Found these lists (twelve total which I've compiled) a couple years back and they slowly became my bible for weird…
Defending Your Life
The first true story of what happens after you die.
In an afterlife resembling the present-day US, people must prove their worth by showing in court how they have demonstrated courage.
From REAL LIFE through at least this film, Albert Brooks' movies depict a kind of post-Altamont fallout in which the Boomer ethos takes hold but only corrupts the status quo instead of overthrowing it. Me Generation solipsism births REAL LIFE's capitalistic and fame-seeking selling of the self for air-time. MODERN ROMANCE attempts to work out its titular concept by scrutinizing how that same narcissism and a social awareness informed by simple-minded emotional utopias sold on TV affects the unpredictability and demands of a relationship. LOST IN AMERICA flat-out rewrites Boomer touchstone EASY RIDER from a symbol of generational promise to the final word on its failure to launch.
DEFENDING YOUR LIFE suggests that even the afterlife isn't safe from Boomer-fication.…
My favourite depiction of the afterlife, as a rather drab bureaucratic place of sensual delight mingled with baffling lack of pertinent detail. It's a secular person's dream! Brooks and Streep are at their best; their romance is unfussy, cleverly played, and deeply affecting. With every year that passes, Brooks' work looks better and better.
Directed by, written by, produced by, marketed by, starring and presumably watched by Albert Brooks (he’s a busy man), Defending Your Life is a sweet, light-hearted comedy that doesn’t outstay its welcome too much but lacks both the laughs and the emotional pull to really make the most of its fantastic concept.
Brooks (Drive) plays Daniel Miller, a man who wakes up in Heaven’s “waiting area” after being killed in a car accident on his 40th birthday. Initially bemused by his surroundings, Daniel discovers that he must “defend” his life in order…
I really should hate this movie. It's a high concept comedy, shot in an unremarkable style, designed as a showcase for one man's comedic sensibilities, that turns poignant at the end. I just described every single Adam Sandler or Kevin James film. But this is an Albert Brooks film. Rather than using a mere 3% of its brain, this film uses the whole damn thing. It's funny, it's thoughtful and it's also rather romantic. We shouldn't buy how quickly Meryl Streep falls for Brooks, but thanks to their performances and the filmmaking, we get it. We are in love too. This film shouldn't work, but it does! It leaves me with all sorts of warm, optimistic, hopeful feelings. It makes the fear go away.
I loved Defending Your Life before I knew how much Jonathan Rosenbaum loves it also. I love it, I love it, I love it.
Others might decry the "Hollywood ending," but keep in mind that Bob Diamond (Rip Torn, perfect) estimates that Daniel (Brooks) has returned to Earth from Judgement City anywhere between 20 and 30 times. Still more might complain about a slower comedic pace. As a screenwriter, Brooks strikes the perfect balance between comedy and tragedy, and those who do not agree must never have been afraid of anything in their lives. Daniel has failed so many times before, only to break through once and for all. Such is the human condition — prone to inaction out of fear, broken down by an inexorable, "effortless" love. Defending Your Life is the first screenplay I would read as inspiration if I ever had to write a movie. Easily my all-time favorite romantic comedy.
I was in middle school when DEFENDING YOUR LIFE came out, and while I'm aware that I was not the target audience, I remember absolutely loving it. I purchased the VHS tape when it became available and I rewatched it numerous times. I hummed the catchy theme music, I repeated lines verbatim, and I became a lifelong fan of the brilliant Albert Brooks. In the early 90s, I was a 14 year old boy completely obsessed with this movie. Needless to say, I did not have many friends back then.
And I'm thrilled to say it held up extremely well over the years. I have revisited it several times since then, and the funny bits are still damn funny. The…
The emphasis on courage (not love, decency) as the purpose of life turn what could be a bland rehash into a slam dunk
Visually dull, philosophically soft, not especially funny. The constant referencing of that old myth about using 3-5% of someone's brain pissed me off. The idea that paradise is a place where you can eat and eat and eat and not gain weight seemed like a very unimaginative, Los Angeles celebrity idea of paradise. Meryl Streep's largely wasted in a idealized girlfriend role with no humor or depth to it. And the idea that your value as a person is based on how unafraid you were in life...I don't know that I really agree with that premise. And not funny. Not funny at all. I couldn't help but be charmed by the sentimental ending, because I'm a gigantic sap and I like shit like that. But this isn't nearly as deep or funny or interesting as Albert Brooks wants it to be.
Haven't seen this in literal decades probably but there's so many moments and lines that I remembered pretty much perfectly. Great stuff.
This is one of the most thought provoking films I've ever seen. Please watch this movie.
Meryl Streep laughing and eating spaghetti is my own personal heaven. ♥_♥
I have seen this movie more than a dozen times since its release in 1991. I hadn't seen it in a long while and picked up the dvd the other day that was a double feature with Heaven Can Wait. Albert Brooks is one of the funniest actors out there and a fantastic filmmaker!
I remember seeing this as a teenager, but was terribly bored by it. But re-watching this film as I approach middle age gave it a whole new life (pun intended)!
I like the premise and much of the execution. Defending Your Life is a very gentle afterlife film with small moments of comedy very much in line with the rest of Albert Brooks' work. Unfortunately it makes the film feel kind of weightless by the end. I wish I liked it better than I do.
When I was in high school, I was a super-fundamentalist. And I walked out of this movie in the cinema because it offended my beliefs.
The joke's on me. It's brilliant. And I was a dumbass.
Complete list. :-(
From his book Essential Cinema.
A huge thanks to everyone who added films, helped me find films with alternate titles,…