In 2008 I put together a list of my top 46 films and put them up on a blog I was writing at the time. For posterity, it is reposted here. Strangely, it looks like I never posted films 44, 45, and 46. I have no clue what they would have been.
One of the things my wife will tell you if you talk to her long
enough about me is that I love lists. I like to list things to do,
things I've done, my favorite this, my least favorite that. I mean, a
blog is really nothing more than a list of thoughts, right? Well, after
shaking my head at the AFI's revised Top 100 films of all time, I
decided to follow up up with my own.
A few items of note (of a statistical kind):
Katsuhiro Otomo's anime masterpiece defined anime to the world when most people still saw it as "for kids". Beautifully animated with a complex story, Akira created anime conventions we take for granted to this day.
over man, game over!" Perhaps one of the best examples out there of
sequel-making, James Cameron took on a horror film by Ridley Scott and
rebranded it as an adrenaline shot to the heart, deftly mixing scares
and action into the best of the series, and one of the best films of all
Heston's best film (in a career of great ones), Ben Hur was the best
of the Bible Epics. CGI cannot compete with the chariot racing set
piece, which to this day remains amazingly well conceived and terribly
by star Jonathon Pryce as "part nightmare, part dream", Brazil
reshapes the dystopian ideas of 1984 and mixes them perfectly with a
dysfunctional bureaucracy that hits close to home in a very disturbing
way. The story of its making is almost as good as the movie itself.
Bridge on the River Kwai
study in man's stubborness when he has nothing else to cling to or, a
study of madness filtered through British engineering pride. Either
way, Alex Guiness dominates the film as a force to be reckoned with,
despite spending the entire film in a subservient position. David
Lean's best film (well, maybe).
seeing this I had several discussions with others who must have seen a
different movie than I did. Advertised as a forbidden love story, the
real story is one of hate, not love. Heath Ledger's portrayal of a man
who hates himself to the core is more moving than the much lauded love
between men in a tent. Self-hatred for your vices is a universal human
trait, exposed perfectly here.
It helps that the movie is strange and beautiful, but what makes this film truly work is the story of how intertwined the good and bad in our lives are, and the dangers of wishing away the bad times in your life.
A masterpiece of family entertainment, Finding Nemo gets better with each viewing and better with time. The genius of it is how viewers of all ages can find something to like -- it's a film for all ages.
The Godfather 1 & 2
So much has been said about these films that it's hard to add anything new to the dialog. Do you focus on Brando's seminal performance as Don Corleone? The memorable dialog? The epic feel and gorgeous cinematography? Part II, facing the impossible task of topping a near perfect film, somehow pulls it off. Having Rober DeNiro helps in that regard.
Is it possible not to like this movie? Once regarded as the most anticipated movie of all time, Gone With the Wind features old-style acting in a huge way, with actors hamming it up at every opportunity. It also features a spoiled brat as the main character -- usually considered a bad move. Somehow you can't help but love her and respect Rhett for giving her her just desserts at the same time.
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
I've heard it referred to as the ultimate guy's movie, and I can't say I could argue that. It might be the fact that there are no main (or even supporting) female characters. It could be that it features nothing more than sweaty men killing each other and looking cool while doing it. It could be that Sergio Leone's definitive Mexican Standoff is a testosterone filled competition over who has the biggest balls. No matter the reason, it's also great cinema.
As musicals go, it's one of the more whimsical, but unlike most other musicals, it avoids being altogether corny. The backstory is also worth noting: passed over for Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady for not being pretty enough (a role she originated on the stage), Julie Andrews went on to star in Mary Poppins the same year, and won an Oscar for her performance.
Master and Commander
Although I have to admit a certain weakness for seafaring films, the story here is less on the seafaring and more on the relationship between Aubrey and Maturin, two friends and polar opposites who face an uncertain sea for uncertain gains (glory and science, respectively).
Perhaps the most intelligent sci-fi film ever made, what sets it apart is just how close the technology is to our current lives. It's not satire, not farflung, it's simply a logical step beyond our own society. This, combined with a great story and perfect directing make for a masterpiece of film, which even Tom Cruise cannot taint.
Disturbingly dark and fantastic, Pan's is a different kind of fairy tale -- a dangerous kind, and the viewer is never sure if what's on the screen is real or imagined for the main character. The imagery and imagination on display come together with a sad and too-true tale of war to make an adult fairy tale that's both haunting and compelling.
Passion of the Christ
Not being a Catholic I have no reference point to the practice of meditating on the Passion. Mel Gibson's film succeeds even without the requisite background as a moving and almost-too-difficult-to-watch recreation of Christs last few hours. Often maligned for its judicious use of graphic torture, Passion is definitely stomach churning and painful to watch, but it's also strangely affirming for the faithful and uplifting in its final scenes.
Miyazaki has often been called the Japanese Disney, and I think this is a disservice to him. Princess Mononoke is one of his best films, but it's not anything close to what Disney would make, and that's not a bad thing. A tale of industry versus nature, Mononoke eschews basic good and evil, as even the bad guys have good qualities, and the good guys aren't always that good.
Pulp Fiction has a lot going for it: direction, acting, story, editing, but what sets it apart is the dialog, which is razor sharp, delivered rapidly and without punctuation (unless you count explatives). When it was released there was no film like it. Today, 14 years later, there still isn't.
beautiful movie about a horrible crime. It's difficult, if not
impossible, to find a more haunting and tear-worthy film that this.
Though ultimately a story of redemption, the road taken to redemption by
Schindler is through the worst of human depravity and cruelty.
Neeson's portrayal of Schindler's shame at not saving one more life is
as moving as film gets.
The film that finally won Scorcese and Oscar, The Departed sets up a great game of cat and mouse and tops it off with fantastic acting and a great, perhaps the great "I did not see that coming" that changes the entire movie. The turn of events is so sudden and so severe that the viewer is left with no choice but to mentally protest and feel cheated. It's to Scorcese's credit that this doesn't harm the movie, instead it elevates it.
In 2011 there is no reason that Joss Whedon and Fox Television should have any impact on what's on my DVR. No reason except this: yesterday I deleted an entire run of The Event, No Ordinary Family and a few episodes of V from my DVR, clearing the space for 30+ hours of HD content. The kicker is that all of these episodes were unwatched.
You see, ever since Fox robbed me of my innocence by cancelling Firefly I have lived by a new mantra: I will not watch a network serialized drama, especially of a science fictional nature, until it has been confirmed for a second season. It hurts too much to invest my time in a story that will go nowhere and get there unresolved. This is entirely the fault of Fox.
I recognize the hypocrisy in this. I embrace the contradictory nature in what I wish for and the actions I take. By not watching a single episode of these shows I help contribute to their inevitable cancellation, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophesy. Logically, I cannot condone my behavior. Alas, Fox, you hurt me so deeply that I am now only capable of an emotional response to your actions -- I'm scared of being hurt again. And much like an abused member of a co-dependent relationship, I'm having trouble dating again. I need to see credentials and stability and that you know where you're going and that I won't get hurt another time.