Sunday, July 11, 2010

Top 100 Movies of the Last 25 Years (1984-2009): Part 7

40. Die Hard - Forever cementing Bruce Willis' legacy and career, in 1988 the world was told to Die Hard. It is not often that you get an old-fashioned action thriller that is intelligent, thrilling, and well acted, but Die Hard showed the world that those three things are not mutually exclusive. More importantly, it became an instant movie classic, that has spawned a great series that has continued its high octane run, which is hard to do, as today, most series or sequels end up being mashed together and utter crap. If you ever need a good thrill just pop in this 1988 classic, and enjoy the ride.

39. Crash - In 2005 this dark movie about the race tensions of LA, shocked millions of viewers and every pundit in the book by stealing away the Best Picture prize from the controversial, yet beautiful Brokeback Mountain. While many are still fuming from that controversy, I still hold that Crash was one of the most realistic, gritty, and emotional movies of the last decade. The writing is well-done, and the incredible group of actors sells what could have been pat, into something emotional and real. More importantly, the connection between these people is real, as are their battles, and the message it sends us about tolerance is something all of us need a dose of.

38. As Good As It Gets - James L. Brooks has made some classics, for sure (as you will see below), and the streak continued in 1998, with this quirky little dramedy about a man who finds love in the strangest of places. This quirky little comedy rises above the masses through its zappy screenplay by Brooks, and of course the incredible performances. Helen Hunt is funny, and emotional, Greg Kinnear is perfect, but the real winner here is Jack Nicholson. His OCD character was played with gusto, care, and acting prowless, all of which earned him his third Oscar. A delictable treat for anyone looking for a good time, plus there is a cute dog.

37. Born on the Fourth of July - While we are in the midst of the new Vietnam, or Vietnams I should say, Stone's haunting, and somewhat disturbing look at the effects of war seem even more poignant and relevant than ever before. Stone's blatant liberalism might offend many people, but his blunt display of those beliefs make excellent points, and makes my liberal heart beat with pride. Stone isn't crazy, Stone is brilliant, and his excellent directing combined with a passionate performance from Tom Cruise, makes this 1990 classic shine bright, as fireworks on Independence Day.

36. Secrets & Lies - Mike Leigh constantly makes incredible movies, and apparently his newest, Another Year is nothing short of amazing. So it should be no shock that this 1996 stunner, which received five Oscar nominations made this list reserved only for the best. Once again, as it seems is the trend on this list, it is all about the script and the performances, and lucky for us, Mike Leigh never fails to write beautifully, and the winning performances, particularly Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Brenda Blethyn, and Timothy Spall. Also to note, Leslie Manville has a minor part as the Social Worker, of course she is now receiving major Oscar buzz for Another Year, just an interesting observation.

35. The Player - No best of list is complete without at least 2 Robert Altman films, maybe more. So since Godsford Park already graced the list, I had to make sure that this 1992 classic also made its debut. For those of us movie buffs, there is nothing better than an anti-Hollywood movie that is all about Hollywood, I think they call that irony. Once again, the script never gets lost in Altman's vision, as despite the plethura of talented actors, led by Tim Robbins, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Gallagher, and Sydney Pollack, and the story's coherence is always remarkable every time I watch. An entertaining, and brilliant entry into Altman's already loaded arsenal.  

34. Broadcast News - If As Good As It Gets continued the streak, then Broadcast News (combined with Terms of Endearment who was one year too old to make the list), helped start it. This smartly scripted dramedy play like a classic Brooks film, two individuals fighting, combined with some romance, and little humor, plays out so well that it managed seven Oscar nominations, sadly winning none, like many of the great films, some of which are on this list. The thing that really works here is the great actings, particualrly from the three leads, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, and William Hurt, who make this snappy script work to its highest potential.

33. Do The Right Thing - Spike Lee pulls at your anger, stirs up controversy, and does it with style and a no-apology attitude. More importantly, he usually is right on the money, and in 1989 he tackled the never-ending issue of race in a way that angered some, infuriated others, and made most of us cheer for someone finally tackling the sensitive issue of race head on. This well-written, well acted, and well done film takes us to the hottest day of the year, and the heat is really stemming from the smouldering tensions of race. The truth, and grittiness that spews from the screen takes us to the streets in a way that has yet to be repeated.

32. Sideways - In 2004, Alexander Payne addressed Rex Pickett's long wine-soaked journey through northern California, into one of the most devastating, and funny movies of the last quarter century. What really makes this movie soar though is the strong dialogue that develops four complex, intricate characters. Topping that off is the great performances. Sandra Oh is sexy and kick ass (literally), Virginia Madsen is radiating, airy, and brilliant, and Thomas Haden Church was surprisingly deep. But the real hero is the unsung Paul Giamatti whose Miles is devastatingly funny and sad, and is so well played. The biggest Oscar snub of the last decade for sure.

31. Up in the Air - The move that will be remembered as the defining moment of 2009, combining comedy, quirkiness, love, and the economic meltdown all in a short period of time. While it didn't win any Oscars (a true travesty), Up in the Air will forever be remembered for its incredible performances, its zippy script, and its ending that still leaves us...well....Up in the Air. For me the true talent here was Vera Farmiga who brought a soulfulness and sexiness to her character, but Anna Kendrick and George Clooney were award worthy themselves. An incredible ride.

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