Commentary – The Worst Movies I Have Ever Seen

The Critic’s Revenge – The Worst Movies I Have Ever Seen

Movies are so subjective; bad ones often create as much debate as good one. Before I embark on revealing my top 20, I want to punish those films that robbed me of two hours of my life.

I really cannot call this “The Worst Movies of All Time”, simply because I do not go out of my way to see bad films. That said, Roger Ebert has two books dedicated to awful movies and I have read reviews so scathing and juicy that I did search out the films to see just how bad they were. I was not disappointed.

Reviews of bad films are often more fun to read than reviews of good ones. My two all time favourite reviews are Roger Ebert panning Concorde: Airport ’79 and Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo. You can find them both on his site. They are brilliant.

Siskel and Ebert used to call this The Critics Revenge. James Berardinelli puts his annual “worst of the year” list out at Thanksgiving … The Turkey List.

 

Here, in rough order, is a list of the worst films I have ever seen with a brief description, because the less said about them, the better.

 

1. The Lonely Lady (1983)

worst - lonley lady

An early 80s “Pay TV” classic. Pia Zadora plays a would-be screen writer whose caring loving husband in one scene turns into a cruel bastard the next for no reason. She eventually wins an Oscar (in this film, not in real life) and gives an acceptance speech so bad; it really has to be seen. This movie was made to get Pia Zadora naked and that’s not even worth watching.

2. Hello Again (1987)

worstx hello

Shelley Long chokes to death on Chinese food then is brought back to life by an incantation by her whacky sister. Easily the worst movie I ever paid to see at a theatre.

3. Jack Frost (1998)

worst - jack frost

Michael Keaton dies and returns from the dead as a snowman in what might be the worst special effect ever displayed on screen. This movie actually contains the line “You da man.” “No, I da SNOW man”.

 

4. Meteor (1979)

worstx - meteor

This falls into the “has to be seen to be believed” category. The special effects in the movie make me believe that they meant it to be a comedy, not a disaster movie. Disaster movie is actually quite an accurate label.

 

 5. The Sicilian (1987)

worstx - the sicilina

John Tuturro as a bandit who is irresistible to women. Christopher Lambert as the legendary Turi Guiliani. Worst casting ever in this horrible adaptation of the excellent Mario Puzo novel. This is one of several disasters at the hands of Michael Cimino after his Oscar winning “The Deer Hunter”. Too bad because the source material is so good.

 

6. Dirty Dancing (1987)

worst - dirty dancing

This movie is not about dirty dancing. Its about recycled movie clichés and bad acting. It’s the ultimate Idiot Plot, a movie which only survives if every character is an idiot and says the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people to ensure that the film stumbles along.

 

7. Cannonball Run 2 (1984)

worstx - cbr2

Racist, sexist, unfunny, crappily written, poorly acted sequel that I actually paid to see, knowing how bad the original is. The was Gene Siskel’s vote for the worst film he reviewed while doing Siskel and Ebert.

 

 8. Wired (1989)

worstx wired

A bizarre biopic about John Belushi. Its so bad it defies description like the scene where he watches his own autopsy. As I went in to this movie, a friend coming out of the earlier show told me not to see it. Shoulda listened.

 

9. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

worst - revenge

Three hours of indecipherable noise with no plot that made a billion dollars. I must quote Ebert here. “If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.” Well said, Roger. I mean look – even the poster is a mess.

 

 10. Natural Born Killers (1994)

worstx nbk

Some call this a classic. I call it a reprehensible vomitorium of film guising itself as a societal statement against violence. This film has some really good scenes but its tone and nature do not work. To me, it tries to rise above is sickening violence but instead wallows in it.

 

11. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

worst - plan 9

Yes its goofy and the movie “Ed Wood” brought this into a new light. But it’s a “has to be seen to be appreciated” awesomely bad film that deserves is place on this list, or any other list. Bela Lugosi died during the making of this film. Ed Wood’s chiropractor’s husband replaced him with a cape over his face.

