Thursday 12 January 2012

My Top 50 Personal Favourite Films of All-Time (2012) - part 3 of 3...

Go to: Part One or Part Two
Top 50: #41-50

Adventureland (2009):
There have been a handful of recent releases that have really made an impression upon me, and Gregg Mottola’s reflective 1980s-set coming-of-age film is one of them. It’s a ‘transformative summer movie’ where the protagonist undergoes a watershed of personal growth over the summer months, and Mottola’s movie is all-the-more impressive and touching in that it makes you wish that the summer of growth Jesse Eisenberg’s James Brennan experiences was your own.

The Big Lebowski (1998): 
Another one of those films that never fails to hook me in when it's on TV. Hugely quotable dialogue, utterly hilarious throughout, and Jeff Bridges is absolutely legendary as The Dude, and he heads a cast that has no weak links. Classic Coens.

Casino Royale (2006): 
I was introduced to James Bond with Goldeneye, but it wasn't until Casino Royale that I really started to get into the whole series, and with repeated viewings (again, one of those films you can't tear yourself away from) it just got better and better. Skyfall was brilliant, but Craig's first outing as Bond has become my favourite in the long-running franchise.

Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984):
Out of all the big-name slasher-masters, Jason is my slice-and-dicer of choice, and while Sean S. Cunningham’s franchise opener remains a tightly crafted indie horror writ large, I’ve always had a preference for the third sequel (the not-so-final-chapter of the long-running franchise). Tom Savini’s gore effects are excellent, the script actually makes you care about the characters before dispatching them left-right-and-centre, and it features perhaps the best non-Hodder rendition of the central antagonist.

Mulholland Drive (2001):
I’m very glad that I didn’t get around to seeing David Lynch’s seductive, Hollywood-set neo-noir until a decade after its premiere, as it would have no doubt left me utterly baffled as a teenager. However, after properly getting into and understanding David Lynch’s work in the last couple of years, I was able to dive right into this dark dream of a film. For me it’s Lynch’s best work, second only to Blue Velvet. Much like Angelo Badalamenti’s heartbreakingly beautiful score, this film is simultaneously hypnotic, mysterious, dark and twisted.

No Country For Old Men (2007):
While I’m not a rabid Coen Brothers fan, their films have rarely failed to impress me. It’s a great film to watch from the perspective of a student of film as the mechanics and construction of the film exhibit expert accuracy. The sparse plot is classic Coen Brothers territory, where greed corrupts an everyday man and leads to no end of bloodshed. Unsettlingly cool in its calm pursuit of methodically unfolding a cat & mouse chase, it’s also a real joy to simply watch – thanks to Roger Deakins’ astonishing cinematography.

Sin City (2005):
It’s a rough and tough comic book movie that is perhaps the most successful comic-to-movie adaptation ever made. Born from Frank Miller’s excellent, pulpy source material, this stylish and deftly executed flick drips cool like no other.

The Shining (1980): 
I've always loved this movie, but it was one that I overlooked in 2009 and 2012. However, on Halloween night 2012, I attended a screening of the film (in the extended American cut) with a packed audience who were totally invested in the movie. For the first time I noticed just how hysterical and shiver-inducing the stunning soundtrack was, and having been alerted to the impossible lay out of The Overlook Hotel itself, I tumbled further down Kubrick's haunting rabbit hole. A milestone in cinema history.

Shutter Island (2010):
For a long time prior I was longing for a great movie set in a mental asylum, and Martin Scorsese finally provided just that with this B-Picture-with-an-A-budget. Dark, brooding and unnerving in its paranoia-inducing pace, even after three viewings I’m still finding new depths to the script.

Sunshine (2007):
The music, editing, pacing and stunning visuals of Danny Boyle’s nicely crafted flick really impacted upon me in the cinema – so much so that during certain sequences I found myself gripped the armrests of the seat like I was undergoing an enjoyable version of the Ludovico technique from A Clockwork Orange. I couldn’t turn away from the screen, so the film’s ability to capture my attention so assuredly earns it a spot in my Top 50.

Top 50: Honourable Mentions

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): 
This was yet another case of seeing the movie before I was ready to fully appreciate it. Thankfully, upon rediscovery, I found it to be transfixing. Thematically it’s intriguing, visually it’s stunning, and technically it’s a marvel.

American History X (1998):
Few films wield the power to simultaneously move, anger, demoralise and uplift – but this one certainly does.

Battle Royale (2000):
Stylish, bold, original - a landmark entry in Japanese cinema.

Batteries Not Included (1987):
I could easily put Short Circuit, or The Money Pit in this slot, but out of these three – all of which were decided childhood favourites – this one made the biggest impact upon me. I’m sure The Towering Inferno made quite the impression on young boys who saw it, and I can imagine that the inferno that engulfs the decaying housing block inspired a similar sense of awe in me. It might sound a bit iffy, but as a kid I’d repeatedly draw versions of that sequence – to an outside observer that might look like a pyromaniac-in-waiting, but I can assure you that instead it was just a film fan expressing how blown away he was by the spectacle of that sequence.

