Monday, November 2, 2015

TOP 20: #902 - #1001

This final TOP 20 list has been six years in the making. At the end of this post, 300 "book movies" will have officially been set aside and earmarked for inclusion in my own, personal Top 1,000 list. This particular 100 has been a rough one - perhaps the worst group of 100 films yet. I'd say a lot of that had to do with the fact that this was the end and a lot of my dislike was merely an impatience to be done. For a while there, I moved pretty slowly through this final 100 and then, especially in the last month, I decided that it was time to just be done with it and I moved into hyper gear. I'll save my thank yous for another post and instead, let this post be about mentioning those special twenty movies that I saw in the final stages of my journey. For the unaware, this is the TOP 20 list - the final TOP 20 list, to be exact. Following the watching of 100 BOOK movies, I sit down and put some serious thought into what I thought were the twenty best films. I then rank those selections, tack on ten honorable mentions which I call the TEN WORTH MENTIONING and voila, we have ourselves a list. For the ones following along at home, a lot of what you'll read below will look familiar as most of this is just a copy & paste job, however, I'll do my best to add a sentence or two to each entry and I'll put those new thoughts in italics. I think I've said all that needs saying, so let's solider on through this monster post.


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

20. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) dir. John Cassavetes  7.5/10
I suppose the film is just a tad on the long side, but with phenomenal performances from Rowlands and (to a lesser degree) Falk, how can you blame Cassavetes for not wanting to turn the camera away. At times A Woman Under the Influence is uncomfortable to watch, as if we're guests at the house while Mabel and Nick are going through this peril. In fact, at times it's so personal that for instantaneous flashes, it all feels 100% real. It's as if, for those brief seconds, that we just want to get up and excuse ourselves, but then we remember it's all a movie. I have seen Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and quite enjoyed the performance from Ellen Burstyn. That being said, I'm still of the opinion that Burstyn owes Rowlands an Oscar. I don't want to go overboard here with my praise, so let me just say that I've RARELY seen a performance as good as the one Rowlands gives. Rowalnds poured everything out here, all of her energy, all of her emotion, all of her passion and it's enough to make me want to cry that she wasn't rewarded for it, by her peers.

Just eeked it into the TOP 20. I'm glad I could at least get one Cassavetes movie in, but I'll say it again: I was very disappointed with his work. I partly blame myself, however, as I think I just put off seeing it way too long and the anticipation and high expectations meant he was doomed from the start. However, Rowlands and Falk team up here with two DYNAMITE performances, especially Rowlands, who had - dare I say - one of the best female performances in all THE BOOK. 

19. Ordet (1955) dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer  7.5/10
Ordet brings the so called faith of the Borgen clan into question. Those in life who claim to have faith in God rarely do. I could travel into the bible belt of the U.S. and find the most devout, church going Christian there is and I bet they too wouldn't have the type of faith that would raise the dead. That's what Ordet is about. Morten Borgen claims to be a man of higher faith, as does Peter Petersen - who actually thinks he's even more superior to Borgen - yet, when Inger dies, they never give raising her from the dead a thought, it would be preposterous to them to even propose this. It's quite a fascinating little film, that makes you think, perhaps, about your own faith, your own beliefs. The film is not anti-Christian, it simply brings the beliefs and holier than thou attitudes of Christians into question and puts it under a microscope.

Like I said, a fascinating, little film and one that was an easy selection come list making time. This one really put me into deep thought about Christianity and faith and while I usually don't like those sorts of films, this may be the best religious film I've seen.