 

 

Other noteworthy horrible films

Howard the Duck

I Am Curious: Yellow

Barb Wire

Xanadu

Inspector Gadget

Hudson Hawk

Jaws IV: The Revenge

(Gotta quote Ebert again here: “ I believe the plot of this film. I really do. What shark would not want revenge against the men that killed it”)

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Johnny B Good

Grease 2

Boxing Helena

North

Doogal

Blue Velvet

 

 

 

 

Dan’s All Time Top 100 Films – #30 – #21

Work, travel and a nasty back strain have kept me away from the blog for a bit. I wanted to have the Top 100 done before my 50th (which was last Friday). Oh well, I will keep going.

Now we are getting into my truly most valued, favourite films. Each of these last 30 I have seen 10 times or more with one exception. Some of them, I think I can recite  or do a shot by shot commentary. This is the last 10 in this format; when I get into the Top 20 I will talk a little more about each movie and not post so many at once.

 

#30    “Patton”

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Stars: George C. Scott, Karl Malden

Original Release Date: 02 April 1970

Oscars: 7 (Picture, Director, Actor – George C. Scott, Screenplay, Editing Art Direction, Sound), three other nominations

PattonMoviePosterLarge

Every once in a while, the Academy hits the nail on the head. They did with Patton, naming it Best Picture and George C Scott best actor, in what is one of the best performances ever committed to celluloid. Patton is of course a biopic of the legendary General, whose “kill them until they surrender” strategy worked well in WWII. It is also somewhat of a history lesson and play by play on how to conduct a large-scale battle. Battle scenes are viewed from Patton’s perspective, from a distance and the battle ensues. He loves the strategy, the chess game, the ‘romance’ of war. He admires is enemy Rommel for being such a worthy opponent. Patton is not an unflinching battle pic like Saving Private Ryan. It sets out to show the man, a great tactician, self-proclaimed Prima Donna and General who loved what he did.

Trivia: George C. Scott won Best Actor for this film but refused the award. He stated the Oscars were a ‘meat parade’ and that he did not view himself in competition with other actors.

 

#29    “A Clockwork Orange”

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Stars: Malcolm McDowell

Original Release Date: 02 Feb 1972

Oscars: None, four nominations.

ACO

The First R Rated film I ever got into see! A Clockwork Orange is a love it or hate it brilliant commentary on society, justice, violence and rehabilitation that is equally poignant and important today as it was on its release over 40 years ago. That said, Kubrick disliked the film and it was never released in Britain until after his death. It tells the story of Alex Delarge, a young gang member in futuristic London. For kicks, he and his friends he called the Droogs terrorize the city, looking “a bit of the ultra violence”. When Alex is finally jailed, he volunteers for a rehabilitation program that is so engrained in pop culture that it has been parodies on the The Simpsons. A Clockwork Orange is not easy to watch. There is a disturbing rape scene and camera angles and images that can creep you out only as Kubrick can. But taken as whole, it’s a brilliant, wholly unique and challenging film.

 

 #28    “The Silence of the Lambs”

Director: Jonathan Demme

Stars: Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jodi Foster

Original Release Date: 14 Deb 1991

Oscars: 5 (Picture, Director, Actor – Anthony Hopkins, Actress – Jodie Foster, Screenplay), 2 other nominations

SotL

The Silence of the Lambs is one of only three films to sweep the five major Oscar Categories. It has had such a major cultural impact, producing perhaps the most memorable villain in film history. But this is only part of the greatness of this movie. Silence of the Lambs also gives us a great, strong female hero in Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling and an incredible performance from Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill, the wanted serial killer. Clarice is on the hunt for Bill, in a race against time as it is believed that he as kidnapped a Senator’s daughter. To get inside the mind of the killer, she is sent to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal the Cannibal. A brilliant, cunning, manipulative sociopath, who has nothing but time and wants to play with Clarice’s mind for his own amusement. Surrounding this is a perfectly executed police procedural with a climatic scene so creepy, it will stay with your for weeks if not months. Silence of the Lambs is a great movie but Sir Anthony’s legendary performance makes it one of the best.

