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Melanie Lynskey: DVDs I Had To Own

[Editor's Note: The Film Experience is very pleased to announce that  the lovely actress Melanie Lynskey is our super extra special duper final guest blogger this week. Take it away, Melanie - Nathaniel R]

Hello everyone!

I could not be more honoured that Nathaniel asked me to do this little guest spot on my beloved Film Experience. I read this blog so much and it's always thoughtful, funny, and enlightening. I hope I do a good job guest blogging and I desperately wish I could use a word other than blogging, because ugh it is a horrible word. Okay. Remember, I'm a college dropout, so please forgive bad grammar and clunky sentences. (Dearest Nathaniel I hope you're having a great time with your mom.)

"picture of myself drinking a scotch as I blogged to go with your banner xo"


Somebody wrote to me on twitter and suggested that I write a piece about the movies I consider to be the ten best movies of all time. They said they'd be interested to see how the movies stacked up against the Sight and Sound poll. Well, the truth is, I honestly feel like I haven't seen enough movies to be able to compile a list of The Best Movies. My knowledge of pre-70s cinema is embarrassingly limited. I'm also super indecisive. So, I thought that instead, I could take a picture of a bunch of random DVDs from my collection and give a brief explanation of why I love these particular movies.

I don't buy a lot of DVDs so every one of these picks is because I said to myself "Yes. I must own this. It's important."


in photo order...

1) Terms Of Endearment- I remember one summer this was on TV when we were on a family vacation. I watched it with my mother and my grandmother (!!) I think I was nine or ten. I already knew, at that point, that I loved acting, I loved becoming a different person. But this was the first time I remember thinking, "oh, you can make people cry their eyes out from acting?" I couldn't believe how the performances made me feel, and I understood that even though the story was so moving, the thing that was making my heart ache was what these actors were doing. I knew it was magical. Shirley MacLaine, man. Wow.

2) The Piano- Oh Jane Campion I love you so much. I love the women in her movies. I love the sexuality. I love the light and the composition. I feel like I can smell the earth under the character's feet and feel the air around them watching a Jane Campion movie.

3) Gigli- yes. Gigli. [More Melanie Picks after the jump]

Because Gigli is a wildly entertaining movie. It's a movie that will make you ask "how?" and "why?" and "what's happening?" You will go around talking about The Baywatch for days afterwards. Highly recommended.

4) Ponette- Victoire Thivisol, the little girl in this movie, is devastating. I don't know how this performance came to be. Maybe she was tortured by the director. I hope not but if so it was worth it because my god it is incredible.

5) Star Trek- I am not usually a sci-fi fan, to the point that I don't even know if Star Trek would be considered sci-fi. I'm sure there is a proper nerd term for it and I apologise to all nerds. You know I love you. But- I loved loved loved this movie. Zach Quinto runs away with it for sure, but the performances are so great all around.

6) Wet Hot American Summer- funniest movie of all time. There is not a moment that is not perfect. It's a perfect movie. I am obsessed with it. I'm not even going to start naming moments (but Paul Rudd angrily picking up the cutlery and Molly Shannon talking about her divorce and that little boy giving her supportive advice and the love scene in the shed and Showalter as the comedian at the last night of camp show ok I'm stopping now.)

7) Blue Sunshine- This is an amazing and bizarre horror movie from the 70s about a man wrongfully accused of murder. As he investigates what really happened to try to prove his innocence, he discovers that people all over the place are losing their hair and becoming homicidal maniacs and it may be the result of bad acid they took years before. If you don't want to see it after reading that, I do not care to know you.

8) Straw Dogs- Susan George. Oh, Susan George.

9) Mickey Blue Eyes- this movie contains my favourite scene in the history of cinema. I have watched this scene over and over. Hugh Grant is pretending to be a mobster and he does a terrible mobster accent while pretending he doesn't know a man he actually works with at an auction house. I cry laughing every time.

10) Manhattan- I mean, everyone knows that this movie is the greatest. I saw it as a teenager and was like "I want to be an adult! I want to have affairs and talk and talk and live in a city and have complicated entanglements!"

11) Dog Day Afternoon- I saw this movie for the first time about eight years ago and I was so blown away by it. The complexity of the character that Al Pacino plays- the layers to that performance are so shocking and stunning. And John Cazale, who was incredible in everything.

12) To Die For- I am an actressexual. I want to come out right here, today, on The Film Experience. And I am extremely attracted to Nicole Kidman. My lord, she is so funny and sexy in this movie. I remember seeing it and wanting to clap afterwards with joy for her. It's amazing to see somebody just grab a role and run with it. She's so confident and so precise. I also loved Alison Folland in this movie (I had a massive crush on her after All Over Me). And it was the first time I had seen Joaquin Phoenix in anything... holy hell. He was so great. If he had somehow magically approached me after I left that movie theatre I think I would have strangled a kitten if he'd wanted me to. And Casey Affleck, who is one of my absolute favourite actors, is wonderful too.

