The Top Ten Films of the 1980s

my-dinner-with-andre

1. My Dinner With Andre (Louis Malle) Wonderful film about a conversation at dinner between two friends. A simple premise but pulled off amazingly by the two actors who also wrote the screenplay. I am pulled in by this movie everytime.

2. The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese) Scorsese’s look at the life of Jesus and all he had to give up is one of the great spiritual films of all time.

3. Raising Arizona (The Coen Brothers) Possibly the Coen’s greatest comedy and the closest anything has come to looking like a live action cartoon. Nicholas Cage has never been better.

4. E.T. The Extraterrestrial (Steven Spielberg) Spielberg’s ode to childhood, loneliness, and friendship hasn’t lost any of its wonder despite being one of the most successful films ever made.

5. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee) Lee’s study ofnracism in America has never looked out of date. It’s stark, colorful, musical, and as hard hitting as any film can get.

6. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese) Scorsese’s character study on boxer Jake LaMotta is a transcendent film of human redemption.

7. Raiders of the Lost Ark/Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Steven Spielberg) Spielberg along with George Lucas created perhaps the most entertaining series of movies in history. The first two films are the best. Raiders is crowd pleasing fun mixed with great set pieces and stunt, while Temple of Doom is just as fast paced with more peril and darkness pushing the limits of blockbuster entertainment.

8. Ran (Akira Kurosawa) Kurosawa’s late aged masterpiece is a recreation of King Lear, but it’s also fatalist and apocalyptic in its own way.

9. Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch) A look at isolation in the modern world, this was Jarmusch’s breakout film. It’s full of deadpan humour and a wonderful point of view.

10. The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese) Scorsese excelled in this decade and “The King of Comedy” is one of his best most under seen gems. A look at fame and what it does to someone who obsessively wants it.

Honorable Mentions: Peter Weir’s “Witness” “The Year of Living Dangerously”, “The Mosquito Coast” and “Gallipoli” were all terrific, he’s one of the great underrated filmmakers.  “The Road Warrior” is one of the best action films ever. Brian De Palma had his greatest film “Blow-Out” in this decade. Spielberg had his one under seen masterpiece “Empire of the Sun”. Scorsese was on a roll with “After Hours”. Michael Mann had a stunning debut with “Thief” and made the first Hannibal Lector film “Manhunter” The Coen’s first film “Blood Simple” was an excellent debut. David Lynch came on the scene with “Blue Velvet”. Steve Martin and Carl Reiner continued their collaboration with success in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”, “The Man with Two Brains” and the brilliant “All of Me”. Steve Martin’s “Roxanne” should be considered one of the great romantic comedies. I have never been a fan of John Hughes however I have a soft spot for “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” which features John Candy’s best performance. Kurosawa had “Kagemusha”. Sergio Leone had his final masterpiece “Once Upon a Time in America”. “The Empire Strikes Back” was the promise of a great follow-up to “Star Wars”. “Back to the Future” and its sequel were as entertaining as any sci-fi comedy could get. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was an animated nerd’s wet dream to true. Woody Allen had “Zelig”, “Broadway Danny Rose” “Hannah and Her Sister” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors”. Ingmar Bergman had “Fanny and Alexander”. “Babette’s Feast” was a wonderful world film. “Gremlins” worked as the anti-“E.T”. “The Terminator” is for me James Cameron’s best film, but “Aliens” isn’t bad either. “Platoon” is Oliver Stone’s most personal film. “Poltergeist” was a wonderful blockbuster horror while “A Nightmare on Elm Street” played on our most cerebral fears.

Those are my picks did I miss any? I’m sure some will come to me later on, but let me know what you think tell me your favorite of the 1980s

The Ten Best Films of the 1970s

two_lane_blacktop06

1. Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman): Not the most well known of 70s cinema but worshipped by those who have seen it as a cult classic. This car racing movie which isn’t really about racing but about alienation, misfits, and youth and lonliness. Really what the best of 70s cinema was about. Music star James Taylor hangs out with hitchhiker Laurie Bird and his mechanic Dennis Wilson as they drive for pink slips against Warren Oates. A fatalist poem.

2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg) I often cite this as Spielberg’s best film though there are many to choose from. This seemed to be the one where Spielberg wasn’t afraid to be Spielberg and put in all the wonder and emotion he is known for into this film. Bright, colorful, and wondrous filmmaking.

3. The Godfather/The Godfather Part 2 (Francis Ford Coppola) Which is better? I can’t decide which is why I’m putting them together. These landmark films aren’t just major game changers in the industry they are the best examples of what a saga should be. Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone is the most complex American character since Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane, and the depth and richness of both films remain stunning and so re-watchable.

4. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick) Probably the most beautiful looking film ever produced in the 70s. Terrence Malick’s old testament look on love, passion, anger, and revenge might still be his best film.

5. Superman (Richard Donner) The joy I get from this film fills me with the sense of a 10 year old kid. The last few years of homogenized super hero movies haven’t dimmed this one’s sense of wonder and excitement.

6. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese) Scorsese’s decent into the hell of a lonely Taxi Driver is a stepping stone for why the 70s were so great. Along with his muse Robert De Niro and a screenplay by Paul Schraeder, it’s an examination of isolation that has not be toppled. Gripping to this day.

7. Chinatown (Roman Polanski) Polanski’s neo-noir is one of the great detective films ever made. Jack Nicholson is perfectly cast, John Huston is one of the great villains of all time. Faye Dunaway is the femme fatale who leaves you guessing what is exactly her story, and for those who have seen it, the results are devastating.