Trivia: Hannibal Lecter is only on screen for 16 minutes of this movie.

Also, as of 2014, it is one of three films to sweep the five major Oscar categories, the others being It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 

 

#27    “All The President’s Men”

Director: Alan J. Pakula

Stars: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook

Original Release Date: 09 Apr 1976

Oscars: 4 (Supporting Actor – Jason Robards, Screenplay, Sound, Art Direction), 4 other nominations

All_the_president's_men

Sometimes, the definition of a great movie is one where you know the story, know the ending, know every secret and still watch it over and over. All The President’s Men tells the story of Woodward and Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who, against all odds and against better judgment, broke the Watergate story. We all know how it’s going to end. We know the story in between. But in this near perfect political thriller , we are left on the edge of our seats time and time again, watching the story unfold. Told a mere 4 years after Watergate broke, All The President’s Men acts almost like a documentary, a film that preserves in our minds one of America’s darkest hours. A tight and edgy script and an top to bottom A-list cast make it an infinitely watchable film.

 Trivia: As two devoted “method” actors, Hoffman and Redford memorized each other’s lines, so that they could interrupt each other in mid sentence and contribute to the film’s sense of urgency and confusion. 

 

#26    “Inglorious Basterds”

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Stars: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth

Original Release Date: 21 Aug 2009

Oscars: 1 (Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz), 7 other nominations

Inglourious_Basterds_poster

Darth Vader. Harry Lime. Hannibal Lecter. Hans Lada.

Christoph Waltz’s role as the sadistic, self-serving, articulate Nazi Colonel known as “The Jew Hunter” deserves mention along side the great villains of all time. Not knly does he command the screen, he does so in four languages and with a performance so subtle, its like a school in screen acting. Top that with one of Quentin Tarantino’s tightest, most audacious scripts and you have a film that I love more every time I see it. Inglorious Basterds tells the fictitious tale of a group of Jewish American soldiers, led my Lt. Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt in one of his best performances), that sneak into Nazi occupied France to kill Nazi’s as viciously as possible. The film skillfully weaves multiple plot lines including the Basterds, a cinema owner, a German hero and a movie star to all collide in a finale that takes more historical liberties than perhaps any other film. The opening set piece, which involves Lada interrogating a French dairy farmer about the location of a missing Jewish family, is amongst my favourite film scenes ever. In this movie, Taratino builds suspense out of nowhere until it explodes in a manner that only he can. If there were a movie on this list that may one day supplant a Top 10 film, this would be it.

Trivia: When ask to explain the spelling mistake in the title, the was Quentin Tarantino’s answer: “Here’s the thing. I’m never going to explain that. You do an artistic flourish like that, and to explain it would just take the piss out of it and invalidate the whole stroke in the first place.”

 

#25   “Moonstruck”

Director: Norman Jewison

Stars: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Danny Aeillo, Olympia Dukakis

Original Release Date: 18 De 1987

Oscars: 2 (Actress – Cher, Supporting Actress – Olympia Dukakis, Screenplay), three other nominations

moonstruck

Moonstruck is a romantic comedy, but its one that nimbly juggles 6 or 7 romances at once. Its wrong to call this a love triangle film – its almost more of a love Venn Diagram. The tales of love, heartbreak, ambivalence, family, infidelity and loyalty all play out in a tight knit yet argumentative Italian family in New York. This film actually makes me like Cher and Nicolas Cage, two actors I am not entirely fond of. What makes Moonstruck great is its honesty. It tells stories that everyone can feel. It touches on emotions from true love to fear of death that ring true for every person watching. It possessing brilliant comedic timing and loveable characters, combined to be perhaps the greatest Rom Com every made.

