Okay, technically twelve.
- 1.THE APARTMENTA sharply caustic yet wildly romantic comedy about a guy who tries to climb the corporate ladder by loaning out his apartment so his boss can privately entertain his mistress, only to fall for the mistress, love-wise. Directed by Billy Wilder from a script cowritten with I.A.L. Diamond. Ends with one of the all-time great last lines of dialogue.
- 2.BEFORE SUNRISE / BEFORE SUNSET / BEFORE MIDNIGHTThe first is a sweet, playful gem about connection. The second is a straight up masterpiece about regret. The third is a messy, brittle Rorschach Test about commitment. Watching this series evolve in tandem with my own life is the most unexpected cinematic high of the past two decades. This bar-setting work by cowriter-director Richard Linklater and cowriters-stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy is a huge influence on me as a screenwriter and kind of as a person too.
- 3.THE GENERALI love dialogue. So I never had much time for silent movies. Until I found a 16mm projector left in the closet of a new apartment. The kitchen and living room were separated by a glass door, perfect for a makeshift projection booth, but the sound was wonky. So I started borrowing 16mm silent films from the local film department. Then I saw this jaw-dropping comedy, starring deadpan genius Buster Keaton, and discovered how damn funny a movie can be without a single one-liner.
- 4.HIS GIRL FRIDAYA newspaper editor tries to win back his reporter ex-wife with the only thing she can’t resist — a scoop. Director Howard Hawks’s laconic style highlights the iconic screwball dialogue by Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (based on the play “The Front Page”) and the giddy chemistry between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.
- 5.INTERVISTASo… it’s a movie about a documentary about a movie adapted from an unfinished novel intercut with the director’s memories of his first visit to a movie studio. Got that? Federico Fellini’s absurd, bombastic ode to the cinema is rough around the edges, but who cares when it's such gorgeous fun and includes a LA DOLCE VITA reunion between Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni, dressed as a magician (obviously). For Fellini, movies are magic. For me too.
- 6.IRMA VEPSleek, vivid, and supercool, this is my favourite movie about making movies. Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung plays… Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung, stranded in Paris shooting a remake of the classic French silent serial LES VAMPIRES helmed by a director who’s probably having a mental breakdown. Writer-director Olivier Assayas makes filmmaking seem like a glorious calamity always teetering on the edge of epic failure. Which it is.
- 7.OR (MY TREASURE)Sometimes you love a movie because it takes you places you never thought you’d want to go. A daughter struggles to keep her mother off the streets of Tel Aviv and not get dragged down with her. Director Keren Yedaya, cowriting with Sari Ezouz, shoots the whole film in long takes, each more harrowing than the last, till by the end you flinch every time there’s a cut because you know it’s about to get worse for the characters. The Israeli star, Dana Ivgy, might be my favourite actress.
- 8.THE PRINCESS BRIDESometimes a movie is just a delightful story told with confidence, wit, and verve. There are a handful of movies that, whenever I come across them on TV, I just watch all the way to the end. This is one of them. Directed by Rob Reiner from the obscenely quotable screenplay by William Goldman.
- 9.STARDUST MEMORIESA hilarious, ballsy look at a funny guy who wants to be taken seriously and mostly fails. It's dense with writer-director Woody Allen’s perfectly crafted one-liners, but it also makes these brash tonal shifts into emotional rawness that knock me out as a writer. It’s a movie that isn’t afraid to try anything to make its point. And it forcefully argues that a good sense of humour can patch over some serious character deficiencies, which I’m really counting on in my personal life.
- 10.YI YI (A ONE AND A TWO)One night, feeling crappy, I decided to see whatever movie was playing when I got off work, this 173-minute drama about a Taiwanese family. I figured if it sucked, I’d have a nap. 3 hours later, I felt so energized and inspired by writer-director Edward Yang’s hilarious, heartbreaking masterpiece that I decided, what the hell, instead of going home to crash, I’ll check out the party I was planning to skip. That night, I met the woman I ended up marrying. Movies are like that sometimes. Life too.