I’m always hesitant to claim that any movie “changed my life,” but this one actually did. At the time I first saw it, I’d never considered the possibility of telling a story without narrative. It changed the way I thought about all art, and it made me want to be a weirder person.
This Is Spinal Tap
The most influential rock film ever made (A Hard Day’s Night is probably second). It’s more than thirty years old, but it’s still the default reference for every rock group with a sense of humor (even if none of the band members were alive when it was originally released). It somehow has more cultural sticking power than most of the music it satirizes. There’s never been a real documentary about a real band that captures the nature of heavy rock as deftly as this unreal documentary about a fake band.
Kicking and Screaming
Be careful when discussing this film. If it randomly comes up in conversation, do not immediately start lecturing about how insightful it is in unspecific terms, because there’s a high likelihood the other person will think you’re actually referencing that movie where Will Ferrell coaches a soccer team. This will problematize the conversation in an interesting way, and you may be unfavorably compared to Armond White.
House of Games
I dig movies about con men, and I think it’s because I saw this in high school. It was bizarrely educational. I also love the way David Mamet makes characters talk; it is my sincere hope that Criterion eventually gets the rights to Glengarry Glen Ross and The Spanish Prisoner. I offer to write the liner notes for free.
Iron and Wine’s Top 10
Samuel Beam is an American singer-songwriter (and former film studies professor!) better known by the stage name Iron and Wine. His last album was 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog, and a follow-up is in the works.
André Gregory and Wallace Shawn’s Top 10
Theater directors, filmmakers, writers, actors, and longtime friends André Gregory and Wallace Shawn have collaborated on three movies together: My Dinner with André (1981), Vanya on 42nd Street (1994), and A Master Builder (2014).