Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Five Favorite Movies

In the fun tradition of year end lists, even though they have nothing to do with 2010, here are my top five favorite movies in no particular order:

Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) and his royal family are sent by the Emperor to the desert planet Dune to take over spice mining operations. The spice is the most precious substance in the universe, used to fold space for interstellar travel. The story is too complex to explain here as it includes "plans within plans" and a huge cast of characters who bring the Atreides, Harkonnens, Fremen, and Bene Gesserits to life. Written and directed by David Lynch, this movie comes very close to being as satisfying as the book of the same name by Frank Herbert (though I didn't like the rest in the series). I have read the first book three times and have seen the movie dozens of times. I always enjoy the visually stunning sets and costumes and somehow never tire of the story. Many of its phrases have come into my normal vocabulary such as "I hold at your neck the gom jabbar," "And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!"

In the future, genetic traits are chosen by parents to create superior people. Those conceived by traditional means are consigned to an underclass of menial laborers. Although genetic discrimination is illegal, the technology to distinguish between the "valids" and "in-valids" is everywhere. Vincent (Ethan Hawke) wants to explore space but he can't get into Gattaca Corporation except as a janitor. He assumes the identity of a more perfect man, Eugene (Jude Law), by using his hair, skin, blood, and urine. Everyone including his love interest Irene (Uma Thurman) is fooled for a while. This story is great for showing how nothing stops the human spirit and how ambition trumps supposed destiny. The title comes from the four letters for the molecules that make up DNA, and the character names are clever, too (Vincent Freeman, Eugene Morrow).

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
Although Diane (Nicole Kidman) looks as normal as her family, she feels most herself with her neighbor, Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.) and his unusual friends. This fictionalized biography of the photographer shows two worlds that are very different both on the surface and below it.

The Razor's Edge
This is one of the few movies that is better than the book. After returning from World War I, Larry Darrell (Bill Murray) searches for meaning from Indiana to Paris to India and back again. I love what Larry discovers in the Himalayas and the atmospheric scenes in Paris, especially the bar where he takes Isabel and his apartment which Sophie helps paint.

Local Hero
Local Hero is a movie about a man who thought he had it all until he visits the beautiful Scottish village of Ferness, a utopia of quirky characters. Mac (Peter Riegert) opens his eyes to true beauty and happiness. It was filmed in Pennan, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which didn't actually have a red telephone box until after the movie when fans asked the phone company to install one. I hate the parts with Mr. Happer (Burt Lancaster) and his psychiatrist, but the rest of the movie is absolutely perfect.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2011! Skål!
The Bowen Beer Bottle Band blows
"Angels We Have Heard on High"