18 Doctor Zhivago (1965) dir. David Lean  7.5/10
It's funny, because as I was checking into this movie on the various sites I frequent (IMDB, iCheckmovies, etc.), I noticed a lot of people saying that this was tougher to endure than "Lawrence". I found my opinion to be the exact opposite. This was a cinch to tackle, especially compared to the almost impossible to get through Lawrence of Arabia. While "Lawrence" is one that nearly required toothpicks to hold up the eyelids, "Zhivago" is one where I was hesitant to blink, for fear that I'd miss the next breathtaking frame a la Freddie Young. Or perhaps I'd miss yet another cheesecake shot of Julie Christie, her beautiful blue eyes, her luxurious blonde hair framing her face perfectly. I think I'd have to put Julie Christie in the TOP 5 on a list of "Actresses who I barely knew going into THE BOOK, but now LOVE!". The whole cast was really fine, from Sharif to Courtenay, but one that I'd have to point out particularly would be Rod Steiger. It's baffling to me how good he is and I sincerely want to see the rest of his filmography sooner, rather than later. To think that Komarovsky and Sgt. Gillespie ("In the Heat of the Night") are THE SAME PERSON is just unbelievable to me. There are literally no traces of one, in the other. In fact, even though I KNEW that Steiger played alongside Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night, I actually questioned that fact as I watched him perform in Dr. Zhivago. It takes fine actor to completely eliminate any previously seen roles from the audiences mind and put on an entirely NEW show, no reminisces of their former selves.

I'm kind of baffled that this is on here, but it's no lie! When thinking back over the last 100 films, this one stood out like a sore thumb or like that kid in class with his hand outstretched screaming, "pick me, pick me!". The cinematography was awesome and yes, I mean that in the literal sense - awe inspiring - and the acting was just on a whole other level of great. An easy choice to include here and one I will gladly watch again and again, if only for the lovely Julie Christie. 

17. The Matrix (1999) dir. Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski  7.5/10
Anyway, this was good fun and I recommend it and yes, that statement even surprises me. I actually didn't expect to like it. It had been long enough since I'd seen it before that I didn't remember whether I liked it or not. According to my old IMDB rating, I had given it a '5' before, so I was obviously indifferent on it prior to last night's viewing. I hated Reeves and his acting, but I defy you to think of another actor who would've fit into the role and remember, this was way before Hollywood started giving big time movies to no name actors, like nowadays. Other than dopey Reeves, the rest of the cast is an A+, looking like action stars and cranking out homers, sending audiences home with a boost of adrenaline. Also, big thumbs up to Hugo Weaving, who I've learned to love a little bit more with help from THE BOOK. How versatile is this guy? He played an elf, an agent and a drag queen and all pretty close to perfection.

Not really on "old favorite", but one that I'd seen a handful of times and this one really brings out the action fan in me and gets me to "oooh" and "ahhh" like nobody's business. I hate Reeves, but Laurence Fishburne and Carrie Anne-Moss are really easy to get into as bad ass agents and who doesn't love Hugo Weaving? 

16. All the President's Men (1976) dir. Alan J. Pakula  7.5/10
And ultimately, I DID enjoy All the President's Men, so much that I would like to buy Woodward and Bernstein's book and maybe even Watergate for Dummies, so that I can understand it all a little better. And that's saying something, because no matter how many movies I watched for THE BOOK about World War II or the Russian Revolution or whatever, I've VERY RARELY thought about buying literature to bone up on the subject further. Of course Redford and Hoffman were great and the whole paranoid feeling of this movie was just great. Why can't fiction writers think up things this compelling? I'll tell you why, because while watching this there's that lingering feeling in the back of your head where you keep telling yourself, "Oh my God, this all actually happened and it's insane". Are newspapers still as relevant today as they were back then? Are newspaper reporters still snooping and hunting, spending hours on end in libraries trying to break the case, just so they can be the lead in the following morning's edition? I tend to think not, but then again, what do I know? I also wonder about the mental state of Alan J. Pakula - was he really as paranoid as his movie's suggested or did he just like paranoia stories? Who knows. Despite not understanding every facet, the whole film still had this overwhelming feeling of corruption and watching Woodward & Bernstein run around, back and froth, to and fro, was just as good as reading a Mickey Spillane novel or a watching Perry Mason (two things I've never done, but I'm assuming). I'd deduct points simply because I'm not a history buff and simply because I was lost at times, but I'd surely call the film a must see and have no objections to it being in THE BOOK. Man, it must have been a scary time to be living in the seventies. You had Vietnam and a President who indeed WAS a crook. No wonder the drugs were flowing like Deer Park.

Like I mention in the above passage, All the President's Men was this perfect mix of detective story and NON-FICTION and I just keep saying to myself while watching it, "I can't believe this all really happened!". Plus, I'm kind of fascinated by newspapermen, so there's that too. Good stuff...And yes, those were all 7.5 rated films, the most I've ever had on a TOP 20 list, but like I said, this 100 was NOT the cream of the crop.

