IMPORTANT NOTE TO THE READER....!:
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? Let me know, 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.)
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.
# 15: 'The Blair Witch Project'
This selection may just loose me all my readers and make you wonder why in the hell you started reading this blog in the first place. I can't help it, I love this film, I love Heather Donahue and I still get chills everytime I see the last 5 minutes of the film. I think this film is unique and something that still deserves a spot on people's 'Best of' lists, instead of being kind of ridiculed. If think about when it came out and all of the hype and curiousity about it.... it was unlike anything we'd really seen before. I remember watching little clips from of it on my friends computer. They scared the crap out of me. It also made all of us wonder if what we were saying was real or a hoax. It was so hard to tell back then. It was the dawn of the internet and the whole 'viral' video thing wasn't even a concept in some nerd's head. This was a film that was based on grassroots marketing, word of mouth and any kind of press they could find.... good or bad. It was the right concept at the right time and the perfect storm of indie films.
Something that I think is an important factor in enjoyment of this film, was seeing it in the theaters. I was lucky enough to have passes to opening night at a little theater in Oak Park, IL and I sat in an audience that all were as confused as I was. We all reacted together, we all jumped at scares together and at the end.... I'm pretty sure we all got chills together. It was not unlike my experience seeing 'Grindhouse' in the theater. It's something that you can't expect everyone else to understand. You just do your best to get your reasonings across as to why you love the film and what you want them to see in it and that's all you can do. To me, it's an experience I will never forget and anyone that knows me, usually knows about my deep love for 'The Blair Witch Project'.
The film is about 3 students who set out to make a documentary about a legendary witch that lives in the wooded area in a small town. While filming the locals and exploring the woods, they becoming horribly lost and are soon being hunted by some unseen force. Despite their best efforts, they can't escape and soon begin to loose their grip on thigs and begin turning on each other. The ending of this builds up to a monumental boil that pays off in such a big way that I can't help but watch it over and over. A lot of people think the ending was some kind of cop out or something, but with the buildup of the story and the pressure.... it just hits you like a sledgehmmer and leaves you feeling winded. This is a 5 star docu-type-drama-horror-classic that was followed by a less than stellar sequel. It also cursed the rest of the cast from really making many other films and if they did, they weren't too good. Regardless of all that, I am satisfied to just have this one piece of cinema. It makes me sad that this film has become some kind of a joke. It just proves, once again, that the masses are fickle. You have to take this film for what it is, the time it came out and how much it accomplished. For that, it makes my list.
# 14: 'Grindhouse': 'Planet Terror'/ 'Death Proof'
When I first heard the rumblings about this film and the teamup involved, I was floored. I followed it's every move until it hit the theaters. I listened to every radio interview, watched every TV snippet, checked the web, checked magazines, basically was a 'Grindhouse' stalker from beginning to end. Then, on opening weekend.... Amy and I went to see it in the theater. I have to say it was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had at a film in the theaters. 'The Blair Witch Project', the 'Star Wars' films and 'Hot Fuzz' being the other biggest. Sadly, I don't think anyone else will ever appreciate these films the way I do. Only the select few that made it out to the theater can agree or disagree with that statement. The films involved are still great films, but together with the faux trailers and with an audience was an entirely different thing. I think what I saw was what Quentin and Robert wanted me to see. A throwback to a different time. A time when films were made for the audience reaction in the cinema and when you got more bang for your buck. I think the intention was that these two films might trigger a resurgance of this kind of entertainment. It didn't. As a matter of fact, the films kind of flopped at the box office. The critics praised them, but the audience didn't take the time to go and see them. However, after DVD release as two seperate films.... they've got a new life. They have also given us a re-issuing of tons of original 70's grindhouse films on DVD. They also gave us 'Machete' and 'Hobo With A Shotgun'. 'Machete' was fun and good stuff. 'Hobo With A Shotgun' was earth shattering. It echoed everything that the original two 'Grindhouse' films brout back and inspired a young film maker to live his dream. So, in the end did 'Grindhouse' not accomplish what it set out to? I think it did.
