Thursday, October 19, 2017

Let's Do It Again: My 100 Favorite Films of All Time #40 - #31

Alright, let's keep this going here. I've got some rare time to kill and a chance to list movies, two things that go together extremely well.

Moving into the top 40 films of all time:

40. Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko rolled into my life the same year as David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and both introduced me to a style of narrative that didn't feel compelled to assemble all of the pieces for the audience in the end, and it took me some time to realize that this wasn't just okay, it was welcome. It wasn't until maybe the 3rd or 4th time that I watched Donnie Darko that I formed an opinion as to what it actually all meant, and who knows if I am even remotely correct? It doesn't really matter. The beauty of ambiguous storytelling is it allows each person to form their own theories while wondering if writer/director Richard Kelly was going down that same path.

39. Taxi Driver

It wasn't until recently, maybe a couple of years ago, that I realized with a rewatch that Taxi Driver was a stone cold masterpiece. Scorsese's crime drama about a Vietnam war veteran suffering from mental instability and insomnia, seeing a world around him that pushes him closer to violence with each day, is a piece of astonishingly effective cinema.

38. Jaws

Jaws is a film that literally never gets old. I don't think it's possible for this one to wear out its welcome with me, as I have seen it lord only knows how many times and I can still watch it any given day with the same enthusiasm as years ago. The first of two Spielberg films to make this set of ten.

37. 2001: A Space Odyssey

For the longest time this was my favorite Kubrick, a cliché pick to be certain but one that was only cliché because it is so worthy of the recognition from so many different people or publications. It no longer is my favorite from quite possibly the greatest filmmaker of all time, but that doesn't take anything away from the greatness that is this master class example of abstract, brilliant science fiction.

36. Inglourious Basterds

I haven't always been on board with Tarantino in regards to his most recent work. Django Unchained is a pretty excellently crafted film from top to bottom but my initial huge praise after my first viewing has toned down a bit, and I flat out didn't enjoy The Hateful Eight all that much, a piece of his filmography that I cannot promise I will ever feel compelled to revisit. For me, we are 8 years removed from the second best film he has directed, and potentially (but hopefully not) his last great picture. Inglourious Basterds is a treasure from the opening frame to the final shot.

35. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

I am still such a sucker for this franchise, although I am sure it would surprise many that the only film of three to not make my top 100 is Return of the King, the piece that dominated the Oscars and is likely the top choice of the majority. For me that is The Two Towers, but we will get to that later. This trilogy just feels like a wonderful, epic cinematic event, a sweeping, magical and exciting set of films that for some odd reason I always feel compelled to revisit around the November/December time of the year. Something about the weather outside getting cold and having no where to go for hours makes me think of getting comfortable and popping in The Fellowship of the Ring.

34. The Shawshank Redemption

One of the biggest victims to the online push to declare various forms of art as "overrated" has been The Shawshank Redemption, a film that got pushed to the top of the IMDB top 250 list and therefore has become a popular thing to hate (why people take the IMDB ranking seriously, I have no idea, every popular new movie that comes out immediately becomes a top 50 all time). My love has never even slightly shifted because I don't concern myself with where movies are ranked in other places or what people are saying about them. The Shawshank Redemption is a spectacular, beautiful film with one of my favorite final acts of all time. From the moment Andy crawls through the river of shit and comes out clean on the other side, to that final shot on the beach, is peak cinema for me.

33. Jurassic Park

Saying they don't make them like they used to is an overused phrase that probably leads to some eye rolling, but in regards to Jurassic Park, really, they don't make them like they used to. The pitch perfect summer blockbuster feels almost impossible these days, but back in 1993 this one hit theaters and has cemented its spot in the history of cinema forever.

32. Alien

My oh my what an incredible film Alien is. I got a chance to see it at midnight a few years ago at the old classic theater near my home and that was an experience I will never forget. The movie that started a franchise that is still going today, that introduced us to characters like Ripley and Ash, a creature as menacing as the xenomorph and an iconic ship like the Nostromo. 

31. Rear Window

A Hitchcock classic rounds out this list of ten, the unforgettable film Rear Window that took a single set piece and a man in a wheelchair with binoculars and managed to create incredible tension thanks to one hell of a screenplay and perfect performances. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Blade Runner Review

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in tears in the rain..."

The year was 2007, and it happened on a cold, rainy November evening. My daughter was born only a month earlier, and with a whopping 30 some days of true adult responsibility under my belt I felt it was mandatory I go out and spend way too much money on myself. My wife agreed. We were young and dumb, and credit cards felt like a piece of plastic that opened a portal to free, flashy goods. Fucking monthly minimum payments and obscene interest rates weren't even on our radar. It was glorious.

