Monday, August 15, 2011

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

40. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - It is hard to make a film about a cyborg. It is even harder to make a good film about that particular subject. Finally, it is incredibly difficult, to reboot a classic, and then surpass the predecessor in terms of fascination and entertainment. So it is a true testament to the talent and tenacity of the cast and crew of Teriminator 2: Judgment Day that they were able to pull of this impossible task. The real prize or trophy, if you will,  goes to James Cameron. People can hate on him for only doing one movie per decade, or for resulting to schmaltzy and overusing visual effects. But like him or not, Cameron is a master at creating big, bright blockbusters that bend genres, push the technology of film into uncharted territories, and create everlasting screen gems that are just as good twenty years later as they were the first time you saw them. And Terminator 2 is a prime example of what Cameron was great at. It was gritty, exorbantly entertaining, and one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time.

39. Blue Velvet (1986) - David Lynch is quite possibly the strangest and most terrifying director working today (besides maybe Terry Gilliam), but the funny thing is that Lynch doesn't make horror films, well not classified as that anyway, but instead confusing, yet intriguing and dirty films that bend the mind, screw with the audiences' heads, and create a brilliant mess in the process. And there is no better example of Lynch's brilliance than the terrifying 1986 cult classic, Blue Velvet. In a perfect Desperate Housewives-esque suburban world, an underworld of sex and crime shocks a small town, particularly the villanous and incredibly creepy Frank Booth, played to perfection by the late, great Dennis Hopper. But he is not the only member of this uberly talented cast that gives there all, others being Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rosellini, Laura Dern, Dean Stockwell, and many others. But this really boils down to Lynch's vision, which is frightening and yet somehow, this seething and unsettling film manages to stay with you, and makes you think twice about the comforts and safety of our homes and quiet suburban lives.

38. Finding Nemo (2003) - Pixar has made so many incredible films it is hard to narrow them down and put them in order. But 2003's Finding Nemo surely has to be towards the top of the list. It is a vibrant and delightful film, filled with laugh out loud humor, frantic action sequences, and a heart so big, you could probably see it from space. What makes Finding Nemo such a classic is how it can touch people of all ages, sexes, races, etc. It is a film that drew incredibly diverse crowds of people who love Pixar, and love the fact that they can take their kids to a movie that they themselves will also enjoy. Plus it has all the Pixar touches, incredible animation, some wonderful voice acting, and an Academy Award nominated screenplay that is better than 95% of most live action films. People can scoff at animation, claim that it is childish. But I think that films like Finding Nemo prove to all of those naysayers that animation can play hardball in the big leagues, and it brings a pretty heavy bat. Also, on a personal note, Ellen Degeneres' performance as Dori was touching, funny, and yes, worthy of an Oscar nomination.

37. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)- A film set in a mental institution doesn't sound like it would be a completely engrossing and touching, but the story of a young rebel who leads his fellow patients against the brutal dictatorship of Nurse Ratched, is exactly that. Milos Forman's 1975 Academy Award winning classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was definitely worthy of its awards loot, and more importantly is worthy of the eternal place it has in the grand spectrum of American movies. Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher are the perfect winning combo, and their feisty, and energetic battle throughout the whole film sparks a level of acting ability rarely seen in films today. But really, it is the storyline, the underdogs who rise up, the supposedly bad guys turning into the good ones and vice versa, the warmth and touching scenes of friendship that make this one worth your time.

36. Blazing Saddles (1974) - If you are ever in a bad mood, and are looking for a couple of hours of comedic relief, then look no further than Mel Brooks 1974 classic, the wild and hilarious Blazing Saddles. Blazing Saddles is probably one of the rudest, crassest, most wild and crude films that has ever graced the silver screen. And yet, every single time I pop this into my DVD player, I laugh so hard that roll over with stomach pains and wipe my face due to the tears that are streaming down it. Between Mel Brooks as Governor Lepetomane, Gene Wilder's Jim, Cleavon Little's Bart, Alex Karras' Mongo, Slim Picks, Harvey Korman, and most importantly Madeline Kahn, this fanastic and epic comedy is populated with some of the most ridiculous and classic characters that only grow better with time. You add in the zany and wild antics of the unpredictable direction of Mel Brooks, and what you have is a perfect comedy.

