What makes one a Chewer? It isn’t just reading CHUD.com regularly, although that’s a great start. It definitely isn’t being an expert at mastication. Being a Chewer requires a certain sensibility that’s outside of the mainstream. Sure, a Chewer can hold his or her own in a Star Wars OT vs PT argument with a standard movie geek, and sure, a Chewer can go with the rest of the film snobs to an Ozu revival, but a Chewer also gets really, really excited about the DVD release of The Manitou.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to be bringing you The CHUD.com Essential Films Collection – the films that would be in our dream Chewer DVD Box Set. These are 50 movies that we think every Chewer should see and love. This is by no means the definitive list of movies that make one a Chewer, but it’s a good start. It’s also in no order – the first films that we list are just as essential as the last ones. And it’s a list that will leave off the obvious as much as possible – you don’t need us to tell you to see Lawrence of Arabia or Seven Samurai.

So fire up your Netflix or your Amazon accounts – every day we’ll be bringing you two movies that are worth seeing, and probably worth owning as well. Chew on, Chewers.

American Splendor (Buy it from CHUD!)

http://chud.com/nextraimages/asch.jpgThe Movie: In a depressing Cleveland burg, Harvey’ Pekar (Paul Giamatti) wastes away in a mundane life. But little does he know that he is soon to
“stumble upon a” medium in which he can channel his frustrations and story: comics. He uses the pulpy page to redefine his life and touch others, including his future wife, Joyce (Hope Davis). But as Harvey has always been in control of his tale, he shows up to punctuate the movie with segments featuring himself and his wife, as they tell the story of their love and his life.

Why it’s Essential: Paul Giamatti’s performance goes beyond mere impersonation into actual transformation. He’s played his share of sad sacks, but none resonate more with Pekar. Giamatti goes under the gruff exteriror and slouched demeanor to find the heart and very vital spirit “that drove Pekar to refuse to accept a mediocre, meaningless life in suburbia.” But don’t go thinking this is simply another average biopic with a great central performance. The unorthodox narrative structure, solid pacing, and quirky casting of Harvey’s wife, co-workers, and friends keep the film rooted in reality so that you never feel the obligatory schmaltz and predictable beats that down so many conventional biopics. And while it’s whooping the ass of that genre, it comes off as a genuinely great comic book movie with a good origin story to top it all off.

Pekar’s story isn’t one of exceptional strength, intelligence, or ability. It’s one of exceptional heart, and every time I watch it, it never fails to touch me, make me laugh, and captivate me with equal measure. I don’t how such a grumpy guy’s tale is so watchable, but damn if it isn’t.

- Micah Robinson

Gimme Shelter (Buy it from CHUD!)

 The Movie: It’s the height of the Summer of Love, 1969. The Maysles Brothers, already reknowned documentarians, have stepped in to replace Haskell Wexler as documentarians of the Rolling Stones on their fall tour. The final stop is to be a free concert in California, eventually held at the Altamont Speedway. What happens at Altamont will end the Summer of Love and usher in a new maturity for rock and roll.

Why it’s Essential: There’s an undeniable shock value inherent to Gimme Shelter, as the movie cluminates with the killing of a fan by Hells Angels hired as security for the show. But that’s only the hook, as the movie goes much deeper into the whirlwind energy of rock and roll. It contrasts the incredible draw of a band like the Rolling Stones, seen here at the height of their charisma and popularity. The lure of a possible ‘Woodstock West’ drew 300,000 people to Altamont, largely thanks to the promise of a Stones appearance. And by standing back and watching the event unfold, the Maysles’ cameras are witness to the unstoppable machinery of popular rock and roll. When violence happens, bands like Jefferson Airplane, poster children for the so-called Summer of Love, are powerless to protect anyone, even themselves. How can a force mighty enough to collect so many people in one place fail so dramatically when lives are at stake? ‘Gimme Shelter’ is possibly the Stones’ best song, and the film is full of electric performances by the band. But the title literally becomes a cry for help, as the movie is a document of ideals and illusions being shattered.

- Russ Fischer