Sunday, June 21, 2009

Movie list

In 2007, we had a lively family debate on the top films of the century (kicked off by a list my brother started). I'm pasting the results below for my list, with suggestions from my family, but only using movies I've seen (the person who originally suggested the film is denoted with an initial: R – my brother, D – father). I've included some extra suggestions for the last 2 decades (which I know best):

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Grand Hotel (1932)
R: Duck Soup (1933) The best of the Marx's films, splendidly blending slapstick and witty dialogue, most of Groucho's quotes come from this one. (I'd personally put in a Buster Keaton film rather than a Marx brothers, but I don't remember which of his films is which, so I've left him out for now.)
D: The Thin Man (1934)
It Happened One Night (1934) Clark Gable’s best.
R: King Kong (1933) The fun thriller that still is a good watch, even if the graphics aren't fantastic, Kong entertains in the classic scenes.
R: Bringing Up Baby (1938) Hepburn and Grant have to take care of an unruly leopard in an amusing romantic comedy.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) I'm a sucker for swashbuckling.
R: The Wizard of Oz (1939) Flying monkeys, a cowardly lion and great songs in an engaging plot of Dorothy's quest to find the Wonderful Wizard.

His Girl Friday (1940)
R: Fantasia (1940) One of Disney's best cinematic pieces, brilliant animation of mushrooms, dinosaurs, and a Night on Bald Mountain compliments the classical music.
R: The Philadelphia Story (1940) Hepburn, Grant and Stewart co-star in this witty romantic comedy, Hepburn and Grant’s chemistry can't be beat.
R: The Maltese Falcon (1941) Sam Spade was written as a lean, blonde wolf of a man, and Bogart pulled him off perfectly in this caper chock-full of great lines and suspense.
Double Indemnity (1944)
D: Beauty and the Beast (1946) Visuals stay with you all your life
Key Largo (1948) For being the best Bogey and Bacall. (The Big Sleep gets an honorable mention, but isn’t the best because the original crime is never solved.)

R: An American in Paris (1951) Gene Kelley takes the title role in a romantic musical comedy featuring great dance sequences and Oscar Levant's masterful piano pieces.
R: 12 Angry Men (1957) Suspenseful film shot all in a jury room where twelve men have to decide if a kid lives or dies.
R: Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Alec Guinness' best role as the British officer holding on to his principles in a Japanese POW camp that is trying to break his spirit.
Vertigo (1958) I prefer Vertigo to Rear Window, although both along with the following are brilliant.
R: North by Northwest (1959) Thrilling mystery with Hitchcock's great cinematography and Grant's battle of wits against James Mason.
R: Sleeping Beauty (1959) The only thing more captivating than the level of art in this animation is rooting for Maleficent, Disney’s most frightening and best villain.

R: West Side Story (1961) With Bernstein's score and the dramatic dance scenes the Romeo and Juliet in New York plot is escalated to theatrical heights.
R: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Growing up in the South, Scout looks to her father Atticus, played superbly by Gregory Peck, as a moral compass surrounded by inequality.
R: The Great Escape (1963) Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough team up with other prison inmates in a WWII German POW camp with one aim: escape, and get everyone out with them.
R: The Pink Panther (1963) Peter Sellers is the bumbling Inspector Clouseau battling against the sharp wits of the renowned 'Phantom', resulting in brilliant comedic acting and dialogue.
R: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Sellers plays three roles in Kubrick's black comedy: a British officer, President of the United States, and his advisor, the eponymous Strangelove as the world may be ending.
R: Goldfinger (1964) Connery is everyone's favorite 007, and in this film he gives his best performance, says some of his best lines, and has to fight off Odd job handcuffed to an atomic bomb.
R: My Fair Lady (1964) Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison co-star in a romantic comedy musical with fast wit and great numbers complementing the two actors' performances.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Just think, the forerunner paving the way for today's hyper-violent Tarantino and Rodriguez films. All kidding aside, it crosses a lot of genre boundaries and was incredibly innovative.
The Graduate (1967)
Cool Hand Luke (1967) "What we have here…"

