Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two Thumbs Up

I found IMDB's list of top 250 movies the other day, and on a lark, I figured that I might as well go through part of the list and check which ones I'd already seen. While I'm not crazy enough to effectively write about two hundred and fifty different movies, the top fifty should be enough to serve my purposes.

Because these movies are literally on this list because hundreds of thousands of IMDB users voted them in, I suppose that they will obviously count as "good" movies. Some of them might even count as "great" movies, depending on what you think. With that said, though, we'll all still get completely different impressions from them -- they'll impact us in places where they might not impact anyone else.

So I won't tell you what I think of these movies -- I like to think that they're all good, and I actually do think that they're all good. What I do feel compelled to write about, however, involves what I got from these movies -- I'll be writing about those little things that struck me the most, and stayed with me even if I haven't seen those one-and-a-half hours of digital celluloid in a long time.

Out of the fifty movies below, I've seen only twenty, and they're all in bold. Anything that's in non-bold text is "on my list"; that is, I keep telling myself that I'll see the movie some day. Maybe if I keep reminding myself enough times, I'll drop by the nearest rental outfit and pick one of them up.

The IMDB list
(With annotations by you-know-who. Spoilers abound.)

1. The Godfather (1972)

2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
- Interestingly enough, I only realized that this was based on a short novella by Stephen King a few years after I first saw this movie. In a strange irony, I haven't quite found the printed version of the story yet. This movie, mind you, is why I'm usually not too impressed with contemporary prison-oriented TV series.

3. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

4. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

5. Pulp Fiction (1994)

6. Schindler's List (1993)

- This film just had so many lovely scenes: The little snapshot of Itzhak's existence. The ghetto massacre. Schindler's search for a secretary. Amon testing out his new "principle of forgiveness". The child with the red dress. The hinge incident. The stolen chicken. The diversion to Auschwitz. The final departure. (And I'm just naming things off the top of my head here.)

7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)


8. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

- I may be offending the Star Wars crowd out there, but I didn't see much beyond the fact that the original three (Episodes four, five and six) made for a good movie series. I'll gladly watch this and the other movies along with the rest of the fans, but I won't obsess about it on message boards or in public conversation. But then, well, it's different strokes for different folks.

9. Casablanca (1942)

10. Seven Samurai (1954)
- No, I haven't seen this Japanese masterpiece yet, but I've seen the plot echoed in other media. It's great stuff. If you think about it carefully, this was the "300" scenario long before Frank Miller came up with his graphic novel -- seven warriors against overwhelming odds. The fact that they have to find a way to work together to begin with just adds to the humanity of this tale.

11. Star Wars (1977)

- More than a few screenings later, I've concluded that this movie is paced a little fast for me... I would have liked to see a little more character development between Luke and Obi-Wan. Then again, this was a bit of a gamble back when this was first released, so I don't blame the creators.

12. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

- Each of the LotR movies seems to be a huge favorite, and you can't really consider them on an individual level. I do have favorite scenes for each of the three movies, though -- with "The Return of the King", it happens to be that short, tense episode where Eowyn has to face the Lord of the Nazgul... alone. The prologue -- where it's revealed as to how Gollum first got his hands on the One Ring -- is unquestioningly brutal, though, and it comes a close second for me.

13. 12 Angry Men (1957)

14. Rear Window (1954)

15. Goodfellas (1990)
- The curious part is that Henry Hill is actually still alive as of this writing. In fact, he served as creative consultant for his own movie, which makes me wonder if the story at least partially favors him. This, I feel, is one of the two movies I've seen where Joe Pesci's magnificent presence lends the movie its ironclad soul.

16. City of God (2002)
- "Vicious" is the adjective that comes to mind whenever I'm asked to describe this movie. It's not easy watching kids grow up to maim and kill their own counterparts. Sometimes I wonder how the main character managed to survive in such an environment.

17. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

- This was one of the first movies that made me realize that "action" movies didn't have to be all action all the time, and that "adventure" movies didn't have to be all adventure all the time. It was funny and scary in all the right places, and the closing scene was a very welcome twist. That, and it made me resolve never to bring a sword to a gunfight. :)

18. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

19. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
- See above. My favorite scene here is one of the minor ones -- it's when Frodo reunites with his kind, generous uncle Bilbo in Rivendell, only to have the elder hobbit viciously snarl at Frodo when he refuses to hand over the Ring. I felt that it brought a very important point to the mind of the audience -- that the Ring had this subtle power to corrupt even the gentlest of things.

20. The Usual Suspects (1995)

- This movie only really gets exciting once the whole twist starts spilling out at the end. The unbridled suspicions start slowly at first, and then suddenly cascade into revelation after revelation while you look on in horror. And at the precise moment when Kevin Spacey reveals that he's not really a cripple at all, the die is cast -- you'll never trust a narrator ever again. :)

21. Psycho (1960)

22. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

23. Fight Club (1999)
- The ending still feels a little too dreamlike and unrealistic to me, somehow. If there's anything that sticks in my mind about this movie, it's the unfortunate obese man who somehow manages to get in waaaay over his head with regards to the whole Fight Club thing.

24. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

- "Hello, Clarisse. Have the lambs stopped screaming yet?" Brrr.

