Flixist has been around since 2010, but for many regular Destructoid readers you’re just getting to know us. We’re glad you seem to like us, but… do you really know us? We’ve had a bunch of new writers (some drawn straight from the community) come on board and share their own weird, bizarre sense of style and self with the internet. Long story short, there are a lot of new faces popping up, and we’ve decided to finally come out of our caves and share with you all a little about ourselves!
Waaaaaay back in 2010, our fearless leader published a post about the 15 movies you need to see to understand Flixist. Essentially, that list took a hard look at what kind of movies Matt and Tom thought were important and helped inform the site as a whole. It was a sort of “get to know you” kind of post. So we’re going to bring that back with a twist. Each writer on staff has chosen one movie that really exemplifies why they write about movies. What they look for in a movie, a movie that fascinates them, a movie that might be flaming hot garbage but still holds a sentimental place in their heart, or just a god-awful movie that encouraged them to spread the word why no one should ever see that movie for their own safety. Bottom line, we have movies that made us want to write about movies, and we want to share them with you.
Most of these movies are not our favorite movies. Hell, a few of the movies below might not even be good. But these are movies that we feel can communicate who we are as people and what we specifically bring to Flixist. If there’s a movie on here that you haven’t seen before, give it a watch. If you’ve seen all of these movies, then you completely understand all of us and we can be best friends and hang out all the time and you’ll never leave me! Congratulations?
La La Land (Jesse Lab)
Back in my Senior year of college, I was going around left and right telling people about just how good La La Land was. I was a theatre major at the time and wanted all of my theatre friends to watch it so we could all geek out over how good it was. But then after all of my close theatre friends saw it, they were actually against it and thought that it was trash. They thought that it was inferior to stage musicals and how people sang and danced live on stage every night, so the impact of the film was lessened. Also, one friend said that the white savior narrative was revolting and people of color needed more representation. This was also a friend who said that the characters in Whiplash were too selfish and that the lack of women made Whiplash a bad movie, but I digress.
When I went back to watch La La Land, it was everything that I looked for in a movie musical. It had an excellent soundtrack, bright visuals, charming characters, some laughs, some tears, and an ending that hits you right in the soul. All of these are fine on their own, but together they make La La Land into a movie that just feels good to watch. Musicals are meant to tell a story through music or to convey a mood through lyrics, and La La Land excels at that. It directly engages with the dreamer in all of us and makes us wish for those big and grand stories that can only exist in movies. La La Land isn’t just a love letter to classic 1950’s movie musicals, but a love letter to movies in general. I think it’s an absolute blast, and essential to understanding just how powerful movies can be.
The Holy Mountain (Hubert Vigilla)
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain contains some of the strangest psychedelic/fever dream imagery I’ve ever seen. A group of fascists carry flayed lambs as vulgar crucifixes down the street as part of a military parade. A Christ-like figure screams while surrounded by dozens of paper mâché facsimiles of the Messiah. A woman brings a robot to orgasm with a 4-foot dildo, resulting in the birth of a crying baby robot. An old man with half a beard forcefully lactates onto a supplicant; also, the old man’s milk-gushing breast is the head of a jaguar. (The Aristocrats!)
Jodorowsky is a madman, maybe also a kind of cinematic conman, but he buys into his own alchemical hokum so much that I admire his brazenly absurd confidence as a filmmaker. (Not so much him as a person. I often wrestle with the way artists fall short of the feelings their art can engender.) Jodorowsky’s classic films have such an odd power because of the bizarre imagination on display. While Santa Sangre is still my favorite of his movies and El Topo is his most famous, The Holy Mountain is Jodorowsky unbound.
