Monday, March 05, 2007

Top Ten Gateway Movies

Most people don't experience cinema as an art form. However in the 20th century cinema steeped in as a major literary genera which shapes and moves culture. However talking with a cinophile can be intimidating. It is not easy to approach some of the masterworks of film. Analogously if the only books that you are accustomed to reading are trashy romance novels, picking up the Brothers Karmaotzov can be intimidating. It occurred to me at the suggestion of some friends that perhaps a list of "gateway" movies would be useful.

These are all movies from my house library that are a great place to start in film appreciation. It is not an attempt at a canonical list, but a simply a good place to start thinking differently about film and it's possibilities. I have not ranked them in order of worst to best, but rather most accessible to most abstruse.

The Movies:

10. Napoleon Dynamite
9. Little Miss Sunshine
8. The Station Agent
7. Garden State
6. In America
5. Amelie
4. Rushmore
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. American Splendor
1. La Strada

Some Explanation:

10. Napoleon Dynamite

If you haven't heard of Napoleon Dynamite, then shame on you. It's a light comedy which some may argue simply stays on the level of a purely pedestrian movie. However, one of the really valuable things to note here is that the movie defies so many conventions of what is necessary for a film to work. No multi-million dollar budget, no obligatory sexual encounter, no parading of the "beautiful people", just a simple and very funny movie.

9. Little Miss Sunshine

The darling movie of 2006, Little Miss Sunshine deservedly won the Oscar for best screen play. This movie is also a comedy that earns its laughs. The characters interactions and smart but real in a way that few Hollywood studios dare to risk these days. It is a great combination of a family drama and comedy.

8. The Station Agent

Another low budget movie that simply relies on great story telling to get its point across. The Station Agent is the first movie I have seen staring a person with dwarfism that treats its protagonist as a complex human being. It is a quiet movie that really earns its laughs. A comedy that deals with issues of friendship, trust, loss and trains, this movie is really original.

(It's getting late out here on the east coast. More to come...)



  • "Find Me Guilty" stars the same actor as a man with dwarfism who's the leading defense attorney in a case against about 20 mobsters. It's based on a true story and has much of the dialog taken from the actual court transcripts. It also stars Vin Diesel who really does a number with that role. He's naturally charismatic and charming and you get to see him with thinning hair, a bit pudgy, and with no explosions. I'm not sure if it qualifies as a gateway movie, but, not having seen the station agent, it is the first movie I've seen where a character with dwarfism was treated as a real three-dimensional character.

    I've seen 70% of these and I've added two others to my netflix queue. Not sure about "La Strada" right now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:57 AM, March 05, 2007  

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