Friday, May 23, 2008

Onto part two!

Without any further adieu (I hate that cliche), here is part two of my list of the Top 100 Films of All-Time. No more preamble, these posts are long enough as is.

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Films #80-61

80. Ben-Hur (1959) dir. William Wyler- Long and perhaps even bloated at times, it’s nonetheless the archetypal epic. It won 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture (natch) and of course for the great Heston, who carries the whole thing as the former nobleman condemned to a life in bondage. Of course he endures many hardships, escapes and finally defeats his former best friend in the glorious chariot race, perhaps still the best action sequence of them all. Fantastic, overwhelming filmmaking.

79. The Gold Rush (1925) dir. Charles Chaplin- Simply classic Chaplin masterpiece. Quite possibly his funniest film in terms of sheer laughs. Full of all the classic Chaplin motifs of mistaken identities and bad luck and near misses, it also features priceless bits like the little dance routing with the dinner rolls and of course the Little Tramp having to resort to eating a boiled boot. Even if you think you don’t like silent movies, if you don’t find yourself laughing silly at this one, something is wrong with you.

78. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) dir. Robert Wiene- Visually stunning, it’s amazing that this film is almost ninety years old! Very early example of German Expressionism (a favorite period of mine) this is the creepy tale of a mad doctor and his sleepwalking sidekick (played by ‘Major Strasser’ from Casablanca!) who are involved in a series of grisly murders. One of the first films with a frame narrative and of course there’s a trick ending! But it came before all the others, so we’ll allow it without being cynical.

77. The In-Laws (1979) dir. Arthur Hiller- Forget the unbelievably useless remake, this is one of the weirdest and funniest comedies ever made. Alan Arkin and Peter Falk are both hilarious as two odd-couple fathers whose kids are about to get married. Falk is a riot as a possibly insane CIA operative (maybe) and Arkin is perhaps even better in one of the greatest straight-man performances ever. Just watch Arkin’s face during Falk’s story about the giant tsetse flies…it’s priceless. Serpentine!!!

76. Star Wars (1977) dir. George Lucas- When I was originally making a rough list, I made a very conscious decision to not include Star Wars for the simple reason that I hate, HATE the fact that there are so many ignorant ‘movie lovers’ who believe that motion pictures started with it and seem unable to even comprehend that there may have been movies before 1977. But then it came on Spike TV a while back and even in its cropped, commercial interrupted form I still have to admit that it’s a great picture with so many great moments and fine performances all around. Just try and remember that there is SO much that comes before, okay?

75. Metropolis (1927) dir. Fritz Lang- Lang’s silent classic remains a colossus in the genre of science fiction, with its breathtaking visuals and hugely ambitious story. Exemplifying all the sci-fi should be, it’s the kind of movie that defines its genre, in that there’s no way you could transplant it as a western or whatever. The vastness and wonder of the Metropolis is light-years ahead of its time and even though I still sort of hate the corny ending, there’s no denying that this is easily one of the most important movies ever made.

74. The Passion of the Christ (2004) dir. Mel Gibson- Now here is a controversial choice. For the record I am not overtly religious, but I do believe this is one of the most visually stunning and altogether moving films ever made. I can see how this can be such a divisive picture, with some people who feel it’s anti-Semitic (which I don’t think it is) or just a glorified violent pornography (also unfounded). When I saw it in theatres the weekend it opened all I could think was “wow” and I stand by that. Love it or hate it, there is no way you can avoid having a ‘passionate’ (!!!) opinion about it one way or another.

73. Do the Right Thing (1989) dir. Spike Lee- Think Crash if it were a good movie, which is really unfair to say because it came fifteen years earlier. Unlike the latter movie (which somehow won an Oscar and will hopefully be forgotten) this is a highly intelligent and always controversial look at race relations literally boiling over on the hottest day of the year in one Brooklyn neighborhood. One that still holds relevance today and while it's not always an easy movie to watch, but that’s exactly the point. Spike Lee hasn’t really done anything too notable lately, but this one easily makes up for Girl 6 and She Hate Me.

72. Apocalypse Now (1979) dir Francis Ford Coppola- Either you love it or you hate it, I’ve found there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. For long I never knew what camp I fell into and I’m still not sure even though I include it on this list! Sound confusing and needlessly opaque? Well, so it this movie. It’s endlessly fascinating, filled with great showy performances from Robert Duvall as the brutal Colonel Kilgore to Dennis Hopper’s trippy roll as a photographer to Brando reciting T.S. Elliot in the shadows. Martin Sheen however gives his best performance, brilliantly understated and holding this fantastic mess together somehow.

