I was asked, by my friend Tyson at Head in a Vice, if I would submit my list of eight movies, one book and one luxury item that I would want to have with me if I were stranded on a desert island. I must say that I am glad that he finally asked as I was feeling left out and would soon resort to stalking and glaring menacingly at him while cleaning my fingernails with an ice pick. Just kidding, Tyson. Maybe.
I got to thinking about what to include on the list. I’m not a professional critic; I don’t know all about the various techniques that filmmakers and actors use to make a great film. I don’t use fancy words to describe a performance or a scene. I am just a guy from California by way of South Carolina who has watched movies since he was six and knows what he likes when he sees it.
So, here’s my list. As you can guess most are horror movies but with a few non-genre films tossed in for balance. I don’t think my choices will surprise anyone; but who knows. There is no particular order to the selections.
1. The Thing (1982)-John Carpenter
Alright, I told a little white lie. There is no way that I was not going to put this movie anywhere but Number 1. The Thing is the best film of John Carpenter’s long career and is a perfect example of how hand-made special effects are far more convincing than something a four year old could do on a fucking computer. Isolation, paranoia and a creature that can assume any form; what more could you ask for in a movie?
2. The Howling (1981)-Joe Dante
Best werewolf movie ever made! Best werewolf transformation ever! These are not your daddy’s Lon Chaney Jr. werewolves. These are werewolves whose sole purpose is to keep you, me and Little Red Riding Hood in therapy for the rest of our lives. I fell in love with Dee Wallace in this movie. There was no way I could have shot her; it would have been like shooting Ole Yeller.
I’m cheating quite a bit with this selection as Hostel and Hostel Part II are two entirely different movies. But then again, how different are they? Both feature dumb Americans in foreign countries who get in way over their heads. Both feature torture and gore. Even the Bubble Gum Gang makes an appearance in both movies. Why do I love these two sicko movies so much? I have no fucking idea! Best line goes to Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) for “I get a lot of money for you, and that makes you MY bitch.”
4. Goodfellas (1990)-Martin Scorcese
Where do I start? I take nothing away from The Godfather; but in my humble opinion Goodfellas is the definitive gangster movie. I could, and did, write an entire post on this one movie. Give me time and I could write 10 more. There are so many great scenes in this film; Henry and Karen’s first date and that masterful tracking shot, Tommy’s death and Jimmy’s heartbreaking reaction. Last but not least there’s that great scene:
Henry Hill: You’re a pistol, you’re really funny. You’re really funny.
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean I’m funny?
Henry Hill: It’s funny, you know. It’s a good story, it’s funny, you’re a funny guy.
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean, you mean the way I talk? What?
Henry Hill: It’s just, you know. You’re just funny, it’s… funny, the way you tell the story and everything.
Tommy DeVito: [it becomes quiet] Funny how? What’s funny about it?
Anthony Stabile: Tommy no, You got it all wrong.
Tommy DeVito: Oh, oh, Anthony. He’s a big boy, he knows what he said. What did ya say? Funny how?
Henry Hill: Jus…
Tommy DeVito: What?
Henry Hill: Just… ya know… you’re funny.
Tommy DeVito: You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?
Henry Hill: Just… you know, how you tell the story, what?
Tommy DeVito: No, no, I don’t know, you said it. How do I know? You said I’m funny. How the fuck am I funny, what the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what’s funny!
Henry Hill: [long pause] Get the fuck out of here, Tommy!
Tommy DeVito: [everyone laughs] Ya motherfucker! I almost had him, I almost had him. Ya stuttering prick ya. Frankie, was he shaking? I wonder about you sometimes, Henry. You may fold under questioning.
5. Taxi Driver (1976)-Martin Scorcese
Taxi Driver is one of the most perfect American movies ever made and by far the greatest performance of Robert De Niro’s career. It is a paranoid journey into the seedy heart of New York City. It is a film that the lonely can understand and that the rest of us can be awed by. The scene where Travis is pleading with Betsy over the phone is one of the most heart wrenching in movie history.
6. Role Models (2008)-David Wain
What? Did you seriously think I wouldn’t take a comedy with me? If I watched the other movies on the list without having something to laugh at I’d go insane. This goofy movie about two losers forced into community service at a Big Brother type program makes me LOL and ROFLMAO every time I see it. So take that, Reindeer Games. I know; you’re not Ben Affleck. You know something? You white, you Ben Affleck.
7. Inside aka À l’intérieur (2007)-Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury
I had heard that the French were making some brutal horror movies lately. I didn’t believe it at first; and then I saw Martyrs and this movie, Inside, and my eyes were opened. Brutal does not even begin to describe this movie. Beátrice Dalle is fucking terrifying in this film about a woman, her unborn child and the woman who will do anything to make it her own. Inside is intense!
8. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (2003 and 2004)-Quentin Tarantino
The Kill Bill films are my absolute favorite Tarantino films. QT pays homage to nearly every genre that he can cram into the narrative of his tale about a vengeful bride and Bill, the son of a bitch who shot her down. You’ve never met anyone quite like The Bride, Bill and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.
My one book would have to be Ghoul by Michael Slade. This was Slade’s second novel and the first that I read. After that I haven’t missed one since. Slade’s books are mystery, history and bloody horror all rolled into one brilliant little package. Ghoul is a masterpiece.
As for my luxury item that would be a toothbrush. If she were with me my wife would at least want me to have healthy teeth and gums.
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This marks the third time that I’ve started writing this review. I begin, I trash it. I begin, I trash it. I just can’t think of what to say that would do this perfect film any justice. It is, in my humble opinion the greatest movie from the man who makes the world’s greatest movies. I tried to write down the basic synopsis of the film and I would just stop. What the hell was the point? This film was released in 1990 and if you haven’t seen it yet then you either don’t like movies or you’ve been living under a rock in Funk and Wagnall’s’ back yard. So, without a synopsis, there’s no review, right? Well, yes and no. If you’re a regular reader of my blog then you pretty much know that I don’t write the most descriptive of summaries or synopses. Why start with Goodfellas? So what could I do to make this review stand out? Then it dawned on me. I’m not going to write a review. I’m just going to say these simple words:
Thank you, Marty Scorsese, for making the world’s greatest movies. Without them I can honestly say that my life and the lives of millions of others just wouldn’t be the same.
The “You think I’m funny?” scene was based on a story that Joe Pesci acted out forMartin Scorsese. While working in a restaurant as a young man, Pesci once told a mobster that he was funny and the mobster became very angry. Scorsese allowed Pesci and Ray Liotta to improvise the scene. He did not tell the other actors in the scene what would happen because he wanted their genuine surprised reactions.
For the famous “Layla” montage, Martin Scorsese actually played the “piano coda” section of the song during the shooting of each scene so that certain bars of the piano piece would match up with certain shots.
According to the real Henry Hill, whose life was the basis for the book and film, Joe Pesci’s portrayal of Tommy DeVito was 90% to 99% accurate, with one notable exception; the real Tommy DeVito was a massively built, strapping man.
After the premiere, Henry Hill went around and revealed his true identity. In response, the government kicked him out of the Federal Witness Protection Program.
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