8. Day For Night (Francois Truffaut) No other film has really captured the idea of creating a film, as a piece of community for those who do it. Truffaut’s film is a labyrinth of characters from props and costumes, to the stars, to the assistant director to Truffaut himself as the director creating a film sharing all the joys and heartaches that go with it and why the people love to do it.

9. The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman) Altman’s take on the detective film as it would be in the 1970s. Based on the Raymond Chandler character, this is one of Altman’s great films and my personal favorite of his.

10. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (Werner Hezog) Herzog’s greatest film about a fateful exbidition to find the El Dorado with Spanish explorers. Klaus Kinski is Aguirre, the madmen who threatens to take over the entire expedition for himself and let no one stand in his way. The film is full of dread and full of haunting imagery, as with this decade’s “Taxi Driver” and “Apocalypse Now”, it’s a decent into the darkest reaches of the mind.

Honorable Mentions: Scorsese’s breakthrough film “Mean Streets” as well as his much maligned but underrated masterpiece “New York, New York”. Coppola’s “The Conversation” and “Apocalypse Now”. Spielberg had “Jaws” but he really let himself go in his one bomb but brilliant “1941”. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” brought back silliness and anarchy to the cinema. Sidney Lumet came out with “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Network”. Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” is still his one masterpiece that deserves more attention. Robert Altman was prolific with “MASH”, “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”, “Nashville”, and “3 Women”. Woody Allen gave us “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan”. Of his earlier funnier films I’d add “Bananas” and “Sleeper”. Brian De Palma’s “Carrie” was great. Ingmar Bergman had perhaps his greatest film “Cries and Whispers”. There was Terrence Malick’s first film “Badlands”. Jack Nicholson had great performances in “Five Easy Pieces” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The King of Marvin Gardens”. Hal Ashby had “Harold and Maude” and “Being There”. “Halloween” was the slasher film we all deserved. “Alien” is still probably the scariest film I have ever seen. Clint Eastwood was becoming an auteur with “High Plains Drifter” and “The Outlaw Josey Wales”, also starred in “Dirty Harry” while John Wayne had a quiet swan song with “The Shootist”. Truffaut also had “Small Change” and “The Story of Adele H”. Steve Martin burst on the scene with “The Jerk”. Mel Brooks had “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein”. “The Last Picture Show”. Also I guess there was that “Star Wars” movie all the kids were into.

I know I probably left some out, but tell me your favorites from this rich decade, I’d love to hear them.

Top Ten Films of the 1960s

P_original

1. Jules and Jim (Francois Truffaut): A tragic story but made with such cinematic joy, it’s hard not to feel exuberance when watching it. A film that feels so alive and full of vibrancy, made by the one filmmaker who loved film perhaps more than anyone else.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick): In my opinion, Kubrick’s best film and still the best science fiction film ever made, highly entertaining, metaphysical, and eye-popping. A real game changer.

3. Late Autumn (Yasujiro Ozu): A personal favorite of mine by the greatest director who ever lived (a subjective opinion I know). A very beautiful film with high drama and comedy coming together wonderfully. Again another story by Ozu about family and loss, but done with Ozu’s usual visual flare, it’s so subtle and delicate I ache when I watch it.

4. Playtime (Jacques Tati): Tati’s comedic film is one of the most complex and visually stunning comedies ever made. Creating his own city set in the process, Tati brings up visual gags that rely so much on what we are seeing and hearing. He brings back silent comedy as an art form and creates one of the great cinematic worlds in the process.

5. Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard): Godard’s bitter but beautiful look at a failing marriage and the life of compromising your art is one of the great cinematic experiences ever made. Godard always pushed the limits on film form and this one is one of his absolute gems.

6. Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa): Atypical Samurai film with Toshiro Mifune playing a samurai for hire and getting two ruthless families fighting off one another. Mifune’s samurai is a hero for the ages and Kurosawa’s direction is wonderfully precise.

7. Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles): Having just watched this for the first time this year, I was completely entranced by Welles’ film. This is probably my favorite Shakespeare adaption put to screen. Welles was born to play Falstaff as he puts an ironic and tragic spin to Skakespeare’s clown.

8. Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg): In one of the great performances put to screen, Paul Newman portrays a rebel with a cause as a man caught on a chain gang. A social-conscious story that’s both parts entertaining, sobering, and somber.

9. 8 and a half (Federico Fellini): Fellini’s masterpiece of a filmmaker suffering through a science fiction film he has no ending to. A gripping, surreal, personal film that has influenced countless filmmakers throughout the years.

10. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone): The epic spaghetti western to end all spaghetti westerns. Sergio Leone brings to life the west in the most operatic way possible giving great performances to Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, and the beautiful Claudia Cardinale in the process.

Honorable Mentions: Fellini’s other masterpiece of the 60s “La Dolce Vita”. Godard’s  body of work in the 60s should be studied particularly “Breathless”, “Band of Outsiders”, “Vivre Sa Vie”, “A Woman is a Woman”, “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her”, “Pierrot La Fou” and “Weekend”. Truffaut was no slouch either with his second feature “Shoot the Piano Player” as well as his continuing exploration of Antoine Doniel in “Stolen Kisses”. Ozu died with one last masterpiece about nostalgia with “An Autumn Afternoon”. Kurosawa had the crime film “High and Low”. Leone had the Dollars Trilogy of films. Anonioni had “L’Avventura” and “Blow-Up”

Hollywood basically had a lull of greatness as they were transitioning from old to new Hollywood, it wasn’t their best decade. However old war horses still had a stream of masterpieces.  Hitchcock of course had “Psycho” and “The Birds” and his underrated “Marnie”. John Ford kept tradition and the west alive with his revisionist “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, and Howard Hawks was up to his old tricks in “Hatari!” Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn made one of the most entertaining crime/caper/comedies “Charade”

“The Great Escape” is one of the great war adventures, Paul Newman literally owned the decade with “The Hustler”, and “Hud” capping it off with Redford in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. “Easy Rider” may have aged a bit, but I still find the hippy message empowering. “Woodstock” showed that rock documentaries could not only show music, but a time and a mood in America. “Bonnie and Clyde” ushered in new Hollywood and nothing would be the same. A new complicated director Sam Peckinpah came in with classics like “Ride the High Country” and “The Wild Bunch”. And “Lawrence of Arabia” was the epic to end all epics. The 70s were looking pretty promising.

