I'm turning 30! To mark the event, here are my 30 favourite films since I was born in 1987. Chronological order.
Do The Right Thing (1989, dir. Spike Lee)
To riff off of James Cone is it Malcolm or Martin, American Dream or Nightmare, Violence or Survival... binaries are tricky things.
When Harry Met Sally (1989, dir. Rob Reiner)
Probably the most re-watchable on the list, hats off to Nora Ephron for writing a perfect script for everyone else to play.
Kiki's Delivery Service (1989, dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
The last word in coming of age stories. Rich in all the detail and beauty that is expected of this genius filmmaker.
Goodfellas (1990, dir. Martin Scorsese)
Unrivalled construction and deconstruction of a world and its people. Replete with some of the greatest performances of the 90s.
Beauty and the Beast (1991, dir. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise)
Scrumptious animation, beautifully scored, wonderfully told tale of illumination and transformation.
Barton Fink (1991, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)
"I'll show you the life of the mind"
Reservoir Dogs (1992, dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Not so much watched as felt. Tarantino created such a palpable and frenetic energy, that never lets up.
Aladdin (1992, dir Ron Clements and John Musker)
Hilarious, romantic, wise... The creation of the Genii (both in animation and Williams' performance stands as one of the greatest achievements in cinema)
***** CHEATING ALERT *****
Before Sunrise - Before Sunset - Before Midnight (1995, 2004, 2013, dir. Richard Linklater)
Everything you need to know about love, relationships, growing up and getting what you want (now, whether those are good things...)
Not only that, they just keep getting better! Bring on 2022!
Toy Story (1995, dir. John Lasseter)
A perfect, flawless film. If I watched it yesterday and it came on again today, I'd have to sit down and probably watch to the end. The best ensemble cast of any of these films.
Fargo (1996, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)
(What I said for Toy Story, only where that explored "humanity's" capacity for good, constructive relationships, Fargo explores the opposite, and just how unfathomable we can be to one another)
Magnolia (1999, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
"If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs" Exod 8:2.
A sprawling cacophony of lives on the edge, just needing to let go... or maybe its just all coincidence.
All About My Mother (1999, dir. Pedro Almodovar)
I was just reading the Wikipedia plot description for this movie... forget all that, its just all about his mother, my mother, all mothers, actually, #yesallwomen ... and its so very good.
The Iron Giant (1999, dir. Brad Bird)
Ok, this isn't my take or summary, but it gets to the profundity of the film: what if a gun had a soul? This exquisite, hilarious, devastating film is on my short list of art that all young people should experience before they are grown. It is one of my very favourite movies and I am so thankful for Brad Bird.
Dancer in the Dark (2000, dir. Lars Von Trier)
If you have never seen or heard about this film the following statement might seem bizarre - but Bjork, in her one and only acting role, might just have given the best performance of the 00s. A blistering critique on America, a moving depiction of motherhood, and one of the finest musicals put to film.
********* CHEAT ALERT *******
You Can Count On Me - Margaret - Manchester By The Sea (2000, 2011, 2016, dir. Kenneth Lonergan)
A trio of moving, authentic pieces of cinema dealing with life after death (just, you know, not your own death). An intimate snapshot of brother and sister grown (or growing) up, a sprawling, operatic treatment of post 9/11 New York, and a quietly raging observation of the life of someone whom it hurts just to draw breath. These three films cement Lonergan as one of the finest writers and directors working today. Grief, guilt, and the little things we do to keep on living all run strongly through these films, because in the end, they are wonderfully life-affirming projects.
Sub point: I saw the play Starry Messenger, written and directed by Lonergan in 2009 when it played Off-Broadway and I was lucky enough to be in the US. It is one of my favourite plays and it is a shame it is not much more widely known.
***** LESS OF A CHEAT ALERT *****
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003, dir. Peter Jackson)
In 2017 stories slated for a staggered release across a number of films across a number of years is one of the plagues of the cinematic landscape... but these three films are an ok case for taking one's time. And unlike so many other special effects heavy epics, this one never seems to feel old.
United 93 (2006, dir. Paul Greengrass)
The emotional experience I had watching this film is, for me, unparalleled. Greengrass is a master and this film is a towering achievement of directorial understatement and trust of one's audience. (I've yet to revisit it, but it has never left me)
The Prestige (2006, dir. Christopher Nolan)
"There's no business like show business like no business I know
Everything about it is appealing, everything that traffic will allow
Nowhere could you get that happy feeling when you are stealing that extra bow"
Substitute "appealing" for "consuming" , and you're about halfway to getting this movie.
Marie Antoinette (2006, dir. Sophia Coppola)
The colour, the costumes, the props, the excess and lavishness of this film is delectable from top to bottom. That, and its a superb portrayal of celebrity and its varied reception.
Ratatouille (2007, dir. Brad Bird)
One of the greatest works of art in the history of human creativity... and since its about creativity then all the better.
The Hurt Locker (2008, dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
A film that you don't so much watch as be smothered by. A riveting depiction both of modern war, and the life of a junkie.
A Serious Man (2009, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)
The Book of Job is pretty long and doesn't have anywhere near the amount of jokes as this Coen Brothers' take on a tale of bewilderment in the wake of the world's absurdity. God I love this pair!
The Kids Are All Right (2010, dir. Lisa Cholodenko)
The summit of both marriage and mid-life crisis movies. With two of the finest performances of the decade.
The Social Network (2010, dir. David Fincher)
New creation, old problems. A flawless film.
Black Swan (2010, dir. Darren Aronofsky)
I was sad that I couldn't put The Wrestler on this list, (I mean, I could have cheated again), but these two work so well as a pair of visceral character studies about those out there killed by the thing they love. And both have standout, demanding lead performances.
The Tree of Life (2011, dir. Terrence Malick)
"I have come that they may have life and have it in all its fullness", Jesus of Nazareth (probably) also Terrence Malick's pitch for the film (probably)
The Master (2012, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
My friend Julien Faddoul talks about this film as a study of the relationship between man and his dog. I think that's a pretty good take, but there are lots of readings available. This is a rich, cerebral, uncompromising film - with two distinct acting masterclasses from its leading men.
The Wind Rises (2013, dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
Another film that can be put into the flawless category. How tragic is must be for those, who in order to create something beautiful, must risk it becoming a monster.
Carol (2015, dir. Todd Haynes)
Falling in love is a beautiful thing. And we wouldn't really know what it means to fall in love without art like Carol.
So that's the 30. It was tough to trim and there are plenty of exceptional films between 1987 and 2017 that I have not seen, or have not seen recently enough to feel confident including. Hope you enjoyed the list, sound off in the comments with some of your favourite films release after your birth.