Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Unofficial 20 Favorite Films of 2014 - #20 - #11

It's that time of the year when the best of 2014 lists come flying in from every direction, but I actually typically don't post mine just yet. My tradition is to make the previous year official on the day of the Oscars, as that gives me the first two months of the new year to catch up on films I am yet to see. While I have managed to watch 90 movies released in 2014 already, there are still so many more that I need to make sure to catch before I can really feel good about what I claim to be my favorites. Films like American Sniper, Into the Woods, Inherent Vice, Foxcatcher, Selma, A Most Violent Year, Wild, Whiplash, The Imitation Game and more, so many works receiving tons of praise that I must witness before my 2014 wraps up.

That being said, why not release an unofficial best of list now?

These are my the first ten of my current twenty favorite films of 2014:

20. Godzilla

My Review of Godzilla

Is it a flawless film? Of course not, but the pacing, the musical score by Alexandre Desplat, the confident direction by Gareth Edwards, and the jaw dropping visual effects all combined to make this a blast at the theater way back in May.

19. The Fault in Our Stars

My Review of The Fault in Our Stars

As a thirty year old man, I was apparently not the target audience of this film. As I always say though, there are no bad genres, only bad films, and The Fault in Our Stars is not one of them. I refuse to write off something for being a "chick flick" before I even get a chance to see it, and this hit so many wonderful notes for me and made me weep openly in the theater that day.

18. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

My Review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I was extremely pessimistic about a sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes as I thought the progression of the apes would prove to be silly. I am so glad I was proven wrong. Exciting action and excellent storytelling, not only was this a worthy second installment into the rebooted franchise, it turned out to be a rather large step up from the first in every way.

17. The Guest

My Review of The Guest

The 2014 film I most recently watched and I was surprised to find it entering my top 20 films of the year, but this fantastic genre film was a total blast and the final fifteen or so minutes were possibly the most entertaining of anything I have seen all year.

16. X-Men: Days of Future Past

My Review of X-Men: Days of Future Past

Another film that I admit I was pessimistic about in advance, as I thought it would be too crowded, a movie trying to do too much and thus it would succumb to its lofty ambitions. Again, glad to be proved wrong. I actually just revisited this on Blu-ray the other night and everything I loved about it in the theater held up just fine at home. A smart, stylish, entertaining film.

15. Enemy

My Review of Enemy

Last year the film Prisoners was my #2 of the year, a gritty, dark and disturbing thriller that had me truly riveted from start to finish. While not quite reaching those heights in 2014, director Denis Villeneuve is back again with his new film Enemy, a confounding and original work that made me literally yell out loud at the end, and then scratch my head as I wondered what I just saw. I am still not entirely sure, but I know it is great.

14. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

After a down year in 2013 for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I was hoping my boy Captain America would bring the intelligence and excitement back, with a little less focus on absurd humor and more on a solid script and some kick ass action. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was just what the doctor ordered, essentially a fantastically crafted spy thriller that so happens to have a superhero in it.

13. Under the Skin

My Review of Under the Skin

When I finished watched Under the Skin, the first thing I thought was "What the hell?!" but I had a pretty big smile on my face because I meant it in a very positive way. A truly bizarre experience, but the themes are pretty apparent and meaningful and I appreciated the way it was handled. Seriously though, some of the imagery seen here will keep you up at night. Some truly weird crap, without a doubt, and I loved it.

12. Blue Ruin

My Review of Blue Ruin

I thought I had Blue Ruin pegged from the get-go. I assumed it would go down a rather predictable path, but then something happened that surprised me: exactly what I thought would happen did...except all in the first act of the film. So much story to tell and I had no idea what to expect next. A smart revenge flick that keeps you on your toes until the very end.

11. Life Itself

My Review of Life Itself

Growing up, there was no Rottentomatoes or Metacritic to go to for every review you could imagine. I found my film criticism from two places: the Chicago Sun-Times, where I quickly flipped through in search of the written words of Roger Ebert, and also the television program Siskel and Ebert. I greatly admired Roger for his passionate love for film and the fact that he was able to create a connection with his readers and viewers by never seeming like he knew more than you. He wrote so that you would understand why he felt the way he did, and after you finished reading you truly were persuaded to either see or skip the film being reviewed.