What’s your favorite film of the 1960s? Any I missed, be sure to comment.

 

Top Ten Films of the 1950s

mp2

1. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu): The film about family, life, and death. Changed my life in so many ways, Can’t say more

2. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock): Hitchcock’s greatest film, or at least the one I’ve seen the most of. I can’t really get tired of watching it, it’s endlessly entertaining and really a great commentary on cinema

3. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks): My vote for best western ever made. John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan face some bad guys with a laid back attitude, and Angie Dickenson is the only woman ever to make John Wayne flustered.

4. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock): Hitchcock’s masterpiece of fear, obsession, death, and dreams. As hypnotic as the title suggests, basically his pinnacle of greatness.

5. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa) My choice of greatest epic ever made, clocking in at over 3 hours yet it doesn’t feel its length while watching it. Kurosawa creates a masterful, deeply felt action epic that hasn’t aged a day.

6. Sunset BLVD. (Billy Wilder) Wilder’s greatest film a noirish look at a tarnished Hollywood, with a fading star, her screenwriter gigalo, and loyal butler. Bizarre in all respects, darkly funny and richly absorbing.

7. The Life of Oharu (Kenji Mizoguchi) Perhaps the saddest film I’ve ever seen in my life, but a deeply affecting tale of a woman who loses everything and driven to prostitution.

8. Tokyo Twilight (Yasujiro Ozu) Ozu’s underrated film of a family torn apart by the absence of a mother. It reflects on two sisters and how they cope and the father who is trying to hold everything together. A personal favorite of mine and one that deserves to be mentioned with the director’s greatest films

9. The Man From Laramie (Anthony Mann) The best in my opinion in the series of westerns directed by Anthony Mann and starring Jimmy Stewart. The finest of western noirs that became a bit of a sub genre in the 50s, this was dark violent and twisted as anything made today or before.

10. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray) Ray’s film is a noirish love story with Humphrey Bogart giving his best performance, as a violent screenwriter who gets caught up in a murder case, and falling in love with Gloria Graham at the same time.

Honorable Mentions: “The Searchers” has never lost its appeal I may have just seen it too many times. “Singin in the Rain” has never lost its magic, nor has “The Bandwagon”. Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” is a nice finale of film noir of this era. French New Wave begain with “The 400 Blows”. “The Tall T” with Randolph Scott. Hawks’ “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” gave us a great musical comedy about women. Mizoguchi had “Ugetsu” and “Sansho the Baliff”, Bresson had “A Man Escaped” and “The Pickpocket”. Hitchcock’s “North By Northwest”. Fritz Lang’s “The Big Heat”, the original “War of the Worlds”, as well as “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Forbidden Planet”. “East of Eden”, “Rebel Without a Cause”. “Man of the West”, “Rashomon”, “Throne of Blood”, “Good Morning”, “Floating Weeds”, “Umberto D”, “The Seventh Seal”, “Ace in the Hole”, “Roman Holiday”, “On the Waterfront”, “Anatomy of a Murder”, “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “Harvey”, “Winchester 73”, “Hiroshima Mon Amour”

Did I miss any? I probably did. Let me know what your favorite films of the 50s are.

 

 

The Best Films of the 1940s

Its a wonderful Life

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra): A film I can’t quite quit. I’ve seen it a million times, yet something draws me back to it each year. Most people grasp on to the inspirational message of a man making a difference, but the darker aspects of it really keep me interested. George Bailey is really a man teetering on the edge of destruction for the most part. I see it like the story of Job of a man waiting for salvation but losing it. The alternate reality of Bedford Falls makes for a wonderful Dickensian nightmare. Yes it turns out alright int the end, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have edge, an unhappy/happy movie.

2. Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges): Here’s another film that doesn’t fit so well into a heartwarming category even on the surface it is. Preston Sturges’ satire on Hollywood has a lot to say about egos, false sentiment, and film making in general as it depicts a Hollywood director who wants to make a film about the common man and feels he must become common in the process. This leads to many hilarious situations, but also scenes full of real emotion and heart. The climactic church house scene where inmates watch a cartoon is one of the great moments ever.

3. The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch): The greatest romantic comedy ever produced, a pitch perfect blend of sophistication, humour, and charm. Ernst Lubitsch creates a very modern feel in the story of two lonelyhearts who fall in love while writing anonymous letters to eachother. However in real life they hate eachother. So much about this film can be under the category of they don’t make them like they used to. Made after Europe’s inclusion in the war, it’s a film that is as subtle and delicate as a piece of priceless jewelry and is one of the true pleasures of movie watching.

4. Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu) This could be seen as the beginning of great films directed by Yasujiro Ozu where he would in his own way conquer the 1950s. “Late Spring” follows the story of a father and daughter who are dependent of each other but as the daughter comes of age it becomes time for her to marry much to her dismay. Ozu doesn’t push for things to happen, rather he observes. The film’s ending is wonderfully devastating, and the compositions are always with his films…beautiful.

5. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles): You would see this film on the top of any list, and I’d be remiss not to add it to mine. Welles was a filmmaker of such talent, perhaps the greatest of all filmmakers. I can’t add more, other than this is more than just required viewing for any film fan, but a purely rich and absorbing film.

6. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock): By the 1940s, Hitchcock had come to Hollywood and was pretty much a success right out of the gate. “Notorious” is the crowning jewel at the this time, a noirish romantic spy thriller written by Ben Hecht. Cary Grant is a spy who uses his lover Ingrid Bergman to infiltrate a German (Claude Rains) in order to get government secrets even if it means marrying and sleeping with him. What’s not to love? Grant and Bergman are two of the most perfect people ever put on screen together, the story is dark, and perverse, the intrigue is compelling, and the direction is perfect.

7. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz): Hollywood’s gold standard of studio made movies. The story is probably the best war propaganda film ever made. It’s pretty perfect, and like “It’s a Wonderful Life” a film to watch over again and again just because it’s easy to love.

8. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles): Welles’ follow-up to “Citizen Kane” is the great film of legend. Cut in half without Welles’ permission with a tacked on happy ending he despised. Welles always said the finished film would’ve been greater than “Kane”. What we have is a fascinating masterpiece full of Welles’ great moments that come alive. What should’ve been a game changer is part of Hollywood lore.

9. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks): The pinnacle of screwball comedies, nothing has ever been faster, funnier, or hard boiled at the same time. Cary Grant gives perhaps his best comedic performance (Best dramatic probably “Notorious”), and Rosalind Russell equals him as a newspaper (man!) getting to the bottom of the trial of a man about to be executed. So entertaining, a film that makes me so happy, for so many reasons

10. To Have and Have Not/The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks) The great combo of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Becall and Howard Hawks in this duo of great films. The first one feels like the anti-Casablanca where Bogart does the right thing and gets the girl in the end, while the other is a film noir for the ages with a plot that makes less sense the more you think about it. But the magic comes with the great chemistry of Bogart and Becall and Hawks’ direction of action and dialogue. Full of sexual tension, where the stars make love with their words, just wonderful all around.

If I had a number 11, it would go right away towards Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity”. Howard Hawks excelled in this decade with two other great films “Ball of Fire” and “Red River”. John Ford had added stark realism in “The Grapes of Wrath” as well as romanticism with “My Darling Clementine”. Val Lewton became the master of horror, specifically with “Cat People”, “I Walked with a Zombie” and “The Seventh Victim”. “The Bicycle Thieves” has not lost any power. The musical “On the Town”. Lubitsch had two more great films “To Be or not to Be” and “Heaven Can Wait” before he called it quits much too soon. Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend” is an entertaining and sobering look at alcoholism that hasn’t been matched. Preston Sturges also had “The Lady Eve”, and “Hail the Conquering Hero”, and Welles had another muddled masterpiece with “The Lady from Shanghai”, and Disney had their greatest animated film “Pinocchio”, John Huston has his great “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”

Now a shout out to the Film Noirs of this decade like…”Scarlet Street”, “Out of the Past”, “Crossfire”, “The Set-Up”, “Murder My Sweet”, Hitchcock’s “Rebecca”, “Foreign Correspondent”, and his personal favorite “”Shadow of a Doubt”. “Gun Crazy”, “Born to Kill”, “Woman in the Window”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “Strange Impersonation”, “The Letter”, “Mildred Pierce”, “Border Incident”, “Laura”, Kurosawa’s “Straw Dogs”, and James Cagney’s greatest performance in “White Heat”

Have I missed any? I’m sure I did, what’s your favorite film of the 1940s and why? I’d love to hear it.

The Best Films of the 1930s

groucho-marx-horse-feathers-3

Arguably the greatest decade, and for my money the most difficult to narrow down to ten films. But here it goes…

1. Horse Feathers (1932): My favorite comedy of all time. Yes there are better produced, more innovative films of the 1930s but the Marx Brothers never get old for me. They cheer me up when I’m down, they inject life in me when I need it the most. They fill me with a sense of energy, rebellion, and anarchy, I feel replenished when finishing their films. “Horse Feathers” does it for me everytime. The greatest film of the 1930s so now on to the harder ones to categorize.

2. Holiday (1938): Perhaps not the obvious choice of films that starred Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn together but this is one of the most overlooked films of the decade. Hepburn and Grant never feel more human than in this tender comedy about a man about the married but falling for his fiancees more down to earth sister. A great message about not always working for money and doing what you love. I’ve seen this film about a dozen times over the last few years and it’s more richer with each viewing.

3. Bride of Frankenstein (1935): The greatest sequel of all time? Definitely in the running. Really the first blending of horror and comedy, this film ages like a fine wine. It’s as obsessed with death as any Ingmar Bergman film. The creation scene of the bride is one of the most operatic moments in film history, and I get giddy just thinking of it.

4. Top Hat (1935): Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are at their zenith here with their most popular film and their best. Elegant, classy, and with a flare for set decor and design. Watching this you might think Astaire and Rogers beat out the despair of the Great Depression all on their own, perhaps the happiest film ever made.

5. The Rules of the Game (1939) 1939 is considered the greatest year of film in Hollywood, however the best film of that year comes from France from the great director Jean Renoir. Taking place during a weekend party at a country home, it features dramatic and comedic elements of upper and lower class lives coming together ultimately ending in tragedy. Renoir concocts a deep affection towards his characters and their semi-charmed lives which leads to a graver warning ahead that they don’t suspect. Released on the eve of Europe’s entrance into World War 2, it serves as a stark reminder that frivolity can easily lead to chaos.

