So, it has come to this. I've been avoiding this for the very reason that it's such a massive undertaking, and I'm watching something new almost every day, but there is always an edit button and so I've decided that this was the perfect way to take my (temporary) leave. Yes, this is the last post you'll see from me for a while, since I'll be displaced and in transit and then on vacation and before I know it the end of the year will be upon us, but I'm hoping that come January I'll be back into the swing of things (maybe sooner).
I cheated a bit here. This is not a list of exactly 100. I couldn't do that. As it is, the snubs are horrendous, and I know that come next week I'll probably have a new film or two that I wish I would have included, but narrowing this list was so hard that I had to bend the rules a bit. Also, aside from my Top 10, this list is probably all over the place. I mean, on any given day I could reorder this drastically and still be completely happy with it. This is a list of 100 films (out of THOUSANDS) that I've seen that are the best of the best, and so there are mere slivers of difference in placement between #100 and #11; for real.
So here goes nothing. Enjoy. Comment. Let me have it. Agree...disagree...discuss...whatever you wish. I will try my hardest to respond to all comments when I can get to a computer. Until I can get back into the swing; goodbye...or shall I say, "See you later!"
|Titanic ~ James Cameron (1997)|
I know, I know...Titanic, but hear me out. This movie is pretty bad, but it's so bad it's kind of wonderful. Part of loving film is feeling a connection to it, whether it be to the film itself of the circumstances under which you experienced it or to the way it makes your soul feel, and Titanic warms my soul. It also feels like the perfect bookend to this list because it's so Oscary and yet so 'guilty pleasure' that it pretty much sums up what film is; brilliant trash. It doesn't hurt that this was my first 'film phenomenon' experience. I was 12 when this film came out and I had never seen anything like the mass-hysteria this film brought with it. It felt so important, so beloved, so much bigger than a mere movie, and when you see it on the big screen it really is THAT big. It may not be a great film, but it's a GREAT movie. I will go to the grave singing My Heart Will Go On and declaring my undying love to Kate Winslet, and all haters can SUCK IT!
|They Shoot Horses, Don't They ~ Sydney Pollack (1969)|
I've stated before that I had no idea what to expect from this film, and honestly I couldn't have been further away from the truth with my assumptions (I wholly believed this was a comedy). This movie was so desperate, so destitute and so dire and yet it was so brilliantly constructed that one can't help but feel consumed by it. It's like a savage beast, feasting on the audience, putting us through the motions of agony alongside souls at the very end of their ropes, not sure what they have to hope for anymore. While this all sounds like something no one in their right minds would want to watch (and my wife certainly questioned it), it is such a strong example of storytelling and honest human desperation that I feel They Shoot Horses, Don't They is a necessary watch for everyone.
|Kids ~ Larry Clark (1995)|
You know what's even harder to watch than the film above? This one. Yup, Kids almost made me throw up in heartbreaking frustration and absolute anxiety. But this is such an important film, especially given the nature of kids today. The bleakness is not without purpose, for this brutally honest look at the dangerous, reckless actions of a lost generation still bleed into our current society and we can learn so much from the mistakes of many. The final 20 minutes of this film were the hardest moments in ANY film I've had to watch, and I'm not joking about nearly vomiting, so it's hard to say that I 'recommend' this movie, and yet I strongly believe that every parent should see this. It's that important. So, I guess I won't say this is one of my 'favorite' films; but it's clearly one of the best (narratively/poignantly) ever made.
|Once ~ John Carney (2007)|
Last December, I wrote about my feelings on John Carney's approach to love and the personal connection I have to it. I stand by those sentiments. Once is such a tremendous look at the power of love, connection and perseverance in making our bonds stronger despite difficulties we face in the process. Coupled with beautiful music and an underlying message of the fight for love lost (or the fight to make love work), Once becomes more than just another 'guy meets girl' story, because this pairing is not the pairing we should be rooting for. Just a beautiful, rich example of storytelling and deep understanding of the emotion that holds us together.
|An Affair to Remember ~ Leo McCarey (1957)|
This is such a special film for me. It marks the start of my cinematic love affair with Cary Grant, an actor who I had always perceived as overrated and unappealing and then, something snapped in me and I was smitten. He's quickly risen as one of my absolute favorite actors of all time, and this particular performance stands as one of his finest moments. It also serves as an example of a remake that was actually better than the original. Yes, 1939's Love Affair, also directed by McCarey, is a delightful film that has practically the same script and yet...there is something about the spark created when the three entities of Grant, Kerr and McCarey unite that creates cinematic magic. Romantic, melodramatic and haunting, this is a benchmark in classic romance that should be lauded, adored and remembered.
|The Social Network ~ David Fincher (2010)|
I've lauded this as the first cinematic masterpiece of the new decade, and while it hasn't sustained itself as the best, it still remains a real moment in cinema and an absolute triumph of storytelling. While the subject alone never really felt like something that would lend itself to a visceral experience, the coupling of Sorkin's spitfire script and Fincher's electric direction created such kinetic energy, providing The Social Network with the bite needed to cement it as a masterclass of film making.
|Paris, Texas ~ Wim Wenders (1984)|
There is a permeating atmosphere that completely unravels the viewer here, creating an actual intimate feeling of loss, loneliness and desperation; a feeling of longing for closure that builds until a finale that is so personal, so honest, so borderline anti-climactic that it transcends climax and becomes life itself. Life itself on the screen, wrecking havoc on our fractured souls. I'm not going to lie, as great as the film is as a whole, it is that finale that really cements it's place on the list, because it is probably the most authentic and appropriate ending, despite that frustrating urge for it to be different, to any film I've ever seen. Paris, Texas haunts the soul.
|My Life as a Dog ~ Lasse Hallstrom (1987)|
Some films just reach a special place in one's heart, and for me, My Life as a Dog does just that. You'd think, from the film's title, that this film would be about a mistreated child, but on the contrary, this is a film about a child's growth and relationships (healthy and unhealthy) that shape him as a human being. What is so beautiful about this film is that it richly filters through so many emotions, and in such an organic way, showing us a full spectrum of childhood and life in general with a keen understanding of how we are shaped by the world around us, good and bad.
|Shadow of a Doubt ~ Alfred Hitchcock (1943)|
I saw this film last year, and I have yet to shake it. I can't believe it took me that long to finally feast my eyes on it, but this may be one of Hitchcock's most impressive usages of tension in a film, creating such crushing fear in every frame. It certainly doesn't hurt that both Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten deliver their finest performances, and two of the greatest performances in any Hitchcock film, here. It's such a monumental collaboration that would not have been as effective had it not had 100% given from each entity (and this sentiment trickles down into the fabric of the film, from the cinematography to the score). Shadow of a Doubt is, without doubt, one of the greatest thrillers every composed.
|Movies for My Melodramatic Soul, Part I|
Lola ~ Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1981)
Moulin Rouge! ~ Baz Luhrmann (2001)
I've been accused of being a very flamboyantly emotional person many times in my life. I often refer to myself as an emotional wreck. You know what...I don't care. I own it. I'm perfectly happy with who I am, flaws and all, and my uncontrollable emotional reactions to life, while certainly running the gamut of hyperbolic and unreasonable, are part of me...and part of the movies I love. I've paired these two films because, well, they are essentially the same film just with a different directorial flair. Both Lola and Moulin Rouge! do one thing that cements them in my heart; they play with tone flawlessly. From scene to scene, they amplify emotion in such a flawlessly rich manner, creating textures of embellished reactions that heighten every moment with an air of unrealistic reaction that feels so beautifully refined. Love, death, betrayal, obsession...everything is at it's peak and exquisitely painted into the fabric of these films.
|Mary Poppins ~ Robert Stevenson (1964)|
Who doesn't love Mary Poppins? I haven't met anyone who doesn't, and I'm not sure I want to. I think nostalgia wraps its giant finger around this one for many, but who cares. It certainly deserves to be adored. Julie Andrews is, quite frankly, a national treasure and should be adored by everyone, and considering the pains that were went through to actually make this childhood classic a reality, Disney should be adored too (even if he was an a-hole). With catchy songs that swell in the heart and visuals that will never leave us, this is a film that grows up with us, reminding us of the child living in our hearts and reaches so many thematic depths that it's hard to imagine a world without this masterpiece. Family and the importance of such is rarely this richly explored.
