I enjoyed reading Kyle Cupp's series of posts on his favorite movies made during his life time.
One of the things that struck me as making Kyle's list particularly interesting is that it's not simply a list of what he thinks are the best movies, but rather the movies which he enjoys watching most. However, thinking about this, it occurred to me that my list of favorite movies, in this sense, has changed a lot over the last 5-8 years. This is not generally because I've changed my mind about whether or not movies are good, but rather that what movies I feel like watching (and certainly which movies I feel like watching again) has undergone a shift.
Aristotle, who was a bloke who knew a thing or two, argued that the purpose of tragedy is to make us feel pity and fear, and that through experiencing these emotions intensely while watching (and participating as an audience member in) a drama we purge ourselves of our pent up feelings and thus arrive at the end of the play refreshed and calmed.
The thing is, I find myself a lot less eager put myself through excess pity and fear these days. Perhaps because, these days, on reaching the end, I'm more likely to feel tired than refreshed or calmed. 8-10 years ago, when I was a serious movie watcher, I truly enjoyed a well made movie that thoroughly put me through the wringer. These days, while I continue to recognize some of those movies as very good, I have much less desire to ever actually sit down and watch them again. Many of the movies I bought back then now sit quietly on my shelf, unlikely to be watched again any time soon.
This is not to say that I only want to watch pop-corn movies, but looking over some of my old favorites that I no longer want to watch, I recognize a certain sort of artistic brutality -- not necessarily movie violence, though some of them were indeed very violent movies, but rather some sense in which they were movies that treated their audience to the more extreme ends of the human experience. While these days, I seldom feel so venturesome.
Also, I find it simply impossible to stick to only movies made during my lifetime, as some of my very favorite movies are more than thirty-one years old.
In an effort to give some sense of what I'm talking about, while also imitating much of what I found fascinating about Kyle's list of movies, I will list off "favorite" movies (in the sense of movies that I not only think are good, but enjoy watching -- desert island movies, if you will) of which one list will be movies made during my lifetime, and the other before. I'll also list some movies that I would once have listed among my favorites, but would no longer, even though I continue to consider them very good and well made movies. (I was going to do ten of each, but precision and discipline failed.)
Favorites From My Lifetime
Wag the Dog
My Neighbor Totoro
A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott)
O Brother Where Art Thou
Favorites From Before My Lifetime
The Third Man
Lion in Winter
The Thin Man
All About Eve
Palm Beach Story
Former Favorites (Again, I mostly continue to think these are very good movies -- I just don't plan to see them again any time soon.)
Being John Malcovitch
Thin Red Line
Bonus Round: A few guilty pleasures These are movies that for one reason or another I do not think are actually great movies, but which I could (and often do) watch again and again with pleasure:
This Is Spinal Tap
Master and Commander
Men in Black