6. My Man Godfrey (1936): Once upon a time there lived a screwball goddess Carol Lumbard and her perfect counterpart William Powell and together they made magic. This is one of the wittiest, wonderful romantic comedies ever made, it is hard to imagine a comedy being more perfect. Often cited as a benchmark, I would not take anything away from this wonderful film.

7. City Lights (1931): Chaplin’s masterpiece and perhaps the greatest ending to any film ever. What more can be said.

8. Bringing Up Baby (1938): The second film involving Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. This one if much more zany and madcap, Hepburn would never be with crazy again but she’s wonderful. Grant is aloof the whole time and the two make a great pair.

9. I Was Born But…(1932): Japanese film from director Yasujiro Ozu is a charming comedy set in the world of children and how they come to terms with the fact that their father isn’t as great as they think he is when they find out he’s an office drone. A hard pill to take when it comes to growing up, but the film is so charming and accessible, it’s hard to resist.

10. Only Angels Have Wings (1939): Howard Hawks’ ode to flying men who risk their lives each time they have to go up in their airplanes is just about as perfect as you can get featuring Cary Grant (third time on this list) playing the boss of an airline. It’s suspenseful, unsentimental, and real, featuring probably my most favorite death scene of anybody.

Honorable mentions: I could do a million more, but here in no particular order. Adding The Marx Brothers other films “Animal Crackers”, “Monkey Business”, “Duck Soup” and “A Night at the Opera”, also Astaire and Rogers’ “Swing Time”, Frank Capra’s “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”, “It Happened One Night”, “You Can’t Take it with you” and “Mr. Smith Goes to WAshington”. Renoir’s other masterpiece “Grand Illusion”, “The Thin Man”, W.C. Fields’ “It’s a Gift”. The original “Frankenstein”, along with “The Invisible Man” and “The Mummy”. “King Kong”, “Stagecoach”, “The Lady Vanishes”, “M”, “The Smiling Lieutenant”, “Trouble in Paradise”, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi together in “The Black Cat”, “Ninotchka”, “Gone with the Wind”, “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “Dinner at Eight”, “Night Nurse”, and so, so, so, much more. This was indeed the greatest decade!!!

Top Ten Films of the 1920s

buster-framed

 

Hey all I’m still in hibernation mode for a bit. I’m recuperating from finishing a semester of school after a long hiatus from it. I’ll be back hopefully with some blogs, but I just thought it would be fun for a bit by counting down the decades of movies. I did this a number of years ago, listing off my top ten films of each decade, but times have changed, I’ve seen a lot more, my thoughts on some movies have changed,  while others have stayed the same.

The first time I did a list like this, I limited myself of one film per director no matter how much I wanted to put multiple films by the same one. This time, I decided to give myself no limits, I’m putting whatever I want on the list.

That being said I tried not to go overboard on any one director, and as you will see below, in some cases I cheated by claiming top spot to a personal favorite. That may happen again.

We start with the 1920s, where I feel I could put down a rather accurate telling of films made in that era. I could’ve gone with the 1910s but I’m not sure I’ve seen enough films to do a proper top ten list.

Here now is my personal top ten list of the 1920s.

1. Sherlock Jr./ Our Hospitality/The General (Buster Keaton) Right out of the gate, I’m cheating by taking three of Buster Keaton’s greatest films and putting them at number 1. “Sherlock Jr.” is probably the shortest film I’ll put on the list running at a mere 45 minutes though it has been counted by enough people as a feature film to warrant its placement. “Sherlock Jr.” is an inventive look at how we look at movies, also showing the magic of said movies by Buster transporting into one in order to become a famous detective. Here Buster shows us just how much of a magician he is creating gags that look to be out of thin air, and a world all his own that follow his own rules.

“Our Hospitality” works the same way giving Buster ‘s character a chance to shine among a family who are hell-bent on killing him. Keaton delivers some of his most sublime work primarily on a surreal train ride that looks concocted out of a kids toy box. The jokes range from subtle to out there, and deserves multiple viewings

“The General” is probably Keaton’s most celebrated work and most viewed. Mostly seen as a chase film but with so many gags so well-timed, you’ll wonder how he did it all. Thought to be the most expensive film at the time, using real locomotives, in a chase that’s as thrilling and funny as anything you’re bound to see anywhere else.

2. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dryer) Based on the actual testimony given at the trial of Joan of Arc, Carl Theodore Dreyer’s piece is stark, grim, yet transcendent and spiritual. The film is comprised almost entirely of close-ups on the actor’s faces, and no other film has ever shown the power of the close-up better than this film. Dreyer uses minimal sets and designs which compliment the medieval feel. This is really about a person keeping her faith under unspeakable odds to the bitter end.

3. The Circus (Charlie Chaplin) Chaplin had more well-known films in this decade, however I hold a true fondness for “The Circus” which is a wonderful comedy. Chaplin’s tramp has never felt more at home than in a circus playing a clown who has no idea he’s being funny when he’s trying not to be. The ending to this film is among Chaplin’s greatest along with “City Lights”, and it contains probably his best score which was included when Chaplin chose to remaster it.

4. Metropolis (Fritz Lang) The beginning of what we now know as sci-fi. Lang’s film has now become part of pulp culture, it’s probably any hipster’s favorite silent movie. We could talk of the enormous set designs which would go on the influence films like “Blade Runner” or we could talk about the epic story of class separation which is more prevalent now more than ever. The music that goes with the film is among one of silent cinema’s greatest that still exists.

