“Films That Defined Us!” Blog Event

Marc — who writes for one of my favorite film blogs Go, See, Talk! — is hosting a Blog Event that will post on his site this Friday, August 13th and he was kind enough to invite me to participate. The event is called Films That Defined Us and film writers from all over are taking part to list those movies that we saw at a relatively young age and helped to define our movie tastes. These are movies that, to quote Marc, really “set the bar” for us and made a lasting impression in our lives.

I came up with my own personal list of 5 films (in no particular order here) that have surely been essential works of art for me as a movie lover and have certainly been proud staples of any movie collection I have ever had. For those who know me, I’m afraid none of these will come as much of a surprise to you. For my film blogging amigos, hopefully this will achieve Marc’s objective in letting us see what makes each of us tick. After much thought and deliberation, here are 5 Movies That Surely Have Defined Me:

#1. Annie Hall (dir. Woody Allen)

I didn’t get into Woody Allen until later on…around high school. Then I began to devour all of his prose with friends at a local diner, see all of his movies, read film analysis on him. In doing so, this film sadly became my life’s anthem, through no fault of my own. Whenever someone needs to “understand me” better, I tell them to just watch this classic dramedy and they always come back lamentably with, “Oh…now I get it.” This is the consummate Woody Allen film — the colossal turning point for him as a filmmaker. It features Diane Keaton who is heavenly in this movie; she created one of film’s most memorable characters here. It is a profound movie in terms of how it addresses relationships – it makes you laugh out loud one moment and feel sadness the next. I have seen this movie more times than I care to admit over the past 20 years and it never gets dull for me. As far as comedies go, this one stands the test of time and truly set the bar for all of the newer comedies being released this past decade — all films that pale in comparison to Woody when he was at his peak.

#2. The Godfather (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

My family never really raised me on movies or got me into watching films, though I wish they had. But one film that I do remember watching with my parents when I was younger was Coppola’s seminal tour de force whenever it would play on TV. I come from an Italian-American family, so I think that certainly played a part in their excitement in watching this film and explaining it to me when I was too young to actually absorb it all. To this day, so many years later, the first two Godfather films are my two favorite films of all-time and I think my early memories of watching them with my parents play a small part in that. To me, this is a perfect film with unbelievable performances across the board. Knowing all of the background information on how Coppola set out to make this masterpiece and his many battles with Paramount make it all the more inspiring for me. As a result of watching this film at a young age, Marlon Brando quickly became my favorite actor (still is). Watching his towering performance here, I made sure to watch every one of his films as often as I could (even the many stinkers) and research as much as I could on the complex man. Throughout the trilogy, the character of Michael Corleone, I think, is one of the very best ever put on film and I can envision no one better to do it than Al Pacino. I just watched it a few weeks ago and it brought back a few memories for me from years ago — and I was still in awe with each passing scene.

#3. Rocky (dir. John G. Avildsen)

The original “Best Picture” winner, as well as the subsequent Rocky II and Rocky III (both directed by Sylvester Stallone). I was 5-years old when the first film came out and did not see the film in the theatres, but I do remember playing the old vinyl record that my parents bought and loving the entire soundtrack. Bill Conti’s score is truly one for the ages. I listened to it often back then, and a few years later was hooked on Rocky Balboa. To me, this is the quintessential underdog story — in more ways than just sports — though it is, for me, the very best of all the sports movies. He came from nowhere…and rose from the ghetto streets of Philly to become the heavyweight champion of the world! Again, I think the whole Italian thing comes into play here…fuggedaboutit! Isn’t it a law that every Italian guy has to love Rocky? Perhaps every Italian guy secretly wants to be Rocky. I know I did when I was a kid. I do recall seeing Rocky II a few years later and then my parents took me to see the third one in a drive-in movie theatre. Rocky Balboa was an inspirational figure to me then and still is today. He is a hero and positive role model that always does the right thing; he has a strict moral compass, he loves his woman, he has tremendous heart and fortitude — and he even ended the Cold war single-handedly in the dismal Rocky IV. Thankfully, he rebounded nicely in the last installment, but those first three films for me always get my heart pounding and my blood racing.

#4. A Clockwork Orange (dir. Stanley Kubrick)

I remember seeing this flick and the profound effect it had on me as a kid when I first watched it. In many ways, Kubrick’s ultra-violent futuristic film was the catalyst for me looking to re-define what my taste in movies was. I wanted to see more films like this one! I hadn’t seen many like it at all and looked into more works from this maverick filmmaker and others like him. I sought out films from other auteurs such as Malick, Forman, Cassavetes, Polanski, and Altman. I even remember having A Clockwork Orange T-shirt in my younger days. At the time, I didn’t consider myself much of a film buff, but I believe this film started that journey for me as I realized what film, as an art form, can do…the weighty impact it can make on a viewer. This film haunted me in the very best of ways and I loved Burgess’ overall message in the “rehabilitation” of the classic character, Alex DeLarge (wonderfully portrayed by Malcolm McDowell). When I think of movies that helped to sculpt my more refined palette in my latter teen years, this is the one that always comes to mind first.

