Monday, December 15, 2014

100 Favorite Films - #80 - #71

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

80. Toy Story (1995)

I actually wasn't all that into animation as a child. Sure, I had my films that were special to me like The Lion King and Aladdin, but I was far more into live action work like the original Star Wars trilogy, Aliens and Back to the Future.  Suddenly along came a film called Toy Story, the first release by Pixar Animation Studios, and I was mesmerized watching it in the theater as an eleven year old. Now I am thirty and nothing has changed, I still love the film, possibly even more than I did back then because now I understand just how ingenious the entire thing is.

79. Road to Perdition (2002)

My second (and final) Sam Mendes film on the list, Road to Perdition just has something about it that tickles me in just the right way. The mood of the picture is somber, the imagery gloomy, the entire thing completely beautiful. Both a wonderful addition to the mob sub-genre and also a look at a father - son relationship that really resonated with me. One scene in this film involving Paul Newman in the rain is easily one of my favorite single sequences in cinematic history. The usage of sound, or lack there of during that scene...just thinking about it gives me the chills.

If you have seen the film, you may remember the scene I am referring to. If you haven't, do so.

78. Django Unchained (2012)

My Review of Django Unchained

The work of Quentin Tarantino finds its way back onto my list (and it won't be the last time), this being his most recent film. Not much has changed throughout his career when it comes to brilliantly clever dialogue and a unique style, and that is one of the best things QT has going for him. When you see a film of his, there is no mistaking who is at the helm of that work.

Django Unchained is a blast, featuring another Oscar winning collaboration with Christoph Waltz but it certainly wouldn't be fair to only single out his performance. The casting of this film was on point and the performances across the board prove why, everyone fits into their role like a glove and deliver the genius Tarantino script with perfection.

77. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

My Review of Night of the Living Dead

Speaking of Quentin Tarantino, the film Night of the Living Dead and the man who created it, George A. Romero, were things he admired tremendously, even going as far as once saying the middle initial A stood for "A fucking genius". It is hard to disagree, as Romero is to credit (or blame, depending on your opinion) for the amazing popularity of the concept of the zombie. Sure, The Walking Dead may be the reason many currently love the sub-genre, but such shows wouldn't exist without the influential brilliance of Romero paving the way.

76. Unforgiven (1992)

You won't find a ton of westerns on my list of favorite films, as I have had a lot of trouble warming to the genre over the years, but Unforgiven left its mark on me at a young age and I loved it instantly. The fluidity of the pacing, the sweeping feeling of the imagery, and the story itself, everything about this picture works. A Best Picture winner I can agree with.

75. Before Midnight (2013)

My Review of Before Midnight

At this point, you probably assumed when I included the first two films from the Richard Linklater Before trilogy, I would finish off the whole darn thing at some point during this list. You would be correct. Before Midnight is actually my favorite of the three despite ironically being the hardest to watch, because the process of watching people fall in love during the first two installments has turned into the story of a couple that has now been together for nine years, trying to make their relationship work while dealing with the struggles of not only raising their own children but the pain that comes with Jesse not being able to see his son from a previous marriage. The chemistry here between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy has never been stronger, because ironically when things nearly hit rock bottom is when we get to see them at their very best.

74. The Thin Red Line (1998)

A week or so ago I did a "Genius Directors" post regarding Terrence Malick and here he makes his debut on my favorite films list. One of the finest war films ever made, The Thin Red Line is both brutal and beautiful as the horrific nature of war is shown with both gruesome detail and the artistry that comes from a Malick film. What an amazing cast as well, it is an unforgettable picture.

73. 12 Angry Men (1957)

A master work in simplicity, Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men tells the story of 12 members of a jury immediately after the closing arguments have concluded and deliberation must begin. The verdict must be agreed upon unanimously and 11 of the men inside that room all agree on guilty, but one man refuses to succumb to prejudices or pressure from the others who are more worried about their plans later that day than the fact that the life of an 18 year old man hangs in the balance.

Carried by fantastic performances, nearly the entire film takes place on only one set, the jury room. Literally only 3 of the 96 minutes show other locations, and yet despite only experiencing this one set piece the film never drags. Watching the case being discussed and tensions boiling over is fascinating stuff.

72. Stalker (1979)

Director Andrei Tarkovsky was once questioned on whether his film Stalker would be too slow and dull for a theater going audience. His reply? "I am only interested in the views of two people: one is called Bresson and one called Bergman." This of course refers to the incredible auteurs Robert Bresson and Ingmar Bergman, and if you have screened a Tarkovsky film you would know that the man believed in his art and didn't mold his films to try to score at the box office.

I find nothing slow nor dull about Stalker, a confounding science fiction film that feels so dense and meaningful that I could probably watch it ten more times and still not fully comprehend the artistry that went into it. Two men known as "the Writer" and "the Professor" are looking to enter an area referred to as "the Zone", which is a location where for unknown reasons the laws of physics no longer apply. The goal of entering "the Zone"? To find "the Room", which is believed to have the power to grant any wish of those who enter it.

71. Jaws (1975)

I doubt I am putting an unknown film on your radar with this one, which is an iconic and beloved work.  Jaws single-handedly made it terrifying to go swimming in the ocean, a landmark in its ability to build tension through great filmmaking and a brilliant piece of music.

Next will be #70 through #61. The numbers may be getting smaller but my passion for the films listed will get bigger and bigger. Above is an image from a film that will be a part of the next list.

Any thoughts? Thanks!

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