Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Top 50 Favorite Movies: Part I (#50-41)

I think I'll let the title of the post speak for itself. Are you ready? 'Cuz I know I'm not.



50. The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra (2001)
Directed by Larry Blamire



I don't know exactly how I came about discovering this movie, but I do have a pretty good memory of my first experience watching it for the first time: laughter for 90 minutes solid. It helps that I watched it along with someone else who was every bit as enthusiastic towards it as I, and the result was a week worth of endless quoting and laughing at the hilarious writing and performances. This movie has everything you could ask from a B-movie parody: space aliens, killer mutants, science, a woman made up of 4 woodland creatures, science, meteors, an evil skeleton with magic powers, and science. This is the kind of ultra-underground comedy that could easily become a cult phenomenon, and if it does, I'll be there leading the charge.





49. Satantango (1994)
Directed by Bela Tarr



A 7-hour existential epic from Hungarian master filmmaker Bela Tarr. When I was making this list, I nearly missed out on including this film, largely due to the fact that it made me feel incredibly pretentious even considering including something like this on my list, but then I realized that in order to fully grasp my taste in film and represent my opinion as accurately as possible, putting this on my list was essential. With its incredible endless tracking shots, beautiful scenery, and meandering presentation, this is the kind of ambitious, ambiguous masterwork that I eat up like a person who eats a lot of movies like that. It took me close to a week to finish it (watching a movie this dense definitely takes some time to process completely) but as a complete experience, it was definitely among the best I've ever had with a film.





48. Do The Right Thing (1989)
Directed by Spike Lee



The first time I watched this movie (maybe 3-4 years back), I pretty much hated it. I thought it was the most racist movie I've ever seen (me never having watched Birth Of A Nation, of course), and thought the only memorable thing about it could be boiled down to "[blank actor] was really good". Watching it again not too long ago was like opening my eyes for the first time: the experience was vibrant and enlightening. Ever since re-watching this, I've been desperately seeking another film that can hit me in all the same ways as this did, but I am yet to find anything -- and I doubt I ever will. I really don't need to go into great detail about how fantastic this movie is, because the odds are you already know. I may not like Spike Lee, but that doesn't even matter to me when it comes to this movie.





47. 127 Hours (2010)
Directed by Danny Boyle



Yet another movie-watching experience that I will remember forever, or at least until I lose my memory of such things. Going to see 127 Hours in theaters was one of the best cinematic decisions I made for a long time, and is still one of the best I've ever seen on the big screen. Fantastically-shot, this movie finds a way to be both massive and claustrophobic, its brilliant cinematography edited together craftily and featuring one of the strongest performances I've ever seen, courtesy of James Franco. It's odd seeing a movie on such a large screen make you feel so small and helpless, but this film certainly managed to do that. Not to mention the near-finale sequence that makes my entire body go into convulsive spasms from pain and uncomfortability (that's a word, right?). This movie yanks me right out of my comfort zone and hurls me into a situation I'd never want to be in, but simply can't look away from.





46. Orpheus (1950)
Directed by Jean Cocteau



It's always odd to me going into a movie that I know I'm going to absolutely love, and walking away even more satisfied than I anticipated. There are very few examples of this that I can muster, and Orpheus is the one that especially stands out to me. To anyone who might not know, I have an affinity for black and white cinematography, films that feature spiritual elements, and crafty uses of special effects. In other words, it was pretty much obvious to me that I'd love this before I even started it. But what I didn't realize was just how much I would love it until I saw how brilliant Cocteau was in his use of some of the coolest effects I've ever seen in a classic film. It just blew me away, and I've been gushing about it ever since. One of the best films of the 1950s, easily.





45. Doubt (2008)
Directed by John Patrick Shanley



I mentioned just a moment ago my love for B&W, spirituality, and nifty special effects in movies, but one of my other main cinematic infatuations is with largely dialogue-based character studies. And what better modern(ish) example of that than Doubt? Watching this for the first time, I didn't quite realize just how many layers there were to this movie. I just shrugged it off and went on to the next '08 awards season contender and didn't bother giving it a second chance until about a year later, where I found myself liking it a little more. And then again after that. And again and again and again. Every re-watch peels back another layer, and just to watch the nuanced performances of its leads (especially Streep and Adams) is always worth giving it another go. This one seems to have been swept under the rug since shortly after its release, and I will never understand why.





44. The Night Of The Hunter (1955)
Directed by Charles Laughton



The fact that this was the one and only directorial effort by Charles Laughton will never cease to astound me. Had this film achieved commercial success upon initial release, he might very well have become one of the most incredible filmmakers of his time, and even still, the mark he made with this puts him in a class few other directors could even hope to be part of. Amplified by its eerie menace, stunning cinematography and art direction (the lighting in this movie is some of the best ever...wow, did I really just say that?), and one of the greatest performances/screen villains of all-time in Robert Mitchum's sinister Reverend Harry Powell, The Night Of The Hunter is simply unforgettable and only gets better with age. This is the greatest film Hitchcock never made.





43. The Cameraman (1928)
Directed by Edward Sedgwick & Buster Keaton



Though most would consider The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, Metropolis, The Battleship Potemkin, or The General the greatest of the 1920s, my personal favorite is that feature-length Keaton film that few people seem to ever talk about. Possibly the funniest and most emotionally-satisfying Keaton film, The Cameraman was just a delightful experience for me, through-and-through. Some scenes had me almost shouting at the screen in frustration, and others laughing to the point where I needed to pause it because my eyes were welling up with tears and I could no longer make out the images on the screen. It hits all the right notes, and keeps it simple. This is just a simple, but incredibly well-made film, and one that I would happily watch again and again.





42. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro



Alas, one of the most beautifully-made fantasy movies of all-time, and one of those rare foreign language films that manages to make its way into more mainstream circulation. Though the first time I ever watched this was...not a good experience (unless you'd consider sitting in a stinky trailer plucking chunks of your own burrito vomit out of a clogged sink a "good" experience), I still found myself mesmerized by its perfect balance of fantasy and dramatic war elements. I have since watched it several times, and while my disturbing memories remain, so does my appreciation for this incredible movie. Oh, and did I mention how fantastic Sergi Lopez was? And how amazing the make-up was on the Faun and the Pale Man? And how excellent the ending was, perfectly balancing (yet again) elements of fantasy and reality? And the set design? And the costume design? And the-- you know what? I'm just going to stop myself now.





41. The Shining (1980)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick



One of the all-time great horror films, and certainly one of the most layered. I recall reading for hours on end about all sorts of different theories surrounding this film (this was before the documentary Room 237 was released, and still not having see that, I don't know how/if many are similar to what I read), and seeing how many bizarre details and differences from the novel Kubrick intentionally inserted into this film just made me love it even more. Not to mention the fact that the entire movie has that "oh no, please don't go into another room, Jack, I'm afraid of what I might be forced to see" element, it makes me wonder why Kubrick didn't attempt more horror films: he made this one so well, I'm curious what else he might have produced. Iconic, unsettling, expertly-crafted, and one of the best Jack Nicholson vehicles ever made.
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