Thursday, June 6, 2013

TOP 20: #602 - #701

I know this is going to sound like me imitating a broken record, but I just can't believe that I only have three hundred movies to watch before I'm all finished with this journey. It really does seem like just yesterday when I set out to watch all 1001 of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" and here we are now with only 300 left to go. I know that seems like a lot, but when you've already dropped 701 in the bucket, it really isn't. Anyway, it's TOP 20 time again. For the new or the ones who haven't been paying attention, every time I watch 100 films from THE BOOK, I compile a TOP 20 list (plus ten honorable mentions that I dub the "Ten Worth Mentioning") of the best of the best of the last 100 films. It's usually a pretty rough process because when you sit down with a list of 100 films, chances are you liked more than twenty of them (thirty if you count the "Ten Worth Mentioning"). Anyway, it's 2:14am and I'm ready to get this ball rolling.

I want everyone to know that, like always, I put a lot of thought and effort into compiling this list and feel that it is a very accurate, ranked representation of the last 100 films that I watched for THE BOOK. This time around (like last time) I WILL NOT be including any new comments, just copying and pasting from my reviews to save time. Sorry if that's a disappointment, but literally writing out new comments for all twenty of these suckers is a real chore that I don't feel like undertaking.


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

20. The Bicycle Thief (1948) dir. Vittorio De Sica  8/10
Screw the communism and the neorealism and just watch this movie for what it is. Don't try reading too far into it and trying to understand the intended themes, because it's not worth it and a fabulous movie is provided, without all that mumbo jumbo tied into it.

19. Some Like It Hot (1959) dir. Billy Wilder  8/10
As I watched "Some Like It Hot", I continually asked myself a question and I think it's a good question to ask yourself anytime you watch one of these "man dressing as a woman" comedies. Would this still be funny if they weren't in drag? If they were doing everything just as they're doing it, but they looked like Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis? The answer here is YES - easily yes! I mean, try to picture Jack Lemmon, his sensible, short haircut, in a suit (maybe the type of suit he wore to the Consolidated Insurance Company - maybe even his bowler hat), lying on a bed, gushing about Osgood's proposal and shaking those maracas. My God, I could laugh right now at the thought of that. Hey guys, it's a comedy for God's sake. It's not Tarkovsky, it's not Scorsese, it's not Bergman, it's just a damn funny movie

18. Fight Club (1999) dir. David Fincher  8/10
A man puts a loaded gun into his mouth and pulls the trigger, for the sole purpose of killing his imaginary friend. That's "Fight Club". It's a clever, intelligent story and we may never see anything again that is as innovative, unique or original as this...unless Charlie Kaufman has something to say about it. It's impossible to be a film fan and not like this movie and all I was stating by the above paragraph, is that it certainly does have it's flaws. I'm still convinced that there are plot holes in there somewhere...somehow, there's got to be!

17. Marty (1955) dir. Delbert Mann  8/10
I'll never forget seeing this for the first time. My wife and I were living in our very first apartment and she'd gone off to work and I stayed home with a cold. I can remember lying on the couch, coffee table scattered with cough drops and tissues and for some reason or another, I popped in "Marty". It was at a time when I was trying to expand my cinematic knowledge, so I was watching pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Still though, I hadn't seen very many films pre-1975, so it was a big deal for me to be watching something this old and when I liked it as much as I did, it only opened the door a little wider for me to enjoy older movies more often.

16. Apocalypto (2006) dir. Mel Gibson  8.5/10
However, Gibson didn't waste any time and quickly put the kibosh on the comedy and started rolling the ball on an absolutely FANTASTIC movie. For me, the skeptical one, it was a film that built and built and built until I couldn't help but embrace the film that was being laid out before me. At first, as I mentioned, I wasn't crazy about it. Then, the village is attacked and I start to get a little more into it, but not too much. The mini war scene when the village is attacked was some pretty great stuff, but I still wasn't sold. Then we started walking and I began to wonder when we'd stop walking. Was the entire film going to be the leading of the captives to their destination or were we going to get there in time to see what happens and then some? That question was quickly answered though, when we did arrive at our destination and the cinematography started to pick up a notch. Immaculate sets,  thousands of extras, camera angles that squeezed every drop of beauty out of the surroundings and the blues of the painted bodies, the sacrificial lambs being led to their slaughter. But it was too soon for all of our main characters to die and if the sacrificing wasn't enough to get you "oohing" & "aahing" and gasping & groaning, you still had the whole final act to go - the escape of Jaguar Paw and to see whether or not he'd survive a band of worthy hunters. By the end, I was exhausted. Going from a skeptical viewer to a 100% hooked one is hard work, ya know?

