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#70 “The Little Mermaid”
Director: Ron Clements and John Musker
Stars: Jodi Benson, Samuel Wright
Original Release Date: 17 Nov 1989
Oscars: 2 (Best Original Song, Best Music Score), one other nomination
The Little Mermaid is the highest-ranking hand drawn animated movie (the only one) on my list. I love animation and this film is near and dear to my heart. It was the first movie I ever took my daughter Eliana to see on re-release and for me, “Under the Sea” represents Disney’s finest moment. The animated genre was all but dead in 1989 when this movie was released. From here, a string of hits, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King just kept coming. What I love most about this movie is the music. “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World” are pure Menken/Ashman genius and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is the best of all Disney villain songs. The biggest star in this movie was Buddy Hackett. Now, voice over work is highly paid work for A-list stars. Yes, I know they “Disney-fied” the ending, badly, but if I want a depressing Hans Christen Anderson story, I will read the book. The Little Mermaid is 83 minutes of pure joy.
#69 “2001: A Space Odyssey”
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Kier Dullea
Original Release Date: 03 Apr 1968
Oscars: 1 (Visual Effects), 3 other nominations
Stanley Kubrick has never made the same movie twice. Not even close. There are three Kubrick films on my list and they could not be any more different, yet they are all decidedly his films. 2001 is a landmark film. Unlike almost every other space sci-fi movie to follow, 2001 is meant to inspire awe, not to thrill. It’s about making you think about man’s place in the universe, its not about character development or story. Its greatest achievement is its use of classical music. If you have seen the film, consider the docking scene set to The Blue Danube. I cannot imagine it any other way. At the time of its release, this film was met with mixed reviews and a great deal of befuddlement. Within a decade it was considered a classic. Its long, its pace is slow. But if you want a movie that will make you think, this is it.
#68 “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”
Director: Robert Zemekis
Stars: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, and Kathleen Turner (voice)
Original Release Date: 22 June 1988
Oscars: 3 (Editing, Sound Effects, Visual Effects), 3 other nominations
I saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit four times in theatrical release. Once in awe, twice to watch the special effects and once just because its so incredibly funny. Robert Zemekis has a resume that rivals Spielberg and with this film, he raised the bar in every possible way. Roger Rabbit is a tribute to film noir and old detective movies and at the same time and farcical leading edge animated movie. In 1986, when we saw the animated characters on stage, interactive with live action, splashing water and wielding real weapons, we were in awe. What has made this stand the test of time nearly 30 years later is its great story and humour. Every character in this movie, as far as they are concerned, is in the midst of an intense crime drama. The audience is watching one of the funniest and most dazzling films ever made.
Director: Alfonso Cauron
Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Original Release Date: 04 Oct 2013
Oscars: 7 (Director, Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Sound effect, visual effect, Score), 3 other nominations
Alfonso Cauron’s near perfect “Gravity” is (quite obviously) the newest film on my list. I saw it three times in theatres and it has stayed with me ever since. Gravity takes place in close to real time and although it takes many scientific liberties, the possibility of a chain reaction of meteor wreckage orbiting the earth is very real. It’s a thrilling, engaging 90-minute film. The key to its success is the way it isolates the audience along with the star. There are no flashbacks, cuts away to Houston, nothing. We are given the same stranded feeling as Ryan Stone, portrayed by Sandra Bullock in the performance of her career. It had to be seen in 3D, preferably in Imax. I loved that this film dared to tell just one single story, in real time and then end on the note that it did. It will lose something on even the best of television screens. Here’s to hoping it gets a re-release on Imax.
Trivia: Sandra Bullock was the ninth actress considered for or offered this role. Angelina Jolie dropped out of the film and Natalie Portman turned it down. Robert Downey Jr was also in the original cast and dropped out, as this film was plagued with production problems and almost never made it to the screen.
