Sunday, October 16, 2011

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

10. The Dark Knight (2008) - The film that changed the Oscar game. Whether people want to believe or not, but it is because of The Dark Knight that we had ten nominees the last two years and the reason we still have more than five this year. There is a reason that this film has had such an impact on the Academy, and more importantly, such an impact on American popular culture. No comic book film, in the history of American cinema has had quite the impact as The Dark Knight. Not only did it set the bar for those to come (including next year's sequel), but it completely washed away memories of its predecessors. The Dark Knight may feature a man in a batsuit, but boil down the comic book lore and what Nolan created is a brilliant crime thriller, in the spirit of films like Michael Mann's Heat. The part about Batman was just an added plus. Nolan's vision of a darker, sleeker, more realistic Batman, with stunninly emotional storylines, and incredible action sequences is a far-cry from any of its cheesier previous installments. What also made The Dark Knight such a great film were the incredible performances, particularly that of Heath Ledger. His Joker was one of the most vile, shocking, and deeply disturbed villains in cinema history. And while his tragic death still haunts, at least he was able to show the world just how talented he was. He truly was taken from us too soon. The Dark Knight is one of the most succesful films in history, but more importantly, its brilliant combination of action and emotion will make it go down as one of the best as well.

9. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - The first film set the stage, but its darker and more compelling sequel, at least in my opinion, will go down as the greatest of this iconic series. After the triumph of the first film, Lucas and his team took a very interesting diversion with Empire Strikes Back, by doing what is seemingly unthinkable in many films, it make the bad guys lose. By the end of the film, they are practically defeated, broken down, and emotionally scarred. This was a risky move especially considering the success of A New Hope, but Lucas' risk paid off tremendously, as it allowed Star Wars to reach new dramatic depths, set the stage for a perfect comeback in Return of the Jedi, and allowed for emotional and dark scenes that would have been good in any film, let alone a sci-fi film. Furthermore, the climax, after this dark journey, the big reveal that Darth Vader is in fact Luke's father is quite possibly one of the greatest scenes in movie history, and at the time would have shocked audiences like few films could have. It is a truly winning cinematic achievement, and the best film in  one of the greatest films series of all time. Now that is an achievement.

8. Almost Famous (2000) - If you have read any of the articles from this blog about this particular film, then you will know how much I love this film. And while some may scoff at my constant overpraise, I will not be deterred by haters. For me it is simply movie magic, most likely because it was such a passion project for Crowe, as it was semi-autobiographical, and showed his love of 1970's rock n' roll. With a witty, yet surprising emotional script, Crowe crafted a set of well-drawn characters and a beautifully touching story. Furthermore, the cast is pitch perfect. Of particular importance are the strong female characters of Penny Lane and Elaine Miller, beautifully crafted by Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand, which are funny, yet emotional, and stunning in their own rights. While Hudson's career never really took off after this performance, I will go to my grave believing she was completely robbed of an Academy Award for this performance. If you have yet to watch this film, you better get to it, as I am completely convinced that you will become as completely wrapped up in it as I was, and will laugh, cry, smile when they sing Tiny Dancer, and fall in love with 1970's rock all over again.

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