The Red Violin
The rundown: In 1681, an Italian violin maker's finest creation is born out of grief. Something in the violin's makeup bears with it its own destiny, which plays out in five episodes that span 316 years. We journey with the violin through places, periods, and obsessions, which ultimately leads us to some of the most beautiful and hideous parts of humanity that can only be reached through music.
Why it's a modern classic: I'm not a romantic -- maybe not a self-professed one -- but this film tells one of the most romantic stories ever. The wandering adventures of the violin, the people it enchants and harms, the coveting it inspires, does something to you as you watch it. It makes you start to feel an odd sense of longing, and the mildly supernatural undertones in the story are instantly captivating, and reinstill a wonder for and fear of the unseen magic in our world. This film never gets old. It's one of those that you grow with, and you end up seeing something or learning something different with each viewing.
The rundown: A very hot Rupert Everett runs a cemetery where the dead come back to life, a headless bride falls in love with his assistant, the love of his life may or may not be a dead woman, and the town he lives in may or may not actually exist. He ends up being investigated for a crime, and it's through this investigation that he finally decides to make a run for it and explore what is on the other side of his miserably funny existence, and into the great unknown.
Why it's a modern classic: I'm so happy Martin Scorsese will back me up on this -- it's just a good movie. It's so confident in its weirdness, so unapologetic in its cheekiness, that it's not hard to just play along and get sucked into the magical realism. It's fearless in its look at death, stupid, hilarious, and sometimes legitimately scary. And I promise you, you'll never look at boy scouts the same way again.
The rundown: Jack can't sleep. He stays up making soap. He also finds out fighting is the best therapy in the world, with the help of his new and anarchistic friend, Tyler Durden.
Why it's a modern classic: A film that needs no introduction, you're likely already familiar with its twist ending, moody, anti-dance, dance soundtrack, and the indescribable insanity that is Marla Singer. But it's important to remember the existentialism rooted in the story. The weight of capitalism, and the desperation for a sense of identity in a time when everything has slowly become pre-packaged individuality. These all come together to make a film that is not about white men being white men, or Americans being Americans, or the failed promises of establishment and culture. It's ultimately a film about responsibility, hammering it home that our lives are our own responsibilities. And though the twist ending isn't a new one, the way the story is told is incredibly unique, and one that I think will stand the test of time through its style and relevance.
Bringing Out the Dead
The rundown: Frank is an overly devoted EMT on a bad streak -- every call results in a death. He can't seem to save people anymore. It's not long before he realizes that his inability to release his own grief, and live with the living, is what is pulling him closer to dying, literally and figuratively.
Why it's a modern classic: I think we all have the want to save or at least help others, and when we're called to do so and fail, it's a weight that is impossible to describe. This is another film about responsibility but in a much more tender way; it reinforces the responsibility we have to be kind to ourselves first, to nurture and care for ourselves first, for this is the only way we can learn to do it for others. A lot of this involves releasing what we feel is unreleaseable, forgiving the unforgivable. Forgetting the unforgettable. The film is a gritty, loud and crazy way to deliver a life lesson that often needs reinforcing. Gorgeous.