15. Throne of Blood (1957) dir. Akira Kurosawa  8/10
Like I said, this is REALLY a hard one to hate. It's a rotund story, where the director just lays it out for us piece by piece. There's nothing confusing and while the Shakespeare stuff may be off putting to some, it seems as if Kurosawa knew that and was extra careful to make sure no one got bored. We're given each piece, along with all the information we need to keep the story moving along nicely and I'd say this film is the perfect length to boot, as anything longer COULD have been borderline overkill. Having said that, a part of me wishes this had been as epic as Seven Samurai, as I was really enjoying myself. To the Kurosawa lovers out there, I don't see 100% eye to eye with you, as I very much disliked Dersu Uzala and found other classics of his, namely Ikiru, Seven Samurai and Rashomon, to be more disappointing than good. However, both this and RAN were more than enough to make me want to see the rest of his filmography, post BOOK.

This was a really easy one to like and pretty much a shoo in for this list. I still think I prefer RAN as my favorite Kurosawa, but this is a close second. It's funny, because normally I'd hate stuff like this: a Shakespeare adaptation, not to mention it's set in ancient times and usually that's a turn off. But this was fantastic!

14. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) dir. Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam  8/10
As also mentioned in my Life of Brian review, old favorites are hard to dethrone. There's something about revisiting a movie that you fell in love with at a young age. As I watched this, I was back in the old bedroom I once shared with my brother, our beds arranged in an L, ugly blue carpet on the floor and our little TV set that you had to get up to turn on. I saw so many great movies, for the first time, on that TV set - a set that would have to be included in my personal Smithsonian. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is an old favorite and I was really blind as to whether it held up or not. All I knew was that I enjoyed it again, I laughed, I remembered sharing laughter with my brother and this comedy has always been a good time at the movies. This TRUMPS Life of Brian, at least in my view.

Raised it up a half notch and managed to get it to #14. I'll say it again - it's tough to dethrone old favorites. For me anyway, memories account for a lot of my enjoyment when I rewatch a movie and this one brought back loads of memories. Sure, it's just a comedy, but it's one of the better ones out of all 1001 of THE BOOK comedies. 

13. The Last Picture Show (1971) dir. Peter Bogdanovich  8/10
I thought all of the actors here were superb and loved the characters to the point where I'd kind of like to check out the novel, just to see if I could gain more insight into them. These were not characters who just existed on the surface, for the sake of filling in roles in a motion picture, but rather, they more resembled real life people. While this was a slice of life of a small Texas town, it reminded me of a slice of life of any American town that may have existed in the 50s and when I think of the world that my mom & dad grew up in, I don't think this is too far off of my perception. It just seemed so perfectly right on. I must say too, that I loved the country music soundtrack and found myself searching Spotify after the film was over, re-listening to some of the old, whiney (in a good way) tunes. I feel like it was the voices of Hank Williams and company who added a little seasoning to this otherwise perfectly tasty, yet just slightly bland dish.

Since it's my #13 film, I'd like to officially take back calling this movie "bland". Looking back, this was a standout movie and in considering it for a list spot, I couldn't stop thinking of the Cloris Leachman story, which was heartbreaking. This old lady who is given a second win, only to have the air let out of her tires for the second time in her life. Really a beautiful movie, with a great soundtrack.

12. Straw Dogs (1971) dir. Sam Peckinpah  8/10
We're definitely dealing with a very different film here and one that I agree should have and of course WAS included in the "must see" text. It's easily the best Peckinpah I've seen and one that could technically be analyzed to death. A fantastic character study, but also a study on the motivations of others and the human metamorphosis when backed against a wall. Fascinating film, to a certain extent. But beware, the first half is a bit of a drag and we don't really start cooking until about the hour mark. That's just me nitpicking.

Man, I really picked on some of my favorites this last season, didn't I? "The Last Picture Show is slightly bland" and "Straw Dogs is a bit of a drag" YET, they're my #12 and #13. You can see how just finishing THE BOOK was sort of working on me and I think I was tougher on films this 100, than I usually am. This was great and it's nice to have a favorite Peckinpah. I don't know that I want to venture out and see the rest of his filmography, post BOOK, but Straw Dogs makes me think I might want to try one or two more.