Life Itself is hard to watch at times because it follows Roger to the very end and focuses on the good and the bad, but it is a remarkable tribute to the life of a great man.

My next list will be my current top ten of the year. Happy New Year everyone, here's to a hopefully great 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Guest Review

Every single day I read about new films being released whether it is a week from now or projects just getting underway, still years from hitting the cinemas, so very rarely am I surprised to learn about a film after it has already been screened by critics. A few months ago I turned on WGN morning news in Chicago, as I do every single day before work, and on Friday mornings the film critic for the network was doing his usually weekly reviews segment. Typically at this time I am half listening, half still asleep, but I vividly recall his review of a new film titled The Guest for two reasons: I had never heard of the picture prior to that moment, and he declared it to be the "worst movie of the year".

This caught my attention because rarely is this man hyperbolic about new releases. In fact, he is frustratingly bland and confusing when it comes to awarding overall scores, as he will discuss the brilliance of one picture and award it a B, and then move on to something that didn't work at all for him and announce it's grade as a C+. Worst of the year? This is an especially bold statement coming from a man whose career is literally watching every film released throughout the year. I watch a lot and have seen a lot of truly awful films, yet I still have so many I skipped because I couldn't muster up the energy to force myself to sit through them. The ironic thing about naming something the worst is, it makes me want to see it that much more. I had to understand what made him hate the film on that lowly level.

Now, I try not to question an opinion because it is just that, an opinion. I know my personal worst film of the year, A Million Ways to Die in the West, is one others have enjoyed and while in my own mind this thought is baffling, to each their own. However, after seeing The Guest, the word "worst" never even came close to my thought process at any point. In fact, the film is a downright blast, reminiscent to the type of genre movie that would have had me watching it on repeat when I was younger.

Directed by Adam Wingard, who also was behind the camera for the horror film You're Next last year which I am still yet to see, The Guest focuses on the Peterson family as they are grieving the loss of their son Caleb who died fighting in Afghanistan and an unexpected visitor that arrives at their door one day, a man named David Collins who claims to have been very close with Caleb while overseas and points out a picture inside the Peterson home of them together to prove it. David is handsome, warm, polite and seemingly the perfect house guest, even stepping in to help out the family in any way he can, but of course, David has a dark secret and not everything is as it seems.

Dan Stevens plays the hell out of David, and his charms not only work on the characters on the screen, they are infectious as a viewer as well. Even when he is at his worst and his true motivations start to become obvious, you can't help but view him as strangely likable despite the scary evil that hides behind that smile. The rest of the cast is fine, with pretty mediocre performances coming from those that played members of the Peterson family, but it doesn't matter because Stevens steals every scene he is in and my attention was constantly drawn to him in every frame.

The aesthetics of the film are wonderfully realized, utilizing the rural feeling of the american south while also giving the general tone of the film a vibe like it was filmed in the 1980's, which is only enhanced further by the truly inspired and fantastic soundtrack that pops up throughout. I know others have said that The Guest felt like a combination of Refn's Drive and a classic 80's horror film, and I think this really is the perfect way of describing it.

Worst film of the year? Balderdash. The Guest is a glistening, bloody delight, and the final fifteen or so minutes alone are worthy of enough admiration to elevate this work beyond a bottom of the barrel list. A brilliantly used Halloween high school dance set piece, the effects of a fog machine and the finest usage of the musical score all work together harmoniously and were enough for me to raise my own opinion of the work from being something very good to a film I truly loved. I keep replaying that entire sequence in my head, and it puts a smile on my face every time. Seriously, it's that good.


Monday, December 29, 2014

The Thing Review

Released two years before I was born and considered by many to be one of the great masterpieces of horror cinema, I finally now witnessed John Carpenter's The Thing and sure enough, I found myself pulling the blankets up over my face but not for the reasons I expected. Sure, it was a pretty terrifying feature and worthy of a bit of fear induced cowering, but the fact that I paused the film at one point to go get an extra blanket was mostly because of, in my opinion, the single most brilliant aspect of the entire experience: the setting.

