I love “the classics”. You know what movies I’m talking about.
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE GODFATHER, STAR WARS, JAWS, TAXI DRIVER, THE THIRD MAN… This list could go on and on. Many movies come out and are forgotten. Others come out and enjoy a moment in the sun before being relegated to “that movie was pretty good!”
And then there are “the classics.”
These are the films that stick with us. You can put one on at anytime and whatever you were planning on doing during those two and a half hours melts away. These movies have everything you could possibly want from cinema. They are the movies you want to show your new girlfriend or boyfriend. The movies you can’t wait to show your kids. The movie that is just waiting for a rainy afternoon so that you can put one on and experience it all over again.
It usually takes decades for us to suss out what a “classic” film is. That’s fair. When a movie comes out it’s hard to tell what it will mean for you ten years down the line. I was certain ten years ago that I would be watching JARHEAD for the rest of my life. I haven’t seen it since and I’m okay with that.
There have been, however, several films that have come out in the last decade that are going to be classics. You can mark my words.
These are going to be all-timers.
ZERO DARK THIRTY – 2012
(dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
This is the movie that Americans have been waiting to watch since 9/11. Kathryn Bigelow follows up her Oscar winning THE HURT LOCKER with a movie that is arguably more deserving of awards love. It is a brutally honest look at how one woman’s mission/obsession brought an evil man to justice for the murder and terror he orchestrated a decade earlier. Jessica Chastain is incredible in the lead role and is surrounded by dozens of actors who support her driven performance with great turns of their own. The sequences involving Jason Clark’s torturer CIA agent are some of the most upsetting in recent memory. It’s astonishing that a movie like this was made so soon after the events unfolded. More astonishing is how perfectly it was crafted.
EDGE OF TOMORROW – 2014
(dir. Doug Liman)
This one came out of nowhere. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt team with journeyman director Doug Liman for an action riff on GROUNDHOGS DAY? There’s no way that is good. Except that it is. It is the perfect distillation of what it is like to play a video game in movie form. The performances are great too, with Cruise at his most endearing and Blunt playing a seminal cinematic bad-ass. The way that Liman stages the repetitive sequences is editing genius and makes a humorous concept evolve into an emotionally stirring one. Very little in the last ten years can match the demented glee that this movie takes in punishing Tom Cruise over and over again until we care and root for his cocky, ass-hole character.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE – 2005
(dir. David Cronenberg)
I’m trying to select movies for this column that have only come out in the last ten years. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE may have just barely made the cut, but it may be the most deserving movie on this list. David Cronenberg made a riveting small town noir about what happens when one of the townspeople has a past as a hired killer. It’s a wonderful meditation on how you don’t know who the people around you actually are and how you can never truly escape your past. Viggo Mortensen solidified himself as one of the greatest actors of our time with this movie. His performance was given ample support by the amazing Mario Bello, Ed Harris, and William Hurt. This is a twisted Cronenberg movies you’re glad he still had left in him.
ENEMY – 2013
(dir. Denis Villeneuve)
Our first “New Classics” piece gave a lot of love to NIGHTCRAWLER, which saw Jake Gyllenhaal at his most depraved and electric. It was a great performance clearly accomplished through hard work. In ENEMY, Gyllenhaal creates two distinctive and naturalistic performances by doing as little as possible. The pair are just as good as Lou Bloom, yet seemingly achieved by going to opposite direction in crafting a character. He plays a man and his doppelganger who, while physically identical, could not be more different. It’s a dark, intelligent, and profoundly weird movie that sold me on the genius of Denis Villeneuve. I’m certain as his star rises this will be revisited and seen as the masterpiece that it is.
HER – 2013
(dir. Spike Jonze)
I could write a book about HER. I enjoyed BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, loved ADAPTATION, and was greatly moved by WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE… But Spike Jonze has outdone himself with HER. It is one of the greatest movies ever made and one of the few that paints the evolution of technology with a heartbreaking complicated humanity. Joaquin Phoenix is at his most likable and vulnerable in this movie. His character becomes enamored with his increasingly intelligent computer operating system in the wake of his divorce and that relationship with artificial intelligence opens him up to fresh start in life. Scarlett Johansson’s vocal work in this film is some of the best ever recorded. Together they weave a sadly sweet romantic dramedy about letting go and starting over.