, 2003

adrober, trust me, I can give you lots and lots of "fancy theories" and fringe interpretations of movies. great and otherwise. Lots and lots. But that's not what my Fight Club/Graduate comparison is. I'm not reading into Fight Club to find those parallels; those parallels are there, plain as the nose on your face.* I'm simply putting Fight Club in a context because it's easy to be distracted from what kind of movie it is -- a comedy about maturation and social ideas of masculinity -- from what it could be mistaken for -- an anarchic assault on modern society. Saying that a movie belongs to a particular genre is not a fancy theory.

* Assuming you have a nose.
posted by blueshammer at 10:17 AM on April 16, 2003

Those that praise "Natural Born Killers" should watch "The Nasty Girl" first. It came out about four years before and it looks like Oliver Stone steals much from the film, even though the stories differ greatly.
posted by stevefromsparks at 10:30 AM on April 16, 2003

No, no people, the best way to look at fight club is..

Calvin and Hobbes grown up. =)

I'd have Usual Suspects, Spirited Away, American History X, Office Space (despite its lamo ending) and Bring it On (serious) added.. :)
posted by Mossy at 10:35 AM on April 16, 2003

My partner is 11 years younger than I am, and while we are both great cinemaphiles, his knowledge of movies begins about 1975. So I have had the great pleasure of introducing him to Casablanca, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, , Witness For The Prosecution, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bicycle Thief, and at least 50 other movies I consider classics. Most of which have blown him away (although Lawrence of Arabia did bore him to tears.)

Why is there such a great discrepancy in our movie educations? I believe there was a change in what was airing on television. During my childhood (the 60's and 70's) there were more old black and white movies being shown.

Today there are several classic movie channels on cable as well as the video/DVD store. No reason why anyone has to limit himself to movies of the past 5 years. Thars gold in dem der hills! While visual styles and pacing have changed, a compelling story will always enthrall.

posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:38 AM on April 16, 2003

I'm surprised that none of Gus van Sandt's films have come up. He strikes me as very representative of high-quality post-MTV filmmaking. I personally have hated all his movies except Goodwill Hunting, but still, I'd be surprised if his films haven't had a huge impact on the current crop of aspiring directors.

And I totally agree with pxe2000 about Trust -- a truly great film and far more interesting than the decen-but-not-earthshattering American Beauty. Henry Fool is another great Hartley film worth checking out. Also, I'm so glad you mentioned Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It's my favorite Gilliam film and I always get ridiculed for liking it over Brazil and 12 Monkeys.
posted by boltman at 11:10 AM on April 16, 2003

Secret Life: You have a point. Before turning into the commercial-laden blockbuster mess it is today, AMC used to show weekend-length Buster Keaton marathons and feature all sorts of great films noir and Westerns in letterbox format, syndicated television had Saturday afternoon/night Creature Features (Godzilla, Vincent Price and the like) and practically uncut ("viewer discretion advised") movies five weeknights a week, and VHS was a great way to catch up on an individual director's ouevre. We were still a little screwed on foreign films in the late 80s/early 90s, but there were still a bedlam of possibilities to catch 1940s and 1950s flicks with basic cable. (Curiously enough, isn't it an odd coincidence that Saturday morning cartoons ended roughly about the time that a "movie classic" became something no less than twenty years old?)

Another problem, of course, is that today's kids don't want to watch a movie on VHS, which means that they're missing out on a lot of cinematic gold. (And speaking of which, it's absolutely criminal that Treasure of Sierra Madre isn't available on DVD and that Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo came out friggin' yesterday. What kind of a goddam world do we live in when Shabba Doo gets more priority than Walter Frickin' Huston, Bogey and "Badges, we don't need no stinkin' badges"?)

For the record, here's my top 10 of all time (for today anyway) in no particular order:

Touch of Evil, 8 1/2, O Lucky Man!, The General (Keaton), Dr. Strangelove, Metropolis, The Wizard of Oz, The Conversation, Naked, Dekalog.

The most recent one is from ten years ago.
posted by ed at 11:25 AM on April 16, 2003

Crap = Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, Run Lola Run (one of the most boring films I've ever seen, despite it's supposed 'brilliance'), Boogie Nights (soundtrack nostalgia aside), The Matrix (by far the worst movie on the list; I could give a shit how many geek wet dreams it fueled, it still sucked)

Good = Memento, Fight Club, 12 Monkeys, The Big Lebowski (by far the best movie on the list)

Care to say why you liked/disliked the above, mark13? I'm genuinely curious.
posted by Vidiot at 11:33 AM on April 16, 2003

And what about "The Game"? If memento gets mentioned that should definately get mentioned too. And why are there no animated movies? I'll be the first to admit Shrek doesn't have the depth of most of the movies mentioned here but that doesn't mean it's not a great movie too, and possibly more defining..
posted by fvw at 12:02 PM on April 16, 2003

John Sayles? Lonestar? Anyone? Anyone?

