April 20, 2018
/Film Does the #FilmStruck4: Here are the Four Movies That Define Us
If you follow filmmakers and film critics on social media, you’ve probably already encountered the #FilmStruck4. Initiated by Filmstruck, the streaming service dedicated to classic and arthouse films, the hashtag challenges you to pick the four films that “define” you. And now everyone is chiming in.
So the /Film staff decided to participate as well, but do so on a slightly larger scale. We have all come together to share the four movies that “define” us. Specifically, we’re sharing the four movies that define our taste and love of cinema, not necessarily our favorite movies of all time (we’ve got that covered elsewhere).
What four films define you? Definitely chime in with a comment after you check out our selections!
The Empire Strikes Back
Not only is this my favorite Star Wars movie of all time, it’s one of my favorite movies ever. My fandom for Star Wars began when I was a kid and has lasted well into my adult years. It’s ebbed and flowed with the quality of the movies and TV shows that have poured from Lucasfilm, but my love for the original trilogy has always been consistent. I remember bringing my VHS copies of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with me to the houses of my friends and family.
But it was always The Empire Strikes Back that I wanted to watch the most. My favorite childhood memory to this day is when my parents got me and 10 of my friends out of school early on the exact day of my birthday to see the first showing of The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition (the movie that’s probably tainted the least by George Lucas’ “enhancements” to the original trilogy). It’s a comfort movie, it’s exactly what blockbuster sequels should aspire to be, and it’s always inspired my continued love for cinema.
It can be extremely difficult to blend high concepts and comedy, but Ghostbusters was one of the first movies to bring expert comedians together for a movie that had such an intriguing premise and do so in such an immensely satisfying way. Ghostbusters shaped my comedy tastes and also my penchant for injecting humor into even the most tense situations. I’m the smartass that I am today thanks to the sarcasm of Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman influencing me as a child. And I also still like a little comedy in my blockbusters thanks to the seamless mix of genres in Ghostbusters.
The early ’00s saw me enter high school and thus my taste in movies started to evolve. Almost Famous was one of the first movies to instill a newfound passion for filmmaking in my very soul. Even though Almost Famous is about a young aspiring rock journalist, I found myself dreaming of how cool it would be to have that kind of job in the film industry. Being behind the scenes of movies, watching my favorite directors work, talking to the very people who made my life magical with their movies. As my career as an entertainment news reporter/blogger became a surprising reality, this movie came to mean even more to me, and it’s a milestone movie that has defined both my career and my life.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
While Almost Famous opened up my mind to filmmaking in new ways, it was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that started to spark my interest in new kinds of movies. Because this was a Focus Features movie, the trailers that played before Eternal Sunshine were all for indie movies that I suddenly felt an inherent desire to see. This turning point is what got me to start exploring films outside of my comfort zone and truly immerse myself in any and every kind of movie.
Furthermore, on an even more personal note, the hopeless romantic core at the center of this movie has been integral in helping me sort through the complications of relationships and emotions. We’ve all either been Joel or Clementine or we’ve dated Joel or Clementine, and director Michel Gondry crafted a genuine presentation of these relationships. The premise also allows a unique perspective where we can look at ourselves and our relationships and experience them in a new light, learning something about ourselves and the people we love. For me, few movies have ever come close to being as emotionally impacting and meaningful as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Spirited Away was the first movie that got me to think critically about movies. Before, they were little more than passing distractions, but little 10-year-old me could have written essays about Spirited Away. The wild, surreal visuals drew me in, but the profoundly relatable story about a young, lost, scared girl made me stay. That and No-Face, a ghostly, creepy character the likes of which I’d never seen before. I think it was No-Face that would change my life — his existence and his strange arc from ally to villain deeply saddened me in a way I couldn’t at first explain. There was a lot I couldn’t easily explain about Spirited Away, which is why I think it left such a heavy impact on me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it — about its multifaceted characters, its bombastic action scenes, its tender moments in the spaces in-between. It was a movie that confounded me and compelled me. Which is why I treasure it as one of the most formative movies in my childhood.
I received a box set of Audrey Hepburn movies for my 12th birthday, as many girls do. She’s the actress who adorns many a college girl’s wall, and whose misattributed quotes are pasted onto that one still from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She’s an icon that I honestly found myself drawn to as a kid — girls like pretty things! But in that box set, which contained Breakfast at Tiffany’s, My Fair Lady, and Roman Holiday, I found myself truly disliking her most famous film (Mr. Yunioshi, hey!) and getting drawn to her first Oscar-nominated role: Roman Holiday. It’s a simple Classic Hollywood romantic-comedy: boy meets girl, girl happens to be a princess on the run, boy happens to be a deceitful journalist looking for a scoop. It’s a zany, typically screwball comedy, but with a sad undercurrent of inevitability underneath: at some point, Hepburn’s princess will have to end her day off and she and Gregory Peck will go their separate ways. It’s cemented in the final scene, when Gregory Peck slowly walks away from the press conference, his footsteps echoing in the empty hall as no one chases after him. That scene is what cements Roman Holidayfor me as the first rom-com that would deliberately leave me unsatisfied and a little melancholy — and I loved it.
Sun-dappled sidewalks and breezy European movies may be another common thread for me. When I first watched Before Sunset, I had no clue about love, heartbreak, or the bittersweet reality of life as a thirty-something, but I felt it deeply when I watched Jesse and Celine sojourn the streets of Paris. I was always more of a book-reader than a movie-watcher as a kid, but Before Sunset provided that perfect gateway for me — it’s honestly like watching a book come to life. The dialogue between Jesse and Celine sings, but still feels refreshingly real. And as I watched them meander around the streets of Paris talking about life and regrets, I felt myself seeing for the first time that aspirational part of movies. This is how life should look: beautiful and sun-drenched, and filled with beautiful people being sad. But my favorite thing that I pulled away from Before Sunset is that there’s no greater tragedy than the simple passage of time.
Beauty and the Beast (1946)
By now, you can probably tell what kind of movie shaped me: gorgeous visuals that shield an ugly or sad truth. If you psychoanalyzed it a bit, you can trace all that back to Beauty and the Beast. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast would shape my taste for Gothic Romance, but Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bete would shape my visual palette. How eclectic, elegant, and sumptuous the movie looks! It’s a marvel of costume and set design, and one that lends perfectly to that uneasy fairy tale of the beauty who falls in love with the beast.
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