Once Were Warriors    Release:  March 3, 1995

My brother turned me on to Once Were Warriors many years ago and it opened my eyes to how narrow my scope of cinema had become.  A complex investigation of the loss of identity that culminates in a shitstorm of violence and retribution.

Director:  Lee Tamahori - Temuera Morrison, Rena Owen, Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell

Le Samourai    Release:  October 25, 1967

Le Samourai is a film that always momentarily makes me forget how much I hate the French.  Alain Delon set a new benchmark for understated cool in this fluid film noir.

Director:  Jean-Pierre Melville - Alain Delon, Francois Perier, Nathalie Delon

Henry Fool     Release:  June 19, 1998

A movie so good, I stopped watching it half way through and went to my local university bar to revel in and elongate the effect the film was having on me.  When I tuned back in later, the finale of Henry Fool did not disappoint.   Is he running towards or from the plane?  How you interpreted the film, provides the answer...

Director:  Hal Hartley - Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, Parker Posey

Romper Stomper    Release:  June 9, 1993

Russell Crowe draws you into his skinhead clan quite subtly, then pulls you down into a spiraling sewer drain with him and the rest of the group...  fun.

Director: Geoffrey Wright - Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock, Jacqueline McKenzie

City of Lost Children    Release:  December 15, 1995

Jeunet and Caro are always surprising and twisted in their unique exploration of the mundane.  Their work often borders between indulgent (see: French) and brilliant.  City of Lost Children straddles that border with a firmness not seen in their other films.

Happiness     Release:  October 16, 1998

Some creepy-ass shit going on in Happiness.  One of the few films I’ve ever watched that actually made me feel emotionally dirty afterwards.  I’ve only watched it once, but it continues to stay with me.

Director:  Todd Solondz - Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Baker, Jon Lovitz

There Will Be Blood     Release:  January 25, 2008

A slice of early American history that is explored at a deliberately moderate pace, yet vibrates with incredibly understated acting and beautifully constructed images.    Definitely as pure a film as you can hope to watch.

Director:  Paul Thomas Anderson - Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier

City of God     Release:  January 17, 2003

This film peels the skin of tourism off the rotten fruit that is Rio De Janeiro in an abruptly honest and entertaining way.  Do yourself a favor and watch the documentary News From a Personal War AFTER you watch City of God.  You thought the movie was depressing...

Directors:  Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund - Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele

Shallow Grave     Release:  June 19, 1998

Three friends, a dead roommate, tons of money, what could go wrong?  Danny Boyle showing why he has always been awesome.

Director:  Danny Boyle - Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston

Léon (not ‘The Professional’ version)     Release: November, 18 1994

Although the differences may seem slight to some, Léon, not The Professional, is the film you want to watch.  The use of silence instead of music during Oldman’s apartment slaughter scene alone changes the whole dynamic of his character.

Director:  Luc Besson - Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman

Sin City     Release:  December 6, 2005

This is what happens when collaboration between artists actually works!  Unlike 2004’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, you don’t feel these actors moving awkwardly in front of a green-screen, you feel like you’re living in a comic book.

Directors:  Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino - Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Bruce Willis

Miller’s Crossing     Release:  October 1990

Really, what can be said?  The brothers at their prime.  So many layers of homage and unique invention coinciding this harmoniously can only be the act of genius.

Director:  Joel & Ethan Coen - Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro

Pickup on South Street    Release:  May 29, 1953

Sam Fuller rocks this seminal film noir in classic style.  When’s the last time you saw a film where a gal gets punched squarely in the jaw by a man?  Well, here’s your chance.

Director:  Samuel Fuller - Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter

Sexy Beast     Release: June 13, 2001

A caper movie of the highest order!  Ray Winstone’s progression from ex-patriot to cornered rat is a pleasure to watch.  Also, Ben Kingley screaming profanities; life changing.

Director:  Jonathan Glazer - Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane

Killing Zoe     Release:  September, 1994

Stylistic indie caper that let’s you revel in your hatred of the French.  Nice.  Eric Stotlz shows again why he deserves to be seen on screen more often.

Director:  Roger Avary - Eric Stoltz, Julie Delpy

Ronin     Release:  September 27, 1998

This is an example of what it looks like when everything flows correctly through a film versus being a ‘perfect’ film.  Is it in the top 100?  Nope, but it is so incredibly watchable because of its unique rhythm and directorial techniques that blind you from its flaws.  Worth studying.  Also, it’s a heist movie.

