Friday, May 13, 2011

My top 100 films of all-time 87-80

I just interviewed the Washington D.C. Filmmaker of the Month and we discussed films shot in D.C., opportunities for local actors and The West Wing. Click here

My top 100 continued. I don't entirely have it mapped it out (I might be guilty of forgetting a film or misplacing a film), but let's see how this goes:

87. Three Kings (1999) directed by David O Russell, Starring George “Please stop writing magazine articles about this guy” Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice-T, Nora Dunn

I was heavily debating between this and "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" and felt an urge not to over-Clooney my list*. The film certainly isn’t a conventional war film or even a particularly patriotic one. Like MASH, this is a film of people who are apathetic to the war around them. More significantly, they’re bored which explains why they initially go on their adventure. The film also deepens in unexpected ways. The film is very gritty visually and doesn’t shy away from gore (it even gets creative with shots of internal organs) but it’s not overly crude just for the sake of being edgy.

86. Cat Ballou (1965) directed by Henry Hathaway, Starring Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin, Dwayne Hickman, Nat King Cole

I’m not sure if I’m becoming guilty of overloading my list with goofy pictures of no technical value other than they just make me smile, because like “In Like Flint” this might fall into that category as well. It’s got some pretty heavy comedic leanings, but it’s a solid adventure that’s just as kinetic as the most fun Western you can imagine. The film really is a perfect fit for Jane Fonda too.

I did once review this film years ago on my blog, so that should cover it.

85. Fisher King (1991) directed by Terry Gilliam, Starring Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer, Mercedes Ruehl

Sometimes Gilliam gets lost in his own imagination and the effect can be that the story gets diluted through cartoonish characters and deviations from the plot. This is a shame because some of his stories are really great. This is one such great plot idea and it helps here that these are probably the four best acting performances I’ve seen in a Gilliam film. It’s a great fusion of solid drama with the abstract stylings of Gilliam’s bizarreness.

84. Seabiscuit (2003) directed by Gary Ross, Starring Jeff Bridges, Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper, William H Macy, Elizabeth Banks

This is my one clich├ęd Disney story of an underdog entity winning against all the odds. I would rethink this corny period piece until I remember that the film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar so other people must have thought it was pretty good too. The production values are great, the source material is converted to cinematic effect, and the acting is tremendous (I remember thinking: man, that actress who plays the wife should get nominated for an Oscar. She didn’t but she was Elizabeth Banks and became famous later). Also, it does have some very bittersweet undertones despite being a film made for no other reason than to stir up inspirational feelings.

83. Rain Man (1998) directed and written by Barry Levinson, Starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman

I generally don’t think a film can be considered great solely on the basis of one performance. “Rain Man” comes close. Hoffman is a fascinating character but Tom Cruise doesn’t get enough credit for his role even though he acts like Tom Cruise for the first half of the movie. While it’s a story about two people with very rigid temperaments changing (one because he’s biologically incapable, and one because he’s “a prick” in his own words) for the better.

82. Goldfinger (1964) directed by Guy Hamilton, based on the book by Ian Flemming, starring Sean Connery, Gert Forbe, Harry Sakada, Honor Blackman, Los Maxwell, Shirley Eaton, Cec Linder, Bernard Lee

Embodies the best of everything that you associate with James Bond: Beautiful scenery, ornate lairs, diabolical villains, creative technology, sexy women, and a convoluted plan for world domination. There’s not much more to say. Last time a James Bond film came out pre-Daniel Craig era, I found it amusing to see the reviews because there really isn’t much to say about a Bond film. You basically just check off a list of elements because as complex as the stories are, it’s mostly an excuse for the elements.

81. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), dir. Rob Altman, starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjoinis, Keith Carradine, William DeVane

This film is basically a response to the other Westerns of its time. It’s not really a great film on its own, because you have to see at least a couple other classic Westerns to really appreciate the way that this film turns those conventions on their head. It’s definitely a film worth watching a second time, if only for the fact that you’re not going to get everything anyone’s saying. It’s also a piece with a lot of symbolism that sort of pieces together in a thinky kind of way.

80. Goodfellas (1990), Martin Scorsese, written by Nicholas Pileggi, starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco

I'd probably characterize my reaction to this film as a classic that I agree is worthy of being a classic. Other people call this the most influential film of the 1990’s or whatever. I won´t say that´s untrue but I have no idea why, so if anyone wants to correct me about that in the comments. Didn´t Scorsese make other mob films? I just see it as a very good film within an already existin genre.

On a recent poll of best supporting actor winners of all time, I ranked Pesci #1 (& Waltz #2). To me the film is most notable for Pesci's performance and the very organic character change from Henry Hill, the relatively morally straight teenager who admired the local hoodlums, to a ruthless man and almost entirely unsympathetic character.

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