An isolated, claustrophobic winter landscape on its own can be daunting and scary. I actually prefer the house to be cold at night while I am watching a movie, but honestly, I grew a bit uncomfortable and was searching for warmth as The Thing rolled along, which is a massive compliment to what the film was able to achieve. The beauty of a location like Antarctica is that it somehow simultaneously is both open and never-ending and yet closed off and small and hopeless. It's like you have everywhere and yet nowhere to go all at the same time. In this way, it is actually more suffocating than a very small room or a prison cell because with those locations, you know what to expect if you are able to reach the outside. On the other side of those walls lies freedom. Even if you are surrounded by death, even if you can't trust the man next to you...the deadly cold presents no other options. You can't stay, but you can't leave either. Hopeless.

Suspenseful, haunting, agonizing, grotesque. John Carpenter crafted my absolute favorite horror film of all time, Halloween, and with a few more viewings of The Thing he may have placed another work on the same, elevated pedestal. The score by Ennio Morricone, the photography of the barren landscapes, everything. I feel as if I need to watch this again soon in order to truly appreciate it with the depth it deserves.

I'm sitting here in shorts and a t-shirt in the warm comfort of my home, but just writing about this film makes me feel cold all over again. How often does a film literally make you uncomfortable enough that you are forced to change your clothes?


100 Favorite Films - #10 - #1

Finally, my ten (eleven) favorite films of all time.

10. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

My Review of The Silence of the Lambs

Every single moment of the film The Silence of the Lambs feels important and memorable, as it has been a favorite of mine ever since the first time I laid eyes on it. The pacing is remarkable, as the picture flows so smoothly from one incredible sequence to the next, and you may have picked up by now throughout this list that I am a sucker for the ominous, the dark and the deranged. I can't help it, stories like this grab my interest and when they are executed well, they don't let go. For roughly twenty years now I have watched The Silence of the Lambs and my love has not diminished in the slightest.

9. The Social Network (2010)

David Fincher is one of my favorite filmmakers working today, quite possibly at the top of that list, and for me his masterpiece was the 2010 film The Social Network. I recall thinking the choice was odd, that the man who brought forth such dark and intense thrillers would helm a film about the creation of Facebook. After seeing the finished product, the choice was not only no longer odd, it proved to be inspired and rather genius. Unbelievably the man wasn't awarded the Best Director prize at the Oscars for that year, and the film also lost out on Best Picture, but something tells me years from now it will be remembered as quite the achievement despite these snubs.

8. *****TIE***** 

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

One of the most important and iconic works in cinematic history, 2001: A Space Odyssey was initially a very polarizing experience and despite the fact that now it is held in incredibly high regard by many, it is still a work that is hard to accept for some. An abstract, surreal journey through time. Stanley Kubrick absolutely blew my mind the first time I laid eyes on this majestic epic, but I must admit I wasn't even sure I enjoyed it then. I had no idea what to think. It wasn't until years later when I revisited that the power of this film washed over me.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

My Review of Lawrence of Arabia

It's weird, including a film that I just saw for the first time ever roughly a week ago on a list like this, especially THIS high up, but to be perfectly honest, given more time this may move up to top 5, hell even top 2 consideration. Lawrence of Arabia is just such a brilliant, perfect film, it is impossible to ignore. I have overreacted to new releases before, an experience I see in the theater and I quickly declare it a future classic, only to reevaluate later and realize the film was in fact great but perhaps not quite at the level it first seemed. This is not an overreaction. This is a worthy spot for a flawless work of art.

7. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

If I would have made this list when I was eleven years old, the Star Wars trilogy would have held the top three spots on this list without a doubt. I was raised on them, I watched them so many times I practically memorized the films word for word, and nothing was better than coming home from school and popping in one of my VHS tapes from the holy trilogy. While not in the top three, you can tell that the original trilogy still holds a special place in my heart as I have already listed Return of the Jedi and here we have A New Hope.

Interesting that The Empire Strikes Back has not yet been a part of the mix. Hmmm....

6. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Years ago I declared that the greatest screenplay that I had every encountered was the work of Quentin Tarantino on Pulp Fiction. As we approach 2015, that feeling has not changed. Every damn word of this wonderful film is dynamite, music to my ears, and even though I have seen the film countless times I feel like I must hear and see every last second to truly appreciate it each time I give it another spin. So clever, so funny, so memorable and so damn cool.

5. The Godfather (1972)

My Review of The Godfather

Masterpiece. While not literally at the top of my list, I could never argue with someone who wishes to declare The Godfather as the finest cinematic work ever. Simply sublime storytelling from start to finish.

4. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

My Review of The Passion of Joan of Arc

Shame on me for ever thinking that silent films would be boring. If this is boring, than I wish I was bored right now. The Passion of Joan of Arc is without a doubt one of the most powerful, arresting experiences I have ever had, as it literally takes my breath away when I see it. It's the type of work that I am forced to remind myself to breath and continue functioning normally during it because I get so lost in the imagery and the score.

I have never been one to get too attached to a piece of art in a museum. I can respect its beauty and try to piece together its meaning, but I never find myself overwhelmed by what is front of me like others do. The Passion of Joan of Arc is like that for me, just turn it on and I cannot move, cannot look away until its over. A perfect film with a perfect lead performance.

3. Vertigo (1958)

I love a whole bunch of Hitchcock films, but for me, nothing can top Vertigo. Jimmy Stewart. The beautiful Kim Novak. The incredible direction and editing and photography that keeps me coming back for me time and time again with this film I have seen at least twenty times before. The perfect music by Bernard Herrmann, who crafted so many perfect scores throughout his life. I will never forget the first time I saw this, I was in high school in a film class and we could only screen half the film the first day because of time restrictions, and I refused to wait another 23 hours to finish the story, so I went to the library that evening, checked out a copy and watched the conclusion at home.

Didn't complain a bit when I watched it again the next day in class. In fact I may have watched the entire thing again once more before returning my copy. Such a stunning, incredible film.

2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

As I said above with my little bit about A New Hope, Star Wars was my thing growing up and nothing was better than the middle chapter, The Empire Strikes Back. It wasn't until recently, after lord knows how many viewings, that I actually truly admired it for the perfect cinema it is rather than just blindly adored it due to nostalgia. Despite so many viewings before, I was shocked to realize that the film is roughly only two hours in length. How the hell could so much awesomeness, so many iconic moments be packed into two hours...yet not once feel packed or crammed or rushed? The answer is absolutely astonishing pacing, a fluidity that rivals anything else I have ever seen. I wouldn't trim a second off and I also wouldn't add a second anywhere. The Empire Strikes Back is perfection.

1. The Tree of Life (2011)

My Favorite Film of All Time

The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick is more than a movie. It changed my perspective on life. It made me appreciate my own existence more than I ever have before. Ironically, it is a film that I truly hated the first time I saw it, but to be fair I didn't really see it. Sure, it was playing in front of me and my eyes were looking at it, but I wasn't allowing the abstract narrative to soak in at all. I wasn't opening myself up to the experience.

Once I did, I couldn't wipe the tears from my eyes fast enough.

Now, each time I watch this film, as soon as its over I immediately have the urge to go check on my daughter. I look in at her sleeping and I don't want to look away. Having her in my life is a miracle, which is something I didn't appreciate enough until I saw this absolute masterwork, the single greatest film I have ever seen.

Well, that's it. My 100 (101) favorite films of all time. Any thoughts on this portion of the list? The list as a whole?

Thank you so much for checking out my selections and giving feedback. Good or bad, it means the world to me that you took the time to look at all.

Friday, December 26, 2014

10 Worst Films of 2014

While the year is not yet done, especially in cinematic terms as I usually don't flip over my movie calendar until the Academy Awards, I have soaked myself in plenty of horseshit this year and I believe I am finished seeing films that I am likely to loathe. Therefore, I feel the time is right to lay out the ten movies I truly hated the most in 2014.

10. Nymphomaniac: Volume II

My Review of Nymphomaniac Volume II

I can't take credit for this quote, it was said by another user on a film site I frequent, but I think it so perfectly describes Nymphomaniac: Volume II: I love movies and I love porn. This was neither.