5. The Wildcat (Ernst Lubitsch) Lubitsch is one of the great comedy directors and when sound came along which gave his character’s wit and sophistication, there was no stopping him. However before he got there, he made a number of great silent films, this one being one of this greats. It’s a satire on sex and politics about a randy mountain woman who falls for an equally randy army officer. The sets are wonderfully stylized, and Lubitsch gives off a terrific visual sense of humor to get his double entendres across

6. Die Nibelungen (Fritz Lang) Lang’s epic forgotten film hat was recently restored to its four hour glory only a few years ago. Split into two parts the first half tells the legendary German tale of Siegfried which is a wondrous fantasy tale, but then it gets darker in the second half after Siegfried is murdered and his wife seeks revenge. This is the apex of ambitious filmmaking I can’t see Hollywood ever coming close to. The scope of this film is so impressive, it shows how versatile a director Lang was.

7. Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau) Quintessential horror classic based on the story of Dracula is to this day still the best version of the story. Murnau’s gothic horror may not be frightening any more to anyone but it’s hard to deny the storytelling power at work. Still impressive and eerie. Max Schrek makes for the most cryptic vampire in film history.

8. Pandora’s Box (G.W. Pabst) Once upon a time there was an actress named Louise Brooks who became a sensation appearing in a number of films by German director G.W. Pabst. I have only seen this one and it is one of the most remarkable films ever made. The story centers on a woman who’s lust and tempestuous nature leads to the ruin of all the men she meets as well as herself. Shot in noirish tones before noir was ever a thing, this film is brimming with sexuality, and violence unlike any film made at that time. It made Brooks a star for a short time, but this film has lasted the test of time.

9. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin) Chaplin’s known masterpiece of this era is probably his all out funniest ever as his tramp travels to the Yukon to catch his share of the money going on. For some reason Chaplin shortened this film when he chose to restore it, and then added unneeded voice narration which is annoying to listen to. Stick with the original silent, longer version.

10. Sunrise (F.W. Murnau) Murnau’s first Hollywood film is a wonderful masterpiece and actually garnered the first and only Oscar under the category of Artistic Achievement. It’s a rather simple story of a man who strays from his wife, tries to kill her, but is redeemed in her eyes, and then they go off to the city to rekindle their love. The story itself is rather secondary after the remarkable technical achievement Murnau is able to pull off. Seeing it now, it feels 50 years ahead of its time.

Honorable mentions: Chaplin’s first feature “The Kid” came this close in making the cut as did the other silent clown’s Harold Lloyd for his film “Safety Last” which has that indelible image of him hanging from a large clock. The Swedish film “The Phantom Carriage” is a wonderful gothic story in the Dickensian tradition. D.W, Griffith had one of his more successful films “Way Down East” which featured Lillian Gish on frozen ice caps, and I bit my tongue trying not to add more Buster Keaton, but I could’ve just as easily brought on “Steamboat Bill Jr.” and “The Navigator”

 

 

Things I Saw in March

Marlene-dietrich-blonde-venus-1932-09-g

1. Topaz (1969) Hitchcock’s long but intriguing political thriller. His most labyrinth story, with multiple characters doesn’t quite gel but has some great set pieces. *** out of 4

2. Family Plot (1976) Hitchcock’s last film is underrated, very enjoyable light crime caper. Written by “North by Northwest” scribe Ernest Lehman it’s old fashioned for the time it was made, but I wish more films could be this fun. Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern are a great duo. *** and a half stars out of 4

3. John Wick Chapter 2 (2017) Speaking of fun, this is so far the most fun I’ve had at the movies. “John Wick Chapter 2” felt more lighter and even more full of adrenaline than the last one. Can’t wait for chapter 3. **** stars out of 4

4. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) I’ve actually never saw this before. This campy right of passage for cult movie fans has its moments of camp and outrageousness. The performances are fun, some of the music is great to sing a long to. Maybe not my kind of cult movie but still worth a look. *** stars out of 4

5. Logan (2017) The supposed swan song of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is a great send off. Ultra-violent, shocking and real. This dark entry to the X-Men franchise is just what the doctor ordered to the bloat of super hero films. Jackman carries it with his charisma and dedication to the character *** and a half stars out of 4

6. Get Out (2017) Another great, entertaining movie I caught this month. This horror/thriller/comedy has twists and turns you don’t see coming. The high concept is the type you believe no matter how out there it gets. The hype is real for this. **** stars out of 4

7. Blonde Venus (1932) Marlene Dietrich is beautiful in the lush melodrama of a woman who cheats on her husband, runs off with her son and becomes a prostitute only to turn into a singing sensation. It might sound ridiculous but it’s rich in imagery and Dietrich is great. Cary Grant adds to the glamour. **** stars out of 4

8. The Hours (2002) The story of three generations of women who are all connected somehow to the story of  Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway”. Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep play the women. This is a bittersweet, sad movie or feminist repression, and regret. *** and a half stars out of 4

9. The Devil is a Woman (1935) Marlene Dietrich plays a woman who can lure men with her femininity only to ruin their lives. As in “Blonde Venus” Dietrich is in the hands of master filmmaker Joseph Von Sternberg who photographs the star beautifully here. The story seems choppy, but when the look of a film is this good who cares. *** and a half stars out of 4

10. The Flame of New Orleans (1941) Dietrich plays a woman ready to marry for money until she falls for a strapping young sailor. Slight comedy, but the players are game and the film is enough escapism to enjoy it. *** stars out of 4