R: Fiddler on the Roof (1971) Topol plays Tevye raising his daughters Jewish in pre-Revolution Russia, accompanied by his wife and fantastic musical numbers.
Cabaret (1972) The best musical ever, ever made. Ever. And one of the best films.
The Godfather (1972)
R: The Day of the Jackal (1973) The Jackal has been hired for one last job, the job that leads to automatic retirement: assassinate Charles de Gaulle before the inspector can catch you.
American Graffiti (1973)
The Sting (1973)
R: Blazing Saddles (1974) Wilder and Cleavon Little co-star with Madeline Kahn in the farcical depiction of life in the West, at least as it appears on the back lots.
R: Chinatown (1974) Jack Nicholson is trying to unravel a few mysteries at once, while keeping his nose out of trouble investigating conspiracy and murder.
Jaws (1975) Still brilliant and scary, even when you know the sharks going to jump out. Plus it paved the way for blockbuster marketing.
Nashville (1975) Not my favorite Altman (see 2000s), but the expansive narrative is amazing.
R: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) For Arthur and his K-nig-its to find the Holy Grail leads to obstacles such as the Knights who say 'Ni!', murderous bunnies, and silly Frenchmen.
R: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Transsexual transvestite aliens, lead by Tim Curry, abduct and corrupt the youths Brad and Janet, singing catchy tunes while doing so.
Network (1976) Still depressingly relevant.
R: Star Wars (1977) Luke, Han, and Leah join the Rebellion under the guidance of Obi-Wan and assistance of wookies and droids to fight the Empire, and it's masked face: Darth Vader.
R: National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) "What is college like?" "Have you ever seen 'Animal House?" "Yeah." "It's nothing like that." Would that it were for the laughs alone.
R: The Muppet Movie (1979) Henson's familiar Muppets join on a road trip to Hollywood to 'make millions of people happy', while avoiding Doc Hopper and encountering the greatest comedians of the decade.

R: The Dark Crystal (1982) Henson's high-fantasy story traces the characters of Jen and Kira, gelflings who have to defeat the vulturous Skeksis despotic rule of their planet.
R: Koyaanisqatsi (1982) With no conventional plot, or documentary theme, 'kooyanisqatsi' translates from Hopi as 'life out of balance', as exposed by the images and music.
R: The Big Chill (1983) A story of the lost hope of the generation, old friends, a particularly stunning cast, reunite and reevaluate their lives in the 80's.
R: Brazil (1985) Gilliam's masterful story of a man in the future, played by Jonathan Price, who needs to unravel a mystery and discovers the unpleasant underbelly of his society.
R: Clue (1985) All-star cast represents the characters of Miss Peacock, Col. Mustard, and Professor Plum in the comedic caper trying to discover who killed Mr. Body.
Out of Africa (1985)
Silverado (1985)
D: Labyrinth (1986) David Bowie and music superb; great tale and wonderful visuals.
R: The Princess Bride (1987) True love between Buttercup and Wesley must overcome a pirate, a Spaniard, a giant, and a Sicilian, all before entering the Fire Swamp, joking along the way.
R: A Fish Called Wanda (1988) Kevin Kline is the brilliant gem surrounded by Cleese, Palin, and Curtis in a romantic comedy caper that's not safe for fish or small dogs.
R: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) Mixing animation and live action wasn't new, but it also had never been so funny, or had a plot that actually draws you in for more than seven minutes amongst grown-up 'toons'
R: Dead Poets Society (1989) When all teachers are the same and don't care about their students, Keating, played by Robin Williams, is a breath of fresh air and inspiration.
R: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) Harrison Ford reprises his Indiana Jones role with 'dad', Connery, in a race for the Holy Grail itself against the Nazis.
Henry V (1989) Not only is it probably the best of all Kenneth Branagh's Shakespeare adaptations, it has Derek Jacobi, the greatest Shakespearean actor around, as the Chorus!

