Baseball Toaster Screen Jam
2006-12-19 21:35
by Jon Weisman

The movies that changed my life are generally the movies that made me want to write movies, and subsequently, the movies I wanted to emulate.

Aside from those, there are the movies that made me depressed or exutlant, that changed my life in the short-term before I regressed to the getting-through-the-day mean.

But no movie has actually made me give up writing to do something more tangibly worthwhile. Which is more my fault than that of the movies.

Comments (68)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2006-12-19 21:39:23
1.   Bob Timmermann
Movie that changed my life:

Local hero

Movie that depressed me the most:

Dead Man Walking

Movies that made me cry the most (tie):
Grave of the Fireflies
Joy Luck Club

Don't see the "Joy Luck Club" a month after your mother passes away. Just don't.

2006-12-19 21:40:41
2.   Jon Weisman
The list of movies capable of feeding depression in me is far too long to mention.
2006-12-19 21:42:23
3.   Greg Brock
Most depressing movie: The decade of the 1970's.
2006-12-19 21:42:36
4.   Jon Weisman
I absolutely adore Local Hero, Bob. How did it change your life?
2006-12-19 21:42:49
5.   Greg Brock
Best decade for movies ever, but man, some real killers.
2006-12-19 21:45:03
6.   Steve
2006-12-19 21:45:09
7.   trainwreck
Pather Panchali is probably the most depressing movie I have seen with Grave of the Fireflies second.
2006-12-19 21:45:33
8.   Greg Brock
Shadowlands is a tough one. Man.
2006-12-19 21:46:22
9.   Jon Weisman
6 - Absolutely. 100 percent.
2006-12-19 21:46:59
10.   Greg Brock
Mystic River is as depressing as all get out.
2006-12-19 21:51:32
11.   trainwreck
Kuroi ame (Black Rain) about the after effects of the bombing of Hiroshima is also a very depressing film.
2006-12-19 21:51:35
12.   Bob Timmermann
Local Hero, for some reason, inspired me to travel. To see parts of the world I had never seen. To look for people in different parts of the world whom you didn't expect to see there and find out why they were there.

I know that wasn't the point of the film, but like Peter Riegert's MacIntyre, I fell in love with Scotland and desperately wanted to visit there. And I did back in 1985. I was terrified before I left assuming I would get lost and I would never fit in. But I had a great time.

The movie is also damn funny.

2006-12-19 21:52:34
13.   Marty
Movies that made me sit up and take notice:

~ His Girl Friday.
I never knew "old movies" could be so good.

~ Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Bogie really WAS a good actor

~ Singin in the Rain
I could watch this movie daily. And TCM almost gives me the opportunity.

~ Hud, Hombre and The Hustler
Newman's "H" movies. Showed how really good he was.

~ The French Connection
My first car chase (I didn't see Bullitt until after this one).

~ The Wild Bunch
Made me appreciate Bill Holden.

~ Young Frankenstein
My favorite comedy. Gene Hackman and Kenneth Mars stand out.

~ The Godfather II
"Michael, we're bigger than US Steel"

~ Apocalypse Now
I saw this on openening day at the Cinerama Dome. The credits were in a booklet in the lobby. One of the few times a highly-anticipated movie came through for me.

~ Blue Velvet
Wow, what a trip.

~ Blood Simple
Introduction to the Coen Bros.

~ Miller's Crossing
My favorite Gangster film.

~ Boogie Nights
I was blown away. The Donut store robbery scene was tremendous

I'm sure there are more that I'm forgetting at the moment.

2006-12-19 21:54:12
14.   Marty
I just remember another one. House of Sand and Fog really affected me.
2006-12-19 21:54:42
15.   Greg Brock
In terms of inspiration, I was very young, and I didn't know people could make movies like Brazil.

It blew me away. I love many more movies, but nothing made me take screen writing classes and explore the visual elements of moviemaking like Brazil did.

2006-12-19 21:55:31
16.   Bob Timmermann
I liked the fact in Brazil that all the bad guys had names that ended with a double n.
2006-12-19 21:57:33
17.   Greg Brock
I should add that seeing Chinatown told me I would never be a great writer. One of my top ten all time, but very DE-inspirational.
2006-12-19 21:57:40
18.   Andrew Shimmin
I gave up sniffing glue because of "Airplane!"

Sorry. I'm an emotional cripple; feelings scare me.

2006-12-19 21:59:45
19.   Jon Weisman
The ultimate "I wish I could have written this but there's no way I ever could" for me was Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.
2006-12-19 22:01:22
20.   Steve
Sorry. I'm an emotional cripple; feelings scare me.