15. Bigger Than Life (1956) dir. Nicholas Ray  8.5/10
It took some convincing for me to finally come around, but "Bigger Than Life" finally sold me on James Mason. I mean, I always knew he was a great actor, but he was this classically trained actor, this guy who did everything by the book and to perfection, lacking any real character almost. "Bigger Than Life" was controversial for it's time, that's obvious to even me and Mason really pushed himself and delivered in a big way. I loved how this movie took you inside the suburban seemingly perfect home and tore that facade to shreds. We got to see inside these plastic people's house, inside their real problems and what goes on when the picture perfect world crumbles.

14. The Departed (2006) dir. Martin Scorsese  8.5/10
Of course, the story is the real star of the show, as you've got a truly original idea (other than the fact that this IS a remake of a Hong Kong film, thus deeming it quite unoriginal...but I mean the original, original idea), that people are going to obviously get into. At the very same time mob decides to put a mole in the police force, the police force decide to put a mole in the mob and the intensity and suspense of it all is, sometimes, to much to bear. "The Departed" comes complete with those "sit on the edge of your seat" moments, not to mention those moments where you just cannot help but try and communicate with the fictitious characters, through your T.V. If you're watching this movie and not yelling "Get out of there!" or "Oh my God, he's gonna' catch him!!", then you're not getting into the full experience that this motion picture has to offer. Martin wants you to have fun and he knows how to make an audience have fun, all the while making a high quality movie. That's what I love about Scorsese, because first and foremost, he's a fan and knows what we want to see.

13. Grease (1978) dir. Randal Kleiser  8.5/10
I'm just going to lay it right out on the table...I had a blast watching this. I mean, sure the plot is an absolute mess, but until I sat down and actually started to write this review, I didn't even realize what a barely there plot this one has. And, like I said, it really isn't about the plot. The plot is just there to give the actors a reason to sing their songs and it's the songs that make the movie. Literally EVERY song in the movie is listenable and the majority of them are so catchy you'll be shocked to realize that your snapping your fingers, tapping your toes and singing along with John and Olivia. I think my personal favorite and non-obvious choice for best song would have to be "Sandy" by Travolta, but seriously, who doesn't love "Summer Nights" and "You're the One That I Want"? In fact, watch "Grease" and then come and TRY to tell me that you didn't sing along, not once and I'll deem you the liar that you are! Even the song that I like the least, "Beauty School Dropout", is even pretty good and how can you dislike something being sung by Frankie Avalon, as he dances on a stage of white, oozing swag out the yin-yang.

12. All About My Mother (1999) dir. Pedro Almodovar  8.5/10
Look, I've been saying for days now that I'm getting a little burnt out on writing these reviews and working my way toward my short term goal of 700 watched, but "All About My Mother" actually made me grateful that I've decided to keep on truckin'. It's that type of film that makes you want to watch more films, because it makes you realize that around every corner could be your next favorite movie. "All About My Mother" isn't my new favorite movie and it did have a few flaws, however, it was good enough to give me back a little more excitement, which I'll need to finish out the season and for that I am thankful. The story is top notch and while the "Talk to Her" story was a little more simple and a little better, I thought this was right up there. It also makes me realize what a magnificent filmmaker Almodovar is and really makes me excited to see more of his pictures.