Boring. So boring. Surprisingly uninteresting in subject matter too, as you would think at the very least the story of a nymphomaniac would be shocking enough to keep the viewer's attention. I couldn't care less what happened to the characters, the dialogue did nothing for me, I was already mentally moving on to something else by the half way point and I had to force myself to sit through the rest and properly evaluate the film, as I previously have enjoyed the work by Lars von Trier and thought perhaps I would extract something eventually. I didn't.

9. Let's Be Cops

My Review of Let's Be Cops

A comedy completely void of humor. Uh oh. I didn't laugh once. I didn't even crack a smile.

I believe I heard this was quite successful financially and thus has earned a sequel. They will probably be cops again and absolutely nothing clever or of merit will occur for 90 minutes. Sign me up!

8. The Purge: Anarchy

My Review of The Purge: Anarchy

The part that bothers me the most about this terrible sequel is that I actually had hope for it. That's not even something I can fault the movie for, that's on me. When I first heard the concept of the original Purge, I was cautiously optimistic that it could be interesting, a commentary about a the deep flaws of humanity inside a low budget horror film. What we ended up getting was Ethan Hawke stumbling around his house for 80 some minutes, and it was atrocious. The film had absolutely nothing interesting to say, it was just the set up for a completely generic, boring home invasion premise.

When the sequel rolled around, I saw clips of people out in the streets, out in the middle of the purge and I thought alright, here we go. Perhaps this will give us something to actually chew on, a little bit of subtext underneath these events. Nope. Nothing. Merely an exercise in moving from one set piece to the next with the possibility of death hanging over everyone, but who cares? I sure didn't.

7. Pompeii 

A film about the incredible true story of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the massive loss of life as a result? In the last 30 minutes, sort of. A love story involving a slave and the daughter of the man who rules the city? It's there, but briefly and with absolutely zero chemistry. So what is Pompeii really about? Well, a majority of the film is just terribly choreographed sword fighting. This crap fest is like the love child of Titanic and Gladiator, except only half the running time and with absolutely nothing complimentary to say about it, unlike those two films that birthed it.

I haven't seen the nominations for the Razzie awards yet, but if Kiefer Sutherland isn't nominated for his role in Pompeii, than those "awards" are an even bigger joke than they admit to being.

6. I, Frankenstein

My Review of I, Frankenstein

A film so terrible that I actually spent the entire time watching it developing an idea for a television series about Frankenstein attending college. No, seriously. Check out the review above and let me know if I should pitch the concept of Yo, Frankenstein to networks.

5. 3 Days to Kill

My Review of 3 Days to Kill

I will say this about 3 Days to Kill, at least I remember it. Not in a good way, as just seeing the title again made me emit a pained laugh. McG directs (your first sign this is gonna suck) this story about Kevin Costner having cancer and getting an offer from Amber Heard which basically consists of kill these three people and you will get the cure. She just kinda has a needle with this wonder drug in it. I guess you just have to be pretty and pretend to be a bad ass to come with some amazing scientific shit.

This terribly executed main premise also tries to balance a father reconnects with his daughter side story, and it sucks. I don't know how else to put it, it's awful. Costner and his daughter have no chemistry on screen and their dialogue is a joke, and they spend so much time trying to develop this relationship that you forget what the original stakes of the film were in the first place, only for them to get back to the action and then you recall, oh, right, he has to kill The Albino to save his life. That's the name of the big bad guy. The Albino.

Such a terrible film.

4. Need for Speed

Oh Aaron Paul. After Breaking Bad, I was willing to follow you anywhere, as proven by the fact that I sat through every awful second of the film Need for Speed, which had one really funny scene in which the dipshit dude driving the one car way too fast on a road full of innocent people blows himself up. That's the only scene I really remember, and not for the reasons it was going for, as you could tell it was actually striving for emotional resonance. I thought it was really funny, until I remember that he was the only victim. All these other completely terrible characters lived, and thus the driving of cars and terrible writing and ridiculous performances would continue.

