Ten Films I’m Thankful For By Gadi Elkon

The Godfather I & II always seem to make everyone's top film lists and I can't argue the greatness of Coppola.  This list is a bit different.  Here are Ten films that I'm thankful entered my life when they did.  This isn't necessarily my favorite films and certainly isn't my list of the best films.  Instead these are just ten special films that have impacted me for whatever reason.  Click through for a fun post-Thanksgiving thankful post about my love of film.

When complying this list of films I realized that there are enough films to make 3 or 4 lists.  Usual Suspects was one of those films I so badly wanted to put on the list, but for numerous reasons has made my short Honorable mention of films I'm most thankful for.  The legend of Keyser Soze will always linger as one of the great films of the last 50 years and established Kevin Spacey as a real force to be reckoned with.  But I had to narrow my films down to just ten that I felt really impacted me.  So here are my 3 honorable mentions that just fell short of making the list.

3. Usual Suspects – Incredible script by Christopher McQuarrie and by far Bryan Singer's greatest contribution to film.  Overall a flawlessly paced suspense filled thriller that highlights a quality ensemble of actors.  Spacey shines as does Gabriel Bryne and a young Benicio Del Toro steals every scene (even when you can't understand a word he's saying.)

2. There Will Be Blood – An earth shattering experience watching an actor and a filmmaker completely unravel all levels of entertainment by giving us pure grit and bone and blood.  Daniel Day-Lewis is electric and every breath he spews has to be seen.  His destruction of Paul Dano's character is unforgettable.  I drink your milkshake, in-fucking-deed you do!!!

1.  Reservoir Dogs – When making this list of ten films I'm most thankful I realized how many of my favorite directors made the cut, but sadly one massive one.  QT is a force in the industry ever since he made his first impact with this vicious look into gangster/heist films.  Another quality ensemble of talented actors helped deliver some extremely memorable moments.  QT's witty nature, uber violent taste and fleshed out script writing talent were all on point and would lead to one of the more beloved directing careers.

10 Films I'm Thankful For:

*Alphabetical Order because it was to hard to RANK!

Au Revoir Taipei is one of my favorite festival films.  I saw it at the  9th annual Asian Film Festival of Dallas in 2010.  The quirky and lovable script about mistaken identity mixed in with a gangster twist and overall one of the more poignant and honest love stories really hit me hard.  The opening night film of the festival was shared amongst a packed house of Asian film lovers and there was no worry that it impacted us all.  Arvin Chen's debut feature is a real masterwork from a filmmaker finding his perfect pace and voice right before our eyes.  Whether we were whisked through the vibrant world of Taipei or swept over by the luxury of Paris the film never lingered or paused.  Our hearts were continuously treated to moment after moment of pure bliss.  A real eye-opening film to why foreign film is as magical and special as any made in Hollywood.

Jimmy is totally right, this is one of the greatest films ever.  Scorsese at his best making fun, being serious and totally reinventing the game with this classic gangster tale of the rise and the fall.  Ray Liota's every man approach as the real life Henry Hill will always hold an endearing quality even as his paranoia lead to some terrible choices.  And of course there is the duo of Pesci and De Niro.  Two actors who seem to live the parts fully and without remorse.  Easily one of the most quotable and copied films.  Above I mentioned QT's Reservoir Dogs, well who do you think he was paying homage to with that film?  In the end, even a lovely dinner scene is filled with so much amazing quality. 

And now a film that, "reminds me of childhood memories"…don't you miss Guns N' Roses?

I knew when making this list I wanted a film that would showcase my youth.  I thought of films like The Neverending Story, Monty Python: The Holy Grail or some classic Disney film, but it was this epic film from Richard Donner that has stood the test of time.  Who can't quote this film?  Who hasn't known one of these kids?  A flawless tale of childhood innocence's last hurrah in the face of life bringing an end to the happy times.  This marks just the first Spielberg film to be on this list and thus showcasing how important a director he has been to my generation of kids.

