Written by Joe the Revelator:
With Netflix, online streaming, downloadable content, cable channels, rentals, etc. It was hard to pick out five movies which have influenced my life. I feel like I've become desensitized over the years, so much so that new movies, which would have severely altered my perspective, now register as merely a blip on my radar.
Having said that, let's journey back a decade or so, to a time when movies were bigger.
1) Leon the Professional:
Leon, a Luc Besson film, is a glimpse into the life of the world's most mundane professional hitman. The sheer sociapathy of Leon's day-to-day life is astounding. He drinks cold milk by the gallon, does his morning exercises, waters his plant, silently slaughters a gang of trained killers, and when it's time for bed - sleeps sitting up in a chair facing the door with a pistol in reach.
Most of the movie focuses on Leon's relationship with Matilda, the abused neighbor girl whose drug-dealing father was recently murdered by crooked cops. Leon reluctantly saves her from a similar fate, and in turn learns what it is to trust again.
2) Romeo + Juliet:
It's sad to say I wasn't interested in Shakespeare until I saw this movie in high school. Romeo+Juliet is a modern take on the classic love story. The language is kept the same: All thee's, thou's, hither and thither. But the young and energetic cast is able to convey this tale of woe through rock music and pistols. Romeo+Juliet is artistic, fanciful, and outrageous. And if it wasn't for this film I wouldn't be half as literate as I am now, which is ever lacking.
3) Men of Honor:
This is the story of Carl Brashear, the first African American (and amputee) to make Navy Diver. Let me be clear: this is not a war story. Men of Honor is about personal stuggle and accomplishment, about being held down by convention, and earning the respect of the opposition.
This was a big enough film during it's release in 2000 that I shouldn't have to heap too much praise on it. Suffice it to say, this movie had an impact on my life, and the courtroom scene still gives me chills.
4) The Count of Monte Cristo:
Alexandre Dumas' story is still the best revenge plot ever to be inked onto paper. The movie (2002, not the 1934 version) is an engrossing retelling. The naive, happy-go-lucky Edmond Dantès is fooled by his best friend, framed for treason, has his fiance stolen, and is sent to the Chateau D'lf (island prison) for fourteen years. During his imprisonment he realizes the depth of his betrayal, and is given a strangely rounded education by the mad priest consisting of science, literature, finance, and swordplay.
Alright, I cheated on this challenge. Shogun's a mini-series, not a movie. I was trying to shoe-horn Shogun in somehow, in any form, since it's had the greatest influence on my life. It quite literally became an early model for respect- for self and for others.
Based on the book by James Clavell, Shogun takes place in 1600, when the first English ship to arrive in Japan captain crashes on the shores of a small fishing village. What follows is Captain Blackthorne's ascension among the ranks of the Japanese military forces, and the brilliant rise of the daimyo Toranaga to Shogunate.
I must also warn that Shogun has many adult moments, and doesn't shy away from subjects the reader might feel sensitive about. While at heart Shogun is a look at the xenophobic politics of 1600's Japan, it's also about living with one another, and dealing with each others' faults, brutally violent or lewd.