11. Singin' in the Rain (1952) dir. Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly  8/10
how can you not, at least a little bit, love Singin' in the Rain. It's a smile inducer of a film, one that I'll happily watch periodically for the rest of my life. It's a fun watch and one where the flaws are easy to overlook, just to get to the good parts. If you don't smile (at least a little) watching Kelly sing (and dance) in the rain, then I'm not sure we can be friends.

I just couldn't refuse Gene Kelly and Singin' in the Rain a spot on my TOP 20 and thus, a spot on my personal favorite film list. Gene Kelly is one of those guys where I actually get excited that he's from Pittsburgh (near where I grew up). He's just so fun to watch and there isn't a crowbar in the world that can pry the smile off my face when I watch him do Singin' in the Rain. MAYBE, my favorite all time scene.

10. Rocco and His Brothers (1960) dir. Luchino Visconti  8.5/10
If there was ever an actress for Claudia Cardinale to play second fiddle to, it was Annie Girardot. Perhaps one of the sexiest performances in all of cinema. She completely nails it when she sashay's into the Parondi apartment, kicks out her foot and adjusts her stockings. She has them all hooked and this is where Simone starts to go rotten. While I'm on the subject of Simone - we've got Delon as the most heartbreaking, Girardot as the most sexy - how about naming Simone one of the most hated characters I've encountered. Then again, I also feel sorry for him. His fame is gone, his girl is gone, he had a taste of the big life in the big city and he blew it. On the other hand, he leads to the downfall of Rocco, inadvertently forcing Rocco to give up his love, his money and his happiness. Such a lot to mull over. Anyway, the film is great, a big hit with yours truly. I fully expected there to be more symbolism that I got tangled in, but if there was symbolism, it was lost on me and probably for the better.

Okay, now we're getting into the real meat & potatoes and this was an early hit with me, watch way back in February, managing to stay fresh in my mind almost all year. I'm kind of proud to have a Visconti film on my top films list. I'm kind of shocked that I liked this and I'm still not 100% sure I didn't miss some acts of symbolism, but I enjoyed this for what it was - a good story about family and tragedy.

09. Onibaba (1964) dir. Kaneto Shindo  8.5/10
I kind of think it would've been better if the old woman would've drove the young girl away multiple nights AND THEN went to Hachi's house herself and since he'd have some pent up sexual urges to release, the old woman talks him into going to bed with her. So then you get this dynamic of the old woman and the young girl feuding over this guy and the demon mask playing into the woman's plot to keep the young girl away from, who she now considers, HER man. It actually seems like this was the old woman's plan, as there is a brief scene of her spying on a sexually frustrated Hachi. I LOVED the scene with the woman, in full demon regalia, watching the two make love in the grass, as the rain poured down. FANTASTIC SCENE! The woman sports a bit of a head cock that would later become synonymous Michael Myers in the Halloween movie - that cock of the head saying so much. A wonderment at young people in love, a sexual desire that she wishes she were experiencing herself. Has there ever been a film before that so perfectly blended both sexy and scary so well? It's definitely a hard cocktail to get right, yet Kaneto Shindo does it with ease. Definitely a really fun, really intriguing movie that feels like an extra long episode of The Twilight know, if The Twilight Zone had boobs.

Okay, so I definitely underrated this one initially. In fact, I knew I underrated it later that night, when I went to pick up my wife and she asked me how my evening went and I proceeded to recount the entire plot to her, with sheer excitement in my voice that I'd finally stumbled on something GREAT!

