This post is actually for my wife Gabby, but it’s a good idea to check it out just in case our paths cross and you decide to enter into an intense argument over film.
First of all, I don’t belong to any religion or adhere to any conventional spiritual thinking in order to satisfy some of my spiritual needs. The closest I come to belonging to any religion is the (hopefully) ever growing Carlinism, which follows the teaching of our Lord, George Carlin.
However for now, the only service or religious ritual that you can partake in as a Carlinist is to watch one of Carlin’s 15 HBO specials, which is not a very communal or admittedly interesting activity for non-Carlinists.
But I do love film with an intense passion that could be described as somewhat of a religious fervor. Most of the spiritually fulfilling experiences I’ve had in my life involve watching that perfect film for the first time.
You know that feeling that comes only once in a long while where you know you are experiencing something special, so special that the only way you can explain the thrill that’s running through your veins is that you are having a religious experience, even if what you’re going through has no relation to religion or God? For me, a lot of those memories revolve around watching one of my favorite films for the first time.
On the other hand, Gabby does not care much about movies, at least not even close to my obsession. For her, film and TV belong in the same category of audio-visual distraction and is purely for entertainment and linear storytelling purposes, like the way it is for most normal people.
Since Gabby is passionate about her religion of Reform Judaism and I cannot come up with a universally accepted religion of my own, the closest thing I can come to counter it is my love of film. It sounds ridiculous to most, I know, perhaps except to people like me.
The other day when I stopped on 2001: A Space Odyssey while channel surfing, Gabby sighed and informed me once again how much he hates that movie. I felt a slight pang in my stomach. Even though I knew I didn’t have anything to do with the making of that movie (Since I was minus 12-years-old when it was made) and really have no personal connection to it, I took it personally.
So it made me think, are there some films that I consider to be holy and sacred? The way Gabby holds some parts of Judaism to be holy and sacred, and are not to be criticized in her presence?
So I came up with a list of The Holy Five. They are sacred to me and thou wilt offendeth me if thou shalt fucketh with me regarding these five. Proceed with caution:
2001: A Space Oddyssey:
Yes, I know it’s boring. Yes, I know it doesn’t have a story. Yes, I know you think it’s pretentious and nonsensical. But it is also the closest any film has come in even attempting to explain the origins of life on earth and presents the audacious concept that maybe, just maybe we are just tiny cogs in a much bigger machine. I don’t understand why spiritual people find it to be muddling, even heretical. To me, and this applies especially to the final Jupiter and Beyond sequence, it is the only depiction of a God-like presence that makes any sense.
When I try to think of a perfect film, not just a personal favorite, but a film which is perfect in every way, down to the last prop and the last extra, I cannot think of any other movie than Fargo. What looks like a standard faux true (I’m aware of the oxymoron and if you’re familiar with Fargo, this would make sense) crime thriller turns into a powerful and delicate examination of good and evil. Like Roger Ebert once said, “If you don’t believe poetry can exist in film, watch the final scene of Fargo.”
Paddy Chayefsky is the closest the film medium will ever get to having it’s own Shakespeare, and Network is his Hamlet. The master Sidney Lumet directs probably the best cast ever assembled, brilliantly performing probably the best screenplay ever written. It’s satire is brutal and unremitting and the fact that it predicted the soullessness of our present world is unsettling at best.
Like Fargo, every frame of this Masterpiece with a capital M is perfect. While film schools still make their poor students sit through Citizen Kane over and over again, claiming it created the dramatic film structure, they forget that Seven Samurai is more influential in creating historical epics and action films and has been imitated far more times than Citizen Kane has. The fact that we weren’t shown and analyzed this great film in film school at least once is a shame.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:
Perhaps the most masculine film ever made. I know more than a handful of men who cite this as their favorite film and am yet to meet a single woman who even like it. It’s our Gone With the Wind, our Casablanca, our Steel Magnolias. Leone’s frames, Eastwood’s face and Morricone’s nearly-operatic music creates a masterwork that is dripping with testosterone. Do not fuck with me on this one.