SK’s Top 3 Movies: Sean Campbell
Welcome to the next installment of Studentenkrant’s Top 3 Movies. Each week, one of SK’s writers dives into their top three favorite movies of all time. Spanning different decades, runtimes, and genres, this series will confront readers with a diverse list of top tier cinema and explain to them what they are, why we love them, and why you should give them a watch!
This week’s writer: Sean
Few things are as entertaining as going to the cinema and watching a good movie. It’s one of life’s true delights. Whether it’s Marvel’s next event film (I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy at least 15 times now), Tarantino’s latest gorefest, innovative animation, or prestige cinema (Parasite kicks ass!), I’ll be seated.
Before getting into my relatively arbitrary top three, here’s a list of honorable mentions:
- Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993)
- Kung Fu Panda (Osborne & Stevenson, 2008)
- School of Rock (Linklater, 2003)
- Whiplash (Chazelle, 2014)
- Chef (Favreau, 2014)
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Jackson, 2001-2003)
- Everything Everywhere All At Once (Daniels, 2022)
- John Wick: Chapter 3 & 4 (Stahelski, 2019-2023)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Forman, 1975)
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Reeves, 2014)
Lilo & Stitch (Sanders & DeBlois, 2002)
Lilo & Stitch is a truly delightful and highly underrated animated classic. It should be right up there with lauded pictures like Spider-Verse, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Spirited Away. This story fills me with such childhood nostalgia and giddiness, it just had to be on this list.
After crash-landing on Earth, a highly dangerous genetic experiment known as Stitch is adopted by a Hawaiian girl called Lilo. Although he was created to wreak havoc and destroy, Lilo attempts to change Stitch and teach him the concept of ‘ohana (= family).
It’s a heartwarming, hilarious tale that instilled a love of both Hawaiian culture and science fiction in my toddler brain. And the intergalactic federation’s aliens who seek to recapture their rogue experiment are true queer icons of mine: Pleakley is the undisputed queen of drag!
Unlike most 3D-animated movies of that time, the hand-drawn animation holds up incredibly well. As does the excellent pairing of Mark Keali’i Ho’omalu’s Hawaiian music and Elvis Presley. It also features the only time I condone child-on-child violence (Mertle deserved it!).
I could already feel the film’s impact when I went to Disneyland Paris in 2009 and saw Stitch Live!, an interactive show where an animated Stitch talks to children. After being asked a question by the blue creature, I was so star-struck that I completely froze. I’ve always loved this film and I have no doubts that this would be my same reaction today.
Jojo Rabbit (Waititi, 2019)
Somehow, this Nazi-centric flick has become my new comfort movie. It’s an endlessly rewatchable story that pokes fun at history’s most heinous villains by merely pointing out how ridiculous they were, while also giving everyone painfully inaccurate German accents.
During Nazi Germany’s twilight years, a ten-year-old Jojo Betzler joins the Hitler Youth. His devotion to the Führer runs so deep he has an imaginary friend called Adolf. However, after finding out his mother’s harboring a Jewish girl named Elsa, the little boy’s dogmatic views are challenged.
Perhaps the film’s quality should be unsurprising since comedic treatments of fascist ideology have proven successful before (see Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator). Jojo Rabbit’s a brilliantly scripted, laugh-out-loud funny, touching exploration of nazi indoctrination.
The Gestapo had me crying with laughter upon every rewatch. And Taika Waititi, a polynesian jew, portraying Hitler is an inspired casting choice. Yet the film’s dramatic elements are just as effective: Scarlett Johansson (Jojo’s mother) and Thomasin McKenzie (Elsa) do exceptionally well, portraying the grief and hardship just as well as the film’s comedy.
Lastly, as if it couldn’t get any better, a German version of David Bowie’s Heroes plays over the end credits: Helden.
Glass (Haanstra, 1958)
Glass is an 11-minute documentary short film about the Dutch glass industry in the 1950s. That’s it. Please hear me out, because it’s genuinely magnificent and not nearly as pretentious as it may sound.
The short presents a wonderful juxtaposition between the artisan glassblowers of old and their machine replacements. It contrasts handmade artistry, accompanied by warm, groovy jazz music, with automated bottle-making, substituting music for chilly factory noises and robotic clanking.
I was introduced to the film during my bachelor’s degree in a class on audiovisual culture and it has stayed with me ever since. It’s a simple concept, but executed to perfection. Unlike fantastic documentaries like Summer of Soul or Jodorowsky’s Dune, this short is void of any real plot, yet highly entertaining nonetheless.
Following World War II, documentaries in the ‘poetic mode’ saw an increase in popularity. Such documentaries like Glass prioritize conveying a particular mood, feeling, or tone, over clearly defined stories. It incites an emotional reaction and I think it’s simply beautiful.
It is the perfect short film and rightfully became the very first Dutch movie to win an award at the Oscars back in 1960. The film’s 4K restoration on YouTube looks impeccable, so please treat yourself to a good time and give it a watch.
There you have it: my top three favorite movies, as of right now. Across Lilo & Stitch, Jojo Rabbit, and Glass, an overarching theme one might discover is that these films all bring me comfort. Unlike a John Wick or Tarantino watch-through (both of which I enjoy immensely), they all feel like a warm blanket. If that appeals to you, do check them out!