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).

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