71. The Wicker Man (1973) dir. Robin Hardy- No, not the bottom-of-the-barrel remake with Nicholas Cage. A police detective travels to a remote Scottish island to investigate the purported disappearance of a young girl and finds himself involved with what appears to be a very bizarre pagan cult led by the always great Christopher Lee. Mysterious and totally creepy, this one is an absolute chiller. And even though you sort of see the trick ending coming (hint: it’s in the title), it still totally freaks you out.

70. Gone with the Wind (1939) dir. Victor Fleming- Adjusted for inflation, it’s still the highest grossing film of all-time. The most famous Civil War movie (without a single battle scene!) is admittedly a bit too nostalgic in regards to the Old South and yeah it does go on forever. But it’s also a hell of a picture with great acting, a classic love story and some amazing camera work. This here is the Golden Age of Hollywood and the granddaddy of all blockbusters.

69. Back to the Future (1985) dir. Robert Zemeckis- Oh so much fun, one of the films I felt compelled to write at length about here before. By no means is it a Citizen Kane or a Rashomon (they’re coming) but it really is perfect popcorn entertainment. Read my previous post on it for my more in depth thoughts, but what I failed to mention was that it’s also such a great snapshot of that wonderful decade that was the 1980s, even if it avoids all the drugs and other excesses (though it does have Libyans!). I never get tired of watching Crispin Glover punch out Thomas F. Wilson, it’s just one of those amazing feel-good moments that causes you to pump your fist in celebration every single time.

68. There Will Be Blood (2007) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson- A tough one to include simply because it’s so recent. I don’t know where I stand on whether or not there should be some sort of waiting period for this type of thing, like with the hall of fame or whatever. But I’m cautiously putting it on and we’ll see. Perhaps in five years I’ll feel as if I was too hasty or I’ll still feel as though it was the right call. Again I don’t know, but I’m leaning towards the latter. Daniel Day Lewis is so good it’s fucking nuts. This is just a remarkable character study about a man so driven and complex and yet single minded. The cinematography is outstanding, ditto Jonny Greenwood’s intense score. I’ve heard it referred to as the something of a Citizen Kane of the 21st Century, but this one can definitely stand on its own, thank you very much.

67. Network (1976) dir. Sidney Lumet- Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway won Oscars for this in this wicked satire of network television which is even more relevant today than it was when it came out. They must have had a crystal ball when they made this one, because it speaks so much more about today’s industry than that of the 1970s. Finch’s flashy performance is hugely entertaining, but it’s William Holden who really should have been rewarded for his brilliantly understated work as the film’s moral anchor. I for one am mad as hell and …well, you know the rest.

66. Nosferatu (1922 and 1979) dir. F.W. Murnau and Werner Herzog- Both the original and remake are so equally good, I decided to put them together. Probably the two best vampire movies (with The Horror of Dracula running a close third), try watching these two side by side. The first is an awesome example of German Expressionism, with groundbreaking camera work that’s still shocking today. The scene where Count Orlok rises out of the coffin is still pretty freaky. And the remake, while not as revolutionary, is probably an even better film. Creepy and atmospheric, it features a great performance from Klaus Kinski and neat final shot. Be sure to catch the German version though, not the English one.

65. Touch of Evil (1958) dir. Orson Welles- Film Noir was pretty much on its way out by 1958, but thankfully this Orson Welles masterpiece was better late than never. Wonderfully offbeat, it stars Charlton Heston as a Mexican (!!) police official investigating a car bombing and going toe-to-toe with Welles as the local police heavy (quite literally) who may or may not be playing by all the rules. Both stars are great and make sure you see the longer version which restores Welles’ original vision to its full grandeur.

64. Scrooge (1951) dir. Brian Desmond Hurst- Easily my favorite Christmas movie, unless one counts Die Hard (which could make for a legitimate argument). Of course the timeless Dickens story has been told a thousand times and often quite well, but never quite as well as this. Even though we all know how it’s going to unfold, it still resonates. Alastair Sim is so perfect in the title role that it’s nearly impossible to imagine anyone else as Ebenezer Scrooge, something that’s a remarkable feat given the many great actors who have tackled the role throughout the years.

