clownfoot -> RE: The Forums Top 100 Favourite Films 2008! (4/4/2008 12:21:54 AM)
100. Once Upon a Time in America (1984, Sergio Leone)
Sergio Leone's final film is an epic in every aspect. It's not just a massive amount of time that elapses in terms of runtime (nearly 4 hours), the story itself is around sixty years long, spanning the entire life of Jewish gangster Noodles after he returns from exile thirty years on to investigate a mysterious invitation that has been sent to him. We first encounter Noodles at an opium den, a strange look of satisfied glee on his face. After un-named gangsters chase him out of town, he returns as an old man. The stark contrast between the young, relaxed, 'high' gangster and the old, fragile returning Noodles leads us to ask the question; what could have happened in this man's life to turn him into this shadow of his for her self? What follows is possibly one of the most imaginative, un-chronological narrative since Citizen Kane. And it works wonderfully.
Leone's 229 minute version is the best four hours of film you'll ever see, and despite its massive runtime, not one shot is below exceptional. Every scene is shot with the same passion, attention-to-detail, and intensity as the last. It's hard to even get slightly impatient with the film, and each flash-back and era of Noodles' life could be cut into an excellent film in itself, and it's Leone's incredible direction that we have to thank for this. Shots like a young Noodles waving to his friends as the prison doors close, the boys rising up from the water as their boat bobs solemly on the surface, and every single extreme close-up (the stuff that Leone is known best for) is memorable. Without Leone at the helm and cinematographer Ennio Morricone, this wouldn't be half the film it was. And that's not even just an opinion, just watch the 139 minute version for proof.
Sergio Leone's final picture was also unarguably his best, and deserves to be mentioned within the same breath as any other modern gangster epic.
99. Downfall (2004, Oliver Hirschbiegel)
War Movies, good as they are, tend to be a bit clichéd, don't they? Most are prone to hero worship, and focus on the indestructible main character who fights a war by himself. Others tend to deal with the psychological implications of warfare, wherein someone fights their own war within their head. There is a common denominator amongst all of these war movies. They're all American, or to a lesser extent, British. In mainland Europe, they do things differently – shown here amicably in Oliver Hischbiegel's Downfall (Der Untergang). Set against the last year of the Nazi Empire's reign of tyrannical power over Europe, the film focuses on how the people involved dealt with the famous fall of that superpower. It does a remarkable job of humanising a man who has become known as history's greatest monster – often depicted as a ranting, psychotic lunatic bent on mass destruction, the film shows him for what he really was – which, ok, there might have been elements of the former, but it also shows him as an astute politician, a savvy businessman and a caring family man. This is largely thanks to a stunning central performance from Bruno Ganz as Hitler. Ganz plays the dictator with real passion, and his intentions, like the films, are clear – no one is trying to paint Hitler as a sympathetic character, or as a victim. It simply tells it how it is, or was. The set up and execution of the film are quite simply flawless, and alongside showing the human aspect of warfare, it doesn't shy away from the horrifics either. No punches are pulled in showing the destruction of not only the nation, but of its people – the suicide count in the film is overwhelming at times. Most importantly, Hirschbiegel shows himself to be a more than accomplished director, who could certainly teach the heavyweights of Hollywood a thing or two. Quite simply, astounding.
April 1945 and Germany stands on the brink of defeat in the Second World War. The centre of this turmoil is a bunker in Berlin where Adolf Hitler, a shadow of his former self, is holed up screaming defiance whilst awaiting the inevitable downfall of the Third Reich. This is the story of Der Untergang ("Downfall”) based on the recollections of Hitler's personal secretary Traudl Junge as brought to the screen by Oliver Hirschbiegel. In translating this story, Hirschbiegel puts together a fascinating tale of a man losing his grip on power and facing the inevitable and in doing so, helped to exorcise Germany's own demons about the man that led his country on an idealistic war. At the centre of this powerful film is Bruno Ganz's memorising performance as Hitler. Looking old and tired, Ganz's performance is tremendous for the way his body language and most notably, his eyes betray what fire is left in his rhetoric. However, it would wrong to think of this film as a film sculpted out of one performance for whilst Ganz is clearly the centrepiece, he is supported ably by the rest of the cast and in fact, the most chillingly memorable scene does not even feature Hitler but is one showing the way in which Magda Goebbels, wife of spin-doctor Josef, copes with the impending defeat. A must-watch drama which makes for a fascinating account of how people in power cope with the despair of losing it and a historical account of the end of WW2 and one I am delighted to see in the Top 100.
98. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986, John Hughes)
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
Name one other film that's so undeniably great it leaves you enviously uttering, "God, I wish I was as cool as Matthew Broderick." Anyone? Anyone?
Truancy elevated to an art form is a beautiful thing to behold. School may be out in favour of the pursuit of happiness for ingenious skiver Ferris (a never-better Broderick), his best friend Cameron and sweetheart Sloane, but as you'd expect from writer/director Hughes, there are still life lessons aplenty to be had here. Far from being typically overly-earnest, 80s teen-flick fare, this frenetic, playful, relentlessly sunny comedy offers up laughs for all, from broad slapstick to the unavoidably quotable witticisms of the lead.
The irrepressible Ferris (surely the missing link between The Fonz and Woody Allen?) possesses charisma, wisdom and wit beyond his years. Frequent fourth-wall-defying sermons and knowing looks render the viewer a willing co-conspirator, ensuring empathy for this improbably likeable hero: a smart-arse, over-privileged, middle-class white kid. Effortlessly charming his way through life, he leaves many a bewildered and frustrated adult in his wake, most notably Ed Rooney: school principal/would-be nemesis/bungling loser...
Skipping class is merely the beginning for Ferris, a means to an end. Absconding to a postcard-perfect Chicago, his day of scams serves one simple goal: to show downtrodden Cameron there's more to life than his multitude of neuroses. Sloane, the supremely elegant centre to Ferris' impulse-driven storm, may join the boys on this jaunt but the beating heart of this story undoubtedly lies in the Ferris-Cam partnership. Both realise such youthful thrills are soon to give way to the dreaded mediocrity of Growing Up, lending proceedings a bittersweet ache as they bid a fond, reluctant farewell to childish things.
But that's away in the future, and it's summer right now. How could they possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this?
Belly T Jones
97. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982, Steven Spielberg)
When you mention E.T to people, the first thing they tend to do is put their hand wistfully on their chest and say "Ooh I love E.T! It made me cry when I was a kid". You really don't need to justify that by saying "when I was a kid". E.T has themes with which everyone- young and old- can identify.
Middle child Elliott (Henry Thomas giving one of the best performances ever seen by a child actor) is feeling alienated at school and at home, in addition to trying to understand his parent's separation. It can come as no surprise to see that Elliott is in fact just as lost as the titular alien. Big brother Michael struggling with puberty and cute-but-wise Gertie are equally well portayed. Dee Wallace, playing Elliott's mother, is perhaps even more wonderful as the parent too busy fussing and worrying about her kids to properly notice their predicament. Do you know of any other family adventure films with such carefully conceived and complex characters? This is exactly what makes E.T so wonderful. An ardent refusal to succumb to character cliches. Are there any goodies or baddies in this film?
E.T's reputation for being a sentimental sob-fest is also entirely undeserved. Yes, E.T's "death" can move you to tears, but what about the moments of unparalelled joy? Such as his "ressurrection"? Or the sheer exhilaration of the bike chase and E.T's flight? Or the trouser-soiling scare of the astronauts' violation of Elliott's home? Or perhaps the most rousingly bittersweet ending in cinema history?
Set-design, cinematography, special effects (before the bastardisation) are all superb. John Williams' music is so perfectly married to onscreen events, that one is tempted to call this his greatest ever accomplishment. But for me, the real star is Spielberg. Every single shot in this film is so lovingly made, that its no wonder the finished product is so affecting. As a director he is not only able to show you events through children's perspective, but actually put you in their shoes. I don't know exactly how he does it, and I don't really want to know. By the time that final shot comes around, you have witnessed one of the most entertaining, involving, moving, witty, thrilling and wonderful things ever put to film.