Director: John Frankenheimer - Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgard

The Score    Release:  July 13, 2001

Alright, I’ve got a thing for heist movies.  Still puzzles me why this film didn’t create more of a buzz.  Did you see who’s in it?!  Jesus tits!

Director:  Frank Oz  - Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Edward Norton

Paths of Glory    Release: December 20, 1957

Kubrick back when he was still a filmmaker and not a reclusive narcissist.  Stone cold film about duty, honor, tradition, and inescapable fate.  All this from a courtroom drama!

Director:  Stanley Kubrick - Kirk Douglass, Ralph Meeker

Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead     Release:  February 8, 1991

If you like quick, dry, intelligent humor, you may just love this film as much as I continue to.  What sort of life does a bit-player have outside of the structure of the play he exists in?  Now you’ll know.     Note:  Having read or seen Hamlet performed is a prior necessity for context.

Director:  Tom Stoppard  - Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfuss

The Commitments     Release:  August 14, 1991

Come for the nudity, stay for the incredible music!  (Naw, there’s no nudity)  When you throw a bunch of unknown actors and non-actors together, seldom do you capture something watchable let alone brilliant.  This is the exception.

Director:  Alan Parker - Colm Meaney and a cast of talented unknowns

Out of Sight    Release:  June 26, 1998

An unconventional jewel heist, a unique love story that doesn’t feel tacked-on, bit actors with unforgettable lines, great visual storytelling, and a progression that feels logical, and not manufactured.  What else can you ask for?  Nothin’ fool.

Director:  Steven Soderbergh - George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames

The Mission     Release:  October 31, 1986

Watched this film at the theater with a good friend the weekend it was released.  We decided to light up our cigarettes inside so we wouldn’t miss a minute of it.  Not as hardcore as it sounds as, sadly, we were the only ones there.  Brilliant film.

Director:  Roland Joffe - Jeremy Irons, Robert De Niro, Liam Neeson

Dancer in the Dark    Release:  October 6, 2000

A movie I was forced into watching when I hosted the preview screening in Seattle.  Expected pseudo-intellectualism, but was surprised by the dream-like intensity and hypnotic rhythms of the music and images.  Björk, who knew?

Director:  Lars Von Trier - Björk, Catherine Deneuve, Peter Stormare

Cinema Paradiso     Release:  February 23, 1990

A celebration of cinema in its simplest, most pure form.  All of us with this disease have a story of how film metastisized in us;  this one just happens to be engaging. 

Jean de Florette    Release:  August, 1987

Finally, you get to see how the French really think and act!  The screenwriter wrote in an idealized family of characters that I’m sure he thought represented the average Frenchman at their shining best, but it’s all lies, incredibly crafted lies.

Director:  Claude Berri - Yves Montand, Gerard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil

Evil Dead II    Release:  March 13, 1987

If you haven’t already watched this masterwork at least twice, you’re retarded.  That’s not an opinion, fact. 

Update:  Just checked WebMD.  Yep.  Retard.

Director:  Sam Raimi - Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks

Hardboiled    Release:  April 16, 1992

In his continuing partnership with John Woo, Chow Yun expands on the truth that he is one of the coolest motherfuckers on the planet.  Woo once again painting a visceral visual that reminded a boatload of American directors that they sucked.

Director:  John Woo - Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung, Philip Chan

The Mosquito Coast    Release:  November 26, 1986

From the Australian director who brought us Gallipoli comes yet another character movie that uses the most extraordinary of locales as a mere backdrop.  This will continue to be one of the most amazing unseen films of any generation.  (est. Budget:  $25 million Box Office:  $14 million)

Director:  Peter Weir - Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix

Directors:  Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet - Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet

Naked Lunch    Release:  December 27, 1991

Blah, blah, blah, not like the book, blah, blah...  Who gives a shit?!  I don’t like scanning symbols on pulp, I prefer moving images.  This film is as close to perfect as you can hope to capture on a subject and author that defy description.

Director:  David Cronenberg - Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm

Director:  Giuseppe Tornatore - Phillippe Noiret, Enzo Cannavale, Antonella Attilli

Living in Oblivion    Release:  March 3, 1995

Pure Gold.  Captures the trials of an independent film crew and its actors so perfectly, that I’m positive it should never be attempted again.   Note: Watching this and Robert Rodriguez’s 10-minute film school, will transform you instantly into a seasoned film director.

Director:  Tom DiCillo - Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney

I am NOT a Nazi!  Well, maybe a little...
 

Pivotal Film Guide

Films you may have missed that are actually worth watching!