Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Movies

My Newly Revised Top 10 Movie List

In 2008 I was fresh from a huge High Fidelity high and hardcore into top 5 lists. Not much has changed since then. I still love Top 5 lists. I also love Top 10 lists, Top 20 lists…and basically any activity that requires you to rank things. Since 2008 I’ve seen a lot of movies. Some were new movies. Some were just new to me. While the 2008 list was solid, I felt it was time for a refresh of my top movie list.

For reference, here’s my list from 2008:

  1. Almost Famous
  2. Airplane
  3. Godfather I
  4. Field of Dreams
  5. Usual Suspects
  6. Star Wars, Episode V
  7. Groundhog Day
  8. Love Actually
  9. Shawshank Redemption
  10. Rocky IV

Not a bad list. Just to be clear, this is not a list of the greatest movies ever made. As I wrote in 2008, “These would be the movies that I’d save if my house was burning down.” With that out of the way, here we go.

First, let me acknowledge, I clearly made some mistakes. I love Rocky IV, but it doesn’t make the cut. Don’t get me wrong, it’s enjoyable. It’s completely rewatchable. I love the movie. But, it’s not list-worthy. Unfortunately, I have to say the same about Groundhog Day. It’s definitely Bill Murray at his best. But, as I watched it a few months back, I realized it’s just not quite list-worthy. The toughest pill to swallow was how high I had Usual Suspects. It’s dated. It just doesn’t hold up. The acting is still solid. The twist ending is still brilliant. But, for some reason it just doesn’t work for me anymore. Lastly, I had to remove Field of Dreams from the list. This was tough. The book was fantastic, I have such rich memories of watching the movie with my dad and I hope to one day watch it with my son. However, despite how hard it pulls on my emotions, it just isn’t list-worthy anymore.

So that creates 4 openings. Before we get to that, let me address the re-ordering of the ones that are still on the list. Airplane, Star Wars, Love Actually and Shawshank all needed some reordering. It was clear I overvalued the comedic brilliance in Airplane. It can still make me laugh. I can still watch it over and over. But, it’s just not deserving of the #2 slot. It moved down…significantly. Love Actually and Shawshank were undervalued for different reasons. In 2008, Shawshank was being shown just about every single day on TNT, HBO, TBS and every other cable channel. I think I was just fatigued by Shawshank. I caught it the other day and it hooked me. The acting. The characters. The music. The story. The writing. They’re all top-notch. What the hell was I thinking. As for Love Actually, I just don’t think I wanted to admit to myself how much I liked the movie. It’s brilliant, simply brilliant; and while I know it’s a holiday movie, it works for me all the time.

So to recap, here’s where we stand:

  1. Almost Famous (no-change)
  2. Open Slot
  3. Godfather I
  4. Love Actually (up 4 slots)
  5. Open Slot
  6. Star Wars, Episode V (no-change)
  7. Shawshank Redemption (up 2 slots)
  8. Open Slot
  9. Airplane (down 7 slots)
  10. Open Slot

The open slots. Honestly, not as hard as I thought it was going to be. I knew the movies that needed to be added, I just didn’t know where on the list they belonged. Here’s the new additions:

Inception: My word, such a tremendous film. It’s epic. Every time I watch it, I feel like I learn or discover something new. For example, did you know the music in the movie is the same exact song being played over and over, but just at a different speed? The deeper into the dreams you go, the slower the music becomes. Crazy, right? Much has been written about the movie. The one take I’ve never seen covered, and the reason it appeals to me so much is that at it’s core, Inception is about a dad, willing to do anything to see his kids. Maybe it’s because I have 2 little ones now, but that idea just speaks to my very soul.

High Fidelity: Last, but certainly not least. It barely missed the cut in 2008. This time, I won’t make the same mistake. Each and every time I watch this movie, I appreciate it more. Fun fact, in 2011 I lived about 8 blocks from the fictional location of Championship Vinyl. It’s still a head scratcher that no one ever turned that location into a real record store. What I love about High Fidelity is its honesty. We’ve all been Rob Gordon at some point in our life…digging through the past, looking for answers, stuck in a rut and not wanting to admit that we were at fault for the one that got away. There’s so much to love about High Fidelity, I can’t believe I left it off the list in 2008.

Silver Linings Playbook: Flawless. That was the first thought I had after watching it in the theater. In this past 12 months, there’s no movie I’ve watched more than Silver Linings Playbook. I watched is 4 times between Philadelphia and Sydney, Australia…and back. I own the Blu-Ray. I’ve streamed it. Saw it in the theaters, multiple times…once even alone. There’s something about it that appeals to me. I adore the characters and how flawed they are. The writing is simply brilliant. But, more than anything, I find the outstanding “small” roles, played by “big” actors to be perfect. They’re big enough to make a difference, but small enough not to overshadow. Chris Tucker! I mean, Chris Tucker! Are you kidding me? He’s on screen for less than 15 minutes, but makes a world of difference. Add in Deniro and just wow. I could gush all day long.