The movies I love are ones that give me something I haven’t seen before, or that make me feel something deeply. They might be midnight movies or cult films (e.g., Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession), but they don’t have to be. I love a bleak and soul-draining foreign arthouse drama (e.g., Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies), or a comedy that does its own thing so well (e.g., Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap), or a documentary that reveals the beauty of the form (e.g., Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell), or an action movie with incredible set pieces (e.g., John Woo’s Hard Boiled). I want movies to move me and stick with me, that leave me a little bit different having watched them. Not every movie can do that, and it’s unrealistic to expect that all art and entertainment can be so life-changing. But gosh, what a joy when you encounter something that makes you feel stranger, more humane, and more alive.
Dumb and Dumber (Nick Hershey)
I know, I know. There are literally hundreds of movies with more artistic beauty and creative directorship that have left a meteoric impact in the cinematic landscape. However, in its own right, the Farrelly brothers created one of the great comedies of all time that starts because of a simple misunderstanding between two of the most dimwitted friends ever to grace the big screen. It’s the first PG-13 movie I can remember seeing, and though I didn’t understand all the nuanced jokes and one-liners at the time, the available slapstick humor certainly caught my eye. Not to mention the famous suits that still get play at some random high school proms every year.
As I got older the movie stayed with me. I’ve watched it uncountable times, gaining an understanding of the quips and references that come with repeated viewings and a wider base of knowledge. The incredibly quotable film was a gateway to a handful of friendships that took shape during those awkward middle school years (and high school years, and college years). Finding common ground in movies provides a sense of kinship and opens doors to other discussions and other commonalities. Regardless of the failed attempts at a prequel and sequel, the original remains a personal favorite because it has stuck with me in a way few other movies have, even two decades after its release.
The Greasy Strangler (Kyle Yadlosky)
I’m sure a lot of us are going to mention a movie feeling like it was made for us, but The Greasy Strangler is such a smorgasbord of disgust and discomfort that it feels like Jim Hosking drilled a hole through my skull, planted a hose in my brain, then gave the business end a suck before sticking it in his ear, so that he could siphon all the septic waste I love best into his imagination. And god bless him for it.
We have disgusting bodies, vomit, blood, eyeballs popping out of heads, bright-red disco dick, gross food, and so, so, so much grease. All of this is wrapped around bizarre performances, a barrage of quotable lines, and an absolutely dope soundtrack. It can be funny, shocking, and depressing all at once. There is certainly no other movie like it.
This movie is why my dad drinks and hates me. I’m sure it can do the same for you.
In Bruges (Drew Stuart)
God I hate waiting, The slow pace of time slowly falling away kills me. But waiting for judgment? Knowing that you’ll be crucified, yet dealing with the banal reality of now while keeping an eye on the clock? The dread of your mistakes tripping your feet and consuming you?
Fuck. That is the worst shit in the world. That is the premise of In Bruges.
Two hitmen are spirited into hiding after one of them screws up a job. One of them is mature enough to make the best of their sordid reality. The other isn’t. Their stay in bruges (heh) is laden with boredom, punctuated with pent-up anger, with just enough action to make it stick. We as the audience see them fleshed out completely and humanized by their coping mechanisms, and their existential dread of punishment from down on high. It’s a marvelous thing how these two are developed.
But it’s all hung on that central theme of dread. That gives this story some real weight. It’s a film that explores every aspect of being human, humor, anger, philosophy, morality, and so much more. It’s a brilliant film presented with a wink and a smile before rupturing its belly and spilling its crude, violent, distinctly human contents on your shoes. It’s absolutely amazing. The excellent wit and humor that exists alongside the characters and the ostensibly serious tone are my jam; there’s no better movie to watch if you want to know where I’m coming from.
No Country for Old Men (Anthony Marzano)
I went back and forth with my response to this question between No Country for Old Men and Synecdoche, New York. Both movies are excellent in their own right and truth be told saying that a movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture is the movie that defines me goes against every hipster bone in my body but I really can’t think of any other movie I’d want to represent me. It’s just so perfectly made for me.
