Friday, June 30, 2006

#2- The Sting- George Roy Hill- 1973

Doyle Lonnegan: Your boss is quite a card player, Mr. Kelly; how does he do it?
Johnny Hooker: He cheats.

A comdey, a buddy film, a tragedy and a heist. This is the reason I love cinema. Storytelling. ANd yes, it is #2, but for the longest time this was good ol #1. The only reason it has come to the second position is more or less to keep things fresh. Also, my idea of why I love film has changed since I was a kid. But for the time being, I will tell you why The Sting embodies the best of what cinema is.

For starters, it really is because of the story that this film is so high. Just as it says on IMDB, "remember how happy you felt the first time." It's true. This is the best first viewing film you will ever see. I won't talk much about plot becauise I feel of all classics, this is one the new generation forgets about. And why, I don't really know. It's not like this movie is dated or is a story that no one can relate to. It's your classic con game. One thing that blows me away about this film is the fact that on the AFI Top 100 films, it doesn't even appear. It won 7 Oscars, has three amazing performances and one of the best film scores to date.

The tag-team of Newman and Redford is better in this film then in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but I think that lends itself to a better story. One with a twist, original characters with quirks and a villain to top all villains. Yes, Doyle Lonegan played by the amazing Robert Shaw is one of the most badass villains in cinema history.

So why #2 now? Film used to be only about entertainment for me. Not that The Sting doesn't have great artistic value, it just wasn't the reason I loved it. I love it because no matter how many times I watch the scene in the train during the poker game, or as the con builds, or as Hooker does stupid things, its damn fun to watch. And I love entertainment. But it slid to #2 because now I appreciate artistic value that is also entertaining. And when #1 comes out, most of you probably haven't seen it. But the #1 film dethroned The Sting because it is a damn entertaining story with a message and with brilliant directing and writing that I appreciate on a higher level than any other film. That is why it gets the #1 spot I guess. But I don't like saying The Sting is #2. Because it really isn't. It's my #1 movie. Where as the next one is my #1 film. Strange concept, but when you are a film nerd, you realize the difference.

So God bless GRH for making this film and teaming two great actors against one in my personal favorite movie of all time.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

#3- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest- Milos Forman- 1975

"They was giving me ten thousand watts a day, you know, and I'm hot to trot! The next woman takes me on's gonna light up like a pinball machine and pay off in silver dollars!"

Instead of prison, we get loonies. And the best cast of loonies you will ever see. 1975's Cuckoo's Nest is basically along the same lines as the last film on the list, except its not like it at all. Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, this film achieves greatness from its acting. This is by far has my favorite performance by a single actor. Jack Nicholson as the straight shooting, sort-of loony but not as loony as the rest R.P. Mc Murphy who gets out of a high security prison and transfered to a mental institution to see if he is, in fact, a loon. We all know he isn't a straight up lunatic, but he is, in fact, a dangerous man who should not be around just about anybody. He is sent to Nurse Ratchett's ward and immediately becomes the center of attention with the other men who are mostly in the ward voluntarily to be checked out. The rest of the film is about the relationships that build between McMurphy and the rest of the lot and how it changes his perspective on things.

The story is just as moving as any and the cast of characters you will meet are some of the best supporting roles I have seen. Danny DeVito as Martini, Christopher Lloyd as Taber, Vincent Schiavelli as Fredrickson and my personal favorite, Sydney Lassick as good ol' Charlie Cheswick. You can't help but get sucked into these in depth characters with their quirks and strange ways of seeing the world. Cheswick's view of the world is that of an 8 year old in a 40 something year old's body. Each member of the ward is unique. You can't help but loving them.

To all those who haven't seen this classic, do it soon. It's a wonderful film. Enriching, entertaining and awesome all around.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

#4- The Shawshank Redemption- 1994

"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free."

Uplifting to the last, The Shawshank Redemption is by far one of the best filsm I have ever seen. I will save my pissed off rant for a little lower and first praise the film that deserved to be much more of a success. As an innocent man in prison, Tim Robbins plays the role of his career as Andy Dufresne, the soft-spoken smartest man in all of Shawshank. He brought hope and culture and life to the dead walls of a jail that was just like any other prison. Red, played by Morgan Freeman (also the role of his career) plays our narrator and the main focus of change in the entire film. As much as the film is about Andy, our protaganist is Red. He goes throught he most change. A man who doesn't believe in hope or anything before Andy, and once Andy finishes the unthinkable, finally sees the spirit that Andy lived by. It's a beautiful story of friendship, salvation and hope.

So here is my rant. What the Fuck! Forrest Gump is the most overrated piece of crap ever. We all know that 1994 was the best year for entertainment in many years. Shawshank got the worst shaft of any film ever. EVER! A film that is pure brilliance straight through and that doesn't use pop-culture to sell tickets gets overlooked by another unconvincing Tom Hanks performance. Seriously though, Forrest Gump may have overshadowed this film in the mainstream, but real fans of cinema have shown the suppor tfor Shawshank. As much as it doesn't fit in with other cult films, it is pretty much the greatest cult film of all time. A film that did relatively mediocre in theaters, but to this day remains the number one most rented and purchased film? That's saying a lot. A movie with a real message.

Added notes:
After watchign this again tonight, I see that my Top 5 delves into five of my favorite topics for character generation in films and why these movies make the tops of my list. Five institutions will be discussed. The first was school (Rushmore) which will always pose great conflicts (the reason why Donnie Darko, John Hughes films and such all work.) This one, however, brings in another excellent institution: the prison system. You get all kinds of characters on the inside. Gaurds, institutionalized old men, innocents, guilties, corrupt wardens and many more. Characters like Brooks leads to a real human feel to the world on the inside of Shawshank. Even the "Ladies" give it much more of a realistic feel (not that I have ever been inside a jail.) However, its things like this that make this film so amazing. A much more realistic film with great characters with depth than many other movie I have ever seen. The next three films will bring in three different institutions. Of course, I'm not going to tell you what they are. So just wait to see the list. I leave you with this message from the film.

"Salvation lies within."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

#5- Rushmore- Wes Anderson- 1998

"You guys have it real easy. I never had it like this where I grew up. But I send my kids here because the fact is you go to one of the best schools in the country: Rushmore. Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and your going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down. Just remember, they can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget it. Thank you."
Wes Anderson is an amazing director and this film was the first of this kind of film that I truly appreciated. Up to this point, my love of film didn't go past action movies and blockbusters and the occasional classic. Then I saw this preview and my young, 8th grade mind saw Bill Murray and a smart mouthed youngin on the previews and said to my dad "Lets see this!" Well, I saw it and was blown away so much that I had no idea wether I liked it or hated it. Well, after a year and waiting and waiting for it to come to VHS, I rented it and discovered I didn't like it or hate it. I loved it.

