Thursday, May 31, 2007

#60-51: Streetcar! Silly Sensibilities and Suicide (of the Painless Vairety)

For the record: A post from me without alliteration, is like a post from Brent without a pointed barb about my inability to get a date. So, he's finally begun his list, but as we race towards the finish, note my nearly insurmountable lead that will vanish soon enough in the puff of poetic haze that is Brent McCafferty (and his trapezius muscles)

60 Streetcar Named Desire—I remember when I was a kid and people kept telling me that I wouldn’t know acting until I saw Brando. I couldn’t possibly want to be an actor until I knew what Marlon Brando had done. I started to think of him as highly overrated, and without a doubt, not nearly as great as he seemed. I was wrong. Brando rocks. And this movie is Brando rocking as only he can. Yes it’s Tennessee Williams, and yes it’s mocked by the Simpson’s to the point where any member of our generation will compare Brando to Ned Flanders (“can’t you hear me yell-a/You're puttin me through hell-a”), but the fact is, any man who can take a violent misogynist and turn him into a compelling, dominating character is, quite simply, the man.

59 Hotel Rwanda—Few movies in recent years have carried the emotional punch that Hotel Rwanda has. It’s no less an indictment of the forces of intolerance and hatred than of the people who simply switch the channel after watching another horrifying series of images on CNN. It’s a great film to watch to capture the spirit (both romantically and realistically) of modern day Africa. Most surprisingly of all though, is the fact that after so much has been made of African-American men winning the Academy Award in recent years the best performance of the bunch—Don Cheadle’s Paul Rusesabagina—didn’t get the award.

58 The Princess Bride—I first saw this movie when I was 4 years old. I immediately decided that when I grew up, I would be Fezzik. It’s something of a sore spot that I have grown up to look like Westly (I mean, who wants to be the hero when you can be a 7’7”, 300 pound French wrestler?). But the movie is still surprisingly captivating. And while it was originally intended to be a tongue in cheek comedy, it has become instead the fairy tale for my generation, a group of people, hoping against hope that their true love will simply say: “as you wish.”

57 M*A*S*H—Forget the TV show and all the silly antics that characters get into, this is a serious war-movie about a very silly time in America. The strains of “Suicide is Painless” are still enough to sooth people into a stupor and leave you all simply gawking at Altman touring the scene of a lively, yet conflicted camp. Donald Sutherland and Eliot Gould are hilarious, and at the same time, heartbreakingly real.

56 Sense & Sensibility—Okay, yes, I have a crush on Jane Austen. And if ever there was a film that enabled that crush, it is this one. The wit crackles on the screen, from the first moment Hugh Laurie (known to most as “House” and me as “Bertie Wooster”) bickers over just how little to give his sisters, until the triumphant wedding scene there’s a little more comedy here than the average teenage boy expects. (Though, not enough breasts to keep them interested if they haven’t read the book…or developed a crush on the author).

55 Saving Private Ryan—For all the adoration and glory heaped upon the men who died at D-Day, the opening moments of this movie with sand, surf, blood and bullets bring home the reality of the war with all the power of All Quiet on the Western Front and none of the talking. From then on it’s a great way to look at a culture and generation searching for salvation (and it manages to make you feel bad that Vin Diesel dies…which is worth at least 10 extra spots on my list).

54 Brokeback Mountain—Imagine you’re a Tawainese kid who likes movies. You start making movies. You make a comedy out of an 18th century novel in the English countryside. You make a gripping romance about cowboys in 1970’s Wyoming. You are friggin awesome. And you are Ang Lee. (You are also responsible for The Hulk but we’ll overlook that.) For all the chatter about groundbreaking this and heartbreaking that, this is really an accomplishment for Lee, who takes what could be just a joke made by middle-school boys and turns it into a drama about family, alienation and desperation set against a seemingly desolate backdrop that isn’t romantic at first, by grows to be home by the end of the film.

53 Being John Malkovich—This is the movie every teenage boy should see when they’re ready to discover what movies can actually be (beyond the action/date/dumb comedy genres). Trippy—to say the least—it also manages to redefine three actors as you’ve never seen them before. John Cusak’s a maniacal manipulator. Cameron Diaz is a homely nobody. John Malkovich is a little dull and not that dramatic. And in all of this, there’s enough humor, shock, and sex to leave you wondering who the hell you are.

52 The Incredibles—Out of every kid’s movie that’s come out in recent years very few can hold a candle to the majesty of Pixar. They know and apply the one thing that matters in movies (animated or otherwise): you don’t need flash, you don’t need big names, you need a story, and this movie has a great one. It’s not so much a superhero movie as much as it’s about coming of age…whether that age is 12, 17, or 45. It’s about accepting who you are, and balancing reality with fantasy (whether the reality is fantastic or not) and Jason Lee’s fanboy gone mad is maybe the best crazy scientist villain with a soul since Dr. Frankenstien.

51 City Lights—Brent, Brent, Brent…100? City Lights at 100? Debbie Does Dallas beats City Lights? Taxi Driver beats City Lights? I say on simplistic beauty and purity of romance alone City Lights far outstrips gratuitous sex and gratuitous violence…there, I said it, I’m a prude. (But the Jane Austen thing probably should have given that away).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

#70-61: Bond, Bad Boy Bogie, and Burt Bacharach

70 Chinatown—At some point Nicholson’s Private Eye becomes a little wearisome, a little too cool, a little too savvy, a little too put together to be the ideal flawed film noir hero. Fortunately, that’s also the moment that the story shifts on a dime and you couldn’t be more glued to your seat than if you accidently sat on a small village of milk duds.