08. The Godfather (1972) dir. Francis Ford Coppola  8.5/10
This to me is the greatness of the movie. The weeping heart of a father that one day weeped to hard, the cancerous growth that develops inside a once good hearted son and both of these - the weeping heart and the cancerous growth - cause by the other: Vito weeps because Michael is being corrupted, Michael grows cold because his father was nearly killed. Or perhaps I'm way off base and I've missed the point entirely...but these are the most interesting parts of The Godfather for me, the human aspects. Not necessarily the shoot 'em up, bang bang stuff - albeit that stuff was great too. Who will ever forget Sonny writhing, being held up only by the incoming, machine gun fire, pieces of his flesh exploding all over him, blood pouring out. The suspense when Michael reaches for a gun behind the a public toilet, a split second when we think it may not be there and think Michael doomed. That moment when we realize that the car Apollonia is preparing to drive will explode when she starts it, a quick scream from Michael which is then drowned out by a big bang, sizzling fire, metal incinerating around the already charred corpse of his bride - the business strikes again, the cancer spreads. All great moments and all things that support anyone's claim that this is the greatest movie ever made. I, for one, don't particularly share that opinion, but certainly wouldn't talk anyone out of having it and can see why many do. I found the film to be a breath of fresh air, a classic worthy of your time and certainly a must see, even one I'd consider a personal favorite, but going so far as to call it the greatest is something I just can't do. I'll end there...

Not quite the greatest movie of all-time but hey, #8 is nothing to sneeze at. If this had stood alone and I hadnt had to trudge through Part II, then I may have even pegged it higher. I really disliked the second one though and it made this one leave just the smallest hint of a bad taste in my mouth, when it came to list making time. Really though, even re-reading that passage reminded me of why I liked this movie so much and my heart still aches for Michael Corleone, doomed to lead a life of crime.

07. Last Tango in Paris (1972) dir. Bernardo Bertolucci  8.5/10
The film is a very good one, reaching that upper echelon of movies that I'd consider a candidate for the next TOP 20 list. It's filled with two or three handfuls of beautiful shots, not to mention characters that will probably make me want to watch this movie again and again, stripping them down, trying to decipher their motivations and "get" them. The score is a saxophonist's dream, sometimes playing against the flow of the film, but usually working in it's favor. The performances are great and as I said, I've never seen Brando better. The whole thing adds up to a fantastic film that makes me disappointed that it's only ever labeled as a sex romp, while it's actually a thought provoking, meaningful film that will make an audience member ponder previous relationships, as well as his ultimate fate...or something like that.

Re-reading that, I REALLY am disappointed that this is usually just labeled as a sex romp. I really liked this and perusing the list of 100 that I watched, this was another easy standout and something I knew I wanted to try to get in the TOP 10. Another one where the characters could be picked apart until only bones remained.

06. Stroszek (1977) dir. Werner Herzog  9/10
I could go on and on, but I feel like I've gone on long enough. I think I do need to mention the main theme of the whole picture, which to me lies in Stroszek's conception of America. THE BOOK suggests that this is a common, European misconception - that America is this land of milk & honey where all your dreams come true. Stroszek finds out right away that it's not that, when he is forced to leave behind not only his "friends" the instruments, but his beloved pet bird. It literally all goes downhill from there, as he loses Eva, his home and even his color TV. In the end, a lonely Stroszek presumably kills himself. I think one of the saddest realizations that I came to, was that Stroszek died in a strange land, without friends, even the cops snickering at his situation. This is one of those films where I think too much and I actually think about the character, for a second, as if he were real. I wonder what the final thoughts Stroszek had as he rode the chair lift, his now unfrozen turkey cradled under one arm, a shotgun grasped with the other. If I try to think about those final thoughts, of this man who doesn't really exist, I get the kind of goosebumps one might get at a funeral, the kind of goosebumps reserved for the saddest of occasions. Has there ever been sadder thoughts inside a fictitious characters head - as Bruno sits upon a chair lift, contemplating his own death, his own loneliness, the loss of everything he once held so dear - perhaps thinking deeper than this kind fool has ever thought? I'll stop before I get those goosebumps again...

It's passages like that that really make me proud of my reviews sometime. And really, that's a big reason why I do copy & paste jobs for the TOP 20 - because when I really like a film, the praise just flows out of me. Every TOP 20 list seems to have a predominant director and if that's true, then this TOP 20 list belong to Werner Herzog, one who I kind of expected to hate, but came out LOVING. He struck me the way I expected John Cassavetes to strike me. 

