A mandatory viewing.
My favorite people and dearest friends, this is Kevin Prescott. A dynamic writer, a bonding musician, a dominating competitor of trivia, an inspiring associate of hurt and happy, an adrenaline junkie, a terribly close friend of mine and a sincere partisan of the art of cinema. Kevin lives in Escondido, CA.
Here are Kevin’s top ten favorite films with his own reviews and additions. Enjoy.
This is much more difficult than I expected it to be. If I were doing Top 20 I think I could have probably knocked this list out quick, but limited by a Top 10, the decisions become much more cut-throat. Sure, the first 5 or 6 came quick, but finalizing it down to the last 4 or so became a tedious task. Even as I write this I continue to second guess myself whether or not some should or should not make-it. I’m relentlessly torturing myself as if they were going down in stone and people would forever hold these for or against me. Some are new, some are old. Some might surprise. They might not all be the greatest, but for whatever reason, I love these films and can watch them over & over, which I hardly ever do. And they were the first ones to pop in my head and win the battle for the coveted slots. If they all had anything in common, I’d say that they changed my perspective in one way or the other about something; be it life, love, film-making, music, whatever. Just something that has stuck with me. Without further ado, here are my Top 10 Favorite Films Of All Time… (with maybe some runner-ups at the end)
10. “JFK” - Directed By Oliver Stone. 1991.
“Think the unthinkable. Question everything. We are through the looking glass here, people, white is black and black is white.”
This may have been my first Oliver Stone movie that I can remember seeing. It’s almost 3 hours long and if it’s on TV or I decide to watch it, I’m hooked in. Such a huge, amazing all-star ensemble cast along with lighting, writing, cinematography & editing that I hadn’t seen before. Maybe it was because it was filmed in Dallas soon after my dad moved there and I frequently visited the scene of the infamous assassination as a kid and had my own questions & theories about the conspiracy even then so it forever appeals to me. It played into budding adolescent rebellious nature teaching me to question authority and not believe everything you‘re told. History’s greatest mystery that’s never fully been explained.
9. “Once” Directed by John Carney. 2006.
“I don’t know you, but I want you even more for that.”
A few years ago now, while listening to talk radio like I usually do during the day, a group of people stumbled into the studio of the mid-day show I was enjoying. They all had European accents, full of joy and excitement to promote their little movie. They explained that they were just regular musicians hired to act in this film about love & music that they shot in only 2 weeks time. They were now going everywhere to promote the shit out of it. Their names were Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova, and director, John Carney. Their charm, humor, and character were undeniable even just on the radio. I had to see this film they were talking about! Unfortunately I never got around to seeing in the theater because it came and went so fast, and little did I know it would go on to become as big as it did, winning the Academy Award for Best Song, but that first time you see the two of them sing together at the piano, its fuckin amazing. I remember tears coming down my eyes. Instantly. The capture the magic of making-music better than I’ve ever seen. Their performances are so real, you’d never know they weren’t professional actors. Their talent & chemistry is unavoidable. The songs are all so beautiful and you feel every word they sing or say. And I love the way it ends, not quite the perfect happy ending, but something a bit more real.
8. “Newsies” Directed by Kenny Ortega. 1991.
“I’m just not use to havin’ whether I stay or go matter to anybody. I’m not sayin’ it should matter to you. I’m just sayin’, um-but does it? Matter?”
Yeah, so it’s a freakin’ Disney musical, so what? I friggin’ love this movie! If I was on a deserted island I definitely would want to be able to watch this again and again. It reminds me of my youth. One of the only musicals for guys that isn’t totally gay. I love the songs, love the story, love the characters and probably my first glimpse at Christian Bale and the bad-ass he’d go on to be. And again, teaches you to question authority and stand-up for yourself in the face of oppression. Heavy stuff for kids movie, perhaps that’s why it still holds up. Soon to be a play on Broadway.
7. “Spanking The Monkey” Directed by David O’Russell. 1994.
“You said I had a fat mouth!”
