Dan’s All-time Top 100 – #20 to #16

After seeing far too much of the world in far to short a period of time, I am back with with final few entries in this part of my blog. Thank you to all readers for your comments, interest and feedback.

As I enter the Top 20, I am going to talk more about each film and provide a little more information, including where they stand (stood) with some of my favourite movie lists and critics. In addition, I will provide my favourite quote and piece of trivia from the film.

I will do #20 to 11 in two groups of 5, then the Top 10 films will get individual treatment.

All that said, here are the first 5 entries in my Top 20. Enjoy!

 

movie_countdown20    “WALL-E”  

Director: Andrew Stanton

Screenplay: Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter

Stars: Ben Burtt, Jeff Garland, Fred Willard and Sigourney Weaver

Original Release Date: 27 June 2008

 Oscars: 1 (Animated Feature), 5 other nominations

 Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%                                          Berardinelli: 3.5 stars

Metacritic: 96%                                                        Ebert: 3.5 stars

IMDB Top 250: #60

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Of all the entries in my top 20, this is sure to raise the most eyebrows. There have been four or five occasions in my life that I have walked out of theatre in awe, believing fully that I had just seen a future classic. This is one. I feel my awe for this film is justified by the fact that New York Times film critic A.O. Scott ranked this as the #1 movie of the decade. I had it as #2.

WALL-E is a WalMart parody, space opera, environmental cautionary tale, robot love story. There is no dialogue in the first 22 minutes. Where else other than Pixar could such a film ever be made?

WALL-E takes place in a futuristic Earth, which has been rendered uninhabitable by garbage. WALL-E is a small, square, rustic yet adorable robot, the last of his kind, whose job it is to collect and compact trash so that one day Earth can be fit for humankind. Humans have spent now hundreds of years orbiting in space ships and have become motionless gastropods.

WALL-E longs for a companion. In his collection of artifacts, he watches an old VCR tape of Hello Dolly! and longs for the feeling of holding hands. Enter EVE, a robot with obvious female qualities sent to scan for life signs.

The remainder of the plot entails the relationship between the robots and WALL-E willing to do anything to keep his new found love. The movie contains great sight gags, breath-taking imagery (the scene where they dance in space!), biting social commentary and the right amount of excitement. Children will love the big-eyed robots and simple story arch. Adults will love the many layers of underlying themes touching on everything form pollution to big box stores to corporate corruption to young love.

WALL-E was the most critically acclaimed film of 2008, named to more Top 10 Lists than any other movie that year. It is my choice (despite its newness) for the best animated film ever made.

Favourite Quote:

Captain: So, be sure next mealtime to ask for your free sep-tua-centennial cupcake in a cup. Wow, look at that.”

 Trivia:

The first dialogue between WALL·E and EVE begins 22 minutes into the movie. The first human dialogue begins 39 minutes into the movie.

 

 

 

number 19   “Apocalypse Now”

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Screenplay: John Millus and Francis Ford Coppola

Stars: Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando

Original Release Date: 15 Aug 1979

 Oscars: 2 (Sound, Cinematography), 6 other nominations

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%                                          Berardinelli: 3.0 stars

Metacritic: 90%                                                        Ebert: 4.0 stars, Top 10 of the 70s, Top 10 of All Time

IMDB Top 250: #44

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This review is based on the original release, not the 4 hour Redux version.

Filmmaking does not get much darker than this. Apocalypse Now has stood for over 30 years at one of the greatest of all war film. It has been dogged by myth, rumour and conjecture. There is even a fascinating documentary about its making. But for the patient and open-minded, it’s a trip.

Set in Viet Nam, a group of American Soldiers let by Captain Willard (Sheen) is sent into Cambodia on a dangerous and officially non-existent mission. They are to track down Colonel Kurtz (Brando) a brilliant soldier who has made himself a god with a local tribe.

As the movie builds, there are exceptional scenes of battle, some of the best ever filmed. As they travel down the river closer to their mission, the myth of Kurtz grows. When we finally see him on screen, we realize that Brando is not only the right choice for this character, but the only one. There was great controversy over his casting, a million dollar paycheck for a small amount of screen time. But it’s a brilliant and important performance.

Apocalypse Now is sprawling, even a bit meandering. But Coppola’s intention was to recreate the chaos of the Vietnam war on screen. He succeeds in spades.

 

Favourite Quote:

Kurtz: “We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won’t allow them to write “fuck” on their airplanes because it’s obscene!”

 Trivia:

The shooting of this film was scheduled for 6 weeks. It took over 16 months.

 

 

breaking-dawn-countdown-18-icon   “Schindler’s List”

Director: Stephen Spielberg

Screenplay: Steve Zallian

Stars: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley

Original Release Date: 25 Dec 1993

 Oscars: 7 (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Editing Score), 5 other nominations

 

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%                                          Berardinelli: 4.0 stars, Top 10 of the 90s, #5 Top 100

Metacritic: 93%                                                        Ebert: 4.0 stars, Top 10 of the 90s

IMDB Top 250: #7

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Schindler’s List is a movie that almost falls outside the realm of critical viewing. It is such an artfully made, heart crushing yet uplifting tale of the events in Nazi Poland during WWII, that it sort of stands by itself. I have seen every movie in my Top 20 at least 10 times except this one. I have seen Schindler’s List a total of once. That said, its images are burned in my brain and it was once of the most moving, memorable and horrifying movie experiences of my life.