Wes Anderson has the style that I love the most of any modern director. Its quirky, funny, melancholoy and filled with genius moments. He has a way of working with actors as well. His ensemble spirit is seen in almost every movie, but where Royal T's and Life Aquatic get bogged down with ensemble (not a bad thing, just not the thing I love th ebest about his movies), Wes directs two stunning performances with great support in this film. The two best performances of this film (and in any Wes film) are executed by Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray. Schwartzman (who I believe was 16 during the shooting of this film) plays the fast talking, smart mouthed "genius" Max Fischer who to this day stands as one of my personal anti-heroes. He is actual the class clown and failure as he has too many extra-curricular activities. He befriends a man who gives a speech at his school, Rushmore named Herman Blume (Murray.) Here is yet another genius melancholy Murray role, and the first of his new trend in this style (Lost in Translation, Broken Flowers, Zissou). Fischer falls for a school teacher who donated a book to the library (about Jacque Cousteau) and falls into a strange love triangle between himself, Blume and Ms. Cross.

As most of Wes' works go, they are comedy, but with serious relationship issues and dramatic build-up. As Royal T's is his best drama (but its still riotusly funny), Rushmore is more comedy. For me, the more funny Wes can get, the better (another reason why I love Life Aquatic so much... I think I laughed the most at a movie during LA.) Anyway, his films strike a chord with me so much. I can't wait to see what else he can do as his career is just only ten years old.

Friday, June 23, 2006

#6- Magnolia- Paul Thomas Anderson- 1999

"We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."

As far as I'm concerned, this film is the best ensemble film of all time. The cast, a daunting list of A-Listers and veritable unknowns (up to this point) delves into a tragic, yet simple concept: regret. As much as the story is about connections and strange things and coincidence, it is mainly about the regrets that these characters all have. The regrets of a male chauvinist who hates his father and objectifies women, the regrets of a trophy wife who finally falls in love with her husband on his death bed, the regrets of a dying man, the regrets of a adult who wasn't treated right by his parents, the regrets of a child who isn't treated right by his dad, the regrets of a daughter who wasn't treated right by her father, the regrets of a father who mistreated her daughter, and the regrets of a lowly cop who just wants to find love. It's all too beautiful for me to handle sometimes.

Besides the basic story, each character has their own plot that is somehow connected to the other characters. Beyond this explanation, there isn't much to say about the film except that it is brilliantly written and directed (PTA is the man) and has the best cast ever. We all know Tom Cruise is a douche in real life. Well, his acting is amazing and this role is his finest. Frank TJ Mackey is such a complex character and goes through the biggest change of the entire cast. John C. Reilly plays his simple and naive tragic cop with the most emotion. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is the only character who doesn't regret anything, plays the bedside hospice worker who gives the film its most redeeming and beautiful character.

The best way for someone to figure out what Magnolia is all about is to just sit back and watch it. Yes, this is yet another 3 hour film, but along with The Godfather, it feels like an hour and a half. You get sucked into the characters and you have nothing but intrigue for each of their different tragic stories.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

#7- 2001: A Space Odyssey- Stanley Kubrick- 1968

HAL: I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

Pure cinematic genius. No other film to date has been able to take advantage of the big screen, of the frame in which anything can be put on celluloid the way that Stanley Lubrick did in 2001:A Space Odyssey. The number one thing that makes this movie top 10 over all the other Kubrick films (although Dr. Strangelove made the elite 10) is the sheer capacity and beauty of the effects and visuals that this movie pulls off. No movie after this has ever looked so good. Not the Star Wars films of the 70's and 80's, not Lord of the Rings, nothing. Everytime I watch this film, which is often even though the dialogue is so minimal, blows me away after every viewing. I can never get over the fact this film was released in 1968. The film is so ahead of its time (and even though its past the actual year 2001.) It gets better with every passing year. And I will go back to what I have said in previous posts. This proves that CGI sucks. Nothing looks fake. NOTHING! The thing that makes it so genuine is the fact that everything is simple, yet beautifully complex. Models and large sets are used rather than bush league blue screening and CGI. Don't get me wrong-special effects are just one facet of why this film is awesome- but it isso awesome to think about just how everything was done in '68.

Moving away from the effects and the look of the film, this film strays from straight science fiction and goes to philosophy. Thanks again to Touey, we watched this film and read some different readings for this film. We discussed technology, labor and all different aspects of society that this film brings up. The beginning, humanity is a triumph (oddly enough, mans first invention was not fire, but a weapon) and everything was glorious from the different angles Kubrick uses to make the ape-man look giant. Then we get the most raucous and brilliant jump-cut of all time. Millions of years later, BAM we have spaceships. These ships are doing a delicate, graceful waltz (the Blue Danube of course) and we see how Technology has gone from glorious to dainty and fancy and graceful. Then we see humans, expecting highly intelligent beings and instead we get almost emotionless men and women who can't even be bothered with their children's birthdays. Slowly as the movie continues, the work of man becomes more human than humanity and machines and tools become a necessity. So much so that HAL 9000 has just as many emotions and abilities as the crew members, if not more. And the best part is humans become so dependent in their work, that the evolutionary pattern continues (at the very end) and the last logical step is that man is no longer the ones using the tools and machines, but becomes the source of their power (The Star Child.) Convuloted? Yes, but this was just a slice of my A paper.

Then there are the monoliths. Who knows what they mean? I don't and frankly, I think if we knew 100% for sure, the movie wouldn't be as riveting. It obviously stands for some huge change in humanity as after every time a monolith appears, humans advance and evolve and make things to help with their survival. Is it God? Is it a higher power? Do they stand for human intellegence and inspiration? Don't know.

