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.
# 50: 'Irréversible'
I know this choice is bound to get a lot of funny looks from everyone, but this film packs an incredible punch that you will not forget. It is hard to watch, literally. Gaspar Noé, the director, used a low frequency sound during the opening 20 - 30 minutes of the film to disorient and make the audience feel ill. It worked so well that upon release in 2002, this film had people leaving the theater. It may partialy be due to the sound or to the fact that the camera never stops moving. During this entire film, the camera is constantly shifting, turning and spinning. The only time that it stops is during the 9 minute long rape scene. For those 9 minutes, it is completely still on a tripod and is locked solid. It makes the scene that much more powerul because you are finally able to rest your eyes and brain, but what you see is more horrific than anything up to that point. It proves that cinema is art. Gaspar Noé makes use of technology to create a visual representation of what a person might feel in real life. Myself having been held at gunpoint and beaten, can attest to the fact that the whole world just stops during moments like these. It is not unlinke a film and I think Gaspar Noé captured that feeling in real time. Plain and simple.
I intially hated this film. Over time and research and gaining some perspective, I realized what his vision was.... right or wrong. I understood the importance of this film and, although I don't recommend it to people, I do explain to them why this film is necessary and hope they will keep an open mind. It earned a 4 out of 5 star rating from me and cemented my respect for Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci and extended my horizon's into French cinema. If you decide to take on this film, be aware that it is not an easy thing to get through. You will feel sick, you will be disgusted by what you see and you will feel dirty when it's over.... that much I can guarentee. However, if you have an open mind and watch it for all it has to offer, you may just be surprised at what you take away from it when it's over. I know I was and look at where this film has ended up now.
# 49: 'Robocop'/ 'Starship Troopers'
This is a set of films that will raise a few eyebrows as well and I will be the first to admit that I do not like Paul Verhoeven's films, as a rule. It kills me to have, not one, but two of his films in my 'Top 50' list.... but I will admit that these are truly his masterpieces. "Why are these even here?", you might ask? Let's look at them from a couple of different angles. As action, sci-fi films they are above par. They really hold up well after long periods of time and set a standard for other sci-fi/ action films to follow. They're fun, kick-ass, original and have a lot going for them. The other angle is that they're biting satire in film form. Paul Verhoeven was making his own commentaries on society hidden within an entertaining venue. When you watch these films, you may or may not have caught onto what he was trying to say or do, but it was still implanted in your head regardless. I'm not even sure that I understand them fully, but I challenge you to watch them again and to watch them with your thinking cap on instead of your entertainment hat. Trust me, he's not very subtle about things.
After years of watching these films, I have settled on a 4 out of 5 star rating for 'Robocop' and 5 out of 5 star rating for 'Starship Troopers'. What I find funny about both of these films, is that they spawned such horrible sequels and each one got progressively worse. Also, they both spawned cartoons and toys for children, despite the fact that both films were originally rated a VERY hard 'R'. (almost an 'X' rating for each of them.) I remember seeing the 'Robocop' commercials when I was younger and really wanting to see them and I can understand why the big wigs wanted to make them more accessible for kids. Hell, I was sold on them when I was a kid. And with 'Starship Troopers', I did not want to see it when it came out. I was forced into going with a group of other people.... and when I left that theater, I was 100% in love with it and couldn't wait to see it again. Funny how things work out, eh?
# 48: 'That Thing You Do!'
It took me a long time to come around to being a Tom Hanks fan After his days on television, it was hard for me to take him serious as an actor, writer, director or producer. However, over the years, he has proven himself over and over again as a jack of all trades and a damn fine actor. He is the new ideal of what a leading man should be. He's well liked and respected in the Hollywood system and I can see why. 'That Thing You Do!' is his baby. He had his hand in every part of the making of this film. EVERY part. This is the fruit of all of his years of labor. What he ended up with, is nothing short of entertainment in its most pure form. It's like drinking the syrup of Coca-Cola before it's mixed with the carbonation. It's almost too much entertainment to handle. It has comedy, drama, romance, music and is damn well done over all. The cast is spot on. The music by Fountains of Wayne is/was the only choice for this film. The script is well paced and never boring. I just can't say enough good things about 'That Thing You Do!'. It's a film about a one hit wonder group in the 60's. It covers their history from being a garage band to an overnight sensation. It deals with a lesser known side-effect of the music scene back then, when a group may have only had one chance at success. They wouldn't always record a full album, they might only get that one 45 rpm record and that was it. Not every band was the Beatles, you know?
Although many of the stars of this film didn't ever really get as far as I thought they should, they still left a legacy. This is a 5 out of 5 star film that, I don't think, ever got the praise and respect it deserved. It has so much to offer the audience and never asks for anything in return. Tom Hanks put all of his love into this and I think you can feel it when you're watching it. He's finally making another film where he's 100% involved in the whole process, it's due out soon and I can't wait to see how it turns out. No matter what happens though, this will last as a testament to a great man who is what Hollywood should be and a film that reminds us why we go to the movies in the first place.