As far as each film goes, 'Planet Terror' is a take on the zombie genre and 'Death Proof' is a take on the chick/revenge genre. 'Planet Terror' tells the story of several different people that all live in the same town and are loosely connected to each other. During one night's time, the world basically ends when a deal goes bad and a toxin is released turning everyone into zombies. A group of individuals all find each other over the course of the evening and attempt to find safety. Oh, did I mention that one of the women is a go-go dancer that loses her leg and it's replaced by a high-powered machine gun? Well, it is. 'Death Proof' tells the story of Stuntman Mike, a man with a "death proof" car. He crosses paths with two groups of women. The first group, he murders and makes it look like a kind of accident. The second group he terrorizes, but they don't take his crap and they fight back. Can they stop him? Oh, did I mention that there is a HUGE car chase at the end? It's pretty rockin'.
People took this film as a challenge to pick a favorite. That's not the point, folks. It was about the unit as a whlole experience. I think that both films are amazing and are 5 star classics. I think that they show two film makers at the top of their games, making films that show off their love of their craft and of the genre's chosen. So you can watch them as a whole or individually, that's up to you. I'm hoping that at some point, they'll release them together as one film with trailers included in the middle again. I don't see that happening anytime soon. Oh well, with the internet and a little motivation, you can watch it the way it was originally intended.... thank goodness for that.
(this is the EXACT duplicate of the double-sided original movie poster that i have proudly hanging on my living room wall.... i got it from a friend that was running a movie theater at the time 'Grindhouse' was released.... this is one of my most favorite things i have in my home.)
# 13: 'Aladdin' (1992)
This is the last animated feature on my countdown and my all time favorite. I saw it in the theater with friends and left a changed guy. I bought it on VHS right before college and watched it every single day of my Freshman year of college. (Kind of nerdy, I know.... but it's the truth.) I am not 100% sure what it is about 'Aladdin' that I love so much, but I do. Granted, it has its flaws, like the early use of CGI. It's not done very well and kind of makes the film hard to watch. On the other hand, did you realize that the magic carpet is all CGI? I didn't until recently and it surprised me when I found out. Anyway, I know all the songs backwards and forwards. I can practically watch the film and quote all the dialouge. I have seen it so many times that I've lost count. It's not a part of my DVD collection, but that original VHS is still packed in a box as a reminder of how it all started. I have the entire trading card set, a giagantic puzzle and other stuff tied in with the film. I am an 'Aladdin' dork. I've also seen the sequels and animated show. I'm not impressed. Luckily, they didn't ruin my impression of the original.
'Aladdin' is not a new story, it's just a re-telling of an old story by Disney. It is about a young, homeless boy who helps a young girl in trouble. He finds out, after the fact, that she's a princess. He has fallen for her and tries to woo her, but is stopped by Jafar, the sulton's right hand man. After many adventures, a talking parrot, a trouble making monkey, a magc carpet, a giant tiger, a cave of wonders and a whole lot of singing.... he gets the girl. (Like I'm ruinig anything for anyone!) I am doubtful that any one of you reading this who grew up in the 90's hasn't seen this film. And if you haven't.... GO WATCH IT DAMN IT! I love this film, period. 5 stars is merely a way to express that, but it's more than a number, it's a part of my history. A part of our collective history. I have no doubt that this film will ever go away, it's a Disney classic and a mighty fine film.
