The Silence of the Lambs
This is my favorite movie. I have seen it more times than any other film, and I will watch it any time it is on. The relationship between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter is one of my favorites in all of cinema. Jodie Foster’s performance in this movie resonated with me so intensely and is a huge reason why I wanted to become an actor.
I was a gigantic Twin Peaks fan and always wanted to love David Lynch’s movies as much as I loved that show. That wasn’t happening for me, but then I watched Mulholland Dr. Naomi Watts’s audition scene blew my mind and broke my heart. The movie tapped into something deep within me, and I was left sobbing in the theater well after the lights came back on.
I watched this movie dozens of times as a kid. I could not get enough of Bill Murray at that kitchen table. I don’t think this movie could be made today. Any movie whose story is even remotely similar becomes a joke. But while Tootsie is very, very funny, it is not a joke. Dustin Hoffman’s commitment to his portrayal of Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels turns something that could have just been silly into a grounded and relatable story about the challenges of being not only an artist but also a human being.
Being John Malkovich
I was obsessed with the video Spike Jonze made for the Björk song “It’s Oh So Quiet.” When I heard he had made a movie, I couldn’t wait to see it. I fell in love with the world he created and all the unusual rules that came with it. I was so on board and wanted to go wherever he and Charlie Kaufman wanted to take me. Watching this movie was the first time I became aware of Catherine Keener (I was slow to discover Walking and Talking). I could not take my eyes off her.
The Ice Storm
Ang Lee is a master at telling the entire history of a relationship in one simple, silent moment. This is an astonishingly beautiful and devastating film. From top to bottom, the performances are stellar.
The Royal Tenenbaums
I was late to the Wes Anderson party. I had no idea what I was going to see when I sat down to watch this movie. It took me a moment to adjust to the humor and style that are Mr. Anderson’s signature. Once I did, I fell in love with the characters and the world they inhabit. Yes, I was late to the party, but I was thrilled to have arrived at all.
This is the first documentary I remember seeing. I watched it with a group of people who were very stoned. I was not, but I didn’t need to be to get sucked into this totally bizarro world. I have seen the movie so many times that parts of it are burned into my brain, and I can’t see an opossum without thinking about it. I wonder about these people all the time. I am very curious to know how many of them are still around.
Guillermo del Toro
I hate fantasy movies. I did not want to see this film. I don’t remember why I ended up seeing it, but it immediately drew me in and left me breathless. Guillermo del Toro has the ability to create magical worlds that are emotionally grounded, and he never shies away from the darkness that exists in both fantasy and reality.
I am a huge Lili Taylor fan. I once weaseled my way onto a movie set just so I could be in one scene with her. She was the reason I initially wanted to see this movie. I have always really loved films that ride the line between comedy and drama (and I really wish there was a better word for them than “dramedy”), and Altman is the king of this hybrid genre. This was also the start of my very deep love and appreciation for Julianne Moore.
The Big Chill
Throughout my life, I’ve carried with me the image of a woman crying in the shower. At various times when I have experienced loss or grief, I think about that woman and find comfort in her image. Not because she is experiencing deep sadness but because I know how she feels, she knows how I feel, and that kind of recognition makes the feelings manageable enough, so they don’t swallow us up. It wasn’t until I rewatched The Big Chill after not seeing it for over twenty years—and after making my own film, The Intervention, which was inspired by the way The Big Chill made me feel—that I realized that the image in my mind was of Glenn Close in this movie. Sometimes a film can become a part of your DNA, and this one definitely has for me.
Matt Dentler’s Top 10
Matt Dentler is the producer of the South by Southwest Film Conference & Festival, in Austin, Texas (sxsw.com), as well as a curator for American distributor Film Movement and Canadian distributor Films We Like. He also hosts the weekly local PBS ser…