This last entry was written while I was in Palm Springs. Not that this is significant, I just like saying I was in Palm Springs.
Director: Elia Kazan
Stars: Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Sainte, Karl Malden, Lee Cobb
Original Release Date: 22 Jun 1954
Oscars: 7 (Picture, Director, Actor – Marlon Brando, Actress – Eva Marie Sainte, Screenplay, B&W Cinematography, Score), five other nominations
On the Waterfront is the embodiment of drama. Shot in black white in the early heyday of Technicolor, the washed out and gray images in this film give it the exact right look and feel. The story is quite simple. Brando plays Terry Malloy, a longshoreman who dreamed of being a prizefighter. Now he tends his pigeons and is an errand boy for corrupt union bosses. After witnessing a murder and meeting the dead man’s sister, he starts a fight against the corruption. . On the Waterfront swept the Oscars. It was a controversial win because just a few years before, Elia Kazan infamously testified in from the of House American Activities Commission and named names to Senator McCarthy and his ilk of suspected communists in Hollywood. He was blacklisted. This film’s victory and creative success was a huge personal victory for Kazan.
#59 “Duck Soup”
Director: Leo McCarey
Stars: The Marx Brothers
Original Release Date: 17 Nov 1933
“Will you marry me? Did your husband leave you any money? Answer the second question first. “ If you have ever heard the phrase comedic timing and really wondered what it means, watch the movie and see it perfected. Duck Soup is quite simply one of the funniest films ever made. Snappy line after snappy line. Incredible physical humour combined with impeccable timing and great supporting cast. Grouch Marx is Rufus T. Firely, who is installed as the dictator of the bankrupt nation, Freedonia by a wealthy dowager who is bailing the nation out. Duck Soup is an infinitely quotable film where the lines are set up then knocked out of the park. Nearly 80 years later, its as funny as the day it was released. The Marx Brothers made many fantastic films but Duck Soup is their definitive classic.
Trivia: Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini banned this movie from Italy, believing it was a direct attack on him. Reportedly, this delighted the Marx Brothers to no end.
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Beihn
Original Release Date: 18 Jul 1986
Oscars: 3 (Sound Effects, Visual Effects), 5 other nominations
Aliens is 137 minutes of relentless adrenalin. It is to film as Red Bull is to Lemonade. To see it is almost exhausting. A worthy sequel to the haunting 1979 original, this film films Ellen Ripley (Weaver) 57 years later discover in cryogenic sleep. The planet from the original movie has been colonize but contact has been lost and Ripley finds herself back, with a team of space marines to fight the enemy again. Aliens is a relatively plotless pure action and special effects movie, violent and visceral. Its James Cameron at his best. This is not a film for the faint of heart and if you can stomach it, I promise you will not forget it. There is no down time in this film. Don’t bother with the popcorn, you will not breathe long enough to eat it.
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Sigourney Weaver
Original Release Date: 04 Oct 2013
Oscars: 1 (Visual effects), 3 other nominations
“If there is a bomb under a table and it goes off that’s action. If it does not, that’s suspense”. Alfred Hitchcock.
That sums the difference between Aliens from 1986 and this film the original from 1979. Where Aliens is pure action, Alien grips us with suspense. Oh it has its “boo” moments and serious action sequences, but unlike Alien that survives on relentless action, Alien is about building tension. I clearly remember my brother Joe seeing this movie and them coming home and telling me about it. Even his vivid description gave me the chills. I saw it many years later. I put these movies back to back (rather than as one entry) because they are so different and from different director. But I love them both and strongly recommend then.
#56 “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott
Original Release Date: 29 Jan 1964
Oscars: None, four nominations
“You can’t fight here. This is the War Room”. Dr. Strangelove is Stanley Kubricks parody of the cold war, war films and in a sense of comedy itself. Whackadoole General Jack D. Ripper covertly sends B52s out to launch a nuclear attack against the Soviets, believing that the fluoridation of water is a Commie plot. Peter Sellers plays three roles, all brilliantly, but none more than Dr. Strangelove himself. The humour in this movie is sly, not terribly obvious, subtle and incredibly funny. Some grasp of cold war history will help but is not necessary. The classic scene of Major “King” Kong (Slim Pickens) riding a nuclear bomb out of the B52 bomber like a rodeo horse remains one of the most indelible images in film history. Dr. Strangelove is a comedy of errors, mistakes and strained language that would never be made today, simply because it has the realistic ending that no studio would have the cajones to put in theatres. Nearly 50 years later, this is a fresh, biting satire.
#55 “The Dark Knight”
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger
Original Release Date: 07 March 1931
Oscars: 2 (Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger, Sound Effects), six other nominations
Every time I watch this movie – and I have seen it at least a dozen times – Heath Ledgers performance as The Joker fascinates me more and more. It’s a clinic in acting. The licking of the lips, the facial expressions, the bursts of violence. The Joker in this movie is never given a back-story. The character is to be taken as an absolute. “I am an agent of chaos. I am a like a dog chasing a car. I wouldn’t know what do with one if I caught one”. This is what makes him so compelling and so dangerous. He has no motive. He just likes to turn the world on its ear. Add to that a compelling plot, leading edge cinematography and special effects and one of the greatest of all super heroes and you have what is arguably the best of the genre. Dark Knight cannot be dismissed because it was popular and successful. This is an remarkable film that I believe will stand the test of time.
