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Thu December 1, 2011
Watch This: Paul Feig's Eclectic Must-See Movies
The comedy Bridesmaids was one of the breakout movies of the summer, grossing more than $285 million worldwide and earning critical acclaim for its strong cast, especially star Kristen Wiig.
Director Paul Feig put together a must-see movie list for the Morning Edition feature we've decided to call Watch This — and though it's not all comedies, Feig tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that Peter Bogdanovich's 1972 screwball comedy What's Up, Doc? was his Star Wars — meaning it was the movie he had to see over and over again.
"When I was a kid, I'd never seen a screwball comedy," Feig says. "So for me this was just this mind-blowing, new type of comedy. ... I went bananas for it."
The movie, which stars Ryan O'Neal and Barbra Streisand, centers around four identical bags and the people who own them. One of the bags is owned by O'Neal's character, musicologist Howard Bannister, Ph.D., who's being pursued by the beautiful yet chaos-attracting Streisand.
"She's just in love with this nerd, and she's chasing ever after him," Feig says. "Which is, I think, why I liked it too. ... Anything that showed that you could be a nerd and girls would be after you, I was all for."
The Human Tornado (1976)
Feig calls the cult blaxploitation film The Human Tornado "possibly the greatest movie ever made."
The film stars Rudy Ray Moore as Dolemite, aka the titular Human Tornado. If you watch the movie trailer, you'll see that it's not exactly safe for all audiences.
From the opening scene, where Dolemite introduces the film preening around in a huge cape with the opening credits on the back, Feig says the movie is just "spectacular."
The Human Tornado employs many classic tropes of its era: fight scenes with added sound effects, multiple gun battles and a story that's way over the top.
"There's a haunted house and a witch, and then there are bad guys trying to shut down a club. It is just minute for minute the greatest movie experience," Feig says.
If you get a group of friends together and rent the movie, Feig says, you won't be disappointed — and you will not stop laughing.
Risky Business (1983)
Before Tom Cruise was a megabucks-earning superstar, he danced in his scanties — to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll' — in the teen comedy-drama Risky Business. Feig says the movie blew his mind.
It's not that Feig, who was in film school at the time and thinking about getting in to the business, was a particular fan of teen sex comedies. What blew his mind about the movie was the soundtrack, from the German electronic group Tangerine Dream.
"[The music] is very, very not comedy," he says. "It was the first time I realized that you can make something that's funny, and if you put this kind of music on top of it, it just makes it resonate more."
Never mind the iconic scene with Cruise in his skivvies; Feig says the moment that stuck with him most is a scene later in the film. Things have fallen apart, and Cruise's character, who's fallen in love with the prostitute Lana (played by Rebecca De Mornay), is riding through the streets on a bicycle.
"And he gets to her, he hugs her, and the camera is going around with the music playing. It's so beautiful, and it chokes you up," Feig says. "I just can't say enough about that film."
If there's one movie on Paul's list that emphasizes pure cinematography, music and powerful imagery above all else, it has to be director Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi. The title is from the Hopi language, and translates roughly as "unbalanced life."
The movie has no actors, no lines of dialogue and consists primarily of slow-motion and time-lapse footage of cities and landscapes.
"They have these great moments where people are just staring at this camera in ultra slow motion, and it's just mind-boggling," Feig says. "It really makes you think about humanity and want to know that person's story and get inside their head."
One of the big drivers of the film is the powerful and often ominous music by the famed minimalist composer Philip Glass. Recently, Feig caught a screening of the film with the score performed lived by the New York Philharmonic and the Philip Glass Ensemble.
"It was so moving and emotional. ... That's the power of film, and that's why we love to do what we do," Feig says.
The Conversation (1974)
Francis Ford Coppola's psychological thriller The Conversation stars Gene Hackman as a surveillance expert for hire; he's a loner living an obsessively private life who gets swept up in a plot of suspicion and intrigue.
As with Koyaanisqatsi, the film's simple piano score plays an important role — though it's more subtle.
"The way that this piano creates this feeling of the solitude of his life really just brings it home,' Feig says.
Coppola made the movie between filming the first two installments of the Godfather trilogy. In fact, The Conversation was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture — but lost to The Godfather: Part II in 1975.
"This is heresy," Feig says, "[but] I kind of think it is Coppola's best movie. It's just so good."