News Column

Grand Forks Herald Melinda Lavine column

July 18, 2013


July 18--So many factors go into creating the list of your all-time favorite movies. For me, nostalgia and a film's mind-blowing capabilities play a large part. And while I've seen X amount of movies in my 30 years, here are the ones that stuck.

10. "Grease" (1978):I still know every song on this soundtrack by heart and can do "The Hand Jive" in my sleep. 'Nuff said.

9. "Life is Beautiful" (1997): Nothing has ever made me ugly-cry more than this movie. The triumph of the human spirit over some of the worst atrocities of the century makes for a Grade A experience.

8. "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (2001): This is a film that sticks in your head and doesn't let go. Written, directed and starring John Cameron Mitchell, "Hedwig" is based on his stage musical. It grapples with tough issues of identity, sexuality and all through the solid storytelling of music.

7. "Royal Tennenbaums" (2001): Great cast and comedic delivery, meticulous composition and depth: all trademarks of writer/director Wes Anderson's work. He does it best in this film about the dynamics and dysfunction of family, but of course, always in a way that makes you laugh, revel and think.

6. "Rear Window" (1954): Director Alfred Hitchcock is a master at playing up isolation as a factor for suspense, and this movie is no exception. Jimmy Stewart plays a wheelchair-bound photo journalist who, with the help of luminous Grace Kelly, stakes out his neighbor after he suspects him of murder. It's a timeless suspense-thriller that's worth a couple of views.

5. "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (2005): Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and a campy, biting script by "Iron Man 3" screenwriter Shane Black makes for a hilarious action-comedy-mystery suspense that had me rewinding parts and cackling. Loudly.

4. "A Chorus Line" (1985): Imagine me practicing dance leaps in my living room. I did that last weekend, as I do every time I watch this movie that's based on the Broadway show of the same name. It highlights the many backgrounds and motivations of wannabe dancers in 1980s New York. Michael Douglas plays a diva-esque grump, the music is immortal and to this day, I'm still holding out for a spot in a Broadway chorus.

3. "Monster Squad" (1987): Cat lady. Scary German guy. Wolfman's got nards. This movie puts kids as the last line of defense against monsters and the end of the world. And as a kid, who loved vampires and anything supernatural or scary, this film will always have a strong standing in my list.

2. "Fargo" (1996): OK, Joel and Ethan Coen may have poked fun at Midwesterners, but who better to do it than those who hail from Minnesota? This has everything you could want in a solid film: suspense, crime, humor and Steve Buscemi. And a pregnant heroine, played by Frances McDormand, saving the day always hits a soft spot in my heart. This film is so worth any accolade its ever received, and it still makes me laugh. Sure, the characters "may" have funny accents, but this film shows how smart, polite and thorough Midwesterners can be. Nothing wrong with that.

1. "Annie Hall" (1977): Woody Allen is arguably at the peak of his screenwriting career in this film starring Diane Keaton, who snagged an Oscar win for Best Actress for her performance as the title character. Allen showcases her progression from a shy, naive young girl to the woman of profound depth she becomes. What really hits home is the effect their relationship in the movie has on her even after they've gone separate ways. Anyone who's ever been in a long-term relationship knows firsthand how some people leave a watermark on our DNA. Throw in classic Woody Allen humor, intelligence and insight, and No. 1 on my list is where this timeless film will remain.

n Honorable mentions: "Hamlet 2," "Kill Bill" Vols. 1 and 2, "Clue," "Pan's Labyrinth," "City of God," "Shawshank Redemption," "Looper"


Lavine is Accent Editor for the Herald and can be reached at (701) 780-1265, (800) 477-6572, ext. 1265; or


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