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Your Top 10 Most Influential Feature Films (fun/non-gear-related)


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With the caveat that any list of influences I make is highly incomplete, and that I try to draw from anything that may be a good reference for a shoot, here's some of my choices.


1. Fight Club

2. Bringing Out the Dead

3. M

4. The Wrestler

5. The Departed

6. Girl Shy (Harold Lloyd is known for his comedy, but the photography and storytelling in this are as close to perfect as I've ever seen)

7. Dodsworth

8. The Terminator

9. Paths of Glory

10. Dark City

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As a child, Batman, Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 were the first movies that made me want to make movies (even though I didn't know what that really required and meant when I was that young). But the first films that motivated me to make a movie were Scream and Halloween. I was way too young to watch them, but, nevertheless, I did, and they changed me. There was something so visceral about the horror in Scream (the satire was lost on me when I was 10) and Halloween was the first time I became aware of the camera, with that great steadicam cinematography (in 4:3 on VHS, no less. seeing it on DVD in widescreen years later was an even bigger revelation). At age 12, I finally made my first movie (on Hi8): a parody of slasher movies. Of course, in high school, the first movie that made me realize I could be a filmmaker was El Mariachi. My Hi8 movies looked like crap, I thought making real movies was too expensive and impossible, so I had thought about just being a novelist, even though my heart was really in film. With that out of the way, the films that really influenced me artistically...


2003-2004 were huge years for me. My sophomore and junior years in high school. Earlier that year (2003), Silence of the Lambs opened my eyes to the possibility of genre. It was technically a horror movie and a detective film in a drama's clothes. I think this was the first really artful film I saw, where I was more aware of the craft: the direction, writing, acting, cinematography, editing. I was aware of all of those things before, but this was the first film where I could see how they all worked together as a whole. And I realized film could be something beautiful, even with ugly subject matter. Speaking of which...


The summer of 2003 was huge. It started with Taxi Driver. That film knocked me out. It didn't have a conventional plot to speak of. It was more episodic. It was crazy. It was gritty. De Niro, whom I had known better for Meet The Parents at that time, was incredible. THAT was acting. His monotone voice-over, his charmingly psychotic smile, his lack of emotion during the graphic shoot-out. And of course, Scorsese. The slow motion, the overhead tracking shot a the end, the heavily processed footage of the streets, from inside of the taxi. It felt surreal. And the script; the things Bickle said in the voice-over really got under my skin.


Later that summer, in one weekend, I saw Rushmore, Ghost World and The Graduate. The Graduate I didn't really appreciate until I was older. I liked it, but it didn't fully click at the time. But , Rushmore was sort of a teenage version of The Graduate. I noticed the influence The Graduate had over Rushmore immediately, but I connected more to Rushmore. I was even the same age as Max Fischer when I watched it. Wes Anderson's filmmaker was so striking and bold. The tracking shots, the sharp, deep-focus widescreen, the colors, the wardrobe, song choices, title cards, curtains with the seasons, just...everything. Much like Taxi Driver, it existed in it's own slightly unreal world.


Ghost World I watched three times in a row, in one sitting. Like Rushmore and The Graduate, it was very melancholy, but also, in my opinion, then and now, the funniest of the three dramadies I watched that weekend. The dialogue was so real and so sharp. The filmmaking was pretty anonymous, but the storytelling, tone and mood were part of a clear vision. It felt so real, and as a teenage boy trying to navigate the secret world of teenage girls, it felt like a real window. I knew girls like Enid and Rebecca. I was surprised that the film was written and directed by men. I also had a huge crush on Enid. Not Thora Birch, but the character of Enid. Ghost World is still my favorite film of all time.


Later that summer, and into the fall, I saw Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown, and Kill Bill Vol. 1, which had just come out in theaters. Tarantino was practically all I thought about for a year. I read everything I could about him. I read all of his screenplays, and obsessively re-watched everything. I was an addict. I wanted to keep re-experiencing the high of watching Tarantino's films for the first time. Much like Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese, the filmmaking was mind-blowing. It was bold, brazen, different. The structure and storytelling choices were unlike anything else I had seen. And that dialogue... I ended up writing a ton of Tarantino-inspired scripts for a year.