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1990)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) So, so brilliant and really scary.
Thelma and Louise (1991)
R: Reservoir Dogs (1992) Six men are needed to rob a diamond store, but only four come out unhurt after a police ambush leading to the rest to wonder who is the informant.
Chaplin (1992) More a brilliant performance than all over movie, but still very good.
R: Jurassic Park (1993) Sam Neil and crew are trapped on an island where dinosaurs have been brought back to life, when things start to go suspensefully wrong.
R: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Claymation never looked so good: Skellington lives in Halloweentown, where the repetition bores him, leading to the desire to become St. Nick.
Schindler's List (1993) Deserves all of its accolades. It’s still unbelievable to me that anyone was able to make a film that covered the Holocaust so well.
The Piano (1993)
R: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman find themselves prison mates in Shawshank, where they bond and lift each other up and out into hope.
Ed Wood (1994) My favorite Tim Burton outside of Nightmare. I watch Sleepy Hollow more, but the acting in this one is better.
Leon: The Professional (1994) A hitman takes in a young girl when her family is killed. Also featuring crazy Gary Oldman.
Interview with a Vampire (1994) Hee.
R: Twelve Monkeys (1995) Bruce Willis is in a bleak future of disease and recurring nightmares, where he is chosen to go into the past and fix the future.
R: The Usual Suspects (1995) Verbal Kint tells the story of an explosion leaving 27 men dead due to five criminals and the unknown Kaiser Soze, criminal mastermind and nemesis of NYC police.
Sense and Sensibility (1995) One of my favorite period pieces and Emma Thompson did a great job on the script.
Braveheart (1995) FREEEEEEDOOOOOOM!
Dead Man (1996)
R: The Fifth Element (1997) In the future the aliens responsible for the Pyramids revisit Earth attempting to contain the balance of Good and Evil, but things go wrong and Bruce Willis needs to save humanity.
L.A. Confidential (1997) Such a good noir film. I still get tense watching it, even when I know whodunit.
Lawn Dogs (1997) Quite possibly my all time favorite film. A small independent movie about a young girl who is bored with her gated suburban life, and the friendship she strikes up with the man who mows the suburbanite’s lawns.
Titanic (1997) It really is brilliant.
Shakespeare in Love (1998) Really clever, funny, and gorgeous.
American History X (1998) The most awful, violent film ever, but really incredible.
R: The Big Lebowski (1998) The Dude doesn't want to do much but drink White Russians, listen to Creedence and go bowling with his buddies, but gets mixed-up in a kidnapping caper.
R: The Truman Show (1998) Truman lives a normal life, but soon it starts to unravel, as he discovers and comes to terms with the knowledge his life is a show, inevitably leading to the question: can he escape?

1999 (quite possibly the best year ever for movies)
Go (1999) and Run Lola Run (1999) 2 of my all time favorite films, both with recurring narratives.
R: Dogma Banished to Wisconsin two fallen angels find a loophole in Catholic dogma that allows them to re-enter heaven; the consequences might lead to the end of the world. (Kevin Smith's Best)
The Matrix Ok – pretend the sequels didn't happen. This was one of the most mind-blowing experiences I've ever had in a movie. And I still love re-watching it.
American Beauty I've been feeling a little less kind to this film recently, but for years it was one of my favorites. And Alan Ball's screenplay is really touching and the acting is great (Annette Benning should've won…)
Fight Club
A Midsummer Night's Dream I don’t like all of the way this one was done, but there is some brilliant casting, including Stanley Tucci as Puck, Sam Rockwell as Flute, Rupert Everett as Oberon, and Christian Bale as Demetirus.
Runners Up: Girl, Interrupted, The Green Mile, The Sixth Sense, Office Space, Being John Malkovich, Cruel Intentions (although maybe you had to be in prep school when that came out to truly appreciate it)

