Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Top 50 Favorite Movies Part 3

Part 3. Movies 21-30. Yay!


#30. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Like I said, I really enjoy found footage horror films. This may not have been the first entry into the genre, but it blew the doors open and changed the face of horror in a way that few films ever have. More importantly, it's a movie that demonstrated an understanding of subtlety. So many horror films try to smash you in the face with buckets of blood and gore and monsters, ignoring the power of the unknown. I've heard a few people complain that they don't really go out and "show anything" in this movie, but if I'm being honest I tend to think of that as a very simple-minded complaint. Maybe I'm just being mean to people who disagree with me, but that's what I think.


#29. No Country for Old Men (2007)

The dark, modern western that put Javier Bardem on the map, this is just one of the several Coen Brothers movies I love. It's shot wonderfully, and the whole affair is bleak and low key in a way that really enhances the rugged, brutal nature of the characters and story. Jones and Brolin both give compelling performances as honest and well-realized characters, though they tend to be obscured by the fact that Bardem's ominous shadow looms over every aspect of the film. This one is recent enough and high-profile enough that I assume most American adults are familiar with it. If you're not then you ought to go over and introduce yourself.

#28. Oldboy (2003)

Don't get lured in by the new (and painfully unnecessary) American remake. Go watch the Korean original. It's powerful, visceral, stylized, and compelling. You will have to be okay with reading your movies, and be warned that this film is an exercise in gruesome, hyper-violent excess. The former doesn't bother me, and the latter is awesome in my book. I loved it.


#27.Drive (2011)

Here's another dark, violent, stylish film. Seems to be a bit of a trend today, doesn't it? Director Nicolas Winding Refn is responsible for several movies in this vein, of which Drive is one of the best. The thing I always remember when I think about this film is the story I read shortly after it came out about a woman (in Minnesota, I believe) who attempted to sue the producers for comething like $100,000 because the trailer had lead her to expect a movie like The Fast and the Furious. Not only is that a crushingly stupid thing to sue over, but I also think she should have been happy that the trailers tricked her into watching a vastly superior movie.


#26. Waking Ned Devine (1998)

From the bleak city streets to the charming Irish countryside, Waking Ned Devine is a total change of pace. This lighthearted comedy about a small village trying to scam the Irish lottery is warm, uplifting, and at times deeply touching. It also features the only movie soundtrack that I liked well enough to actually go buy on its own. Funnily enough, this is a movie I've seen so many times for so many years that at a younger age I would probably have just groaned and rolled my eyes at the suggestion that it would one day be one of my favorite films. Now, though, it's not only an enjoyable viewing experience, it's also a nostalgia trip that I associate so strongly with my dad that it serves as an effective ward against the occasional onset of homesickness. I also have a personal unproven theory that this film was at least a partial send-up to the late Ned Maddrell, the last native speaker of the Manx language.


#25.Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Probably the best political satire of the Cold War ever filmed,
Dr. Strangelove is also notable for having one of the best known and most pointless alternative titles in movie history. The excellent Peter Sellers, in his array of diverse and wildly entertaining roles, is generally the focus of the praise this film receives. Personally, though, I've always thought that the unhinged performance from George C. Scott stood out the most. For those of you who haven't seen it, just try to imagine that General Patton had lost what few shreds of balance and reason he had left. Yeah. It's pretty hilarious, and Scott pulls it off in a way that few actors could. He was somewhat famously displeased with the result, because director Stanley Kubrick had instructed Scott to do one "over the top" take of nearly every scene, and in the editing room he invariably used those takes. This isn't the only instance of Kubrick taking the nature of the finished work out of his actors' hands, as he was a notorious control freak. In this instance I can't say for sure what a more subdued performance would have looked like, but I can say that I'm glad Kubrick didn't let it happen.


#24.Valhalla Rising (2009)

Another Nicolas Winding Refn movie, Valhalla Rising captures the bleak chill of northern Europe is a stunningly natural, organic way. It has its strangely stylized moments, but most of the film is strikingly quiet and bare, with just a few rugged men silently occupying a gorgeous but forbidding landscape. There is minimal dialogue, and on the surface there isn't much of a story, but there are strong themes at work. The maddening effects of isolation, the driving power of religious zealotry, the primal force of the old ways conflicting with the order of the new: there's tons of room to get really pretentious when discussing this movie. It never smacks you in the face with any of this, though, and the movie is worth watching for the aesthetic alone if you're interested in the rugged men of the ancient north.


#23.Trollhunter (2010)

This movie is an amalgamation of several things I love. Set in Norway and featuring some beautiful views of the country, it appeals to my fascination with Scandinavia. The trolls, in all their shapes and sizes, appeal to my love of fantasy. And to top it all off, it's shot as a found footage film. If you like Cloverfield and you ever wondered what would happen if it raised a baby in the Norwegian countryside, this is your answer. Yet again, you'll have to be okay with reading your movies (or dealing with an English dub, though I shudder to suggest it). If that's not a problem, though, then I'd recommend this. Rarely so I assume that other people will like something just because I do, but for some reason this is a movie I find myself trying to push on people all the time.


#22.Nosferatu (1922)

If ever there was a clear case of devolution in film, it's the vampire movie. Over 90 years ago, German director F. W. Murnau gave us the silent classic that began it all, and today we've gone from that chilling Gothic terror to sparkly teenagers making out in the cafeteria. The alien atmosphere found in old silent films, given the truly different world they emerged from, is something that no contemporary work can imitate. Perhaps that is why silent films about darker subjects seem to age so well. Additionally, the performance by Max Schreck as the ghoulish Count Orlok was so effective and tackled with such total immersion that it famously gave birth to the rumor amongst members of the crew that he was an actual real-life vampire. You show me one other time something like that has happened on a film set.


#21.The Big Lebowski (1998)

No critiques or analysis on this one. This Coen Brothers comedy is just ridiculously entertaining and quotable, and it's one of the few movies I can watch any time any place and always be in the right mood to enjoy it. It's taken on something of a cult status, which is totally understandable in my opinion. It's a lot of fun, and if you disagree then obviously you're not a golfer.


That's it for now, Part 4 coming soon to a theater near you.

I'd also like to note, this is my 500th post. Whoop whoop!


  1. Blair Witch is incredible. You're right to say that people who complain about not seeing it are simple-minded.

    I fucking love No Country for Old Men and Valhalla Rising, because, as I said in an earlier comment: highly visual + morally ambiguous + loads of tension = gold.

    I'm wondering where the animation is on your list. If I were to make one, I would certainly include at least one Hayao Miyazaki film (Spirited Away) and I'd seriously consider a nod to Pixar.

  2. I almost included Finding Nemo, and I considered both The Black Cauldron and Wizards. In the end, though, none of those animated films quite made the cut.

    As for Miyazaki, I'm probably the only person alive with an active interest in foreign films who has never seen a single one of his movies.

  3. You should see Spirited Away. It's like a Japanese Alice in Wonderland, but with a far better story.