|The Return ~ Andrey Zvyagintsev (2003)|
I don't think I was prepared for The Return when I saw it first. No, I know I wasn't. I sat there in stunned silence as the film concluded and I soon realized that I was actually shaking. That's the power of this film. It crawls inside of you and festers, ever so slightly, gradually, so that you don't even notice it at first, but soon, as the film concludes and the silence engulfs you you realize that you are, indeed, overcome by an emotion you can't even understand. It's only with repeated viewings, and many, many tears, that I've come to fully appreciate all that The Return stands for; a 'Dear John' letter to fallen fathers and the importance of their presence and guidance in our lives. This is a film that changes something inside you; truly.
|Badlands ~ Terrence Malick (1973)|
Terrence Malick has a reputation for being a cinematic genius; an auteur to be lauded and respected. I have appreciated (almost) everything he's done; but I've only ever LOVED two of his films, and this is one of them (the other isn't on this list, so obviously this would stand as my 'favorite' of his films). Yes, Badlands is probably his most narratively structured film, and so maybe that's why I love it more that the rest (for it lacks the floating ambiguity of most of his works) and yet there is a dreamy quality to this film that certainly links it to his filmography rather soundly. It's rather shocking to me that this was Malick's debut film, for it shows a depth of maturity and unique vision that most directors spend many years and many films trying to develop. The fluid scenery coupled with the performances that speak volumes with such subtle notions creates an unforgettable and completely visceral experience.
|Singin' in the Rain ~ Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly (1952)|
There is a term; Classics are classics for a reason. This isn't always true. In this case, it's VERY true. Some films just nail everything. Singin' in the Rain is that kind of film. It's perfect. The music, the acting, the themes, the dancing, the framing, the WAY THIS FILM MAKES YOU FEEL! Everything is just so intricately and so beautifully composed. There is a warmth in your soul as you embrace every frame of this solidified classic and beloved cinematic delight, and the fact that you can't help but smile, ear the ear, from start to finish is a great indication of a classic that is bound to remain a classic for all eternity.
|A Clockwork Orange ~ Stanley Kubrick (1971)|
Stanley Kubrick created a legacy. His films are unshakable in their brutality, their beauty and their poignancy. Of all his films, A Clockwork Orange is probably the one most talked about. While most would list 2001: A Space Odyssey as his best (I wouldn't), A Clockwork Orange is debated constantly for it's brutal violence, savage sex and poignant subtext. Love it or hate it, literally, I personally can't help but respect what Kubrick has done here. Having read (and loved) the novel, I can say with certainty that Kubrick understood the thematic depths of the story and translated it with astonishing attention to detail. Yes, it's brutal. Yes, it's savage. Yes, it's poignant as hell!
The Toy Story Trilogy
Toy Story ~ John Lasseter (1995)
Toy Story 2 ~ Ash Brannon, John Lasseter & Lee Unkrich (1999)
Toy Story 3 ~ Lee Unkrich (2010)
There are many reasons that I love the Toy Story trilogy. I saw the first Toy Story with my family when I was ten, and even then I was spellbound by the way it was able to capture everything that I was thinking (and dreaming). I saw the third Toy Story with my daughter, and I was reduced to tears by the way it was able to capture everything that I was feeling (and experiencing). For the nostalgia, for the beauty of sharing it with my children, but mostly for the brilliance that is this transcendent story, I ADORE this trilogy. Able to capture not only the innocence of childhood but the reality of growing up with such sharpness, such insight, Toy Story is an unforgettable and monumentally moving trilogy that says so much about so much without ever forcing anything down our throats. It's organic and natural and astonishingly honest.
|When Will Your Faves? ~ Alfonso Cuaron (2002, 2006, 2013)|
Y To Mama Tambien
Children of Men
Exactly, when will your faves? Never; that's when! Yes, Alfonso Cuaron is pretty much the epitome of technical perfection, and his string of varied masterpieces has proven that. Such sharp beats run through these films, delivering not only brilliant depictions (and studies) of human beings, but also films that carry such presence, such remarkable structure and delivery. From the shattering tension of Children of Men to the aural soundscapes of Gravity to the breadth of scene in Y Tu Mama Tambien to the intricate human development that runs through the fabric of all three; these films may be vastly different and yet they are all linked by a common thread...precision. Cuaron is astonishingly precise.
|Hiroshima Mon Amour ~ Alain Resnais (1960)|
There's a tantalizing feeling that comes from the fluid nature of Resnais's film, Hiroshima Mon Amour. The way that the film mixes the heightened sensuality of budding romance with the eminent doom cascading over each frame like a looming adversary, determined to chip away at the lives on display, is all so organically constructed that we are taken over completely by the prose but even more so by Resnais poetic delivery.
|The Passenger ~ Michelangelo Antonioni (1975)|
There's a lingering feeling that permeates most of (all of) Antonioni's masterpiece, The Passenger. It's this floating air of mystery that soaks into the pores of every frame and leaves the audience in complete suspense as they wait for the film to unfold, and unfold it does. Organic, contemplative and wholly engrossing, there is an instability that chips away at the fluidity of progressive movement here, creating a film that teeters on intensity. Nicholson is tremendous here (what a year he was having) and what is so great is that this is a polar opposite to his Oscar winning role, which debunks the naysayers that claim he's a one-trick pony. This is one of those films I can't shake, I can't forget, and quite frankly, I don't want to!
|Double Indemnity ~ Billy Wilder (1944)|
Certain films carry with them a reputation that stirs immediate interest. They are films that everyone everyone should've seen, and if they haven't, they are usually chastised for not. True cinephiles, true lovers of film should see this movies. Double Indemnity is one of those films. Often cited as the very best noir of all time, the film that changed the face of an entire genre and the film that helped establish the power of a femme fatale. Double Indemnity is so slick, so seductive, so electric that one is completely entranced with it's every frame, and for all of that (and a tremendous performance by Barbara Stanwyck) this is one of the greatest films ever made.
The word epic is used often to describe a film, often of historical nature, that feels grand in nature, whether it be because of the scenic embrace or the expansive time periods touched upon or the nature of performance; films that feel larger than life for one reason or another. Mysteries of Lisbon is the definition of an epic, through and through, and quite frankly it's one of the (if not THE) very best examples of such a sub-genre. Rich performances, beautiful framing, commanding scoring, detailed storylines and a flare of dramatic that brings my cinematic soul to it's knees; this is a film that continues to leave me absolutely spellbound.
|Pennies From Heaven ~ Herbert Ross (1981)|
It's a Steve Martin musical! Just look at that still. This has got to be boisterous and happy and gallant and just all sorts of exuberant JOY! Right? Nope. Pennies from Heaven is about as dire and depressing as they come, and it's all the more brilliant because of the intended tone. The construction of this film is so intricate and so purposeful, from the elaborate choreography to the use of records and lip-syncing to the lighting (OMGRED), everything so brilliantly layered to deliver a film that is incredibly hard to forget. So many think 'musical' and they think 'happy place', and I'm all for that, but sometimes a musical comes along that finds the harshest realities of life and broadcasts them in a way that reaching into our souls. Pennies from Heaven does that.
|M ~ Fritz Lang (1931)|
When I first saw this film, way back when, I wrote a review that opened with, "...it exceeds the boundaries of perfection and thus defines the very word that is 'film'." I still feel the same way. M is a tremendous feat of film-making, a film that defied censors and pushed the envelope and remains, even today (in a world where practically anything goes) to linger, haunt and terrify the viewer. Few films can compete with the underlining terror permeating Lang's masterpiece. There is nothing cheap here, for everything is expertly crafted, intentionally laid out in excruciating detail (even the whistling is so well thought out) so as to invade the audience's mind and tamper with their senses. There isn't another film like M, but that's probably a good thing.
