Saturday, May 21, 2011

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 10 - 6


I am thinking about posting the last 5 films, one day at a time. It would stretch the time out a bit to the "big payoff" (lol) but it might be fun? Or I might just make the #1 post be all by itelf, that way it can have a bit more focus. Let me know what you think, let your voice be heard! Cheers!

DISCLAIMER: Joel's 'Top 50 Films Of All Time' is a subjective list. This list can change at any time and is not set in concrete. As Joel watches films on a weekly basis, this list is a living organism. This current incarnation of the list is also only as of the time of creating it. Thank you for reading and enjoy! (I do expect some backlash from my decisions, especially the last 10 films.)

On this list, you will find instances where more than one film is listed. This is because either there was a tie or the films somehow tie in with each other and make one selection in my mind. At each occurance, I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind my decision.


# 10: 'Sling Blade'

As I've already, just recently, posted a review of this film.... I figured taht I would give you the link to that review instead of writing a whole new one. Is that okay?

Now onto the next one. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer if you'd like!


# 9: 'House Of A 1000 Corpses'

I wrote a review for this film once, but I was never really satisfied with the way it came out. I guess this is my chance to have a 'do over' and re-write it. Now, anyone who knows me at all, knows that I have a HUGE man crush on Rob Zombie. I worship every one of his films, enjoy his music and love everything he is associated with. (Althougth his involvement on 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' seemed a bit odd.) I've already included one of his films on this list and am kind of surprised with myself that I didn't include the others. They are on my 'Top 200' films list, so I guess it's okay then. Anyway, 'House Of A 1000 Corpses' was obviously a labor of love for Mr. Zombie. It's like the philosophy of a friend of mine that says, 'A musician has his whole life to come up with his first album, that's why it's usually his best.' This film is Rob's first full length feature and I'm guessing it was something he'd been dreaming up his whole life. Granted, the films he made following this were amazing too, but some people are just keen like that. I remember reading about this for a long time before it came out. It was a long wait from the time it was actually finished until it was released. There was a time I didn't think it would ever see the light of day, but thanks to Lionsgate, it made it's way into my living room. Funny thing about this film was tht the first time I watched it my surround sound was messed up. It would get loud or soft in very odd places, so I just assumed it was part of the film. In my mind, it just showed that Rob was playing with all aspects of the film. The colors, qualities, etc.... so it didn't surprise me that the sound was strange too. It was only a short time later that I realized it wasn't supposed to be like that. Another thing about the first time I saw it, I kept thinking the entire time I watched it that I'd never seen anything like it before. I fell in love with it during the first sequence and couldn't stop thinking about it after it was over. It was an instant classic. I didn't recognize a lot of the actors in it when I first saw it, but I sure recognize them all now. I think all the characters in it are very recognizable too. Pretty much icons of the horror genre. They've become statues, toys, Halloween costumes, t-shirts, etc. they are part of the fabric of film. This film is the only film that has the distinction that I watched it 3 times in a row. The first time was just to watch it, the second two were to watch the different commentaries. The only other film to come close to this is George A. Romero's 'Dawn Of The Dead' (1978). This film has obviously left a permenant mark on me.