Anyway, I bet no one agrees with why this is Kubricks masterpiece, but I have to stand by it. It's not the most enjoyable all around film to watch ( although I love it) but it is his deepest and most aesthetically challenging film.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

#8- Manhattan- Woody Allen- 1979

"Not everybody gets corrupted. You have to have a little faith in people. "

Yet another freebee as I have blogged about this film. It's a beautiful film, a funny and heartbreaking story and classic Woody Allen straight through. Manhattan starts of with an amazing montage of sights around the city with the backdrop of Gershwin and shrouded in Black and White as the narrator and main character states it always should be. He's right as the film is beautiful. So here is the link to what I said before. Some things stand. As far as I'm concerned, this is Woody's best film straight through. Here is the link.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

#9- Amelie- Jean-Pierre Jeunet- 2001

"Without you, today's emotions would be the scurf of yesterday's. "

This is by far the most beautiful movie ever shot. Amelie, aside from the perfect romantic comedy, is a magnificent feat in cinema. The story of a woman trying to do good in the world, yet can't do good for herself trying desperately to make connections with the outside world turns into an imaginitve moving painting. Thanks to the direction of Jeunet, the film moves as if the paintbrushes are swirling the colors around in a beautiful portrait of the happy-go-luck main character of Amelie Poulain (the magnificent Audrey Tautou.) The depth of this movie breaks he tradition of most films that try to do the same thing. A romantic comedy that moves beyond just romance and brings up philosophical issues as well. It's hilarious and I feel it is the perfect romance. Rather than just romance for the sake of romance, we actually connect with Amelie and hope she succeds in finding her love. It's such a happy story with a touch of bittersweet.

The main reason I love this film is the look of it. Based on a classical painter, the way the films colors are brought out are saturated in green and red with one focal point of blue in almost every shot. It's brilliant. Also, this film holds some of my all time favorite shots. The scene where Amelie skips stone at the edge of a waterfall as shown here is an amazing shot. It looks like it is straight out of a dream. Everytime I see this shot, I quiver with its brilliance and beauty. Also, the scene in which Amelie shows the blind man through the market is uplifting. When the blind man glows at the end as if he has seen for the first time just through one person describing what things look like is so life fulfilling and great that I can't help but become filled with joy along with the poor soul.

The innocence of Audrey Tautou's face brings so much to the table for the character. Amelie is filled with quirks, as every character in this film is. She has these small facial expressions that are so great in adding depth to a scene that it's no wonder I am madly in love with the woman and wish I could meet her someday to give her a big fat kiss and thank her for her amazing acting. That aside, the characet of Amelie is so accesible that anyone will fall in love with her watching the film.

If you need something uplifting, get this film as it is one of the most enjoyable and uplifting films I have ever seen. And for me, I can fill my cheesey romance and brilliant artistic film love in just one place.

Monday, June 19, 2006

#10- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb- Stanley Kubrick- 1964

General "Buck" Turgidson: Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless *distinguishable*, postwar environments: one where you got twenty million people killed, and the other where you got a hundred and fifty million people killed.
President Merkin Muffley: You're talking about mass murder, General, not war!
General "Buck" Turgidson: Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.

Best. Satire. Ever.

I swear to God everytime I watch this movie it gets better. Hilarious. I really can't think of much to say about this movie. I mean, it's brilliant directing, writing and most of all acting. Peter Sellers is my all-time favorite comedic actor because of his three roles in this movie. He plays the British Mandrake who is so anal about code and honor that it sets him back, President Muffley who has a cold and "doesn't want to go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler" and finally, the best of the three, Dr. Strangelove himself, a wheelchair bound ex-Nazi aid that is now helping the United States. Half of his body is controlled by his love of the Nazi's and leads to many hilarious fights with himself. Then there is good ol' George C. Scott in his finest role of his life. He steals the screen whenever he is on it. This blows my mind since Peter Sellers is my favorite comedic actor. How does Patton kick his ass?!

Anyway, political satire is by far the best. Brazil is close to this in greatness, but this movie is less serious satire and more slapstick-satire. Kubrick is a genius. This film goes to show how great of a director he is. He can do Lolita before this which was also funny, but a lot darker, then this film then 2001 which doesn't fit into the mold of his films up to this point at all. Then Clockwork! MY WORD! WHAT RANGE! Anyway, I really don't know what else to write about this, so I'm going to put one of my fav monologues (sort of) in here as proof of it's ridiculousness.

[the President calls the Soviet Premier]
President Merkin Muffley: [to Kissoff] Hello?... Ah... I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes... Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri... Clear and plain and coming through fine... I'm coming through fine, too, eh?... Good, then... well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine... Good... Well, it's good that you're fine and... and I'm fine... I agree with you, it's great to be fine... a-ha-ha-ha-ha... Now then, Dmitri, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb... The *Bomb*, Dmitri... The *hydrogen* bomb!... Well now, what happened is... ah... one of our base commanders, he had a sort of... well, he went a little funny in the head... you know... just a little... funny. And, ah... he went and did a silly thing... Well, I'll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes... to attack your country... Ah... Well, let me finish, Dmitri... Let me finish, Dmitri... Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?... Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Dmitri?... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello?... *Of course* I like to speak to you!... *Of course* I like to say hello!... Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened... It's a *friendly* call. Of course it's a friendly call... Listen, if it wasn't friendly... you probably wouldn't have even got it... They will *not* reach their targets for at least another hour... I am... I am positive, Dmitri... Listen, I've been all over this with your ambassador. It is not a trick... Well, I'll tell you. We'd like to give your air staff a complete run-down on the targets, the flight plans, and the defensive systems of the planes... Yes! I mean i-i-i-if we're unable to recall the planes, then... I'd say that, ah... well, ah... we're just gonna have to help you destroy them, Dmitri... I know they're our boys... All right, well listen now. Who should we call?... *Who* should we call, Dmitri? The... wha-whe, the People... you, sorry, you faded away there... The People's Central Air Defense Headquarters... Where is that, Dmitri?... In Omsk... Right... Yes... Oh, you'll call them first, will you?... Uh-huh... Listen, do you happen to have the phone number on you, Dmitri?... Whe-ah, what? I see, just ask for Omsk information... Ah-ah-eh-uhm-hm... I'm sorry, too, Dmitri... I'm very sorry... *All right*, you're sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as well... I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri! Don't say that you're more sorry than I am, because I'm capable of being just as sorry as you are... So we're both sorry, all right?... All right.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

#11- Henry Fool- Hal Hartley- 1997

"Certain work needs to be experienced all at once in order for one to appreciate the full force of it's character."

Sorry for no picture, but blogger is being a real dick. If you want to see the poster for the film, here ya go.
Damn the bandwidth police!

It's funny that this line from Henry Fool can sum up the works of Hartley himself. As a premptive shut up to Stev and Kevner who for some reason didn't appreciate the fill force of this films character, I would like to say no independent American film can stack up to the sheer quality, philosophy and unique style as Henry Fool. Minus the foreign films on this list, everything to come in the top 10 is a major studio work. Here in Hartley's epic and last true independent film we have three stories with equal importance and three characters with equal development. The story is strange and takes place in not so many locations, but it has so many important values attatched to it that it becomes an epic.