Hmmm… what can be said about this one? Yes, it is sick & twisted, but surprisingly funny & brilliant as well. Dark & disturbing, spirited & enlightened. This was always mine and Mike’s movie, don’t know if anyone ever appreciated it as much as we did. Probably my first real appreciation for “indie” movies and how different they could be from the mainstream. Morphine’s album, “Cure For Pain” as the entire soundtrack set a distinct dark depth for the film. Loved the way the comedy, drama, and sexual tension builds, erupts, and destroys. Its daring & shocking and could have gone horribly wrong, but was handled diligently with finesse. Watched it a ton as a teenager and am impressed to see where O’Russell has gone since.
6. “Pulp Fiction” Directed by Quentin Tarantino. 1994.
“Don’t you hate that? …uncomfortable silences.”
More than any other on the list, this one is probably the most of a symbolic choice. I was struggling with filling this slot with a lot of other films (Kids, Suburbia, Eternal Sunshine) and then those came into conflict with quite a few of QT’s movies (Reservoir Dogs, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, True Romance), so I thought, well, what the fuck, I don’t think I’d love any of those movies or indie movies as much as I do now if not for the one that really broke the door open for all indie movies and played a huge part of my teenage years. I can not even begin to count the number of times I watched this movie, listened to the soundtrack, and quoted lines with my friends. It was so funny. So smart. So unique.
I remember first seeing it in Rancho Bernardo with my mom at a movie theater that doesn’t exist anymore. We loved it. Next I saw it in a hotel room in New Orleans with my dad & step-mom. They hated it and fell asleep. The times I watched it with Mike are incalculable. Hell, our first “band” was even called, “The Bonnie Situation”. It without a doubt had a huge impact on the way I viewed writing, story, dialogue, and the way structure can get fucked with. Launched and re-launched careers. Paved the wave for all sorts of action/comedy/indie movies to break through. And for all these reasons, I couldn’t let this one go unnoticed.
5. “Exit Through The Gift Shop” Directed by Banksy. 2010.
“I don’t know how to play chess, but to me, life is like a game of chess.”
I have a tendency to fall in love with girls at first sight, even before I really know a lot about them. The same could be said about my affection for certain movies sometimes. Quite a few of the films on this list I was in love with even before knowing much about them. I had heard growing murmurs about this strangely titled film over the summer of 2010, so much so that I started using the phrase “exit through the gift shop” when describing leaving or going somewhere. I knew nothing about it, but once it became available to watch at home, I jumped right in. I was hooked instantly! The opening credit sequence with the poppy music and montage of all these street artists doing their thing and getting chased by cops. It was fascinating, it was engaging, entertaining. Something new I had never really seen or paid attention too before. And this was only the very beginning. As the layers of the onion began to get peeled back and I was introduced to all these new & fascinating personalities, and amazing works of art and was shown the risk that went into making them, I loved it even more. It was unbelievably inspiring and eye-opening. Then as it got further and further into the “story” and my brain started ticking as I began to see the amazing depth & trick Banksy was pulling over me and everyone else, I just completely lost it. I was so happy to be awakened, inspired, and pranked. The very next day after thinking about the film all night and morning, while driving in downtown San Diego, I spotted one of Space Invader’s tile mosaics on the way to a stop for work. It just made the movie even more real to me and stimulating. A few days later I found more of Invader’s work. And then more. And then more & more. It was every where. And not just his. My eyes were really open now in a whole new way, and I think I’ll forever see the world differently because of this film. I have a whole new deeper love, appreciation, and respect for art of all kinds and all mediums. Paint. Music. Comedy. Writing. Film. They’re all just trying to get their feelings out. We all just want to be noticed.
4. “Chasing Amy” Directed by Kevin Smith. 1997.
“This is all going to end badly.”