13) Grey Gardens (HBO movie)- I sent Drew flowers after this. I was so immensely proud of her work and her commitment. I thought she was fucking amazing. And Jessica Lange is so crazily good in it. Their chemistry is really intense. I never doubted that those two women spent day in and day out together with nobody else around.

14) Short Cuts- this movie was a big one for me. I saw it when I was maybe sixteen and I was just like "yep, that's the dream." I loved the idea of doing a film like that. Still, to this day, this movie is the movie I most wish i could insert myself into. What a great cast, doing such beautiful work. I'm sure not everyone watched that intense scene with a bottomless Julianne Moore and thought "I wish that was me!" But I certainly did. That scene is so representative of why I love Julianne Moore so much. She's brave and bold but she's real, always. I loved Nathaniel's piece about her performance in Game Change. That articulated the brilliance of Ms Moore better than I will be able to. Also, Andie MacDowell is heartbreaking in this film.

15) Freeway- REESE!! I love Reese Witherspoon. I love her as a person, because she is tough and honest and stands up for herself and for people who don't have a voice, and because she doesn't deal with bullshit, and because she truly cares about things and about people, and because she is smart and funny and really, really cool. She's a good lady. I love the vulnerability she can access in her work, but man oh man I REALLY love it when she just plays a complete asshole. She is magnificent in this movie. She's hilarious and brave and dirty and weird. I love it so much.

16) Lost In Translation- I can just watch it over and over. The most perfect soundtrack of any movie I can think of. And [cinematographer] Lance Acord is a genius. I love how intensely it captures that discombobulated jetlagged feeling. And the loneliness of those two characters seeps through the screen and into my heart every time.

17) Mulholland Drive- I adore David Lynch. I love every one of his films. There are so many moments in this movie that have stayed with me all these years, they hit me so intensely. The love scene is gorgeous. I work a lot with dreams and in the unconscious and the thing I love about David Lynch is that you feel like you're watching a dream that someone has filmed. There is a depth to his films that resonates somewhere very deep and often very dark. I can feel the images getting inside my own unconscious and shaking things up in there. I also love the Los Angeles of this movie, sexy and scary.

18) The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters- this is a beautifully told story and a great, great character study. I watch a lot of reality TV because I'm so fascinated by people "being". There's a weird thing where people seem so unaware of the cameras but are performing on almost an unconscious level. 

19) A Room With A View- just romantic and beautiful. I love Helena Bonham Carter. Her performance in Wings Of The Dove is one of my favourites of all time. Her little perfect face in this movie. And Julian Sands' little perfect face. Just so much beauty.

Love Letters Pt. 1
Noah Taylor
Photos "Hello I Must Be Going"
Venice Memories 1994

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Reader Comments (36)

You should continue this "blogging" thing Melanie, you're superb at it.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

On The Piano: I just saw it and...It's a beautiful movie that's fantastically scored, and the leads do the best job possible. (Keitel and Paquin being especially fantastic, in my view.) The big issue is I'm left wondering "why did she hop in bed with George? Why is she obssessed with him now? Is the movie going to suggest an answer? Hello?" However, I get why. Campion decided to make one character mute, comitting to a choice that makes romantic/sexual rapport and chemistry insanely hard, if not near impossible, to shine through in a visual medium. I'd almost see The Piano as a better novel than a film because of that. Still, my grade would be B, because I admire the fact that Campion tried and Keitel is allowed to fully convince you of his side of the romance.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia


I'm also not prone to buying DVDs, so I totally get that urge to HAVE to buy something. Have you ever had the experience of working with someone who was in one of the movies you held dear and trying to not make a big deal out of it?

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill H

I love it that you love Ponette (I cried and cried after seeing it for the first time - seriously, how did Doillon get THAT performance out of then 4-year old Victoire Thivisol??) and Helena Bonham Carter in Wings of the Dove (she got robbed at the Oscars that year!!!). And now, I love Melanie Lynskey even more. Yay!

Keep blogging Melanie!

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Love this so much!!!

(On another note entirely: the first thing I ever saw you in was Ever After. Was filled with glee watching you work. You've always been so strong and committed in everything; a pleasure to watch onscreen. :)

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

"I want to be an adult! I want to have affairs and talk and talk and live in a city and have complicated entanglements!" you and I both Melanie! I blame my dad for feeding me Fellini and Allen from such an early age. Sigh.

PS- where'd you get the Marty tee?????