96. Chinatown (1974, Roman Polanski)
Before Jack learned to smirk, before Polanski got banned from the US for naughty rape, before Robert Towne got a bit dull, came Chinatown. This film has everything; a cracking script, perfect details on locations, characters, plot etc, intrigue, mystery, and Jack Nicholson. Central character Jake Gittes, a detective, has been hired on a seemingly run of the mill adultery case. Twists and turns galore lead Gittes to a mystery reaching up into the higher reaches of 30s L.A society.
So why should this film be in the Hall of Fame? Well firstly, let's look at the two words which can improve any film ever; Jack Nicholson. Let's face it, the man's a legend. Even before the trademark sunglasses and cheeky grin, he oozes so much charisma that the cleaning staff had to wipe down the screen at the premier of Something's Gotta Give (fact). This is one of his most engaging, complex characters he's played, in his very peak. Gittes has layers, is a complex individual, and Jack inhabits the character from the very start. Another performance of note is John Huston. Although I'm not too familiar with his work, as actor or director, he's one scary MF in this film. His presence is immense, grabbing for every inch of screen he can possibly possess, as the increasingly monstrous Noah Cross. And of course kudos to the legend that is Faye Dunaway, always hitting the mark, especially in this, probably her finest hour.
Robert Towne's script stings like a bee being made to watch Ed, with classic lines such as:
"'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough"
This, his follow-up to The Last Detail, which I found highly dissapointing if you're interested, is his greatest work, and he snatched one of the few Oscars that The Godfather Part 2 didn't devour. This is a film for the ages, meant to be watched and rewatched. One of the greatest detective movies ever made, and one of those true classics where everything comes together. Hooray for Chinatown.
95. Children of Men (2006, Alfonso Cuarón)
The year is 2027. The world has become infertile; hope as distant a memory of the sound of children being born. Why? Has this occurred? "I doesn't matter,” claims Theo (Clive Owen) and he's right. This isn't the story Alfonso Cuaron wants to tell. He tells a story of hope in a bleak future. And while many films present the future where everything has gone to hell in a hand cart, none portray as frighteningly well as Children of Men. The world of Children of Men works so well because we can believe it. It's a world not too distant from our own, as if the writers of the Daily Mail was in charge of our government. Suicide kits given out in rations, immigrants taken away and executed, bombs going off, TV's proudly displaying "Britain Soldering On” when it isn't the case – its a nightmare with only Michael Caine's Jasper being short relief from it all. But at the end of it, although the experience has been brutal, with characters being dispatched without mercy, the film is a surprisingly uplifting experience. Because if there's a flicker of hope in this hell, then surely there is in ours. Just remember: don't read the Daily Mail and look for the flying pig.
94. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
I'm still 'searching' for this blurb! Wacka, wacka, wacka! Oh, suit yourselves you miserable lot...
93. The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder)
92. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983, Richard Marquand)
Forget the Ewoks. Forget Jedi Rocks. Forget the fact the first act is bit sluggish. These are minor hitches in a fitting conclusion to the Star Wars trilogy. One must remember that the film must be judged on how it resolves the series and on that count, Jedi more than succeeds. I've felt that part of the reason why Jedi is seen as being weak is due to the fact it comes after the mighty cliffhanger of Empire. Add 2 years of wait, and of course the film's not going to match those anticipations, no film can. But damn, does Jedi try so damn hard. It answers those important questions that lingered after said cliffhanger. The final confrontation between father and son is epic and filled with pathos. Not to mention the fact that Ian McDiarmid's Palpatine steals the show as well. And other characters are not short-changed either, with each receiving a fitting sendoff. Just for goodness sake,watch the original version.
91. The Lion King (1994, Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff)
Can't be King of the jungle without a blurb! Anyone care to help?
90. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Steven Spielberg)
Close? A blurb is still a country funking mile off!!
89. Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam)
Terry Gilliam is one of the best living directors around, and Brazil is his masterpiece. However, the reasons why I love this film can be the reasons why others may detest it. It is not exactly original plotwise, especially it's 1984 dystopian plot, but that doesn't mean it is not unique. Visually it's Gilliam's best work. The surreal duct-filled, blocky retro futuristic world that almost imprisons and limits the individual in it is very well done, a future which is almost unseen nowhere else (not even Blade Runner). And even better when contrasted with the fantasy dream sequences, where man's capabilities seem limitless, but are slowly being killed by the reality around him. The line between his dreams and reality is blurring, which will lead to the unforgettable finale. The mood is helped by the soundtrack by Micheal Kamen, who composed a score out of variations of the song "Aquarelle De Brazil (hence the name of the film), giving the film its unique melancholic mood. The plot is filled with interesting sub-plots, which just add meaning to this satire of our modern society. The story is filled with hilarious moments, and also dark, macabre, disturbing even tragic moments. What is amazing is how it all gels together masterfully, no scene seeming out of place, possibly because all these scenes are united by the surrealism on show. The main plot, is simple, it is the subtext behind them that makes it work so well. Brazil also features a great, colorful, characters, and some outstanding work by Jonathan Price and Micheal Palin, and performances by Robert De Niro, Bob Hoskins, and Ian Holm. At why is this film so great? Just like Dr. Strangelove and The Great Dictator, this is a film that shows how comedy can tackle serious issues.
88. The Departed (2006, Martin Scorsese)
Remakes are often treated with fear and suspicion, and rightly so. For every The Fly, we get a Psycho and Charade. But every so often, we are reminded why a remake can be a good thing after all. Infernal Affairs takes a flight to Boston, and brings some of Hollywood's most talented actors for the ride. Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg are just a few of the stars and each are perfectly cast, particluarly Wahlberg, whose foul-mouthed cop earned him a rightly deserved Oscar nomination. In many ways, the film serves as a closing chapter in Scorsese's crime saga, with everything from Goodfellas to Taxi Driver echoing through the film and perhaps it's appropriate that Scorsese's win came because of this film: a way of celebrating a body of work as a whole. The film is the work of a master director, particularly the last scenes, with expertly timed moments that will make an audience gasp with shock. And that is the sign of great direction: playing the audience along without them ever realising it.Film Brain
87. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975, Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones)
Sketch show comedians rarely transfer well to the big screen. Magicians wasn't great. For every Animal House SNL alumni produced 20 clunkers. Even the greatest flopped in That Riviera Touch. But the Monty Python team made 2 comedy classics that remain in many top 10 lists today.
After And Now For Something Completely Different flopped the Pythons made this last gasp attempt at film. Based more than a little loosely on the Grail romances, popular in the Middle Ages, it was filmed on a very small budget (hence coconuts not horses and the plain titles) to a very tight timescale (not helped by bad weather and breaking equipment) on a fairly calamitous shoot. The non-directing (sober) Pythons were worried about a concentration on visuals, not humour (and in Palin's case being stuck on his knees eating mud for days on end, and in Cleese's been left precariously on tall windy peaks). But somehow it all came together, necessity never being more obviously the mother of invention (thus the Swedish subtitles. And the mooses (?). And the llamas).
The film is very close to their TV roots – both visually (it look more like the show than the later Life of Brian) and it is not a million miles from a series of sketches with a reasonably coherent narrative built round (and, unusually for Python, women playing women). Hence we do get the Knights of the Round Table on their different quests (although I don't recall Lancelot slaughtering that particular wedding party), and the (remarkably stubborn) Black Knight. But we also get detailed discussions on varieties of swallow. And various flying cows. And stroppy Frenchmen. And, of course, a particularly homicidal bunny.
Full of quotable lines, memorable scenes (my favourite – "help! I'm being repressed!”) and still funnier than most films made since, it has also generated a hugely popular (and really not bad) musical and is a worthy entry into the Top 100 Films.