I don't know if it's even neccessary to provide a plot for the flim, as I just assume everyone has seen it. However, that's just not the case. This is still a realitivly unknown film compared to it's sequel, 'The Devil's Rejects'. Anyway, the film involves 4 people travelling across country working on a book about odd roadside attractions. They come across a place called 'Captain Spaulding's Musuem of Monsters and Madmen'. It's actually a gas station/ chicken joint with a pseudo musuem in the back. Captain Spaulding is a rather large and sinister looking man dressed as an oddball clown. He takes the 4 through the musuem and at the last exhibit, he tells them about a killer named Doctor Satan. They become curious about this killer and seek to find the tree where he was hung, but his body dissappeared. The 4 set out to find the tree, but get rather lost in a nasty rainstorm. They pick up a pretty, but strange female hitchiker who says she can get them to the location of the tree. They end up at her home after their tire is mysteriously blown out. While in the home they meet Mother Firefly, Grandpa, Tiny, Baby (the hitchiker), RJ and the frightening Otis. They have Halloween Eve dinner with them and see the aftershow. A near fight ensues and they decide to leave. Otis and Tiny attack them on the way out and next thing they know they are being held captive in the Firefly's home and one by one they're getting tortured or killed along with an etire squad of local cheerleaders. The police begin to search for them and it seems that all hope is lost.... until they soon meet Doctor Satan. Can they survive? I'm not going to give away the ending. 5 bloody stars for sure. This is pretty much my all time favorite horror film and one that I've seen so many times that I've lost count. I can quote it backwards and forwards. I own the Captain Spaulding action figure. I even dressed as him for Halloween one year. I have a Captain Spaulding t-shirt and am always on the lookout for more merchandise. I'm hoping that someday this will get the praise it deserves or that, at least, Rob Zombie will find someone willing to put out a special edition with more extras on it. The one's on the DVD I have are pretty keen, but I always find myself wanting more. This is a must watch for fans of Mr. Zombie, horror films or just want to see something different. I will warn you, it's not for the squeemish. It is pretty intense and graphic in more ways than one. These are not nice people and although we're kind of primed to think of them as the anti-hero's, they're still bad guys who do really bad things. 'The Devil's Rejects' is an amazing follow up to this film. It's not quite as inventive, but it's really solid and one that more people can get into because it's more of a serial killer road film than a straight up horror flim. And with that, I think I've said my peace about this film.... for now.
(a trailer....)

(and another trailer....)


# 8: 'Reservoir Dogs'/ 'Pulp Fiction'

I am breaking this one place on the list to two films. I just couldn't find a way to put one ahead of the other. I love all things Tarantino and these are no exception. 'Reservoir Dogs' has been at the top of my list for a very long time and 'Pulp Fiction' has been pretty high up there too. I think that they're both films that deserve viewing by anyone who likes to watch films. I think that both of these films had an effect on film making in general and made Quentin Tarantino's career what it is today. That being said, let's get it on with each review:

'Reservoir Dogs' has a funny backstory with me. It is one of the earliest films I saw in my days of first deciding to become a film expert. I saw it on VHS with a group of friends and we all agreed that it was an amazing film. None of us really knew who anyone involved in it was, but we knew them all after the film was over. The funny thing about this film was that it was a 'Pan and Scan' version that I owned on VHS, not the widescreen version. I didn't see the widescreen version until years later. 'Pan and Scan', for those who don't know, is what they do to a full screen film when you can't see all the action that's going on. They'll blow up the picture to fit the full screen and then if something is going on in a scene that you can't quite see, they'll 'Pan and Scan' over to it. I learned to hate this method of film correction, but with this film it became a part of the experience. The first time I saw it in widescreen was when I purchased the 10th anniv. edition on DVD. It was a bizarre thing, the whole flim felt so much different. I think the word that kept coming to mind the whole time I watched it was "lonely". It felt big, empty and lonely. I haven't watched it again since I purchased the DVD and I'm not sure if it's because I wasn't in the mood or because I wasn't used to seeing it in its original format. Luckily, the DVD has both versions, so if I get desperate.... I can watch the 'Pan and Scan' version. (That makes me sad to even say that.)

This film is the film that every budding young storyteller wants to make. However, not everyone can be Quentin Tarantino.... but Hollywood spent a helluva a lot of time and money looking for the 'next' Quentin Tarantino. The plot is pretty simple: Criminals, using colors instead of names, pull a jewlery heist. When the whole thing goes south, they begin to think that there may be an undercover police officer in their midst. Everyone that survived the attempted robbery meet back in a casket warehouse. Once they get there, they begin to fight with each other in an attempt to figure out who the rat is. The whole time this is going on, we're getting the backstory via flashbacks. In the end, do they get their just deserts? You'll have to watch it to find out and trust me, you won't regret it if you do. However, you may end up with some questions at the end as to what really happened. I'm still wondering the same thing sometimes.

