Saturday, May 21, 2011

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 1

DISCLAIMER: Joel's 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' is a subjective list. This list can change at any time and is not set in concrete. As Joel watches films on a weekly basis, this list is a living organism. This current incarnation of the list is also only as of the time of creating it. Thank you for reading and enjoy! (I do expect some backlash from my decisions, especially the last 10 films.)

READ ME!: This is the final posting for this list. This is, in my opinion, the 1 film of all time. You are all entitled to your own opinions and this is merely mine. I hope you continue to read this blog, as new posts are yet to come and I may even have a revised list posted some day soon!


# 1: 'Eraserhead'

Before I found out about Rob Zombie. Before I knew who Quentin Tarantino was. Before Eli Roth, Kevin Smith or Paul Thomas Anderson.... there was David Lynch. He is one of the few people on this list that I would call a true artist. He's a musician, a painter, a writer, a director, a producer, an actor, a jack of all trades.... there isn't one thing that David Lynch hasn't done or won't do and he's always looking to continue growing. I respect that so much and ever since I saw 'Pretty As A Picture' the documentary about the making of 'Lost Highway', my respect grew even more for him. I also read the book 'Lynch on Lynch' and it allowed me to get even deeper into the mind of a genius, it's an amazing read. After all of that has been said and done, there is 'Eraserhead'. David Lynch's first full length feature film that took him 5 years to complete due to various causes. At one point, Henry opens a door, and Jack Nance (who plays Henry) ages 18 months between cuts. That is insane, but true. I don't know that I could ever truly explain why I love this film as much as I do. It's a student film, it's a first film, it's a low budget film, it's in black and white, it's confusing, it's not well known, it's difficult to watch for a lot of people, it's everything that a film should be while being everything it shouldn't be.... all at once. This film is part horror, part drama, part dream, part romance, part post apocalyptic scenario, part audio/visual drugs, part of everything and anything. It's like David Lynch took everything that he ever wanted to put into a film and stuck it all into just one and made it all make sense.... in a weird sort of way. From the opening of this film, you are hit over the head with an obvious queue of what to expect. Anyone who complains that they didn't like it after watching a big chunk of it, why did you continue watching in the first place? It's not a big secret what this film is going to be.

The first time I saw this film, I sat in front of the TV so incredibly mesmerized by what I was seeing that I didn't realize that I had started drooling on myself. It was like someone had given me some kind of serious drug that just zoned me out. When I snapped too, I hadn't missed a beat with what was going on in the film, I just realized the power that it held over me. By the time it was over, I wanted to start it over again. It's like a ride that you just don't want to end. It's one that I try and take every year or so, but one that I don't overuse for fear of it losing it's impact.... so far, that hasn't happened. It's just as potent today as it was when I first saw it. The only thing that bums me out is that I didn't see it sooner. It's been out since the late 70's and was just waiting for me to find it.

What in the hell is the story? You might be asking. Well, David Lynch has said that it's a visual representation of how he felt moving to a new city and the alienation he felt. It's a meditation on loneliness and confusion. The actual story that's played out on the scree is something like this: (taken from "Is it a nightmare or an actual view of a post-apocalyptic world? Set in an industrial town in which giant machines are constantly working, spewing smoke, and making noise that is inescapable, Henry Spencer lives in a building that, like all the others, appears to be abandoned. The lights flicker on and off, he has bowls of water in his dresser drawers, and for his only diversion he watches and listens to the Lady in the Radiator sing about finding happiness in heaven. Henry has a girlfriend, Mary X, who has frequent spastic fits. Mary gives birth to Henry's child, a frightening looking mutant, which leads to the injection of all sorts of sexual imagery into the depressive and chaotic mix." I kind of disagree with the notion of it having sexual imagery, well.... not entirely.

This is obviously a 5 star film, one that deserves every piece of praise that I can heap upon it. I love this film, I love the man behind the film and I judge a lot of other films based on this one. This film proves that there are original ideas out there. It proves that you don't need a big budget to make an epic. It proves that you can't give up, just because things don't always go according to plan. Sadly, Jack Nance.... Henry in the film.... passed away several years back. He was an amazing character actor who had this one chance to show the world what he could do and I'll always be a fan and I know David Lynch was and always will be. I don't expect you to see this film and enjoy it. As a matter of fact, I know that I am in the minority about this film.... I get that. But even if you don't see this film or do, but don't like it. Take away from the whole experience that keeping an open mind will allow you to experience new things and sometimes you won't be rewarded for it, but there may just be a time in the near future where you find your best friend that way. That is why this film is in my #1 position.... it gave me more than I have ever received from any other film. Thank you Jack Nance and thank you David Lynch. The End.

Side note: David Lynch has never given a solid answer as to what the "baby" is made of in the film. That may just remain a mystery forever.

Some 'Eraserhead' trivia:

David Lynch had a lot of trouble getting financial assistance from the AFI, because the script was only 20 pages long. He received a grant from AFI but after about 3 years of production, ran out of money.

The soundtrack album was dedicated " The Man In the Planet's Sister". The Man In the Planet was played by Jack Fisk, brother of Lynch's then-wife, Mary Fisk.

Jack brought his future wife Sissy Spacek to the set to hold the slate during his scenes.

Stanley Kubrick reportedly said this was one of the films he made the cast and crew of 'The Shining' (1980) watch to get in the right frame of mind.

Mel Brooks saw it and offered Lynch the chance to direct The Elephant Man (1980); Lynch accepted.

George Lucas asked Lynch to direct Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983); Lynch turned it down.

There is no dialogue for the first 10 1/2 minutes of this movie.

Poet/short story writer/novelist Charles Bukowski's favorite film. The great outsider was not a notable fan of cinema. In his roman a clef "Hollywood" about the making of Barfly (1987), he talks about meeting a famous director and his consort, based on David Lynch and Isabella Rossellini.

David Lynch refuses to say anything about Eraserhead (1977) because he wants to let viewers decide for themselves what they think it means.


  1. Wow, what a powerful choice for #1. I do agree that it was the springing board for Lynch and what amazing pieces of work he would make from then on. He is definitely a visionary and very much ahead of his time even now.

    Superb list, overall, Joel! It's certainly made me go and grab a few of them off Netflix (since I've only watched maybe 75% of the whole list). Nice to know that I'm not the only one who appreciates some of the more obscure titles out there in film. :-)

  2. I didn't see that one coming Joel! Great list! I've watched less than half of these films. And what sort of crazy world do we live in where The Warriors doesn't even make the top 50!?!?!? ;-) Ha ha... Keep on keeping on!!

  3. I started to watch this years ago but couldn't finish it, might give it another go.

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