Seeing so many movies means that sometimes it’s hard to really appreciate any individual film. Just because I loved Movie X doesn’t mean I’ll be thinking about it three months later when I’ve seen Movies Y, Z, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, all of which I also loved. There are some that stick with me long after the credits roll, films I still think about years later despite everything that’s come between, but they aren’t even necessarily the films I want to remember. There are also the films I’m glad I remember, because they made me think or feel in some new or interesting way. Or maybe they were just ludicrously entertaining.
But there’s another category: Films I’m actually thankful for having seen. It’s not just that I liked or loved them (most of these wouldn’t show up on a list of my favorite films), but they stick out as life milestones or, in several cases, movies that have helped me in some measurable way.
All but one of these were seen as part of my duties at Flixist. And in that sense, I have my position here to thank. So: Thank you Flixist, for everything you’ve done for me.
And thanks to these five movies, listed in order of when I saw them.
[Happy Flixgiving, everyone! We’ll be posting these leading up to the actual Thanksgiving. Click here to see all of the films that our writers are thankful for. What are you thankful for?]
I saw Thirst under less than ideal conditions. I was in the back of a car on a 19 hour drive up into the middle of nowhere. I was on an air mattress with a friend, which we rotated out between sleeping and driving. It was the worst part of what would end up being a fantastic trip, but it was made better by the films we watched on the way. First on the agenda was Park Chan-Wook’s Thirst, marking the first time I had ever seen a Korean film. I don’t even think I need to continue. It’s pretty obvious why I’m thankful there. Although other films really pushed me down the path of the righteous, Thirst kicked things off. And for that, I am eternally grateful to it.
Bellflower was the first film I ever saw at a press screening. I had been with Flixist for just over a month, and the initial buzz surrounding the film intrigued me. It took place at the Magno screening room in Times Square, and though I’ve been there many times since, you never forget your first. It doesn’t hurt that Bellflower is one of the most intense films I have ever seen, and it is one of the very few films that have left me literally speechless. The behind the scenes stories also invigorated me as a filmmaker, and the physical danger that director Evan Glodell and co. put themselves in to get the shot blows me away. When it all comes down to it, the audience won’t think about all of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making that shot perfect, but knowing what went down behind the scenes inspires me to this day.
Whenever a Korean native asks me what my favorite Korean film is, I tell them that it’s Sunny. Ask your average American and they’ll probably say Oldboy, because it’s probably the only one they’ve seen. But even those who’ve ventured beyond that probably haven’t seen Sunny. But every single Korean person I’ve mentioned it to has seen the film, and the reaction is always different and always interesting. For example: I’ve been told that I can’t actually understand its broader message because I’m not Korean, and while I don’t know that I agree entirely I do see why that could be true. But it’s a conversation starter in the way a more typical answer never is.
Admittedly, there’s a little bit of “LOOK HOW KNOWLEDGABLE I AM ABOUT KOREAN CINEMA!” in there, but the reality is that Sunny is just a truly incredible film that makes me feel all kind of feelings. And the Director’s Cut is even more powerful, containing the most emotionally charged sequence in the entire film. My review of the film was all sappy and one of the most personal I’ve ever written, and I stand by every word.
Just over two years ago, I was a part of the first ever New York Film Festival Critics Academy, a pretty cool thing run through Indiewire. Part of the reason I was selected was because of my review of Joseph Kahn’s Detention. It’s also one of the first reviews I was really proud of. And it’s something I have built friendships over. I have shown Detention to at least five different groups of people, and doing so in each and every case has taught me something about those people and their worldviews. I’m still flabbergasted by the negative reception that the film received, and I’m pretty sure that every single person who disliked the film is an actively bad person.
True story: It’s actually my favorite movie of all time. That’s not hyperbole. City of God? Psh. Rear Window? Ha! Citizen Kane? As if. Detention is where it’s at. There aren’t a whole lot of people who can say that, and I’m pretty sure that next to none of them are film critics, but that doesn’t change just how brilliant the film is. It’s also a film I vastly underrated when I wrote about it. With each subsequent viewing, it just gets better and better. (And now that it’s available on Netflix, you can see for yourself). An 89 is an extremely high score, but it should have been five points higher.
After my friend broke up with his girlfriend of five years, he came to visit me to take his mind off things. He was still beaten up about it (it wasn’t mutual), so I knew I had to come up with something awesome to show him. Something that could actually take his mind off things. How better to do that than with the “Citizen Kane of time travel Roman bath house movies“?
And you know what? It worked. For the duration of the film (and in the immediate afterwards), he wasn’t thinking about his life; he was thinking about the amazing things he was watching onscreen.
In the past, I’ve done the same thing with Buster Keaton’s The General, but while that film may be the Citizen Kane of Slapstick Civil War Period Pieces, it doesn’t have a bidet bringing a grown man to tears. So Thermae Romae wins.