11. Golden Earrings (1947) Dietrich is a gypsy who has to help British spy Ray Milland elude the Germans during World War 2. This film hasn’t aged well, but the two stars make up for the short comings. ** and a half stars out of 4

12. Kong: Skull Island (2017) Nice to see King Kong back on the big screen, this nice little monster movie is just what the doctor ordered filled with great monster fights and top notch special effects. The characters are one note for the most part, but when the pedigree is John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, and John C. Reilly among others, who’s complaining. Yes this is mindless monster movie fun, but I got a kinck out of it. *** and a half stars out of 4

13. Pauline at the Beach (1983) My introduction to French filmmaker Erich Rohmer is a great slice of life coming of age romance. A young girl visits her cousins beach side house, and romantic entaglements ensue. What can I say other than this is a very French film which is what’s great about it. It takes its time, nothing too dramatic happens, it’s all about finding love, philosophizing about life, and all that type of stuff the French can do so well. Rohmer hones in on his characters, and gives them the space to move, it’s a freeing film in so many ways. **** stars out of 4

14. Bojack Horseman Season 1 (2014) I started this animated comedy/drama about a washed up Hollywood tv star who also happens to be a horse. Season 1 starts off a bit slow, but it has great depth and insight as it goes along. Season 1 has some of the problems most shows have in the first season, but speaking as someone who has just finished season 2, those problems are rectified. *** stars out of 4

15. Five Came Back (2017) Netflix documentary series based on the book chronicling five famous Hollywood movie directors John Ford, William Wyler, Frank Capra, John Huston, and George Stevens who leave Hollywood at the start of World War 2 to join the war effort. They go with their cameras to document the war coming back with unforgettable footage that would go on to change the way we look at documentaries also film used as propaganda. The film is pretty even handed with commentary by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and Paul Greengrass. I wish it got into more detail. This probably could’ve been a longer series, but it was riveting to say the least. *** and a half stars out of 4

16. The Witness (2016) Documentary about the case of Kitty Genovese who was famously murdered in New York with plenty of witnesses who did nothing to help her. The documentary follows Genovese’s brother who goes to find the truth about her murder. Not much is revealed and it feels like the film couldn’t make up its mind if it wanted to be an investigation into the murder or a study on the brother who seems to be finding closure. The finale where he hires an actress to play out his sister’s last moments in front of him was just kinda weird and unsettling. * star out of 4

 

Things I saw in February

toomuchhed

Silence (2016) I talked a little about this great film Here (4 stars out of 4)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) Hitchcock’s remake of his own film he made in 1934. A great thriller of Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day who are ordinary people who stumble upon a political assassination plot. Hitchcock is up to his usual tricks and this makes for an effective if not essential thriller. However it’s difficult to say which film is better, this one or the original. Stewart is the self-assured everyman, while Doris Day has some great scenes as his wife. Crowd-pleasing entertainment. (3.5 stars out of 4)

Jackie (2016) I’m not really a fan of the type of acting Natalie Portman displays here in “Jackie” though it garnered her an Oscar nomination. Portman gets the voice and presence of the former first lady, but it becomes too distracting, and I never forgot I was watching an impression. The story itself feels repetitive and poorly structured going from flashback to flashback of Jackie talking to a reporter, to talking to a priest, to preparing for JFK’s funeral. Thankfully Peter Sarsgaard gives the film a strong presence. (2 stars out of 4)

Manchester by the Sea (2016) One of the big winners at the Oscars was on my top ten list. A great acting showcase for all the performers. Big, long, but all involving. I was never bored with this film and I found it one of the most touching, funny, and honest portraits about death and moving on. (4 stars out of 4)

The Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) Charming comedy by the director of “We Live in the Shadows” which I loved. This one could’ve been a very sentimental tale, but it’s anything but. An orphan child living in New Zealand goes on the run with his adoptive father in the bush which turns into a madcap, hilarious chase. This film has a great dry sense of humour and winning performances. Don’t forget to check this out. (3.5 stars out of 4)

Sunset Song (2016) A beautiful, quiet, and tragic account of a young Scottish woman and her hard life at the turn of the century. Directed by Terrence Davis, this hearkens back to classic Hollywood women’s pictures particularly those by John Ford. The film boasts extraordinary cinemtography and great performances by everyone. This is epic filmmaking at its best. (4 stars out of 4)

Hidden Figures (2016) The sleeper hit of the season became an Oscar contender and a box office winner. Telling the story of three black women who helped with put the first American in space. The story is very formulaic, you can see the cliches coming a mile away, but you don’t really care because it’s executed so well. The three women played by Tajari P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae are great characters, and they receive great support particularly by Kevin Costner as Henson’s supervisor. Even though the story beats are nothing new here, the subject matter is. (3 stars out of 4)

Torn Curtain (1966) One of Hitchcock’s latter day films isn’t classic, but does hold your interest in a lot of ways. The story concerns a man (Paul Newman) who pretends to defect into the iron curtain to get government secrets, but his unsuspecting wife (Julie Andrews) comes along. They must then try to get back to America without getting caught. The script is at times all over the place and Newman and Andrews feel out of place, Andrews in particular is given nothing to do in the second half of the film. However Hitchcock does deliver some memorable set pieces that do show why he will and always be the master (3 stars out of 4)

Pillow Shots’ Top Ten Best Films of 2016 plus a few more things worth mentioning.

hero_silence-2016

The Oscars are upon us which brings in the final nail in the coffin of the films of 2016, meaning all discussion of last years films are usually brought to a close and we look ahead to 2017 and see what is different. For the past few weeks I’ve been playing catch up with a lot of films last year had to offer for my own. Even though I’ve missed quite a few that I wish I could’ve seen namely “Paterson”, “Toni Erdmann”, “The Handmaiden”, “Hell or High Water”, “20th Century Women” and “Certain Women” among others, I figured I’ll see them all in their good time. So why lists? Well I guess they’re fun for one thing, but I know it’s difficult comparing one film to another, it’s hard saying one film is the best, and I’ve seen my share of great films this year, in face 2016 has been a fantastic year for films in general, it was hard narrowing down a top ten. So as you will see I didn’t stop with a top ten as I couldn’t leave out some gems that garnered my attention. So without further adieu, here are my top ten films plus ten more for good measure.

