Monday, July 18, 2011

TOP 20: #202 - #301

As always, before I actually get into the TOP 20 itself, I have to blab a little bit. Once again this group of 100 films provided me with some difficult decisions in the end, when making this list. There are some things that don't even appear in the "Ten Worth Mentioning" section here, that are VERY good films, but sadly there are only so many spots. I put a fair amount of time into thinking about this list and what I'm about to present is, what I think, a really accurate depiction of the twenty greatest films I watched over the past 100. As always, with these TOP 20's, I encourage comments. It's really the only recurring post where I do encourage comments. Let me know your thoughts. What were my "sins of omission"? What do you agree with? What do you think of the list overall. Thank you for reading, not just today, but always and without further ado, the TOP 20 movies of the past 100 movies I've watched from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book.


Note: I've revised some of the ratings for the following 20 films, as some of them needed a bit of tweeking.

20. Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) dir. Hector Babenco 8/10
It's hard for me to elaborate on a review that I just wrote yesterday, without sounding like a broken record. As soon as I finished this film yesterday, I knew that it would be able to find a home on this list. I've always been a big William Hurt fan and "Kiss of the Spider Woman" provided him with a different kind of role and a role I think he knocked out of the park. The idea of two prisoners simply sitting in their cell, trying to pass the time, while telling stories to one another, just sounds incredibly appealing to me, as a fan of film and it wasn't a shock that I took to this one like I did.

19. Groundhog Day (1993) dir. Harold Ramis 8/10
I couldn't help but include "Groundhog Day" on this list. It was the second film I watched in this set of 100, but it's been a favorite of mine for years. To me, this was always more than just your run of the mill Bill Murray laugh-fest. This was a film, that even at a young age, I GOT the message of. It had a clear cut, good-hearted message of: Live your life the best way you can and good things will happen. This film has NEVER just been a comedy to me, but rather a movie with a message and a lot of memorable scenes and a good performance by Bill Murray. Later on in life, Murray would prove that good performances came natural to him when he started to take on more serious roles like, "Lost in Translation" and "Broken Flowers".

18. Zero Kelvin (1995) dir. Hans Petter Moland 8/10
Another recently watched film, "Zero Kelvin" was a big shocker of the past 100 films, as I went in expecting next to nothing and came out with my #18 on this list. I'm a dialogue guy - I love hearing characters talk and converse and I like to see how characters interact when put into an isolated place and in rough circumstances. This was perfect for that cause, as it put three guys on a fur tracking expedition against the elements and had them physically and verbally battle it out.

17. The Big Heat (1953) dir. Fritz Lang 8.5/10
If this 100 should be known for anything, it should be known for introducing me to the genre of film-noir, as just in the past week or so, I've discovered a whole new genre, with a plethora of films waiting for my eyes. While I haven't seen many noirs, "The Big Heat", I'm sure, has to be considered one of the greatest ones. The plot is simple and deals mainly with a hard-boiled cop out to avenge the murder of his wife. Sometimes it's the simplest of films that get my biggest nod of approval. Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin and Gloria Grahame, fill out the standard noir cast of bitter hero, dastardly villain and ditzy dame and they all do a fantastic job to boot.

16. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) dir. Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris 8.5/10
This is a film that I'm not really sure how far it would have gotten, if it hadn't been for me seeing it before. "Little Miss Sunshine" is a film that I saw for the first time back in late 2006 and I loved it from the word "go". Over the years I've re-watched and re-loved this film, over and over, but this time around it was lacking something. Maybe it's my tastes, as they slowly seem to be changing, but it just didn't get over on me as highly as it used to. But none of the films on this list deserved to be looked down upon and "Little Miss Sunshine" clearly had a reserved spot on this list, just for being a damn fine film. When you pair up a cast as good as the cast in this movie, good things are bound to happen and good things did happen.

