Thursday, August 24, 2017

Let's Do It Again: My 100 Favorite Films of All Time #70 - #61

Into the top 70 we go, my second go round through my favorite films of all time. I figure this is a good list to update every so often because we are always discovering new things and also changing our minds on what we do and do not love.

70. O.J.: Made in America

The award for greatest documentary I had ever seen was previously held by Baraka, which made this list in the last installment posted, coming in at #79 overall. That all changed when I got a chance to sit down and take in all seven and a half hours of the masterful, powerful, expansive, comprehensive and completely brilliant O.J.: Made in America, originally aired as a five night television special but played in theaters as to qualify for the Academy Awards and it ended up winning (and rightfully so). What an achievement this is.

69. Upstream Color

Odds are that director Shane Carruth still has not appeared on many radars despite critical success with his films Primer and Upstream Color, but I hope that will change. Perhaps he can release something more mainstream that will attract attention to films like Upstream Color, because this is a spellbinding, baffling, bizarre work that deserves to be seen.

68. Oldboy

On my previously list of ten I pointed out that my love was for the original The Vanishing, not the american remake. Well that applies with even more importance here with Oldboy, the original being a Korean masterpiece and the remake...well, nevermind, I won't get into it. Not important. Oldboy, directed by Park Chan-wook, deserves so much recognition without being bogged down by the failures of a remake. Watch the original, but be prepared to be disturbed. My goodness what an ending.

67. Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin is one of the greatest entertainers and filmmakers of all time and my personal favorite of all his amazing movies is Modern Times, a film that somehow manages to still deliver a relevant to today message 81 years after its release, one regarding economic disparity and the quest to find some semblance of the American dream.

66. Life of Pi

Visually magnificent and emotionally devastating, yet also life affirming and wonderful, Ang Lee's 2012 masterpiece Life of Pi is a treasure, and no offense to Argo but the Academy should have matched Lee's director win that year with a Best Picture trophy as well.

65. Moon

Duncan Jones may not be a household name just yet like his late, great father, but lord knows he should be thanks to his first film Moon, a masterful work of science fiction starring Sam Rockwell in a role that should have garnered award attention but was overlooked. 

64. Field of Dreams

Every single year before the first pitch of the baseball regular season is thrown, I watch Field of Dreams. It's tradition at this point and I love every second of it. I enjoy pretty much every sport but baseball, it's on another level. It's a passion on an almost romantic level, the sights and sounds and even smell of the game intoxicating, and this year it was an extra special viewing seeing as how it was the first time in my life that I prepared for a new season with my team being defending World Series champions. 

63. The Babadook

I know plenty of people who not only don't agree with me loving The Babadook, they don't even like it. Not at all. I chalk this difference of opinion up to what we were looking for from the film and whether it delivered that, since the general complaint is that it "isn't scary" or "isn't really a horror film", and while I definitely disagree with that second one, I do agree that no, I don't get scared by The Babadook. I am, however, blown away by its subtleties portraying the power of grief and the way it can take over and destroy the lives of those suffering from it.

62. My Neighbor Totoro

If you have followed me in any fashion and read my words before regarding Hayao Miyazaki, I think you know I have used the word "genius" an awful lot and in my opinion My Neighbor Totoro is his most stunning, most moving, most heartfelt achievement, which is saying something considering his entire career is littered with brilliance. A film that can and should be viewed by everyone.

61. The Deer Hunter

The final film on this list of ten is the shocking, brutal, incredible movie The Deer Hunter by Michael Cimino, featuring an incredible cast including Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale and Meryl Streep. Not so much a war film but rather a film about war, both during battle and far away from the carnage that took place there, the way the horrors of combat follow soldiers home and haunt their lives long after they were removed from the physical danger.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dark Night Review

Not to be confused with the Christopher Nolan Batman crime thriller masterpiece, Dark Night directed by Tim Sutton is based on or around the 2012 tragedy that took place in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, a mass shooting plot carried out by a man named James Holmes that took a dozen innocent lives and stole the safety so many of us associated with the cinematic experience. Early in the film a television screen portrays the real life criminal case against Holmes, so Sutton was not intending on recreating those events or tell that specific story but rather a copycat killer plotting a very similar event.

Dark Night is a story told unconventionally, lacking a traditional narrative and instead focusing on random moments in the lives of those people who later would be sitting inside a movie theater when a gunman opened fire. It reminded me in a sense of the terrific Ryan Coogler picture Fruitvale Station only instead of the tragedy of watching the final hours of a single life, this instead spreads its focus among multiple subjects and in a far more abstract way. The star of Dark Night is its cinematography and smooth, artful camera work. This is a film that many will be turned off by for a multitude of reasons, but one undeniable thing is that Sutton and his crew have a tremendous handle on aspects that may seem simple to many but are not: how to film and how to frame.