So many possibilities, but I'm feeling the spirit of the season.

2006-12-19 22:09:02
21.   Greg Brock
Requiem for a Dream is very inspiring.

If you want to kill yourself.

2006-12-19 22:13:58
22.   El Lay Dave
21 Better inspiration for that: Harold and Maude.
2006-12-19 22:15:15
23.   trainwreck
Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond) is also a very depressing film.

Gummo is depressing, but in a way that is completely different from the rest of the films I mentioned.

2006-12-19 22:15:29
24.   Steve
Brock, are you the big Hal Ashby fan?
2006-12-19 22:16:01
25.   Jon Weisman
I've seen 60 seconds of Alyson Hannigan in Date Movie now, and that may be close to as depressing a cinematic juxtaposition as you'll find.
2006-12-19 22:16:32
26.   Greg Brock
24 Yeah, that's me.
2006-12-19 22:19:56
27.   El Lay Dave
1 Dead Man Walking is tough, but it did make me seriously reconsider capital punishment and all the arguments for and against, then change my position.

Joy Luck Club made me cry also, and my mother is still with us. The movie also does a pretty good job conveying the authentic Chinese-American tone Tan, Amy presented in her book. (And calling someone "dog fart" is a good translation and authentic Chinese insult!)

2006-12-19 22:22:31
28.   Steve
My wife is a great-niece of his. The wardrobe (armoir? What is that thing?) from Harold and Maude is in her parents' house. Apparently, Jack Nicholson has his oscar.
2006-12-19 22:30:09
29.   Greg Brock
That Hal Ashby isn't talked about with the great directors of second half of the twentieth century is criminal.

I put his decade up against anybody's. And he was the best editor in Hollywood before anybody gave him his shot at directing.

2006-12-19 22:32:26
30.   El Lay Dave
Hal Ashby can rest his laurels on Harold and Maude and Being There, alone IMO. But he doesn't have to.
2006-12-19 22:40:06
31.   Bob Timmermann
But Hal Ashby directed "The Slugger's Wife" and that may be the worst baseball movie to not have William Bendix in it.
2006-12-19 22:41:24
32.   Marty
The Last Detail is probably my favorite Ashby movie.
2006-12-19 22:41:44
33.   Greg Brock
31 His brain was addled by then. He was a done deal by the early 80's.
2006-12-19 22:44:32
34.   Steve
He was the black sheep of the family, but was not out of contact with them -- my mother-in-law went to the Oscars one year, etc. Makes for some fun conversation when it comes up.
2006-12-19 22:46:11
35.   El Lay Dave
31 Bah, what does Neil Simon know about baseball? On the plus side, the cinematographer had a couple of cute daughters.
2006-12-19 22:52:29
36.   El Lay Dave
P.S. I didn't even know that Greg Brock was a big Hal Ashby fan. How fortuitous.
2006-12-19 23:14:33
37.   Eric Enders
First of all, let's get this out of the way: I despise the Big Chill like I despise no other movie. And not just because it's a rip-off of John Sayles. I found it to be the most poorly written, poorly shot piece of nonsense I'd ever seen, this side of the odd Robin Williams flick.

[steps down from soapbox]

There, I feel better now. Much as I love movies, I'm not sure if I can say any movie has ever genuinely changed my life in any meaningful way. Although I do think seeing Se7en perhaps set me on the road to being the cynical person I am today. I now require most of my art, whether it be books, music, film, or visual art, to be relentlessly downbeat and depressing.

Then whenever I go off too far in that direction, I watch Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Waking Life made me think about life in different ways, but again, I'm not sure that it actually changed anything.

Se7en did affect me to such a degree that I was just really ticked off for days afterward, in addition to feeling physically ill.

2006-12-19 23:17:02
38.   Marty
Eric, I like the cut of your jib :)
2006-12-19 23:22:59
39.   Jon Weisman
37 - I gotta disagree. I know some people don't like Big Chill, but it's nowhere as bad you suggest - and nowhere near as bad as the egotistical ramblings of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, both of which are practically unwatchable. Believe me, I'm a sucker for introspection, but I don't know if there have been too many characters in serious movies as downright dull and insipid as Ethan Hawke's. The fact that Julie Delpy could find his personality attractive just added to the carnage.
2006-12-19 23:30:25
40.   Eric Enders
Point taken, but hey, it makes all us dull and insipid guys think we have a chance with Julie Delpy.
2006-12-19 23:34:11
41.   Jon Weisman
But see, I know you're not dull and insipid - that's what makes those movies so frustrating.
2006-12-20 07:53:44
42.   Benaiah
39 - I have never disagreed with you so strongly as this moment. Before Sunrise is a very solid movie and Before Sunset completely blows it out of the water. I was genuinely sad when it ended because I just wanted more time to be around them. The ending where Ethan Hawke is just sitting on the couch watching her and she says: "You're gonna miss that plane, baby" Amazing. Easily one of my five favorite movies ever.