No Country for Old Men tells the tale of three men in a transitory time in West Texas, and the webs that run between them. Llewellyn Moss (John Brolin) is a lower class welder who comes across a satchel of money at a drug deal gone bad and takes it for himself, Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is the sheriff assigned to figure out what went wrong at the drug deal, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is the assassin sent to clean up every loose end tied to the deal gone bad. What follows is a subdued cat and mouse game with quick flashes of violence that are reminiscent of the classic spaghetti westerns.
To say that the story is what defines me would be trite, it’s the deeper meaning to everything and the metaphysical elements that appear in real life that really push this ahead of any other movie for me. What little dialogue that is in the movie is reserved for philosophical conversations between characters about things such as fate, the endless flow of time, and the angst of being left behind by that same flow. The Coen’s had been working these types of dialogue choices into their movies for years but now they are given the words of the prophet McCarthy and they run with it perfectly.
It also helps that the movie actively spites and taunts the viewer through unanswered questions, shocking deaths, and overall a general denial of closure. I’ve always hated the notion that directors and writers should try to please the viewer. With so many movies that end on a happy note, we need more that end with a giant middle finger to the audience and No Country for Old Men does that perfectly.
Aesthetically the movie is also made just for me. Long wide camera angle shots of the West Texas landscape with all the colors you’d imagine that sky would hold are present throughout the entire movie. The score like everything else in the movie is subdued as well which to some people might seem bad but at times I’ve felt that scores can overtake a movie and hijack your emotions which yes that’s what it is supposed to do but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. No Country uses only an ambient score and therefore lets you sink into the horrors of the world presented before you, creating a deeply personal and introspective experience.
What you get when you add all of these together is a portrait of me presented in film form. Was I morphed by my viewing of it to become the person I am today or was I always destined to find it because it’s who I was all along? Does that really matter? Does this make me one of the titular Old Men? Probably, but my friends don’t call me Old Manthony for no reason.
Battleship Potemkin (Matthew Razak)
Having been here since the beginning, and written the aforementioned “15 movies” post, and a “Movies That Changed Us” post on Evil Dead 2 I was in a bit of a pickle for generating some new content here so I’m going all out film student. If you’ve taken any film course ever you’ve probably seen Battleship Potemkin, the seminal (all his work is seminal, really) work from Soviet Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, who helped to invent montage, film editing, and pretty much modern filmmaking in general. For the time it was released it was an experimental propaganda film that stunned audiences with not only its violence but also its ability to create tension.
Obviously, it’s important to the history of film. Without Eisensteing we wouldn’t have sports training montages, and where would our society be then? But for me, it was the first time I understood film as an evolving art form, not a static medium. The idea that montage had just not been a thing before this was striking for me. It made me look at movies from a new perspective beyond the obvious, and made me understand that the form is always changing. For me seeing Battleship Potemkin was a seismic shift in how to view movies, and not just art films and old classics. I started watching action movies for how their editing and direction had changed over the years — e.g. the influx of Hong Kong kung fu films changing quick cuts in fight sequences (well, for good action directors).
Just think about this: someone had to invent editing for impact. The idea that you could stitch separate scenes and shots together to skip time and build ideas visually was at one point a theory of film, not a fact. The stair scene is probably the most well-known example of this (recreated wonderfully in The Untouchables), but the part that always struck me was an edit of some statues of lions. The first shot is a statue of a lion and rest, then there are gunshots, and a cut to a statue of a lion statue alert. It’s a super simple bit of montage, but it was revolutionary at the time. Film history comes alive.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Chris Compendio)
Listen, I loves me some Paul Thomas Anderson, I’m all over the Coen brothers, and I’d love to have Quentin Tarantino movies injected into my bloodstream—but sometimes, I just want to watch people beat the living shit out each other. And while there are plenty of these wonderful things that we call “moving pictures,” there is something so tight, efficient and enjoyable about what Anthony and Joe Russo do with their first Marvel Cinematic Universe contribution.
