For the next few posts I will post 10 movies at a time. There will be a couple of commentaries thrown in for good measure but I will maintain this format until the Top 20 is reached, then go for a little more dramatic effect! I appreciate everyone’s support, comments and feed back, here on Facebook and via text and email. Please keep it coming.
#90 “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
Director: Michel Gondry
Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet
Original Release Date: 14 Mar 2004
Oscars: 1 (Best Original Screenplay), one other nomination
The word “haunting” is often used to describe this film. I think it’s anything but. Eternal Sunshine is both an off-beat rom-com and a study in nuero-science. Jim Carrey is Joel, a sheepish, nervous man who meets Clementine, an offbeat and quirky girl who oozes sexuality and nerdiness at the same time. This is Kate Winslet’s best performance. But Joel and Clementine have met before and don’t know it. That’s all I will tell you because to try and describe the plot, so to speak, will never do it justice. This film follows no chronology and jumps timelines and locations but it all takes place inside Joel’s mind. It’s a movie that examines the difference between who we are and who we think we are. It demands repeat viewings and gets better each time.
Director: Ivan Reitman
Stars: Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis
Original Release Date: 07 June 1984
Oscars: none, 2 nominations
In his original review of this film, Roger Ebert said that that “rarely will a movie this expensive provide so many quotable lines”. How true. Ghostbusters was one of the first examples of special effects serving comedy and allowing the comedy to come first. Every character is funny in this film. What makes it great and part of this list is a certain timelessness that is has yet doesn’t seem to warrant. It’s still funny today, still quotable today. Ignore the horrid sequel and celebrate everything silly and every in-joke and sly wink to the audience. One of my favourite movie lines from the late Harold Ramis in response to an inquiry about his hobbies, “I collect spores, molds and fungus”. And we know with certainty his character does.
#88 “The Philadelphia Story”
Director: George Cukor
Stars: Carey Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn
Original Release Date: 26 Dec 1940
Oscars: 2 (Best Actor (Jimmy Stewart), Best Screenplay), 4 other nominations
The American Film Institute ranked this movie as #5 in its list of all-time Romantic Comedies. But to put it in the same category as The Holiday seems unseemly. The first title on my list from the Golden Age of Hollywood, this is an early example of a Dream Team of acting with a brilliant funny love triangle script. Jimmy Stewart won his one and only Oscar here (he should have won the year before for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). Hepburn plays Tracy Lord, a socialite about to re-marry her first husband when her ex, Dexter (Grant) shows up a day before the wedding. He brings with him a tabloid reporter Mike (Stewart) and Dexter is intent on causing some ruckus and of course, he does. A cineaste friend introduced this movie to me in 1990. It was one of my first experiences with classic cinema and has been a favourite ever since. In the days before constant explosions and profanity, it’s a shining example of the simple truth that great films have great scripts.
#87 “The Princess Bride”
Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Peter Falk
Original Release Date: 09 Oct 1987
Oscars: None, One Nomination
The Princess Bride is, to me anyways, a miracle of filmmaking. It has no business being as good as it is, considering how downright silly it is. In the hands of a lesser cast or director, it could well be unwatchable. For the three of you who have not seen and loved this film, it’s about a gruff but kind grandfather (Peter Falk) reading his reluctant grandson a story when he is ill. Stars pop in and out with cameo appearances as we watch the undying love of Wesley and Buttercup and the never-ending quest of the great Inigo Montoya. I won’t even begin to quote this film; it is truly inconceivable to even try. The Princess Bride is completely loyal to the genre of sword and sorcery epics while simultaneously lampooning it with razor sharp, perfectly timed wit and parody.
#86 “21 Grams”
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu
Stars: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro
Original Release Date: 19 Nov 2003
Oscars: None, 2 nominations
21 Grams is a film I love mainly because of the ringing endorsement it received from James Bernardinelli. It’s the lesser-known work of Director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (his most famous being Babel) but the emotional and visceral impact of this film is greater. In a non-linear manner, it tells the story of three strangers, whose lives crash together. Jack (del Toro) is an ex-con born again Christian rules his family with an iron fisted fundamentalist faith. Christina (Watts) is the mother of the perfect suburban family until events drive her back into a life of drugs and addiction. Paul (Penn) is the dying math professor awaiting a heart transplant; nagged by his wife to make a sperm donation so she can still have his child. There are times in this film where we know things the characters don’t and vice versa. For me, this increased the punch in the guy impact it has. This is the opposite of a feel good film. It is heavy and sad material, handled with immense skill. You will need to see this more than once and you will not forget it.