For the Love of a Father
Father of the Bride ~ Vincente Minnelli (1950)
Finding Nemo ~ Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich (2003)
I've made many a mention of being a father, and a devoted one at that. There are some films that just get it, that just understand that feeling and understand how to convey it beautifully. Here are two of them. What is so beautiful about both Father of the Bride (which is substantially better than the remake) and Finding Nemo is that they perpetuate the need for parents to allow their children to grow. Finding Nemo deals with a much younger child and the need for a parent to 'let go' in a way, allowing them to find things out on their own. It also beautifully fleshes out the need to parents to never allow a handicap to 'handicap' the way they view their children. Father of the Bride deals with a different kind of 'letting go', the time in life when your little one is not so little anymore and you need to allow them to literally 'go'...make their own choices, be their own person, live their own life. Both instances are hard for parents because WE LOVE THEM SO MUCH, but these beautiful films help us to appreciate the need for it.
|3 Women ~ Robert Altman (1977)|
You know that movie that you've seen where you have no idea what the hell it's talking about and yet you know that it's brilliant. That's 3 Women. This is a film so rich with bizarre sub-context that you wind up realizing halfway through that everything you think you know about it is not real and you may never even begin to understand it and yet it is so masterfully constructed and elaborately colored that you just know it's a stroke of genius. Robert Altman is a director who had a very distinct vision, and yet much like Malick he's a director that I never wholly embraced. Also like Malick, the film that I emphatically love the most is the one that feels the least like the rest. It's a mind-bender, for sure, but it's worth every strained brain cell it takes to comprehend.
|Beginners ~ Mike Mills (2011)|
There is something so tender about Beginners, a film that feels so fresh and honest and heartfelt and joyous despite all the heavy themes that abound within the fabric of the film. It just has such a sharp lightness to it, and it is just bursting with wit and charm and performances that delight the very depths of my soul. I guess the one way I could describe this would be 'magical', because that is how it all felt to me. Cinematic magic.
|Casablanca ~ Michael Curtiz (1943)|
If I were to think back to my youth and name off the first five films that had a big impact on my early movie-watching life, I'd probably say Ben-Hur, My Fair Lady, Beauty and the Beast, Jurassic Park and Casablanca. One more of those films lands on this list (guess, I dare you), but right now let's talk about the classic above most all other classics; Casablanca. Hasn't everyone seen this movie? If you haven't, you know someone who has, and chances are they LOVE it! The definition of a weepy romantic, Casablanca set the benchmark for all films that followed. This film just drips with so much atmosphere. It's romantic, it's dramatic, it's nostalgic, it's intense, it's sensual and it will rip your heart out and stomp all over it...and it does this all with such finesse, such astonishing restraint. Oh, it's so cool these days to hate on these classics, but naysayers can take several seats because Casablanca is absolute perfection!
|Trois Couleurs ~ Krzysztof Kieslowski (1993, 1994 x's 2)|
Kieslowski was one of the greats; without question. His visceral examination of themes was so full of life and humanity. Trois Couleurs is the epitome of this. All three films, linked together by themes and interwoven characters (that are never completely interwoven) and birthed from the motto of the French Republic, are stunning to watch but also haunting to contemplate. From the examination of love and loss to the astonishingly rich portrait of isolation and the search for personal identity, this trilogy may not be your typical 'trilogy', but it may also be one of the more profound examples of such. In case you're interested, I further explored this trilogy by interviewing The Cinematic Spectacle's own Josh here.
|Hud ~ Martin Ritt (1963)|
It's weird how, before the announcement of Paul Newman's death, I had no interest in seeing his films. I guess I wouldn't say it that definitely, but he wasn't on my radar. Then he died and for some reason he became topic of conversation a lot and then TCM aired all of his Oscar contending films back to back to back and then...I was consumed by this man who was an actor above actors. I was just in awe of what he accomplished throughout his tremendous career, and I have forever since been a fan. For me, Hud is not only his finest work but his finest film. Such a harrowing look at the power one can have on others and the misuse of that power. It's so shocking to see Newman play such a detestable man in a way that never tries to win us over. The work of true genius, both in front and behind the camera.
|Sundays and Cybele ~ Serge Bourguignon (1962)|
Sundays and Cybele deals with some very weighty subjects in a delicate and caressing manner, and in the process creates a complete story that just undoes me. Dealing with PTSD in a very mature and thoughtful manner, the film details out the relationship between a man returning from war with tragedy on his mind and the curing nature of a child. It also deals with mass hysteria, the danger of assumptions and the pressing consequence of guilt. One of the most unforgettable film experiences of my life, Sundays and Cybele touched me in ways I didn't know possible.
|Fanny and Alexander ~ Ingmar Bergman (1983)|
You always remember your first, right? Fanny and Alexander was my first Bergman, and it's an experience I'll never forget. This grand opus of family interactions, psychological abuse, internal strength, undying love and the art of storytelling told through the eyes of children is so rich with textured substance and visual flare. It may be long, but it has a lot to say and it says it all elegantly and with remarkably impact. Often cited as Bergman's most accessible work, this is a great place to start exploring his work. It doesn't hurt that it's one of his very best films.
|Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ~ Mike Nichols (1966)|
OMG, the theatrics! The drama! It's all so...brutally honest. UGH...this film ruins me in so many ways. Personal experience can be a real [insert expletive], and that's how I feel about Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a film that exploits the bitterness of a relationship gone vial in ways that are all to familiar to me. Thankfully, I wasn't the one choking my wife. Anyways, talk about a film that makes me feel all sorts of uncomfortable, but what a brilliantly stroked film. I mean, the way that every theatrical moment is placed so perfectly into place, it loses all camp in the abrupt nature of the beast, instead delivering a chilling portrait of the very bitter end.
|The Awful Truth ~ Leo McCarey (1937)|
The Awful Truth hit me at a really significant moment in my life. I was separated from my wife of 5 years and on the cusp of divorce and everything was just crushing down on me and I was drowning my sorrows in TCM and I just so happened to catch a slew of Cary Grant screwball comedies, and this one truly perked my spirits with it's jovial look at separation, divorce and reconciliation. With delightful performances that handle the dialog with such charisma and charm, and a conclusion that was just what the doctor ordered, The Awful Truth is a film that has remained a part of me ever since.
|Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice ~ Paul Mazursky (1969)|
If you've read this, then you know that Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice hits me pretty hard. Such a harrowing look at a time when 'free love' was being touted as a superior lifestyle, and the absolute destruction of human relationships and inner being that comes from embracing it. The performances here are so real, so honest, so heartbreaking, and the final resolve is such a poignant and profound moment. It's such a hard film to watch, but it's a remarkably astute piece of film-making.
|Blue is the Warmest Colour ~ Abdellatif Kechiche (2013)|
This movie. The humanness here is just BEYOND. There is not a false note played, and as the relationship is unveiled it plays out with so many crisp details and accuracies that one can't help but feel parts of their soul being depicted on screen. The passion (yes, the sex too), the heart, the soul, the heartbreak, the internal torture of loss, the obsessions, the lusting, the losing, the contemplations and insecurities and uncertainties and complete abandon. Everything is so rich and so honest and so perfectly portrayed. I'm sure you've noticed a pattern in the kinds of films I like, but I like what I like, and I happen to
like love Blue is the Warmest Colour, a lot.
|E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial ~ Steven Spielberg (1982)|
I love how this film fell into my lap at such an older age than most and how much it moved me in ways no one else in my circle understands. Like, I never saw this as a kid. My dad hated the movie and didn't care for me to see it. When I got older/married, my wife claimed to hate the film and I was 'above children's movies' and so I never sought it out and then, for some reason, I decided to watch it when it aired on ABC Family or something like that and...I was reduced to a puddle of a man. Such a beautifully articulate look at childhood and imagination and innocence and the grandeur of youth, E.T. is a film I'll always hold close to my heart.
