Monday, May 9, 2011

Joel's Top 50 Films Of All Time: 35 - 31


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.


# 35: 'Citizen Kane'

What list would be complete without 'Citizen Kane'? I don't think I've ever seen a comprehensive list without it on there somewhere. I would love to take a poll of all of the readers of this blog and find out how many of you have actually seen 'Citizen Kane'? I don't know that I would have seen it, if I hadn't seen it in film school. In all honesty, I am glad I did see it.... and once it's put into perspective, it makes it that much more impressive. At the time it was made, it was unheard of to have a man as young as Orson Welles at the helm of a big budget motion picture, not too mention to have him also be the writer and lead actor. It was also unheard of to have a man have to overcome so many challanges while making a film. Mr. Welles was out to do something that had never been done before. He was so ahead of his time that he had to create new ways to do things because there was no standard that had been previously set. He dug holes in the floor of the set to get shots looking straight up from the feet of characters. He created a shot where not only the forground, but the background were both in focus at the same time.... this is not possible as the camera always wants to focus on one thing or the other. To put it another way, the man was a genius. Sadly, he never quite reached the same heights after this film, but this one stands as a testament to the desire to be a film maker. It is widely considered to be the greatest film ever made.... and I can see why. Granted, it doesn't make my #1 spot, but that doesn't make it any less amazing.... it just means that it didn't hit me in the same way that some of the other films did. Point made.

If you are a student of film and have never seen this, make a point to track it down and set some time aside to really appreciate it. I think this film has to be absorbed as much as viewed. I would also recommend that you take some time to do some research on all the finer points of the film before seeing it. I only mentioned a fraction of the historical importance of 'Citizen Kane', there is so much more too it. 5 out of 5 stars is where it ends up on my rating scale. I think that's a pretty strong trend for all the films on my 'Top 50' list. This one earned everything.... all the accolades and praise, all the films made about the making of this film, all the books written about it and even all the refrences to it in pop culture. This is the film lovers film.


# 34: 'Hard Boiled' aka 'Lat Sau San Taam'/ 'The Killer' aka 'Die xue shuang xiong' (1989)

(poster for 'The Killer'.... trailer for 'Hard Boiled' is posted below....)

I have gone over my list over and over again and I keep wondering why these films aren't seperated or higher up in the rankings. In all honesty, I am still not sure why. Regardless, these two films are two of the best action films ever made. Two of the best 'double gun' action films ever made. The two greatest Chow Yun-Fat films ever made. The two greatest John Woo films ever made. Sure, they may be subtitled and a bit dated. The music may be kind of cheesy and the stories may be over the top, but it doesn't make these films any less impressive. These films are pure testosterone. So many action movies since these came out, have taken their cues from what John Woo first put on the screen. However, they are just immitations of the originals. Who do I, personally, have to thank for pointing me towards these gems? Quentin Tarantino. Refrences to these films pop up in many of his films and he has always been very vocal about his love of Chow Yun-Fat. (It was even said that 'Reservoir Dogs' was a direct remake of a Chow Yun-Fat film called 'City On Fire'. I own both films and have seen them several times. 'City On Fire' does have it's similarities, but it's not a direct copy. Watch them for yourself and make up your own mind.)

Both 'The Killer' and 'Hard Boiled' deal with themes of "heroic bloodshed". In 'The Killer', we have a bad guy, turned good after making a mistake and blinding a woman. In 'Hard Boiled', we have a cop out for revenge. As with other films in this list, both of these get a solid 5 out of 5 star rating. I highly recommend that if you're a fan of John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat, double gun action or Hong Kong action cinema.... these are two films you must see. Hell, even if you're just a fan of great action.... you can't feel complete until these are a part of your lexicon. John Woo hasn't quite had the same success since these came out. Chow Yun-Fat has kind of had a bumpy go of it after these films. I don't even know what Quentin thinks about any of this stuff any more. All I know is that we have two amazing that will forever ring out with the sound of gunfire.


# 33: 'Halloween' (1978)/ Rob Zombie's 'Halloween' (2007)

(poster for the original 1978 'Halloween' and the trailer for the Rob Zombie version from 2007 posted below....)

In what I would call a bit of irony, I went from being a fairweather fan of the 'Halloween' franchise to being a huge fan. Why, you might ask? Well, it all has to do with the re-imaging of it by Rob Zombie. He made me fall in love and understand a character that I just didn't quite have a good grasp on previously. 'Halloween' (1978) is a great film.... don't get me wrong. It took the standard for a slasher film from 'Psycho' and expanded on it. 'Halloween' brought up the concept of a killer without a soul or even much of a motive, if any. Michael Myers was frightening because of his he was like a shark. He didn't seem to have a soul or any remorse, he was just a killer for the sake of killing. This was all groundbreaking territory back in the late 70's. What Rob Zombie did, was continued on with that basic sensability, but gave Michael a bit more of a face behind the mask. Some people felt that this detracted from what John Carpenter set out to do, I disagree. I take each film as its own version of the same story. Kind of like an alternate reality. Each one has its strong points and weak ones. If you can keep an open mind and see them both for what they are, what the directors wanted them to be, then you may walk away from them with two films that are better than most slashers films ever made. That's my perspective.