 

#24    “Monty Python and The Holy Grail”

Director: Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones

Stars: John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin

Original Release Date: 25 May 1975

Oscars: none

Grail

I am fairly certain I can recite this movie. In fact, I am pretty certain I can. Holy Grail is the pinnacle of offensive and irreverence that made Python the legends that they are. There is no use in describing the plot, since its just a device to get us from gag to gag. There are so many classic scenes. The Black Knight, The Ballad of Brave Sir Robin, “She’s a Witch”, John Cleese’s legendary French Knight, The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. The list goes on. Every scene is side splitting funny. Every laugh is played for maximum effect. This movie is a subtle as a sledgehammer and not for the easily offended, but one of the great comedic romps in motion picture history.

 Trivia: Much of this films funding came from avid Python fans Pink Floyd, from sales of Dark Side of the Moon. 

#23    “Tootsie”

Director: Sidney Pollack

Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Sidney Pollack

Original Release 17 Dec 1982

Oscars: 1 (Supporting Actress – Jessica Lang), 9 other nominations

tootsie

There is a scene in Tootsie where Michael (Hoffman) is sitting with his agent (Pollack) talking about his plight of cross-dressing to get a role on a soap, falling in love with woman that doesn’t know he is a man and having the romantic interest of man that does not know he is not a woman. That scene, which both outlines and legitimizes the inane plot, is one of my favourites of any movie. Tootsie is on the short list of great comedies and has the elements that I look for; a ridiculous plot but one that takes us along for the ride, plot twists, site gags, great supporting characters and most importantly, it remains a comedy from start to finish.

Roger Ebert once wrote that funny people trying to act funny in funny situations is NOT funny. Serious people, dropped into funny situations, trying to act serious, IS funny. Tootsie is a rare comedy that knows the difference.

 

 #22    “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”

Director: Irvin Kirshner

Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Voice of James Earl Jones

Original Release Date: 21 May 1980

Oscars: 1 (Sound), 2 other nominations

empire

The only Star Wars movie on my list. It’s the darkest, most entertaining and most fully realized of the six movies. It gives is a richer more involved plot, the greatest movie twist in history (an now perhaps the most imitated and parodied) and my favourite all time film score. Empire gives us the first use of the Darth Vader theme. Although not without its flaws, this movie is the pinnacle of the space opera and clearly the best of the six Star Wars films. The final fifteen minutes, when the light sabre battle occurs to the secret to Luke’s escape is the great sequence of all six films. I love all the films, own them on Blu Ray and DVD, but this one is clearly the best.

For me, the films are ranked as follows…

V, IV, III, II, I and then distantly VI. The ewoks killed it for me.

 

 #21    “Taxi Driver”

Director: Martin Scorsese

Stars: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Peter Boyle

Original Release Date: 08 Feb 1976

Oscars: None, four nominations

taxiposter

The entire quote “Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me?? Well, I’m the only one here?”. That ad libbed scene has become, on its own, a piece of movie folklore, but it’s only a small part of one of the great character studies ever made. Robert Deniro’s Travis Bickle is a tour-de-force performance, an anti-hero in the truest sense. Bickle, who is loosely based on John Wayne’s character in The Searchers, is a night time taxi driver and mentally unstable Vietnam Vet (although, Vietnam is never mentioned). He is “God’s lonely man”. He drives his cab, seething in hatred over his perception of the scum and low life of New York. He attempts to save a young prostitute (Jodie Foster) as his urge for violent action builds. Taxi Driver is a divisive and has it detractors. It appeals to my penchant for darker material, troubled characters and the underside of life. It’s a genius character study that requires many viewings to fully appreciate and understand.

Trivia: DeNiro was a little known character actor when he took on this part for a fee of $35,000. He spent a month as a cab driver working midnight shifts in New York as preparation. Between the times he signed on and when filming started, he won his Oscar for The Godfather Part II. He never asked for a pay raise and honoured his original contract.

Commentary – The Almost List – The Films that Didn’t Quite Make It

The Almost List – The Films that Didn’t Quite Make It

Rear Window

 And now, the easiest part of any coach’s job. The cuts.”   Homer Simpson

Before I get into my 30 favourite films, I want to take a moment to give honourable mention to the last 30 that didn’t make it. The Almost List.