15. Body Heat (1981) dir. Lawrence Kasdan 8.5/10
Damn, did I undercut this one last night! In less than twenty-four hours "Body Heat" jumps 1 1/2 points and makes the final cut of this TOP 20 list and it's no fluke. I definitely underestimated this one and the more I thought about, the more I realized that "Body Heat" was my kind of flick. Sleazy characters, sleazy situations and sleazy music coupled with a very well written script, a nice twist at the end and good performances from Hurt and Turner, make for a definite good time at the movies. I honestly can't believe that this one went unseen by me for so long, especially considering how big I am on William Hurt. The only drawback here, besides the small ones I mentioned in my original review last night, is that they may have gone just a little overboard on the sex scenes. They were well done, but in my opinion they were a bit excessive and not really needed to that degree. Otherwise - damn fine film!

14. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) dir. Sidney Lumet 8.5/10
This is another one that I saw prior to my watching it for the "1001..." book and another one that is REALLY hard to dislike. Al Pacino is such a great actor that he easily turns any film into a "must see" and when you sprinkle in the elements of true story, bank robbery and Sidney Lumet it just gets that much more must see. This is another one where you can kind of see what my tastes lean toward - I obviously like films where a mass amount of characters are put into a confined space and we get to see how things play out. That's always been an attraction for me and while that may not be all of the appeal that I have for "Dog Day Afternoon", it's certainly part of it.

13. Moonstruck (1987) dir. Norman Jewison 9/10
I knew when this wrapped up the other night, that I'd make sure I found a spot for it on this list. It doesn't get too much more romantic comedy than "Moonstruck" and I'd go so far as to say that this may be one of the best romantic comedies of all-time. Romantic comedies really aren't my forte, but this one is just too good to pass up. Cher, Cage, Aiello and really the whole damn cast do a fine job, bringing forth a very cute, very romantic, very heartfelt film about love in Brooklyn, New York. This reminded me of an old movie and eventhough it was in color, I could see sparks of the old black & white days popping out of the performances, the scenery and the situations.

12. Funny Games (1997) dir. Michael Haneke 9/10
If it wasn't for that damn stupid ending, this could've been TOP 10 material, maybe higher. But I'm not here to harp on the bad, but to focus on the good and when you give me a film about two youths who hold a family hostage in their own home, just for kicks, it's something that, description alone, attracts me. I had only seen this for the second time this go around and both times I've felt the same way. It's a good film, that draws you in and has some truly incredible performances - and yeah, I say the phrase "incredible performances" a lot, but the emotion that the mother and father in this film depict is really uncanny and had to have been trying for them to conjure up. Great film!

11. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) dir. George Roy Hill 9/10
For me, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" was a film that really takes the audience on a journey with it. We always seem to know just as much as the main characters and we're asking the same questions they are, as they're being followed through the hills and wonder who in God's green Earth is chasing them. Sometimes I watch so called classics and they just don't hold up and I'm left asking myself, "How in the world did that film get tagged with classic status?", but this is one that deserves it's accolades and if you watch it and see Paul Newman riding around on his bicycle, as carefree as a small child, I defy you not to miss him...just a little.

10. The Sting (1973) dir. George Roy Hill 9/10
When I first watched them, back in February of this year, I pegged "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" as the better of the two Newman/Redford flicks. With some consideration today, I realize that it was "The Sting" that held my interest better and was just a slightly better film. I've also realized in this group of 100 films that I LOVE poker/card playing scenes in film. If it's done right, a game of poker can be just as suspenseful as a shootout or a standoff and it's all done top notch in "The Sting". Not only are the card playing scenes intricate, but really the whole plot is very intricate in detail and really you can't help but smile as Newman and Redford con Robert Shaw for all of his dough.

09. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) dir. Woody Allen 9.5/10
Woody has made his presence known on this list! This will be the first of three Woody Allen films to make the main list of this TOP 20 and a fantastic one to boot. Before I gush about the good, let me just say that I'm not really sure what it is about this film that holds me back from giving it a '10', but I'm just not feeling '10' for this one. Now then...terrific cast and terrific writing (as usual with Woody) lead to a terrific film (it's not rocket science) and "Hannah and Her Sisters" lands a TOP 10 spot on this TOP 20. It's hard for me to really explain why, other than that it's Woody Allen and for me, it's one of his better films...And I stress ONE OF.