This Quentin Tarantino film was a part of pop culture the minute it hit the theaters. Ironically, this film I saw in the exact same theater that I saw the second listing for the #7 film on the list (not too mention, Eric Stoltz was in each of them too!) and 'Reservoir Dogs' was seen with the exact same people in the exact same room on the exact same VCR as the first selection on my #7 spot on this list. I guess it makes sense that they'd be where they are? Anyway.... like I was saying, 'Pulp Fiction' was instantly part of pop culture and still is today. It created a monster in the form of wannabe directors and writers that used his same style, formula and character bases to create their films. It also caused the Hollywood execs to buy up every 'Tarantino-esque' film they could find or anything associated with him. The market became saturated with it all. I think that's partially why I've stayed away from watching this one too often. That being said, I still love this film. Bruce Willis doesn't hurt either. I remember seeing this film in a movie theater with (you may remember him from previous blog entries) DocStout. He was pretty much the reason I went. I wasn't as well versed on directors, writers or producers at the time.... so I had no clue it was done by the same folks who did 'Reservoir Dogs'. Thankfully, he made me go to it (and several other films), because if he hadn't I may haven't had the chance to see it until much later.

The flim is a collection of scenes that tie together into a few stories about a selection of people that all connect to each other.... for the most part. You'e got the likable gangsters, the washed up boxer, the gun toting lovebirds and the rest. No one is really your typical hero in this film, they're all more anti-hero types. That doesn't make them any less likable. Everyone can relate to someone in the film and everyone has their favorites. It includes a cast of thousands and jump started John Travolta's come back. It also cemented Samuel L. Jackson's status as a "Bad M F'er". It was nominated and won several awards and not only did it solidify Quentin Tarantino's status as a writer, but also as a director. He became part of the Hollywood elite after this and has since been making amazing films with the 100% support of Hollywood and audiences alike. This film has become similar to 'Citizen Kane' in the fact that it's included on almost every 'Top' critics list made after 1995. I think that because of that, just about everything that can be said about this film, has been said. So I'll just finish up this by saying, if you're ever in a pawn shop looking for the man that you screwed over to finish beating him up.... keep your head on a swivel because the last thing you want to do is end up in the basement with the gimp. Trust me on this.


# 7: 'Threesome'/ 'Naked In New York'

I feel that these two films go hand in hand. One handles the time when you're in college, the other handles the time right after college ends. Both are genius, in my opinion.

I think that because of the fact that this film is called 'Threesome' or the taboo subject matter involved, it doesn't get the credit it deserves. I remember the first time I saw it thinking that it was just another film that had nudity and sex in it, but upon repeated viewing I found so much more. I found a flim that related the college experience in a way that not too many had done before, only it was hidden underneath all the taboo subject matter. I think if you can see beyond that, you'll find that there is a lot going on here that deserves repeated viewings. I actually have weird nostalgia feelings whenever I see this. I look forward to reliving everything when I watch 'Threesome'. Granted, I may not have lived in a co-ed dorm with another guy and girl that ended in kinkiness, but that's kind of beside the point. What this film talks to is more the alienation and process of learning who you are. It is all about the philosophy that you'll figure out who you really are by the end of your college experience. The last scene in this film kind of sums up that point and it does it well.

The film is about two guys who end up in a dorm room together, but couldn't be more different. Over time they begin to get along and eventually become friends. Just as all of this is happening, a girl is suddenly thrust into their lives as she is moved into their dorm room as well. It proves to be a mix up due to her masculine sounding name, but there is a shorttage of living space on campus, so she's stuck there until they can find her somewhere else to live. This creates a strange microcosim. It's not a really long time before sexual tension begins to build between the roomates and you get the feeling that somethings going to give at some point. During all of this, they're living their own lives but slowly becoming more and more self involved with each other. I know my description still lends itself to the belief that this is all about the big sex scene, the "threesome". Yes, that's part of the point of this story, but the writing offers so much more than that. It offers an insight into the mindset of the young adult growing up. It's so sharp and crisp that it really grabs you if you'll let it. I love this film and think that people really need to open their minds and give it another viewing, you just might find more beneath the surface than you knew was there. I did.

Where 'Threesome' was about the college experience, 'Naked In New York' is about the time right after college, where you're first out on your own.... trying to make it in the big bad world. For a long, long time, this film was my #1 film of all time. It spoke volumes to me and had a deep effect on me after I saw it for the first time. It still resonates with me today, but I have shelved it futher own the list to match up with 'Threesome' as I feel that they are bookends to each other and need to be spoken of in the same sentence. That doesn't lessen my love for this flim, it just makes more sense to me this way. This film isn't 100% what everyone experiences just out of school, but it captures those feelings and questions and problems we all had. The things we all experienced tryint to make our way. Our attempts at love and where to make it go. Our failures, our successes. It's just a really smart and well done film. It has a cast of thousands and made me a believer in the acting skills of one Mr. Eric Stoltz. It led me to other films with him in it, like: 'Killing Zoe' and 'Sleep With Me'. (both also tie ins with Quentin Tarantino.) This film to me, not only captures a place in time in most of our lives, but also a feeling. It's another one of my 'nostalgia' films like 'Threesome'.