First the story of Henry Fool. The man is a wanderer, a poet and a degenerate. The things we hear him say makes us see an intelllectual, but his actions make us think of a bum or a convict. Hisn ultimate goal is to finish his magnum opus, or as he calls it, his "Confession." It's his story dating back to time he did in prison for Statch. His tale is written in many copy books and we never get to see his works. At the beginning of the film, we see him walking down the road like a lone warrior on an adventure with a ciggarette for a sword and his briefcase of writings as a shield. He wanders into the lives of the Grimm family where we meet the two other characters so important to this tale.

Simon, a lowly trashman who barely talks and some think is "retarded" meets Henry, befriends him after some strange events occur to him at his work and Henry soon lives in his basement. Simon's story is the most moving and inspiring. Simon, who seems to be slow, takes up writing after he almost begins to be obsessed with Henry's story (not the "Confession" since he doesn' t read that till later.) Simon starts writing and although his spelling " is neanderthal", he wrote his first poem in a sort of "Iambic Pentameter." His genius shines through as his poem is either hated for its subject matter or is loved for its sheer brilliance. Again, we never get to here his work or know what its about.

Fay Grimm is the beautiful slut in the beginning and the voice of reason for Henry by the end. Her attitude toward life changes as Henry comes in and shatters their strange hom exsistence. She falls for Henry, marries him and slowly brings Henry out of his dream world of writing and into a more domestic life as Simon and Henry change roles.

This film is very complex. It can be hard to swallow upon it's first viewing. But may I say that the more you watch, the more you get from it. Beyond the philosophical and empowering storyline, you will get some ridiculously hilarious moments and some of the fastest and greatest dialogue ever written. The performances are also unique following the usual next to emotionless characters who seem to be reciting their lines rather than actually saying them. I beleive this is the biggest hump to get over for someone watching Hartley films, but get over it... it's his style. When you appreciate what he is going for (having the dialogue be more like a message than a story and have the characters merely the vessel for these messages) you will learn the true greatness of this film.

I forgot to mention as this is a later draft of this very review that the three main actors, Parker Posey as Fay, James Urbaniak as Simon and Thomas Jay Ryan as the titular character are three superb performances.

As for the quote at the top, Hartley needs to be appreciated in bulk. Not in one sitting maybe, but the more Hartley films you see (esp. the ones leading up to this, his finest moment) you get a full library of meaningful stories and tales filled with the strange, the beautiful, the tragic and the hilarious.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

#12- Brazil- Terry Gilliam- 1985

"Listen, kid, we're all in it together."

Gilliam is the only director who can pull off things like this. Brazil is one of the best satires I have ever seen scathing things like technology, society, government and love. Loosely based on Orwell's 1984, the movie is more or less about beurocracy fuck ups. Let's be honest, the system of government has always been fucked up. The paperwork, the small things that need to be verified and the ridiculous strcture of it all is overwhelming. And as we see in our protaganist, it's all a bunch of shit that is easy to screw up. A fly gets caught in a typewriter and *BAM* the wrong guy gets arrested. The fact even that they were looking for a renegade Heating Duct repair man is absurd.

So, why should you be interested in this movie. First thing is it's pure comedic genius. Johnathan Pryce as Sam Lowry is the perfect man out of his element. His daydreams of being a superhero flying and fighting giant samarui is just absurd. The thing that makes this movie great is its seperate into two interlocking parts. Dreams and Nightmares. Reality is a nightmare, so Lowry escapes to his fantasy dream world, which can be just as scary as the real world. It's dark, but it's hilarious. Ian Holm's character is just as funny and is probably one of his finest roles (this and Naked Lunch.) He's just as helpless in the system as Lowry. DeNiro as Tuttle was casting brilliance. A small role for DeNiro, but a great one at that. All around, the cast brings some great laughs with such a dark subject.

Beyond the hilarity and the dark subject matter and all that stuff, Brazil is a highly visceral experience. It's hard to describe the dream sequences in words and the way reality is skewed. So here I will stop writing crap and post as many pictures as possible to show you just what Gilliam can do with film. It's a darkly beautiful film. The thing with Brazil is you just need to witness it. It's like many of the other movies on this list where words can't begin to tell you how awesome it is. Just find a copy, or ask me and I will watch it with you.

Disclaimer: As many film fans know, its hard seeing movies and making lists because you are always running into new gems that deserve notoriety. Well, my top 25 will already be changing with the Addition of Brick. Simple genius. See it if you can, but I believe it is no longer in theaters. You will have to wait till August for the DVD. Anyway, it was brilliant. So it will be on here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

#13- Surviving Desire- Hal Hartley- 1991

"Knowing is not enough."
I find it awesome that in ranking my films, I had three 3 hour films in a row, one normal length feature and now a movie just shy of 50 minutes. Hal Hartley's short film Surviving Desire is the best of his early works. The film revolves around a college professor who falls in love with the only student who actually listens to him in class. He is constantly pondering a paragraph out of Brothers Karamozov by Dostoyevsky and is always pondering his love for his favorite student. Jude, played by the incomprable Martin Donovan, is the perfect aloof young college professor torn by his strange attraction that caan be summed up in one word: verbs. "Therefore active!" His buddy Henry, played by a constant Hartley actor Matt Malloy is the perfect college low-life who doesn't know anything but schooling. He flounders about and is the voice of reason to Jude's blind ambition to be with Sofie. Sofie is your perfet college writer-to-br. With a cute figure, short art school hair-do and dependent free woman spirit, we see a character who is reaching out to someone, but doesn't really know what she wants. It's a great character. She is always asking people at the bookstore where she works if she can help anybody, but no one answers her. When someone actually reaches out to her in anyway (Jude), she rejects it after a short time.

The movie, as the title suggests, poses the questions "What do people go through after what they want is lost?" "Can we survive desire?" It's pretty excellent that the word "desire" is used and not love. The relationship is desire driven. That is why you will find the answer to be that although it hurts, you just have to lay your head in the gutter a bit and walk away just fine.

I highly suggest this film to anyone who has been in a relationship that didn't work the way they desired. It happens all the time. We love someone, or at least assume we do, and when we lose them, we feel horrible. I posted about this movie before, so here is the link to what I wrote after I saw this for the first time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

#14- Crimes and Misdemeanors- Woody Allen- 1989

"We're all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions, moral choices. Some are on a grand scale, most of these choices are on lesser points. But we define ourselves by the choices we have made. We are, in fact, the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love that give meaning to the indifferent universe. And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying and even try to find joy from simple things, like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more."

