- Not an actual guarantee, obviously
I've got a friend in Rome. He's a smart guy, funny, very well-read. But there's a problem. A big problem. Are you sitting down? He has not seen The Goonies.
I know, it's totally fucked, right?!
In fact, he hasn't seen a lot of movies. I think he was raised Amish or something. Whenever I catch myself saying "Did you see that movie…?" I remember who I'm talking to and say "Of course you didn't. You haven't even seen The Goonies." I don't know why, but the fact he hasn't seen The Goonies really bothers me. I guess it's because I love that movie to a ridiculous degree. That and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. When I was 10 or 11, I would get up extra-early before school, just so I could watch one of those movies. I did this every day for more than a year. I can't explain it. OCD or autism, maybe. I dunno. Either way, the idea that someone hasn't seen The Goonies just stikes me as ridiculous because that, to me, is an essential movie. I will say right now, on a stack of bibles, this movie made me a better person.
So, here are the movies that I can say will make you a better person.
There Will Be Blood
Let's start with some hyperbole. There Will Be Blood is, by a long way, the best film I have seen in the past ten years. It's the kind of film that, when I think about it, I realise how glad I was to have been able to see this film in the cinema, in the same way as I'm so incredibly bummed that I wasn't born to see Apocalypse Now when it came out first. It's a huge, virtuoso film, and the fact that the filmmakers managed to contain it perfectly still shocks me. In short, it's the 2001: A Space Odyssey of our generation. Yeah, I went there. If you haven't seen it already, you should stop reading the rest of this article and just go watch it. Right now. There, was that enough hyperbole for you?
I feel sorry for The Fountain. Stuck in development hell for ages, finally limping out of the gate a couple of years later with a quarter of its original budget. It got completely overlooked. I saw it as part of the Dublin International Film Festival, and the cinema was maybe half-full. After the film, most people went home grumbling about it being a load of old bollocks. Except it's better than most people give it credit for. It was clearly a labour of love for Aronofsky. A deeply personal film about appreciating the moment instead of worrying about the future. What could have been a throw-away piece of cheap sentiment (not that I'm against cheap sentiment) suddenly blossoms into one of the most striking and moving films about mortality that you'll be likely to see.
Evil Dead 2
Rob: Let's just say that I hadn't seen it and I said to you, "I haven't seen Evil Dead II yet", what would you think?
Barry: I'd think that you're a cinematic idiot and I'd feel sorry for you.
Yes, I know I already wrote about this back in 2005 and I probably sound like a broken record, but it's still breathtaking. I said at the time that it was the most extraordinary movie I've ever seen and one of the most beautiful films ever made. And I stand by that (even if the rest of my writing then was more than a little up my own hole).
Big Trouble in Little China
This might not be John Carpenter's greatest movie. It might not even be John Carpenter's greatest movie with Kurt Russell. It's an absurd, over-the-top romp through Carpenter's id. All flashy neon and high-flying stunts. But it knows how ridiculous it is. It enjoys the juxtaposition of "a reasonable guy" experiencing "unreasonable things". In other words, it's trying to say: don't take things too seriously. Or, as Jack Burton says, "Like I told my last wife, I says, 'Honey, I never drive faster than I can see. Besides that, it's all in the reflexes.'"