This film and Wings of Desire made me obsessed with Berlin when I was a teenager. I finally got to go to the top of the Victory Column last year. I'd been enamored with that view of the city since watching those films. So gorgeous!
The rundown: Cassiel is an angel who wants to know what it's like to be a human. And this ain't City of Angels.
Why it's a modern classic: It just is. I don't know how else to describe it.
The rundown: Sam Jackson plays a Louis Batiste, a doctor with a mean wandering eye. The film's inciting event(s) mainly hang on this weakness, but also -- and more interestingly -- on the family history and otherworldliness of the Batiste family. The family seems to constantly straddle worlds, time frames and dimensions, nurses broken hearts, and constantly tests the boundaries of innocent relationships between family members and outsiders to the seductively strange Batiste clan.
Why it's a modern classic: Not only is it a beautiful Southern film, it's one of a handful of black films that stand out to me as bewitchingly powerful, intelligent, and sometimes downright scary. It's a film that really should have set a new standard in black film.
The Twilight Zone: The Movie
The rundown: As if it needs a rundown! It's the portmanteau of portmanteaus! A bigot gets his just desserts. Hope incarnate comes to a nursing home. A kid with a fucked up power and family issues gets a new mom. A nervous flyer (John Lithgow is legend in this one) sees a monster on the wing of the plane. Two friends really like scaring each other. A lot.
Why it's a modern classic: The charm of this film and The Twilight Zone itself is that they never get old. Ever. There's something new to learn, something different to absorb from the social commentary, or the architecture of the way the supernatural comes in to our dimension, that keeps the viewer thinking. Many films and shows have to work really, really hard to challenge the viewer the way TZ did in its understated, scary way.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
The rundown: No one knows Tom Ripley, yet he seems to know everyone. He's the ultimate identity thief -- a life thief -- who falls in love with the life and times of Dickie Greenleaf.
Why it's a modern classic: An ultimate Hitchcockian adaptation of the Highsmith novel by the late-great Anthony Minghella, it's a spellbinding movie. It's full of homosexual tension before it was the cool thing to do. It's got one beast of a jazzy soundtrack, a great cast, and a story that we can all relate to in some way or another. Who hasn't ever wanted to trade lives with someone? Even if for a few minutes?
The rundown: Rich fatcat gets a slap in the face ala David Fincher.
Why it's a modern classic: See above. Also, this is a complicated psychological portrait about the responsibilities we inherit, and perceive to inherit, when parents fail us and society is always breathing down our necks. It also picks apart the notions of male-defined success, class, the will of the Father, and in the end, reminds us all that life is just one big fucking game.
It'd been a few years since I'd seen this film. I came across an essay by Alan Trotter that made me sit with it again, and I realized why this is still a really odd, quirky, and damned important film.
The rundown: A nameless drifter finds out a secret, Illuminati-esque alien race is running the planet.
Why it's a modern classic: It's social commentary at its best, probably more relevant today than when it came out, holding up a painfully clear mirror to what the West considers to be beauty, success, and so much more. Why do we aspire to the things we aspire to? What does it mean if we fail? Whose ladder is it that we're always trying so hard to climb? Other classic elements: the Hoffman Glasses, OBEY, the blind preacher, and the bassline theme of the film. If you haven't seen this movie, please, PLEASE watch it.
The rundown: A sexual conquest "anything you can do I can do better" contest between Glenn Close and John Malkovich. Ohhhhh yeah.
Why it's a modern classic: The dialogue in the movie is killer. The cast is formidable. Even Keanu Reeves is good in it. Gender roles, tension and the bindings of class are claustrophobic. It's just an incredibly good movie.