|Films to Question Your Beliefs|
The Cranes are Flying ~ Mikhail Kalatozov (1957)
Dead Man Walking ~ Tim Robbins (1995)
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days ~ Cristian Mungiu (2007)
Sometimes films come along that challenge our inner convictions. I have pretty strong feelings/beliefs on things like war, our justice system and abortion, and yet these brilliantly constructed films gave me such wavering doubts. What is so refreshing about these films is that neither takes a stand for or against anything; they just are, and because of that they truly provoke the mind. The Cranes are Flying is such a beautiful portrait of the effects of war without ever pushing any specific point too strongly...Dead Man Walking is a very challenging film about justice, change and forgiveness...and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is an unflinching look at abortion and the overwhelming feeling it leaves in its wake. None of these films are easy to watch, but they are tremendous feats of storytelling and such compelling examples of how to express opinions without preaching to an audience.
|Psycho ~ Alfred Hitchcock (1960)|
Alfred Hitchcock was coined The Master of Suspense. Psycho is one of the main reasons for that. Psycho is also one of (possibly the only) the reasons why so many people unfamiliar with his filmography are confused there isn't buckets of blood in every film. Yes, Psycho is really unlike any of Hitch's other works because it is really his only 'true' horror film, and yet it is also his most famous film and so the misunderstanding spreads. Regardless of genre, though, it is clear that Hitchcock's knack for squeezing every ounce of terror out of a situation resulted in one of the most chilling films ever concocted, and his status as LEGEND was rightfully earned.
|Love on the Rocks, Italian Style|
Journey to Italy ~ Roberto Rossellini (1954)
La Notte ~ Michelangelo Antonioni (1961)
Oh, the Italians. You're so beautiful and your country is so beautiful and your lives are so beautiful. Why are you unhappy? Granted, Bergman and Sanders don't play Italians in Journey to Italy, but my point still stands since they are in Italy and they are beautiful people. Alas, unhappiness happens to the best the prettiest people in the prettiest places; there's nothing we can do about it. What we can do though, is relish in these articulate and profound explorations of relationships at the end of a rope. What isn't here are the hysterics and theatrics and over the top manifestations of frustrated love, but what we do have are quieter, more soul searching explorations of TWO SIDES of an equation, which I also find so refreshing. La Notte may honestly be Antonioni's most mature work, and while I'm very under-versed with Rossellini, it'll be hard to top Journey to Italy.
|Brokeback Mountain ~ Ang Lee (2005)|
Some films create an entire moment within their existence, and that's exactly what happened with Brokeback Mountain. 2005 became the year of Brokeback Mountain. Forget Crash, for the outrage speaks for itself. But, beyond the hype, the backlash and the 'moment', Brokeback Mountain stands tall as a tremendous film because it reaches deep into the heart of so many themes, whether they be marriage, tolerance, love, guilt and self acceptance, and it does so with a complex soul and a richness of understanding. The performances anchor this story, but without a deft hand and real understanding of subject and importance, this would have failed. It didn't fail. It soared.
A Marlon Brando Double Feature ~ Elia Kazan (1951, 1954)
A Streetcar Named Desire
On the Waterfront
When you become interested in expanding your appreciation of film, when you actually seek out the label 'cinephile', you become aware that you must watch the films of Marlon Brando. Yes, Brando is considered a benchmark in 'acting' and is often a reference point for young actors with serious promise (i.e., "He's the next Marlon Brando"). When you start to explore his work, you find two films (aside from the obvious) that tend to stand out as remarkable feats of human exploration and character development. They also happen to be directed by the same man (can you say 'muse'?). Yes, A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront are absolute perfection. Dark, dangerous and soulfully provocative, these films truly define what happens when the perfect cast meets up with the perfect director to tackle the perfect material. Astounding films that stand tall as benchmarks in cinema, period.
|The Third Man ~ Carol Reed (1949)|
When people think of Orson Welles, they often think of 'the director', but as I've noted here before; he was so much more than that. He was a tremendous ACTOR, and his few moments of screen-time here prove his weight. With just a look, he could command you. But, Welles is only a sliver of reason to see this film. The Third Man has so much more to love, including the remaining cast, the sharp direction, the integrated thrills and the fascinating story-line that just evolves so fluidly and never lets you off the hook. It's a classic example of how to perfect a genre, whether that genre be thriller or noir, because The Third Man does both astonishingly well.
|The Rules of the Game ~ Jean Renoir (1939)|
Satire was tackled a lot of the famed foreign directors of yesteryear. So many political opinions, ideas and criticisms, as well as social allegories were delivered to the public in the form of witty, character driven assessments of a specific time, place and relevance. Of those satires, The Rules of the Game may be the best. Still so charming, witty and downright poignant today, Renoirs most beloved 'classic' is just that, classic.
|La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc ~ Carl Theodor Dreyer (1928)|
There are few images in cinema that strike such a feeling of heartbreak in a cinephile as the one above. It's such an iconic still that even as recent as 2012's Les Miserables, people were making mention of it. Yes, La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is a film that everyone should see, study, embrace and lament over. Maria Falconetti, who famously retired after delivering one of the greatest performances of all time, delivers such chilling realism here as our doomed heroine that one is absolutely spellbound but every fiber of this performance. Silent, yet screaming to the heavens, this film is one that you will NEVER forget.
|Bringing Up Baby ~ Howard Hawks (1938)|
Oh Cary Grant. Oh Katharine Hepburn. What a pair these two made. With screwball comedies being a 'thing' back in the late 30's, early 40's, these two were really at the tip top of their game with each of their films together (another one coming later on in the list) and this splendid little film about a man who meets a girl who has a leopard is just so much fun. Sometimes a film doesn't have to be anything more than that, and the great thing about Bringing Up Baby is that the wit and charm and hilarity of it all is so sharp and so focused that it literally rivals the best of the best, even by today's standards. That term 'they don't make 'em like they used to' should be applied to films like this.
|Paper Moon ~ Peter Bogdanovich (1973)|
Some films just have me by the heartstrings. They are my heartbeats, so-to-speak. Paper Moon is one of those films. I've already talked a bit about this one (including the mention of a certain tattoo), and I meant every word. This movie is just so special, so articulate, so profound in all the ways in which is elaborates on this complicated thing called fatherhood. The performances by 'father/daughter' duo Ryan and Tatum is just electric and so charismatic and honest. I fall for it every time and fawn all over it's every scene. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!
|Black Narcissus ~ Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger (1947)|
There comes a point while watching any Powell & Pressburger film where you literally think to yourself, "I didn't realize films could look like this." It's a surreal moment, for the seemingly seamless combination of beauty and madness feels so contradictory and yet so overwhelmingly 'right'. Black Narcissus nails that symmetry. Tackling themes as heavy as religion, faith and mental illness, this film simmers along with such electricity until it finally explodes with a finale so commanding we are left exhausted, but in a good way. Arguably Kerr's finest moment, and containing one of the most incredible villains (if you want to label her that) in all of film history, Black Narcissus is a film 'experience', and we like those.
|Amadeus ~ Milos Forman (1984)|
Biopics are a dime a dozen these days, and so many of them follow such a familiar formula that they become tired, boring and forgettable. And then there is Milos Forman's Oscar winning Amadeus. Much like the music of the film's famed composer, Amadeus is a film that soars with such swells of melodic energy it becomes a force of nature, a film that thrusts the audience into a hurricane of cinematic nature. Tackling the themes of ambition, jealousy, arrogance and the corrosion of spirit and intentions that come from hatred, this film is an unforgettable opus, a grand cinematic gesture!
|Peter Pan ~ Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske (1953)|
It's strange how much Peter Pan has become a presence of perfection in my eyes. I remember loving it as a child, but paid no mind to it once I grew up, and with two daughters in the house my Disney watching over the past 8 years has pretty much consisted of princesses...but then we had a boy and so we whipped out the Disney movies that he could become absorbed in (he also loves the princesses) and we found that Peter Pan became the family favorite. In fact, my kids (yes all three of them) love it so much that they watch it weekly, and for the past year or so it's been the most rewatched of all the Disney films in our house. This means that I've seen it...like 500 times. You'd think that this would cause me to grow tired of this magical film, and yet the more I see it the more I absolutely adore it. Having read J. M. Barrie's original novel (which I would rank in my Top 10 books of all time) doesn't hurt, but actually bolsters my love for what Disney did with the darker source material. Peter Pan stands as the definitive 'fairy tale', a film that mashes everything we love about fantasy (pirates, fairies, mermaids, even a princess and a 'dragon' of sorts) and delivers them in unified and unforgettable fashion. Bow, lessers, BOW!