1. Silence: A special film in so many ways, this started as a passion project for director Martin Scorsese, something he’s been trying to get off the ground for almost 30 years. There were rumours when Scorsese would begin filming it, but countless delays almost made it seem like it would never see the light of day. Finally the time came where cameras would role on this masterpiece of filmmaking. The film tells the story of Jesuit Priests who travel to Japan to find their old mentor who, it is rumored committed the sin of renouncing his faith which is something unforgivable. Scorsese has battles with religion and spirituality before most prominently in “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “Kundun”. But the idea of faith, God, sin, and redemption has found its way in his less obvious films right from the very beginning with his first feature “Who’s That Knocking?” and onward to “Mean Streets”, and “Raging Bull”. “Silence” continues that ongoing struggle we see with him, it’s personal film making on an epic scale, something we see very little of these days. Scorsese has talked of film being like a religious experience for him, just listen to his countless discussions, very few filmmakers carry that passion in them. “Silence” didn’t garner the type of awards attention Scorsese has become accustomed to over the past few years now, instead the Academy chose to award a more straight forward less complex Christian fable with “Hacksaw Ridge” which is shallow by comparison. I believe “Silence” will be regarded as a classic in later years and ranked among the very best Scorsese has to offer.

2. The Lobster: A deadpan comedy directed by the eccentric Yorgos Lanthimos, this sets up a world I have never would have envisioned before. Sort of a post-apocalyptic society where all people must find a mate or else they are transformed into an animal of their choosing. Hilarious, dark, sad, strangely romantic, with an ending that leaves you wondering about the idea of love. A comic masterpiece.

3. A Monster Calls: Sometimes you just judge a film by counting the tears it leaves at the end. Last year “Room” did it, this year it was this wonderful film. So many great family films were made this year, but this was the best. A moving story of a child who’s mother is slowly dying. A great many family films have dealt with grief, but this one pulls no punches, I was a wreck by the end.

4. Love and Friendship: Whit Stillman’s adaption of Jane Austin is in my opinion, the best Jane Austin adaption I have ever seen. Funny, witty, and sophisticated, this is the type of escape film they used to make all the time when audiences hungered for such things. Kate Beckinsale is a wonder, she owns every scene she’s in.

5. Nocturnal Animals: Tom Ford’s wildly entertaining, darkly funny, and twisted tale of love, revenge, and art.

6. The Witch: A dark atmospheric horror folk tale, doesn’t rely on jump scare but rather that feeling of dread. Also a tale of a girl growing into womanhood and how scary that can be.

7. Moonlight: Small, poetic, intimate, and quiet look into a life of a young man growing up in a tough black neighbourhood and coming to terms with his sexuality. Barry Jenkins creates a cinematic sensory overload and it’s quietly moving.

8. Hail Caesar: The Coen Brothers’ latest is a comedy but the second most spiritual film made this year after “Silence”. Hearkening back to golden age Hollywood, the Coen Bros. turn away from nihilism to find something to believe in: the movies! This is their “Sullivan’s Travels”.

9. Knight of Cups: Terrence Malick will always be a man who will never be everyone’s cup of tea, but I am in love with his movies. Like David Lynch, Malick becomes more experimental as he grows older, if you can believe it creating an almost empty landscape for his characters to interact. The story is non-linear mostly told in voice-over, but feels personal, and intimate.

10. Manchester by the Sea: Powerful, long story of grief, and moving on in life. Despite all this, the film is full of warm humour, deep humanity, and understanding. A very feel good movie.

And the 10 more are….

11. Sunset Song

12. La La Land

13. 13th

14. Kubo and the Two Strings

15. The Invitation

16. Midnight Special

17. Arrival

18. Pete’s Dragon

19. The Nice Guys

20. Loving

Best Director:

Martin Scorsese: Silence

Barry Jenkins: Moonlight

Yorgos Lanthimos: The Lobster

J.A. Bayona: A Monster Calls

Tom Ford: Nocturnal Animals

Best Actor:

Denzel Washington: Fences

Colin Farrell: The Lobster

Ryan Gosling: The Nice Guys

Casey Affleck: Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield: Silence

Best Actress:

Kate Beckinsale: Love and Friendship

Sally Field: Hello My Name is Doris

Ruth Negga: Loving

Viola Davis: Fences

Taraji P. Henson: Hidden Figures

Best Supporting Actor:

Michael Shannon: Nocturnal Animals

Tom Bennett: Love and Friendship

Alden Ehrenreich: Hail Caesar

Lucas Hedges: Manchester by the Sea

John Carol Lynch: The Invitation

Best Supporting Actress

Naomi Harris: Moonlight

Rachel Weiz: The Lobster

Michelle Williams: Manchester by the Sea

Angeliki Papoulia: The Lobster

Sigourney Weaver: A Monster Calls

Best Screenplay

The Lobster

Love and Friendship

Manchester by the Sea

A Monster Calls

Hail Caesar