3. Winter's Tale

My Review of Winter's Tale

I'm still convinced this was actually intended on being a practical joke, but the studio was too dumb to catch it so they green-lit it anyways. I refuse to accept anything else. How could people with actual talent be involved in the production of this tripe and take it seriously? Perhaps that explains the bloated, absurd 60 million dollar budget, the checks to the actors were so above the norm they were willing to be a part of this disaster as a cash grab.

2. The Legend of Hercules

To be clear, this isn't the one with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in it that was released as a summer blockbuster. Whenever I told people I saw this train wreck, they thought I was referring to that film. No, the other Hercules movie that was released in 2014, the one with Kellan Lutz in it. Who the hell is Kellan Lutz, you may be asking? I have seen the movie and I don't know. I don't care either. This was just a giant bag of crap from beginning to end, and if it were another year it may just be the worst, but not in 2014...

1. A Million Ways to Die in the West

My review of A Million Ways to Die in the West

Just having to list this atrocity makes me angry all over again. The only thing I could not finish watching released in 2014, and notice I said thing. I refuse to refer to this as a film, or a picture, or a movie. It isn't worthy of those distinctions. This was nearly a death blow to comedy as a whole, as not only is there no single split second worthy of a laugh, it is actually offensively awful and insulting to the audience watching it.

Seth MacFarlane has done some funny and entertaining things in the past, but A Million Ways to Die in the West is something he should have to apologize for. Without a doubt, the worst film I saw in 2014.

100 Favorite Films - #20 - #11

A continuation of my list of my 100 favorite films of all time.

20. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

One of the finest sequels in the history of film, The Godfather: Part II is actually the first one to ever win Best Picture at the Academy Awards and a deserving honor without a doubt. In fact, rarely is the merits of this film ever debated but rather the question of whether or not it is superior to The Godfather (spoiler alert for this list: I slightly prefer the first). Absolutely perfect epic crime storytelling.

19. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

My Review of Eyes Wide Shut

The final masterpiece from the genius auteur Stanley Kubrick, the film Eyes Wide Shut was misunderstood before it was even released with a marketing campaign that seemed to sell the eroticism of its actually married real life stars rather than the actual point of the work. A downright eerie, unsettling, hypnotic, and literally nightmare inspiring piece of cinema, if you wrote this off upon its release as being a lesser Kubrick, it's time to revisit and reevaluate. The film is absolutely brilliant.

18. Boyhood (2014)

My Review of Boyhood

That's right, a film released in 2014 has made the top twenty of my all time favorites list. Boyhood is absolutely worthy, an almost indescribable experience crafted by Richard Linklater that feels so real and authentic, watching young Mason grow up before our eyes. It was impossible for me not to make every possible connection to this movie, as I connected with both the struggles of adolescence and also the difficulty of a parent, as at the age of 30 I am not that far removed with the child and teenager I once was, but I also have a 7 year old at home whom I am watching grow up seemingly far too fast. One of the finest aspects of this film that doesn't seem to get the credit it deserves is the editing, which is never flashy because it doesn't need to be but it allows a film that took 12 years to make flow with grace in a running time under three hours. Boyhood is an experience I can't wait to share with my daughter for years and years and years to come.

17. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

The final piece from the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi is my least favorite of the three and yet still finds a spot in my top 20 films of all time. The key is that I word it "least favorite" rather than "worst", because this is a film I love, an adventure I have taken so many times before and will continue to on a regular basis. Was it a step down from The Empire Strikes Back? Sure, but how could it not be? Regardless, I still have a nostalgic joyous blast with this epic conclusion to the single greatest trilogy of all time.

16. Drive (2011)

My Review of Drive

Drive was released in 2011, and I didn't get a chance to see it until early 2012, and despite this being less than three years ago, I have seen the film literally 15 times. That isn't an exaggerated guess or made up number, honestly, 15 times I have sat on my couch and watched Ryan Gosling soak in the gorgeous neon glow of the streets of Los Angeles. Drive is a cinematic drug and I cannot get enough. The aesthetic, the score, the subtly nuanced performances...I knew within the first ten minutes that this would be a special film for me, and I was right.

