When I first applied to the arts department of The Daily Californian, part of the application asked me to cite my favorite article and why. I immediately cited a column about the existential crisis film majors face when asked about their favorite movie because it was way too relatable.
When I tell people I’m a film major, I’m met with fleeting expressions of confusion as to why I’m studying film at a school historically not known for its film department (or why I’m majoring in something historically known for leaving its students unemployed.) But then, I am always inevitably asked what my favorite film is as if I should have some extra authority on the subject.
The last time I exchanged favorite movies with someone was with a fellow film major, who told me his was the movie “The Mirror” by Andrei Tarkovsky. Unphased at the time, I later learned in my film history class that Tarkovsky was an iconic Russian auteur who is considered one of the greatest directors of all time — “The Mirror” is his magnum opus. As far as “favorite” films go, it’s a pretty damn respectable one. So naturally, I was retroactively a little embarrassed by my answer: “The Devil Wears Prada.”
Which, to be fair, I still consider one of Meryl Streep’s best performances of all time.
But still, it seemed like a film faux pas to name a movie made in the 21st century not directed by the Coen brothers, Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino as my favorite film. Not to mention the fact that it is widely considered a “chick flick” — which is not a very impressive label in film terms. Being the overly introspective person I am, this interaction stuck with me for a few days, making me wonder what defines a “favorite” film and if there are only certain films “worthy” of it.
If I’m steering clear of blockbusters and rom-coms, “Brooklyn” is one of my go-to answers for this question. I love the film because I’m a huge fan of Saoirse Ronan, love the storyline and am oddly obsessed with mid-20th-century Italian immigrant families. But I often cite this movie because it’s mainstream enough not to be a pretentious answer but also critically acclaimed enough to validate me as a “cinephile.”
But, I also have a memory attached to this film. On the saddest day of my college career, I ate a box of nachos and rewatched this film to make myself feel better, a ritual that has since become my go-to way to comfort myself. Yet, when I recently watched the film when I was in brighter spirits, I realized how slow it is. This is not a film you can put on in the background and enjoy while making dinner or cleaning your room. Even though that doesn’t take away how much I love it, “Brooklyn” is a movie I have to be in a certain mood to watch.
On the other hand, I do awkwardly blurt out “The Devil Wears Prada” as my response at times because, if I’m being honest, it’s a film I could watch over and over again. It’s my go-to popcorn flick. The big city! The stylish outfits! The overdramatized-but-ultimately-realistically-sad future I will probably have as an entry-level assistant in my field! It checks all the boxes for an entertaining watch.
I still remember watching it for the first time in elementary school when I was sick at home, watching Emily Blunt’s character only eat cubes of cheese to prepare for Paris fashion week while I shoveled handfuls of Blast O Butter popcorn in my mouth. This summer when I made my umpteenth free HBO trial account to binge “Westworld,” I saw that HBO had “The Devil Wears Prada” in its library and watched it every day for a week straight. Suffice it to say, I will never get tired of Stanley Tucci saying, “Gird your loins.”
A movie I always forget to mention but has a special place in my heart is “The Birdcage.” It is my mom’s favorite film and has been added into my collection of favorite movies by proxy because of all the fond memories I have laughing with my family over Nathan Lane’s and Robin Williams’ antics. It is the only film we have rewatched together. To this day, we still reference the moment Senator Keeley’s wife comments on the Goldmans’ extensive library, only to realize they’re all “Nancy Drew” books. That quote is common knowledge in the Lim family — all you have to do is say “Nancy Drew” in a confused tone and it will always garner a laugh.
So which of these constitutes as my “favorite” film? Is it the critically acclaimed one that made me smile during a nacho-laden, depressing day? Is it the one I can watch over and over again but still consider a “basic” movie? Is it the one I grew up with and share with my family? These films are all my favorite in different ways, rendering the title useless to relativity. None of these films compare to “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “The Godfather,” but maybe they don’t need to. A favorite movie shouldn’t be about just how good the film is. They should remind us of cherished memories and impressive scenes. They make up the cornerstones of my love of film.
So maybe next time I’m asked this question, I’ll blurt out “The Devil Wears Prada” or I’ll switch it up and say “The Birdcage” or, maybe, I’ll launch into a tirade about how “favorite film” is a social construct created to drive film majors crazy. Much like asking about the meaning of life, this question has no definite answer for me, and depending on what mood I’m in, I’ll respond differently. Most likely though, I’ll immediately pull up this article on my phone for them to read.
Contact Julie Lim at [email protected].