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Lately I [Carlo] have been browsing Rotten Tomatoes' "Five Favorite Films" series, where actors, directors, and other celebrities discuss the movies that have stayed with them long after the credits stopped rolling. In light of this (and further inspired by Pat, who is currently writing a "theology of film" paper for one of her classes), I thought it might be fun to share my five favorites as well!

NOTE: The five films below haven't been chosen because they're necessarily the best I've seen (otherwise: The Godfather. Where?). Moreover, this list will probably change in a couple years or weeks or tomorrow. Really, the following five are just movies that I flat-out love. Here they are in no particular order (with Pat's short list following):

1. Lost in Translation (2003) –Take one of my favorite actors (Bill Murray), add one of my favorite actresses (Scarlett Johansson), strand them in one of my dream destinations (Tokyo) and you will only begin to understand why I love Lost in Translation. To be sure, Murray’s performance as world-weary actor Bob Harris is melancholic brilliance, but his muted acting epitomizes another factor that makes this film great: namely, that subtlety and understatement, those lost arts of the cinema, leave their fingerprints in every scene and bit of dialogue. This really isn’t just a matter of star power convergence for me. On its own merits, Sofia Coppola’s second directorial effort is an achingly funny, heartbreaking, and beautiful movie.

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) – Here’s another film I love on its own terms—the stylized editing, the sheer geekiness of the premise, Michael Cera doing what Michael Cera does best—but understand also that Scott Pilgrim represents a certain kind of movie for me on this list. I'm thinking of Jared Hess's films (Nacho Libre, Napoleon Dynamite) and their awkward, self-effacing brand of comedy; I'm thinking of old-school Nickelodeon fare (Good Burger) and when it was safer to publicly like a movie irrespective of its Tomatometer score; and I'm thinking of how some flicks don't have to take themselves too seriously in order for us to. The final assessment? Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim is: A) a nerd’s paradise; B) a well-edited mash-up of comic books, video games, music, and cinematic magic; C) unashamed fun; or D) circle this choice because it’s all of the above, and you know that’s the right answer more than half the time.

3. Whiplash (2014) – How far would you push yourself to be the best? And more than that: how far would you push someone else? J.K. Simmons commands every scene in this film about an upstart jazz drummer, a vicious music teacher, and the price of virtuosity. Believe it or not, this was both an easy and difficult movie for me to watch; easy because I'm a drummer, and difficult because I’m a sensitive drummer whose Gary D. Chapman love language is “words of affirmation.” So go figure. Simmons is brutal, I felt beat up by the end (so that’s why they call it Whiplash!), but wouldn’t you know it—I left provoked, inspired, and ready to run this gauntlet again. This is visceral cinema for the ages. P.S. The twist ending’s a doozy.

4. Jaws (1975) – Hear ye, hear ye, storytellers, and let the granddaddy of summer popcorn movies speak. In order for this sort of thriller to work, you need interesting characters that we care about. Police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) is aquaphobic and wants to do the right thing; shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) talks like a pirate and has more than a few scars/stories to tell; and oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) is a foil to both Quint and Brody because he’s a well-learned academic (Quint=rugged seaman) and a jolly wisecracker (Brody=uptight). Whew. What else do we need? Well, dramatic tension must be managed and the danger must be real. The famous first scene (two words: Chrissie Watkins) establishes this and then some. I don’t even have time to talk about director Steven Spielberg’s use of the “less is more” principle to legendary effect (the whole shark isn’t shown at all for the first half of the movie), the iconic John Williams score, and one memorable set piece after another. Director and producer Howard Hawks once gave his opinion on what constitutes a good movie: “Three good scenes. No bad ones.” Given that pithy criteria, I wonder what he’d think about Jaws.

5. Return of the Jedi (1983) – What can I say about the classic Star Wars trilogy that hasn’t been said already? A New Hope set the galaxy in motion. The Empire Strikes Back has been the most acclaimed. But why is Return of the Jedi—almost universally considered the weakest of the three original films—my favorite? More than anything, I think it’s because you get to see just how far one whiny, doe-eyed kid named Luke has come. From farm boy to Jedi. From juvenile to deadly serious. (Or from Tosche Station power converters to building his own lightsaber. It’s your choice.) Beyond Luke's character arc, we have some memorable action sequences. There may be nothing here that rivals the first Death Star attack in Episode IV, but you have Jabba's sail barge, the speeder bike sequence on Endor, and the three-pronged Death Star II battle featuring Admiral "It's a Trap!" Ackbar and the rest of the hapless Rebel fleet. The last reason I would have picked Return of the Jedi before a few years ago? Closure. But with Episode VII and others now on the horizon, it might be fair to say that Episode VI will soon be one more step into a larger world...

1. The Godfather (1972)
2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
3. Amélie (2001)
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
5. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

What are your five favorite films? Feel free to let us know!  --C.
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