We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
This week's "Question of the Week" on Jeff Bayer's "Movie B.S." podcast is inspired by Brave — the first film by Pixar to have a lead female protagonist.
The discussion goes to other firsts, namely movie experiences. What movies do you wish you could watch again for the first time?
Here are my TOP 7 movies, which include a whole bunch of significant movies with first-time experiences that will never be matched.
7. Psycho (1960)
Recap: Alfred Hitchcock made it forever unsafe to shower in motels and befriend handsome mama's boys with this film, starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. First Viewing Experience: By myself, in the dark, in my basement (Note: This was a very bad idea). Reason: Many horror movies work best when you don't really know what's coming. And even with the pop culture sensation of this movie ruining its famous bits, there's still nothing like witnessing it all for the first time. Even the film's slow building tension benefits from its mystery. Though I love this movie after many re-viewings, nothing can compare to when I first experienced this movie's horror.
6. Mac and Me (1988)
Recap: This was a failed product placement-palooza about an alien named Mac (after a fast food company) that drank cola and ate candy. This movie is now most known for Paul Rudd's usage of it whenever he goes on Conan O'Brien's talk show. It is also very, very funny. First Viewing Experience: After receiving a recommendation from Morgan Spurlock while interviewing him for The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, I finally saw this masterpiece of marketing via Instant Netflix with a friend. Reason: Like Birdemic (see below) but not as holy, Mac and Me provides the type of unfathomably backwards experience movies could never intend on being. It's a piece of relentless product placement (featuring a dance sequence at a certain restaurant) that has a certain magic as it carries you away through its hilarious absurdities, and E.T. rip-off storyline. It's not as funny as the first time you see it. For me, the best way of experiencing Mac and Me is gone forever — unless the powers that be do get around to making that sequel that was teased at the end!
5. Annie Hall (1977)
Recap: If you've ever felt feelings, you've probably seen this movie. It stars Woody Allen as a neurotic New Yorker who falls for a bad tennis player named Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). First Viewing Experience: Junior year of high school, by myself, in my basement on a Saturday night. Reason: Of all of the movies ever created, in the history of the entire world (and lets through in the whole galaxy), Annie Hall has an insane amount of replay value. That being said, there is a strong sense of discovery with Annie Hall. Watching it is like the first time you meet a best friend who becomes very important in your life (especially because they relate to you, and offer great advice). Because of this, you never forget the first time you met them. They've left such an impression that made you want to include them in your own life. As Woody's character makes a point to reminisce about the first time he meets Annie, I do the same with this movie.
4. Happiness (1998)
Recap: This film starred Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jon Lovitz, Ben Gazzarra and Lara Flynn Boyle. It stood out in the '90s indie scene for being an NC-17 comedy that explored all the taboos angles of what makes people happy. It is one of many memorable films from the filmography of writer/director Todd Solondz, which includes Palindromes, Welcome to the Dollhouse, and the most recent Dark Horse. First Viewing Experience: With a DVD rented from the library, on a laptop that I constantly was trying to shield the screen of while on an Amtrak train from Lafayette, Indiana to Chicago. Reason: Seeing this movie within the glancing view of fellow travelers might seem like a really bad idea, but it felt perfect for the feeling of awkwardness that Solondz's film conveys with this charcoal comedy. This is a movie with so many shocking low points and disturbing moments that it's best to be tackled with no expectations at all (not even the title is much help). Though it would be ideal to see this movie again without having the others in mind, with this being his filmography's centerpiece, it makes for a sublime first-time experience.
3. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
Recap: After Troll 2 and The Room came the cult swarm of Birdemic: Shock and Terror, a collection of scenes compiled together that wants to be a "movie," as made with sweet intentions catastrophically comedic results. I won eight Pulitzer Prizes for my essay on Birdemic, which can be read here. First Viewing Experience: At Adam's sister Marie's place, with some screener from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend (apparently). Reason: In the way that watching a man die on the street could probably alert someone to a special feeling about the evilness of the world, watching Birdemic opened my eyes to a truth in bad movies I had never experienced in my life. As the movie unfolded, with its legendarily awful acting, cinematography, editing, and of course, dialogue, it played out not like a nightmare, but something my brain isn't fit to even dream about. Having seen it in a theater since then (apparently I am in the Birdemic DVD), I miss the specialness of my first viewing of this movie — when no one was prepared for the awful bird effects, the extended musical dance sequence, or even the editing that could never be duplicated by someone who ever wanted to make something intentionally bad.
2. Avatar (2009) Recap: This really expensive movie from writer/director James Cameron made a lot of money, without having much of a story. However, it sure looked good. First Experience: Chicago's Navy Pier IMAX theater, with many friends, at a midnight showing. Reason: With no disrespect meant to those who felt the need to see this movie 30 times in theaters and then paint themselves blue every Halloween, Avatar is the greatest stereotypical one-night stand a movie can offer. It's pretty, but when you get to know it at all, it's dumb. Really, really dumb. This movie would be astronomically better if one could only see it for the first time — even the second time felt like a huge mistake.
1. Funny Games (1997 or 2007)
Recap: A family of three (and their dog) receive an unsuspecting visit from two torturous teenagers dressed in white. This controversial response to moviegoers' desire to witness torture violence was made to screw with people who thought it was just any old regular torture movie. Michael Haneke was so intent on screwing with people that he later remade it shot-for-shot ten years later with American actors, bringing Funny Games briefly to the audiences he most intended it for. First Viewing Experience: Alone, via my laptop, in the dark. Maybe I need to find more movie friends. Reason: Funny Games is the epitome of watching a film that becomes an experience. This is a movie that interacts directly with its audience, like a movie that seduces you with its outside concept, and then becomes an amusement park ride where you are the ones who are played with, more than the characters. And though I have watched it with a "large unsuspecting anonymous crowd," nothing compares to the unshakable first impression that this film leaves on you when you first experience it. Though the movie does hold well in repeat viewings, it is a movie meant for first impressions most of all.