My sights were set on obtaining my first flat screen television, but no chance I could spend that kinda scratch unless I could match it in the direction of the Mrs., whatever she wanted that could match the intoxicating splendor of dazzling images pouring into my rods and cones. Two years earlier in 2005, I had proposed to her but money was, to put it lightly, limited. She understood that I couldn't do much in the department of jewelry, so a dirt cheap ring slipped onto her finger, a symbol of love but not something one would rush to show off to their friends or family. That brings us back to that cold, rainy November evening. A ring. She wanted an actual ring, still none of this three months salary bullshit but one that at the very least might sparkle under the right light. She got a ring, and I got my big, beautiful TV. I know priorities differ from person to person, but I still feel like I got the better end of that deal.

Do you remember the high definition physical media format war? I sure do. Everyone knows what Blu-ray is, and hell, some of you have even moved onto 4K discs, but back in 2007 there was competition that went by the name of HD-DVD created by the brand Toshiba. I remember it well because I was one of the losers of the format war. I chose wrong. That very same November evening that I went home with a television, I also had an HD-DVD player and a few films to jump start a collection. The very first one I watched was Blade Runner, and my god it was so beautiful. A black screen with white font opening credits plastered across it never looked so sexy, and then it cuts to the glow of city lights and bursts of fire blasting from smokestacks scattered among buildings that seem never ending. Why not christen my new beloved high definition media player with a visually stunning masterpiece? It was the perfect choice.

The HD-DVD's are long gone, but I will always remember them and the way the rain felt coming in sideways across my face on that November evening thanks to Blade Runner, Ridley Scott's work of futuristic science fiction brilliance that transported audiences all the way into the year 2019. If only they knew back in 1982 just how little the world would look like the one an imagination was able to conceive of, but that isn't a complaint. Sure, the 1980's had me anticipating a future filled with flying cars, but witnessing the decay of a metropolis past its prime isn't exactly my cup of tea. What can I say, I am a suburbs kinda guy.

Lead by Harrison Ford with terrific supporting work from Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah and easily one of my favorite film villains of all time, Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty, the most remarkable thing about Blade Runner is the fact that the film hasn't lost a single step despite being released 35 years ago. I wasn't even born for another two years after audiences got to take their seats in the theater to witness this picture, and yet nothing feels dated. I will watch movies released 10 to 15 years after Blade Runner hit the cinemas that present a world that was designed to be mocked down the road, one that lived and breathed in its moment only with no prospects to survive into the future, yet Scott, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and writers Hampton Fancher and David Peoples managed to cohesively craft something that was destined to be a classic. 

Thousands of days have gone by since that night in November when I unwrapped my brand new electronics and gave Blade Runner its first HD spin, so many moments lost in time, like tears in the rain, yet I can still vividly remember that feeling of seeing this film look more stunning than I could have ever imagined. Maybe I can chalk it up to being such an exciting feeling, going out and doing something financially ill-advised and completely spur of the moment at a time when I quickly transitioned from a lifetime of total freedom to a sea of dirty diapers and middle of the night feedings and the terrifying realization that my existence had transferred from being about me to meaning so much more.

I wonder though, what if I had watched some shitty, forgettable film that night? Would it have tainted the memory I now have? Would I remember it at all? Perhaps none of it resonates without Blade Runner.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Let's Do It Again: My 100 Favorite Films of All Time #50 - #41

Alright, time to continue with this list. I haven't been writing as much lately, but that is not indicative of any lackluster enthusiasm for film or television. On the contrary I have been watching more content then ever, already crossing 110 films seen that were released in 2017 and we are only now hitting the prime meat and potatoes of late in the year, Oscar season material. I have also watched more television shows then I ever thought was possible thanks to streaming content and the ability to take it on the go. No, the reason for less writing can be boiled down to one reason: I no longer force myself to do it. I used to say, now I HAVE to write something about every film I would watch, and often times what I just witnessed does little to inspire putting words down, so now I wait for the times I WANT to write something. To be clear though, even if I don't write something that isn't an indication that I didn't care for the film. My favorite film of the year thus far is Dunkirk, and I am still yet to put a single word down on it months after seeing it. I'm thinking that will happen when I put out my best of list early next year. The new It is a tremendous horror film, currently in my top 5 of the year, yet no review from me. Didn't feel like putting my thoughts down, instead they remain in my head, bouncing around everytime I think of Pennywise.

I am thinking about writing about Blade Runner before a review of Blade Runner 2049 later this week though, so keep an eye out for that.