#85 “12 Angry Men”
Director: Sydney Lumet
Stars: Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam, Lee Cobb
Original Release Date: 13 Apr 1957
Oscars: None, 3 nominations
12 jurors are faced with delivering a verdict in the capital murder trial of a young Hispanic boy accused of killing his father. A guilty verdict means the death penalty. At first, it seems open and shut; the boy’s guilt is more than obvious. There are 11 guilty votes and one not guilty. Juror #8, played by Henry Fonda in one of the best performances in history, is the holdout. As the jurors begin to discuss the case, their individual agendas, prejudices, problems and opinions come to the surface. 12 Angry Men is required viewing for any lover of the movies. If you have not seen it, stop reading my list and watch it right now!
#84 “Miller’s Crossing”
Director: Joel Coen
Stars: Albert Finney, Gabriel Byrne
Original Release Date: 05 Oct 1990
Long before Fargo, The Big Lebowski or No Country for Old Men, The Coen Brothers made some amazing lesser known films. Amongst them are Blood Simple, Raising Arizona and this one, Miller’s Crossing. All are unique, quirky and filled with outstanding characters and dialogue but its with Miller’s Crossing the brothers hit their stride and show the promise that brought us some of their classics. Miller’s Crossing takes place in 1929 Boston and is the story of an Irish Crime Boss (Albert Finney), his main henchman (Bryne) and the disgruntled Italian underboss, played by Jon Polito in an exceptional performance. It’s a tribute to old gangster films and film noir of the 1940s. Roger Ebert gave this film a tepid thumbs-up but thought it was too scripted and choreographed. I love the seedy characters, lavish sets and the dialogue. It also has one of the greatest ever scenes filmed with “Danny Boy” playing in the background.
#83 “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Ahhnold, Linda Hamilton
Original Release Date: 03 Jul 1991
Oscars: 4 (Sound, Sound effects, Visual effects, Make up), 2 other nominations
T2 is a shining of example of a movie where lots of stuff gets blowed up and it is still an exceptional film. The wanton destruction of property and kneecaps does not diminish the film one bit. In this version, villain turns hero and The Terminator returns from the future not to destroy but to protect. He is followed by the relentless and more advanced “T1000” protype, made from liquid metal. The movie makes the most of that possibility. As is the case with all of James Cameron’s movies, the effects serve the plot and are not the focus of the film. It is the compelling story and twisted timelines that keep me coming back to the film. The explosions are just the icing on the cake.
Trivia : Mel Gibson and Tom Sellick both turned down the role of The Terminator in the original film. Can you even imagine that?
#82 “Moulin Rouge”
Director: Baz Luhrrman
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor
Original Release Date: 01 Jun 2001
Oscars: 2 (Costume Design, Art Direction), 5 other nominations
There is an interesting world inside Baz Lurhman’s brain. Its full of colour, remixes, constant parties, relentless motion and beautiful people. It’s one that his wife, Catherine Martin, has gathered four Oscars bringing to life. In Moulin Rouge, we get an unbridled celebration of the classic movie musical, with re-mixed pop classics from the 80s and told like a fairy tale on heroin. It’s not a historically accurate representation of the real club in France in 1900, but rather a fantasy. Moulin Rouge is revered and reviled with equal passion and I am one who loves it. Watching this film is not about character and script. Its about soaking in the experience and the excess. I can’t recommend it enough.
#81 “The Fog of War”
Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Robert S. McNamara
Original Release Date: 14 Jan 2004
Oscars: Best Feature Length Documentary
The Fog of War is one of three documentaries on my list. It’s a true documentary. Michael Moore has watered down that great word by producing self-aggrandizing claptrap that twists the truth to further his personal agenda. Errol Morris, on the other hand, looks to delve in the truth and introduce information and point of view we may not know or have considered. The subtitle of the film is “Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. MacNamara”. Mr. MacNamara was the Chief of Defense for Kennendy and Johnson, the architect of the Vietnam War and the fire-bombing of Japan. Here, he is a lucid, thoughtful 85-year-old man with great wisdom, regrets, lessons and things to say. The camera is unflinching and the stories are chilling. When you watch this, remember this was filmed prior to Gulf War II. This was a movie I had overlooked this film and my friend Tom Hall introduced it to me. I have seen it at least a dozen times since.
Great films can make you think, re-evaluate and stay with you for weeks and months. This is one of those films.
Recap so far
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)