The most common question I asked when I discuss this blog is “Is this movie on your list” quickly followed by “Oh man, why not”. When a movie is not here, it doesn’t mean I don’t like it. It means of the 1600 or so films I have seen it’s not in my 100 favourite.

BJM

Placing the final 30 and leaving off these 30 for me was the hardest task. They are all films I love and value greatly. I had the list down to 130 films and had to make some ‘cuts’ for lack of a better term.

Here, alphabetically, is my Almost List. The Runners-Up up if you will: the last 30 films to get crossed off the top 100. All films that I love but didn’t quite make the final list. The five marked with an asterisk were the last five off the list.

 

A Streetcar Named Desire

Airplane!

Beauty and the Beast

Being John Malkovich *

Ben Hur

Bound

Chinatown

Decline of the American Empire

Dumbo

Finding Nemo

Fight Club

Groundhog Day

It’s a Wonderful Life

Minority Report *.

Minority Report

Nosferatu (1922)

Notorious

Rear Window *

Shrek

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan *

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Syriana

The Conversation *

The Deer Hunter

The Hunt for Red October

The Last Detail

The Maltese Falcon

The Right Stuff

The Sweet Hereafter

Traffic

War Games

 

It would seem that “The Usual Suspects” is the most common film people cannot believe is on my list. I liked it, but I saw the major plot twist coming a mile away. And I hate Stephen Baldwin.

Dan’s All-Time Top 100 Films – #40 – #31

Travel and a heavy work schedule have kept me away for a week or two. That said, here is my latest entry as we get to my Top 40 and really enter in to movies I truly love and value.

 

#40    “Stop Making Sense”

Director: Jonathan Demme

Stars: The Talking Heads

Original Release Date: 16 Nov 1984

Oscars: None

SMS

America’s best band in the best concert film ever made. I think its only fair to mention that Talking Heads are my all time favourite band. This however does not diminish how remarkable this film is. This is one of the only true concert films. It concentrates only on the music and the band, not the audience, interviews, back-story. This is a Talking Heads concert, filmed. It starts with the legendary empty stage, David Byrne and a boom box doing an acoustic version of Psycho Killer. Song by song, band members and set pieces are added until the stage is full. The end of the movie features “Girlfriend is Better” with Byrne in The Big Suit (the song which gives the movie it’s title), then Take me To the River and the incredible Cross-eyed and Painless, which captures this band at their creative yet accessible best.

 

#39    “Some Like it Hot”

Director: Billy Wilder

Stars: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe

Original Release Date: 29 March 1959

Oscars: 1 (Costume Design B&W), five other nominations.

some like

In an interview with Graham Norton, Tony Curtis described the make-up test for Some Like it Hot. Curtis and Jack Lemmon dressed in drag, and then to see if they would pass as women, walked around the studio grounds, even into the women’s washroom. When no-one noticed them, they felt they were ready. In the ‘genre’ of cross dress movies, this is key. This is one of the funniest films ever made, but the performance of these brilliant actors as their female counterparts makes the film. Its Marilyn Monroe’s best film and has without a doubt the best last line of any film ever made!

 

#38    “Breaking Away”

Director: Peter Yates

Stars: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern

Original Release Date: 20 Jul 1979

Oscars: 1 (Original Screenplay), 4 other nominations

breaking away

Breaking Away is a film that transports me back to my youth. I clearly remember seeing it in the summer of 1979 at the Hyland Cinema in Kitchener with my girlfriend. I went to see a movie for the sake of seeing a movie and saw one of the most enduring heart-warming tales ever told. Breaking Away is a movie about four friends in a college town. They are known as Cutters, a dual insult because they don’t go to school and they the children of limestone quarry workers. One of four friends, Dave, is so obsessed with the Italian cycling team that he lives his life pretending to be Italian, much to the chagrin of his used car salesman father. Dave falls for a college student, crossing class lines, but worse, pretends to be an Italian exchange student. From this backdrop, plays out one of the most enduring, inspiring human comedies ever made. This is a delightful, overlooked film that you should seek out.