During Dark Night I found myself haunted by the occasional lingering shot or quiet moment with a young man whom is clearly deeply disturbed, but as the movie wound down I couldn't help but wonder: did Sutton actually achieve something haunting, or am I haunted only because I know what the film is based around and what really happened that inspired it? I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, as I know some expertly handled shots and careful, calm moments were exploding with a subtle, horrifying rage utilizing a camera either slowly zooming in or staying static for an uncomfortably long time when it felt like we were past due for a cut did make my skin crawl, yet I can't help but think that if you sat down to watch Dark Night knowing nothing of its plot, the true story it is based around or the thematic goals of Sutton's work, you would likely be left completely cold and confused, wondering what the hell was the point of this whole exercise.

With so many films based on true, tragic events kicking me in the nuts and keeping me awake a little bit later at night without me once doubting how it got me to that point, what troubles me is the fact that I can't quite put my finger on if Dark Night occasionally worked for me only because I kept thinking back to when I was in the cinema watching The Dark Knight Rises, only to return home and turn on the news and see the chaos and carnage that unfolded as I was lucky enough to simply sit back and enjoy the show. Had this exact same picture been made 10, 15, even 20 years from now, would anyone even be willing to ride out the eerie, odd lack of a narrative style seemingly building to nothing?

A ton of talent on display here and I love the concept of the approach, and some of Dark Night absolutely works. I just don't know if any of it matters without already being haunted before the first frame even hits the screen.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Let's Do It Again: My 100 Favorite Films of All Time #80 - #71

After a delay of about a month, time to get back on track with this list. Now moving into the top 80 of my favorite films of all time, take a look and let me know if you love any, hate any, doesn't matter, would love to hear which movies caught your attention and why.

80. Goodfellas

A picture that ages like a fine wine, what really needs to be said about Goodfellas? I'm sure you have seen it, but if it has been a long time, watch it again. I recently did and what a treasure this Scorsese masterpiece continues to be.

79. Baraka

A documentary lacking a conventional narrative or even a verbal element of any kind, Baraka is just a series of incredibly beautiful sights and sounds from around the world filmed and edited together, and it is extraordinary. 

78. The Vanishing

To be clear, this is the original 1988 Dutch film, not the 1993 American remake. That isn't to slight the remake (although I have heard it deserves to be slighted), I just have never seen it as I really don't see the point when the original is perfect. The Vanishing is one of the most haunting, disturbing films I have ever seen, with an ending that still rattles me randomly when I think about it.

77. The Spirit of the Beehive

A personal favorite of visionary director Guillermo del Toro and a clear inspiration for his incredible Pan's Labyrinth, The Spirit of the Beehive is gorgeous and mysterious and simply brilliant. The directorial debut from Spanish film director Victor Erice, and what a way to introduce yourself to the cinematic world.

76. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Kubrick's satirical look at war is great enough based on its own merits, a tremendously funny and entertaining film, but what makes it really stand out now is just how prescient it turned out to be. Despite being released over 50 years ago, Dr. Strangelove still plays today with remarkable accuracy and relevance.

75. Children of Men

An incredible, intense, painful experience, Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men has plenty of admirers like myself but the film is underappreciated overall, bold and fascinating storytelling that from my experience most people have never even heard of. Find a way to see it, but I must warn you, my wife appreciated that it is a great film but she will never watch it again as a scene towards the end managed to literally give her an anxiety attack. That may not sound like a compliment to the movie, but trust me, it is.

74. Road to Perdition

Let's keep this simple: Road to Perdition is fantastic and the scene depicted in the image above is one of my all time favorite moments in cinema, and that isn't an exaggeration. I have seen the film at least a dozen times, probably more, so sometimes I can turn it on while also doing something else as I know I don't have to devote my entire attention span to it, but whenever this moment arrives, I drop whatever I am doing and just soak it in. Breathtaking. 

73. Blade Runner

The sequel is due out in October and outside of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it is my most anticipated film of the rest of 2017, partially because it looks so damn amazing and is made by an outstanding filmmaker in Denis Villenueve, but also because it is the sequel to a science fiction masterclass. Blade Runner is a stunning achievement.

72. Only God Forgives

A polarizing film, no doubt, with an equal share of people absolutely loathing it as those who love it, but count me among the second group. A neon drenched nightmare directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, I have watched Only God Forgives 4 or 5 times now and it gets better and better each time. 

71. Paths of Glory

Another Kubrick film that serves as a scathing criticism of war, although unlike Dr. Strangelove, Paths of Glory is not a satirical comedy but rather a deep dive into the absurd notion that we would expect soldiers to complete a mission that is essentially suicide and their refusal to do so would lead their own country to put them to death under the charge of cowardice. This film is hard to watch and yet I watched it twice the very first time I saw it. As soon as it ended I pressed play again and sat through it all over again. Kubrick is a genius, possibly my favorite filmmaker of all time, and Paths of Glory is an example of why.