Forget Top Ten lists--here are five movies, albums, and books that I have seen, heard, or read many times and that are always as good as I remember them. They may not show up on any 10 BEST lists compiled by academic snobs, but they are just plain enjoyable. They won't let you down. So say I.
Since I've recently been anointed as a screenwriter of a produced film ("El Camino Real"--yeah, check out IMDB, you know you want to), I'll start with the movies that always work for me:
1. "84 Charing Cross Road" starring Ann Bancroft. Book people will love this sweet and funny film, but so will history buffs and those who love New York (and London). Also stars Anthony Hopkins and Judy Dench, so there.
2. "Arthur" starring Dudley Moore--and forget what you know or think you know about Dudley Moore, this film is funny funny funny! From the first minutes to the final scene, you'll laugh, chuckle, giggle and smirk. Trust me.
3. "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" starring Catherine Deneuve, back when she was just a (stunningly lovely) teenager. The plot of this film is simple, but the acting is natural and the score is gorgeous. The operatic nature of it might surprise you at first--stick with it--This film will have you weeping, or you're a heartless bastard.
4. "The Natural" starring Robert Redford--and a cast of great character actors. This film really split the critics--they loved it or hated it, but it's a great adventure if you stop trying to "figure it out". It's a myth, people, so just watch it, and enjoy. (I'll sneak in another baseball movie here--"Field of Dreams" is also a winner.)
5. "Manhattan" is arguably Woody Allen's masterpiece. I saw "Annie Hall" again recently, and was disappointed; it doesn't hold up as well…This film is when Woody started taking himself seriously--in a funny way, of course--and so do we.
I've been spending time north of Los Angeles lately, so my music is leaning a bit north too--as you'll see:
1. "The Band" by The Band. I remember this album so well that I figured it would be a disappointment to dust it off and play it (courtesy of iTunes). Boy was I wrong--it rocks, and weeps, and carries you down the road just like it did in the 1970s.
2. "Crosby, Stills, and Nash" by CSN. Yeah…what I said about #1 applies here, too. It just doesn't get any better than this. "Deja Vu" runs a pretty close second, though...
3. "Harvest" by Neil Young. Some of the greatest melodies ever written. Seriously.
4."Court and Spark" by Joni Mitchell. Heartbreakingly beautiful (The same could be said for her album "Blue")
5."Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The Boss. 'Nuff said.
I am consciously leaving out my "classic" favorites, found on college reading lists the world round--so no Austen, no Dickens, no Tolstoy.
1. "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck. Might contain the best-written first chapter of all time. And though I love "Cannery Row" and the like, THIS is Steinbok at his best.
2. "Skinny Legs and All" by Tom Robbins. I love many of his other books, "Still Life with Woodpecker" most of all, but this is his funniest and his most "important," too.
3. "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin. Set in a fantastical, but real-feeling New York that sort of but never really existed. Many people find it hard to get into. Try. Try harder. Go with it.
4. "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver (Also "Animal Dreams" for those that like a love story). I like the way she weaves history, art, love and death. Not to mention Mexico. And Trotsky.
5. "Death Comes to the Archbishop" by Willa Cather. I love "My Antonia" but this is so sweeping and so perfect--check it out, though anything by Willa Cather is great.
And last, but not least--five writers conferences that never let you down and always lift you up--and never disappoint:
2. Southern California Writers Conference
3. Southern California Writers Conference
4. Southern California Writers Conference
5. Southern California Writers Conference
The next SCWC is in late September, in Newport Beach. Be there--I will. Hope to see you there. Can't wait to hear what you think of my choices, meantime.