15. Psycho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock was the master of suspense, and quite possibly the finest example of this throughout his illustrious career came with the 1960 film Psycho, which has not lost even a bit of steam despite approaching its 55th anniversary. I recently read the novel of the same name that the film was adapted from, and it actually made my respect for the work of Hitchcock grow even bigger (which I didn't think was possible). It isn't that the source material was poor, in fact it is quite good, but the changes that were made as it was translated to the screen were done so perfectly, and this for me is the mark of a wonderful filmmaker. Hitchcock was clearly willing to use a majority of the book that he felt was on point, he was willing to admit that he shouldn't change EVERYTHING but rather only the small amount of pieces that he just felt could fit better...and the result is incredible.

14. Se7en (1995)

My Review of Se7en

Before I had any concept of who David Fincher was, he was keeping me awake at night with the disturbing thriller Se7en, as I was viewing it at an age that was probably inappropriately young for the material. The rain soaked streets set the somber mood that resonates throughout, and the concept is both deranged and endlessly intriguing: a serial killer showcasing his artistry through the deaths of those he deems worthy, those whom he believes have violated one of the seven deadly sins. While many other scenes are more memorable, I could watch Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey talk about the historical significance of these killings on repeat.

13. Metropolis (1927)

A silent science fiction wonder that was so far ahead of its time it's crazy, Metropolis knocked my socks off the first time I saw it, at a time when I unfairly associated the word "silent" with "boring". An entertaining, bizarre landmark of cinema that managed to blow my mind 80 some years after it's release. I can't even begin to imagine what it did for moviegoers when it was first unleashed onto the big screen.

12. Gravity (2013)

For many, the scientific inaccuracies or the "simplicity" of the story were enough to tarnish the appeal of the film Gravity, but not only did these inaccuracies not bother me, I find them completely meaningless, and there is nothing simplistic about the story being presented. Gravity is absolutely a survival story, but not one of astronauts in space but instead the survival of Dr. Ryan Stone as she searches for a reason to carry on after the tragic death of her young daughter. The cold vastness of space represents death, the glow and inviting nature of a beautiful Earth below represents life, and the obstacles faced by Stone symbolize the extremely painful burden one most carry with them when they are grieving.

I was emotionally wrecked the first time I screened this film, as I recognized the thematic depth of what was being portrayed immediately and I connected to it on so many levels. A major part of me thought of my own daughter sitting at home in that moment and just how awful it would be to not have her in my life. Another part of me was thinking about those people who share this level of grief as the character being portrayed, and my heart shattered thinking about their loss.

Gravity is one of the boldest, most original allegories regarding the subjects of grief and loss and moving on, and those questioning the position of satellites or whether or not the circumstances are "realistic" are missing the point of this cinematic miracle.

11. Singin' in the Rain (1952)

My Review of Singin' in the Rain

A film I look to when I need a little bit of joy in my life, Singin' in the Rain is an absolute classic, one that I almost never gave a chance to because of some ill-conceived notion that as a man I wouldn't be able to connect with a musical. I cannot stop smiling from beginning to end when I watch this picture, with iconic songs and magnetic performances, seriously, this is a treasured piece of the history of film. I never can take my eyes off of the screen and I find myself laughing out loud from beginning to end. Delightful.

Here we go, into the top 10. Well, top 11 actually, as a lame tie will rear it's ugly head in there to allow an extra slot for a film worthy of the recognition. Either way, the next list I post will conclude my favorite films of all time. The image above is one that will appear in my top 10 (11) films of all time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

100 Favorite Films - #30 - #21

A continuation of my list of my 100 favorite films of all time.

30. La Jetee (1962)

My Review of La Jetee

An entire narrative told through still images and voice-over, an entire film lasting only 28 minutes, but it is an incredible science fiction film by Chris Marker. This worked served as the inspiration behind Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, and while I often see people rank that film higher than La Jetee, I am not one of them. If you find an opportunity to check this one out, please do so. You certainly have the time to given its length, and it is a special little slice of cinema.

29. No Country for Old Men (2007)

My Review of No Country for Old Men

My first of two features by the Coen brothers in this very list of ten, No Country for Old Men is a masterful adaptation of the remarkable work of Cormac McCarthy and the film that inspired the name of my blog. An allegorical masterpiece with an ending that infuriated many with its lack of finality, but I not only defend the closing sequence, I think it is truly brilliant. In fact, I can't imagine a more fitting conclusion given it fits with the entire point of the narrative.

