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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.”
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 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
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.
Director: Sidney Pollack
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Sidney Pollack
Original Release 17 Dec 1982
Oscars: 1 (Supporting Actress – Jessica Lang), 9 other nominations
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
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
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.