|8 1/2 ~ Federico Fellini (1963)|
Fellini was probably the first auteur I fell in love with. I'm Italian, and so the idea of delving into the works of an Italian legend just sat so well with me that I vigorously engulfed much of his more famed works early in my 'cinephile' awakening. I would sit on the living room floor in the middle of the night, mere feet from the television, my eyes wide in excitement, the volume lowered so as not to awake the baby sleeping in my arms or my wife in the next room, and I just vegged out on foreign classics. Much like my feelings for Fanny and Alexander, 8 1/2 was my first Fellini, and as such it holds a special place in my heart. It's also full of such intoxicating imagery and such profound insight on the man behind the camera and it literally sings forth as one of the greatest cinematic highlights of my movie watching life.
|Eraserhead ~ David Lynch (1977)|
This is a pitch perfect way to 'half' my Top 100 because, in all honesty, Eraserhead is why I started seriously watching films. It is the reason I subscribed to Netflix. I had heard all sorts of crazy things about this film and having had recently seen Mulholland Drive, I wanted more Lynch. I wanted back into that world, and Blockbuster didn't go back that far. MY GOD, this was a headtrip! Like, I don't even know anymore, but this film is so inventive and so visionary and so transcendent that it's more than just a film...it's, like, I don't even know...but it IS. Honestly, everyone should see this, and while many will hate this, it's a film that says more than you think it does, I'm almost positive of that.
|Citizen Kane ~ Orson Welles (1941)|
I'm so glad that I didn't check out when I first saw Citizen Kane, much like my wife did. You know, you read all these articles about how this particular film changed the way films were made and 'wrote it's own ticket' and remains a benchmark in cinema and then you turn this on and the first five minutes or so play out like a news-report on speed and you think, "Is THIS the movie?" and my wife said, "I'm going to bed" and I thought, "I kind of want to" and then you hear, "Rosebud" and the film slows down and the intensity heightens (but in all the right ways) and you realize that what you are watching is history in the making...HISTORY, and it's absolutely incredible.
Sci-Fi, Perfected ~ Ridley Scott (1979, 1982)
Remember when Ridley Scott made movies we all wanted to see? Yeah, it's been a while, but there was a time when Scott was an actual force behind the camera. While Scott has ventured in many genres, and he's probably most cited for his 'historical epics', it is his early ventures into sci-fi that have brought me the most cinematic pleasure (well, aside from directing my beloved Russell Crowe to an Oscar). What is also so incredible about these two films is that they take the same genre and spin in two completely different genres into them to create two full-bodied yet vastly different takes on the genre. First, we have Alien, the epitome of sci-fi horror. Terrifying from scene to scene, it still sends chills down my spine and serves as the very best of the franchise. Then we have Blade Runner, a sci-fi noir that defines both genres with such acute detailing and rich atmosphere. Undeniable features that stand the tests of time, even if the director, sadly, hasn't.
|The Apartment ~ Billy Wilder (1960)|
The Apartment tells a story that contains themes like suicide, adultery, sexism and psychological abuse and yet it is most remembered as a romantic comedy. How the hell did that happen? What is so great, though, is that The Apartment, while dealing with such weighty subjects, really is so rich with charisma, charm and wit. It is romantic and it is funny! It's also a rich character study that takes a sharp jab at people who use others and people who allow themselves to be used. While you may smile a lot and laugh a lot and root for the romance to blossom, there is a part of you that will notice and understand the darker tones wonderfully woven into the fabric of this film.
|Hannah and Her Sisters ~ Woody Allen (1986)|
When people think of the legend that is Woody Allen, they often think of his revered 70's work; namely Annie Hall and Manhattan. I like both of those films, but for me Woody Allen's heyday was in the 80's (and this isn't even the best of that work). Hannah and Her Sisters is so complex, so intricate, so textural and so fascinating that it only gets stronger and stronger and more enriched with each viewing. With this tapestry of characters woven into each other's lives, all with interests and problems and ideals and ambitions, there is just a myriad of insight and enjoyment to be found in this clever, and at times quite somber, piece of film-making.
|La Strada ~ Federico Fellini (1956)|
Fellini had a knack for detailing the inner struggle of the eccentric artist, the playboy and inner child of a man trying to find his place. What he also had a knack for doing was building the portrait of a tortured woman, oppressed by her status and eager to break free. None of his films fulfill that portrait as well as La Strada. With just a few words, Giulietta Masina delivers a performance that says so much and paints such a full portrait of this woman. Her love, her passion, her oppression, her fears, her sadness, her happiness; every aspect is so richly unearthed in this astonishing film. A true director/muse pairing (Fellini and Masina were married), La Strada is my personal favorite of their collaborations, and one of the greatest films I've ever seen.
|L.A. Confidential ~ Curtis Hanson (1997)|
When I was 15, I stumbled across James Elroy's novel, L.A. Confidential, at my public library. I saw the image of Kevin Spacey on the cover, who I had previously seen in American Beauty, and I thought; "This should be good". I read the novel, start to finish, with rapturous attention. It was so thick with detail and characters I became so intimately interested in, especially that of Bud White. Also, while I was 15, I saw a movie called Gladiator, and became intimately interested in Russell Crowe. I say all of this just to get to the point where I finished the book, looked up the movie, saw Russell Crowe's name and raced to Blockbuster to see this adaptation. Of course, I loved it. I've rewatched this dozens of times and every time I love it more and more. Richly adapted from a brilliant novel and beautifully colored in with performances that shine in every scene, Hanson's modern-noir masterpiece is just that; a masterpiece!
|My Man Godfrey ~ Gregory La Cava (1936)|
I've already talked about social commentary through satire, and here is another that was also released in the 30's and that also speaks so many volumes, even today. My Man Godrey is a sharply written look at the Depression and class structure and a way that captures the sadness of an era without ever losing that hopeful eye that made Hollywood a place of escape. Commentating on a situation that still haunted so many in a colorful and spirited way makes films like My Man Godfrey not only essential then, but essential now.
|Scenes from a Marriage ~ Ingmar Bergman (1974)|
Through a series of conversations, Ingmar Bergman's dissection of marriage and relationships may honestly be the most realistic portrait of what we do to ourselves I've ever seen put to screen. Scenes from a Marriage is just that, a collection of scenes, and each one colors in this marriage (and the ones surrounding them) a little more, deepening the impact that this dissolve has on our person. It's so hard to watch (I say that a lot) and yet so rewarding because it remains so honest and so insightful even today, and quite honestly, this is the very best Ingmar Bergman ever was (in my humble opinion).
|All About Eve ~ Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1950)|
Watching Bette Davis deliver the greatest performance of her career and one of the single greatest performances of cinema is only one of the many reasons to revere All About Eve. With a biting tongue, this intricate character portrait dissects admiration, desire and envy with such incredible depth and memorable wit. The entire cast is exquisite, but let's be honest, this is the performance that Bette Davis will always be remembered for, and for good reason. The term 'Bette Davis eyes' was coined for a performance like this, one that pierces through frame after frame with a cuttingly brutal honesty. It's 'all about' Bette Davis here, and there ain't nothing wrong with that!
|Vertigo ~ Alfred Hitchcock (1958)|
Largely considered to be the very best film Hitchcock ever made, Vertigo has a reputation that surpasses many other films. The best part about that reputation is that it is deserved! This expertly woven mystery is such an astonishingly well drawn film that each and every part feels tailor-made to entice every sense. The beautiful cinematography, etched out by expert control of light, coupled with a mesmerizing score, richly developed characters and a tale that latches itself to the mind and refuses to let go lends Vertigo, not only a mastery over suspense but over storytelling in general.
