Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Top 50 Favorite Movies: Part II (#40-31)

Miss my #50-41 post and you're too lazy to scroll down? Then you're in luck! Click here and I promise I won't link you to anything dark and evil.

40. Team America: World Police (2004)
Directed by Trey Parker

Yes, that's right. One of the most clever political films ever made, and it's done with puppets by the guys who made South Park. I can't say I was too enthralled with this movie on more than a superficial level the first time I watched it (it is a little difficult to take seriously at times, with its obvious stupidity and seemingly dumbed-down approach to things), but it really is one of the sharpest, most biting satires ever made. It doesn't shy away from anything, attacking every country, every political view, every celebrity; everything. It leaves no stones un-turned, and provides laughs and memorable quotes throughout. Not to mention the fact that it features the greatest sex scene of all-time.

39. Hard Boiled (1992)
Directed by John Woo

Initially, I preferred John Woo's The Killer over this one. Then I watched them both again, and was blown away by the dynamics of this film and how well-orchestrated the violence was. Sure, The Killer came first and had slightly better chemistry between its leads, but the overall quality and enjoyability of Hard Boiled has been matched by so few action movies, you could count them on one hand. And the mere presence of Chow Yun-fat is enough to make any action movie at least 50% better. Maybe 60%, actually. My point is that he is one of the great action stars, and here he's at the top of his game.

38. Cairo Station (1958)
Directed by Youssef Chahine

Now here is a movie that, by some hideous miracle, hasn't received even a small fraction of the attention it deserves. A perfect blend of comedy, drama, horror, suspense, and social commentary. At times it even feels (and even plays out) somewhat like a slasher film. Chahine's acting and directorial debut, and he's incredibly impressive on both counts. This is one of the few Egyptian films that I've seen, and if it's any reflection of their cinema, I definitely need to see more. But no matter how hard I look, I can't find another movie like it. And believe me, I've tried. I don't remember how I discovered it, but I can't stress how glad I am that I did, and I've been recommending it to perfect strangers ever since. Which reminds me; hey perfect stranger, watch this.

37. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Before I begin, I would like to first make it clear that I find Tarantino to be extremely annoying. His whole demeanor is repugnant, and 90% of his material is ripped from the pages of other peoples' imagination, and I truly feel he doesn't deserve half the praise he receives. That being said, this is movie is a good-sized portion of why he deserves that other 50% of praise. Like many of the films on this list, it took a re-watch for me to decide that I thought it was great. Funny, clever, iconic, and one of the few truly original films to ever come from Tarantino. The way the story is unfolded is just great, presenting itself in a decidedly non-linear fashion, which really heightens the whole experience. The performances are all great, especially Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield, who's in the running for my favorite screen character of all-time.

36. The Dark Knight (2008)
Directed by Christopher Nolan

Another one of the best action movies ever made. As much as I enjoyed Batman Begins and tolerated The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan really hit his stride with the Caped Crusader right in the middle with this movie. All the right elements came into play at once, and the result has changed the superhero genre ever since. Although I find everything about Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance/character extremely annoying, not even she could deaden the effect of this incredible film. Though I have since grown tired of the need to make every superhero movie dark and brooding, the way Nolan handles it here was fresh, potent, and simply unmatched by anything else. The music is incredible, the action scenes are awesome, and Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker is an instant classic and easily the best performance in a Hollywood blockbuster I've ever seen.

35. Monty Python's Life Of Brian (1979)
Directed by Terry Jones

Though specific moments of Holy Grail are funnier and more iconic, the overall effect and brilliance of Life Of Brian has left a much stronger impression on me over the years. As a Christian (but not a very "good" one), this movie really clicked with me in how it portrays religious zealotry in the time of Christ without ever making Jesus himself the center of all the jokes. And being a fan of Monty Python (then again, who isn't a fan?), seeing their humor focused in on one topic is always interesting to me: especially a topic they clearly knew how to handle. A great satire of religion and blind fanaticism that can frequently follow along with it. Great performances, fantastic writing, and one of the best endings I've ever seen. In my younger and more vulnerable years I may have preferred Holy Grail, but I'm a Life Of Brian man from here on out.

34. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

When I mentioned earlier that Team America was one of the best political satires of all-time, the reason I avoided saying it was "the" best is because of this movie. I first saw this movie when I was far too young to even begin to comprehend what it was about, or the subtle brilliance in which it was handled, but as I get older and (slightly) less naive, every re-watch of this film has something new to offer, making each individual experience with it a memorable one. Featuring 6 of the best comedic performances of the 1960s - three of which provided by Peter Sellers - and one of the most bizarre yet hilarious endings ever put to film, this is definitely the political satire to end all political satires. Just as The Shining made me feel about Kubrick making more horror films, this movie makes me wish he'd made more comedies as well.

33. Drive (2011)
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Guess what? I wasn't too impressed with this movie when I first saw it. That's right, almost every movie on this list required a re-watch for me to call a favorite, but isn't that was a favorite really should be -- a movie you can return to again and again and always find enjoyment out of? If so, that's exactly what I found here. Probably the most accessible Refn film you will find and certainly the most artistically-subdued, this movie is at the pinnacle of neo-noir. It finds a way to balance being touching and sweet with bleak, cold darkness, and I love every second of it. Gosling, Brooks, Mulligan, Cranston, Isaac: everyone was just great. When I first saw it, I was a bit taken aback by its '80s flair, but now I love it. It's almost impossible to get the music out of my head for days after watching it. In fact, there it goes again...

32. The Elephant Man (1980)
Directed by David Lynch

If you're one of those strange people out there who still has the smallest shred of faith in humanity, all you need to do is watch this movie and you can join the rest of us in perpetual cynicism, because it is all but impossible to sit through this film without walking away feeling anything but hatred and disgust towards the human race. A roller coaster of emotions anchored by John Hurt in one of the finest performances of the 1980s. This isn't a very "fun" movie to watch, but it's difficult to look away from, and emotionally satisfying in pretty much every way possible. It's weird to know that David Lynch has directed one of the greatest biographical dramas of all-time, but the way he handled this film was dignified, graceful, and thoroughly beautiful. I will admit the ending of this movie has made me cry every time I've watched it; but I assure you, they were manly tears.

31. Les Vampires (1915)
Directed by Louis Feuillade

I only just watched this film (serial) for the first time not too long ago, but it was one of the most interesting things I've ever seen. I've had a difficult time getting it out of my mind ever since, so at least for the moment, I consider it a favorite. Made nearly 100 years ago and clocking in at roughly 7 hours, one of the most interesting things about watching this film (serial) was seeing how violent, depraved, and completely original it was. Nearly 50 years before audiences were shocked by the violence in Hitchcock's Psycho, we have this murder-fueled crime epic that pulls relatively few punches when it comes to showing killings on-screen. I was transfixed: I couldn't look away. Packed with violence, betrayal, and intricate plot developments, this film (serial) has aged surprisingly well and is certainly among the best things I've ever seen put on film.

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