I took a break from this series because of all the Emmy hype. But now that the dust has settled for a while, here we go again!
59. City of God (2002) - Fernando Meirelles rightfully earned a Best Director nomination, and if there had been any mercy this visceral and gritty drama about the drug world of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, would have gotten a nod for the big prize as well (particularly over Master and Commander and Seabiscuit). And while it didn't get the nod, the recognition of Meirelles was definitely deserved. His treatment of diverting stories, capturing the plight and violence of a third world slum, and creating engaging characters, was nothing less than stunning. City of God is raw and emotional, and should be studied in film school for its beautiful cinematography, and its belief that sometimes simply shooting reality can be the most effective portrayal.
57. Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963) - In 2009, Rob Marshall took an incredibly talented cast, a stunning set of songs, and some mean looking sets, and completely destroyed such a promising film on paper with a muddled script that reduced talented actresses to cameos. But in 1963, an incredible Italian director by the name of Federico Fellini, originiated this story about Guido, a film director who utilizes the women in his life to not only save his movie, but his marriage as well. Unlike Rob Marshall however, Fellini's tale was impeccably written, beautifully flowing like an Italian opera, or the Italian countryside as you drive through it. More importantly, it shows how artists sometimes can become completely consumed by their works, and that even good men sometimes go a stray. With stunning performances, beautiful cinematography, and a storyline that cuts nothing short, 8 1/2 shows us in the modern times how entertaining movies can be done right.
56. Mean Streets (1973) - Don't get me wrong, Scorsese has grown so much as a director since this second outing. But in 1973, Mean Streets set the tone for what has become one of the most successful careers in Hollywood. Yes, the script at times was a little too long, and it had its moments of boredom, but when it hits the high notes, you completely forget about its flaws. It is raw and emotional, and Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, and others bring their A-game to this top-notch crime thriller. It is also chocked full of popular music of the time, and is beautifully shot. But it is its engaging story about success, family, and love, mixed up with some classic Scorsese moments of violence and shock, make this one that was not only a perfect followup to the first two Godfathers, but the beginning of a career that has changed the face of cinema.
55. Se7en (1995) - This still remains one of the creepiest, scariest, and most shocking films ever created, and also one of the best. David Fincher has branched out in recent years with more traditional dramas like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network, but before that he was the master of the unusual, and his brilliant direction, combined with the taut and mesmerizing script by Andrew Kevin Walker, made Se7en an instant cult classic that still maintains its reputation to this very day. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, along with the rest of the cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, Kevin Spacey, and others, become completely absorbed into their characters, and go along for Fincher's wild and frightening ride, as did wel all.
54. Rocky (1976) - I still think that Network should have won Best Picture in 1976, but it was an incredible year for film, and I can't blame that Academy for being caught up in the passion and feel-good story that made the original Rocky an instant American classic. So many films (including a hundred Rocky sequels) have borrowed the classic sports drama formula that was, in many ways, establised by Rocky. It shows us the struggle we all face to reach our goals, the pain and hardwork that must happen in order for us to overcome life's difficulties, and more importantly, the triumph and pride we feel when we finally reach the stars of our hopes and dreams. And while it had its imperfections, you can't help but feel the same emotions as Stallone's Rocky as he goes through them on the screen. And sometimes that it is the best feeling you can have in a movie theater.
53. Sideways (2004) - In 2004, a little film known as Sideways expertly delved into the perils of depression, and the no so pretty side of human relationships. On a whirlwind last hurrah for two buddies, they become involved with two women, drink a ton of wine, and most importantly take a look at their sideways lives. Sideways was darkly funny, with richly drawn characters, implicit metaphors, and stunning performances. Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne's script is sharp and deftly balances humorous moments with more dramatic ones. Furthermore, a stellar cast led by Paul Giamatii, at cranky perfection. My personal favorite however was in fact Virginia Madsen, whose ethereal and emotional performance is so subtle and sublime, you may not notice how incredible it is until long after your viewing.
52. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) - This twisted family tale of love and betrayal, was surprisingly funny, poignantly dramatic, and one of Woody Allen's best efforts. Channeling his inner Robert Altman, Allen expertly balances not only the comedic and dramatic moments, as well as juggling the intertwining relationships of three sisters. But some of the really incredible parts of this film were its actors, especially Diane Wiest and Michael Caine, who won Academy Awards for their honest portrayals. But they weren't the only ones though, as Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Max Von Sydow, Woody Allen, Lewis Black, and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss all add their own special talents to this all-star cast that truly captures the irony, drama, and humor of Allen's magnificent story.
51. Broadcast News (1987) - Like Allen, James L. Brooks has made of career out of life-defining comedies, that have as many nice dramatic moments as they do funny ones. And while Terms of Endearment won Brooks his Oscar, Broadcast News can hold its own as one of his classic films. The sparkling and competitive chemistry between the characters, and the sharp script by Brooks himself make this film a jammed packed entertaining firecracker of a movie that stays with you long after its viewing. Of particular interest are the sizzling performances of William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, and others such as Joan Cusack and Jack Nicholson, make this a film that not only is well-done, but also makes social commentary on the power and sensationalism of the media that is still important today.