American Psycho Also a performance film, but it is darkly funny hysterical and its take on the 80s is brilliant.
Runners up: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Almost Famous, O Brother Where Art Thou
Gosford Park
My favorite Altman. A take on Upstairs/Downstairs and the weekend manor house mystery.
Moulin Rouge Heart-breaking, lush, and with dazzling visuals, Baz Luhrmann updates musicals.
Runners Up: Lord of the Rings - the Fellowship of the Ring, Memento, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the Royal Tenenbaums, Mullholland Drive, Enemy at the Gates
This movie is hysterically funny. And I think it’s the last time Nick Cage has done a good job of acting, sadly…
Chicago A brilliant version of a fabulous musical (even if Renee Zellwegger desperately needs to heat a cheeseburger)
Runners up: Y Tu Mama Tambien, Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, The Hours
Angels in America
Ok - not technically a movie, but it's too brilliant to leave off. One of the finest pieces of art ever made (as a book, play, or miniseries)
Lost in Translation A lovely tale of strangers forming a bond while feeling alienated in Tokyo.
R: Triplets of Bellville Near-silent French animation tells the story of a grandmother and her boy whose dream is to ride the Tour Du France; his kidnap leads her to recruiting the odd triplets in her search for his rescue.
Finding Nemo My favorite Pixar. I think it has the best story and graphics.
Runners up: Mystic River, The Magdalene Sisters, Kill Bill Vol. 1, X2 (what? It’s a good action film! And Brian Singer added social relevance without coming off as preachy. It’s good! Shut up!)
Howl's Moving Castle
I prefer this one to Spirited Away. A fairytale about a girl turned into an old woman by a witch’s curse and a boy sorcerer.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Charlie Kaufman, the most brilliant screenwriter around, tops himself in an incredibly crazy, poignant take on relationships.
Runners up: La Mala Educación, House of Flying Daggers, I heart Huckabees
The New World
Ok – Colin Farrell isn't brilliant in this one, but the film itself is dreamy, impressionistic take on the colonization of America.
Good Night and Good Luck I'm torn between this one, with its relevant media warnings, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, with its off-kilter take on Chuck Barris. For both, George Clooney does a great job of directing.
Brokeback Mountain
Runners up: Capote, Wallace and Gromit - Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the Constant Gardener, Pride and Prejudice, Jarhead, Match Point, King Kong, Batman Begins, the Merchant of Venice, Mysterious Skin
The Departed
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
The story of the Irish war of Independence. Won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. It’s amazing.
Children of Men The film that basically got no US distribution, sadly. But it’s an amazing tale of a not too distant future when humans have stopped bearing children. In addition to the great story, acting and art direction, has a couple of astounding camera shots.
Runners up: Pan's Labyrinth, Perfume, The Prestige (like that alliteration?), Casino Royale, Inside Man, Brick, Hard Candy, V for Vendetta, The Queen, the Fountain, the Painted Veil, The Last King of Scotland
David Fincher’s take on the police procedural. Incredibly good, and Robert Downey Jr. gives a great supporting performance
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford The cinematography in this movie is gorgeous, and Casey Affleck shines in a great ensemble cast.
Runners up: Atonement, I'm Not There (An almost biography of Bob Dylan), Infamous (As good as Capote and sadly overlooked), A Mighty Heart, Rescue Dawn (Christian Bale so should have been up for an Oscar for this one), Stardust (awww… I love this one! Swordfights, pirates, witches, and a fallen star.), Sunshine (Visually gorgeous), Across the Universe, Persepolis, Joshua (AAH! SCARY!) and Snow Angels
The Fall
Possibly the most visually stunning film I’ve ever seen. Every frame is a work of art.
In Bruges Martin McDonagh is my favorite playwright. He is really dark and funny, and Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes all give great performances.
Runners up: Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Gone Baby Gone, Sweeney Todd, Waltz with Bashir, Let the Right One In (A Swedish coming of age tale, with a vampire), Persepolis, the Dark Knight, Cloverfield (which was a really interesting new way of filming a story)
Best so far of 2009? Moon, The Brothers Bloom, Watchmen, In the Loop, 500 Days of Summer, Coraline, The Escapist (does not have a US release scheduled yet), La Mission, Star Trek. I really enjoyed RocknRolla, although I wouldn't say that it is great, but it is very stylish. I happened to quite like the International (done by the same director as Run Lola Run), but not many people felt the same way.