Sunday, May 31, 2009

61. 12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men (1957)
Directed by Sidney Lumet

I’ve always enjoyed this film from the first time I saw it in Middle School English class. There won’t be much of a write-up here because I’m not exactly sure what to say outside of listing off superlatives. The acting is fantastic with everyone giving memorable performances, Lee Cobb and Fonda giving truly standout ones. If you haven’t seen it, don’t let the single setting or the year of the film stop you, it’s an intense drama that still speaks powerful to modern day issues.

62. American Gangster

American Gangster (2007)
Directed by Ridley Scott

While not being the most original film on the list (it tells a very typical gangster/cop story), it’s the matter of fact procedural nature of the film that constantly draws me in to watch it over and over again. In the same way that Zodiac takes its time to flesh out the characters, the settings, and the motivations, American Gangster does that for a particular moment in 1970s New York City.

Speaking of the 1970s, the film is saturated in the 1970s, from the “transport you there” production design to the “doesn’t this feel like a 70s film” cinematography. I’m not sure how they did it, but I never once doubted the look and feel of the film. In fact, although it’s a dramatic story and its told dramatically, it really plays more like a documentary. In contrast to a gangster film like Road to Perdition that was a stylized tragedy, American Gangster is gritty and realistic. You don’t just watch the story and characters of American Gangster, you learn about them and their journeys.

This is not to say there is no drama in the story. I particularly like the way the film holds back any scenes between Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington. Its not until the final act of the film that we are able to finally see the A-listers interact, and they don’t disappoint in a interrogation sequence that lacks all the fireworks of the Joker-Batman interrogation in The Dark Knight, but makes up for it in nuance and intensity. I just love it.

To top it, Ridley Scott throws in a police-gangster shootout for the ages. The sequence builds perfectly and plays itself out in three distinct acts. It’s an action scene that any director would be proud to include on his resume. Me, I’m proud to include this film on my top 100.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

63. Meet the Parents

Meet the Parents (2000)
Directed by Jay Roach

A film that seems mighty odd to come right after such a dramatic heavyweight like Road to Perdition, but Meet the Parents is one of my absolute favorite comedies. I tuly loathe the sequel, Meet the Fockers, but this original comedy finds exactly the right tone to really tickle my funnybone. Stiller gives his typical nice guy in bad situation shtick here, but Robert DeNiro gives the standout performance here. His comedic tough guy performance might seem cliché by now, but it was at its peak during this film. It's a crowd pleasing film and it always finds a way to make me laugh. Give me 63 films and there is no doubt that I wouldn't want to do without it.
P.S. My favorite sequence is the pool party over Owen Wilson's pad

64. Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition (2002)
Directed by Sam Mendes

Another excellent film from a stellar 2002 and it's one that I've been off and on with over the last few years. My initial reaction to the film was one of disappointment and frustration. Sure, I had heard that Tom Hanks played a 'bad guy' in the film but I wasn't expecting to watch what was basically a 'good guy' just making bad decisions. So by the end of the film, although I really enjoyed it, how could I love a film in which characters make frustratingly wrong choices?

Over time I have come to appreciate films and narratives that may present us with fallible and tragic characters, but also provide us with insight and wisdom; this is main reason that I truly appreciate Road to Perdition. It combines two story threads, one of revenge and one of the relationships between fathers and sons, and wrings out every irony, conflict, and truths that those threads can deliver. I am still fustrated by the tragic choices in the film, but I am right to be fustrated. These characters have a story to tell and their wrong choices teach me as much, if not more, than had they chosen a different path.

Outside of that, this one of the finest looking films ever shot. Much like, but vastly superior to, Sam Mendes and Conrad Hall's previous film American Beauty, Road to Perdition is strikingly beautiful and measured. Hall and Mendes deliver some stunning images, but also create a couple of incredible suspenseful sequences between Hanks and Jude Laws' assassin. All in all, Road to Perdition is a challenging film that has a slew of rewards for its audience.

P.S. Those rewards also include a great Paul Newman performance and a fantastic musical score
Here is the trailer, a really good one

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

65. Toy Story

Toy Story (1995)
Directed by John Lasseter

The first feature length computer animated film is still one of the greatest computer animated films of all-time. In stark contrast to Disney's other animated film of the year, Pocohontas, Toy Story is an excellent story featuring extremely strong performances and not a single broadway musical number. It's a classic film that's packed with rewards for a viewer of any age. While not the best Pixar film to date, Toy Story is an indispensable animated film in anyone's collection. I'll take the characters of Woody and Buzz Lightyear over 99% of the characters that come out today. They are complex and well-developed characters that boast some career defining vocal performances by Tim Allen and Tom Hanks.

