Monday, June 20, 2011

Top 100 Films of the Last 50 Years (1960-2010): Part III

80. Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003 & 2004) - I know these are two separate films, but if you want a real cinematic experience I suggest that you watch both films back to back, and soak in Tarantino's epic martial-arts classic in all its glory and blood. Utilizing his signature style, Tarantino's Kill Bill saga is filled with mountains of witty dialogue, then accentuated with mad frenzies of violence and gore, a style that has made him one of a kind, and made these films thoroughly entertaining. The real revelation here however is not Tarantino, but Uma Thurman. Her masterful performance was not only physically demanding, but also reached new heights of emotional control that few actors could pull off with the ease and badassness (I know its not a word, but it fits) that Thurman did.

79. Election (1999) - In 1999, Alexander Payne set the tone of what has been a wonderful career, with this 1999 biting high school comedy. Unlike most high school comedies which are either completely moronic, or completely driven by sex, Payne and his partner in crime Jim Taylor, instead made it show the competitive side of high school elections and the importance of popularity in high school, in a sharp way. Particularly incredible is the star-making performance of Reese Witherspoon. As vengeful Tracy Flick, Witherspoon not only launched her successful acting career, but solidified herself as a full-fledged comedian, creating an overly competitive, vindicative high school brat, who is seen in every highschool, and in every graduating class across the country.

78. West Side Story (1961) - I'll be completely honest with ya'll, this has never been as good as some people claim it to be, and some of the racist overtones bother me. So I guess your wondering then: why is it on this list. Well, just because I don't think it is the greatest film of all time, doesn't mean it is not still a wonderful cinematic achievement, and is definitely worth being on this list, just maybe not as high as some of you think it should be. The wonderful performances, the toe-tapping musical numbers, and the incredible production team that pulled this all together is why today this is considered one of the greatest film musicals of all time.

77. The King's Speech (2010) - Before the blogging world went into an anti-King's Speech frenzy in the aftermath of the PGA awards this season, the critics and audiences around the world were standing up and cheering for this inspirational film about a group of three individuals who roused a nation and a world to defeat tyranny. In my initial review, The King's Speech got a B+, but since my first viewing I have seen the film many times, and everytime I do it continues to grow on me, I began to love the characters even more than before, and truly appreciate the emotion it exudes. A combination of a witty, yet powerful script, and a jaw-dropping cast, especially Academy Award winner Colin Firth, make this recent film a new and lasting classic, no matter what the haters say.

76. Memento (2000) - Before his box-office success of Inception, Christopher Nolan was bending our minds, and bending the rules of storyline and trajectory in film with his mind-bending cult classic thriller, Memento. By jumping back and forth in the storyline, and ending somewhere in the middle (a style now utlized a lot, ex. Damages), Nolan kept viewers in the lurch, and more importantly kept them glued to the screen with puzzling looks of enjoyment and confusion, aka, he made the audience think, a novel idea which lately seems to be going out of style. Featuring great performances from Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss, Memento was an incredible start to what has become a one-of-a-kind career for the great Christopher Nolan.

75. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) - This film is loved by many, but definitely has its detractors. But for me, the combined talents of Truman Capote, Audrey Hepburn, and Blake Edwards, was nothing short of comedic heaven. Breakfast at Tiffany's is a hilarious look at love set in the greatest city in the world. It is a class act, and like a jazz solo it flows through its frames at a whimsical place, and between the sights and the sounds, you simply get lost in its story. The real stunner here was, of course, Audrey Hepburn, who not only looks fantastic, but helped to create Holly Golightly, one of the greatest cinematic characters of the last half-century.

74. Nashville (1975)- I have said it many times, but so many people try to make films with large, far-reaching casts, but only Robert Altman managed to do so in a way that worked every single time he stepped behind the camera, and this 1975 political classic was no exception. Featuring a plethora of amazing performances from the likes of Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Ned Beatty, Shelley Duvall and many others, Nashville is the pitch-perfect definition of how star power can be deftly combined to create an incredible piece of cinematic achievement. The real achievement comes from the fact that each character gets its due, that each story interconnects, and that in the end it is not about a poltical convention or music or anything else other than the drama that ensues from basic human relationships.

73. The French Connection (1971) - William Friedkin's 1971 crime classic The French Connection was awarded with five Oscars including Best Picture, and today remains one of the best films of the 1970's. A gritty, realistic look at drug smuggling, it became a blueprint for great crime films for years to come. An incredible set of performances including Roy Scheider, Gene Hackman, and Fernando Rey, as well as the rest of the cast, plus one of the greatest car chase scenes ever filmed in cinema history, make The French Connection a film that is entertaining, and extremely well-made. While its sequel, French Connection II, was a dud compared to its predecessor, at least we have this initiating gem to still remember.

72. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) - In 1969, the team of George Roy Hill, Paul Newman and Robert Redford teamed up to created one of the greatest westerns of all time, the infamous Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. With rollicking good action sequences, a pair of winning lead performances, Butch Cassidy is one hell of ride, from its opening frame to its last. It's script is chocked full of great lines, and to this day it remains one of the most beautifully shot movies thanks to the wonderful cinematography work of the late, great Conrad L. Hall, who won an Oscar for his work. If you are looking for a good ole time, pop in this film and see what a classic western looks like in all its glory.

71. The Exorcist (1973) - This is seriously one of the scariest films that has ever been created. When Regan's head spins around and spits out pea soup, I still jump out of my seat and close my eyes, and I've seen the film enough times to know when its coming. But The Exorcist doesn't make this list because it is scary, there are plenty of scary films. Instead it makes the list, because it rises above so many of the crappy horror films that grace the multiplex, by not only being scary, but smart, well-written, well-acted, and extremely well put together. William Friedkin is a legend (See The French Connection above), and the mood, the cinematography, and the fear that exudes from the screen is proof of that. It doesn't hurt that it has an incredible cast including Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sydow. Many sequels, and spin-offs have come out since 1973, but it is always safe to go back to the original.

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