Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 30 - 26

My apologies folks. Blogger.com has been continually crapping the bed over the past few days. It's not only been unavailable, but it's been deleting things randomly and just basically being a huge a-hole. I don't know why it happened, but it seems to be fixed and regardless of all that.... now I have to re-write this entire entry as it was deleted. Thanks Blogger.com.

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.


# 30: 'Psycho' (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock has a well deserved reputation for being the master of suspense. He created some of the most well known films of his generation. What may not be quite as obvious is that he was also the grandfather of the modern day slasher film. 'Psycho' was the original slasher film and created the prototype for every other one that's come sense then. When you hear the name Norman Bates, you know exactly who I'm talking about. He's a mama's boy with a thing for killing people who check into his motel, the Bates Motel. Not only did Hitchcock create the slasher, he also led us down a path of misdirection that was duplicated later. In 'Psycho', we follow a woman who commits a crime and goes on the lam. She runs directly to the Bates Motel where she meets Norman and is soon dispatched by an unknown woman in the shower. The thing is that her story takes up about the first 20 minutes of the film, so you think that the film is going to be something entirely different from what it ends up being. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez did something very similar with their film 'From Dusk Till' Dawn'.

I love this film and was a bit disappointed with Gus Van Zant's shot for shot remake. He also kind of started the remake and reimging trend that is so popular today. The only difference is that he wanted a shot for shot remake with no alterations, but now they redo it in their own style and storyline.... just similar characters. If you haven't seen 'Psycho' yet, you really should. Despite it's age, it is still a stellar piece of film making that I love to watch. It's still fairly scary and gives you a reference point for horror films today. I think it earned the 5 for 5 star rating it has and will forever have a special place in horror lovers hearts.


# 29: 'Delicatessen'/ 'City Of Lost Children'

(this is the poster for 'Delicatessen'.... the trailer for 'City of Lost Children' is posted below.)

If you ever wondered where my film term 'pitch perfect film making' came from, it's from these two tilms. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro have to be two of the most creative guys in France. In the short time that they were together making films, they made amazing things happen. They're still making films together independently of each other, but they're just not the same. Now, you're probably wondering why these two particular films aren't higher up my list, but they're two films that I can only watch on occasion. The rewatchability factor is limited. It's almost like trying to eat concentrated ice cream, it's just too much of a good thing to eat on a regular basis. They still stand as important examples of film as art. You may not have seen them, but you've most likely seen Jeunet's film 'Alien: Resurrection'. 'Delicatessen' and 'City of Lost Children' are very different from that film. Granted, Dominque Pinon is in both, but that's about it.

'Delicatessen' tells the story of a man hired to take care of the maintanence of an apartment building in a near post-apocalypic future. What he soon learns is that the landlord/butcher is killing the maintanence men he hires and then selling them as meat in his shop. Meat is hard to come by in this future. Our hero falls in love with the butcher's daughter and all kinds of insantiy ensue. 'City of Lost Children' is, what I would call, a modern day fairy tale. It is something that you have to see to believe. Words would not do it justice. Either way, both films are 5 star worthy and will remain as my first examples of what 'pitch perfect film making' can and should look and feel like.


# 28: 'The Silence Of The Lambs'

'The Silence of the Lambs' was the very first film I ever bought for my home film library. I bought a copy on VHS that was recorded in EP mode and it never held up to repeated viewings like most VHS tapes would.... mainly because of the way it was recorded. It was and still is one of my favorite serial killer films. It paved the way for 'Seven' and led to several decent sequels and prequels. Another end result of viewing this film was that it led to my love of Jodie Foster films. I wasn't a fan when she was a child star, but I watched everything she made after this and I'm still a fan today. This film was also a trailblazer with the way it took something extremely grusome all the way to the Oscars. The Academy takes a dim view on horror or anything remotely grotesque. That's what made this films addition to its ranks that much more surprising. If you haven't seen this one yet, you really should take the time out to watch it tonight. It is a bit dated, but not in a terrible way. The performances are strong, the script is well written and the direction is supurb. I have shared this film with as many people as I could find to watch it, some with hyterical results. Before I even get to the synopsis, I'll just let you know that this is a 5 out of 5 star film and a classic.