Coming from a screenwriting background, and being an absolute nerd, The Winter Soldier feels like it was specifically engineered for me. The screenplay from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely isn’t particularly unique—a lot of plot elements and specific camera shots (not to mention the blatant casting of Robert Redford to pay homage to Three Days of the Condor) are in reference to political thrillers of olden times—but it succeeds in the Russos’ goal to make this movie “Honest Trailer-proof.” It’s a movie with a clear structure, character motivations and arcs, and themes.
Did I also mention that Cap beats the shit out of people? At this point in time, Joss Whedon turned Steve Rogers into a master gymnast, an underpowered underdog who never gives up and has a stupid-looking costume. From the film’s first action sequence, we see that Steve Rogers is now a living human weapon, and perhaps the most formidable hand-to-hand fighter in the MCU. No CGI-heavy sequence can match the highway confrontation that ends the movie’s second act. The first fight between Steve Rogers and a brainwashed Bucky Barnes is a good demonstration of fighting with purpose, and the film captures the action choreography in a way that makes each hit feel brutal. And did you see Bucky flip that knife? Fucking dope.
I’ve seen way too many movies in my relatively short life, but watching this movie in the theater is such a distinct memory to me, just for the pure, raw emotions that it provoked out of me. After mediocre fare like Thor: The Dark World, to see an MCU film that transformed an established character, that had a gritty feeling unlike its sci-fi World War II predecessor, and that took a risk by leveling the very-important S.H.I.E.L.D. organization, I finally watched something that made me feel.
It’s movies like this that make me want to keep going back to the theater. Few films afterwards have replicated that same satisfaction, to be fairly honest. Inside Out brought me to a manic state, just from its sheer creativity. Mad Max: Fury Road latched on to me and let me go—to this day, if I ever watch a scene of this movie on cable TV or YouTube, I have to give in and watch the movie in its entirety (the most recent occurrence of this was a mere four days ago).
It isn’t the greatest movie in the world, and it probably isn’t even my favorite. But for anyone who has the bravery to even attempt to understand who I am as a person, a viewing of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a required ritual.
Army of Darkness (Rick Lash)
This is my boomstick. The chainsaw-handed man said, dropping his mic and taking his chin for a stroll.
In the vein of trilogy third movies that forgo the necessity of seeing earlier installments, Army of Darkness ranks high, near the top, right after Shark Attack 3. Perhaps the least well-known of the Evil Dead franchise, including The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead 2 (1987), Evil Dead (a 2013 remake), and Ash vs. Evil Dead, the Starz series that just concluded a three-season run. And yet, in my mind, it’s the best. The originals and the remake are horror films, and the Starz series is an attempt to capture what made AOD so great, twenty-plus years after the fact. Mainly, this is Bruce Campbell’s particular blend of character actor bravado that’s nearly surreal in its delivery. AOD creative humor and storytelling is so inherently incongruous and slapstick (and campy horror) in its delivery that it’s hard to believe, let alone understand. And when you see strangeness at age 15, after having been denied the ability to see a movie you found cool based off the cover art alone, it leaves a mark on your psyche.
The hero of the film has time-traveled to medieval Somewhere (unclear where, though it looks more like California than Europe, you know, where you’d find knights). He’s mistaken for a loser, but quickly proves himself a badass who can kill ‘Deadites’ with ease and style. Hail to the king, baby. Or, um, please save us Ash. There’s some weird stuff in here, shot with terrible green screen technology that from one angle looks impressively realistic, and from another is so awfully fake it makes entire audiences cringe and collapse, dead.
Army of Darkness’s one-liners will never die: it’s a veritable treasure trove for the sort of self-serving humor that defines modern society. Spouted from the lips of an individual who’s utterly obsessed with himself and doesn’t really (despite appearances) care about anything other than himself, it’s guaranteed to still bust my guts to this day.
Did this movie shape me? No. Is it my absolute favorite? No. But when I tried to think of a single film to help you better understand me and my highly disagreeable writing on film and television did it immediately and unassailably come to mind? Yes.