Egotistical ramblings? It is two people talking. I don't see how you can call it egotistical (though certainly rambling). As for Ethan Hawke, he is good looking, funny and ballsy enough to ask a girl he just met to hang out with him all night. That combo will take you pretty far in life.

PS recently hosted a movie quiz and one of the questions was: "What is your favorite Hal Ashby movie." I said Being There, though I love Harold & Maude.

2006-12-20 08:02:32
43.   Benaiah
42 - By funny, I mean she thinks he is funny anyway. Obviously you disagree, and I am not much of Hawke fan either, though I am a HUGE Delpy fan so it balances out. He is certainly tolerable in those movies though.
2006-12-20 09:15:59
44.   Jon Weisman
41 - It's egotistical in the sense of the amount of time they force us to spend on one conversation (playing into this is how the movie was constructed, with Hawke and Delpy injecting so much into it themselves). They think that a movie needs nothing more than their near-stream-of-consciousness ramblings to be interesting. I've had conversations like they had - most of us have - but I seriously doubt Hawke and Delpy would pay any attention.

Their observations are so nondescript, yet they're delivered with such deep meaning. I understand the concept of feeling that the love of your life might have gotten away, but the boo-hooing these two did was more than even I could take.

These two struck me as among the shallowest so-called deep thinkers around. I got no feeling that Hawke had any appreciation for the many things that did go right for him, and therefore I couldn't buy into his angst. I get the sense that if Julie and he had gotten together, they would have found something to have moan about within a few years anyway.

Maybe it's there and I've forgotten, but I don't have the sense that these two people really looked within themselves to see what was going on - they just looked at what was happening to them and were victims.

Overall, it was just one very long, tedious conversation. I couldn't wait to get away from them.

I do hate to rag on someone's top-five movie, because it depresses me when someone does it to me. Rest assured, it happens.

2006-12-20 10:32:30
45.   Benaiah
44 - I disagree with the assertion that it is egotistical to focus on one conversation, because that is the movie. It isn't just a device, it is inextricable. I have heard people say they didn't like Momento because it was backwards. Neither movie can exist without their structure. I can understand simply not liking the experience of watching one conversation, but is it egotistical to try and make a movie like that? You say they force you to spend so much time on one conversation, but that is absurd. If you had seen the first movie, then you knew what you were in for and obviously no one made you watch the movie. Furthermore, it isn't so much time, the movie checks in at a brisk 80 minutes.

It is besides the point that you have had conversations like the one in the movie and no one took interest in them. What you are really saying is you aren't taking interest in this conversation and so other people won't enjoy paying attention to your conversations. This is a movie celebrating those conversations and obviously many people enjoyed this movie, so the fact that we have all had that particular experience only makes the movie more enjoyable (for me anyway). I have done many things that are in movies, but it only means that movies are an attempt to show life, not just some way to escape to places we can never visit.

The other stuff isn't debatable, you didn't like the characters, I did. I didn't get the smallest scent of someone who was simply a whiner. I loved how the movie had a plot even though it was "just" a conversation. They begin by awkwardly talking and lying to one another (Delpy especially), then revealing more and more of themselves and finally quiet for the first time as they walk up the stairs towards her house. Once inside the house there is the sweet scene where Delpy plays the guitar and there is this sense that both of them are home and by the time the movie ends (avoiding a kiss or sex somehow) the audience (me anyway) was totally in the moment. I went back and watched the last scene again immediately. I felt like I had fallen in love over the course of the movie.

Anyway, I don't take offense. Another one of my five favorite movies, The Big Lebowski, is one of those movies that many people just hate. Meanwhile, I think it is the funniest movie of all time and I can get endless enjoyment just quoting it. Different strokes and all that. I love the site, and I generally agree with your tastes (especially in baseball), though often for different reasons.