The film chronicles the story of Oskar Schindler, as well connected businessman in World War II. In the beginning he sees only opportunity and buys a factory, which is staffed by Jewish slave labour in Poland. This story is cut in with Amon Goeth, brilliantly portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, the sociopathic, murdering Nazi commander of the slums of Krakow. What makes this film great is Schindler’s transformation from profiteer to saviour. There is no speech, no “a-ha” moment. Over time, through his relationship with his accountant Itzhak Stern (played with magnificent understatement by Ben Kingsley), he slowly changes his view of the Jews. They go from slave labourers to people who need to survive. There is a key moment in this black and white film, involving colour and the coat of a young girl. I will not describe it here, but it will rip your heart out.

Today, over 6,000 “Schindler Jews” are alive around the world. It lends credence to the quote from the movie, “whoever saves one life, saves the whole world”. This is an important, heartbreaking film that is still laden with good, with hope and with a sense of humanity.

 

 Favourite Quote:

Oskar Schindler: “My father was fond of saying you need three things in life – a good doctor, a forgiving priest, and a clever accountant. The first two, I’ve never had much use for.”

 Trivia:

Steven Spielberg refused to be paid for directing this film.

 

 

17_1_thumb-17  “Vertigo”

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Screenplay: Alec Coppel and Samuel L. Taylor

Stars: James Stewart, Kim Novak

Original Release Date: 21 Jul 1958

 Oscars: None, 2 nominations.

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%                                          Berardinelli: 4.0 stars

Metacritic: n/a                                                           Ebert: 4.0 stars, Top 10 of All Time

IMDB Top 250: #66

vertigo

Notorious? Rear Window? Psycho? When picking the best of “The Master”, for me it’s Vertigo. Hitchcock has a way of making fear, apprehension and unbearable suspense emerge out of nowhere. No other Director in history has been able to mimic this skill in this way. Otherwise normal scenes turn sinister. Otherwise banal dialogue becomes in a way, evil. Vertigo is compelling, spellbinding, shocking, and creepy and one of the greatest films ever made.

The plot of Vertigo is equally complex and simple. Scottie (James Stewart) is a former detective with back problems and acrophobia. He is approached by an old friend, now a wealthy man, to spy on his wife Madeline, who’s behavior is growing odd and worrisome. Scottie does not just fall for Madeline, but becomes obsessed with her.

Vertigo is not the fear of heights, but the dizziness and spinning sensation that can be triggered by the fear itself. Such a great play on words for this movie’s title. It touches on human fear, greed, lust and phobias. It is likely on the list of best movies you’ve never seen and has just gotten better with age.

 

Favourite Quote:

Scottie: And then what did he do? Did he train you? Did he rehearse you? Did he tell you exactly what to do, what to say? You were a very apt pupil too, weren’t you? You were a very apt pupil! Well, why did you pick on me? Why me?

 Trivia:

In 2012, Sight and Sound Magazine named Vertigo the greatest film of all time in its survey done every 10 years of critics and filmmakers. This is considered by most to be the definitive “best movie list”. It supplanted Citizen Kane, which had been #1 since the 1962 survey. At the time of its release, it was both a critical and commercial failure. Hitchcock blamed this on Stewart being to old for the part and never worked with him again.

 

 cross walk Countdown 16   “Casablanca”

Director: Michael Curtiz

Screenplay: Julius Epstein & Phillip Epstein

Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Raines

Original Release Date: 23 Jan 1943

 Oscars: 3 (Picture, Director, Screenplay), 5 other nominations.

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%                                          Berardinelli: 4.0 stars, Top 100 #7

Metacritic: n/a                                                           Ebert: 4.0 stars

IMDB Top 250: #28

casa7

Casablanca is arguably the best screenplay and the most quotable film of all time. Casablanca has rightly become one of the most beloved films ever made, a movie about scoundrels and low-lifes that eventually choose to do right. The man who says “I stick my neck out for nobody” is in fact one of the noblest men in film.

To watch Bogart in his legendary role as Rick Blaine is to capture the very embodiment of acting. Blaine is a sharp witted, drunken, self loathing rogue , but he has such a sincerity and honesty to him that we love him from top to bottom.

Roger Ebert likened this film to your favourite album. You can view it over and over, year after year, and like it more and more. The plot, dialogue and production are all sparse, but every line and scene is filled with purpose. When the movie was being made, no one knew it was going to become the classic it has.

No film on my Top 100 is more driven by character. They are all deeply flawed and all have secrets. We actually never know why Rick cannot go back to America. That’s left for us to decide. But on the first viewing, we care about them. After multiple viewings, they become part of our own memory.

 

Favourite Quote (so many in this film):

Renault: What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?

Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.

Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.

Rick: I was misinformed.