05. The Untouchables (1987) dir. Brian De Palma  9/10
All in all, this was a really good night at the movies for me and an easy recommendation. Great score, great cast, great story and a slice of of old Chicago, a slice of the 30s and a slice of a bygone era. Sometimes it's played a little TOO hokey, but I think that works mostly. At times, it almost comes off like a parody of old gangster films, but then something happens and it reignites it's own originality. The ode to the Odessa steps sequence from The Battleship Potemkin would be the scene to keep your eyes peeled for and like I said, with that Morricone score, your ears need to be permanently peeled.

Morricone, De Niro, De Palma, Connery....and fuck Costner, I hate him...but he fell ass backwards into greatness here, so bully for him. Otherwise, everyone else I mentioned, I'm a fan of and I stand by raising this from an '8.5' to a '9', because I really loved it THAT much.

04. Scarface (1983) dir. Brian De Palma  9.5/10
In closing, I was extremely thrilled with this movie. It managed to keep fully coherent and awake on a night when I'd worked the same day (not an easy task) and makes me realize that when film's put me to sleep, they put me to sleep for a reason - and it's not necessarily because I'm tired. I was completely "INTO" this movie, wanted to know more, wanted to get more of the story, felt compelled to go search out the DVD and make sure there weren't any deleted scenes left off the final product. The film had everything that I, personally, look for in a movie: a fantastic cast (everyone from Pacino to Mastrantonio to Pfeiffer were great), great directing (De Palma proved to be skilled here), great writing (I have a new respect for Oliver Stone, whose movies I've never been really able to get into), the plot, the cinematography, the characters and the character development. Everything seemed to be spot on and I can boldly say that this is the best thing I've seen in quite sometime.

I had to drop the rating just a hair, from my original '10' to a '9.5' because I felt I just went TOO far in rating this one. This was the only film I gave a '10' to all season, but lucky for me I underrated to other gems, that would go on to be my top two spots, but first...

03. The Decalogue (1989) dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski  9.5/10
All in all, The Decalogue was definitely my cup of tea. While I didn't take to ALL of the episodes, I took to most of them and even when I didn't care for the story that was being told, I still enjoyed the tone and the mood of the episodes. Kieslowski is definitely a director for me to seek out the rest of his filmography and these ten short films will now force me to mention him when I'm rattling off great directors. Couple these with the Three Colors trilogy and the mildly interesting Double Life of Veronique and you have a man who demonstrates a lot of what I look for in movies. Serious, bordering on depressing tone, check. Characters that aren't too deep, but deep enough to make you interested in them, make you care about their motivations, check. Stories that are easy to follow while at the same time being detailed, well thought out and clever, check. These are just a few of the qualities you'll find in the Decalogue series. What I really love about the films is how unique they are, as they pertain to their specific commandment. A story about stealing, being not just about thievery but perhaps about a mother abducting her own daughter from her mother (probably, again which commandment goes with which film is NOT blatantly obvious). "A Short Film About Killing" that is not just about man killing his fellow man, but also deals with capital punishment, while never becoming preachy, in the slightest. The other thing to be admired is the fact that there is no culture clash. Ten films filed and taking place in Poland and entertaining worldwide. i think any director who can make movies in their home country and have them transcend worldwide, while simultaneously speaking about his country specific ideas and politics...well that's just genius moviemaking.

I almost re-rated this as a '10', but there were a couple episodes that just fell flat and thus, I can't, in good conscience, give a '10' rating. This was, however, right up my alley and something that I'd like to buy so that I can rewatch it someday and maybe find a new respect for the episodes that I didn't take to. I'm really glad that a movie that took me a couple of weeks to knock out, was worth it.

02. The Deer Hunter (1978 dir. Michael Cimino  10/10
I think the reason I liked this so much, is because I was able to relate to it. Like I said, the movie is SET about sixty miles from me. Guys who worked the midnight shift, donned trucker caps, went hunting, lived in trailer homes and had drinking buddies are the same types of guys that I've been surrounded by my whole life. I'm not saying I'm ONE of them (far from it, actually), I'm just saying there's a lot of Michaels, Nicks and Stevies around here. Just a really great movie, that uses a three hour time limit perfectly, spending an hour getting us acquainted with the characters, so that when they go through hell, a little bit of us goes with them. When Nick shoots himself and Michael lays down beside him on the floor, crying, clutching Nick's head in his hands, screaming "God, NO", he's doing that for us all, the whole audience should be devastated at that moment. It's such a devastating moment, that I'd rank up there with one of the biggest bummers in movie history, easily a TOP 10 sad moment.

