Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Top 50 Favorite Movies Part 2

Alright, this post will cover numbers 31-40 of my 50 favorite films. Enjoy.


#40. Rubber (2010)

I've often said that, for better or for worse, if I were to write and direct a full-length film it would probably be a lot like Rubber. This off-beat French comedy-horror about a killer tire with psychic powers is weird, disjointed, and really kind of stupid. Many elements don't make much sense at all, but it's pretty apparent that this detachment from reality is deliberate (I mean, how seriously can a movie about a killer tire really take itself). This isn't the same kind of unrealistic twist you get in a lot of comedies where things are just comically exaggerated, it's something else entirely. Anyhow, it's a wonderfully original effort, which is something I really prize in a movie. I feel like this is one that most people wouldn't like, but I thoroughly enjoy it. Besides, it's my list and I don't care what people say about it. So yeah, take that, imaginary critics.

#39. The Wrestler (2008)

Mickey Rourke's portrayal of a broken, aging pro wrestler trying to piece together the remains of his life and capture one last moment of glory is one of the most brilliant screen performances I have ever seen. He is so genuinely damaged and vulnerable that you can't help getting in his corner, yet he carries himself with the strength and pride and good humor of an epic Greek hero enduring a string of trials. The movie as a whole is good, but as with several others on this list, The Wrestler is carried on the stout shoulders of a phenomenal leading performance that makes every other aspect of the film pale in comparison. I personally consider this the greatest acting performance ever to be robbed at the Academy Awards, since it was well-known enough to get nominated, but they elected to give the little golden man to Sean Penn for the Oscar-bait Milk instead.


#38. Delicatessen (1991)

Here's another French comedy-horror. This time it's an atmospheric number set in a butcher shop/apartment building in some undefined post-apocalyptic future. I'll assume most of you can see where this is going. Anyway, it's got an unusual feel that I really enjoy, sort of the film equivalent of standing at a lonely intersection in an old town at night in the fog under a yellow street lamp. During a nuclear winter. While dressed like a carney from the 1920s. On a Thursday. Outside of the atmosphere, what I really appreciate is that its black sense of humor is just goofy enough to make itself evident without being so smack-you-in-the-face-obvious that it loses all trace of subtlety. This is also one of the few movies to capture that weird Gilliam-esque quality which I'll fail to explain in just a minute (spoiler alert).


#37.Pan's Labyrith (2006)

I consider this one of the best things to emerge from the modern wave of fantasy films. Oddly, though, I actually find the fantasy elements to be the less compelling aspects of the movie. Rather than serving as the driving force, they are instead a way for one little girl to escape (either physically or psychologically) from the brutal Spanish captain who has married her mother. Sergi López is a powerhouse in that antagonistic role, so while the darkly beautiful visual style is the most noted element of the film, López is what really moves the plot and gives the movie life. In particular, the scene where his soldiers bring him two men they captured near the fort is truly intense. Oddly, it took me about 3 or 4 attempts before I was able to watch Pan's Labyrinth all the way through, because every time I tried I was sick, or exhausted, or stuck in an awful fish-smelling trailer that taught me never to let my best friend book travel accommodations.


#36. Brazil (1985)

One of the greatest dystopian films ever made, Terry Gilliam's bizarre masterpiece set in an Orwellian society choked by paperwork and oppressive bureaucracy is both stylish and effective. This is another one that incorporates fantasy elements as an escape, in the form of a weird recurring dream that looks like a David Bowie music video, and yet again I find that aspect of the movie less interesting than the "real world" in which the film is set. As is often true with Gilliam, there's a tangible physicality to the strange settings that gives the whole affair a decidedly unpolished, unnatural, almost cartoonish feel while simultaneously seeming far more real than any slick Hollywood production. It's a hard effect to explain, and it must be even harder to capture because he seems to be the only person who can consistently do it.

Fun fact: The late great Roger Ebert is the only critic with a negative review of Brazil on Rotten Tomatoes, and he seems to have been the only major critic to  ever openly dislike the film.


#35. Paranormal Activity (2007)

I know a lot of people hate these found footage horror films, but I don't give a crap what they think. I like them, and I have for years. Admittedly, the string of increasingly uninteresting sequels has somewhat marred the stature of the Paranormal Activity franchise, but as a lone film the original was one of the most effective movies of its kind. This is the only movie made in the past ten years that I would personally call a great horror film, even if the Spielberg-suggested theatrical ending was a bit on the dumb, generic side. Regardless, watching it in theaters was a truly memorable experience.


#34. Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The role that will forever define Anthony Hopkins, Hannibal Lecter stands as one of the great villains in film history. Ironic, considering the fact that he isn't even the real villain in his own movie. Really, though, this is a film I have nothing but praise for on every front. It's well written, well acted, well structured, well shot, well crap why didn't I put this higher? This slab of darkness and suspense suits my tastes perfectly.

And in case a certain somebody I know brings it up, no. Featuring Jodie Foster is not a strike against this.


#33. The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

In 2001, the modern craze of high fantasy films had not yet hit. There were some scattered made-for-TV productions and a few animated movies, but large-scale productions had not stepped into the ring (nyuk nyuk). Then Peter Jackson changed everything with one of the most colossal epics to ever hit the screen. Excellent costume and set design, massive vistas over beautiful landscapes, and perfect use of CGI all helped put this project on a new level in terms of fantasy films. The first entry in the trilogy had by far the most lasting impact on me, in part because it was the first time I'd ever seen anything like this. Also, when the Balrog first appeared on screen, it was one of the coolest moments in my theater-going life. Over the past decade plus, legions of imitators have emerged, but for my money none of them have some close to the grand sweeping spectacle of The Fellowship of the Ring.


#32.Ed Wood (1994)

Despite their relative absence from this list, I have on numerous occasions expressed my affinity for movies that are so bad they're good. Combine that with the fact that I've been watching Bela Lugosi movies since I was a kid, and you have a perfect recipe for an Ed Wood appreciator. This loving tribute to the cross-dressing king of crap, quite easily the best film of Tim Burton's career, is wonderful viewing for anybody with an interest in the subject matter. It probably helps to have seen some of Ed Wood's movies beforehand, but it's not required. Also, Martin Landau is so perfect as the elderly Bela Lugosi that the movie would be worth watching just for him, even if the rest of it were bad. Which it isn't. It's good. Watch it.


#31. The Exorcist (1973)

Universally accepted as one of the greatest horror films of all time, The Exorcist is essential viewing for anybody with even a passing interest in the horror genre. I'm not going to dwell on it much, because everything there is to say has already been said. One thing I can't help wondering is what it would have been like to see this when it was new. Nothing else in the mass market had ever taken pure shock value this far, so today's viewers will likely never be able to appreciate the impact this film had upon release. It elevated horror movies to a new level, and in many respects it has never been equaled.


That's it for Part 2. Join me tomorrow for Part 3. Same bat-time, same bat-channel.

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