# 12: 'Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead'
What in the hell is this film doing on this list? And why in the hell is it so high up on the list? I can hear you smacking your foreheads and groaning right now. Have you seen this film? If not, how can you judge? If you've seen the film, then I think you can understand why this film is where it is. It's Troma at its finest. It's Lloyd Kaufman's 'Citizen Kane'. It is what every film should be.... a horror film, a comedy, a romance, a disgust-a-thon, a zombie film, a film about fried chicken, an action film, a satire, a drama (maybe not so much), an homage and a musical. A musical???? Yup. One of the few musicals I enjoy. When you watch this film, you get everything you could ever want in a film all in one neat little bundle. It's perfection personified. 5 stars, 5 stars, 5 stars. I am pretty sure that none of the actors will ever escapre the Troma-bubble, but does it really matter? They've made a film that will go down in history. I love this film so much that I went out of my way to make sure that I purchased the 3 DVD edition. I wanted everything I could get about this film and I was not dissappointed with my decision. I also have an autographed Llyod Kaufman photo from the film and a promo one-sheet from the film, also autographed. Both are hanging proudly in my home. I have lost count how many times I've seen this film. I've also lost count how many times I've shared this film with others. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
The film centers around a young man named Arbie. He loves Wendy. Wendy went away to college and is now a lesbian in love with Micki. Arbie takes a job at The American Chicken Bunker to get her back. He works for Denny. Works with Carl Jr., Humus and Paco Bell. Some tainted chicken is given away to the public and soon the masses are eating the tainted chicken and then turning into undead, native American, chicken zombies! The gang holds up in the American Chicken Bunker after the Colonel shows up and makes things worse. Can they escape with their lives? Will Arbie turn Wendy back into a heterosexual? Will Carl Jr. get the mop handle out of his butt? Will Paco Bell survive as a sandwich? Will the zombies be stopped? Can they sing their way to freedom? Find out when you watch this film! This is the supreme pizza of films.... it has something for everyone, including a stuffed crust and dipping sauce. Damn it! Go and place your order now to watch 'Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead'.... if it's not their in 30 minutes or less, tough noogies.
# 11: 'Napoleon Dynamite'
Once again, I am expecting to hear some confusion from the crowd. Yes, I LOVE this film! I just watched it again today and I have not one clue how many times I've seen this film. I watch it just about once every month to three months, sometimes by myself and sometimes with the kids. It's on cable all the time, so I watch it there sometimes. I have watched films from the other actors, because of 'Napoleon Dynamite'. This film is here for a reason. If you haven't seen this film before, it's about a teen in Idaho and his daily life. It's mundane, for the most part, until his Uncle Rico has to come and watch over him. Also, another teen named Pedro moves into town and they become friends and work towards getting dates to the big dance and getting Pedro elected to class president. His brother, Kip, is starting a new romance and thinking about becoming a cage fighter. His llama needs more ham and it all leads up to a big dance number at the end! Sounds good, right? Well.... it is.
What I really love about this film is that it's rated 'PG'. I don't watch a whole lot of 'PG' rated films without my kids around, but 'Napoleon Dynamite' is the exception to that rule. It's an odd little film about odd little people. It's naive without being childish. There always seems like there might be some undercurrent of darkness or perversion in the film, but nothing ever happens and it seems like it's all in your mind. It's like we're so used to a standard for films, that when one comes along that is just plain pure of heart, we still expect the worst from it. Even the bully in this film is kind of a nice guy. Instead of just demanding money from a smaller kid.... he says, "Give me $.50! I'll pay ya back!" And I believe him. He also just doesn't take a kid's bike, he asks to borrow it. Again, I honestly think he's going to bring it back. Uncle Rico makes some bad choices and it even seems like he's going to make more of them by hitting on Napoleon's friend Deb. It all just turns out to be in our heads and we just assume it, because we're jaded. I love that this film makes me re-think my whole thought processes. It's a grown up film, with a child like sensability. All of the character's are flawed and not your typical leading stars. The story is pretty basic and would be dull by most standards. The villans really aren't bad people, they just make bad choices because they don't know what else to do. Our hero is the guy we all made fun of growing up, yet in this context we root for him and identify with him. This film is the reason I watch films. I love to be surprised. I obviously, can't say enough good things about 'Napoleon Dynamite'. It is, as I say, pitch-perfect film making. Sadly, I haven't seen the next film made by the same primaries called 'Nacho Libre'. For some reason it doesn't hold the same appeal and didn't get the best reviews. I guess that's me just being snobby or worried that it might be better than this.... I don't know. Either way, 5 stars or 5 tater tots in my zippered pocket. Now, I'm off to dance in my moon boots and then run off stage. VOTE FOR PEDRO!(this is the trailer for the original film....)
(not too sure about this upcoming cartoon on Fox.)
UPDATE: I am now thinking that I might continue with the last two posts as normal.... except: I would make the #1 film a post on it's own. That way I could dedicate a bit more time and love to it? Maybe? Purple monkey dishwasher.