63. Strangers on a Train (1951) dir. Alfred Hitchcock- Taut and suspenseful Hitchcock thriller, it’s the classic about the two men who meet by chance and one suggests they solve respective problems in their lives by exchanging murders or ‘crisscross’. Of course one of them goes through with the twisted plan, while the other wants no part of it. A great battle of wits in the best Hitchcock tradition. Also by far the most homo-erotic film Hitch ever made, it doubles as a tale of weird and twisted obsession.

62. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) dir. Milos Forman- Truly inspired lunatic performance by Jack is reason enough to include this one. Convincing the authorities he’s insane in order to avoid prison time, he stirs the ‘crazies’ who have been beaten down by the very people who are trying to help them, especially Louise Fletcher who is equally good as the truly despicable Nurse Ratched. The scene where Jack ‘fakes’ the baseball game is beyond priceless and the whole cast of characters are guaranteed to charm. Also a great bittersweet ending.

61. The Producers (1968) dir. Mel Brooks- Mel’s first film is still as hilarious and politically incorrect as it ever was. Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder are both dead on as title characters who attempt to put on the ultimate Broadway flop and cheat their investors with hilarious consequences. Yeah some of the 60s stuff may be dated (though Dick Shawn as LSD is a RIOT), but it’s never dull and more importantly always funny. While I never saw it performed live (so perhaps I missed something) the musical version with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick was just dreadful. Again, maybe it was good on stage, but I just can’t see how it could have possibly won all those Tonys. Stick to this one, I say.

7 Comments:

Blogger Natmac said...

Some very good selections in this round. I completely agree with having TWBB on the list. Hell I probably would've put it further up on the list if I were making it. Also kudos for having 'the in-laws' and 'the gold rush' although i might have selected 'the great dictator' instead, although i suspect this is probably on the list somewhere closer to the top. my one grievance however, including 'the wicker man'. i remember renting it a couple years ago and not being all that impressed. perhaps i just didn't get it as it was at least good enough for someone to think it deserved to be remade.

May 24, 2008 6:52 AM  
Blogger Kid Icarus said...

When I first started with the list, I had TWBB actually ranked pretty low and then I kept moving it up as I went along simply because it's so damned good. Again as I said, my apprehension was mostly based on the fact that the movie is not even a year old and as a result I felt odd about including it on a list of the greatest films EVER, seeing as it is so recent. With most of these films I've had years to consider them, something I haven't been able to do with TWBB. But I think you're right, if I were to revisit this list in a few years time it would not only be on there, it would be even higher. It's a remarkable film and an instant classic.

I stick by The Wicker Man however. Horror is not one of my favorite genres, one that I usually don't take seriously. The fact that it creeped me out really does say something.

May 24, 2008 11:15 PM  
Blogger Kid Icarus said...

And as an aside, I must say that I'm a bit disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm over this list, fellow cinephile Natmac notwithstanding.

This is a monumental undertaking, something I consider to be one of my most important posts. It's one which I put a lot of effort into and is meant to be a lot of fun instead of the usual depressing stuff. Doesn't anyone care about the magic of the movies anymore?

Almost makes me want to NOT finish the thing!

May 25, 2008 12:11 AM  
Blogger Natmac said...

it's the weekend, give it some time. post the next 20 during the week and i'm sure you'll get lots of responses.

May 25, 2008 1:07 AM  
Blogger Kid Icarus said...

Probably a good point. Saturday and Sunday are the weakest days in terms of traffic, so perhaps I shall wait until Monday before posting the next installment.

May 25, 2008 1:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude it's also kind of hard to argue about where you have things ranked when 3/5ths of the list is still unknown. I only raised my points about Total Recall and OHMSS because I was fairly certain there weren't going to be anymore Schwarzenegger or Bond films on your list.

I'm sure I'll have more to say once I see the whole picture and can put things in perspective, and that's probably the case with others as well.

(heart) Coop

May 25, 2008 9:37 PM  
Blogger Kid Icarus said...

Very good point.

Also please note that I fucked up a little in this entry and totally skipped from #73 to #71. The sequencing is still correct, but I only had 19 films on this part where there should have been 20. It's now been corrected and The Producers is now a part of this portion of the list, coming in at #61. Just making sure that no one thinks I left it off my list!

May 25, 2008 9:53 PM  

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