Enter The Void (2010):
Gasper Noe’s head-splitting wrecking ball might be lazily paced and at times rather blunt in its thematics, but it is a visual experience unlike any other. From the perspective of a newly deceased drug dealer (high on DMT) we swoop and twirl and spiral through the neon-dripping streets, alley ways, apartments, and adult establishments of Japan’s seedy underbelly. Visually it’s a remarkable film – most notably in the climactic ‘Love Hotel’ sequence. Hell, the opening titles alone leave you firmly blown off your feet.

In Bruges (2008):
Some black comedies promise a deft mix of darkness and light, but boy does this wonderfully non-PC tale of two assassins hiding out – in Bruges – properly deliver on the promise. The swings from utter, eye-opening hilarity to utter, eye-opening darkness, and back again are truly marvellous.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956):
Much like John Carpenter’s The Thing, this film routinely sends shivers up and down my spine. The crisp black & white visuals, inherent paranoia, and the McCarthyism/Communism thematics of the script make this a smart sci-fi chiller that remains just as potent to this day.

Last House on the Left (1972):
The story behind the making of this cult classic ‘rape-revenger’ is fascinating, but Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham’s down-and-dirty sleazy slice of fleapit horror is a cinematic milestone. Contextualised by a Vietnam-weary America, the glut of perversion that befalls two partying teens – and then befalls their captors – must have been rather shocking upon its initial release (a release that inspired countless grindhouse releases thereafter).

Lord of the Rings (2001 - 2003):
Truly, truly epic … the elaborate production alone was, and is, a massively impressive achievement – but what’s more it’s a modern classic that made a long-standing literary masterpiece accessible to the masses without sacrificing depth or quality.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004):
The last couple of semesters at university in the final year were an increasingly stressful period, and in our off-campus house tensions began to flare. Then, in the midst of the fallout from a row (long story), one of our housemates introduced us all to this runaway cult success. Any tension and ill-feeling vanished in an instant – and permanently – and for weeks afterwards it was practically on an endless repeat in our household as we’d constantly quote from it to each other.

Rabid (1977):
Bought from the same local post office (also for a fiver) as The Evil Dead was, I first saw David Cronenberg’s gritty viral movie during my formative years. Fast forward to my film degree and the Canadian & Quebecois Cinema course (one of my favourite courses during my three years at university) and I’m analysing it in the context of Canadian socio-economic politics in the 1970s. It’s a superb film, but it also reminds me of the best times I had learning about cinema to a graduate level.

Se7en (1995):
Visually striking, and directed with style and dark meticulousness, few movies have the power to continually creep me out, even after multiple viewings. However, David Fincher’s extreme slice of serial killer thriller is so relentlessly gloomy, gritty and tough, that it can only be admired and feared at the same time.

United 93 (2006):
A few films will elicit a keenly felt response from you, but even fewer will elicit a physical response from you – and so it was with Paul Greengrass’ horrifyingly true-to-life telling of the events of September 11th 2011 from the perspective of those connected to the ill-fated flight. The first time I watched it, during the inescapable final moments, I was so moved by the dramatic recreation on-screen that I leapt out of my chair, punched the air, and screamed out – my reaction to those chilling final moments was visceral to say the least.

Vanishing Point (1971):
Embodying the independent spirit of seventies cinema, this is one of the best car movies ever made. The Dodge Challenger is a beautiful machine (so much so that it features prominently in Tarantino’s Death Proof) and this flick is a magnificent cinematic specimen of the era.

WALL.E (2008):
Johnny 5 from childhood favourite Short Circuit sticks out as a long-standing loveable robot in my eyes, so it was inevitable that I was going to adore his descendent WALL.E in Pixar’s exceptional sci-fi. With Roger Deakins acting as a visual consultant, it is without a doubt Pixar’s best-looking film to date, but matching the looks with smarts, the virtuoso animators excelled at making what was for the most part a silent film. The fact that we can truly invest in the fate of two robots from very distinct eras of mechanical engineering just goes to show how talented the Pixar folks are at crafting peerless animated films.

I still love and/or greatly respect these movies, but with ten new additions to the list, ten films had to be removed. The reasons varied: some were for nostalgia, some were for recent influence (that has since faded) when originally compiling the list, some were misjudgements resulting from list-making fatigue, and some were because – upon reflection – they didn’t quite cut the mustard to remain in the list.

All The President's Men (1976)
Animal House (1978)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Critters (1986)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
The Money Pit (1986)
Rambo (2008)
Screamers (1995)
Short Circuit (1986)
The Warriors (1979)

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