Trivia: The two most critically acclaimed films of 2008 were Pixar’s WALL-E and The Dark Knight. Each received many Oscar nominations but not best picture. The controversy led to a change in the Oscars that saw the best picture nominations go from 5 to 10.
#54 “Do The Right Thing”
Director: Spike Lee
Stars: Danny Aiello, Spike Lee, John Tutturo, Rosie Perez
Original Release Date: 11 June 1982
Oscars: none, 2 nominations
Do the Right Thing was the best film of 1989. I really didn’t know this at the time. I don’t think when I first saw it on video I was fully able to appreciate it. Over time, as I saw more of Lee’s films and as I was able to understand what Do The Right Thing is about, I respected and valued it more and more. Now, about 10 viewings in, I accept it as a classic piece of American cinema. There are those who pass this movie off as racist and an incitement to violence but it is anything but. Lee deftly introduces us to cast of characters in Brooklyn on the hottest day of the summer. This is a diverse, angry group of people just trying to survive. He does not make commentary but allows events to just play out. Do The Right Thing forces the audience to draw its own conclusions. The movie does not end so much as it explodes on screen and it may make you squirm in your skin but it will leave an impact. It’s the kind of important film that inspires discussion and makes you reconsider your own beliefs.
#53 “The Up Series”
Director: Michael Apted
Stars: A group of ordinary Brits
Original Release 1966 to present
In 1966, British Director Paul Almond interviewed a group of British seven year old from different socio-economic backgrounds. They talked about hopes, dreams, fears, and the future. This was called 7 up. 7 years later, Michael Apted took over and made 7 plus 7, and interviewed the same children at the age of fourteen. Every 7 years since, he has gone back to the same group of subjects and released 21 up, 28 up, 35 up etc. In 2012, he made 56 up. To paraphrase Ebert, this series of films is the greatest example of how film can freeze a moment in time and play with our perceptions of time and reality. To watch these people grow but to be able to revisit them at every stage in life is truly fascinating. Apted will continue this project until he or the individuals featured in this film have passed on. It’s a long haul to make it through these movies, but so worth the time. I do own the box set and I will lend it to you but you have to promise to watch it and to give it back.
Director: Brian DePalma
Stars: Al Pacino, other people
Original Release Date: 09 Dec 1983
Guilty Pleasure #2. There is nothing I can say that will convince you or anyone that this is a ‘great’ movie. It is, however, a damn entertaining one. I mean really, I am a dude and would anyone take me seriously if I left this movie off. Scarface is pure testosterone on the screen. Yes, Pacino is over the top and almost campy, but would you expect Tony Montana to be played with restrained subtlety? Scarface was released in the height of Oscar season in 1983 but it was dismissed for its violence and non-stop profanity. Over time, it has become somewhat of a cult classic with one or two of the most quoted scenes in movie history. Everything from The Simpsons to The Sopranos has paid tribute. You have to dive right in to this movie and enjoy.
Trivia: In spite of being widely reviled by critics at the time, The American Film Institute named the classic line “Say hello to my little friend” #61 on their all time list of Top 100 movie quotes. Tony Montana’s “little friend” is an M16 assault rifle with a 40mm grenade launcher attached to the barrel.
#51 “The Third Man”
Director: Carol Reed
Stars: Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles
Original Release Date: 06 Oct 2006
Oscars: 1 (B&W Cinematography), one other nomination
“This movie is on the altar of my love of the cinema”. Roger Ebert.
Ebert lists this among the 10 greatest films of all time. It’s hard to argue. The Third Man is a classic story of love, mystery and betrayal with some of the most compelling images ever put on screen. Its shot entirely on location in post-war Vienna and features the legendary musical score of Anton Karas. The story is about Holly Martins (Cotten) a drunk, down and out writer of pulp westerns, who travels to Vienna to find out how his friend, wartime black marketer, Harry Lime as died. At Harry’s funeral, Martins meets Harry’s girl Anna, who may well have some answers. This is another one of those movies where you will have seen outtake and parodies and wondered where they are from. It is rife with shadows, images and unspoken words. Its film noir at is best and of the greatest movies ever made.
Trivia: The score of this film is played entire on zither by Anton Karas. Go to Youtube and search “The Third Man theme”. Look for the original by Karas its there. Its really amazing and I bet you will recognize it.
Recap so far
51. The Third Man (Reed – 1949)
52. Scarface (DePalma – 1983)
53. The Up Documentaries (Apted – 1966 to ?)
54. Do The Right Thing (Lee – 1989)
55. The Dark Knight (Nolan – 2008)
56. Dr. Strangelove (Kubrik – 1964)
57. Alien (Scott – 1979)
58. Aliens (Cameron – 1986)
59. Duck Soup (McCarey – 1935)
60. On The Waterfront (Kazan – 1951)
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)