#66 “The Shawshank Redemption”
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman
Original Release Date: 14 Oct 1994
Oscars: None, seven nominations
Here is another film with a life of its own. On its initial release, Shawshank was a box office flop. Its seven Oscar nominations gave it a mild boost but overall it was not a success. It went on to be the most rented film of 1995, a TV favourite and its ranked #1 of all time by users in IMDb. When you think about it, it does have almost no commercial appeal. No major stars. No women in the cast. Dark, grey washed out feel. Depressing, hard to watch story. Over time, audiences grew to love the bonds formed, the friendship, the story and of course, the redemption. It’s impossible not to love and admire Andy Dufrense’s iron will and never-ending hope.
Trivia: Morgan Freeman’s character Red in the Stephen King book is a middle aged, red haired Irishman. Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and Harrison Ford were all considered for the role, but Frank Darabont wanted Morgan Freeman. Both Tom Hanks and Kevin Costner turned down the role of Andy Dufrense. Hanks for Forrest Gump, Costner for Waterworld.
#65 “City Lights”
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Stars: Charlie Chaplin
Original Release Date: 07 March 1931
City Lights is a film you likely have seen clips from but have never seen start to finish. If you see it with Charlie Chaplin’s loveable, iconic Tramp, you will recognize scenes that have been intimated and parodied a thousand times over. But to see the movie start to finish is one of the great movie experiences of a lifetime. City Lights is a perfect story, Chaplin’s last silent film told with a minimum of title cards. It’s about facial expressions, the interaction of characters, slapstick physical comedy that only Chaplin could do and Chaplin’s own timeless score. The Tramp is one of the most recognized images in film history. He is innocent and mischievous, good-hearted and exists wherever he needs to. The final scene of City Light is one of such heart-wrenching tenderness that it has justly become one of film’s defining moments. It’s often seen on its own. See it in the context of this entire movie. You will never forget it.
#64 “ET: The Extra-terrestrial”
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Stars: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore
Original Release Date: 11 June 1982
Oscars: 4 (Sound, Sound Effects, Visual Effects, Score), 5 other nominations
E.T. stood for many years as the highest grossing film of all time. It unseated Star Wars and stood atop the all-time list until Jurassic Park. The reason for its success is simple. Its one of the best stories ever told on film. Young Elliot happens across a friendly, curious, exceptionally ugly-yet-lovable little alien. And we find through the course of the film that the alien has the simplest of motives – he is lost and wants to go home. The adventures, the humour, the magical scenes that follow, all serve that one point of plot. When I saw it again in re-release some years ago with my daughter and some of her friends, it still invokes giggles, belly laughs, shrieks and many, many tears.
#63 “Die Hard”
Director: John McTiernan
Stars: Bruce Willis, Snape
Original Release Date: 22 Jul 1988
Oscars: None, 4 nominations
Great action movies have great villains and the theretofore-unknown Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is one of the greats. Die Hard redefined the pure action film for all of time. Hans Gruber is an intelligent, well-dressed, well-spoken and polite man, with a penchant for robbery and murder. Willis is the gritty, sarcastic, ever-so-ingenious NYC cop who is “the fly in the ointment” for Gruber’s attempted robbery guised as a terrorist incident. Die Hard is non-stop, uncompromising, breath-taking action but it’s the amazing cat and mouse game between McClane and Gruber that lift it into greatness. They have equal admiration and disdain for each other, each is confident in the others eventual failure. As chaos and comedy ensues around them, they stay focused on their single goals. For the record, this is one film where my idol Roger Ebert and I differ immensely. Die Hard got a thumbs down from Rog.
#62 “Glengarry Glen Ross”
Director: James Foley, screenplay by David Mamet
Stars: Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin
Original Release Date: 02 Oct 1992
Oscars: None, one nomination
“If you want to make it more interesting, add some swears. That’s what David Mamet does.” Homer Simpson.