The summer after I turned 16, I remember driving my dad’s red Ford Ranger truck alone around Ft. Worth, TX on a hot, humid day. As I drove I noticed the movie theater at the near-by mall was playing Kevin Smith’s new movie. I had loved “Clerks” and “Mallrats” for their abrasive, indecent, comic-book-loving, sexual innuendo-inducing humor that Smith was just beginning to establish himself with, so going to see his newest was a welcome relief from the heat and my loneliness & boredom. I knew I’d probably laugh a lot while watching, what I didn’t expect to happen was to be so moved and in-love with this one. I actually left the theater crying. Crying! At a Kevin Smith movie! He provided all the funny I wanted & needed, but this time followed it up with a whole lot of heart & heartbreak. Real feelings of love, loss, and the one that got away. It was everything I ever wanted from him & more and nothing has come close since.
3. “Natural Born Killers” Directed by Oliver Stone. 1994.
“A lot of people out there are already dead, they just need to be put out of their misery. That’s where I come in.”
Did I just see the Coca-cola Polar Bear in the middle of the movie I’m watching on the big screen? And a cartoon? And OJ? And Lorena Bobbitt? What the fuck is this? What the fuck did I just watch? I remember seeing this movie when I was in 8th grade with a kid I wasn’t even really friends with. I don’t know if he liked it or not, but I had just been mind-fucked. I was still young to have done any drugs but after watching this movie it certainly felt like I had. It was the closest thing to an acid or mushroom trip I would feel for many years, so I watched the shit out of this film growing up and into my 20s. It’s so fuckin unique and unlike anything I have seen before or since. It certainly played directly into my own strange fascination I had with serial killers growing up, but the techniques and style used was almost other-worldly. The soundtrack complied by Trent Reznor was just as equally brilliant and was a staple of my teenage years. Everything about this movie is intense & extraordinary. Funny, violent, trippy. One-of-a-kind.
2. “Memento” Directed by Christopher Nolan. 2000.
“I have to believe in a world outside of my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world’s still there.”
Growing up all I ever wanted to be was a writer. A poet, a songwriter, an author, and as I got into my teenage years, a screenwriter. I read every how-to book & script I could get my hands on. I studied & learned all the key points. Dialogue. Action is character. Get in late, leave early. Story. Structure. The commandments to live by. This film takes all those and flips them. Backwards. Literally. They’re all still there, but so perfectly pieced in a way never seen before, my mind was blown. Sure, there are other movies that flip the Acts around a bit and play with structure, but the way this one was done was so methodical it was down-right chilling. In a good way. Nolan instantly proved himself to be smarter & a better story-teller than anyone else out there I had ever seen. And he continues to deliver incredible work to this day and has yet to really disappoint. I love this film so much I bought the first DVD, then the Special Edition with the re-edited straight forward version, and last year went to see the one-night only Ten Year Anniversary re-release in theaters. I could spend forever slicing & analyzing all the tiers that makes this film so great, but maybe deep down I just love it so much because it reminds me of better times when I had great friends, felt loved, and I was still a writer & a dreamer. Ahh, memories, they sure fuck with your head, don’t they…?
1. “Requiem For A Dream.” Directed by Darren Aronofsky. 2000.
“Anybody want to waste some time?”
In the beginning of 2001, I awoke early one Sunday morning with an overwhelming weight of depression crushing my head, heart, and soul. It certainly wasn’t a new feeling and wouldn’t be the last, but this may have been one of the worst. Perhaps it was enhanced and made worse from the previous nights partying or the previous weeks or months of partying, but I was struggling with things I couldn’t grapple with easy and took it out on the people closest to me, namely my best friends and girlfriend. She and I erupted into a fight that morning over my hopeless behavior and it escalated to the point where I ended up cutting my wrist with a piece of broken glass then fleeing our apartment with a nasty open bloody wound on my wrist left unattended for hours as I drove aimlessly around the city and county, searching for some kind of answer. I spent the day seriously considering finding a sharper object to finish the job on my other wrist or driving my truck off the side of one of the many winding mountain roads I was encountering, or jumping off the Coronado Bridge, or one of many other ways I had planned to end my life.
