Sunday, 30 September 2012

My Top 30 Films Part 2: The Top 10

And so, the circle is complete. I am now ready to make my top 10 films a matter of public record, ripe for judgement/identification/confusion/praise/complaint/indifference.

But how does a fan choose just ten movies?
Good question! Back in June when I compiled part one ( of this list, detailing numbers 30-11, I felt less pressure with regards to baring my cinematic soul. But, now, this is the top ten damn it! These films must really deserve it!

So I will go with my heart...

As for those that have come into my life of late must settle for honorable mention. Commiserations to The Apartment (1960), The Leopard (1963), Raging Bull (1980), and Moonrise Kingdom (2012), for I fell in love with you all too recently for inclusion in my immortal list just yet.

Yes, these 10 films made a man, a fan, and a filmmaker out of me. And here they are:

The Wrestler (2008)
Dir: Darren Aronofski
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marissa Tomei, Even Rachel Wood

What it is: A candid, natural looking tale of the sad anti-climax ending the career of a once legendary professional wrestler who has wound up doing minimal attendance shows for scant cash in his elder years.

Why its great: The low-key visual style and restrained script only lend further to the beauty of the actors performances and the savage  elegance of the violence of the ring. From drinking revelations regarding Kurt Cobain to a father-daughter dance, there are scenes (inside of the ring and out) that you won't soon forget.

Favourite Moment: Randy "The Ram" struts to the ring for his final match as "Sweet Child O'Mine" blasts the speakers and an American flag drapes proudly over the entrance ramp. Epic stuff.

8 1/2
Dir: Federico Fellini
Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee

What it is: Arguably the definitive "foreign film", this baffling account of a film director in existential crisis is as "atrsy" as they get. Filmmaker Guido seeks exile, lust, cocktail, parties, and relief from despair as he plans his next (and totally doomed form the start) film.

Why it's great: Simply put, it may be the greatest film ever made. It's montages are the stuff of Soviet cinema and its neurotic characters suffer from the kind of poetic introspection that would make Woody Allen's head spin. This is a chaotically funny film about sex, drugs, and the elite that never loses it's connection with our tortured protagonist. The ultimate daydreamer's film.

Favourite moment: During a dreary film screening for his new project, Guido's muse and true love (played by the gorgeous Claudia Cardinale) shows up to save his soul. Their subsequent rendez-vous is unforgettable.

Fight Club (1999)

Dir: David Fincher
Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto

What it is: The Darling of Generation X for now and forever. This robust urban commentary follows a lonely insomniac who, along with his mysterious and prophetic new friend/housemate Tyler, founds an underground club in which frustrated local men can take each other on in combat.

Why it's great:  Most film fans don't even have to ask at this point. It may be heavy handed drudgery at certain points but there is nothing that Fight Club is afraid to say. Gang mentality, homosexuality, suicide, masculinity, loneliness, career, and even terrorism: Fight Club says it all.

Favourite moment: It has to be that initial march into the basement under Lou's Tavern, set to Tom Wait's "Goin' out West". "It was on the tip of everybody's tongue, Tyler and I just gave it a name".

Taxi Driver (1976)

Dir: Martin Scorcese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepard, Albert Brooks

What it is: The definitive urban movie, the most famous Robert De Niro quote, and one of the signature films of the 1970s. Th plot follows a lonely taxi driver who, having failed to woo the woman of his dreams, descends into morbid fantasy and befriends a savvy young prostitute.

Why it's Great: The portrayal of new york city as a dystopian hell is one of the best examples of cinematic craft setting a tone. That, and the outstanding script from Paul Schrader simply gives the wonderful Mr. De Niro one great scene after the next.

Favourite Moment: We'll take the "are you talkin' to me?" line as a given. How about "you're in hell, and you're gonna die like the rest of them?!"

Goodfellas (1990)

Dir. Martin Scorsese
Starring: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvini

What it is: Biography of young hood turned mob aficionado Henry Hill, based on his biography. Follow Henry's rise, fall, and personal life as he and America ages. If The Godfather is the grandest mob epic, then Goodfellas is certainly the coolest.

Why it's great: I must confess, I have watched this film to death at this point. The film is a one-trip film school. Whilst every shot and technique is flawless, the cast (especially Jor Pesci) too are picture perfect. Or, to quote EMPIRE: "Goodfellas is good for the script, the cut, and Joe Pesci."