08. Crimes & Misdemeanors (1989) dir. Woody Allen 10/10
We enter into that hallowed ground of the perfect 10/10's, with our first entrant being "Crimes & Misdemeanors". This is just a film that weaves two stories together pretty flawlessly. When I reviewed this for the book, I undercut it a little, stating that it "just didn't do it for me as much as some of the others did". Not sure where my head was there, but hindsight is 20/20 and thank God for hindsight, because this is clearly a picture that deserves one of the top spots, this time around. Woody Allen, Martin Landau, Alan Alda and Anjelica Huston all turn in great performances and really I could watch Woody Allen act any day of the week...twice on Sunday.

07. Reservoir Dogs (1992) dir. Quentin Tarantino 10/10
"Reservoir Dogs" marks the first time in the three TOP 20's that I've created, where the first film I watched for the group makes it to the list and boy did it MAKE IT, placing in at #7. For a while, leading up to the making of this list, I wasn't sure how good "Reservoir Dogs" would fair against some new found favorites, but today, when considering everything, it's simply a film that's always going to be a blip on my radar...and I mean that in a good way. I think that, no matter how much my tastes change, "Reservoir Dogs" is always going to be one of those old stand by's that you can pop in and re-live. Some of the best dialogue ever written for the screen (not THE best, but some of the best), great performances and once again the plot device of holing up characters in a small space and letting them duke it out.

06. Midnight Cowboy (1969) dir. John Schlesinger 10/10
I don't think I could explain the placement of "Midnight Cowboy" any better than the way I described the film in my original review. It's a film that has fantastic performances and in my opinion, was the equivalent to moving art. From my original review on February 26, 2011:
This film is also probably one of the most artistic films I've ever seen. To me the entire experience of watching "Midnight Cowboy" is like staring at an intriguing painting. It allows you the freedom to make certain interpretations, it provokes thought, it's beautiful and scary at the same time and I think that everyone will ultimately see some things different. For me, I saw a movie that captures the height of the sexual revolution. A movie that turned me on, but also made me feel. Instead of using colors to paint the picture the film maker's use different assets as their colors. The atmosphere, the characters, the city, the beauty, the sex and the tragedy were this films equivalent to Roy G. Biv, and they were all mixed and mashed together to form something that was brilliant.

05. No Country for Old Men (2007) dir. Joel and Ethan Coen 10/10
The Coen's are and probably always will be some of my favorite directors. Their pictures, while not scary movies, seem to have an atmosphere that is frightening and gives you tingles down your spine. "No Country for Old Men" is not different, as the Coen's craft POSSIBLY their best film. It's pleasing to think that this MAY BE one of the Coen's best films, and that it's also one of their most recent films. It hopefully means that they're just now hitting their stride and that fantastic Coen brothers films will continue to hit the big screen for years to come. I'm getting off topic though. I think this was my favorite viewing of "No Country for Old Men". My previous view didn't have me drooling quite this much and I definitely acquired a new found taste for this film. It's yet another very simple film. Guy A has a satchel full of cash and Guy B wants it. Guy C is a Sheriff and he wants them both. Set them loose on a West Texas terrain, with Joel and Ethan at the director's chairs and you've got gold.

04. Woman in the Dunes (1964) dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara 10/10
One of my greatest finds from the pages of the "1001..." book and like I've said so many times before - Movies like this are the reason I'm watching my way through this book. This was a beautiful, brilliant film and one that I recently purchased on DVD and am excited that I'll now be able to re-live it again and again and try to peel back more of the layers and answer more of the questions and simply enjoy the film. From my original review on March 26, 2011:
I've always loved movies with a very small cast and this film is basically a two person gig, with the man and the woman (we don't find out Niki's name until the VERY end of the film, so I'll just refer to him as "man"). To me small casts are great, as it gives the opportunity to gifted actors, who have good chemistry, to just cut loose and see what kind of magic they can create. I thought both leads did an outstanding job and I also loved the cinematography - I've never seen sand look so good.

03. Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) dir. Chantal Akerman 10/10
This is one that I probably would have seen without the "1001..." book, as I had been eyeballing it for quite some time. A lot of people are going to hate this movie, period. It's a film that can easily be written off as boring and I don't even think I'd try to argue with anyone who didn't like it. What I would do, is tell why I liked it. I think it's a film that is very interesting. I'm not a pervert, nor have I ever been and I don't get my kicks looking in people's windows, but..."Jeanne Dielman..." gives us the chance to peer into the life of this character and watch her just be. We watch her go through her daily routine and then we notice something has upset that routine and just as if we were looking through a window, we have questions. We don't get all the answers, but we're free to speculate and watch things unfold. This film is voyeurism at it's finest and is a masterpiece, in my opinion.

02. Manhattan (1979) dir. Woody Allen 10/10
My favorite Woody Allen film. I love everything about "Manhattan". I love the fact that Woody shot it in black & white. I love the characters. It has what could arguably be called one of the greatest opening pieces in film history, as Woody introduces his character Issac in a perfect way, accompanied by the sounds of Gershwin. I love the cast, the cinematography and for me this is really a flawless film. From my original review on February 9, 2011
I love that Allen went the black & white route with this film, as it gives us an old time feel in a very modern world and I honestly can't imagine this film being in color. The shots of New York City are sublime and watching this film makes me feel like I've visited NYC and been back to tell about it. Woody really takes you right into the heart of the city and busts open the psyche of some of it's characters, for us to muse at and be entertained by. Love this movie!

01. 12 Angry Men (1957) dir. Sidney Lumet 10/10
My original review pretty much says it all. I will add that I've had this pegged for the #1 spot since I watched it back in March and since, nothing has been able to surpass it's greatness. The entire cast deserve to go into the annals of film history and movie making doesn't get too much better than this. In fact, this MAY BE the best movie I've watched from the book thus far...out of all 301 films I have watched. From my original review on March 20, 2011
The passion that these twelve actors are able to evoke is uncanny. Whoever decided to give the script that one little twist of having it take place in the middle of the summer, in a hot room, was a genius. The entire movie gives off a heated, claustrophobic feeling as we slowly get used to the surrounding of the room and when the door finally opens at the end, I myself could almost feel a gush of cool air slap me in the face, as I was finally out of that room, with those twelve angry strangers, who argued and screamed at one another. I love the character study that comes along with "12 Angry Men" and how each individual man in the room has their own distinct personality. I can't help when I'm watching this film but wonder about the backgrounds of these characters and I know it seems silly because it's irrelevant, but I start to picture Juror #7 at that baseball game that he was trying to get to and knowing because I've seen the film so many times, that he never gets to it. I, for some reason, picture Juror #3 and wonder what he's like when he's not being called a "sadist" and trying to convince people that the boy who lives in the slums is a murderer. I feel like I literally know someone who mimics the personalities of every single juror sitting around that table. I'm sure sometime in my life I've come across a man just like Juror #10. Someone who had their opinions pre-formed and nothing (almost nothing) was going to ever change their minds. They were stubborn and they had a certain way of looking at things and that's just the way they were. I feel like I knew a man like Juror #12, someone who was a deep down smart guy, but acted a little foolish from time to time and sometimes got mixed in with the wrong crowd. And if I haven't already, I hope someday I come across a man just like Juror #8, a man willing to help his fellow man and not afraid to stand up for what he truly believes is right. A man who stands his ground and argues for what he believes and isn't afraid to break the rules (or the law) to lend a helping hand.

TEN WORTH MENTIONING: The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), Giant (1956), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Zabriskie Point (1970), The Heartbreak Kid (1972), Sleeper (1973), The Thin Blue Line (1988), Clerks (1994), Hoop Dreams (1994), Amelie (2001)

Well there you go guys, that about wraps 'er all up. We'll, of course, do this again when we hit 401 movies watched and hopefully you've enjoyed this list. Again, if you're reading this, I invite you to make your comments known, whether you agree or disagree. I look forward to some feedback and I'll be back soon with more reviews as we make our way further through the pages of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die".

July 18, 2011 5:12pm

1 comment:

  1. An excellent top 20.. well, with 3 Woody Allen's in it, how could it not be?
    And yes, (I think I said at the time), 'Woman of(in) the Dunes' is superb, and we agree that even a few treasures like that make doing the list a worthy venture.
    I am delighted you took to Noir, always well up there at the top my personal favourite genre list.


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