|A Little Taste of Silence ~ Charlie Chaplin (1921, 1931)|
I'll make this admission right now; I have not seen any Buster Keaton films as of yet (unless you count Limelight, where he appears for a few minutes). I have, on the other hand, seen quite a few Charlie Chaplin films, and these two represent my personal favorite and the one I personally consider to be his 'best'. City Lights is an undeniable work of cinemagic (cinematic-magic), and as such should be adored. It reaches such heights of absolute beauty, both in the storyline and the storytelling, and so it is often cited as the height of the master's career. And then we have The Kid, which just strikes me in a special place. For me, it's Chaplin's best performance and it contains such a rich embroidery of character, not to mention some memorable (the fight) scenes that are true 'moments' in cinema. One holds my heart, the other holds my mind and both hold a place on this list.
|The Philadelphia Story ~ George Cukor (1940)|
I told you there was another Hepburn/Grant pairing on this list, and quite frankly this film could rank higher, Top Ten even, on any given day. I absolutely love every single aspect of The Philadelphia Story; a hilariously charming look at love, both lost and rekindled. The cast soars, it's arguably the best Hepburn and Grant have ever been, and the story-line is so classic and yet so refreshingly told. Cukor had a real knack for creating such light and bubbly atmosphere, and here he does so with every shimmering scene. It's all about delivery, my friends, and The Philadelphia Story delivers every line, every moment, with charm and grace to spare!
|The Night of the Hunter ~ Charles Laughton (1955)|
Chilling. That is really the best way to describe The Night of the Hunter, and yet the word is so singular and really feels like an injustice to just how incredible and visionary and inventive this film really is. Watching this film now, amidst what we consider to be 'horror' these days, the film sends an eerie chill down our backs because the monster on screen is more terrifying than anything you'd see in cinema today. The reason for this is that he feels 100% real. It's strange to believe that Laughton's film was meet with negative reactions from critics, ultimately causing Laughton to never direct another film. It's an absolute crime, because I'll let you in on a little secret...Laughton's one shot at 'suspense' or 'horror' is better than pretty much anyone else's (and yes, that includes Hitchcock...but don't tell anyone I said so).
|Atonement ~ Joseph Wright (2007)|
Every once in a while, a film comes along that feels like it's from another place and time; a film that calls to mind the grand, sweeping epics of Old Hollywood. Joe Wright's astonishing Atonement is such a film. What makes it even grander, though, is that is implements the storytelling elegance of Old Hollywood, and even the glamour of actor and actress worship (you can't deny that the camera LOVES Keira Knightley), but it brings to it a refined, modern style that makes every note of this masterpiece sing. All the technical aspects are in place, but nothing would work without a heart, and the beating heart of themes here (love, loss, regret, guilt, pain, suffering, longing, lust) all thrive under Wright's firm yet tender grip. It's the kind of film that makes you fall in love with cinema.
|Vivre Sa Vie ~ Jean-Luc Godard (1963)|
Sometimes mere eyes can say everything. Anna Karina's eyes say EVERYTHING. In fact, they tell such a story that I almost want to say that Vivre Sa Vie is her film, and yet without the guiding hands of Jean-Luc Godard, there would be no Vivre Sa Vie. In the wake of the French New Wave, Godard was churning out film after film with sharp political chastisements and observations, and a lot of his seeming disjointed style seemed to be lost on modern viewers, but then we have this beacon in the heart of his filmography that tones down his fervor and offers us a refined, honest and heartbreaking glimpse into a life, into a soul, into a circumstance that offers astonishing depth and temperance of hand. Many consider this Godard's masterpiece. I'm not sure I'd disagree.
|William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet ~ Baz Luhrmann (1996)|
You can accuse it of being too MTV all you want, but there is such visual beauty and kinetic energy that swells in every frame of Luhrmann's ode to Shakespeare that I can't help but devour it and laud it and worship it as cinematic perfection. Perfect casting, reckless abandon, sharp use of music, modern sentiments, respectful homage; all of these aspects collide to create a revelation of old in new. Romeo + Juliet may be a tale as old as time (yes, I borrowed that from ANOTHER masterpiece), but under Luhrmann's guidance he offers us something that feels both familiar and refreshing.
|The Magnificent Ambersons ~ Orson Welles (1942)|
This only fault that can be found with Orson Welles' Gothic tragedy, The Magnificent Ambersons, is that we'll never see the film he originally made. No, the studio butchered his film in order to create something that suited their idea of cinema better, and thus we are presented with Orson Welles: The Censored Director...and yet that is the only fault to be had, since the film itself, despite the actual butchering, is faultless. Complex in every ounce of its development, this film stands tall (in my eyes) as the highest peak in Welles' tremendous career. Told with an otherworldly air of confidence and understanding, this tragic tale of family, ambition and madness is equal parts beautiful and ugly; and I mean that in the absolute best way possible.
|Barry Lyndon ~ Stanley Kubrick (1975)|
Is is strange that I think Barry Lyndon is Stanley Kubrick's finest film? I mean, it's probably the one least talked about, despite Oscar's embrace of it, and yet sitting down a few weeks ago to ingest it for the first time, I was taken aback by how absolutely perfect it is. It's obviously a stunning piece of visual work, but all of his films are. It's more than that though. There is a grandness about it; a fluid majesty that seeps onto every frame and coats this film with a beautiful layer of importance. The film feels like an event, a true epic, and because of that I feel as though it won't let me go.
|The Life and Times of Antoine Doinel ~ Francois Truffaut (1959, 1962, 1968, 1970, 1979)|
The 400 Blows
Antoine and Colette
Bed & Board
Love on the Run
What is so beautiful about this quintet is that the progression of this character, Antoine Doinel, tells us so much about the films' director, Francois Truffaut. Hidden beneath an array of genre and tones (from serious drama to screwball comedy to black comedy to sincere romance), these five films fully flesh out a man and present us a something that is rarely seen in cinema. It's sad to me that Truffaut was dissatisfied with his finale, Love on the Run, for I find it to be a brilliant end-note for this tremendous story. His early death cost him the opportunity to revisit the character and end his very personal story how he wanted to, but in my eyes he left us with something that is truly unique and undeniably arresting. From the gritty coming of age tale The 400 Blows, to the soft awakening of love in Antoine and Colette, to the meanderings of Stolen Kisses and the pains of mistake in Bed & Board to the eventual reflection and 'begin agains' of Love on the Run, there is no denying that this complete story is something very special.
|Where the Wild Things Are ~ Spike Jonze (2009)|
I've talked before about my personal connection to this story. There is just something so beautiful about being able to share a piece of your childhood with your own children, and so for all times, Where the Wild Things Are will have a special place in my heart. There's more to it than that, though. The film is such a beautiful rendering of 'what it means' to be a child, and because of Jonze's tenderness and depth of storytelling here, we are given a film that truly causes the source material (a beloved children's book) to come to life with new depth and meaning, with new soul and spirit. Intimate in nature and yet grand in expanse, this film is a perfect blending of reality and fantasy, which is pretty much what every great childhood should be all about!
|The Piano ~ Jane Campion (1993)|
There is a dreamy sensuality that paints itself over all of Campion's work, but none more so than The Piano. An allegory of faith, love, lust, innocence and sexual (and a more personal) awakening, this richly painted film has stayed with me since I first saw it, and I don't see it ever leaving me. The way that Campion textures every scene with an almost floating atmosphere is just uncanny, and it's remarkably gripping. Tapping into all of our senses, The Piano titillates as much as it repulses, seduces as much as it repels and forgives as much as it condemns. Not many other films can accomplish this and still maintain such fluidity.
|Taxi Driver ~ Martin Scorsese (1976)|
Martin Scorsese may best be known for his detailed take on the gangster genre, but for me his finest film will always be Taxi Driver. There are few anti-heroes as profound and uncomfortably human as Travis Bickle, and Robert De Niro's performance is so intense, so searing, so raw that one is left literally shaking in the wake of this film. This poignant look at the darkest corners of our psyche is one of those films that feels so honest it hurts, and because of that it's a hard watch, but it's a rewarding one because it says so much about you and me and the person we keep hidden underneath.