66. In America

In America (2003)
Directed by Jim Sheridan

A small family drama from 2003 clocks in at #66 on my list because its a magical film to watch. Telling the story of an Irish family's immigration to somewhat modern day New York City after a family tragedy, In America is in parts joyful to watch as well as heartbreaking. It's hard to talk about this film as it really is a hard one to sum up. If my calling it a small family drama has possibly turned you off of the film, then let me tell you that it's a triumphant human story that anyone can relate to. Does that sound better?
P.S. For you Peter, "Say goodbye to Frankie Daddy"

67. Office Space

Office Space (1999)
Directed by Mike Judge

Has there ever been a film that so effectively lampoons the modern office job experience? Office Space is one of those films that would never even make a blip on the screen of any Oscar chart, but is a completely indispensable part of my movie collection.

The situations and the characters are beyond funny, they are iconic to me. Bill Lumberg (played absolutely brilliantly by the always underrated Gary Cole) is one of the best antagonists of all-time. The two Bill's are not very far behind him either. This film simply makes me laugh...and cringe because some of its moments are truly relatable (I don't know how often the birthday cake singing sequence has happened to me). Perhaps this film might not appeal to someone who has never worked a day in their life, but for the rest of us, this is essential viewing.

68. Minority Report

Minority Report (2002)
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Outside of two films that will remain unnamed, I would say this is Spielberg's greatest directing achievement of his career. From the first frame to the last frame, every sequence is crammed full of creative genius. Speaking of 'frames', I think this is also Spielberg's visual masterpiece. His camera is constantly moving, but it's never erratic. It reveals exactly what it needs to without seeming obvious. This is a stunning achievement.

It's a miracle that Minority Report works as well as it does given that it straddles so many genres (science fiction, crime, mystery, noir, action) and attempts to deliver not only a complicated narrative, but knock-out action sequences, and a deeply satisfying philosophical discussion on free will and justice. Costume design and set design enrich the entire template and create a completely convincing future (one of the most practical and foretelling ever on film).

There are numerous sequences that I could reference as my favorite, but if I boiled it down, the entire eye replacement sequence is one of my favorites. From the creepy doctors to the cringe inducing eye scanners spiders, Spielberg was clearly having fun directing all of this. Add on top of that an incredible action sequence featuring jet packs and a car factory of the future and this film is an embarrassment of riches. If you've somehow overlooked it or haven't seen it in a while, I urge you to give it another look.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

69. Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction (1994)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino is an odd director for a christian viewer. His films are typically filled with vulgar langauge, odd sexual themes, and explicit violence. A few years ago, before I had seen Pulp Fiction, I was extremely wary of watching Tarantino, despite the great things that I had always heard about the film. The fact that this film is included on this list should tell you what my viewing of the film yielded.

Fresh, inventive, and bold are just a few terms I would use to describe the experience of watching this film. The editing, performances, and dialogue all still feel fresh to me when I watch the film today. Pulp Fiction's influence on countless films of the 90s and 2000s is a testament to just how great this film is. Talking about it's greatness would really just sound like a shopping list of the great scenes and dialogue, so I'll keep my words to a minimum.

I will say this regarding the potential conflict between the content of Tarantino's films and being a Christian viewer. Should a Christian be 'okay' with watching this film? Without getting into any long drawn out discussion, I believe that Pulp Fiction is not only an 'okay' film for a Christian to watch, but that the film actually has a lot to offer the Christian viewer. This is in no way an endorsement of wanton violence, vulgar language, or sexual themes. What I am saying is that althought these things are present to an extent in this film, they are (for the most part) in the service of very mature and adult messages and themes. This is not a film for young children nor is it really for young teens either, but to a mature young adult or older, there is a lot of good stuff present. That it happens to be crisp, creative and entertaining as well, is what makes it truly essential for me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

70. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Directed by Michel Gondry

In somewhat of a defeat I am going to try and speed this whole list up by keeping all of my comments on the films to a minimum. There is no way I can keep up with writing these and make them the length I was originally shooting for. So if the commentary is only a paragraph long or even a couple of sentences, don't think it represents the film, just that I am trying to get this list finished. It may seem a little scattershot, but at least it will get finished!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a great adult dramedy that contains some great insight into relationships and love. That insight is wrapped up into an unconventional narrative that is filled with fun surprises and performances. It's my second favorite Charlie Kaufman film and I think it's Jim Carey's best dramatic/comedic role. With the exception of a few faults, this is one heck of a film, and also one romantic comedy that would appeal to all people.

Monday, May 4, 2009

71. Kramer vs. Kramer

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Directed by Robert Benton

I don't have a lot of life experience when it comes to divorce and family issues, but this film has always been my favorite on the subject. Kramer vs. Kramer is part dissection of divorce and part father-son bonding film, but it's altogether a great film. Despite my lack of familiarity with the subject, the relationship between Hoffman and Streep rings true to me and is higlighted by several standout scenes (Streep won the first of her two Oscars with this role) I don't know much else to say except that if you haven't seen it, I think its a definate must watch. Below is the trailer as well as one of my favorite scenes from the film. Enjoy!