Favourite Moment: Without question Joe Pesci's "funny how?' rant. Best improvisation in film history? Particularly "I worry about you Henry. You may fold under questioning!" Amazing!

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Dir: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Max Von Sydow, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Bibi Anderson

What it is: An art film musing on the nuclear crisis of the 1950s. This metaphoric film follows a knight that has returned from the crusades only to find himself dying of the plague. He attempts to make a deal with death himself: a chess match, if he loses his life will end.

Why it's great: This is it. The art film. This is the musing on being, fear, faith, and innocence that every other art film is searching for. Bergman's gothic black and white style, along with his stellar cast, brings every scene to life in both terrifying and beautiful ways; ways that are at once happy and tragic.

Favourite Moment: The opening sequences on the beach. It may be the greatest opening scene ever.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Staring: Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier

What it is: A sweeping, allegorical, capitalist monster movie. The plot surrounds the ruthless Daniel Plainview, a self-professed "oil man" who is tipped off about an ocean of oil lying beneath the ground of Little Boston. He, his son and business partner descend on the town to make their fortune. Only the religious fanatic Eli Sunday opposes Daniel's ideals.

Why it's great: How can a film that begins with a man mercilessly hacking at a stone wall in search of a diamond and ending with the statement "I'm finished!" not be an dialectic on capitalism?! Industrialization vs religion,  man vs business, modern disconnection, everything is dissected here in elegant abundance. And, then there is Daniel Day Lewis...

Favourite moment:  Oh, come on, you know it's the final scene. It was based on a speech by a US senator by the wasn't pointless....not in the least....

Once Upon A Time in the West (1968)

Dir: Sergio Leone
Starring: Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards

What it is: A greedy businessman hires the murderous gunslinger Frank to help him seize a railroad fortune, but incurs the wrath of a roguish thief, a savvy femme fetale, and a mysterious loner with a harmonica.

Why its great: What a film for a film student. Every zoom, pan, montage timed to perfection. This may well be the most shamelessly filmic movie that I know...and I love it.

Favourite moment: The final confrontation between Frank and Harmonica is a five minute film school.

Nosferatu (1922)

Dir: FW Murnau
Staring: Max Shrek, Gustav Von Wangenheim, Greta Scroeder

What it is: The definitive expressionist horror. A gothic tale of a young Hutter, a real estate agent who travels to close a deal with the reclusive Count Orlok. It is rather obvious that Count Orlok is a vampire. When Orlok takes a liking to Hutters young wife, Ellen, Hutter must race against time to save his wife's soul from damnation.

Why it's great: The best atmosphere in an early horror. The best freeze-frame per scene potential of any expressionist horrors. In an era of icons, this film has endured the longest and shone the brightest. It is hard to find a modern over which Nosferatu has not cast it's spell. (note: Herzog's remake was a brave effort).

Favourite Moment: From across the street, through a paned window, Orlok glares at Helen longingly in one of horrors creepiest shots...




Nashville (1975)

Dir: Robert Altman
Starring: Henry Gibson, Keith Carradine, Ronee Blakely, Jeff Goldblum and about 20 more

What it is: Haven't heard of it? It's only the film that had 25 lead characters, an hour of live music sequences, a political assassination, and much Watergate angst. The idea is simple, 25 lost souls come together in the country music capital of the world for 3 days of love, lies, music, and death American style.

Why it's great: I never intended to have a favourite film, and I did not go into this film expecting to foster a lifelong obsession. These things just happen. It helps that the soundtrack is ace and that the characters ("Cut your hair, boy. You don't belong in Nashville") make me laugh out loud. It has my favourite romantic, Henry Gibson's best character, and Jeff Goldblum's first major role. C'mon, you have to see it!

Favourite moment: Having built the sexual tension between them over the course of the film, perpetual womanizer Tom Frank finally shows weakness. He invites the married, middle-aged Linnea to his show and sings directly to her, wooing her with the Oscar-winning song "I'm Easy." You don't want to miss the awkward post-sex scene that follows!
Incidentally, the actor playing Tom Frank, Keith Carradine (you have seen him in Dexter!), wrote "I'm Easy" himself, with the intent of seducing a co-star in one of his previous projects.


Well, that about does her, wraps her up....

I don't know about you, but I sure do feel like I know me better now. Hope you enjoyed judging!

Thanks for reading!