69 Fantasia—Okay, yes, this is a very dorky selection…an uber-dorky selection…a mega-ultra-hyper dorky selection. But, for anyone who’s ever looked for an excuse to like classical music in the face of their Backstreet boy singing peers you have to like dancing crocodiles and hippos…I mean c’mon!!

68 Stagecoach—It’s as stellar a character study as any Robert Altman film, minus the hour long single shots and set entirely within a stagecoach. It’s not so much a western as it is a road movie in the old west. The characters are astounding: pure and desolute, heroes and ne’er-do-wells, and all manner of those in between. A fantastic example of John Ford’s eye for the majestic west.

67 Unforgiven—Eastwood kicks off his second career as a something more than an iconic film actor by presenting the truth behind the mythic iconic western figures. It explodes the legends that we’ve all come to adore and lauds truth, justice and the old American way.

66 Modern Times—A great movie for struggling artists afraid of letting go of their ideals and winding up in some dead end job. What’s most impressive and is still most fascinating about this classic Chaplin comedy is that it came out years after talkies had been around and is still very funny.

65 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—This set of ten seems to revolve a great deal around anti-heroes. And so it’s only fitting that these two make an appearance. Part of everyone’s vernacular, Butch and Sudance aren’t just good bad guys, they’re without adoubt the coolest guys ever even remotely associated with Burt Bacharach.

64 Treasure of the Sierra Madre—Bogie as a badass makes for a nice change of pace (it can get a little dreary seeing him up against the odds fighting for what’s right…it’s much nicer to see him up against the odds fighting for what’s wrong). But what’s most remarkable is watching his slow and steady descent into madness. What’s most remarkable to hear is the origin of the classic: “Badges…we don’t need no stinkin’ badges!!”

63 Goldfinger—The ultimate Bond movie. Nothing else has or will come close. An ultra-villain with witty repartee, killer gadgets a hardcore henchman and the most inappropriate Bond-girl name ever (honestly, how much would you like to hear people talking over that name during the intial film screening? It still makes my mother titter and she’s over 55) all are the perfect match for Sean’s perfect Bond.

62 Guess who’s Coming to Dinner?—A little treacle goes a long way. A lot of treacle nearly drowns out a good movie. But Poitier, Hepburna and Tracy make you forget all of that and just revel in the sight of such fine acting and such genuine emotion. Though you have to ask yourself at a certain point: “what happened to the girl?” And at another point you have to ask yourself: "who in the world thought Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac would be the right people to remake this movie?"

61 Double Indemnity—The deluxe thriller, with the flawed film noir protagonist Jack Nicholson only wishes he could be. It’s got conflict, despair, anger, betrayal and that’s before they even kill a guy. You can never watch the original Flubber again after you see just what Fred McMurry can really do.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

#80-71 "Plastics," Pop-Tarts and the President's Men

80 Doctor Z—Sprawling and at times suffocating in it’s grandeur it’s still a remarkably human epic. And that last sentence was so unbelievable pompus I’m about to gag myself with a spoon. (Notice, however, I’m not deleting it). The message of Dr. Zhivago: life in Russia sucks, but Omar Sharif is handsome.

79 All the Presidents Men—A gripping portrayal of power, persuasion, and passion to make everyone want to be a reporter (if only so we all have a chance to get that great Robert Redford hair). It's not glamorous, but it's wonderfully true.

78 Frankenstien—Not really scary any more, not really related to the Mary Shelly book at all, and not really all that compelling. But Karloff is a one man clinic on acting with your whole body and renders everything else meaningless.

77 Chicago—The cinematic equivalent of a pop tart. Looks great and full of a surprisingly rich center (including an active critique of the current state of American culture and a number of compelling characters {okay, John C. Reilly}), it doesn’t really last in your system, but invariably you go back for more.

76 Forrest Gump—I tend to have at least one sentimental and sap ridden film in each set of 10 I put together. This is that sentimental and sap-ridden film. Yes there’s a lot of needless weepiness, yes, there’s gratituitous use of the archival footage, but really, it’s a nice story of where we’ve been as a country and perhaps where we’re going.

75 Jungle Fever—Spike Lee’s family saga (or, at least the one people actually know as opposed to Crooklyn). Infidelity, loyalty, love in all its forms, and just plain ol’ American dysfunction for all. Yes, Wesley Snipes does seem to telegraph his lines, and Spike’s own character seems superfluous (outside of Do the Right Thing/She’s Gotta Have It, when wasn’t it?) but the dynamic between Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Samuel L. Jackson is superb. Really, though, this is Stevie Wonder’s movie, with an excellent score that makes even the slower parts of the movie, eminently rewatchable.

74 Bridge on the River—Though it lag’s during Guiness’ manic shifts in attitude towards the bridge it has a great amount of fervor and pride for not just Britan but for all the world. Plus, anytime William Holden beats the living daylights out of a man it’s a good day.

73 Graduate—The ideal coming of age movie. Ask any twenty something guy, we’ve all had a “plastics,” moment. (I was once told to consider going into the corporate world of the Discovery Channel Store.) On top of fine acting and a plot that most everyone can relate to, it does have perhaps the ultimate marriage of a scene and a song.

72 Shane—A nice coupling of romantic love for the west, and the glimmer of inspiration in a young boy’s eyes (you can almost hear his brain churning to the idea of “I wanna be a cowboy”) and a hero who knows that it’s not nearly as great as people would like to believe.

71 Star Wars—Once you permit yourself to disassociate this movie from the fan boys and droid haters that populate the world it’s a fun fairy tale, and the inspiration for more Pop-culture references than anyone knows what to do with. (I still sing “What a Wookie!” from Clerks when no one’s looking)