Trivia: In Bloomington Indiana, where the film takes place, there is an old limestone quarry and locals were known as stoners. The filmmakers used the term Cutters to avoid the drug reference.

 

#37    “Dog Day Afternoon”

Director: Sydney Lumet

Stars: Al Pacino, John Cazale

Original Release Date: 21 Sep 1975

Oscars: 1 (Original Screenplay), 5 other nominations

dda

Two hapless would-be burglars. A hot August afternoon. More cops and SWAT members that you can count. Gawking on-lookers. A fascinated media. Watching Dog Day Afternoon today, where a media circus ensues over botched bank robbery and hostage taking, you realize that the film foreshadowed what we have today, where social media takes everything to its extreme almost immediately. Based on a true story, it tells the story of Sonny (Pacino) and his witless friend Sal (Cazale) that rob a Manhattan bank to get money to pay for Sonny’s lovers sex change operation. Everything that could go wrong, does and the film, which take place in a a single day, follows the cat and mouse game as Sonny tries to find a way out. Dog Day is an edgy hard to watch movie, it has a long fuse that burns slowly. It’s the opposite of a fee good film, but its excellent entertainment!

Trivia: Co-star John Cazale only ever appears in five films. The Godfather, The Godfather Part II (Fredo), The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter. All five were best picture nominess and three won. He was engaged to Meryl Streep during the filming of The Deer Hunter. He died of cancer at age 42 shortly after filming was completed.

 

#36    “The Searchers”

Director: John Ford

Stars: John Wayne, Natalie Wood

Original Release Date: 13 March 1956

Oscars: None

searchers

John Ford’s The Searchers is the second of two westerns on my list. Made in 1956, it’s the last of the movies by the great John Ford to depict natives as wild savages and enemies. John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, in one of his finest roles. He plays a man on a relentless search for his niece Debbie (Natalie Wood). Debbie’s family was killed by Comanche’s and she was was kidnapped and taken away. Ethan searches tirelessly for five years, driven by his own hatred. But he is not trying to rescue Debbie, he intends to kill her for living with the Comanche. Ethan was the inspiration for Taxi Driver’s Travis Brickle (a film you will see later on this list). Both men are on a quest to save a woman, both men brooding anti-heroes with demons and prejudice. I am not sure if that’s how Ethan was viewed in 1956, whether audiences shared his racism, identified with it or despised it. The Searchers has some of the most gorgeous images ever filmed. The Searchers is often considered the lesser brother of John Ford’s classic Stage Coach, which is of course a great film. I love this one because it devotes time to the characters more than the traditional western.

 

#35   “Being There”

Director: Hal Ashby

Stars: Peter Sellers, Shirley Maclaine, Melvyn Douglas

Original Release Date: 19 Dec 1979

Oscars: 1 (Supporting Actor – Melvyn Douglas), one other nomination

being there

Being There is a work of quiet genius, a deeply fascinating film that I have seen over and over and love every time I do. In Peter Sellers’ best performance, it tells the story of Chaunce, a quiet, polite and dim-witted man, who lives in the house of an old man as his gardener. When the old man dies and the house is sold, Chaunce find himself on the street, having never experienced the outside world before. He has, however, impeccable manners and very nice suit. Through a series of events, he finds himself in Washington DC inner circles, befriending a wealthy businessman, his younger wife and even the President. Chaunce lived in seclusion and was known to no-one. He is a mystery to people and those he meets fill in the many blanks of his life. Forrest Gump owes a great nod to this film, both about men who stumble through life, armed only with innocence. Being There is one of the greatest movies you have never seen. Its perhaps one of my favourite movie endings, one I will not spoil but implore you to watch.