2006-12-20 10:41:26
46.   Greg Brock
If I have to sit and watch two people talk all movie, it's going to be "My Dinner with Andre."
2006-12-20 10:53:10
47.   Bob Timmermann
Do you have the "My Dinner with Andre" action figures set?
2006-12-20 11:23:01
48.   Greg Brock
No, but I do have my Wallace Shawn bobblehead.
2006-12-20 11:26:17
49.   Voxter
45 - See, I don't hate "The Big Lebowski". I just don't understand why other people love it so much. I've had a couple of friends who acted like the secrets of the universe were locked inside there, and as far as I can tell, it's just kind of a fun but not very profound movie, and about the fifth-best Cohen brothers venture all told.

For me, it's definitely "The English Patient". I loved the movie, sure, but what it really is that it's the movie I took my first real girlfriend to on our first date. It was the start of something truly big in my life.

Also, I'd say "Casablanca", cos my friend Keenan & I used to watch it every weekend at least once. Sometimes we'd divvy up all the lines and say them along with the characters. That usually became a little awkward in the Bergman-Bogart scenes, but we pushed through it.

2006-12-20 11:29:15
50.   Jon Weisman
47 - It's with my Remains of the Day lunchbox.

45 - My point is that it was egotistical for them to think that their particular conversation was worthy of this treatment, not that they didn't have the right to construct a movie that way. By all means, do a conversation movie - but give me more interesting characters. Hawke's a published author, married, a father (I think) - it's not as if I couldn't relate. But his character doesn't go any deeper than just wanting more.

This line: "What you are really saying is you aren't taking interest in this conversation and so other people won't enjoy paying attention to your conversations" isn't what I'm saying at all. It's not a cause-effect thing. I'm saying that the journey you describe isn't really much of a journey to me. I'm not impressed that by a movie about star-crossed lovers that requires its entire length just to get them to be honest with each other.

I saw the first movie, thought it was mediocre, heard people saying the second one was better, but I found it to be worse. When I say they "force" us to spend time watching one conversation, I think it should be pretty clear I don't mean that literally. Obviously, I could have turned it off. But I kept waiting for a payoff - one that never came for me. (And time isn't a factor - a movie can be as long as it wants if it can justify the length.)

Hawke's character was just the height of pretentious. All kinds of postured suffering, but no growth.

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2006-12-20 11:32:43
51.   Jon Weisman
49 - The thing I've found with Coen Bros. movies is that they often get better with subsequent watchings. Only Raising Arizona and Fargo knocked me out the first time I saw them, but Hudsucker, for example, just gets better with every viewing. I only saw The Big once, which might be why I'm less enthusiastic about it.

I hated The English Patient.

But with Casablanca No. 1A, my No. 1 movie is The Misfits - and I've been taken to task for that more times than I can count. I've gotten my wife and best friends to try to watch it and they can barely sit through it. And to me, that movie has absolutely everything.

2006-12-20 11:42:38
52.   Greg Brock
I liked The Big Lebowski the first time I saw it. Liked it. Then I watched it again. And again. And again. If you've only seen it once, watch it again (I implore you, oh Philosopher King). There is so much going on, from the subtle performances to the little lines of dialogue you miss, or initially perceive as completely innocuous.

You're dead on about Coen flicks. They all demand repeat viewings.

2006-12-20 11:43:43
53.   Benaiah
49 - I don't think there is anything in The Big Lebowski, it is just amazingly funny. The movie's plot and points are fairly vapid and scattered. I would put it 4th in the "best" Coen Brothers movies (we were talking favorites) behind Fargo, Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing, but ahead of Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Man who Wasn't There et al.

Casablanca, is the perfect studio movie and I could watch it (especially the first half) once a week.

50 - I don't think it is supposed to be a movie where you relate to Hawke on the level of job, status ect. If so, then I wouldn't be able to relate at all. As for not being impressed, I don't know if I was impressed, I was caught up. It wasn't a movie that changed my life, it was a movie that I felt very deeply (I would point to You Can Count on Me as a similar movie).

Obviously we just have to agree to disagree about the quality of the conversation and the build up. The fact that they were ultimately honest with each other was moving to me because under the circumstances it made sense not to be honest. He is leaving, they only have a short time together. Why unburden your heart to one another? The build up of their feeling towards the ending where they show each other how they feel. That was powerful to me, obviously not to you.

Anyway, no biggie. If you spent part (or all) of the movie not liking one of the characters then you were in a different place than where I was. That isn't an indictment on you (if anything it is probably painting me as over sentimental weeper), that is just how it went.

2006-12-20 11:44:58
54.   MadMonk
42: Yes, a very good ending. I love the unfolding of the scene.

50: Agreed that Hawke's character was dull but Julie Delpy kept the movie going and Hawke was tolerable in the two movies, particularly in Before Sunset. I like the second one better.

