Film has a way of sucking you into a universe. Be it something just as real as yours or something so off the wall and different that you can't but pick it apart. Back in 2002, when I first heard of this film Donnie Darko, I had no clue what it was or why everyone was talking about it. It looked like a straight to video flick that I saw at Wow Video and thought nothing of it. It had basically no names minus Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle and the amazing Patrick Swayze, but nothing that would have made me think "hey, this movie is going to consume your life for the next year and a half." And that, my friends, is what it did. It was a portal into another world. A strange world much like ours but where characters acted differnetly and events seemed to be very crucial to the fate of exsistence. It is and always will be one of those films that when it gets it's hooks into you, it doesn't let go.
My dear friend, Chopper, was the man to bring this to my attention. The first viewing was this strange pseudo-religious experience. A few of us were gathered around in the dark room of a friends house watching the DVD release of Donnie Darko and in a prayerlike silence, just awestruck by the mystery and intrigue of the universe that Richard Kelyl crafted. It was a universe that didn't explain a lot, but that is what made it such a draw. It was mysterious and different and erratic and strange and beautiful. The film in general takes advantage of making a fantasy alternate universe. Shots are very deliberate, special effects are crude and their is a lot of breaking the 4th wall. Sometimes this is to an advantage and other times its just a bit hokey. Here is easily one of the best introducing of all the major characters ever to be filmed:
It doesn't hurt that Tears for Fears are just so amazingly perfect for this late 80's suburban atmosphere. Anyway, this film as of late has really dropped off my list of all time favorites as it's far from being a great film. It's just such a different movie that it sucks you in. For at least two years after initially seeing it, I purchased the DVD, watched the movie dozens of times and have had many discussions about it's meaning. When I heard there was a Director's Cut of the film, I was intrigued at first but then I thought, well if it's jsut going to go right out and explain everything why bother? The thing that made Donnie Darko great was it's mystery and the fact that you never really get clear answers. You just have to come up with them yourself. To this day, I still have not seen the director's cut and refuse to after many friends have wrote it off as just plain horrible. This film is my generations cult classic. It's a midnight movie. It's in the vein of Army of Darkness, This Is Spinal Tap and even Rocky Horror Picture Show. Not in style at all but in straight up cult status. I've become jaded towards the film as of late, but nothign will take away from the visual spectacle it is. The acting and writing and directing may be flawed here and there but my word is this movie filled with amazing scenes, shots, cuts and swooping cameras.
My early college career was a vital time in my life and Donnie Darko is one of those movies that was in heavy rotation at the time. It will forever remind me of Freshman and Sophmore year at La Salle. Watching this with my new friends and with random people here and there was unreal. It sucked us all in and the power of a film to do that is just remarkable. It could not be added to this list as I don't think any other film was such a cultural phenomenon as this was (maybe Snakes on a Plane in a close second.) My life was wrapped up in a movie. A fantasy world. I was trying to shy off adult hood, most likely, but it was a moment trapped in amber that I can't forget or revel in.
1. Cinema Paradiso (1988) dr. Giuseppe Tornatore
2. Rushmore (1998) dr. Wes Anderson
3. Jurassic Park (1993) dr. Steven Speilberg
4. It's A Wonderful Life (1946) dr. Frank Capra
5. Trust (1990) dr. Hal Hartley
6. Donnie Darko (2001) dr. Richard Kelly
Up Next: On The Waterfront (1954) dr. Elia Kazan