I mean, come on, who was I kidding? This was an easy '10' and me short changing it on my initial rating was kind of a dick move and me being a big sour puss. Looking back, this was right up there with #1 as the cream of the crop, in the last 100 films. I felt hard for these characters, especially Michael and De Niro cemented himself as one of my favorites following my watching of THE BOOK. In fact, any self respecting movie goer needs to have De Niro in their favorites list, despite the fact that nowadays he just doesn't give a shit anymore and has taken to starring in films alongside professional wrestlers (love wrestling, hate wrestling actors).

01. Fitzcarraldo (1982) dir. Werner Herzog  10/10
I don't really know what else to say about Fitzcarraldo. The phrase "what's not to like" comes to mind. It was an epic that I was able to tolerate for every last second and actually could have even taken another hour, had Herzog had the material. Normally, I'm against long movies, I've noticed. But this was an exception to the rule and one that I could've watched for hours and hours. How heartbreaking was that ending though? I mean, after all that struggle to get the boat over the mountain and then BY GOD, he actually does it!! - only to have the Indians untie the boat in the middle of the night, sending it drifting into the rapids. Hell, I was still sad even at the very end, when Fitzcarraldo hires an orchestra and opera troupe to come onto his steam ship and play a mini concert, while the boat sails down the river. Despite Kinski's big cheese eating grin (priceless), I still felt sorry for the character. He here is having to force a smile onto his face, even though you know deep down he's got to be gut wrenched at the thought of having to give up his dream. Not only will he lose the steam ship and the millions he thought he'd earn as a rubber baron, but more importantly, the dream of building an opera house is gone. However, maybe we can interpret that grin a different way? Perhaps that grin is so big, because as he's rolling down the river, aboard his steam ship, listening to his music, he's also scheming up his next, big, money making venture? Perhaps this time he's surely got it - a can't miss opportunity. I just can't see this character giving up. Despite his foolhardy ideas, you can't doubt the character's determination and passion. Yeah, I'm sure that's why he's smiling.

From the day I bought THE BOOK, back in August 2009 and leafed through it, I always wondered, "what's that boat doing on that hillside?". I always kind of knew that when I saw Fitzcarraldo, I'd love it and if I didn't, then it would be one of the biggest disappointments to come out of the pages of the "must see" tome. Looking back, this was the most fun I had at the movies all year and an easy A+ for Herzog & company. This, combined with Stroszek is enough to make me want to see every other Herzog feature and the sooner, the better.

TEN WORTH MENTIONING: The Burmese Harp (1956), Mother India (1957), Shoot the Piano Player (1960), Gimme Shelter (1970), Tristana (1970), Walkabout (1971), Last Chants for a Slow Dance (1977), Nosferatu (1979), El Norte (1983) and Braveheart (1995)


Man, I'm really having a hard time with introductions and conclusions lately. Maybe I'm one of those people who isn't good with "goodbyes". Except, this isn't really "goodbye" as I plan to keep writing on the blog. But it is the end, isn't it? The end of something that's taken me six years. And yeah, it was just "watching movies", but it was important to me and damn, it TOOK SIX YEARS! In the beginning, I doubted I'd stick with it and in the middle, I wondered if I'd ever see the finish line. It still hasn't really sunk in that I'M DONE. I guess now would be a better time than ever to tell you one of my future plans:

There are still 177 BOOK movies and I plan to keep on trucking until they're all done and reviewed. NOW NOW NOW....this will be a SLOW process. I'm not busting my butt to get these reviews done and unless I get an unexpected boost, I plan to do something like one or two BOOK reviews per month. But, this will give me and you guys something to chew on. I'll be back in a day or two to outline the rest of my future plans, but for now peruse my latest and FINAL TOP 20 list and feel free to leave me a comment. What'd I miss? What did I get right? What should have been higher? Lower?

November 2, 2015  9:40pm


  1. Hi Andrew ... Have you that feeling of Anti-climax? Not sure if ending is a thing to celebrate or not? Great to have done .. but ... sort of missing it?
    Also .. I rather agree .. it ended in a bit of a whimper .. There was a run of decidedly so-so films .. several (I'm sure you noticed) I found it difficult to make an interesting reply to.

    I don't quite get your end comment .. that there are still 177 book movies. I'm guessing that means 177 films that have come and gone in other editions since your 'Indiana Jones' cover edition you used as default.

    OK, your final top 20. I have to understand this a top 20 from a pretty poor bunch .. So please forgive me if I don' get too excited. You will perhaps remember that some of them I disagreed about at the time.. Dr. Zhivago, Matrix, Scarface I found rather boring..
    Some I have to congratulate you on in 'getting', as I'm afraid I failed to see the point of 'Last Tango', 'Stroszek', and (you will no doubt certainly remember), a personal (almost) hatred of Braveheart.

    All of which sounds rather negative of your list I'm afraid .. sorry .. so I will say I am positive about 'Onibaba', Decalogue' and 'Presidents Men' .. but even those mostly make it due to lack of serious competition. I cannot remember anything from the last few months I think you have missed.
    Look, that is just me .. in my opinion, there were many from further back that 'hit my buttons' much more than these.
    Please don't be too disappointed I failed (and I use 'I failed' with care), to appreciate the ones you did. I still very much look forward to seeing more general, shall we say, random reviews .. and certainly a new project. Let's see if we can hit some films that spark us both into interesting debates - even if the disagree. I'm remembering - obviously- Cat people, but also Casablanca, Searchers.
    And we still have Amanda and Rachel to cheer on.

    1. Oh thats okay Ray. I know we had a rough patch there at the end. I was positive about all of these, but that you were not, is ok.

      Yes, I did mean the 177 from the other editions, both before and after the edition that I worked from. It's going to be a lot of new releases, for the most part, so you have a a Guardians of the Galaxy review to look forward to!

      And yes some random stuff and probably some sort of weekly recap of everything i watch. Still ironing out the details of what I want to do.

  2. Wow!!! Your final Top 20 list! I don't comment as much as I should but I do love catching up on your posts, and there are some amazing movies in this list. I've been meaning to watch All The President's Men for a while now, so thanks for the reminder :)
    - Allie

    1. Thanks Allie. Here's hoping you like All the President's Men!

  3. Thought I'd stumbled onto the wrong site! I really like the new name. I liked most of your final top 20, All The President's Men would be my favourite of those, gripping stuff and as you say there's nothing in fiction that could match this. Plus I always think Robert Redford is great in roles like that.

    Could you pick a single favourite film out of the 1001? (or did you, maybe I missed that?). I found that so difficult and even now I keep changing my mind. As we finished around the same time it's easy to relate to the sense of freedom you suddenly have in terms of watching whatever you want again, and not being forced to finish films I'm not enjoying. I've been dipping in and out of the New York Times book and found some really good films in that already, but taking a much more relaxed approach to that than the 1001.

    Oh and finally I have set up on blogger now too so the blog roll thing should work now if the offer's still open :)

    1. Favorite from THE BOOK? Well, there's two:

      For I saw for the first time because of THE BOOK, I'd pick Le Trou....

      As for overall favorite, I'd probably still go with 12 Angry Men...

      Great to see you on blogger, I'll put you on the BlogRoll asap. I read the initial post and still can't wait for the Christmas movies list. I hope you end up posting more often, as I'd be glad to read your thoughts and I hope you stop by here more often.

    2. Well I loved both of those films so we're on good terms. When I finished the book I had Le Trou in my head as probably 2nd best film, possibly first. Isn't it fascinating that in a list of that many films, we'd both end up with a relatively unknown French prison drama at the top of the pile. I also hadn't seen 12 Angry Men before so that was another great find.

      Nearly done with the Christmas list, saw an astonishing little-known film last night that I'm still trying to come to terms with, will be intrigued to see what you make of it.

    3. So seems we have very similar tastes then. Great for making and taking recommendations.

      What'd you watch last night?

    4. Not revealing that yet, will be on the list in a couple of weeks though.


SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #66: La piscine/The Swimming Pool (1969)

Running Time: 120 minutes Directed By: Jacques Deray Written By: Jean-Claude Carriere, Jacques Deray, Alain Page Main Cast: Alain Del...