Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Top 101 Movies Part IV: 70-61

70. Forrest Gump 1994
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinese
Synopsis: An unintelligent man stumbles his way through life and important historical events all while trying to win over his beloved, Jenny.
Review: A lot of critics really don't like this film for being too sentimental, and you'd think I'd see things in the same light, but for some reason I don't. Much of my opinion is owed to Tom Hanks performance which is undeniably impressive. Some people don't like how as a character, Gump never really develops, but I think that's the whole point. As the film takes us through his life, the world is always changing around him, but he remains constant. He is an objective lens through which the History of America is seen, and this History is the true star of the show, yet though Forrest it retains the human element which you lose when you're watching a straight documentary. However you choose to look at it, this is at the very least an interesting film with great performances, and in my opinion is a pleasure to watch.

69. Back to the Future 1985
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd
Synopsis: Marty McFly is sent back in time where he must help his parents get together, confront Biff and his cronies, save Doc Brown, and get back to his own time.
Review: Whenever you see time travel in a movie or TV show, it always raises a bunch of paradoxes and logical gaps, but if you do it right then your audience will forget all about that. Back to the Future is one of these movies. With all the crazy stuff Marty Mcfly (Fox) gets up to, like fending off his mother's advances, outwitting Biff, and performing Chuck Berry, its easy to forget that this is supposed to be a sci-fi movie. If anything its about the clash of generations as Marty takes his 80's sensibilities and tries to apply it to the 50's. The results are pretty funny and entertaining to watch. And I can't not mention Doc Brown (Lloyd) who steals the show with his over the top performance and is easily the most iconic character from the movie.

68. Waltz With Bashir 2008
Director: Ari Folman
Starring: Ari Folman
Synopsis: An Israeli film director attempts to reconstruct his memory of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon in this animated documentary-drama.
Review: Not only does this movie tell a compelling, harrowing, and chilling story, but it does so with a very distinct and unique look and feel that no other film has done. The mix of animation with documentary creates a surreal atmosphere which supplements and reinforces the themes of the film such as recovering lost memories, dreams, and the horrors of war. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complicated issue with no easy answers or clear morality and Folman is aware of and reflects this problem in his film where the final resolution is murky at best, and the main question that he sets out to answer remains unsolved at the end. Its a beautiful and brilliant film that resonates strongly today, and I fear will continue to resonate long into the future.

67. A Christmas Story 1983
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin
Synopsis: A young boy really, really wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas.
Review: Most people consider this a holiday classic, but its not really about Christmas so much as growing up and the American family. Christmas is good way to illustrate these themes since Christmas tends to be a time when families come together and there is no better time in the year to be a kid. Jean Sheppard, who provides the voice of the narrator (and wrote the book upon which this movie is based) fills the whole movie with his delightful commentary and storytelling filled with exaggerations and embellishments that add to the authenticity of the story. I especially love the portrayal of The Old Man (McGavin) who makes for a rather hysterical father figure. It's a consistently funny movie throughout with plenty of memorable scenes and lines and makes for great holiday fare.

66. The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938
Director: Michael Curtiz, William Keighly
Starring: Errol Flynn, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Olivia de Havilland
Synopsis: The famous outlaw outmaneuvers the vile Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Guy of Gisbourne, while trying to win the hand of Maid Marian.
Review: If you're looking for a fun-filled swashbuckling adventure then look no further than this classic rendition of a classic story. It's got swordplay, feats of daring-do, and pure unfiltered manliness on display for all to see! Errol Flynn looks and plays the part so exquisitely well that he's the default image most people have when they think of Robin Hood. And he has such an awesome laugh. I just can't get enough of it. The setpieces and costumes are also pretty impressive and boy is this movie colourful. They really fucking loved their Technicolor back then. The best part is without a doubt the climatic swordfight at the end. It's just pure chaos with people getting stabbed and conked on the head left and right, while Robin and Guy duke it out one on one. Even today, this film is fun to watch.

65. Midnight Cowboy 1969
Director: John Schlesinger
Starring: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman
Synopsis: A country boy heads to the big city to make his fortune as a gigolo.
Review: This was the first movie to earn an X rating under the new movie rating system after the Hays Code went out the window, though by today's standards its pretty tame. It's a classic story of a country boy (Voight) who dreams of making it in the big city, but its a hell of a lot darker than other movies with similar plotlines. First off, his dream is to be a prostitute. Secondly, he fails horribly at it. The only thing he has going for him is that he manages to gain a friend in Rizzo (Hoffman), a dirt poor, sickly scuzzbag who lives in a dump. Actually, he doesn't really have anything good going for him at all. Even though I am making light of it, this movie really is a heartfelt tragedy with two amazing leads who together form one of cinema's great on-screen duos.

64. Goldfinger 1964
Director: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Sean Connery
Synopsis: James Bond tries to foil the dastardly plot of Auric Goldfinger.
Review: I haven't seen all that many Bond films, but of those I have seen this one is by far the best. It has some of the most memorable scenes and characters from the entire 007 franchise such as Oddjob with his killer hat, Jill Masterson being killed by a coat of gold paint, the laser that slowly threatens to cut Bond in half, and the line "shaken, not stirred." I have to give chops to the writers of this film for naming the female lead, Pussy Galore. How the hell did that get past the censors? Like all Bond films, there's lots of crazy gadgets, sex, drinking, devious and somewhat zany plots concocted by some devious and somewhat zany villain, and of course Bond being incredibly suave.

63. When Harry Met Sally 1989
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal
Synopsis: Over the course of several years, a man and a woman become friends and begin to yearn for something more.
Review: This is the movie you have to thank for the slew of romantic comedies you see nowadays. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but this one is actually good, and Reiner does it right. It doesn't follow the generic formula that most rom-coms do, and for the most part its not even about romance so much as male/female friendships. In fact, its actually quite original. They don't make love out to be as easy or as "fated" as most Hollywood films tend to do. It takes a lot of coincidences, accidents, time, development and hard work for Harry and Sally to get together. These themes are further illustrated by the nice little clips interspersed throughout the film of elderly couples talking about how they met and got together. In addition, the two leads both do excellent jobs, especially Billy Crystal who I always find hilarious, and the movie itself is very funny with plenty of memorable bits (especially the famous "I'll have what she's having," scene).

62. Fight Club 1999
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt
Synopsis: A man who is disappointed with his life meets up with the flamboyant Tyler Durden, and together they found Fight Club.
Review: For what many people consider to be simple "guy" movie, this film has many heady themes. You have crumbling identities, pent up male aggressiveness, consumerism, gender relations, and anarchy all coming into play, just to name a few. It's hard to peg down the exact genre of this film, but for me its more psychological horror than anything, especially in light of the famous twist ending (I am assuming you all know what it is regardless of whether or not you've seen it). The narrator (Norton) lives in this creepy ramshackle house that reflects his broken mental state as he loses control of virtually every aspect of his life and insanity takes hold. The Fight Club serves as a physical representation of his psychological breakdown as it too begins to spiral out of control. And if you don't give a shit about all this theoretical crap, then Fight Club is still an awesome movie with sweet acting, some hilarious dialogue, and an intense story.

61. The Sound of Music 1965
Director: Robert Wise
Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plumber
Synopsis: A nun becomes a nanny for the wealthy von Trapp family.
Review: Everybody has a few movies that they grew up on and thus will always hold a special place in their heart no matter how silly we realize they are later. For me, The Sound of Music is one of those films. My family is really into musicals for some reason and this was probably our overall favourite. Nowadays I find parts of it to be a bit cheesy or a little too sugar-coated for my liking, but I still love all the musical numbers which are often paired with beautiful cinematography, and I cannot deny that Julie Andrews is absolutely fantastic. My favourite part has to be when Caprtain von Trapp (Plumber) sings Edelweiss during a performance and the whole audience joins in. I don't know why, but I always liked that scene.

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