11. There Will Be Blood (2007) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson  9/10
So what's it all about? I honestly thought there would be something more to "There Will Be Blood", some big revelation at the end of the picture or something that wrapped everything up neatly. That "something" never came and what we're left with is a picture that simply explores different themes and never really wraps anything up, neatly or otherwise. Anderson's use of music (eerie, would best describe it) and religious overtones, only served to keep my suspicions peeked - suspicions that something else was coming, but again I reiterate, that the "something" never came. So instead of having a story driven picture - one that goes from Point A to Point B - you have a movie that explores themes; more specifically greed and the greed of this particular generation.

10. Happiness (1998) dir. Todd Solondz  9/10
So as much as people want to condemn Todd Solondz for making "Happiness", I'd rather applaud him. Why? Because these sorts of people do exist. Who knows what goes on when people lock their doors and pull their curtains at night. People have all sorts of perversions and turn ons, whether you're a doctor, living in the 'burbs or a regular guy, living in an apartment. Some of our turn ons are fairly run of the mill, but behind a lot of locked doors there are a real sickos: pedophiles, rapists and the like; and then there's guy's like Allen, a little odd, but for the most part, harmless. So thank you Todd Solondz for not shying away from this sort of subject matter and facing it and even more so for being able to find a little humor in it and even more so for adding those few classy touches, in a film that really has no place being classy. For people who say they don't like this movie, but secretly do, I understand. For people who say they don't like this movie and mean it, I don't understand. I'll certainly NEVER bash anyone's personal opinion, but I do apologize if you're offended by "Happiness". I apologize if every film can't be roses & puppy dogs and I apologize that as long as there are directors like Todd Solondz, there will be filmmakers who aren't afraid to grab reality by the horns and show us what's really going on.

09. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) dir. Jack Arnold  9/10
Anyway, in case you can't tell by now, I loved this movie!! Call it being surprised by something I expected to be disappointed by or just call it a fantastic night at the movies, but this was great! The film was only eighty minutes long and that was fine, but had they wanted to, they totally could've added a third act and allowed us to follow Scott outside and continue the adventure. "The Incredible Shrinking Man" plays out like an extra-long episode of one of my all-time favorite television shows - The Twilight Zone; and I'm talking about the good Twilight Zone, the 1950s version with Rod Serling puffing away on his cigarettes and trying to creep us out.

08. The Wages of Fear (1953) dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot  9/10
It was slow to start, but I'll be damned if this picture didn't get damn good after the trucks pulled away. In fact, when the picture kicked off, I had it pegged for a low rating. It's nearly an hour into the picture before the trucks begin their 300 mile journey and I wish they'd chopped that beginning down by about twenty-thirty minutes and this movie could've been looking a a '10' rating. However, you nearly forget that incredibly slow ending - the only good part of which is the beautiful Vera Clouzot (wife of Henri-Georges), wearing loose hanging dresses, barefoot and scrubbing floors in the local pub - when those trucks pull away and the suspense & tension meter is cranked to eleven...yes, it goes ALL THE WAY TO ELEVEN! The journey itself reminded me a little bit of "Le Trou", in that it showed EVERY aspect of what it took for two trucks to transport dangerous nitroglycerin across 300 miles of rocky terrain. Clouzot threw in obstacle after obstacle and made sure to keep his viewers on the edge of their seats. There were moments where I literally spoke to the television screen (something I never do), trying to will characters that existed sixty years ago. I kept saying to myself, "When one of these trucks blow up" because I knew one of them would "it needs to be sudden and it needs to be at a moment when we really think they both have a chance at survival". And, by God, it was the most sudden moment in the whole film, when Jo is rolling a cigarette only to have the blast blow the loose tobacco off his paper and a few flashes light up his face. I had to rewind and watch it again, it was that out of nowhere.