28. Cloud Atlas (2012)

My Review of Cloud Atlas

A truly unique, overlooked gem, the Wachowski siblings along with director Tom Tykwer managed to adapt a novel deemed impossible to do so, the work of the same name by author David Mitchell. It would be a shame if this film were remembered as being merely a box office disaster because unfortunately that is viewed as a reflection of its quality. Cloud Atlas is massively ambitious in scope and scale, a master class in the art of film editing as six separate stories are told throughout with fluidity and sublime pacing. Three hours has never moved so quickly, and I hope this is a work destined to gain appreciation with age.

27. Spirited Away (2001)

My Review of Spirited Away

The brush Hayao Miyazaki paints with is one that brings a smile to my face every single time, but none bigger than that earned by his masterpiece Spirited Away. An imaginative animated wonder, so much detail is packed into every single moment of this film that it is impossible to digest it all with one viewing, and not just in terms of storytelling but also the incredible craftsmanship of the animation, some of the finest ever achieved. If you resist animated films because you feel they are designed and directed only at children, stop what you are doing and seek out the work of the legendary Studio Ghibli.

26. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

My Review of Dr. Strangelove

Quite possibly the most accomplished and brilliant satire in cinema history, Dr. Strangelove is yet another film by Stanley Kubrick that has made my list. It's just so damn funny and shockingly relevant even today, as the content remains as clever and meaningful as it did back in the 1960's. Humor is something that can occasionally feel dated, as something that played well long ago may come up dry with a modern audience. Not so for this classic dark comedy.

25. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

At one point years ago, when someone would ask what my favorite movie was, the answer was always The Empire Strikes Back...and The Shawshank Redemption. While no longer right there at the very top of the list, my love for this film still remains, a powerful story about finding hope in a hopeless place and the meaning of freedom beyond the simplicity of whether the prisoners are in serving time or out in a world unknown to them. The last thirty or so minutes of this work will always warm my soul without fail, an experience that never gets old.

24. Take Shelter (2011)

My Review of Take Shelter

One of the finest and most realistic looks at the profound challenges of mental illness, the film Take Shelter by Jeff Nichols showcases a breathtaking lead performance by Michael Shannon along with amazing supporting work by Jessica Chastain in the role of his wife. Much like the previously listed No Country for Old Men, this has a shockingly polarizing ending, and I say shockingly because I find only one interpretation to be valid yet I was surprised to see it debated by many. For me it is a moving moment using intense imagery to demonstrate the importance of comfort and having love by your side when you need it most. One of my absolute favorite closing scenes of a film I have ever witnessed.

23. The Big Lebowski (1998)

Here we are with that second Coen brothers film I eluded to earlier, their comedy classic The Big Lebowski was was just recently selected by the National Film Registry for preservation due to its cultural significance. Well deserved if you ask me, my favorite comedy of all time. So quotable, so memorable, such great characters, such a uniquely perfect script. I could practically watch this film on repeat and never grow tired of The Dude.

22. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Not quite the masterpiece from the filmography of Quentin Tarantino...but close. Inglourious Basterds takes his ingenious script and runs with it, with every performance absolutely on point for the material. Some of the finest moments of this film, from the riveting opening sequence to the showdown in the basement bar, are so perfectly executed and could only be the work of one man. When you see sequences like these, there is never a doubt as to who crafted them. Only Quentin Tarantino could pull it off.

21. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

My Review of The Two Towers

With these fresh in my mind after my recent six film journey through Middle Earth, The Two Towers is still the one that stands atop the rest. I cannot get enough of this installment, as every note is hit with perfection from beginning to end, never a misstep despite its daunting length and epic scope. Just thinking the words "Helms Deep" makes me grin like an idiot.

Only 20 films to go...or perhaps 21. I may just have to include a lame tie as a way to shoehorn in a choice much deserving of the honor. Either way, two more lists to come, and the image above is from a film that will be a part of the next group.