Mallrats: Eye roll all you want. It’s Kevin Smith at his best. I don’t know why I love it so much, but I do. It’s poorly edited. The jokes are a bit over the top. It’s not winning an Oscar, any time soon. But, I love it. Perhaps, it’s the flawed pieces all coming together, that make it almost flawless for me. Maybe it’s the fact, I grew up in Jersey and walked the malls for fun, because that’s what you did when you wanted to be cool. Perhaps it’s how the movie plays to my love for details and specifics…who can forget the famous exchange between Brodie and TS about whether the Cooke Stand is part of the food court? Can you really disagree with Brodie’s logic? In the same way that The Usual Suspects feels dates, there’s no doubt Mallrats, on the whole has not aged well. But, yet, in its age, it’s become more endearing.

So where do these movies fit in?

  1. Almost Famous (no-change)
  2. Inception
  3. Godfather I
  4. Love Actually (up 4 slots)
  5. Silver Linings Playbook
  6. Star Wars, Episode V (n0-change)
  7. Shawshank Redemption (up 2 slots)
  8. Mallrats
  9. Airplane (down 7 slots)
  10. High Fidelity

Obviously, there are always casualties in a top 10 list. This is no exception. The list of casualties changed a lot from 2008.

Solitary Man
The Big Lebowski
V for Vendetta
Like Crazy
Meet Joe Black
Good Will Hunting
Crazy Heart
The Departed
American Psycho
The Good The Bad and The Ugly
The Wizard of Oz
American Beauty
Treasure of the Sierra Madre

What Would You Save?

Confession: I’ve seen the Movie “Leap Year.” It’s bad. Like really bad. Could be Amy Adams’ worst performance ever. I won’t give away the plot…even though you can probably accurately predict how it ends…but, there’s a very poignant moment where Amy Adams is asked, what would you save in a fire? Later on in the move, she creates an opportunity to see what her fiancé would save. What he chooses to save sets the stage for the movie’s climax.

I hope none of you ever have to actually decide what to save if your house were to catch fire. Last night I was talking with a colleague, Tonya Hall, who I met on twitter. During our conversation, she shared that recently, during the Colorado fires, she had 15 minutes to decide to what to save in her house, before flames engulfed it. The house perished. The only word that comes to mind is, “tragic.” Thankfully, she made it out unscathed.

Her story, put a very sharp point on the question often asked at parties as a hypothetical: What would you save if your house were on fire and all you had were 15 minutes to get out?

Recently I saw a quote from the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard that stuck with me and in the face of the hypothetical question, seems appropriate: “The more you know, the less you need.” That quote comes from, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. It’s a solid read and I highly recommend it. After my divorce I started over completely. Beyond my clothes, camera equipment, laptop and car, I had nothing. Mind you, this was by choice. The best part of starting over, was how selective I could be in what I purchased. My focus was very much on quality over quantity. I live a rather sparse life, but the “things” I do have, I value.

With 15 minutes to save the most valuable items, I’d be done in 5. There’s only 4 things I’d rush to save:

1. Apple Time Capsule. It holds every photo I’ve ever taken since 2001. Photos are memories and I’d hate to lose those memories.

2. Watch Box: I don’t own lots of jewelry. It’s not my thing. But, watches, are something I love. Each watch tells a story. Each watch was purchased with a story in mind and a moment to to attach to it.

3. Camera Bag: Some items in the bag have sentimental value that can’t be replaced. But, more importantly, I’m always happy, behind the camera, capturing a moment.

4. Document Box: I have a box that contains all the important documents…birth certificates, passports, etc. If you have to start over, you’re going to need most of those documents.

That’s it. Small list. No clothes, except those on my back. No, computers or electronics. No pieces of furniture, regardless of how cool they are. Nope, just 4 things.

What would you save?

Do It Right, Or Don’t Do It

I love Michael Keaton. One of my favorite actors, hands down. If you haven’t seen My Life, I highly recommend it; although bring along the Kleenex…you’ll need it. Grantland, recently did an amazing interview with Keaton that’s worth your time to read. There’s some truly great exchanges and one-liners in the interview, but none better than this discussion on why Michael Keaton passed on doing Batman “3” after having so much success in playing the role of Batman in the previous 2 movies.

Michael: And, I will take credit for this, though: The third Batman didn’t happen because I said this is not good, this is just not good.

Daniel: You were right.