07. Buffalo '66 (1998) dir. Vincent Gallo  10/10
"Buffalo 66" is unique, original, contains a great cast, despite it's less than impressive budget and has Vincent Gallo all over it - a man who doesn't look like that appealing a human being in real life, but who knocks it out of the park in his directorial debut. If you check out the history of Gallo and his actions & comments he's made toward such people as Roger Ebert and even Christina Ricci, he seems like...well, an asshole. But this blogger, when reviewing a film, is less concerned with the person and more concerned with the artist and it's not hard to see that Gallo is a talented individual, who made bold choices that paid off when it came to "Buffalo 66". The film isn't conventional, by any means. It uses unique, original shots, quirky dialogue that somehow, within the confines of this film, comes off as sounding very original and unforced and contains a plot that is both funny and sad. Literally, with a few slight turns of the screws, you could turn this film into a full blown comedy or a full blown drama, but as it is, it's both. From the opening scene of Billy Brown being released from prison, the film sucks you in and uses the hook of a man trying to find a bathroom to get us all we've all been there. A hook so simple serves as the bridge to get us invested in the rest of the picture and scene after scene we're sucked into Billy's world; hating him, loving him and, near the end, ready to cry for him.

06. The Apartment (1960) dir. Billy Wilder  10/10
It's a great film, end of story. It's one that always takes me back to that first viewing and refills me with all the feelings I felt so long ago. I guess you'd call that a timeless classic, but I'll skip the fancy talk and just call it a definite must see film, one that everybody should see and one that is almost immune to feeble excuses of dislike. If you can't watch this and love Jack Lemmon's performance, get lost in the sometimes outrageous but always interesting, heartwarming and brilliant plot, then there's a problem and chances are it's not a problem with the film. Even if I continued typing for hours upon hours, I couldn't shower this film with enough praise, so I might as well quit now.

05. Trainspotting (1996) dir. Danny Boyle  10/10
For me, "Trainspotting" has always been that movie that I've loved but never really associated with or formed a more solid opinion about. I'd seen "Trainspotting" several times before this morning, with opinions raging from "like very much" to "love", yet I don't even own it on DVD - which, for an avid DVD collector, is a bit odd. It's like that neighbor that you really like and when he sees you out you always talk to him and exchange pleasantries and even behind his back, you tell other neighbors what a great guy he is, yet you never invite him over to see your place, share a piece of pie & coffee and get to know each other a little better. That's what "Trainspotting" is for me: a nice, acquainted neighbor. Today, though, I finally had that pie & coffee and decided that "Trainspotting", despite being aimed at a more general audience (I think) is a marvelous film. Despite not really being a linear story, "Trainspotting" (as I outlined in my synopsis) uses a collection of anecdotes, which are easily watchable and range from very funny to very sad to very disgusting, all emotions that every audience member can easily tap into, to introduce us to the characters and lure us into the story - the basic story being, group of guys on drugs.

04. Talk to Her (2002) dir. Pedro Almodovar  10/10
Movies have a way of really messing with you, if you think about it. Some of you may remember a while back, when I reviewed "The Celebration", I mentioned how odd it was that I actually felt sympathy for the pedophile, rapist father at the end of the film, when his family drives him away from the table. It was such an odd feeling, which is why I spoke about it and Almodovar kind of does the same thing to me again, with "Talk to Her". If any of us were to be watching the news and hear a story about a male nurse who raped and impregnated a coma patient, we would be disgusted and appalled. However, in "Talk to Her", that very same situation plays out and at the end, we're almost in tears for the Benigno character, feeling for least I was. That's one of the really special things about cinema - when done right, it can totally twist your emotions, feelings, opinions and personal stances and make you totally second guess how you would normally view a situation. Did Benigno have issues? Certainly, however, the way Almodovar unfolded the story and told it to us, it wasn't that bad of a thing that he did. The sign of a truly great filmmaker, when they can literally play with your emotions and then make you wonder why you viewed something the way you did.