OK. Maybe he's not a big influence on the post MTV generation. Two of my favorite post MTV movies are Repo Man and Freeway.

They were re-hashes of old stories about people I can't care about in the first place. The Matrix was fun but that was about it. The Big Lebowski was fun except for the stupid voiceover, but maybe that was part of its self conscious winking at the audience. Fight Club was fun just because I expected it to be terrible and it wasn't.

None of these movies were aimed at me and boy could I feel it. To echo what Juicylicious (and someone else, I think)said these are by and for middle class white urban and suburban males. They have a sameness about them. Part of it is that "violent and smugly self-referential in that knowing pomo kind of way" feeling about them. Part of it is the homogeneity of the target audience and part of it is that a lot of them seem like the writers have only read and seen other movies and took the parts of them they liked and made new movies out of them. There's a 2 dimensionality to the characters and plotlines that I think is unintentional. (Unlike the deliberate limits used to condense personalities and situations in the early black and white movies.) Have any of these people actually lived interesting lives? The stories all seem 3rd or 4th hand. They've been Xeroxed too many times- the darks are too dark, the lights too light and all of the grey that makes things realistic has been eliminated. I can only assume that the people making up the audience haven't run into enough of the real deal to know they're being cheated out of the full experience or they'd be demanding more.

That said, I haven't seen all these movies. I've missed Memento, Magnolia, Run Lola Run and Amelie (the movies posters scare me- her eyes make her look like an alien- the sort that look cute but turn out to be vicious- like the ChubbChubbs or the ones in Galaxyquest.) If someone will tell me that the complaints I've listed about the ones I have seen don't apply to the ones I haven't I will go check them out. I haven't felt any inclination up to now.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:11 PM on April 16, 2003

I thought that American Beauty was in the top two or three movies of the 90s. It's a cliche, but I really think for a movie to be great, you have to be able to watch it over and over again. Great movies have a sort of... texture, for me. They're tight. There's no wasted time, nothing that jars you out of the movie experience, no missing pieces. Reading this, I want to go back and re-watch a bunch of movies I loved to see if they hold up. :-)

Of the ones in this discussion, I've seen more than twice, Pulp Fiction, American Beauty, Shawshank(lesser), and Seven have held up. The Matrix and Fight Club definitely have not. I thought Amelie and Run Lola Run were tight and well-done, but not important. Maybe I'll watch them again.
posted by callmejay at 12:16 PM on April 16, 2003

small_ruminant: one of the reasons why sayles hasn't resonated with the post-mtv generation the way (say) fincher has is that his films have gotten less playful and more didactic as his career has progressed. i'm all for artistic growth, and (unlike michael moore) sayles's heart is in the right place, but had he made films like the secret of roan inish or brother from another planet instead of lumbering, speechifying films like limbo or sunshine state, he might have made a greater impact.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:39 PM on April 16, 2003

Ghost World.
posted by COBRA! at 1:02 PM on April 16, 2003

David Lynch?
posted by ed at 1:11 PM on April 16, 2003

Godfather II – The best of the two Godfather films (ignore the third)

I'm with DragonBoy on this. And the whole, wonderful contrast between the eras gets lost when Part II gets stuck in chronological order in the box set.

Likewise with Star Wars. The first movie, stupid. The second, kind of interesting. And forget about the third.

I go the other way with Terminators, though. I thought the second was bloated and silly, after the excitement of the first, and despite the effects.

But I shouldn't even be in this discussion. I was a movie critic for most of the 1970s, so that's what I think of as a golden era.
posted by LeLiLo at 1:24 PM on April 16, 2003

Reservoir Dogs and The Usual Suspects are the only ones missing IMHO.
posted by vito90 at 1:35 PM on April 16, 2003

it's odd; the first time I saw The Usual Suspects I thought it was incredible. And every time I see it since (maybe three or four times) my level of esteem for it drops. Maybe since it's based on a trick, repeated viewings aren't rewarded since the viewer already knows the crucial detail. But I started getting tired of the characters, and even the good acting (Pete Postlethwaite especially) didn't save it for me.
posted by Vidiot at 2:16 PM on April 16, 2003

I watched "American Beauty" a few days ago for the first time in a long while. When it first came out I thought it was fantastic, incredibly refreshing, and a perfect depiction of the cracks beneath the surface of The All American Family.

