Carnival of Souls
Herk Harvey’s ahead-of-its-time 1962 low-budget film would be the template for many horror films to follow. But to call this simply a horror film would not do it justice. It will, however, scare the bejesus out of you!
This film blew me away when I first viewed it, by accident, in a coffeehouse on Melrose prior to its theatrical release. It was playing nonstop in a back room, and I dragged many of my friends back to see it right away. Let’s just say, I related deeply. It’s Linklater’s first and hands-down best.
D. A. Pennebaker
A film I only saw once, but I can say it probably was the biggest influence on my film 1991: TYPB. My favorite scene: Mama Cass on acid watching Hendrix. You can see her mouth go, “Oh, wow.” Indeed.
David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer
I have yet to see the Broadway production, but it warms my heart to know this brilliant documentary from Albert and David Maysles has inspired such a thing. An example of how a personal relationship between the filmmaker(s) and subject can in fact benefit the film itself. Fascinating, funny, and sad.
One of my all-time favorite Altman films, and clearly one of his strangest. I’ve seen it a bunch over the years, and I always see something new in it with each viewing. The idea for this came to Altman in a dream, and it’s fantastic that he took note and crafted this understated, surreal dark comedy from such a place. People just don’t make films like this anymore. Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall are perfect.
Terry Gilliam grows up from his Python days and delivers a knockout, which (like the Orwell that clearly inspired it) was spot-on in predicting the future. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s mostly bleak, and it is Gilliam’s ultimate film. I love that this DVD set has the hack studio edit included (the “Love Conquers All” version that was sadly used for television, in which a happy ending is inserted, therefore changing the meaning of the film). Kind of reminds me of what the Bush administration has done to the media over the last eight years.
The entire John Cassavetes: Five Films set is a great collection/overview of the master of independent cinema, unparalleled badass, brilliant actor and filmmaker JC. Also, I have mad love for Gena Rowlands. How I wish they were my parents.
This Is Spinal Tap
Rock films, or rock bands for that matter, were never looked at quite the same way after this film was released. Rob Reiner, er, Marty DiBergi gets the director credit, but somehow I feel the combined improvisational talent of Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer has an awful lot to do with the sublime content within. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also as painful as any Bergman epic. Such is life.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
This one has grown on me, and I realize it’s one of the better novel-to-film works from the 1960s counterculture. Also notable for the brilliant performances from Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro.
All That Heaven Allows
Technicolor is one of my weaknesses, and Douglas Sirk has a way with ahead-of-its-time drama unlike few others.
Mike Portnoy’s Top 10
Mike Portnoy is one of the founding members of Dream Theater. He is currently the drummer in the Winery Dogs, Twister Sister, Transatlantic, Flying Colors, the Neal Morse Band, and Metal Allegiance.
Jonathan Lethem’s Top 10
Winner of a 2005 MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program genius grant, Jonathan Lethem is one of America's premier contemporary writers. His works include the novels The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn.