Friday, October 22, 2010

My Top 101 Movies Part V: 60-51

60. The Maltese Falcon 1941
Director: John Huston
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre
Synopsis: A private eye finds himself embroiled in a deadly race to acquire a valuable statue.
Review: If you're only going to see one film noir, then this should probably be it since it's the posterboy for the whole genre. It follows the exploits of everybody's favourite private dick, Sam Spade (Bogart) as he weaves and smooth talks his way through the seedy underbelly of the city where everybody's a criminal and nobody can be trusted. Like any good mystery, everything is in a muddle at first, but as the plot unfolds things become clear and people become revealed for who they really are. Spade is only marginally better than the people he's working for and/or against, but he has the benefit of being the only one who sees the situation clearly, and realizes at the end that the whole escapade, with all it's greed, violence, and obsession was just a murky dream. Overall it's a cool film with Bogart in one of his most famous roles and all the trappings you expect from a film noir, and it's fun for the whole family!

59. Taxi Driver 1976
Director: Martin Scorcese
Starring: Robert De Niro
Synopsis: A disillusioned Vietnam veteran turned taxi driver decides to take it upon himself to clear the city of filth and decadence.
Review: This is probably one of the more disturbing films on the list, but it's impossible to turn your eyes away from De Niro's incredible performance as Travis Bickle. He's a lot like my favourite character from Watchmen, Rorschach, as they both share a strong sense of right and wrong, a sense of alienation and frustration with the world around them, and the desire to fix it by whatever means necessary. As the film progresses, Bickle's extreme beliefs, and fundamental misunderstanding of the world and people around him, lead him to take actions which turns him into a sick parody of what he's supposedly fighting against. It's an intense and dark descent into the hell that is the city as Travis percieves it, and it's fun for the whole family!

58. O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000
Director: Joel Coen
Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson
Synopsis: An escaped convict tries to make it home to his wife with the help of some fellow prisoners.
Review: The Odyssey may be one of the foundational texts for Western literature, but this retelling of it is a helluva lot more fun. First off, this movie is in the same ballpark as American Graffiti for having an amazing soundtrack. In fact, you could almost count it as one of the great modern musicals. Secondly, there's not a weak spot in the whole cast. Even the bit characters play their parts to perfection with John Goodman turning in an especially memorable performance as the Cyclops. Thirdly, the three main characters played by Clooney, Turturro, and Nelson are completely lovable and hilarious. Their antics and adventures form the heart and soul of this film, and watching them interact with one another is a real joy. Fourthly, a fun game you can play while watching this movie is Spot the Film References. So far I've found Wizard of Oz, Bonnie and Clyde, and Cool Hand Luke. And Lastly, it's fun for the whole family!

57. Blade Runner 1982
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer
Synopsis: A cop is brought of retirement to hunt down some rogue replicants (androids).
Review: I think this movie is a shinning example of how science-fiction can deal with complex issues, have multiple levels levels of meaning, and still be an action-packed adventure set in a fantastical universe that just can't quite be done with conventional fiction. It's a movie about robots that's really all about what it means to be human, and it goes about the question in a very thought-provoking way that doesn't come off seeming overly philosophical or pretentious. Props go to the atmosphere and settings which are as gloomy as they are oppressive, and take on a life of their own to not reflect, but set the tone of the film. Although he isn't given very many lines, Hauer steals the show as the leader of the rogue replicants who delivers one of the best monologues I've ever seen. For some reason, Ford hated this movie, but I say it's fun for the whole family!

56. Some Like it Hot 1959
Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe
Synopsis: In order to escape the wrath of the mafia, two male musicians join an all girls band.
Review: As you can probably infer from the synopsis, this movie involves crossdressing, which seems to be a prominent theme in comedy. Unlike Tootsie, this one isn't so much about gender relations as it is about the laughs. AFI called this the greatest comedy of all time, and though I wouldn't go so far as to say that, it is indeed quite hilarious. Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon), mostly just stumble their way through their charade and get by on luck alone., which provides a good deal of laughs. But my favourite character is Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) who plays a wealthy, but stupid man attempting to seduce Jerry. He delivers the immortal final line, "Nobody's perfect," which makes a lot more sense in context, but I am too lazy to explain it to you. It goes without saying, but you can never say it enough, Marilyn Monroe is hot (the way she walks is like Jell-O on sprigs). It's fun for the whole family!

55. Clerks 1994
Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson
Synopsis: A lazy clerk and his equally slacker best friend just try to get by with the bare minimum effort.
Review: This movie is kinda like Seinfeld in that its not about anything and everybody talks about sex all the time, except for they're way more vulgar about it. It's a pretty easy movie to relate to since its essentially just a day in the life of an average joe, albeit its a very shitty day where nothing seems to go right ("I am not even supposed to be working today," is a line that keeps getting funnier as the movie progresses). I find that Kevin Smith movies tend to follow the same formula and deal with the same themes, so if you're only going to watch one then this is definitely it. It has the most laughs, the best style, and also the best story despite the fact that isn't really one. My favourite part is the conversation the two leads have about giving yourself a blowjob. It's fun for the whole family!

54. The Dark Knight 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart
Synopsis: Batman takes on The Joker.
Review: There's a rather large, shall we say, 'mystique' surrounding this movie due in no small part to Heath Ledger's death, which may have caused the perceived greatness of this film to be blown out of proportion, but I still think it's one of best movies of the past decade which solidifies Nolan's place as one of the premier directors of our generation. Despite the fact that it deals with almost the same material, I find it difficult to compare this film to the original. The tone is much darker and more disturbing (surprising, given that Tim Burton directed the first one). I think the differences and similarities are best represented by The Joker, who is the true star of both films. Nicholson's Joker is far more zany and colourful, while Ledger's is more maniacal and bleak right down to the make-up. Ultimately, I find Ledger's portrayal to be more fascinating, because what I think The Joker most represents really comes through in his performance, and that is pure, unadulterated chaos. This is set up in contrast to Batman's dedication to order, but despite being at opposite ends of the spectrum, they find that they need each other and even have some things in common. In short it's a great action movie that's also layered with deep meaning and social commentary, and it's fun for the whole family!

53. Almost Famous 2000
Director: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Billy Crudup, Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson
Synopsis: An aspiring music journalist follows the trials and tribulations of an up and coming rock band.
Review: With a combination of quality writing, intriguing characters, and a great soundtrack, this movie is a pleasure to watch. Crowe finds a successful balance between drama and comedy, and frequently jumps between the two in the same scene (the climatic airplane scene comes to mind) to make for both a funny and gripping movie. This style reflects the ups and downs of life on the road for a rock band, as well as the ups and downs of growing up. It's partly a coming of age story for William Miller (Fugit), and partly about the spirit of rock 'n' roll as personified by Russell Hammond (Crudup), and those two narratives intertwine seamlessly with Penny Lane (Hudson) forming the emotional center between the two. Overall it's a well-structured and well- paced film with one of my favourite movie quotes, "I am a golden god!" It's fun for the whole family!

52. 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain
Synopsis: A manned space mission is sent to Jupiter to investigate a strange monolith.
Review: You may find this movie difficult to watch at first, and odds are by the end you'll be scratching your head, but give it a chance because I think its worth it. Watch it twice if you have to, like I did to fully appreciate it. What it lacks in action it more than makes up for in meaning and subtext, which may not be everybody's cup of tea, but being a World Lit major, its kinda something I deal with on a daily basis. There's no 'right' interpretation of this film, so don't worry if you might be wrong. Also, this film is one of the most influential works of science-fiction in any medium, and once you see this movie you'll start noticing references and homages to it everywhere, especially references to one of cinema's all time greatest villains, HAL 9000. It's a trippy, mind-bending ride which some people think you need to be high to truly appreciate, but I think the movie stands strong on it's own merits. It's fun for the whole family!

51. The Producers 1968
Director: Mel Brooks
Starring: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder
Synopsis: A washed-up Broadway producer and an accountant discover that one could make more money from a flop than from a hit play.
Review: Just so you know, this is the earlier non-musical version. I am not going to say which is better, but I will say that one is on this list, and the other is not. The plot itself is pretty zany and the characters match accordingly. All of the actors play their parts with such unbridled and gleeful insanity that its impossible not to love. Not a scene goes by where somebody doesn't flip shit. And the madness keeps building and building until it is finally all released in what I maintain is the greatest musical number in cinematic history, Springtime for Hitler. Honestly, if the entire film were just that one scene, it would probably still make the list. But in addition to this we also get such memorable elements as the crossdressing producer, the ex-Nazi pigeon enthusiast scriptwriter, and Max Bialystock's (Mostel) seduction of little old ladies to milk for money. It's fun for the whole family!

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