 Trivia:

In one of the great movie misconceptions of all time, Bogart’s character Rick Blaine never says “Play it again, Sam” as is widely believed. Ilsa says “Play it Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’ “. The closest Blaine gets is “You played it for her, you can play it for me. If she can take it, I can take it so play it!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Canadian Films

Canadian-Film

 

Happy Canada Day.

Before I resume my Top 100, why not take a look at some of the greatest Canadian Films.

There are very few true, qualified Canadian Films with commercial success. In fact, the only Canadian film to every gross over $100 million at the box office is Porky’s. A bit of a sad statement.

That said, the following movies are all excellent. None are on my list. The first two are certainly not far off. All are worth seeing and many are Oscar nominated. Why not end Canada Day with some classic Canadian cinema instead of the usual, boring old fireworks!

Here in order are my 10 Favourite Canadian Films.

 

1. The Sweet Hereafter (1997 – Atom Egoyan)

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Director Atom Egoyan’s Masterpiece. A lawyer travels to a small Canadian town, gripped by the worst of tragedies, to launch a class action suit against anyone on who he can lay blame. His actions are in part motivated by the loss of his own daughter to drugs. A young girl in a wheelchair, a survivor of the accident that ripped the town apart, emerges to lead the way towards healing. The Sweet Hereafter is a heart-wrenching tragic and sad film but a brilliant piece of cinema.

 

2. Owning Mahowny (2003 – Richard Kwietniowski)

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Perhaps the best movie you’ve never seen. The late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars as Dan Mahowny, a mid level banker at CIBC who steals from the bank, from clients and some people he has created in order to feed his gambling addiction. Based on real events in Toronto in the 1980s, it’s a magnificent portrayal of a crippling gambling addiction.

 

3. The Barbarian Invasions (2003 – Denys Arcand)

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A long overdue sequel to Decline of the American Empire, in this film Remy is dying of liver cancer and wants to take his final days to reunite with his old friends and make peace with his estranged wife and son. A thoughtful meditation on life, death and dying, it won the 2003 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film

 

4. The Decline of the American Empire (1986 – Denys Arcand)

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A group of French Canadian Academics gather at a resort for dinner. The men cook while the women go to a spa. Each group talks of their sexual exploits, conquests loves and losses. It’s a great comedy with serious overtones with one of my all time favourite screenplays.

 

5. Thirty-two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993 – Francois Girard)

32 Short Films About Glenn Gould DVD

Glenn Gould was born in 1932 in Toronto and become one of the most celebrated and famous classical pianists in the world. In 1964, he stopped live performing altogether and dedicated his life to the recording studio. Before his untimely death in 1982, he amassed multiple Grammy’s and a collection of the great recordings of all time; most notably his interpretation of J.S. Bach’s The Goldberg Variations. This movie does not really claim to know Glenn Gould, but rather celebrate his life, his eccentricities and his genius. Colm Feore is brilliant in the lead.

 

6. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974 – Ted Kotcheff)

The_Apprenticeship_of_Duddy_Kravitz_(film)

This is almost required Canadian viewing. A young Richard Dreyfuss plays the lead in this film adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s classic novel. Roger Ebery said “its too sloppy and obvious to be great” and he may be right, but it’s a great character study of ambition and greed and piece of Canadian history. It also made Richler and Oscar nominee for the screen adaptation of his own book.

 

7. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001 – Zacharius Kunuk)

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Filmed in Inuit language Inuktitut, The Fast Runner is a compelling story of a community in the Artic Circle. I won’t describe the plot. Its as old as time but in this movie, fresh and unique. Filmed on location with an almost entirely Inuit crew and cast, The Fast Runner creates an unforgettable tale out of the vast expanses of the tundra. Considered by many to be the greatest Canadian film of all time.

8. Away From Her (2006 – Sarah Polley)

away from her

Nominated for two Oscars, Away from Her tells the story of Grant and Fiona, an Ontario couple married for more than 40 years. Fiona starts to become forgetful and it is eventually determined she has the early signs of Alzheimers. She is admitted to a medical facility that has a no visitors policy for the first 30 days to allow patients to adjust to their new life. When he returns to see her, he realizes how much his life has changed.

9. The Dead Zone (1983 – David Cronenberg)

the-dead-zone-movie-poster-1983-1020192875

It’s a stretch to call this Canadian but since Cronenberg directs it I will include it. Its not only Cronenberg’s best film it is easily the best of all Stephen King adaptations and a movie that really brought Christopher Walken into the forefront of the film world. It tells the story of a man who awakes from a five-year coma and discovers that he not only has the ability to predict the future, but to alter it. Its worth it just to see Walken read “The Raven” to his students.

10. Strange Brew (1983 – Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas)

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By no means a great film, but it is a classic piece of slapstick Canadian comedy based on two characters dreamed up on the set of SCTV to give it a more “Canadian” feel, to appease the CRTC. Strange Brew is a silly, patchwork comedy and one of the new movies that acknowledge that Guelph exists. It’s either that or a gripping docudrama about what two Canadians will do in order to get free beer. You decide.

 

Happy Canada Day.

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