Cheech Marin Has His Own Recommendations Section on the Oscars Website
What’s Cheech Marin’s rubric for determining the best movies of all time? Inventive storytelling? Breathtaking cinematography? Transcendent performances? Nah. The key to movie immortality, according to Marin’s column in A.Frame, the digital magazine of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is “every time they’re on TV, I watch them. If I see them in the guide, no matter where in the movie, I watch them, because I know these movies encyclopedically. That’s my standard for the best movie.”
Well, that’s one way to do it. And it’s hard to argue with his five favorites. There’s The Godfather Part I and II (technically two movies, but we’ll let it slide). “I don't know why I like gangs movie (sic); I guess they were the best movies made at that period,” he explains. Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller makes the list as well, because “you got to really see what a gold mining camp would have looked like in the day. It was a bunch of tents and the hookers and guys trying to take over your spot.” (Not to mention the guys trying to take over your hookers.)
What about comedy? Marin is partial to Some Like It Hot, which he believes to be Marilyn Monroe’s best movie: “She’s this ball of fire and sexuality and humor and beauty and vulnerability.”
No list of great American movies, of course, would be complete without Chinatown. In addition to its great performances by Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, viewers also get a history lesson. “It was based on a true story, how L.A. became L.A. because they got water that was diverted by these movers and shakers of the period.”
And the last movie to make Marin’s five cinematic favorites? His very own Up in Smoke.
“It’s obviously a work of genius,” writes Marin, tongue probably in cheek. “If you wanted to find out what the vibe of that era was, it was Up in Smoke.”
Fair enough, though even Marin recognizes that the film’s charms aren’t due to Tommy Chong’s great filmmaking chops: “It was not done by these classically trained actors; it was these two improv street players who had no experience making films whatsoever. We had experience in watching movies but never making one, and a great portion of that film was improv.”
Up in Smoke is the film that taught Marin about the global power of cinema. “That whole vibe went around the world and came back and whoa,” he still marvels.
There’s no more universal language than movies that give you a contact high just by watching them.