Movies for My Melodramatic Soul, Part II
All That Heaven Allows ~ Douglas Sirk (1955)
Far From Heaven ~ Todd Haynes (2002)
Now we come to my next melodramatic pairing, and like the previous, these two films are linked together because they are practically the same film, just with differences in directorial flare. They are also both perfect. Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows serves as the benchmark for melodrama. It's such an astonishing portrait of pained love in a society lacking tolerance. It's a ravishing character study that swells to such highs thanks to Sirk's attention to detail and a stunning performance at the film's core. Todd Haynes' beautiful tragedy, Far From Heaven, blatantly rips off Sirk's masterpiece, but in the throws of Haynes' passion and talent, he creates a homage to the classic with just enough personal identity to make it stand on it's own merits. The film is also anchored by a tremendous performance. Haynes' masterpiece pushes Sirk's masterpiece into a new era, widening the range of themes and delivering a double feature that speaks volumes regarding human society and the boundaries of love and acceptance.
|The Double Life of Veronique ~ Krzysztof Kieslowski (1991)|
There is something so enriching about meditating on the themes and ideas presented in The Double Life of Veronique, a film that flirts with so many spiritual concepts and human reflections. From the afterlife to parallel universes, deja vu and reincarnation, this film has so many cards on the table and yet the beauty is that it never directly addresses any of them and so the film becomes a beautiful canvas for our own interpretations and personal connections to be made. It's a film that, in the end, feels intimately connected to the viewer; a part of us even, and because of this it is a film impossible to shake.
|The Last Picture Show ~ Peter Bogdanovich (1971)|
This American portrait of small town life and the desire to be more than what we're made of is such an engrossing and poignantly painted portrait that I'm forever spellbound by the power it has over me. Despite different circumstances, I can see myself in these characters, see my heart in their hearts and see my convictions crushed in their eyes. The Last Picture Show may be bleak, but it also shines with glimmers of hope that caress every frame and seep into the sadness resting behind the eyes and the hopelessness residing in these hearts and delivers a well-rounded snapshot of life deep in the heart of America.
|Cabaret ~ Bob Fosse (1972)|
Cheeky, sexy, flirty, dangerous, riveting, witty, charming, boundary pushing; Cabaret has pretty much everything you could want from a movie...and on top of all that, it's a musical! Stunning sets, catchy tunes, sultry lighting, memorable performances and a story that incorporates so many elements (independence, political unrest, war, sexuality, love) without ever feeling messy, convoluted or over-stuffed; Cabaret is a masterpiece of film-making that remains poignant even today. And Liza...my GOD Liza is EVERYTHING!
|Moonrise Kingdom ~ Wes Anderson (2012)|
There was a moment, in fact it's the moment pictured above, where I realized that Wes Anderson had created something so special and so understanding in Moonrise Kingdom that I nearly shed a tear. I didn't (shocking, I know), but I could have. It was a beautiful moment that ultimately cemented this film in my heart. For me, Moonrise Kingdom, much like the aforementioned Where the Wild Things Are, understands what it means to be a child, and in the process delivers a beautiful study on innocence and the striving to maintain it amidst the unfortunate reality of adulthood. The film is remarkable clever and utilizes the stone cold wit Anderson is known for better than any of his other films. It has a tender and compassionate core, which sets it apart from his already impressive filmography and solidifies it as his one true masterpiece. And by masterpiece, I clearly mean MASTERPIECE!
|La Dolce Vita ~ Federico Fellini (1961)|
Fellini's 1961 masterwork, La Dolce Vita, is a film unlike any other, and one that continues to rest in my mind years after first seeing it. It dazzles, it soars, it sings, it shines...but it also unearths deeply rooted human ponderings that slip in and out of each scene to create a character study that feels refreshingly presented; a film that meshes two aspects of this filmmaker's personality (the showman and the reflector) to deliver an unforgettable cinematic experience.
A Double Feature You Can't Refuse ~ Francis Ford Coppola (1972, 1974)
The Godfather, Part II
Yes, I'm pretending that the third film didn't happen (even though it's not 'that' awful). With that said, the one-two punch of The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II is so strong that it almost deserves to be my #1 (and yet, it's not). When one thinks about film, when one thinks about the feeling that film can give us, the internal warmth that comes from experiencing 'the movies'...one thinks of The Godfather. It's so perfectly made, from the technical aspects to the stunning performances to grand story that travels years, continents and SO MANY EMOTIONS to tell a complete story of a group of people we've come to consider family.
Studio Ghibli's 1-2 Punch (1988)
Grave of the Fireflies ~ Isao Takahata
My Neighbor Totoro ~ Hayao Miyazaki
I will always credit Grave of the Fireflies as being the film that made me respect animation. Until I saw this tremendous film, I considered animation a 'lesser' art form. I don't anymore (obviously). What is so nice about this pair of films though, is that they share so many themes and ideas and yet they approach them with such uniquely different flourishes that they create a complete understanding of fear, grief, despair, loss and hope. Grave of the Fireflies is a brutal look at war and the effect it has on the innocent bystanders, ultimately dissolving into a harrowing and BLEAK look at tragedy, while My Neighbor Totoro takes on similar themes, this time revolving around illness, but works in a less realistic and more fantastical scenario, tapping into a child's imagination to find whatever glimmers of hope lie within tragedy. Two STUNNING films that say so much and reach so deep.
|Lost in Translation ~ Sofia Coppola (2003)|
Organic. That is the best way to describe Sofia Coppola's thoughtful and tender Lost in Translation. The discovery of lost souls amidst a world unfamiliar and the desire to find solace in a compassionate and understanding peer has never been so delicately and insightfully composed. Murray and Johansson deliver performances so rich with subtext and texture within the restraint, performances that tell us a complete story, past, present and future, that we can relate to. Lost in Translation is honest, and there aren't many films that can get away with being just that.
|Some Like it Hot ~ Billy Wilder (1959)|
Cross-dressing, the mob, hot blondes and competitive suitors make Some Like it Hot a racy, witty, hilarious and oddly charming masterclass of comedic film-making. Monroe sizzles and both Lemmon and Curtis are at the top of their comedic game (Lemmon especially delivers one of the greatest comedic performances of all time) and help to make Billy Wilder's beloved slapstick comedy an undying classic. It's just as funny now as it was then, and it's just as funny the tenth time as it was the first!
|Brief Encounter ~ David Lean (1946)|
My heart can't take this film. Like...seriously...I bleed internally for the absolute emotion that drips from every single scene here. The spark of love is immediately muted by the plague of guilt and those two conflicting emotions build such honest emotion here. Brief Encounter is so rich with atmosphere as well. Right from the opening sequence (that train), the film spirals into a film that etches out so many haunting details and slowly, but steadily, crawls right under your skin. It will never leave me. It's a part of me. That's what great film should do...reside inside of us.
|Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans ~ F. W. Murnau (1927)|
When one talks about films 'ahead of their time', one has to mention Sunrise, for no film really embodies that phrase quite as strongly as this one. From frame one, Sunrise never feels like a film made nearly 90 years ago. It feels like something made yesterday. With experimental visuals, advanced storytelling, superior performances and a core story that feels so brutally honest, Sunrise is a stunning film, regardless of year it was made.
|Laurence Anyways ~ Xavier Dolan (2013)|
I've written many words on this film already, but here are a few more (or the same words condensed for the purposes of this post)...Laurence Anyways is perfection. What makes this such a feat in storytelling though, is the voice with which Dolan uses to color in his every character, large and small. There is no judgement here, only unearthing of an uncanny honesty, which creates characters that shine forth with a rich honesty unheard of in these kinds of social commentaries. There are no villains and no heroes but just people trying to understand who they are and where they fit in this thing called life.
|The Red Shoes ~ Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger (1948)|
I love when other actors/directors/whoever talks about their favorite films. It kind of grounds the industry and makes film-making about loving film, which is really what it should all be about. So, when Martin Scorsese said that his favorite film was The Red Shoes, I took that as a big incentive to watch it. The man has great taste. This brilliant grand opus of a film tackles deeply rooted human vices like obsession and madness and lust and envy and thrust them onto the screen in rapturous visual grandeur and melodramatic tensions. The film is just an opera of amazing, from one dramatic sequence to another, and the final ballet presentation is an absolute work of cinemagic...and one of the greatest moments of all time.