Anyways, on to the list, into the top 50 films of all time.

50. Lawrence of Arabia

The first time I ever saw this beautiful, bold, sprawling epic of a film was during the last time I was posting my top 100 films a few years ago, and I was so taken aback by Lawrence of Arabia I had to bend my own meaningless rules by adding it into the top 10, essentially making it a 101 favorite films list. The overwhelming immediate love affair reaction has clearly cooled a bit as this is no longer sitting in the top 10, but it is still one of the great cinematic achievements ever and worthy of a top 50 spot. 

49. La La Land

It's entirely possible you see something like Lawrence of Arabia ranked 50th and then a film like La La Land ranked right ahead of it and roll your eyes at my list. I get it. I also don't care. I am well aware of the typical backlash that occurs when a film becomes an Oscar favorite, and La La Land was certainly subjected to that social media hate followed by rejoicing when Moonlight took home Best Picture (which I was just fine with because Moonlight is a terrific film). I absolutely fucking love La La Land and to be honest, the only reason it isn't ranked even higher is because it needs to withstand a bit more of the test of time before I can elevate it to the level occupied by movies I have seen 20 or more times. Even I am curious where I will rank La La Land the next time I put one of this lists together down the road.

48. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

What an absolute shame this magnificent, cold slice of brilliant filmmaking will never get a true sequel, and before you say it, yes I am aware the entire trilogy was filmed internationally and exists for me to watch, I have seen them. They aren't Fincher. 

47. Cinema Paradiso

This is a film that simply hearing the title makes my entire body feel warm, in a good way. Cinema Paradiso is a beautiful, moving treasure of a picture, a love letter to both cinema and the way we nostalgically reflect upon our childhoods and the people and things that shape who we are.

46. Good Will Hunting

1997 was one hell of a year for cinema. Titanic, As Good As It Gets, L.A. Confidential, Jackie Brown, Boogie Nights, Contact, Starship Troopers and Con Air (okay, I threw in that last one for shits and giggles, the rest are actually great). My favorite film released that year, however, is Good Will Hunting, featuring an emotionally arresting performance by the late great Robin Williams and an Oscar winning script that is pitch perfect.

45. Before Sunrise

In the past, literally every month I may have answered differently when asked which of the Before series by Richard Linklater is the best film of the trilogy. I have now settled on a pretty permanent answer that Before Sunrise, the first of the bunch, is my favorite, but honestly I'm not sure why. Maybe I appreciate the optimism behind a young, flourishing love with that hint of sorrow behind every moment because of the unknown. That feeling of absolute magic while not knowing, will they ever see each other again? All three are excellent movies for different reasons, filmed 9 years apart so the audience aged right there along with the characters and when we reconnect with them reconnecting, we are different people as well, yet oddly the older I get the more I find them at their youngest to be the most compelling.

44. Cloud Atlas

This is a love it or hate it polarizing film, and I think you know where I stand considering it lands on this list. I read the novel the film is based on prior to seeing it and I thought it would be impossible to adapt it into a cohesive, interesting picture, and yet I continue to marvel at the work done by the Wachowski sisters and Tom Tykwer both writing and directing this masterful epic. I hope over time Cloud Atlas finds its audience and is appreciated. It deserves to be seen.

43. Memories of Murder

Chances are you probably haven't seen Memories of Murder, and it isn't the easiest film to track down, although these days I'm sure you can rent it on Amazon or something. Do that. Do that as soon as you can. A bone chilling South Korean film from filmmaker Boon Joon-ho based on the true story of the first ever serial killer in the country, murders that took place between 1986 and 1991. Such a tremendous work all the way until an extremely memorable final shot.

42. Prisoners

Director Denis Villeneuve might be a household name soon thanks to Blade Runner 2049 likely blowing up the box office, but I implore absolutely everyone to go back and watch all of his films, from his devastating true story school shooting film Polytechnique to last year's Best Picture nominee Arrival (disclaimer: I have never seen his debut feature length film Maelstrom from 2000, hence why I am starting the Villeneuve clock after that). Everything he has done has been incredible, but Prisoners is my favorite of them all, a super dark and painful look at child abduction and the lengths a father will go to to find his daughter. 


41. 12 Angry Men

Closing out this list of ten is the classic masterpiece 12 Angry Men, a film that utilizes a single setting and brilliant acting to carry it the whole way through. Directed by the great Sidney Lumet, this look at 12 jurors sweating through a hot summer day inside a room deliberating a murder case is a perfect example of just how much can be done with a terrific concept and script and the perfect performances to bring it all to life.