Michael: And I said, “So let’s make it good,” and I run up against this resistance, and I said, “OK, I ain’t doing it, man, I just won’t do it.” And they didn’t believe me, but I said, “No, I’m really not doing it … ”

Daniel: I know — I heard they backed the truck up. I read the whole story. Fifteen million bucks they offer you, and you just said screw it, no.

Michael: Yeah, that was it. Anyway, so I just said no.

Powerful concept, right? Obviously this goes beyond movies. It’s something I truly believe in. If you can’t do something right, if you can’t do it the best you can, if you can’t do it in a way you can be proud of and ultimately defend…DON’T DO IT. This philosophy, which one could argue, allows you to put more wood behind less arrows, is why I think Google is on the upswing. The renewed focus by Sergei Brin and Larry Page is admirable. You’re also seeing it become part of the formula for other companies who are just killing right now, like, foursquare, Ford, Amazon, Square, and Roku. They aren’t rushing to market with something. They aren’t offering a rip off of something else out there already. They aren’t doing it to simply check a box.

No, they’re focusing. They’re being smart about when to invest and what to invest against. This focus isn’t just for show. It’s part of their strategy. They’re doing it right, or they’re not doing it. Perhaps if the music industry took a page from this book, we’d have more AC/DC Black Ice and less Just Bieber [anything].

So, the next time, you’re about to do something, ask yourself, can you do it right? Because, if you can’t, you probably shouldn’t do it.

The Adjustment Bureau

Saw the Adjustment Bureau the other night and I think I’m going to see it again.  It was brilliant, but very different from the trailer.

The trailer makes it seem that the movie is very sci-fi like, but in reality it’s more of a romantic-drama. There’s a lot to take away from the movie in terms of lessons. The dialogue is rife with quotable passages. My personal favorite is still, “All I have is the choices I make.” I wrote about it here a few weeks back.  Life is all about the choices we make and their consequences.  We learn and live that lesson every day.

As powerful as that quote was, there’s another one that sticks out.  In the movie Emily Blunt, says to Matt Damon, “you ruined me. I didn’t want to settle for anyone else.” I can’t give you the context without giving away the plot.  But, if you go see the movie, listen for this line and remember that moment.  It’ll stick with you.

The Natural

One of my all time favorite movies is The Natural.  Robert Redford plays the role of Roy Hobbs, a baseball player with a dark past and a talent that no one has ever seen.  Years ago, when I was a teenager I picked up the jersey Hobbs wears in the movie.  Last year, I picked up the matching hat.  Tonight I watched the movie, in my Aviator chair, with the jersey and hat on, while drinking a Chimay.  Yes, I’m a dork.

Love Is Passion

Big time fan of Meet Joe Black.  One of my all time favorites.  I was skimming through the movie this evening and loved listening to Anthony Hopkins’ character, William Parish, advise his daughter:

Love is passion, obsession, someone you can’t live without. If you don’t start with that, what are you going to end up with? Fall head over heels. I say find someone you can love like crazy and who’ll love you the same way back. And how do you find him? Forget your head and listen to your heart. I’m not hearing any heart. Run the risk, if you get hurt, you’ll come back. Because, the truth is there is no sense living your life without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love – well, you haven’t lived a life at all. You have to try. Because if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.

The Real Jerry Maguire Moment

I caught Jerry Maguire again last night for millionth time and had a mini revelation. For years I’ve always thought the “Jerry Maguire Moment” was when he authored his manifesto outlining the changes his organization needed to make…the shift toward more personal communication and service. Of course he ultimately gets fired for thinking something so counter and distributing those thoughts.

I’ve often used the phrase “Jerry Maguire Moment” to mean the point when you have a crisis of conscious, buck the system and do what you believe is right. Being someone who can be quite literal, I’ve generally abided by the concept that the “Jerry Maguire Moment” was about business…or work. But, last night, while watching the movie, I realized I was wrong.

The real “Jerry Maguire Moment” takes place at the end of the movie when we shows up unannounced at the house to profess his love to Dorothy. Of course this is where he delivers the famous “You Complete Me” speech:

“If this is where it has to happen, then this is where it has to happen.

I’m not letting you get rid of me. How about that?

This used to be my specialty. You know, I was good in a living room. They’d send me in there, and I’d do it alone. And now I just…

But tonight, our little project, our company had a very big night — a very, very big night.

But it wasn’t complete, wasn’t nearly close to being in the same vicinity as complete, because I couldn’t share it with you. I couldn’t hear your voice or laugh about it with you. I miss my — I miss my wife.

We live in a cynical world, a cynical world, and we work in a business of tough competitors.

I love you. You — complete me.”