#5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (dir. Steven Spielberg)

I was 10 years old when this film was released (when movies actually played for months at a time in the theatres) and remember coming home thinking I just watched the most awesome movie ever! I mean, really…what kid didn’t flip out over this movie?! To me, it seemed to have everything — amazing action sequences, terrific special effects, a love story, an intelligent and valiant hero, a malevolent villain, and humorous one-liners. I couldn’t wait to see it again. It was pure entertainment. For my money, it is still one of the very best blockbuster films ever made. Nowadays, with CGI and more high-tech special effects, everything seems possible and it takes away from the experience a bit. Of course, there are special effects in “Raiders”, but it’s not so unbelievable here where it removes you from the emotion of the scene. The hat, the whip, the classic gun scene, the snakes….it is all classic Spielberg in one of his finest efforts as a filmmaker. Sadly, the franchise has taken terrible blows in the years that followed (aliens — really??!!) with three sub-par sequels; none even come close to sniffing the boots of the original and I think its writer, Lawrence Kasdan, has a lot to do with that. This one always takes me back to 10 years old and the excitement I felt when I came home that day — the testament to a timeless movie.

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24 Responses to “Films That Defined Us!” Blog Event

  1. mbenzi says:

    I truly enjoyed this blog post and each one of the films you picked has had a major influence within cinematic history. Also I found it interesting that you explored 5 different films from a different genre. These films truly have defined us as individuals keep up the good work.

  2. Heather says:

    All good stuff happening here. Rocky, Indy, The Godfather, AND Clockwork.

    All 100% classics, and owned by me, and I’m not one of those movie fans that owns five hundred movies. I only make purchases that I love intensely enough to watch again and again.

    Really fantastic compilation, that appeals to my personal taste. You rule Peter.

    • Aww, shucks….thanks so much Heather. I had such a crazy wedding weekend so now I get to see everyone else’s posts today. Looking forward to checking out the Mobster site again too. You must check out Annie Hall soon too – I haven’t forgotten….

      • Heather says:

        I haven’t forgotten either. I’m much more prolific about movie watching during the winter months.

        I had weddings and other family stuff this weekend too. I’m having a hard time catching up.

  3. Marc says:

    Rocky (yup as a fellow Italio I can agree with you it’s a given) and Raiders on the same list?? Too much awesomeness…must take a breather. Whew, better:P

    Like what I’m seeing all over everyone’s pages, makes me say “damn, never seen that”…”DAMN never seen that”. You should be happy to know that Manhattan is near the very top of my “to see list” though:P

    Thanks for participating…early bird!!

    • Again Marc – so sorry i posted early. Won’t happen again. But thank you for the very kind comments here. Looking forward to checking out all the other posts today, now that I am back from a crazy weekend….

  4. Olive says:

    Al Pacino and Daniel Day-Lewis are my favourite actors, so I was pretty happy to see The Godfather here:) I’m not a big Indy fan unfortunately, I’m probably the only one!

    • Day-Lewis and Pacino are the two finest actors in cinema. Period. I don’t care for the Indy franchise at all, but I put Raiders here because of the impact it had on me at a young age and it is an excellent, entertaining film for me.

  5. Aiden R says:

    Hell YEAH for Raiders! Planning to do a Rocky marathon when I get back from vacation in September, very much looking forward to it. Solid picks, Peter. You done good, kid.

  6. Pingback: G-S-T Multi Blog-A-Thon: “Films That Defined Us” | GO, SEE, TALK!

  7. rtm says:

    I thought this was to be published tomorrow? Oh well, awesome list anyway, though there is no right or wrong on such a list as you can’t control what movies affected you. I LOVE Raiders, that and the 3rd Indy are my faves, and Godfather, well, those are my twin brothers’ fave so no doubt it’ll end up in the list of a lot of guys.

  8. Jules DelGado says:

    Peter,
    How does raiders define you? Where is your whip? I just don’t get that pick. And Woody again. Enough already. Woody just took out a restraining order on you.

  9. Nora says:

    Love this! Sweet… Indiana Jones- very nice. Unlike most little girls, I sooo wanted to be Indy when I grew up!! HAHA! Not sure if it’s still there, but I also remember Hollywood Studios in Orlando had a live “Raiders” stunt show- giant rolling boulder and all- 25 minutes of pure bliss for any kid, or kid at heart 🙂

  10. Aaron Weiss says:

    Peter, awesome, solid list. Can’t go wrong with any of those films.

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