The idea of death, of consequence and of the battle between religion and fate is one that runs through most of Woody Allen's films. IN Crimes and Misdemeanors we get two overlapping stories of morals. One is straight drama, the other is ridiculous comedy. The pacing, the editing and the writing of this film is unbelievable. Thanks to Allen for that. With an intense cast, a serious and intriguing subject matter and excellent insights, C&M is one of Allens best and, obviously enough, one of the best films I've ever seen.

I will talk about this film in the halves by which it is split starting with the serious half. The story of Judah is riveting and edge-of-your-seat drama. I have never been held with such suspense in a drama than in this film. Judah's story revolves on infidelity, murder and how to cover up guilt or if guilt is even a question in doing unspeakable crimes. None of this is giving away stuff. It's in the title, so you know stuff is going to go down. Judah is played by Martin Landau. His bone chilling acting will make you question your faith, your morals and the difference between right and wrong.

Then there is the comedic side to this film. Although the overall outcome of this half isn't exactly super happy and hilarious, Woody Allens part as Cliff will bring the comedic relief. Cliff is in a troubled marriage. His wife basically hates him and doesn't listen to him. His only joy is his work, which is documentary filmmaking. Not too lucrative. He is in the shadow of his brother in law Lester, a big time TV producer who produces crap (played by Alan Alda in one of his finest screen moments) who's philosophy of comedy is "Comedy is tragedy plus time!" Cliff falls for Halley (Mia Farrow) who is working on the Documentary Cliff begrudgingly starts working on about Lester. He contemplates infidelity with her but is torn between his duty as a husband and his love for Halley. Ultimately he holds off as Lester becomes interested in Halley and they soon find each other.

The supporting cast in this film is remarkable. With Mia Farrow, Alan Alda, Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston (Law and Order What!), Anjelica Huston and others, you get a power packed performance from all parties. The writing and dialogue is so tight that every last bit of the film seems real. None of the characters seem useless even if they get small amounts of screen time. They all have a purpose.

It's all about the severity of moral choices. Is a crime really a crime if no one knows who commited it? Is a crime of the heart that is never followed through more damaging then one that is taken to the end? What is the role of God in the world? Is there a God? What is existence all about? Of course, I need to thank Professor Touey for making me watch this film in Philosophy & Film (along with many other gems.) If it wasn't for this movie and the readings of Sartre and such tagged on to it, I would have looked at it as another film in Allen's huge catalogue. Instead its my second favorite of his and one of the best movies I have ever seen. Films that make you think are the only way to fly.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

#15- The Godfather- Francis Ford Coppola- 1972

"I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom, but I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a boyfriend; not an Italian. She went to the movies with him; she stayed out late. I didn't protest. Two months ago, he took her for a drive, with another boyfriend. They made her drink whiskey. And then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her, like an animal. When I went to the hospital, her nose was a'broken. Her jaw was a'shattered, held together by wire. She couldn't even weep because of the pain. But I wept. Why did I weep? She was the light of my life beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again. I went to the police, like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison - suspended sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool. And those two bastards, they smiled at me. Then I said to my wife, for justice, we must go to Don Corleone."

The mafia movie. I'm not a huge fan of crime films... just kidding. Something about the cutlure of criminals and crime is very intriguing. It may be the great conflicts and character developments that arise with the morals that are destroyed in these type of films that is cause for intrigue. And if any film blends all these great aspects and at the highest rate of intrigue, it would have to be The Godfather. It's an obvious choice, but it's a great film no matter what. Every aspect of it is sweet perfection.

First I want to talk about FFC. Coppola is an enigma to me. In his career of filmmaking and everyone lauding him as one of the greatest of all time, he had a strange span of excellence. It lasted eight years (more or less.) From the filmming of The Godfather in 72, he filmmed easily4 of the greatest movies of all time (only two of these are on my list, but I still need to see one of them). They include GF I and II, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now. After that, his movies were anything but great. They were decent at times (esp. his segment of New York Stories) or they sucked (Jack, Peggy Sue Got Married and uncredited on Supernova?!?!) Well, we at least got sheer excellence from The Godfather.

Now I want to talk about the acting. Brando at this point was washed up and getting old, Pacino was unknown and everyone else was in the same boat as Pacino. For these guys to all be in a huge undertaking was a dicey move. It was, of course, one of the greatest casting jobs ever. From Diane Keaton to James Caan to Talia Shire to Robert Duvall to Abe Vigoda: you got high caliber actors who were starting there career or saving there careers. Pacino's portrayal of Michael is one of cinemas greatest character developments and conflicts. From courting Kay and trying to keep the straight and narrow to getting sucked into the position of Godfather after the death of his brother Sonny we get facets of a character from all over the emotional map. Brando is at one of his fienst moments as well as the all famous Don Vito Corleone.

Now to the story. It's pretty basic, but the struggle of good and evil and family is so strong and evident in this film that it's rock solid start to finish. The thing about this three hour film is that three hours seems like nothing while watching it. Time flies. And that is because the story sucks the audience into it with great ease. Although the characters are doing unspeakable crimes, we can't but root for them and feel emotionally attatched to them. This is why the performances, the writing and the directing are so perfect. They come together to make a great film.

It's no doubt The Godfather is one of the greatest films ever made.

Friday, June 09, 2006

#16- La Dolce Vita- Federico Fellini- 1960

"A man who agrees to live like this is a finished man, he's nothing but a worm! I don't believe in your aggressive, sticky, maternal love! I don't want it, I have no use for it! This isn't love, it's brutalization!"

So I already posted a blog about this great film. La Dolce Vita shows that the sweet life isn't exactly so sweet at all. The thing that makes this three hour drama so amazing is it's skewering of the rich socialites of Rome, it's lush cinematography and its superb performances by all the actors. Here is the link to my post about the movie if you need more clarification. This one is my freebee post so I can take a break and prepare for my looong write up of #15. It's funny how from 17-15, you will get three 3 hour films.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

#17- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly- Sergio Leone- 1966

"You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig."

The Western is known as the most American genre there is. Strange enough then that the best Western film was filmed by Italians in Italy with only three American actors. That's right. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is the best western ever made. It's a Spaghetti Western. Sergio Leone, who worked on American films as a second unit director before making the "Man with No Name Trilogy" learned the craft of filmmaking from Americans, took it back home to Italy and made three of the finest American films ever. Taking a genre like the Western out of the United States and morphing it into his own seems like a ridiculous concept. What drives an Italian to portray a theme that is mainly an American idea and make it into the best of these films? Well, here are the reasons why.