Just in case you live in a hole or just don't like horror.... 'Halloween' is about a boy named Michael Myers who killed his family (except his baby sister) on Halloween night. He shows no remorse and seems to have no motive. He's promptly locked away and watched over by a doctor named Dr. Loomis. Eventually, Michael escapes from the asylum and heads back to his home in Haddonfield, IL to seek revenge. What people didn't know is that he was there to find his baby sister. The body count rises as he cuts his way through town and it all leads up to a final showdown between Dr. Loomis and Michael and then Michael and his baby sister. I love these both equally, but I tend to watch the Rob Zombie version more frequently than the original. (I love him though. Man crush.) Each film gets a 5 out of 5 star rating and I think that sometimes the original is put on a higher pedestal than it should be on, but I also think that the Rob Zombie version has gotten a much worse rap then deserved. What people need to realize is that when you set out to remake a classic, you aren't going to do a shot for shot remake, that just doesn't make sense. What you're going to do is create your own spin on the original.... make it your own. Respect that or just stick to what you know.... there's no shame in that.


# 32: 'A Night At The Opera' (1935)/ 'Duck Soup'

(poster for 'A Night At The Opera'.... trailer for 'Duck Soup' posted below....)

Certain films have no equal or point of comparison. The Marx Brothers paved the way for comedy for all future generations. The silent film era brought us many histerical legends. Once the 'talkie' films hit, a lot of them just couldn't make the transistion. So what the studios did was set out to find new comedy acts to make films for the next decade. The Marx Brothers somehow caught a break and ran with it. They ran so long and so far that no one would really ever catch up with them. I still laugh out loud at all of their films and am proud to have them all in my collection. The wit, the timing, the delivery, the writing, the direction.... it's like each film was painted by the Rembrandt's of comedy. Each one a masterpiece. Each one a work of art a thing of beauty. This is why I am the way I am. I even went as Groucho Marx for Halloween when I was in grade school. The Marx Brothers are ingrained in my brain as the blueprint for my brand of comedy. I think they are the best that existed in film.

5 out of 5 stars is just a beginning of a rating, in my opinion. I don't think you can rate or rank something as fantastic as these films. These stand out as being just as funny, if not funnier than anything that Jim Carrey or Steve Martin has ever done. The Marxs Brothers pack more humor in 5 minutes than seems humanly possible. I can hardly keep up with it all. If you count yourself as a fan of comedy at all, why haven't you seen thee already? At least one of them. Maybe I'm just preaching to the choir, I can only hope. If not, head out to your local film place and watch these tonight, if you can. I love a good play on words and so did they.... how about you?


# 31: 'Monsters, Inc'

We've already seen Pixar films in the 'Top 50', I'll let you know that this is the only other one to make the cut. There were a few that were close, but anyway.... Ever since I was a kid, I've loved monsters. They pre-occupied a whole lot of my time. Halloween was my favorite holiday and I made all of the decorations for the house myself. I loved to draw monsters, watch monster TV shows or films, basically anything to do with monsters. Funny thing is, I didn't like to be scared. I know that seems kind of backwards and in hindsight, I would agree. Anyway, years later my love of monsters and film would continue. The big difference now is that I like to be scared. I consider horror films to be my bread and butter. 'Monsters, Inc.' took all of the things I love and mashed them up. It's like my childhood was brought to life on screen in CGI. I was extremely excited to see this when it came out and it lived up to all my expectations. This is still my favorite of the Pixar films. I'm not sure if it has to do with the cast or the creatures or the story or what, it's just the closest thing to perfection I could think of. I kind of wish it would have been around when I was a kid. I've seen it more times then I can count and it never gets old. I keep hearing about a possible sequel and I am certain that Pixar could pull off a worthwhile one.

The premise behind this film is that monsters need the screams of kids to power their world. Because of that, Monsters, Inc. sends out its best monsters to scare kids and collect their screams and bring them back to monsterland. During one of the trips, a little girl named Boo comes back with one of the monsters and turns all of monsterland on its ear. The rest of the film is about the monsters trying to get Boo and get her back home, but what they learn in the process is something bigger than all of monsterland itself. That's the story in a nutshell. What's great about this film is that none of the monsters are too scary for kids to watch. The ending takes the concept of being scared of the dark and the closet and flips the script. It makes it okay to have the lights off and the closet door open, nothing bad is going to happen. It was an impressive feat by Pixar and I'm not 100% sure what kind of magic potion they used to make it happen, but I'm glad they did. Now I just wait to see what Pixar does next, but in the meantime.... I'm going to watch 'Monsters, Inc.' again. Want to watch with me?

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