After listing five of my top 20 films each Friday before the Oscars, I've gotten more than a few baffled and even outraged responses. Well, here's the final list -- the top five movies by which all others must be judged (by me, at least). Keep those emails, cards and letters coming.
5. Enter the Dragon (1973) There are action stars, and then there is Bruce Lee, whose electrifying physicality and cool charisma turns this chopsocky film into something transcendent. Kudos also go to the forgotten director, Robert Clouse, whose dazzling mirror-maze finale is one of cinema's most thrilling sequences.
4. Blue Velvet (1986) David Lynch's noir depicts a distorted but recognizable Main Street, USA, filled with fresh-faced hypocrites, damaged sex objects and Dennis Hopper as a drug-huffing super-psycho. It's a dark commentary on America and on American movies, from one of the most distinctive filmmakers around.
3. The Breakfast Club (1985) Teen flicks were largely about cars and cleavage until John Hughes' drama, which approached its five troubled protagonists -- from Anthony Michael Hall's "Brain" to Ally Sheedy's "Basket Case" -- with extraordinary sensitivity, intelligence and respect. Almost single-handedly, it created a new kind of teen movie. Perhaps a new kind of teenager, too.
2. Duck Soup (1933) Whenever America is in crisis, just rent this slice of Marx Brothers lunacy, starring Groucho as the disastrously glib leader of Freedonia. His campaign-worthy mantra: "If you think this country's bad off now, just wait'll I get through with it!" Achingly funny, impossibly anarchic and visually inventive (the famous mirror routine is here), it's also uncannily relevant.
1. Barry Lyndon (1975) Stanley Kubrick's underrated epic, starring Ryan O'Neal as a feckless 18th century Irishman, is also his most human and profound. Roger Alcott's Oscar-winning cinematography looks better than most paintings, and Kubrick's screenplay feels even richer and deeper than the original Thackeray novel. In terms of beauty, craft and vision, this movie has no equal.
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
-- David Warshawski, Valley Stream
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
-- Allen Freedman, Holtsville