Most Westerns before this one either were shot in the studio with terrible sets and backdrops projected behind the cowboys, or were the John Ford westerns that were set in the actual American west and were so popular that people can recognize parts of the US and they became cliches for the most part. Leone shot in Spain, so it was a new terrain to see as a backdrop for the Westerns. Also, the films were made in the 60s, so these movies were much more explicit in the violence that was shown. Another way to mix it up was to get basically unknown actors. At the time, Clint Eastwood wasn't a Hollywood insider who made overrated movies. He was a TV actor. In GBU, he exploded into the mainstream with his stoic and unforgettable performance as "the man with no name". Besides the sweeping epic of the new Western style that Leone brought to the table, we got one of the best film scores ever written. Ennio Moricone left behind a legacy of amazing music from GBU. The music is one of the most famous scores in cinema history that if you don't know it, I bet you do... you just didnt know it was from this movie.

Sadly, I had a lot more written, but blogger decided to go haywire and delete it. Comment me if you want to know more reasons why The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is so amazing. I don't feel like re-writing and I re-wrote some of the above and it sucks.

#18- A Clockwork Orange- Stanley Kubrick- 1971

"There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence."

Most people's favorite Kubrick film. For me, it comes in third overall. And that is not to say I don't love it as much as half of those other Kubrick heads out there. Actually, it has so little to do with that at all. For me, A Clockwork Orange is a perfect film. So don't question my ranking of this film. Because it's my list and I decide what to put where.

Anyways, that aside, Clockwork is at first glance a stark, disturbing image. At second glance as Professor Daniel Touey put it so perfectly "You can't help but laugh at how funny it is, although sitting in the IMAX alone and laughing out loud made me feel like a degenerate." It's one of the best satires on how to approach the issues of delinquency. It satirized the time it took place, although the world of Clockwork looks nothing like 71. It looks more like, 76. With all the revolt in the world post 68, it made perfect sense for Kubrick to take some time post-2001 to co-write and direct a film about a rebellious youth with a radical attitude. Sexual revolution made this film also extremely important at the time. Women's rights and equality are all satirized in this showing the state that the world was in at the time the film came out was actually just as brutal as the story in Burgess novel of the same title.

The thing that drives this film into excellence is not only the genius of Stanley Kubrick (that is obvious in all of his films... even boring ones like Barry Lyndon... the man had a talent for putting things on celluloid) was the performance of misfit Malcolm McDowell. The man is a strange wild card among most actors, but its this outside of the social circle that we get the perfect Alex for the film. If it was a big star of the time, the movie would be a glamorization of violence and rape. Instead, we get some no name at the early stages of his career. This should have made things a little hard to digest, but McDowell has such screen presence that we can't but help to love Alex. A terrible human being that becomes one of cinemas heros and most loved characters.

It's the stark exageration of the truth, the amazing shots and angles that Kubrick always dreams up and the amazing acting of McDowell that makes A Clockwork Orange one of the best films of all time.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

#19- The Usual Suspects- Brian Singer- 1995

"A rumor's not a rumor that doesn't die... "

Do not read if you haven't seen the movie! Skip down to where you see bold next in this post!!

Here is another movie that pisses me off based on someone's criticism of it. In Seminoir, a student who will remain nameless (Graham Rowe) stated his hatred for The Usual Suspects which seemed like a surprise. His complaint was that most of the film is a lie. Well, as most of you know, most movies are in fact, fiction. And in that, they are not true. Also, saying "I don't like this film because its a lie" is pretty much the most retarded statement I've ever heard against a film. Now, if he said the acting sucked, the story was boring or it was unintriguing, then I'd see where he was coming from. But, oh yeah, that's right, The Usual Suspects has an underdog cast of actors who put on one of the best shows you'll ever see, a twisting turning script and one of the most amazing performances of any actor (Kevin Spacey as Verbal.) So get over yourself.

Continue reading, if you please.

The Usual Suspects is your perfect crime film. The one thing that makes this stand above most crime drama films is that its 90% flashback as Verbal Kint tells Agent Kuyan (Chazz Palminteri) all the sordid details of the large job that he and 4 other thugs pulled the night before. That's all I'm going to tell you plot wise. I didn't really spoil anything above, but its best that you don't read it if you haven't watched.

A script as twisty and turny as this one that gets better as you watch calls for recognition alone. Christopher McQuarrie who hasn't done much else (besides Way of the Gun which he also directed and another movie with Singer before US) won the Oscar for this flick. Spacey also won for best supporting actor. The thing that makes this amazing is the fact that in 1995, the movie didn't get the critical acclaim that it should have. In fact, Ebert (fat douche) gave it thumbs down and said it was unconvincing. Go hang with Graham, ya idiot.

As I'm writing this, I realize how little I can talk about it because of the fact it has a twist to it. Most people know this already, but I don't feel the need to review it as much as I have the other movies. The thing that I love about this movie is the story, and the fact it has so much surprise to it limits my ability to divulge things in it that blow me away everytime. So go and watch it if you haven't seen it and leave me some sweet comments. Maybe we can chat about it sometime.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

#20- The Big Lebowski- Joel Coen- 1998

"Way out west there was this fella I wanna tell ya about. Goes by the name of Jeff Lebowski. At least that was the handle his loving parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. See, this Lebowski, he called himself "The Dude". Now, "Dude" - there's a name no man would self-apply where I come from. But then there was a lot about the Dude that didn't make a whole lot of sense. And a lot about where he lived, likewise. But then again, maybe that's why I found the place so darned interestin'. See, they call Los Angeles the "City Of Angels"; but I didn't find it to be that, exactly. But I'll allow it as there are some nice folks there. 'Course I ain't never been to London, and I ain't never seen France. And I ain't never seen no queen in her damned undies, so the feller says. But I'll tell you what - after seeing Los Angeles, and this here story I'm about to unfold, well, I guess I seen somethin' every bit as stupefyin' as you'd seen in any of them other places. And in English, too. So I can die with a smile on my face, without feelin' like the good Lord gypped me. Now this here story I'm about to unfold took place in the early '90s - just about the time of our conflict with Sad'm and the I-raqis. I only mention it because sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? Sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Dude here - the Dude from Los Angeles. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude. The Dude, from Los Angeles. And even if he's a lazy man - and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in all of Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin' for laziest worldwide. Sometimes there's a man, sometimes, there's a man. Well, I lost my train of thought here. But... aw, hell. I've done introduced it enough."
~The Stranger

The Big Lebowski, a film that centers around a rug getting urinated on, is one of the most original and ridiculous concepts for a film. And I love every darned minute of it. The laguhs are nonstop, so much so that if it's your first time watching it, garunteed you missed some excellent lines. The idea of bowling, missing persons and getting justice for a soiled rug blows my mind to this very day. Most of us already know how genius the movie is, so I will point out a side of this movie that I love that others might not appreciate.