25. Citizen Kane (1941)

26. North by Northwest (1959)

27. Memento (2000)

28. Sunset Blvd. (1950)

29. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

- See above. This is, I think, the weaker of the three movies, and it's still darn strong. What do I feel is the most memorable scene here? It's the one where Treebeard and the Ents trudge over a high ridge to discover that Saruman has clear-cut the land around Isengard and killed their brethren to create machines of war. Committees and discussions be damned -- the Ents exact a terrible revenge.

30. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

31. The Matrix (1999)

- I've never been able to look at a feeling of déja vu in quite the same way since I saw this movie.

32. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

33. Se7en (1995)
- This was such a macabre movie, and I still enumerate the seven deadly sins according to their sequence as presented here. The best part, I think, lies not in how each of the killings is committed in a creative manner -- it's that moment in the end where you realize that you don't know if Brad Pitt's going to pull that trigger or not, and you're afraid.

34. Apocalypse Now (1979)

- While it's not a horror movie in the superficial sense, it's a fairly deep psychological thriller. It's at least worth it to see Lawrence Fishburne perform a role outside his normally stoic characters.

35. Taxi Driver (1976)

36. American Beauty (1999)

- Geez... how many times does Kevin Spacey appear on this list? It doesn't have a great underlying plot as much as it brings a bunch of disparate stories together, but I like the way that the humor and the drama are interleaved here -- it literally gets you laughing one moment and sitting shell-shocked the next. Floating plastic bags aside, I could just watch the "job resignation" scene all day.

37. Leon the Professional (1994)

38. Vertigo (1958)

39. American History X (1998)

40. Amélie (2001)

41. Paths of Glory (1957)

42. The Departed (2006)

43. M (1931)

44. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

- I read the book and I liked it. I saw the movie and I liked it even more, which got me to read the book again. It's a vicious cycle.

45. The Third Man (1949)

46. Chinatown (1974)

47. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

48. The Lives of Others (2006)

49. Alien (1979)

- For an android, Lance Hendriksen sure was messy when he was virtually cut in half. That said, however, I suspect that "Alien" is up here only for nostalgia value -- if there's any alien horror movie that I really enjoyed immensely (and which scared the crap out of me), it was "The Thing".

50. There Will Be Blood (2007)

For those curious, #51 on IMDB's list is "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," one of my favorites, and I think that it's a criminal act that people could so easily leave it out of the top 50. :)



Anonymous said...

I'm a movie addict, so this might be a long comment. :P
Of those in your "list" I really strongly recommend that you see these ones first (I still don't really know what your taste is though, so these are in random order, except for #1):

1. Casablanca - Because the greatest movie quotes of all time come from this movie! Even the phrase "The Usual Suspects" (which is a title of another movie in the Top 50), is said to have been taken from one of the lines in this movie. :)

2. Seven Samurai

3. Psycho - P.S. Watch the original. The remake (with Vince Vaughn, Viggo Mortensen, Julianne Moore, etc.) doesn't do it justice. :P It is kind of boring if you already know the ending, though.

4. Citizen Kane - In some places, this is called "the greatest film of all time". I think it's because of all the groundbreaking (it is quite an old film after all) technical effects (i.e. framing, camera angles, etc.)

5. Sunset Blvd. - It's about a writer (and writing, I guess). And a crazy woman. That should be enough reason. Hehe. :)

6. Amelie

7. The Departed - (And if you can, watch the movies this was based on, too (Infernal Affairs I, II and III -- they're Hong Kong movies). The Departed is more condensed and easier to understand, but the Infernal Affairs Series is also pretty interesting. :))


You don't have to believe me, of course. I'm just also saying my opinion here. But I really think that they won't disappoint you. :)

Oh, and I agree on the case of #51. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is sooo underrated!

Anonymous said...

"rita hayworth and the shawshank redemption" is a short story in the stephen king collection called "four seasons"

Sean said...

Ida: I've noticed that Casablanca and Citizen Kane traditionally appear in lists of "top" movies, but I find it difficult to score copies of them. Sometimes I wonder just how accessible they are to the newer generations.

Unfortunately for Psycho, I already know how it ends. I blame my constant need to analyze horror movies this way. :(

Any of the movies above that I haven't seen are likely already on my list, although I do have a friend who's been trying to get me to watch Infernal Affairs over The Departed.

Anonymous: It's "Different Seasons," actually. I've found a few copies at the local book sales, but they're almost always of degraded quality. I also look forward to reading two of the other three narratives in the book, which were also made into films: Apt Pupil and The Body (i.e. Stand By Me).

Anonymous said...

Re Casablanca and Citizen Kane - I think some pirated dvd vendors have copies of these, although they're usually bundled with several other old movies, some of which aren't very good. But sometimes you can stumble upon really good ones as well (This is how I got to see Sunset Blvd.) Maybe you can download them from somewhere.

(Wait, that's wrong. I don't like advocating piracy -_-)

As for Psycho, I guess if you already know the ending, you'll be entertained anyway with the music, and with Norman Bates' expressions. :-S

I still say it's better to watch both Infernal Affairs and The Departed. For me, The Departed is one of those rare movies that doesn't completely ruin the Asian film that it was based on. :)

Sean said...

Ida: Neither do I... for that matter, I'd gladly punk down the money for a good copy. It'll be a matter of finding the movies, though.

happylittlegirl said...

Silly me, you can watch them on streaming sites like this one:

You'll have to have a good connection though, otherwise you'll need to be really really patient.

Sean said...

Ida: I'm a patient man, but the Internet is such that it distracts me very easily. :) Still, I'll try to carve an hour-and-a-half off my schedule...