35. Alien/Aliens (1979/1986) - I know that putting these two films together is probably not smart considering that on their own they are incredible sci-fi adventures, and that each has its own director. That being said, I find that it is best to watch these films back to back. So I put them together, not because I don't recognize the merits of each, but because it is simply too damn hard to separate them and determine which one is better, so in my infinite wisdom, they tie for the 35th spot. Alien and Aliens are both techinically horror films, but unlike so many today which resort to cheap thrills and gross out gags. Instead, these films engage the viewers with characters that are worthy of actually killing off, and true thrills that shock us, send chills up our spine, but are never trying to hard. In the 1970's and 1980's there were so many great science fiction films that have become forever engrained into American memory. The fact that these two films are still standing and including with others on that great list (like say Star Wars for example) shows just how memorable and thrilling they truly were.

34. Fanny & Alexander (1982) - I'll be completely honest with you, foreign films are not heavy on this list, as you probably have already noticed. It is not that I have a thing against them, I just have a limited access to them in my current hometown, especially older ones. But every video store does us all a favor by housing some of the classics of the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. Nominated for nine Academy Awards during his lifetime, Bergman is quite possibly the most influential foreign director on American cinema during the Twentieth Century. And throughout his long and prosperous career, his films, from Wild Strawberries to Cries and Whispers, were thoughtful, intelligent, and pillars of cinematic achievement. But, in my humble opinion, his last film to get an Oscar nod, Fanny and Alexander, which is probably the best example of his talent, and a wonderful film to say the least. It is epic, it is unashamed of its artistic intent, and it works tremendously hard to draw deep and meaningful characters that sharpen and enhance its impeccable story. While I work harder to catch up on my foreign film list, I think ya'll should find a way to see this film. I promise, it will be worth your time.

33. The Wild Bunch (1969) - Westerns range from incredible (The Searchers) to awful (Wild Wild West). Within the last fifty years though there have been some incredible titles, some you have already seen in this list. But none reach the heights of pure Western heaven as Sam Peckinpah's 1969 classic, The Wild Bunch. In many ways, this Western is a lot more fun and interesting than many out there, as the bunch consist of a group of middle-aged men trying to recapture their glory with one last score on the old frontier. It is populated with tons of interesting and deep characters and actors, particularly the stellar performances of William Holden and Ernest Borgnine. But what I like about The Wild Bunch is its message. Its values revolving around friendship, holding on to your history and the past which is why we are all here. More importantly, it represents an easier time, before the turmoil of the Twentieth Century, where these cowboys were able to roam the wild west and do what they please. I am not suggesting anarchy by any means, but it is so much more interesting to see people trying to recapture it, than those that are simply entrenched in it. A winning film indeed.

32. Goodfellas (1990) - Well, its no Godfather, but then again, every crime film that came before and after it has yet to reach its stunning heights. That being said, Goodfellas is still one of the best crime films every created, and represents what makes Martin Scorsese so great extremely well. Featuring the dealings of a mob family, and young boy who rises through the ranks, Goodfellas is a good old-fashioned crime thriller, with all the typical crude and blunt Scorsese-esque dialogue that makes his films so in-your-face and memorable. Plus it is populated with some top notch performances including Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, Lorraine Braco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Vincent, and many many others. But this is Scorsese's baby. It is epic, winding yet comes full circle, full of twists and turns, and with an ending that leaves you only wanting more, yet manages to wrap up the varying storylines like a bow on top of a really great present. And Scorsese giving us this particular adventure into the crime world is a gift indeed.

31. Rosemary's Baby (1968) - I know that some people find Roman Polanski so disgusting that they refuse to watch any of his films. But if you are willing to put aside his personal indiscretions, and are looking for a truly frightening and good old school horror time, then look no further than Polanski's 1968 classic Rosemary's Baby. Unlike some films like The Amityville Horror, which never deliver the thrills they proclaim, this story of a frightening pregnancy delivers the creepy mood and the scares, mostly by relying on its Hitchcock roots. But the reason that this film has received and will continue to receive praise for years to come is not because it managed to be creepy, but instead because it is simply one of the best made films of the last half-century. That is because it has some stunning performances, especially Mia Farrow, and also because the film manages to hit deep, striking a chord of fear in all who dare to view it that stays with them long after they leave the theater. If that isn't a success, I don't know what is.

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