After reading my reviews for Memento and Blade Runner, you may have noticed my useage of the word "neo-noir." Basically, the film noir genre re-thought with different conventions and styles. Yes, my friends, Lebowski is pretty damn noir. It may not be your usual detective flick, but the fact that The Dude is sent to find someone who is "missing" and falls into strange pitfalls, you have some classic noir elements going on. And yes, thanks to Bill Wine again, I have a good eye for a noir flick. Here is one dead ringer that the Coens were using this genre for their comedy. The one scene where The Dude is setting up a chair to stop from intruders entering and the door opens out into the outside and not into the room is a blatant mockery of how the door in Double Indemnity opens out into the hallway. Doors usually don't open onto the outside. Rather, most open inside so you don't hit your visitor in the face with the door. It's subtle, but its there. Also, the drugged out dream sequences remind me of one noir movie we watched in Seminoir called Murder, My Sweet where the guy had a series of dream sequences and blackouts.

The Coen Brothers are cinema masters and Lebowski is their finest hour. Mixing comedy with old genre and some of the quickest and most hilarious dialogue ever. I'd sit here and list all the great supporting roles, but it goes without saying that actors like Hoffman, Turtorro, Goodman, Buscemi, Moore and on and on. There is no end in sight of great performances all centered around Jeff Bridges amazing career high role as The Dude.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

#21- Memento- Christopher Nolan- 2000

Remember Sammy Jankis.
Yet another neo-noir flick in the top 25. Memento transcends noir and mixes up the genre in a different way than how Blade Runner did. Rather than a detective, we have a victim who witnessed his wifes rape and murder. The catch is that the film is in reverse and that our main character, "Lenny!" has no short term memory. This calls for one of films most intriguing characters and situations. The movie runs in a very jumbled order with scenes in color going backwards and scenes in black and white happening in the past sometime before the scenes in color have happened. The narrative style is very Tarantino in it's jumbled nature, but it takes on a new level of storytelling that builds the suspense and will leave the viewer questioning what just happened.

The first and most importan reason that this movie is so excellent is for the performance of underdog and almost unknown actor Guy Pierce. His broken character of Leonard will have you sympathetic for his situation at the beginning and questioning everything at the end, just as Leonard must question everything. The thing that makes the character seem realistic isn't the way the film is set-up or told, but the little quirks that Pierce brings to the character. When he's talking, he speaks fast with a pace that is sometimes hard to keep up with. His sentences seem to be fragments, just like the fragments of his mind. Without Pierce's stirring performance, it would be hard to believe that someone would have no short term memory. Relying on Polaroids would seem almost ridiculous, but not for his quirky and idiosyncratic character. Little twitches, smirks and gestures make the character real. The story is a bit convoluted, but just convoluted enough that we get sucked into it and don't see the problems with the storytelling. This is where it's noir side really kicks in. The story is dark and twisted and takes you on a ride. Again, without a likeable, realistic character, we would fall short to all the insane nature of the story and it's reeling narrative.

Another perk to Memento is its supporting cast. Without the help of Joe "Pants" Pantoliano and his excellent role as "Teddy", we wouldn't have the comedic relief and grounded view of what our main character is really all about. His quick comedy and his realistic view of Lenny keeps the character from falling apart. Natalie, played by Carrie Ann Moss (in her finest role to date) is the perfect Femme Fatale. As the movie goes on, we aren't sure if she is friend or foe and we aren't sure of what she is exactly after.

This movie is hard to describe without giving things away, so I apologize if anything in this review seems like a spoiler, but I don't give specifics and there is so much depth to this story that explaining it not only ruins it, but would be really hard. This is one of those films where you jsut need to watch it for yourself, pick your brain, watch it again and see the greatness of the characters and the twisted tale of murder and the unknown.

#22- Raiders of the Lost Ark- Steven Speilberg- 1981

This one is for you, Glow Girl.

So recently at my Alma Mater, I had a film history course. And in this course with the illustrious Bill Wine, we studied the blockbuster which was born in the late 70s. For this section, we viewed this very film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. And after viewing it (I had to miss the actual viewing due to a fucking speeding ticket,) Wine said that he shouldn't have showed it because it isn't really a good movie. He would rather show Close En-Mutha Fuckin-counters of a Third (and thankfully, final) Time! I immediately went on a blitzkrieg of "what the hell are you talking about" to this man who I had admired. How can one say Raiders isn't a good movie to show for the blockbuster section of the course! So, here is why Raiders (and originally, I had lumped all three together, but Stev was all pissy about that) is a perfect movie and my favorite blockbuster series of all time.

Pretty much, Indiana Jones is the perfect hero. He's an anti-hero just doing his job (which as Henry Jones states in Last Crusade really isn't what archeaologists do.) He hates snakes (esp. on planes... in Raiders, thats when we first see his fear of snakes... on a mutha feuckin plane... any connection?), gets
the girls, uses a revolver and a whip, and is a smart mouthed bad-ass with an intelligence. When people say Bond is the man, I say shut up and look at Indy. Anyway, beyond the character alone being one of the most likeable on screen "heroes", the action sequences get better as the years go by. I know some people say thats a stretch, but I say this movie, like Blade Runner (Harrison Ford connection) proves that CGI sucks. In new movies, you wouldn't see elaborate sets like the opening scene where a giant ball is chasing Indy. You don't see awesome fights like the fight scene set around the plane with the giant nazi dude. The explosions look real because they are (more or less) and it is much more authentic.

Thats basically what makes it a great movie. You get captivated by the stunts, the acting of Harrison Ford and the amazing journey all over the world with this flick. It's not the deepest, film you'll ever see, but it has a lot going for it. I used to only love big picture blockbusters. Hell, I saw Jurassic Park on the big screen like 17 times when I was a kid (most of those times were for a $1.50.) Without this movie, those big-budget flicks wouldn't be as epic. Raiders set the bar so high that movies like Pirates of the Carribean or Mission Impossible:III have to live up to how it all started. I would say humble beginnings, but Raiders doesn't shy away from the action. It throws it right in your face with the classic hollywood feel of the old action serials.

It is in my humble opinion, however, that Raiders would not be a good movie without Harrison Ford. He makes my list with a lot of movies (although I'll tell you right now that Star Wars will not be making the cut) and I say it because he picks great roles and can do a ton of different characters. That being said, he is the king of the blockbuster and is best playing characeters like Dr. Richard Kimmbel, Han Solo and especially Indiana Jones.