This is the real “Jerry Maguire Moment.” Not because the words are powerful; they are. No, this is the real “Jerry Maguire Moment” because this is the moment where we see the real change in a person. Jerry becomes the person he was always capable of being, but never realized he could be. It’s the moment when he stopped treating his life like business and started being invested in the business of life.

This all makes for amazing theater. It makes us feel good. But here’s s thought. What would have happened if Dorothy listened to her sister and her gut and logic and remained stubborn? Instead of saying, “you had me at hello” what if she had said, “that’s great Jerry, but too little too late.” My revelation wasn’t so much that there was a Jerry Maguire moment as much as it was that there was a Dorothy Boyd moment. Dorothy defies logic, her sister, the room full of women and follows her heart.

The movie may be titled, Jerry Maguire, but the real protagonist whe you think about it, is Dorothy. I can’t believe it took me all these years to realize it.

No Risk, No Reward

Whenever I’m feeling stuck in a rut, a little complacent and wanting to play it safe I think back to this great scene from the movie Risky Business…

ReThinking Mixing Friends And Business – Part I

This is going to be the first of a three part set of posts on ReThinking Mixing Friends And Business.

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know I have a great appreciation and love for the movie, “Almost Famous.” It’s definitely one of my all-time favorite movies because not only is it entertaining, but it brings to light so many life lessons. One of those life lessons is the intersection of friends with business. Lester Bangs warns William Miller about the dangers of becoming friends of the band. His rationale is that it would hurt his ability to do his job well. His job is to write the truth about what he sees and what he thinks about the band. If you become friends with the band, can you really crucify them?

By the end of the movie, William is at a crossroads. He owes his completed article to Rolling Stone magazine, but is struggling with how to write it because he knows that the truth is harsh and Stillwater (the band) may not recover from such brutal honesty.

While at this crossroads William calls Lester for advice and the following is shared:

Aw, man. You made friends with them! See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong.

That line is followed up with this gem:

My advice to you. I know you think those guys are your friends. You want to be a true friend to them? Be honest and unmerciful.

William, with amazing journalistic integrity unleashes the brutal truth in his article for Rolling Stone. During the fact checking process the band is blown away by what he’s written. It’s harsh, honest, and uncomfortable to say the least. The reason their shell shocked is because as Jeff states:

He was supposed to be our friend.

Talk about a life lesson and a half.

Our industry is filled with chances to be honest, authentic, and genuine. But, too often we pass on those chances. I’ve been overly critical of so-called professional analysts like soon to be former Forrester Social Media analyst Jeremiah Owyang. An analyst is supposed to dig in to a situation and honestly assess it. These analysts, with rare exception never provide the brutal honest truth. They avoid controversy and critique like it was the plague. In short, they don’t do the job they’re being paid to do.

I tend to believe the reason they don’t provide an honest assessment of company, person, or situation is that it’s not to their personal benefit. They need to maintain these friendships and connections for future gain. They need to keep things more friendship focused than business focused. You need only look at the number of people leaving analyst firms to join a company they’ve previously “analyzed” to see what I mean.

The other analogous situation where the role of analyst lacks objectivity due to friendships is with sports commentary.  Have you watched Sports Center lately?  There’s not reporting or analysis taking place, save for Bill Simmons.  It’s clear that traditional journalists like Chris Berman would rather remain chummy with athletes than honestly critique them.  It’s clear that former athletes like Mike Golic would rather stay neutral than provide the unique type of insight and evaluation only a former athlete can bring to the table.  There’s no real critique taking place.  There’s no real analysis.  The depth they’re providing is about as shallow as Paris Hilton.  Yes, we’re talking paper thin.

Does this surprise you?  It shouldn’t.  If you’re an athlete, would you want to grant an interview to a hard hitting reporter or analyst who might make you look bad?  Of course not.  But, to the reporter who provides softballs, you’ll grant access all day long.  The general public isn’t as demanding as I am.  They can’t tell the difference between true reporting and a surface level puff piece.  If your audience can’t tell the difference and your subject matter will shun you if you are overly critical, it becomes a means of self preservation to not be critical, hard hitting, or controversial.

It’s tough to mix business and friendship.  It’s not easy.  It shouldn’t be.  If it were that easy you probably aren’t really friends in the first place.  Parts II and III will be up later this week.  Stay tuned.

2008 Top 10 Watched Movies

Some of these movies weren’t released in 2008, but the one thing they all have in common is 2008 was the first time I watched them.  You may have seen some of them.  Some might be pure popcorn flicks.  Either way, they’re all enjoyable, well to me they were 🙂

1. The Dark Knight


2. Superbad

3. Havoc


4. Across The Universe

5. Hot Fuzz

6. I Am Legend

7. 1408


8. Shooter

9. National Treasure: Book of Secrets

10. Rambo