But I didn’t. When I finally came home that night, my best friends and girlfriend were there waiting for me. The people I cared about most cared about me too. I didn’t say much to them, only insisted that we followed through on going to downtown San Diego to see this movie that was creating so much buzz. I had an intense day, and might not have been fully prepared for what I was about to see.
A movie like I’ve never seen before. A masterpiece. The perfect storm of flawless & innovative cinematography, razor-sharp editing, captivating & heart-wrenching story, unbelievably powerful performances from the actors, and music so epic & intense it sucks you in, never lets go and can never be forgotten. Love. Hope. Sex. Drugs. Violence. Addiction. Desperation. Despair. There are not enough words to do justice to the intensity of shock & awe and amazement I immediately felt for this film, especially after the day I had just had. I was in love. And I knew I wasn’t alone either. My best friends had just been shocked to their core as well. It was a very cathartic experience for all of us, and I knew it would be a day and a film I’d never forget.
Have you ever realized that when you meet somebody in your youth, and grow up with that person, year by year, they seem not to age, but sustain a familiar flesh? It’s not until we look at old photographs that we realize how time has transposed us.
Kevin and I have been good friends since junior high and it is very difficult to look back, without honing in on the impression Kevin has made on my life. How did I start making music? My mother bought me my first guitar when I was 12 and I began taking guitar lessons when I was 12. Kevin was practicing a lot with Morgan Frisk; he asked me if I was interested in jamming with them. We went by the name “The Bonnie Situation” until Matt got on board and Kevin came up with the name “Fluke” and we started playing recitals, talent shows, coffee houses and house parties. Once we were all in high school, Kevin began showing us various different ska bands and we initiated a new direction, progressing towards a “Sublimish/Op Ivy” sound. Us four worked laboriously to scout out a horn section and lucked out with Beki and Kim. Soon after, Chris jumped on keys and Kevin coined the name Jerry Lives Twice. We all had a lot of fun while it lasted.
At the end of my sophomore run, Kevin encouraged me to sign up for a video productions course, for the following year. Video Productions escalated my movie fascination and presented to me a more, solid scope and range, to how the art form operates. Not to mention, it introduced us to Lee-Mother-Fucking-Johnson. Worth noting, Kevin is one of the only people I know who has written and completed a feature-length screenplay. He wrote it in high school. This is saying a lot, for it’s a tedious process and being subjected to its format, makes a lot of people give up too quickly. Plus, he wrote it without utilizing Final Draft or any other screen-writing program, which is a must nowadays. “A Girl Named Ruth” was its working title and coincidentally, had a similar plot to “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007). However, Kevin’s script was written 10 years before “Lars” was release.
Early in our adulthood, Kevin and I had a bit of a falling out. And, before that, we struggled with a few senseless, misrepresented “ups and downs”. Yet, the gaps in our friendship, I value just as strong as our current fellowship, because now he and I can talk like casualties of a perplexed generation. We have witnessed each other’s own minor/major defeats, to a humble resurrection, growth, and painstaking prevail, essentially, on our own accord. I’ve watched him grieve hard for the things I’ve done to him, when I could have been a better friend. I’ve seen Kevin grieve hard when I was a good friend, as the world was hammering nails into his heart. Kevin has seen me fall and panic, as he learned about my deep-routed depression, alcoholism and desperate existence.
One evening, I was in a hotel room in Los Angeles. I was thinking about how our detachment was ludicrous. I couldn’t go to sleep without a phone call. I left a hopeful, yet passive message on his voicemail. Not much time passed and he returned the call. Hours passed. There was heavy talk of ex-girlfriends and crazy, little adventures we’ve both encountered, straightforwardly. We discussed “Hustle and Flow” and “Freaks and Geeks”.
Finally, I met up with him again and crashed at his apartment for two weeks, before my second trip to Thailand. At the airport, I had the nerve to shake his hand right before boarding the plane. He had the heart to give me the hug that was long overdue. I write this today with a legitimate sense of gratitude, gratitude towards a friend who has stuck by my side and withstood this preposterous life together.
So happy Spanking the Monkey made the cut!!!