03. Blue Velvet (1986) dir. David Lynch  10/10
What's not to like about "Blue Velvet" really? Oh sure, there's a TON of cursing, some nudity and a bunch of sexual content & dialogue, but if you're a big boy or girl, you can handle and what you'll get in return is an amazing time at the movies. "Blue Velvet" works on so many levels, whether you're the type of movie goer that likes to dig a little deeper or whether you're the type that just likes to sit back and enjoy the ride - "Blue Velvet" will accommodate all tastes. Isn't it funny how sometimes the scariest films are the ones that you wouldn't necessarily classify as horror films? I'd consider "Blue Velvet" to be ONE OF the freakiest movies I've ever seen and it's because we're dealing with real people here. I have no doubt that there are people walking the streets right now, somewhere in the country I live in, somewhere in the state I live in, perhaps somewhere on the street I live on, that are just as psychotic as Frank, if not worse. To me, one of the things this film represented was the birth of evil. When we open, we zoom in on Anytown, USA. A fireman waves hello from his truck, roses outside of a white picket fence are highlighted and a man waters his lawn. It all has a very "Leave It to Beaver"-esque quality and while we're never told when the film takes place, I'd assume it takes place in the 50s or so.

02. Pulp Fiction (1994) dir. Quentin Tarantino  10/10
It's like saying water is wet and heat is hot, to say that the dialogue in "Pulp Fiction" is magnificent. Everyone who has seen it and liked it cites those exact words, so I won't hammer that point home. But it's more than just the dialogue. It's the way these stories are made to hook us and that, my God, there's three of them!! Maybe it's the fact that each story isn't copy & paste, cookie cutter material and that any of the three stories potentially had dozens of different outcomes. Would Mia have cheated on Marcellus with Vincent had she not overdosed? What if Butch hadn't gone back to save Marcellus? What if Bonnie had made it home? And, sonofabitch, what's in that briefcase!!?? Tarantino keeps us on our toes. He hooks us with the common criminals, continues hooking us and makes us laugh a little with the "Royale with Cheese" dialogue, warms us up with the Mia Wallace story, keeps the heat on for the Butch Coolidge story, lets us breathe a little bit and laugh with the Bonnie Situation and finally, has the criminals, that we've probably forgotten about at this point, reemerge and meet our two main characters. It's a ride man and let me tell you, it's a lot of fun and it's just so damn good. With this film, in 1994, Tarantino proved that he was the next link in the great director's chain and that if he stuck around, he'd become a force to be reckoned with on the filmmaking scene.

01. Le Trou (1960) dir. Jacques Becker  10/10
BUT, as it is, "Le Trou" is perfect and on second thought, maybe I wouldn't change a thing, because why mess with perfection. I thought about this movie all day today, kept replaying scenes in my mind, thinking about Roland's last words and seeing those guards reflected in that tiny mirror. "Le Trou" is the kind of movie that makes me want to amend my previous '10/10' ratings for "The Apartment", "Buffalo '66" and "Some Like It Hot", because clearly THIS is what a '10' picture looks like, feels like and is. If this isn't the #1 spot of my next TOP 20, then I can't wait to see the movie that I deem better than this, because I'll be damned if this wasn't the best movie I've seen in a LONG time! Perhaps...perhaps even better than anything I watched all last season. Now that's a bold statement.

TEN WORTH MENTIONING: La chienne (1931), Les Diaboliques (1955), The Defiant Ones (1958), An Autumn Afternoon (1962), My Fair Lady (1964), Taste of Cherry (1997), Run Lola Run (1998), The Sixth Sense (1999), In the Mood for Love (2000) and The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Well boys & girls, yar she blows! I hope you enjoy the seventh presentation of a TOP 20 list here at the blog. I always have a really good time making these, because it gives me a chance to prove my last 100 movie choices and see what really stood out. I hope you'll take a moment to peruse the list, leave a comment and tell me where we agree & disagree, what you'd change, etc. I'll be back soon (either later tonight or tomorrow night) to present my "May 2013 Recap" and then I'm outta' here for one or two months. Thanks, as always, for reading.

June 6, 2013  3:08pm


  1. Great list, I guess my Number 1 would be "In the Mood for Love". You made me curious about Le Trou - I have to see this movie. Cheers. Sandra

    1. Thank you Sandra! Let's put it this way: I touted "Pulp Fiction", for years, as my all-time favorite film and I had absolutely no inner conflict in putting it in the #2 spot behind "Le Trou". Great film that gets my highest of recommendations.


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