86. Halloween (1978, John Carpenter)
I hope I'm not going to be waiting till Halloween for this blurb!!
85. Paris, Texas (1984, Wim Wenders)
84. Rocky (1976, John G. Avildsen)
Once upon a time, there was a time when Stallone was truly considered the next Brando, the next De Niro. Today, such a claim may sound ludicrous, but it wasn't at the time of Rocky's first release, where the trailers proudly promoted this fact. Because, before John Rambo, before a series of clunkers nearly torched his career several times, there as Rocky Balboa. The original is the best, and mostly because Rocky was a normal person, an underdog, rather than a superhero fighting a Soviet steroid-machine whilst wearing the American flag like a cape. Although the sequels themselves are fun, they (for the most part) miss the point by looking at the fights rather than the characters. Really, Rocky fights two battles: one in the ring with Apollo, and the one for his heart for Adrian (AAADDDDRRIIIIIIAAAAANNN!!!!). The film places its main attention on Adrian and Rocky's romance, the actual fight being a MacGuffin albeit a great one. And that is why we cheer Rocky on: we want him to win in both battles. The ending is suitably bittersweet, with Rocky winning on an emotional level, which is why the film is so adored by audiences and myself.
83. Lost in Translation (2003, Sophia Coppola)
The fact that this bittersweet tale of two lost souls looking for meaning to their lives in the bustling metropolis of Tokyo emerged in the midst of a time when formula and hype prevailed is, oddly, the least of its achievements. Only the second feature from director Sophia Coppola, the real achievement which makes this sweet, sad, romantic, funny and witty, is the fact that it can balance all these elements in its heartbreaking story. Following two lost souls in a Tokyo hotel, Bob (Bill Murray) is an aging movie star resigned to filming whiskey commercials with a tux and sardonic smile ("For relaxing times, make it Santori Time”), doing something he hates for the money, and hating himself for it. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is a young wife following her photographer husband to assignments in Japan, but left behind in her hotel room, where she encounters her own loneliness and emotional crises. Calling a friend, she confesses in tears that she visited an ancient shrine and "I didn't feel anything” and "I don't know who I married”.
By a chance encounter, these two people meet at the bar of their hotel, and begin to find just a little something when they strike up a conversation. Bob, in his 50's, and Charlotte, in her early-20's, present the chance for the formulaic unconventional romance, but instead find in each other the chance to escape their own lives, with Bob suggesting the chance for a jailbreak that Charlotte can't refuse. From there they take in karaoke bars, where Bob serenades a purple-wigged Charlotte, parties which descend into a BB gun shootout, and the arcades where Bob surveys the Japanese teens with both puzzlement and a wry smile. Together they make the alien city just a little less alien, always reconvening at the hotel bar.
Not just a film of searching for a place in the world for Bob and Charlotte, though, what makes it great is how it balances this aspect with laugh-out-loud comedy. Bill Murray, in his best performance to date, never overplays these. Instead, with a world-weariness befitting his character, scenarios like struggling through a Japanese talk show with its zany host, enduring an agonising attempt at a Roger Moore impersonation filming his commercial, or passing the time with a patient at the hospital whilst waiting for Charlotte are filled with warmth and understated humour. Any attempt at pigeon-holing this film as a matter of the head and not the heart is quickly dispelled by Bob simply getting stuck on the gym equipment.
Not leaving the dramatic crises to Bob and Charlotte, the film itself thrusts its characters into turbulences and dramas, making them discover something that they could have lost. Something beyond Bob's wife, constantly calling with carpet samples from seemingly farther away than the already-thousands of miles. Something beyond Charlotte's husband, star struck that a B-movie actress knows his name. It's here where the film keeps its heart, and lets the couple discover just what they were looking for all along. As they part for the last time, Bob whispers something to Charlotte, something we are not allowed to hear – an imparting of wisdom from a worldly-wise to one trying to find her feet? A final goodbye? A promise? Whatever it is – it's between them. As it had been they whole time.
