Though I often focus on current film news and the like, I sometimes like to reflect on things a bit more personal. Sure, I do film lists and tributes all the time, but I don’t always get to talk about my true favorite subject: my favorite movies.
In a lot of ways, I am always of the mindset that like pets (particularly dogs), favorite movies can really describe a person. From their tastes, personal interests, and overall personality, film is a form of art that covers so many aspects of a person, and their all time favorite is the one that describes them the best. That is certainly the case with my choice. Though I have several favorite movies, there is one that has been my absolute number one flick for at least ten years or more. If you know this answer, then you are a lucky individual, but if you are one of the many that have no clue, it’s Brian del Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise.
I have written several articles at this point about this weird, cult-loved rock musical that tells the story of a disfigured songwriter who haunts a rock palace, falls for a beautiful young singer, all the while listening to various music groups perform ridiculous parodies/tributes to tunes of the ’60s/’70s era. It stars Paul Williams, the guy who wrote The Muppet’s Rainbow Connection, along with other cult classic actors Jessica Harper and William Finley. But even with those little facts, how has it become my favorite? Let’s break it down.
I saw this movie for the first time while flipping through the channels one morning before going to high school. As I landed on FX, I saw a peculiar title come across the screen, one that hinted to so many promising things, and it didn’t disappoint. Though I only saw it half way through, I felt like I had the most electric and bizarre movie viewing experience of my life, up until that point. And when the credits rolled, I quickly found myself always thinking about this glam rock cinematic piece of insanity.
Around the age of 16, I slowly discovered that this little cinematic treasure was seeping into my everyday life, and prior interests, more than I ever grasped during my first viewing.
As mentioned, the story revolves around Winslow Leach (Finley), a struggling songwriter who has yet to make his big break. He, along with the title and basic premise, have a lot of connections to another famous Phantom character: The Phantom of the Opera. The Phantom story has always been a favorite of mine as a kid, along with the majority of its multiple adaptations. So it makes complete sense that a film partly inspired by the famous Gaston Leroux novel would pique my interest at high levels.
There’s also the humor within the film, particularly represented in the character of Beef. I’ve always been enchanted by campy, over the top comedy that mixes hilarious vocal performances, physical acts, intelligent “zingers,” and bold decisions. If there was one comedian who embodied that description, it would be Robin Williams, who was probably the person that defined my taste in what I consider funny from the beginning. But in Phantom, the entire movie is filled with that similar sort of humor. From Beef’s ridiculousness to the famous shower scene, this movie’s brand of humor is definitely a perfect example of my own.
Then there is Paul Williams, who I consider to be one of the greatest poets ever to walk this earth. When I realized his connections to other favorite things of mine (Muppets mainly), I became a bit obsessed and collected his entire discography. And trust me, when you look it over, you realize what an incredible range of tunes this man has worked on. It isn’t just his accomplishments in his career, it’s also his accomplishments in his personal life that make Williams such an inspiration. Maybe it is because of my own personal family dramas, but seeing a person that had a true drug addiction issue come out of it alive, sober, and successful, is pretty inspiring. Williams also is a frequent collaborator with current artists, most recently Daft Punk, and my favorite band in the entire world, Scissor Sisters.
Phantom of the Paradise has also been a huge inspiration, and a favorite, to many of the artists I consider my heroes. For starts, the person that made me want to go to film school, Mr. Guillermo del Toro, has cited this particular film as one of the most important he ever saw. He even is featured on the BluRay released by ScreamFactory, interviewing Paul Williams, who he is collaborating with on the Pan’s Labyrinth musical. Edgar Wright, director of Scott Pilgrim and Shaun of the Dead, helped host a tribute screening a few years ago in LA, where he interviewed the cast and crew–and proceeded to fanboy pretty hard.
These connections, plus multiple others, somehow make you truly wonder: were you and a movie meant to be connected? Because by all accounts, I get the feeling I was meant to see Phantom of the Paradise. It’s as if I signed this blind, subconscious contract with the cinematic gods, telling me “Yes, my child, we have trained you for this film. You will find it, you will see it, and you will love it,” and that is exactly what I’ve been doing to this day. We all seem to do that with our favorite movies, and if you haven’t heard that tiny movie high power voice in your head, you probably haven’t found your favorite movie yet.
Does your favorite movie need to be incredible? No. Does it need to be Academy Award winning? Nah. But does it need to connect to you and make you feel all those warm and fuzzy type of comfortable emotions? Definitely. And even though many will say that my favorite movie, or even yours, has flaws, that doesn’t detract from its personal importance to you. And that is a lesson that everyone that reads this should know–especially you, The Room fans, you be you.
So what is your favorite movie? Is it considered a classic, or your own personal Best Picture winner? Have you seen The Phantom of the Paradise? Did you like it or rather not say? Tell us all your cinematic top picks, from the good to the guilty pleasures, we’ll take them all. Comment below and let us know all your film related feels.
And in case you’re wondering what inspired this write up anyway, my location Alamo Drafthouse is doing a screening of Phantom of the Paradise, with Beef himself, Gerrit Graham, appearing in person. If you want tickets to that, make sure you check out the Yonkers Alamo’s website here for more info. Hopefully I’ll see you there, and we can enjoy in some Phantomy goodness.