Thursday, March 24, 2011

Island Movies

I doubt the situation will ever arise, but sometimes I think about being stranded on a deserted island. If I were, and if, like Robinson Crusoe, I were able to salvage a few comforts (or survival gear...that's necessary, too, I suppose) from the sinking ship, what would I take?

Okay, I normally don't think about it in those terms. I usually use the deserted island scene as a backdrop for me to talk about my favorite things, like, if I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have five books with me, which ones would I choose? That kind of thing.

This past weekend, Abby and I watched the film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest again, which is one of my very favorite movies. While watching it, I remembered the time we saw a college production of this play. Aside from the mispronunciation of Britishisms ("draughts," which should be pronounced like our American "drafts," was pronounced to rhyme with "distraught"--poor form), the play wasn't horrible, though I kept wishing I were watching the movie. Abby thought the actress who played Lady Bracknell did a good job, but I didn't think so. I realized this weekend why. I was comparing her performance to Judy Dench's. Judy Dench! Is there any comparison? The answer is clearly no.

But watching this movie got me thinking: If I were stranded on a deserted island--a deserted island that, for whatever reason, allowed me to watch movies--which five movies would I want with me? Below is my list of "island movies," along with a brief explanation of why I chose it. These aren't necessarily the movies I think are the "best," just the ones I'd want with me. (The best movie I've seen, Life Is Beautiful, I wouldn't want to watch often, maybe even ever again.) Feel free to leave your own list in the comments.
  1. Big Fish. I love this movie. In fact, it's probably my favorite movie. The combination of mythology and truth, along with the great performances and Tim Burton's whimsy (dialed down several notches and before he started putting Johnny Depp in everything), make this one I'd want with me on the island.
  2. The Importance of Being Earnest. You don't get better dialogue than Oscar Wilde, and this movie follows Wilde's play pretty closely (one of the reasons it was hard to watch the fumbling college performance). The film also takes some liberties with juxtapositions that aren't possible in plays to hilarious effect.
  3. Spiderman 2. In my opinion, this is the greatest superhero film of all time. (I say this because The Dark Knight didn't feel like a superhero film.) Why? Because it so accurately captures the source material. It feels like a comic book, and this even without Ang Lee's jarring framing mechanism that he used for Hulk (which, despite this, was one of the worst superhero movies--down there with X-men 3,  Daredevil, and presumably Wolverine, which, thankfully, I've never seen).
  4. Batman: The Movie. Two superhero movies? Is that entirely necessary? Well, this one really isn't a superhero movie. This is camp at its finest, and I don't really tire of watching it. It's full of lines like, "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!" and "They may be drinkers, Robin, but they are still human beings, and they might be salvaged." I'll want something to cheer me up on the island, right?
  5. How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. This is a way to get my music fix on the island, especially if I can't salvage any CDs from the wreckage. It's also a great movie.
Noticeably absent are the Star Wars movies, Lord of the Rings, or most arthouse flicks. Star Wars I've seen a million times and could probably watch on demand in my head (a trait I'm trying to lose before I die), and I'm not always up for the melodrama that is the LotR movies. (That said, LotR does fantasy melodrama better than anything else I've seen because it draws you into the world. It's when you keep an ironic, disdainful distance that you see the melodrama--or when you look at Theoden.) I don't have much of a stomach for arthouse flicks, probably because they rarely feel seamless. (It feels the whole time like the director wants you to know how artsy it is, and it takes the focus off the story in front of you.)

That's it for my picks. Which would you choose?

***EDIT*** I suppose it is the nature of these lists to be constantly in flux. After publishing this, I remembered that one of my very favorite movies, and one that I can and probably would watch over and over again, did not make the list. This needs to be corrected. In place of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying I would like O Brother, Where Art Thou? The soundtrack for this movie is even better than the musical, and it is a darn good movie.


  1. I knew Big Fish would be at the top! I knew it! Mine are going to be numbered, but aren't going to be ranked in importance.

    1. The Life Aquatic / The Royal Tenenbaums - I'm really right on the fence about this one. Both are wonderful films by Wes Anderson that totally touched my heart, especially the spot I was at when I first saw them. At this point in my life, I think Tenenbaums would edge out. Hilarious, touching, and quiet enough to sleep to if I needed it.

    2. Ghostbusters - Although I could easily "watch this one on demand in my head", it just wouldn't feel right leaving this one behind. Some of my earliest cognitive thoughts involve this film, and my family has photographic evidence to support this. How could you get stuck on a desert island without Bill Murray?

    3. Arrested Development - Is it cheating to include a TV series? They take up just as much space, I don't see why there should be any restriction here... To be fair, I could live with only the first season, although the complete series would be nice. I'm convinced that I could watch this show a thousand times in a row, and I'd still be seeing new things and catching jokes I hadn't heard before.

    (running out of steam, and clearly haven't thought this through as much as I hoped...)

    4. The Blues Brothers - This film has so many things that I love... music, dancing, car chases through Daley plaza, nuns, and Carrie Fisher with an RPG. This movie is a celebration of most everything I love about Chicago, and is hilarious! I also have a sweet spot in my heart for Ray Charles, and the scene he's in is one of the fondest memories I have of my father.

    5. The Nightmare Before Christmas - I didn't have an animated film, and I think Nightmare is one of the best. It survives on all fronts - technically excellent animation, top notch music, charming and engaging atmosphere, and because of the incorporation of two major holidays, it can be watched logically anytime between the end of September and mid January. And it's before Tim Burton went on his Johnny Depp kick...

  2. Those are respectable choices, particularly with the explanations. :-)

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I find it interesting that you posted this.. I've been thinking a lot about being stranded on an island (of course, it probably has a lot to do with me watching Lost) & I've thought about the things that I would have actually had on the plane with me due to my OCD packing but haven't fantasized about what I would bring with me if I knew I was going to crash there. As far as movies go, I would have a really hard time selecting them because while I enjoy watching them, I find it difficult to pick just a few favorites. I can name all the other things I would bring though! (books, journal, pens, which clothes I would have packed, shampoo/conditioner/soap, water bottles, etc...)

  4. @Sarah: Lost will do that to you. Picking books is a lot harder for me. There are far too many that I consider necessary. To prepare for my island isolation, I better start memorizing.

  5. Interesting choices. I also love "O Brother, Where Art Thou" (and own the fantastic soundtrack). I like that you included a superhero flick, plus the fact that you explained these are your island picks, not necessarily your "best movies of all time" picks. For me, I'm sure I could agonize over these forever, but here are my gut-level choices: Julie & Julia, Arsenic & Old Lace, Young Frankenstein, Robin Hood (animated), and It's a Wonderful Life.