Larry of Arabia
82. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, Sergio Leone)
Blurb being prepared by richCie. Should be with us shortly!
81. American Beauty (1999, Sam Mendes)
Sam Mendes Oscar-winning debut achieves tragic subtlety and brilliant black comedy in a drama that could've been pretentious and overly sarcastic. With big help from cinematographer Conrad L. Hall American Beauty shows insight, sadness and invigoration through some excellent visuals, particularly the 'floating bag' shots (on Dv) and the opening introductory and ending shots of Lester (Kevin Spacey) and his family. Kudos also to Kevin Spacey, low-key and understated, as 40 something ad man Lester Burnham, rebelling against a mid-life crisis and his family's interminable disdain for him. "I feel like I've been in a coma for about 20 years and am only now starting to wake up", he muses. Lesters re-awakening, propelled by his attraction to his teenage daughters best friend, sees him do things he would've been too cautious about before; like quitting his job, smoking pot, working out and engaging in a couple of verbal stand-offs with his status-seeking wife "Its just a couch!" Its certainly not a one-man show, Annette Bening is funny and sensitive as Lesters false and angry wife Carolyn, and Thora Birch does well to convey frustration, confusion and hope as Lesters Daughter. The film also reaches out to make supporting characters as relevant and magnetic as the leads; Lesters young next door neighbour Ricky Fitz is in some ways the centre of the movie, dark and vulnerable but able to progress beyond the social structure which has imprisoned Lester for so long. Add Thomas Newmans dreamy, unforgettable score and wherever you live you've got a powerful, bewildering movie which is either one of the last masterpieces of the 90's or one of the first of the millennium.
80. The Princess Bride (1987, Rob Reiner)
"There's a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. T'would be a pity to damage yours.”
I figured the mention of breasts would be enough to get most people's attention, so keep reading. Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn) has the finest breasts in all of Florin, so perfect in fact that her farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes) is utterly devoted to her but has no money to marry her so goes off to seek his fortune. Word returns to our heroine that Westley's ship was attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts (who never takes prisoners) and our lovelorn Buttercup vows that she will never love again. Five years after Westley's death, Buttercup finds herself engaged to Prince Humperdinck, albeit very reluctantly. So far it's your basic love story, but The Princess Bride is so much more than that.
What happens then is nothing short of an adventure. Buttercup is kidnapped the day before her wedding by a strange trio (Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant) only for them to be followed by a mysterious man in black wearing a mask. Rob Reiner's 1987 classic isn't your basic, average, everyday, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum fairy tale. We have heroes, giants, evil princes, counts with six fingers on their left hand, shrieking eels, impressive clergymen, albino torturers, pirates (gotta love a pirate, right?) swordmasters, rodents of unusual size, fire swamps, miracles and genius Sicilians. Who ever said true love was easy?
What The Princess Bride is, is perfect Sunday afternoon viewing. It's the perfect family film. It's one you can sit and enjoy with your mum and dad, it's one that the kids will love. It has everything; amazingly choreographed sword scenes that Errol Flynn would be proud to have been part of, (in fact Bob Anderson choreographed the clifftop sword-fight scene which echoes many classic adventure films of the golden years of cinema), a wonderful, touching relationship between grandfather (Peter Falk) and grandson (Fred Savage), death, resurrection, and some of the best comedy dialogue ever to have graced the screen. Cameos by Carol Kane, Peter Cook, Mel Smith and Billy Crystal only cement The Princess Bride as one of best films to come out of the 1980s.
So why does it deserve a place in the Hall of Fame? Well, anyone who has seen this film immediately falls in love with it. It's inconceivable not to! The AFI granted The Princess Bride a spot in the 100 top love films ever, but make no mistake, this isn't a "kissing story”, it's true love and if films can teach us anything, then this one teaches us that true love never dies. Why should it be here? Because unless you have six fingers on your left hand then you have a soul and if you have a soul then you will know that "as you wish” means so much more than it would seem and The Princess Bride doesn't just deserve a place in the Hall of Fame. It deserves its own wing.