Monday, June 20, 2011
Top 100 Films of the Last 50 Years (1960-2010): Part III
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.
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.
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.