# 47: 'Before Sunrise'/ 'Before Sunset'
Before I start this review, let me give you a little known fact: when I went to flim school.... I wasn't there to write, produce or direct horror, action or sci-fi.... I was there to write comedy based romantic dramas. In fact, the only script that was ever 100% completed by me, was just that. I'm extremely proud of it and it has all of the Joel earmarks in it. Despite being a romantic comedy-drama, it still has its strangeness and obscure music and movie references. Just because I wrote something based around a love story, doesn't mean it couldn't be its own kind of monster, right? Anyway.... I have a soft spot for these kinds of films and I am surprised that more of them didn't make it into the 'Top 50'. These films concreted my love of both Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. I first saw Julie Delpy in 'Killing Zoe' (which is in my 'Top 200') and Ethan Hawke in 'Reality Bites' (which is also in my 'Top 200'). I have since followed both of their careers and even read both of the books he's written. (they are REALLY good too!) These films are both directed by Richard Linklater, a man who his hit and miss with his films. I have seen a good chunk of his catatlog and only like a few of them. Despite my opinions, he is considered an artist in his field. Either way, he made a masterpiece of a storyline that bookends each other perfectly. These are the films that I aspired to write. To be able to capture an emotion on screen is something to be proud of and somehow he captured lightning in a bottle, twice.
The two films are 5 out 5 stars and, in my opinion, are classics. The story centers around two characters who happen to meet and spend only 1 day with each other before parting ways. What transpires in that time is magical. It almost seems like a whole lifetime is lived in that short span of time. It captures all of those wonderful feelings that we get when we're first getting to know someone and falling in love with them. The story then continues 10 years later when the two meet again. We get the rare chance to see what happens with those characters in love stories, after the love story ends and the credits roll. I don't think that Mr. Linklater pulls any punches here and although it's still a romantic comedy-drama, it still has a ring of truth to it. I am so thankful to him for making this into a satisfying set of films that will stand the test of time and created two icons of what I could only hope to have created in my lifetime. Wouldn't you want the chance to be either one of them in the situation that they were placed in? I think that's why these films earned a spot in my 'Top 50' and will always remain there.
# 46: '28 Days Later'/ '28 Weeks Later'
Back in the day, zombies moved slow.... they shambled. Over the years, that didn't change much. Eventually, Danny Boyle created a new mythos. Granted, what he created were people infected by a virus that made them kill for no reason, but it set a new standard for the virus/zombie film. In his film and ever since then.... the infected run. If you aren't in pretty good shape then you're likely to get killed by the infected. Plain and simple. It's become so ingrained in pop culture that 'Zombieland' even made a point ot making it one of the rules to survive a virus/zombie outbreak, 'Cardio'. Now, Danny Boyle is no slouch. He has, to date, not made a bad film in my opinion. '28 Days Later' is an amazing addition to his already amazing library of work and I fell in love with it after the first time I saw it. Then came '28 Weeks Later', the follow up of what happened after the virus infected the world and the soon to follow aftermath. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo took over the directoral duties for Danny Boyle and he ran away with it. The first 15 minutes of this film are probably the most intense, heart racing minutes ever committed to celluloid. My heart races just thinking about it and every time I see it, it doesn't get any easier to watch. Robert Carlyle embodies the everyman. He is, what I imagine, a father or husband would be in the world after it ended. He doesn't make all the right decisions and doesn't do the right thing everytime, but he does his best to survive. This film is an example of what a sequel could or should be. It shows that you don't have to retain the same principle people to make it work, you just have to have a strong script, a good director and a cast and crew willing to give 100%. I know this won't make every film from here on out as good as this one, but it gives me hope for future films.
Both films earned a solid 5 out of 5 star rating and they both worked really hard to earn them. I have no hesitation in coughing up those ratings either. I love these films, zombies or not, and I have watched them over and over and have never felt any different about them. In case you aren't familiar with the story.... a virus, called 'Rage', is let loose from an animal testing facility and infects London. We see the first 28 days through the eyes of a bike messenger who is just waking up unaware of what's happened. Over that course of time, he learns how to live with his new surroundings and eventually settles into life in the new world. The sequel picks up shortly after the first one ends, we're now following a group of survivors who are splintered after letting another survivor into their safe house. Our main hero makes his way to the safe zone and is reunited with his two kids. Soon, the virus infects the safe zone and all hell breaks loose again. The end of this film leaves it open for another one, maybe not with the same survivors.... but another one with 'Rage' victims none the less. It has been reumored that '28 Months Later' is now in pre-production and that maybe Danny Boyle is back on board, only time will tell. I just hope that they don't compromise quality for the almighty dollar. I'd be just as happy with the two films we have, rather than soil them with a crappy 3rd film. End of story.
So, what do you think so far? 45 - 41 will hopefully be posted tomorrow, all things considered. Please feel free to post your thoughts here or on my Facebook page or the Facebook page for this blog. I'd love to hear from you and where these films rank for you, if at all. This has turned into quite the overwhelming task, but I'm committed to finish and am having fun regardless. Thanks for reading!