 

 #34    “Midnight Express”

Director: Alan Parker

Stars: Brad Davis, Randy Quaid, John Hurt

Original Release Date: 06 Oct 1978

Oscars: 2 (Adapted Screenplay, Score), 4 other nominations

midnight ex

There are two Alan Parker films on my list, both in the 30s and both with some similarities. Both films are gritty and hard to watch, both are based on true stories and take significant liberties with the story. Billy Hayes is an American Tourist in Turkey who is caught trying to smuggle hash out of the country. He is sentenced to four years in prison, where life is dreary and the warden is a cruel and sadistic monster. Just prior to his release, Billy sentenced is changed to life. Midnight express becomes the story of hope and despair, family and survival. There is a real life Billy Hayes and he did spend horrible time in a Turkish prison for drugs. He told his story to bring attention to those living in hell hole conditions around the world. Midnight Express is not easy to watch, but it’s a great and compelling film.

Trivia: This was Oliver Stone’s first Oscar for the movie’s screenplay. It was also the first even Oscar for a score of a film that was entire synthesized.

 

 #33    “The Color Purple”

Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey

Original Release 18 Dec 1985

Oscars: None, 11 nominations

the color purple

Go ahead. Call me a wuss. I cry every time I see this film. The Color Purple has is detractors and I get it. But this long, emotionally trying tale of Miss Celie, a young black woman is simply great story telling. The reason The Color Purple works so well for me, the reason I respond to strongly, is Whoopi Goldberg’s performance. Celie touches feelings we all have, feeling unworthy, unattractive, fearful and abused. Spielberg is a skilled director and he pushes our buttons so strong in this film, we are almost grateful for the ride. Yes, many of the characters are almost cartoon characters and there are plot points that require extreme suspension of disbelief, but it’s a film with immense heart. Its one of the those movies I will watch at 3 am on TBS even though I have seen it dozens of times.

Trivia: The Color Purple was nominated for 11 Oscars, but not best director. It was shut out, it what is still considered one of Oscar’s greatest scandals to this day.

 

 #32    “The Incredibles”

Director: Brad Bird

Stars: Voices of Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson

Original Release Date: 05 Nov 2004

Oscars: 2 (Animated Feature, Sound Editing), 2 other nominations

incredibles

In the 10 years since its release, The Incredibles has not only stood the test of time as not only a great animated film but one of the best super-hero movies ever made. This movie does what Pixar does best, which is creates a plot so clever yet accessible that it’s a movie that adults and children can equally enjoy. Bob Parr is an overweight, disgruntled insurance company claims clerk with thinning hair and extreme boredom. Bob is the alter-ego of Mr. Incredible, the greatest of all Super-heroes. He saved a man who did not want to be saved, resulting in a lawsuit that triggered the Superhero Relocation Program. Bob cannot adjust to civilian life and scans police radios with his buddy from the old days “Frozone”. The Incredibles is a throwback and Valentine to old B-movies, but creates its own universe. By telling the story of a family of “Supers” trying to fit in, we see a side of these people that we have never seen before. The Incredibles was the longest animated film Disney had released at the time and the first that was PG rated. It loved it from the first viewing and it has easily held up over a decade.

Trivia: The character of super suit designer Edna Mode is based on legendary costume designer Edith Head, who had 8 oscar wins and over 20 nominations.

 mode head

 

#31    “Mississippi Burning”

Director: Alan Parker

Stars: Willem DeFoe, Gene Hackman

Original Release Date: 27 Jan 1989

Oscars: 1 (Cinematography), 6 other nominations

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Mississippi Burning takes some liberty with historical facts to create one of the best police procedurals ever made. Set in the back drop of Mississippi and the civil rights movement of 1960s, Mississippi Burning tells the story of the murder of three civil rights workers in the south. Two FBI agents (DeFoe and Hackman) are sent in to investigate (they are not friends, and only refer to each other as Mr. Anderson and Mr, Ward) and find a wall of corruption with local law, business and the clan. The locals are not happy to have them there. It’s a brilliantly filmed movie, showcasing some stunning camera work that adds to the story and the suspense. Hackman is at his best as Mr. Ward, the former southern sheriff whose approach is to lay low and smell things out. But the centre of this film is Frances McDormand. Her brilliant, understated performance as the deputy’s wife struggling with her own sense of right and wrong is the moral compass of the movie. If you are looking for history retold, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a great film, start here.