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJose

The varied nature of the 20 films here is a treat, but it's real special hearing the reasons you give for having them in your collection.

Especially love the bits on HBC's perfect face, Pacino's layers as Sonny and "I want to be an adult! I want to have affairs and talk and talk and live in a city and have complicated entanglements!" on MANHATTAN, because Woody sure does make adulthood look weird and fun and enticing.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Love the pic of you drinking wearing a Scorsese shirt. A reference to the Bridesmaids girls, I assume? ;)

Thank you for this awesome post. I haven't seen all of those movies but from those I've seen, Dog Day Afternoon and To Die For are the ones I love but I'm planning to rewatch Mulholland Drive one of these days since I think I'm a bit moer mature now than I was when Iwatched it for the first time.

PS: Nick (Davis, of course) is going to love you even more once he's seen the The Piano inclusion.

PS2: In addition to being sweet, talented and lovely, you are Kate's first kiss so, naturally, I idolize you!

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

My God Melanie, just marry me already. And I really hope someone gives you an Oscar campaign because you definitely deserve recognition for Hello I Must be Going.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Huge fan here. I've loved your work ever since my first viewing of Heavenly Creatures over ten years ago. And what a terrific blogger you are! You have such great taste in movies (the Mulholland Drive inclusion made me all giddy).

Can't wait to see Hello I Must Be Going.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterm83

This is awesome. It's amazing to think that these actors we admire are film geeks like us!

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Nice, what a great insightful write-up (made me want to revisit Short Cuts!).

But the best part is that you posed in the theme of Nat's banner photos! Just awesome. Love it. Love you.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Wow! Thank you everyone for being so kind to me :)
To Jose & the others who like the Marty shirt- Michael Showalter gave it to me. I LOVE IT. The company that makes it is called deerdana
They have so many awesome t-shirts.
To Will H- yes! I totally have had that experience. The best/worst was when I worked with Katrin Cartlidge (Naked, Breaking The Waves), who was literally my favorite actress. It took me a good week to not be totally weird and shaky around her. Eventually I just had to say "I don't know how to be normal around you" and she laughed her sweet goofy laugh and said I was crazy. Sigh, I miss her.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Lynskey

that's like, the most awesome DVD collection i've seen in a long time (even though i haven't seen Grey Gardens)

and i have to agree with you on Ponette... that girl is astonishing, i still can't believe she was able to give such a performance without being a professional actress

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereduardo

Whenever I go to a friend's house, I always check out their DVD collection (and silently judge them accordingly), so I LOVED this insight into yours, even if it is only a small sample.

Favorite bit was about Drew in Grey Gardens. What a revelatory performance that was; we all know she's great, but that was on such a different level from everything she had done before. Had I known her, I would have sent her flowers, too! And I still love to lose myself in Lost In Translation from time to time.

I echo the sentiments about Victoire Thivisol in Ponette. I don't know where that performance came from, but DAMN. Puts actresses five times her age to shame.

Out of pure curiosity, do you own any of the movies you were in on DVD? Or do you find it difficult to watch yourself?

I also must give a shout-out to Ever After, which is one of my "comfort food" movies (because it always gives me the warm fuzzies), and also to the really fun TV show Drive, whose cancellation really saddened me when it was on.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Ponette is so underrated, and Victoire Thivisol's performance is incredible, I would love to know how Jacques Doillon managed to get that performance from her.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbby

I am a sucker for anyone's "This Is Why I Love These Movies" feature, but I especially loved this one. Not just for The Piano (obviously!) but for the great pitches for Blue Sunshine and Wet Hot American Summer (neither of which I've seen) and the completely delicious reaction to Manhattan. So funny, and so familiar. Also, the nice words about Reese Witherspoon (based on actually knowing her, which is rare on the net!), the interesting take on Short Cuts, and the shout-out to the fantastic King of Kong, for which I'm proud to say I started a standing ovation in the theater before it was even over. You know when. :)

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Melanie -- The Manhattan bit. My favorite near twitter length reaction to that movie ever! Also I had no idea you were a fan of Ponette which is such a great movie. Victoire Thivisol. I am happy to say that though I wasn't officially giving out awards back then as The Film Experience didn't yet fully exist, i was doing the film bitch awards without a big audience and Victoire was my silver medalist after HBC's work in Wings of the Dove which was my gold medalist.

Nick -- I knew you'd love some of these choices

Travis -- agreed on the photo/banner thing. Priceless.

August 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Melanie: While I hate Gigli, I love your inclusion of it here. Everyone should proudly love a few terrible movies.Some of mine are the Charlie's Angels movies, yes, even the Full Throttle sequel. Like, I watch them at least once a year and can quote them kind of love.
Really looking forward to seeing you in Perks of Being a Wallflower soon!