|The Smiling Lieutenant ~ Ernst Lubitsch (1931)|
One time a friend of mine asked me why I love French movies so much, and I told him it was because they handle weighty themes with a balanced layer of jovial, creating a mood that melds reality and fantasy in an extremely likable way. For me, The Smiling Lieutenant feels French. There is a weight behind the jovial antics, the spirited singing and the charming performances, a weight that deals with themes like marriage and adultery, but that weight is lightened by Lubitsch established tone. This was also one of those films that helped me through my separation and helped me come to see the beauty in opposites and how preconceived notions of what we want can color how we accept what we have. The finale is an unexpected yet delightful one, and this birthed my love of all things Claudette Colbert.
|Rocco and His Brothers ~ Luchino Visconti (1961)|
There is a rawness that pierces through every fiber of Rocco and His Brothers, a savage energy that just tears at the film, scene for scene, until we are left with something that is less cinema and more...life. This character study uses the title character almost like a telescope into the more vibrant and hostile lives of those closest to him, and those lives are brought to life by some tremendous performances given by Renato Salvatori and Annie Girardot. This film, and everything within it, is just electric. There really is no other way to describe it.
|The Informal Trilogy ~ Wong Kar Wai (1990, 2000, 2005)|
Days of Being Wild
In the Mood for Love
A couple years ago I was asked what my favorite film trilogy was and I responded with, "That trilogy that isn't really a trilogy by Wong Kar Wai" because, in all honest, this is the most perfect progression of story and character I've ever seen put to film. With a cascade of characters that swirl in and out of the expansive story, Wong Kar Wai has crafted a trilogy that feels like progressive cinema, like a forward thinking exercise in storytelling. From the bottled tension and reckless abandon of Days of Being Wild to the languid tortured romance of In the Mood for Love to the electric sexuality of 2046, this complete tale touches all corners of love and relationships in a way that feels accurate, poignant and visionary.
|In the Bedroom ~ Todd Field (2001)|
Sometimes the very truth of life can be overwhelming. We don't need frills, thrills, gimmicks and dramatics to tell us that, we just need the truth. In the Bedroom is the truth. Through a series of vignettes that follow the aftermath of tragedy, this intimate little film unravels in such painful honesty it feels like postcards of real life sent directly to your television. Some may call this slow, but the pacing is so integral to the way the story slips under the skin and becomes such a part of the viewer. But there's more. This isn't just some exploration of tragedy and the way we cope or mourn...this is a film that challenges our moral boundaries in such a sudden and well plotted way that we are completely taken aback and left contemplating our own reaction to the events. That finale flips this film on its head and completes it in the most perfect way imaginable. Also, Tom Wilkinson for ALL the awards.
|Cinema Paradiso ~ Giuseppe Tornatore (1989)|
The beauty of a film like Cinema Paradiso is that it reminds us all why we love film. By following a young child's fascination with film through into his adult life and the way that film shaped his life results in such a breathtaking exploration of life in general. Coming of age stories come and go, for sure, but this is probably the grandest example of such that I've ever seen.
Beauty and the Beast
Jean Cocteau (1946)
Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise (1991)
I'll start by addressing that, yes, I do think that Brief Encounter is a better film than Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, but this is where my 'pairings' helped a film place higher (i.e. the way Toy Story 3 ranked higher than The Social Network despite this), because Disney's Beauty and the Beast is LOVE and how can you love one and not the other! I mentioned in comments regarding Cocteau's version that it embodied the fantasy, larger than life, beauty of film that I love so much, and so does Disney's adaptation. These films are such staggeringly different takes on the classic tale and yet both blossom with such heightened emotion. While Cocteau's version certainly skews towards a Gothic romance, Disney's musical adaptation sings with such sharp visuals, such exuberant character development and swoons with such delightful romance. It's the perfect musical, period!
|Pierrot le Fou ~ Jean-Luc Godard (1965)|
You know that story about the guy who met the girl who was so fascinating he left his wife for her only to wind up on a killing spree that ended in...well we won't spoil that part, but you know the story right? You should. It's called Pierrot le Fou and it's genius. While the film may on the surface feel like a stylized retelling of Bonnie and Clyde, there is a depth to Godard's masterpiece that can't be discarded. Like most of his films, the political and societal examinations are thick here, but they are also tempered with such fluid visuals and progression of character that we are never lost in the translation. It soars with bright, shining individuality and remains a film that defines the very thing we call film.
|The Earrings of Madame De... ~ Max Ophuls (1954)|
OMG, the way this film moves is a DREAM! Yes, I'm a lover of melodrama, as I've noted, and Ophuls knew how to exploit that sub-genre in such intricate and delicate ways. Such heightened drama is found in the most restrained of places; it's like a contradiction of emotion and I LOVE it! Some films are all about the way you tell the story, and Ophuls works The Earrings of Madame De... in such a languid way, developing the entirety of the story through small details that float across the screen at just the right time in just the right manner. It has been cited as being one of the most perfect films ever made, and I wholeheartedly agree!
|The Purple Rose of Cairo ~ Woody Allen (1985)|
Much like Cinema Paradiso, The Purple Rose of Cairo is about the love one has for cinema. What sets this one apart is that it also delves, rather poignantly, into why cinema is so important. Using cinema as a way to explore the need to escape reality, Woody Allen's clever, touching and somber character study is anchored by performances rich in understanding of purpose. Farrow is a blossoming flower, introverted in the presence of her overbearing home-life and yet awakened (thus the blossoming part) due to the entrance of a dashing leading man, straight off the big screen. Allen taps into the very fiber of loving film here, giving us a film that sees us, understands us and speaks right to us.
|The Umbrellas of Cherbourg ~ Jacques Demy (1964)|
SWOON! Like, the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that The Umbrellas of Cherbourg may be 'the' most perfect film. I read a tweet shortly after having watched this for the first time that said something like, "They should have stopped making films after Demy made The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, because everything pales in comparison" and I remember that statement resonating deeply with me. This film is painfully romantic in all the best ways, with such warmth of tone and complete honesty of storytelling. When my eight-year-old daughter, who was laying in my lap watching this with me, looked up at me and literally sighed because, to her, this was "SO ROMANTIC", I knew we had experienced something special.
|Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ~ Michel Gondry (2004)|
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is so many things it's hard to pin it down. It's a comedy, but it's more than that. It's spliced with honest drama, but it's more than that. It's a thinker, a cerebral piece of profound questions, but it's more than that. It's romantic, in the most quirky of 'human' ways, but it's more than that. It's a sci-fi film or sorts, but it's more than that. One could argue that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is it's own genre, because it is all genres, and they'd be right. The kicker is that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is also perfect, and there's nothing more to say to that.
|Jules et Jim ~ Francois Truffaut (1962)|
I still remember the exact moment the credits began to roll upon my first viewing of Jules et Jim. I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom and I was sobbing. Thankfully I was alone, because that would have been embarrassing, but nonetheless, I was SOBBING. Why? I get this movie. I know this story. I felt this relationship unfold in my own living-room and I LIVED this. Jules et Jim is such a brilliant exploration of friendship and love and what happens when the two collide to produce something hard to explain but ultimately extremely dangerous to become absorbed in. The finale is as tragic as they come and served as a loud siren in my mind. It's painful, but it's a part of my soul.
|Mommy ~ Xavier Dolan (2014)|
Well, we've come to it. The big finale. The final film in the long list of films I consider the best of the best, and it's Mommy. Like you doubted this inevitability. I've been a blubbering idiot, singing the praises of this masterpiece since seeing it earlier this year, and the feelings have only grown and grown and grown since my initial viewing. For me, Xavier Dolan conquered cinema with this one, completely rewrote how a story should be told, changed the game, demolished it even, and basically told everyone else to, "Take several seats." BOW! Mommy is more than a film. It is a feeling. It is an entity all its own. It is an experience. There is no film I have ever seen that has left me with such an overwhelming feeling of undefinable emotion. I have been changed, forever, because of the perfection of this film.