2004 included the release of three films that came out in theaters at just the right time: Shaun of the Dead, Kill Bill Vol. 2 and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Of course, the last two were by filmmakers I had just fallen in love with, but Shaun of the Dead came out of left field. I saw it early, in the summer of '04 at comic-con, with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright doing a Q & A after (Greg Noctero, Robert Rodriguez and Ken Foree were in that audience too). All I knew about the film was that it was a British zombie comedy. I hadn't seen a trailer, or knew much else. I hadn't heard of anyone involved with it. I saw it totally blind, and it was like walking down the street and finding a million dollars in cash in a bag. It was special. It was one of the funniest films I had ever seen, but it also had very real human issues and character drama. And of course, it was well-made and gory as hell. Earlier that year I had become obsessed with Romero's Dawn of the Dead, which had become more accessible because of the re-make (Romero wouldn't be a real influence, just an obsession at the time). After the screening, I was using the restroom and Simon Pegg peed in the urinal next to me. It was the closest I came to God at the time. I told everyone I knew they had to see it immediately. I don't really need to say much more about Kill Bill or Life Aquatic, since I said enough about Wes Anderson and Tarantino already. 


Later that year I saw two more important films, the first being A Clockwork Orange. I don't know what else to say about it, other than it was like Taxi Driver all over again. It was one of the most extraordinary films. The opening, with the synth score, the long-zoom-out from Malcolm McDowell as Alex, staring into the camera, immediately put me in a trance that I've never awoken from. That halloween I dressed as Alex. Around close to the same time, a kid name Johnny I knew peripherally, but not well, approached me, wide-eyed, asking me if I had ever heard of Eraserhead. I said I had heard the title, and indeed I had seen the iconic poster image of Jack Nance as Henry Spencer, with the hair sticking straight up, back-lit, with a crazy expression on his face and dust in the background. "You've gotta see it, man." Johnny told me. The next day, he presented a VHS tape to me. The cover art was there, though it was clearly a regular VHS box cut up into a slip cover to fit on a clam shell. I don't think the tape even had a label. It was a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy, with video static at the bottom of the frame that Johnny claimed added to the experience of the film, and indeed it did. That night, I turned off all the lights in my bedroom and watched it alone. It was the first film I had seen that really, truly captured the feel of a nightmare. I thought about the visuals and sound design for several weeks after. I haven't been the same since.


Looking back on my life, those were the films that really had the most profound influence on me.

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These films I hope shape my filmmaking. If I can recreate 1% of what these films are I will be happy.


1. Come and See

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey

3. Wages of Fear

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. After Hours

6. Dodes'ka-den

7. La Dolce Vita

8. The Thing

9. Sansho the Bailiff

10. La Haine


Many of these films are cold, and lonely. They are minimal and beautifully shot. No real heroes in any of these films. Wages of Fear, and Sansho the Bailiff tell great stories, while A Clockwork Orange, Dodes'ka-den and After Hours take us to magical worlds. It's not a definitive list. I love Ace in the Hole, Le Trou, Chungking Express, Grand Illusion, Contempt, In the Mood for Love. Too much stuff that makes wanna create art. Most of it is foreign. IDK why, but foreign films have soul. 


Come and See is just my flat out favorite. No Spielbergesue optimism in this film. I just brutal war that almost plays out like a dream.

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lawrence of arabia (seen it over 100 times)

  • star wars (first trilogy)  
  • Stalker ...tarkofsky...this crazy atmosphere made up with aboslutely nothing, just compressed talent.
  • lost highway (blew my mind, at the time, still does)
  • Three colors -blue.....man what a movie/story/cinematography/acting 
  • once upon a time in the west....respect, every shot a lesson
  • BRICK    only newish movie that impressed me mixing up genres pure originality
  • Rear Window  i cant find one fault in this movie.
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind Vilmos Zsigmond made it happen, cinematography that blows you away, got fired i think on this one and they took him back...
  • i can think of 100s more......
  • the last emperor by bertolluci! my first movie in the cinema i was 7 years old my dad took me! 
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I'm skipping the classics (except one at the bottom), here are newer movies from 2000+ that I thought looked amazing:


The Good Thief (modern noire)

Let the Right One In (minimalist vampire)

Sin Nombre (got face tattoos?)

A Single Man (squeaky clean, my favorite coffee shot)

Valhalla Rising (a new gritty sandal realism)

Senna (rush was a pale imitation)

Everyone Else 

Beyond the Black Rainbow (cool like a cray supercomputer)

More Than Honey (incredible macro photography)

Certified Copy (i still have no idea, but it's incredible)

Blue is the Warmest Color (so many extreme close-ups)


The one "classic" that I would add though is "The Conformist" - directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, because this is out on Blu-Ray now by Arrow Video in the UK, I have successfully converted it to region 1, but if you're in the UK there's no problem:  http://www.amazon.com/Conformist-Dual-Format-Edition-Blu-ray/dp/B005PLP5X6  

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