Glengarry Glen Ross is a great ensemble drama with a strong cast a razor sharp script. It tells the story of a real estate office that survives on ‘leads’ and cold calls and the agents inside, trying to scratch out a living. Ricky Roma (Pacino), the current top dog and man of the hour, confident, full of bravado and able to turn a phrase in whatever way is needed to put pen to paper. At the other end of the spectrum, Shelley “The Machine” Levine (Lemmon), the washed up former great who can’t make a sale to save his life, makes fake phone calls and when he is lucky enough to get in front of a client, cannot take no for an answer. Its Jack Lemmon’s finest work here. Perhaps I love this film because I sell for a living and I can relate to the frustration, the problems, the love of closing, the hierarchies that develop and the pressure of the eat what you kill world. But for anyone, to watch this film is to see a pedigree of some of the greatest dialogue actors of our time doing their best ever work.
Trivia: Director James Foley cast Kevin Spacey in this film after seeing him live on stage in New York performing in Lost in Yonkers. It was not Spacey’s first film role but one of his first major ones. Foley now directs Spacey again in the Netflix series “House of Cards”
#61 “The Departed”
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen
Original Release Date: 06 Oct 2006
Oscars: 4 (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing), one other nomination
I have seen a lot of movies. I am not completely immune to shock value in film but very few movies make me jump out of my chair. This one did. The Departed is the first of many Best Picture winners on my list and first of many for my favourite director, Martin Scorsese. It tells the story of Billy Costigan (Leo), a police mole working inside a criminal organization and Colin Sullivan (Damon), a mobster from the same crime family mole working for the cops. The crime lord is Frank Costello, “the rock star” as he is called in the movie, played with evil glee by Jack Nicholson. The Departed is a gripping, twisted, violent tale that dwells on the theme in most of the Catholic-raised Scorsese’s films, guilt. Billy and Colin are both leading double lives in stark contrast to their exterior. Both must betray the men they ‘really’ work for in order to remain loyal to the mean they ‘appear’ to work for. It’s the director’s best work since Goodfellas, it features an all A-list cast, was easily the best pic of 2006 and one of the Top 10 of the Decade.
Recap so far
61. The Departed (Scorsese – 2006)
62. Glengarry Glen Ross (Foley – 1992)
63. Die Hard (McTierrnan – 1988)
64. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (Spielberg – 1983)
65. City Lights (Chaplin – 1931)
66. The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont – 1993)
67. Gravity (2013 – Cauron)
68. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Zemekis – 1985)
69. 2001 A Space Odyssey (Kubrick – 1969)
70. The Little Mermaid (Clements/Musker – 1991)
71. Psycho (Hitchcock – 1960)
72. The Producers (Brooks – 1968)
73. Hannah and Her Sisters (Allen – 1986)
74. Hoop Dreams (James – 1994
75. Army of Darkness (Raimi – 1992)
76. The Big Lebowski (Coen 1998)
77. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Burton /Sellick – 1993)
78 . Bride of Frankenstein (Whale – 1935)
79. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006 – Eastwood)
80. The Wizard of Oz (Fleming – 1939)
81. The Fog of War (Morris – 2003)
82. Moulin Rouge (Luhrmann – 2001
83. Terminator 2 – Judgment Day (Cameron – 1991)
84 .Millers Crossing (Coen – 1990)
85 . 12 Angry Men (Lumet – 1957)
86. 21 Grams (Gonzales Irraitu – 2003)
87. The Princess Bride (1989 – Reiner)
88. The Philadelphia Story (1940 – Cuckor)
89. Ghostbusters (1983 – Reitman)
90. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry – 2004)
91. Juno (Reitman – 2007)
92. Star Trek : First Contact (Frakes – 1996)
93. Avatar (Cameron 2009)
94. Wall Street (Stone – 1986)
95. When Harry Met Sally … (Reiner – 1988)
96. Belle Epoque (Treuba – 1992)
97. Say Anything (Crowe – 1989)
98. Planet of the Apes (Schaffner – 1968)
99. The Breakfast Club (1983 – Hughes)
100. The Blues Brothers (1980 – Reitman)