When I was getting my degree in Radio/TV/Film from UNT a friend of mine asked if I had screen Hoop Dreams by Steve James.  Later that night, my world would change.  Steve James' honest and open documentary style would forever change me as a film lover.  I no longer needed a fictional story, I just wanted to the truth of film.  Jame's passion for his old stomping ground has a remained a staple of his throughout and in the process he's totally impacted our world for the better.  I fell in love with his work and documentary film as a whole because of watching this phenomenal film.  It's not just a sports doc or an inner-city doc or tale of poverty vs success, it's a so much more.  Easily one of the most important film going experiences was seeing this incredible doc for the very first time. 

I was torn between choosing the Matrix or Nolan's Memento as films that made me reevaluate the importance of game-changing filmmaking. But Wally Pfister's diving into the full realm of digital filmmaking and easily one of the greatest Han Zimmer scores ever pushed Inception into this list.  I remember ever breath that I toke as I was transfixed by the massive world that took Nolan a decade to conceive.  He needed the success of Batman Begins to give him the $ to pull off his epic script idea.  A throwback to the dark twisty tales that began the Nolan rise to fame and mixed in with a cast of superstars really heightened this film experience. It shares the awe and shock quality of watching the Matrix for the first time, but it did it on the biggest film stage we know.  Pure enjoyment watching a film like Inception. 

The role that made Daniel Craig into James Bond.  A drug/gangster tale that revitalized the genre and kick started the kickass directing of Matthew Vaughn.  No longer the guy behind Guy Ritchie, but now a voice of his own.  JJ Connolly's source material is as gripping and cold-blooded, but seen through the piercing blue eyes of Daniel Craig we witness the rise and fall of a real gangster.  One of the films that crosses over to my favorite and best film lists without hesitation.  A film that really rejuvenated my feelings about movies as a whole.  I'm thankful I got to meet XXXX and his marry band of fellow drug dealing gangsters.  Siena Miller is as a sexy as ever and don't ever cross a fella named DRAGAN!

Once Were Warriors is a film that I first saw on an outdoor screen in Bern, Switzerland.  I was staying with a family while on a People-To-People educational trip through Europe and the host children wanted to take me out one night.  I had no idea I'd have an emotional connection for life after witnessing this powerful film about alcohol abuse, physical/verbal abuse, rape and the tragic nature of suicide.  One of the best film experience I've ever had.  The air and the film chilled my bones that epic night for a young teenage Gadi!

A rare film that is more than just great, but rather important.  Spielberg gave us everything he had in this film because it meant everything to him and to all of us.  Incredible performances from Liam Neeson, Sir Ben Kingsley and one evil portrayal by Ralph Fiennes.  Amazing black and white (with a special touch of red) cinematography by Janusz Kaminski perfectly in line with John Williams iconic score.  A film that needs to be seen by everyone and deserved all the praise and awards it won.  For a special treat, here is my interview with Sound Designer Ron Judkins:

And now for easily my favorite film of all-time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdWZBvd0-pg

Many people have called Frank Darabont's film a perfect film.  But for me the reason I'm thankful for it and why it's also my favorite (and yes a perfect film) is because on one person.  Frank Darabont's close friend, my former teacher Joel Rosenzweig.  Back when I was in High School, Joel was a theater teacher at Berkner.  His class was by far my favorite class ever.  He made us write an entertainment diary of all shows, films, events we saw.  It's because of that journal/diary that I first got the coverage to ever write reviews or stories and to this day the main reason why I blog.  His inspiration, advice and support would forever impact me.  My first review was for this film and I still have the amazing response he wrote to me about his knowing Frank really well and told me a fun few stories about his shared love of this perfect movie.  RIP Joel, forever my greatest teacher. 

And now for a touch of the great Tom McCarthy.

This year's Spotlight might solidify Writer/Director Tom McCarthy as one of the real gems in the film world.  His brilliance though as always been there.  Whether it was the poetic and heartwarming The Station Agent or this heartbreaking tale that put Richard Jenkins on the must see list.  A tale of fear and the impact fear has on culture and society told through the eyes of a lost soul.  It is difficult and tough to witness the slow demise of a family, but it is necessary to understand the sad state of society we live in.  What is right and what is wrong do not insect in certain matters of life and The Visitor completely showcases that.  Tom McCarthy a real master who's film Spotlight is well placed to put him in the biggest of honor for 2015.  If you haven't seen this film you owe it to yourself to tackle the McCarthy 5-some of films (yes even The Cobbler is worth your time).

Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend by spending times with loved ones and remembering all that you are thankful for in life. 

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