The story follows a young FBI agent, Clarice Starling, as she is assigned to interview a serial killer named Hannibal Lector. The idea is to get insight into the mind of a killer to track down another killer named Wild Bill. Over the course of the film, Clarice builds quite a relationship with Hannibal and one that does lead to Wild Bill. I don't want to give the rest of it away, but it is a satisfying ending and one that was copied several times over since this film was released. I have always been curious what Thomas Harris thought about the film adaptations of his novels and if you know, let me know.... I am curious if it was a good thing in his opinon or a bad thing. Either way, this film is an amazing one and one that has earned its spot on my 'Top 50' list.


# 27: the 'Matrix' trilogy

I am positive that it's no surprise that 'The Matrix' films made their way onto this list. Despite the fact that the film makers haven't been able to do much, if anyting, since these films.... it doesn't matter. What they created changed the face of science fiction and changed the way special effects were done. They also created characters and a mythos that are iconic and the stuff of nerd legend. I am fairly sure that anyone that was alive in 1999, remembered the first time they saw 'The Matrix'. It was like a wake up call that there was a whole hell of a lot more out there then what we thought there was. It also made the careers of several actors and actresses and a marketing juggernaut. They made everything from lunch boxes, to action figures to underwear.... 'The Matrix' was the new 'Star Wars'. For some reason the two follow up films didn't do quite as well, despite the fact that this was a trilogy of films. I think that as a whole they make something so much more amazing than as a single film. However, I feel kind of alone in that thinking sometimes.

I don't feel that I have the time or the webspace to tell the entire story of 'The Matrix' and Neo, but let me give you a brief summary. The human race is enslaved by robots. The robots have put the humans in sleep state where reality is not really reality. Soon, the humans realize what's going on.... at least some of them. They search for the 'one' to free them. He appears, or so they think and all hell breaks loose. A war ensues and that builds up to an amazing climax and the end of the series. Got it? I think that's about it in a nutshell. My personal feeling is that all five films are 5 star worthy. I love to watch them back to back and only regret watching one scene.... the one involving the 'rave'. That part is kind of lame. Anyway.... watch the 'Star Wars' films first and then watch the 'Matrix' trilogy.... that way you've got all the sci-fi you could ever want to see all wrapped up in a neat little bundle of films.


# 26: the entire 'Star Wars' series

(the trailer below is the original 1977 trailer for 'Star Wars: episode 4 - A New Hope'....)

You've just read my review of the 'Matrix' films, now.... comes 'Star Wars'. I originally wanted to include only the films from the series that I felt deserved top 50 spots. However, once I started to make decisions about which ones deserved a spot, I realized that I just couldn't do it. The first three were such a huge part of my childhood that I couldn't break them up. The last three, although wholly unpopular, deserve some recognition too. They completed a story that was decades in the making. I think the majority of you would agree that 'The Empire Strikes Back' is the best of the 6 films. That being said, let's just focus on the unit as a whole. George Lucas isn't much of a film maker. He's okay at directing puppets, but terrible at directing real people. He created some films that allowed him to overcome that obstacle and that practically created a new religion. He set a new standard for special effects. He made not one, but an entire lexicon of iconic characters and places. He made the lives of children a whole lot more enjoyable with his marketing of the films. It's spawned too many branches to count and it's still as popular today as it was back in the 70's. For that, I tip my hat to George. I also have the utmost respect for him for sticking to his guns no matter what everyone else thinks. That being said, it doesn't mean that I approve of his handling of the new effects he added to the original films or his overuse of EVERYTHING in the newer films. Also, I think the new films have gotten a terrible rap. A lot of it has to do with the fact that the originals are so much a part of the fabric of our lives that trying to add new chapters to the story would be nearly impossible.... for anyone.

After watching all of the films on my own and now with my children, I realize now that the new ones are just as good as the originals, they're just not the same as the originals. For the youth of today, they are the originals and will remain a part of their collective history. Sure, they have their problems.... but what films don't? Not too mention that part III is pretty damn good. Individually, they each deserve their own rating, but as a whole.... 5 stars. These are probably the most important science fiction films to come along in the past several decades. Just about ever sci-fi film made since they've been released owes a debt of thanks to 'Star Wars'. Even some non-sci-fi films. So thanks to George Lucas, not a very good director, but a pretty amazing guy despite all of that. I can only hope that, in time, everyone will have the same mindset that I do.... if not, you're kind of missing out. The end.