Movie that affects me early: Chinatown. I didn't understand English very well when I first saw it and still thought it was a very good movie. A few years later, it became great as I understood English and the plot better.

Being There and Local Hero was also very good finds for me. A Woman Under the Influence was one of the first very powerful movie that I saw and understood. It got me rather blue for days afterward.

2006-12-20 11:48:59
55.   MadMonk
The Big Lebowski is very enjoyable but my favorite is stil Raising Arizona, with Fargo a close second. Hudsucker Proxy has gotten better everytime I watched it, the same thing can't be said of Barton Fink. I think I just don't get Barton Fink.
2006-12-20 11:52:33
56.   Voxter
51 - I have seen "Lebowski" so many times I probably couldn't count them on my fingers, which makes me sad. Not because it's a bad movie, but because there are other, better movies I wish I'd seen more often, if I was going to re-watch something. I have had a similar experience to you with other Coen brothers things, including "O Brother Where Art Thou?", which I initially thought was kind of funny but not that great, and "The Hudsucker Proxy", which I absolutely hated the first time I saw it, but eventually got to like.

I've noticed there is a substantial minority of people who really, really didn't like "The English Patient" for one reason or another, but I really love it, and not just because of the personal history I have with it. I thought it was an amazing marriage of huge, epic story elements with small-scale detail -- so many movies that long, that cover such huge topics, become impersonal or overly grand, and "The English Patient" didn't, at least to me. But there are a lot of reasons why a person might not like the movie. I've had a lot of people tell me all about them.

As far as "The Misfits" goes, it's been years since I've seen it, but off the top of my head I'd rank it well behind several other Huston movies, including but not restricted to "The Maltese Falcon", "Key Largo" and "The Treasure of Sierra Madre". That said, it's been at least five years since I've seen any of those movies, so I reserve the right to change my mind.

2006-12-20 11:53:32
57.   Jon Weisman
53 - "He is leaving, they only have a short time together." Exactly why they have little reason to hold back.

But I'm fine with agreeing to disagree. I loved You Can Count on Me.

2006-12-20 11:57:48
58.   Voxter
Oh yeah, and then I read the book of "The English Patient" (and every other word Michael Ondaatje ever wrote) and thought, "Hey, this is the kind of book I want to write." So that was important, also.
2006-12-20 12:07:09
59.   Bob Timmermann
"The English Patient" has made me dislike every film with Kristin Scott-Thomas in it since.
2006-12-20 12:07:38
60.   Benaiah
57 - Definitely the best Culkin brother performance.
2006-12-20 12:09:20
61.   Voxter
59 - I thought "Four Weddings & a Funeral" was going to do that to me, and then I saw "The English Patient". Of course, I can't remember if I've seen her in anything else since then, so who knows.
2006-12-20 12:26:02
62.   Benaiah
Not the final word or anything, but I think that Walter Chaw's review here is pretty close to what I felt.

2006-12-20 12:26:56
63.   Bob Timmermann
She was not bad in "Gosford Park", but I wouldn't see "The Horse Whisperer" or "Random Hearts".
2006-12-20 12:38:57
64.   Voxter
Was she in "Gosford Park"? I had forgotten. Mostly I remember Clive Owen and (especially) Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry is awesome.
2006-12-20 12:51:19
65.   Bob Timmermann
She played Michael Gambon's wife in the film.
2006-12-20 12:58:31
66.   Greg Brock
I saw Gosford Park in a theater with my girlfriend and 75 septuagenarians.

Awesome movie

2006-12-22 15:06:40
67.   dan reines
"Before Sunset" was one of only two movies I've ever walked out on. My wife and I went just before our second kid was born. About an hour in, we decided that, given our situation, there were a WHOLE lotta ways we could better use our precious babysitting time than to watch those two dopes pine for lost opportunities.

Oh, and I too hated "The English Patient." Much prefered the Seinfeld take on it. (I didn't walk out on it, though I may have napped.)

Also? "Crash." [channeling David Alan Grier in the "Men on Film" sketches,] Haated it!

2006-12-30 21:56:03
68.   overkill94
Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are definitely polarizing movies, though I fall more in the middle than Jon and Beneiah do. I thought Sunset was superior to Sunrise due to the confidence the characters showed compared to the youthful exuberance of their earlier encounter. I absolutely loved the ending scene of Sunset, I don't think they could have ended the movie any better. Plus, the whole concept of star-crossed lovers is one that always tugs at my heart strings.

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