The film is about a young man who is trying to get his play on stage in New York City. He is living with his girlfriend who also has dreams, but hers are more centered around her photography. They both are fresh out of school and living together, but headed in different directions. As each of them begin heading down the path of their dreams.... they realize that they may not be able to go together. They revisit their collective past as they begin to move into their futures. What happens next? Well, the journey is half the fun. This script is wonderful to see acted out. Everyone in this film is well cast and gives a stellar performance. There are a few quirky moments that might give you a bit of pause, but it all just adds to the charm of the film. It's a little indie gem that came and went in the theaters really quickly and had a slightly better live on video. It's never reached the status that I feel that it should have, but to me.... that kind of makes it my own little private film or secret. One that I'll share with others, but hope that the rest of the world doesn't catch on. If you can find it and rent/buy it, do it. It didn't make this list for no reason at all and it didn't sit in my #1 position for as long as it did for no reason either. I have and always will love this film.


# 6: 'Dawn Of The Dead' (1978)

Right next to 'House Of 1000 Corpses' on my list of greates horror films ever made, sits 'Dawn Of The Dead' (1978). As you already knew and have also learned in this 'Top 50' countdown, I love zombies and I don't think any other film out there has captured them the way that this film has. Hell, I made a trip to the Monroeville Mall just to visit the location that they filmed this and I took a ton of pictures of recognizable sites! If that's not dedication, I don't know what is. Yes, I know this film is dated and the blood looks like paint.... but sometimes, the cinema is about suspension of disbelief. It was a different time and George A. Romero and Tom Savini were doing the best they could with what they had. Besides, they were making something that was epic in scope and in order to make it all work, they had to save money from time to time. To go beyond that, I'll admit it has a lot of other flaws.... you really have to see beyond them or embrace them to see the brilliance that is 'Dawn Of The Dead'. This film has massive amounts of zombies to spare, plenty of good guys and bad guys. Lots of creative ways to survive the zombie apocalypse and the ultimate zombie nerds dream of taking over a mall. Where else would you have wanted to be back in the day? Now days you might say some place like Costco or something, but back then.... things were different.

The storyline follows 4 different people trying to find safety and a new life after the world falls to a zombie epidemic. Two police officers, one news chopper pilot and a TV executive. They all team up and escape in a helicopter where they eventually find a mall where they decide to hold up for a night. After realizing that the mall has basically been sealed up already and barely any zombies are inside, they begin to think about just staying there until things get better in the world. So they barricade all the entrances, kill all the undead inside and create a safe haven in an unused storage area on the top floor.... basically sealed off and safe from anywhere else in the mall. Things go great for a while until travelling marauders find the mall and realize that people are inside. They get in touch with the group of 4 and warn them that they'll be coming in if they don't let them in. Soon the mall is overwhelmed by the motorcyle gang and along with the threat of violence from them, they've also let the zombie hordes in with them. It becomes an all out war for the mall. By the time they decide they should pack up and leave together, one of them is half eaten by zombies and he leads them back to the safe room. Does anyone survive? You'd have to see it to find out. Did I mention that the woman in the group is pregnant? Well, she is. This is one of the last films of Romero that I think he made the film that he wanted to make. After this, 'Day Of The Dead' was extremely trimmed back due to budget constraints. 'Land Of The Dead' was too over the top and too long after the last film. Next, 'Document Of The Dead'. I think he may be really happy with this one. This received some of the best reviews since 'Dawn Of The Dead' came out. It was a bit of a re-hash of other trends right now, but for this kind of genre it worked well. Finally he made 'Survival Of The Dead'. I still haven't quite made up my mind on this one, but it's still Romero and zombies, it just isn't the best story ever. Ah well, they can't all be 5 star films like 'Dawn Of The Dead' (1978). This film did get a rough re-make in (2004) and is probably one of the best re-makes made so far. It built on the basics of the original story, but cranked up the intensity to 11 and a star rating to 5 out of 5.

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