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

No Heavenly Creatures? ;-)

Incidentally, I'd love to know if/which actors have their own movies in their personal DVD collections. (You know Tom Cruise owns the entire Tom Cruise collection!)

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Lovely actress makes lovely choices indeed! Now, I so want to see The King of Kong.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I won't pass the opportunity to ask an actress questions—

01) When memorizing lines do you create specific vocal inflections for your character?

02) Are shooting casual character scenes just as nerve-wracking as the dramatic ones?

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Nick- I do know when, and I love that you started a standing ovation!
Also, please see Wet Hot and Blue Sunshine. They're both so weird and amazing.
Mareko/Denny- i own most movies I have been in, because we always have to keep our acting reels updated, so it's good to have a copy of the film.
I really really don't like watching myself.
4rtful- I just try to learn the lines so that I can say them very quickly. I don't learn an inflection. I just kind of let my reaction come from the other actor's energy and the feeling in the moment.
It can be scary doing a "casual" scene- but for sure it's scary to trust that you're going to be able to cry at the exact moment you have to cry when filming an emotional scene, when there's never enough time to shoot anything anyway....
Nathaniel- amazing Film Bitch choices!!! I love it!
Everyone else- thanks for your kind words- you're all so awesome & I love getting to have this dialogue with you. xo

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Lynskey

Love love love Wet Hot America Summer. It may be the funniest movie of all time.
It actually gets funnier every time I watch it.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOwen

I can't wait to see "Hello I Must Be Going." It looks so funny! Is Holly Hunter's performance in "The Piano" one of your all time favorites?

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

I’m afraid I could go on for hours commenting and complimenting on your choices, but alas…

I’ve always enjoyed the story Al Pacino shared about filming the famous telephone conversation sequence with actor Chris Sarandon from DOG DAY AFTERNOON. After finishing his lengthy emotional first take, director Sidney Lumet went again immediately for another (no break, no resting) to Al’s dismay. I can feel Sonny’s exhaustion in that sequence; a great film from a smart filmmaker.

On a personal note doesn’t Susan George have the most beautiful eyes?

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Merk

This was so funny! I actually find people with tiny DVD collections have far better things to say about them than somebody with 500. The MANHATTAN snippet was just divine and, yes, I do want to see BLUE SUNSHINE. Great choices you've got in there, Melanie!

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Melanie: what about "Heavenly Creatures"? There is no shame in having it there just b/c you're in it. (You are superb in it and should have an Oscar for it!! Love love love that movie!) Great blogging.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

I also love Wet Hot American Summer. No matter how bad a mood I am in, by the time the scene with Paul Rudd having to pick up the cutlery comes on it has me laughing out loud.

Oh, and as for Star Trek? I HAD TO see it at least six times in the theater, but I was an original Trekkie and couldn't resist. Of course I own the blu-ray -- I had to buy it just to watch all the bonus features!

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Such amazing, yet off-beat choices. I love it. There are so many fantastic movies that never get recognized on the critic's "best of" lists, yet are equally deserving. And I'm so glad to hear Melanie is an actressexual! Nothing makes me want to see a movie more than a moving female performance *insert heartfelt compliment praising Melanie and her astounding performances in her astounding movies, because she is astounding*

Also, Ponette is now at the topic of my Netflix queue.

Aaaaaand I'm reduced to a blubbering puddle of emotions every time I watch The Piano. Worth it!

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRose

Oh man, I'm loving this list. So many great, eclectic choices! I especially love Lost in Translation. I just saw Mulholland Dr, and was completely wowed by it. Like you said, it was like seeing someone's dream being filmed. Awesome.

On a side note, I hail from New Zealand, so many happy returns from good old NZ!

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStevee

Love Melanie, always have.

Girl, you make me proud to be a Kiwi.

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrooooooke

I want to drink a box of wine and have a night in with this list, that's how much I love it. The actressexuality, the awesomely good bad taste, the Melanie Lynskeyness of the thing....I'm overwhelmed. Best way to start the day!

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I'm like you, I buy DVDs only when I have to. Ironically, there's no overlap in our collections, but I could wax poetic about each one of mine just as you do. Welcome!

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Thank you everyone for responding!
Tyler- YES. Oh my god. So amazing. I can't wait for the BBC miniseries that JC & HH are doing together!! Eeeeeee!
Hi, New Zealanders!
Robert- what an awesome story. Peter Jackson once made me reshoot a scene from earlier in the day right at the end of the day because I was exhausted! It was rough, but he was absolutely right to do it.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Lynskey

short cuts and mickey trek..what a combination. but its life after all. dances with wolves..forrest gump..old stuff nowadays..roman holidays....these r one of my favs

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMickey blueAB
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