Friday, June 02, 2006

#23- Trust- Hal Hartley- 1990

Maria Coughlin: He's dangerous but sincere.
Nurse Paine: Sincerely dangerous.
Maria Coughlin:
No, he's dangerous *because* he's sincere.

Thanks to Byron Karabotsos and his class, I discovered an amazing indie director from the 90s who had critical acclaim when his films were out, but fell off the face of the earth afterwards. Hal Hartley films are a breed of their own. Trust is just one of the many you will see on this list (with more to come as the list rolls on.) His style of comedy and phiosophy intertwined with unconventional directing and acting styles breathes fresh air into the lungs of indie film fans.

The reason Trust makes the list so high is for its sheer hilarity and bittersweet storytelling. The story of two young teens (yes, they are both teens) shows the innocence, yet truth behind young "love." At the very beginning, Maria (played brilliantly by the forgotten Adriene Shelley... btw, she makes me swoon in every role I've seen her in which is two Hartley films) tells her family shes pregnant which kills her father... literally. Matthew (played by my all-time favorite actor and personal hero Martin Donovan) is a genius misunderstood by his boss, his father and the locals who assume he is dangerous. They find each other as he is out looking for a job and she is kicked out of his house. There relationship is one of need as she needs a father for her child and he has no woman in his life (his mother is dead.) The relationship grows out of necessity and out of Trust.

It's a beautifully twisted and hilarious tale of relationships (as most Hartley movies are about these themes.) Wheter he focuses on the twisted family situations that the American culture has seen growing rapidly or the love relationships that build out of strage circumstance, Hartley shapes the dialogue around dry, witty conversations that bounce back and forth like a ping-pong game of ideologies. It doesn't help that intermingled with these deep conversations are random scenes of hilarity. One scene when Matthew is quitting his job at the television repair shop that bores him (he states that "television is the opium of the masses"), he storms out and sees a line of about 20 people with broken televisions. He bumps into a lady who drops her TV and smashes it. He stops, looks at her and says "It was broken already." Things like this take you out of the serious subject matter and smack you in the face to bring you back to the comedy.

Any romantic comedy lover will like this film, although it is far and away not your average romantic comedy. It's a romantic comedy with a deep, dark wit attatched to it. It's a piece about romance, television, society and ultimately, Trust. It's another hard one to find (as there is no DVD version of the film) but if you want to see it, let me know and I can set aside time to show you my ultimately rare and out-of-print VHS copy of this gem.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

#24- Blade Runner- Ridley Scott- 1982

Best science fiction film you'll ever see... and here is why. Blade Runner blurs the lines of Sci-Fi. Yes, it's set in the future and has strange landscapes of dark cities, flying cars and such, but the overall air doesn't feel foreign. The film brings a future society and makes it feel contemporary. The enemies are 'replicants' which are cyborgs, but they don't look robotic and act with somewhat normal human emotions. The Blade Runners themselves are futuristic Sam Spades as they are teh ones to hunt down on replicants who are back on Earth.

Basically, this is a Noir-Fi film. Taking the conventions of the Film Noir genre and skyrocketing them into the future is done so flawlessly that there was no way I couldn't have this film on this list. Two genres I love blended seamlessly into one epic film.

Harrison Ford is on top of his game in this flick. He commands the screen with his stoic and dark Rick Deckard, a retired blade runner brought back onto the force. Rutger Hauer (before he became hilariously bad) gives the most powerful and chilling performance of his troubled career. Roy Batty is the most cruel enemy you'll see, but there is a sweet twist at the end to show you just how the replicants can really be. The thing with Hauer in this movie is the fact that you see just how great of an actor he really was. Then when you watch some of the other films he's in, you say "why did he choose to do these roles?" Even in the crappiest of crappy movies he has done, he still has a screen presence that goes wasted. It's a shame, but if Roy doesn't make you sit on the edge of your seat in Blade Runner, then you just have some sort of mental block against Rutger.

Beyond being sci-fi and noir, Blade Runner is a social statement. The replicants were built as slaves, but since they have emotional abilities, they rise up and want equality. The fact that replicants look exactly like humans and the only way to know someone is a replicant is through a series of strange questions to bring an emotive response makes the enemies even more interesting.

This film is also an exercise in proving that CGI is for the birds. The special effects are not dated in the least. Everything is dark, dreary and rainy. All the approach shots of the cars coming into land and zooming around the skies of the city are really great. The action sequences in this film are also excellent.

Blade Runner has slowly climbed this list (used to rest near the bottom) but over time, I truly appreciated the pure genius of the story, the acting and the genre blending that this movie achieves.

(Editor's Note): Check the Pearl Jam post if you are interested in Odds and Lost Dogs: The Who vs. Pearl Jam tracklisting.

#25- Reservoir Dogs- Quentin Tarantino- 1992

Here it is, Trick of the Light.

Most people when placing their all-time fav movies have Pulp Fiction as their highest film of the Tarantino catalogue. However (and this is not the reason it makes it up this high), I believe that Tarantino was at his best during Reservoir Dogs. Without relying on big name actors (at this point, people like Madsen, Roth and Kietel were not the A-List actors of most of Tarantino's works to come) or a big budget (PF was 8 mil and RD was 1.2 mil), it still acheived the same level of great storytelling, characters, dialogue and gritty violence that its predocessor did. And for my dime, its overall a much more enjoyable experience. The way the film is edited into seeing into each character individually and in Tarantino's usual non-linear fashion is crisp, refreshing and fun.

Most of us know what the film is about, but for those unsure or for those who haven't seen the film (which means you need to see it NOW), you have your basic hiest-gone-wrong. One of the men on the job is a cop and the whole twisting and turning of the story goes on with the characters, but the audience knows fairly early on in the film whats up. This adds a level of suspense even though we know who tipped off the cops.

Buscemi, Kietel, Roth and Madsen play off of each other in sweetest perfection. Roth in his bleeding state is one of the most over-the-top yet perfect roles of his career. Only his role in The Hit could measure up with this one. Madsen plays the cool, calm and psychotic criminal to a tee. Kietel is your basic redeeming crook with an ethical code that runs him into walls later on in the film. Buscemi is the man-on-the-run character who only cares for himself. Buscemi proves that an actor can be unattractive yet totally enthralling with this role.

Tarantino had so much control over the flow of this film that it is next to impossible for me not to appreciate how he took a shoe string budget and made the film work. The backdrop of 70s vintage hits, you have your classic Tarantino love of music, explotation and ultra-violence.

It all started here.