  1. Mmmm...I'd agree the star Wars Prequels deserve recognition and aren't exactly the worst films ever as per popular opinion, but...as good as the originals except different? No. If only for one reason; the characters. The first Star Wars movies had it all; good characters, engaging story, good cinematography/etc. The prequels had good cinematography/etc. and I'd argue the plots are good, just as you said very different than the originals, but the characters? I think Red Letter Media hit it right on the head. If you can't easily describe a character without using their job, appearance, or role in the story, that's a bad sign, and when you've got someone like Obi-Wan who can be described as a wise, driven, caring character fairly easily (there's more to him, but that takes more thought) but in the prequels cannot be described so easily (he can be, but it's noticeably trickier)...yeah. The prequels aren't necessarily bad and deserve recognition and appreciation if only within the series canon, but when you look at the elements that make a good film, they are equal to the first in all areas EXCEPT the characters and therefore, not as good.

  2. Yes - Blogger going down was real pain in the arse. Enjoying the top 50 Joel. Though I must say, I've only heard of half the films you mention and have watched even less! I put that down to a sheltered life... Either that or having kids. Anyway, the good news is that this means that there's plenty of good stuff left to watch! Take a deep breath... you're nearly home and hosed...

  3. And while I'm here...

    Like you Joel, I have come back to the Star Wars films as my kids have recently been discovering it. The new films did little for me, but I think that these are the films that the 'new' fans like best. I think it's all down to the better special effects and that it expands the universe in ways that children like. Call me old school, but agree completely about Empire Strikes Back being the best film.

    And Jupiter Star... interesting stuff. Is it that the characters aren't as well rounded, or my theory: that Lucas tries too hard to explain the story, hence losing some of the mystique? I don't know the answer... but I throw the idea out there... Would love to hear what you think about it...

  4. King; I'm not really sure what it is, but for me personally it's just that they feel like placeholders. In all six films, the characters fill an obvious niche in the story, but in the first three they still felt fully realized, whereas in the prequels they felt like just placeholders and nothing more. I mean, Luke, for example, is clearly doing the whole prohpesized hero thing, but he still has personality, ranging from whiny to smug to cocky to jaded to...yeah. Anakin? Preeeetty much is just The Flawed Messiah. He doesn't had much else to him. Leia's clearly meant to be the Strong Female/Love Interest, but that comes to mind AFTER the worst feisty, stubborn, and proud, while her mohter is pretty much just The Mother. And I think it's doubly shameful because almost every actor they cast in the prequels is STUNNING at what they do, and yet there's so little to work with in those films that the characters still come out flat. Everything else I've seen Hayden Christensen in I have loved, but Anakin Skywalker is one of the blandest and most obvious I'm-going-to-be-evil characters out there, IMHO; makes it hard to picture his redemption in Return of the Jedi for me, even though the whole story is laid out for us. Natalie Portman, Ewan MacGregor, Liam Neeson, all fantastic even in mediocry films but in these? They do well with what they're given but the characters simply have no depth beyond being vehicles for exposition and filling their token character spot in the narrative.

  5. You've obviously given a lot more thought to this than me Jupiter Star! I agree with what you're saying. I remember when I first went to see Attack of the Clones at the Pictures. The previous week I'd gone to see Lord of the Rings and it was like chalk and cheese. Here was LOTR with all this detail and love and attention, and I remember feeling quite let down by how plain and dare I say it, 'cheap' Star Wars looked in comparison. It was moving-making by the numbers. At the time I felt like the film-making world had moved on massively, but Lucas was stuck in the past. And here's the million dollar question... did he only do it for the money? :-)

    Anyway... Joel's right... the box set has to appear somewhere up in the top 50...

  6. Oh, I definitely agree with that! I just disagree with the statement that the prequels are just as good as the original trilogy. They're still definitely significant and shouldn't be discounted, but if good filmmaking consists of story, visuals, and characters, the prequels' characters just aren't as well done as the first one.