But this time around I couldn't help but smack myself on the head and say (to quote Stan's mom on South Park): "Wha Wha What!" [Oooh, I nominate "The South Park Movie" to my top-ten pantheon!] Anyway, the scene that struck me as particularly ridiculous was the one where the Colonel peeks out the window and thinks he sees his son fellating Kevin Spacey. I'll concede that just the idea of that makes me uncomfortable (I would DIE if my dad saw me fellating Kevin Spacey), but here it just struck me as ridiculous. That's a very forced plot point if there ever was one. Plus, the whole scene where Kevin Spacey is about to have sex with Mena Suvari on the couch with his daughter about 15 feet away upstairs... how freaky and ridiculous is that! I'm sorry, but I don't believe that the Spacey character--no matter how liberated he's become--is so callous and selfish that he'd traumatize his daughter to such a degree.

The one thing that aged well, though, are some of the visuals: I think that picture of the family at the table with the illuminated flowers in the middle and "Bali Hai" elevator music playing overhead is timeless. And that red door scene through the rain.

OH, and for the record (back to "Fight Club"): I do not have a nose. Thanks for bringing up a VERY sensitive topic.
posted by adrober at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2003

Ok, seriously....

what is with all these Rushmore fans...?

I'm going to delve into why I hate that flick... only reason I saw it was because it was filmed in my city (Houston... not many fils are done here...) and I know half the extras because they went to Lamar HS where the HS scenes were filmed... and half my friends went to Lamar anyway...

but the point is... it was just a B movie at best... it tried... it really did... But I guess it was just because IT was so... Houston... I don't know... there is this style to it that bothers me because it feels like I know each character and they were the pretentious assholes that thought they were cool because they we in theatre class...
posted by LoopSouth at 5:36 PM on April 16, 2003

so what we have here is just a list of good movies...


just why I come to Metafilter... too see what I am missing on the other half of the planet...
posted by LoopSouth at 5:40 PM on April 16, 2003

loopsouth: since many of us are not from houston, we identify with the characters because they are eccentric in ways we see in ourselves but cannot act on for fear of ostracization or police action. as a result, many of the characters' actions are cathartic for us in the audience.

well, that and the very impressive visuals.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:23 PM on April 16, 2003

A ringing endorsement for Amelie, a film that delighted me the first time I saw it and continues to delight me each time I see it. Check out the extras on the DVD, too, for a number of great insights. As for the rest of the list, I have no disagreements except with The Godfather, which doesn't belong on this particular list...a list of greatest films ever, sure, but it belongs on here like Sgt Peppers would on a music list for the MTV generation.
posted by austinspace at 9:03 PM on April 16, 2003

If you're going to complain about the lack of black films being listed as classics, I think you should complain about the lack of classic black films, especially real post-1980 "modern" classics.

I wasn't complaining, just thinking out loud.

Since this has come down to our personal picks, here are mine:

Imitation of Life (1959), Douglas Sirk
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Robert Mulligan
Midnight Cowboy (1969), John Schlesinger
Jaws (1975), Steven Spielberg
Rocky (1976), John G. Avildsen
Saturday Night Fever (1977), John Badham
Alien (1979), Ridley Scott
Platoon (1986), Oliver Stone
Full Metal Jacket (1987), Stanley Kubrick
Boyz N The Hood (1991), John Singleton
Reservoir Dogs (1992), Quentin Tarantino
Pulp Fiction (1994), Quentin Tarantino
Lonestar (1996), John Sayles
Dark City (1998), Alex Proyas
The Matrix (1999), Larry and Andy Wachowski
Magnolia (1999), Paul Thomas Anderson

Yes, I know that there are more than 10 and they aren't all classics to everyone. But each of these films impacted me in one way or another. Some had great dialogue. Others had great sets. All told a story that I could watch over and over again.
posted by Juicylicious at 9:40 PM on April 16, 2003

Maybe one of the characteristics of a 'generation-defining' movie is its ability to get under someone's skin and stay there. 'Slacker' had that ability. I've also seen 'Ghost World' do that to people.

...and 'Romy and Michelle's Highschool Reunion', for that matter.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:02 AM on April 17, 2003

Interesting: about 36 hours out and no mention of The Crying Game or Metropolitan that I can find. An indicator of general good taste here, IMH(aughty)O.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:59 AM on April 17, 2003

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