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Watching ordinary people live extraordinary moments one frame at a time.
Alfred Hitchcock once said, "Drama is life with the dull bits cut out."
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See My Other Personal Lists Here Below: ⬇
⚫ Favorite Actors of the Hollywood Golden Age
⚫ Favorite Film of Each Year I've Been Alive
⚫ Favorite Directors of All Time
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141. Favorite Line From 'It's A Wonderful Life' 142. Top 25 Highest-Grossing Christmas Movies 143. "AFI's 100 Years..." — Female Heroes 144. Most Anticipated Film of Winter 2018° 145. The Box Office 2017 146. The Unreliable Narrators 147. The Best 2010s Superhero Movie° 148. Face-Off: 'Gilda' vs. 'Laura' 149. Best Director Winners in IMDb Top 250 150. BAFTA Awards 2018 — Best Cinematography
Updated Weekly. December 20, 2017.
Most frequent directors:
Billy Wilder - 10 films Woody Allen - 9 films Alfred Hitchcock - 8 films Martin Scorsese - 8 films Steven Spielberg - 7 films Christopher Nolan - 6 films Charles Chaplin - 6 films Stanley Kubrick - 5 films Quentin Tarantino - 5 films Frank Capra - 3 films Ingmar Bergman - 3 films David Fincher - 3 films Joel & Ethan Coen - 3 films Francis Ford Coppola - 3 films Sidney Lumet - 2 films John Huston - 2 films Elia Kazan - 2 films Akira Kurosawa - 2 films Otto Preminger - 2 films
After voting, you may discuss the poll here.
After voting, you may discuss the poll here.
Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
Transcendent cinematic experience... absolutely stunning.
Blake Edwards' "Days of Wine and Roses" is a near perfect film in my opinion. Showing the true horrors and depth of alcoholism in an unapologetically dark manner, Edwards somehow manages to still find the beauty in his characters and their surroundings and does so in such an enchanting way.
Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick are absolutely exceptional in their roles - they are majestic through the beginning of their journey and, even amidst their darkest periods, still manage to let their human qualities shine through. Together, they steal the show and elevate this film to something more profound than one might understand. Also excellent in supporting roles are Charles Bickord and Jack Klugman.
The black and white cinematography is among some of the best I can recall, evoking a dreamy landscape that heightens the characters dreams, ambitions and dire need of escapism. The musical score by Henry Mancini (which justly won the Academy Award for Best Music) is both haunting and beautiful, perfectly capturing the film's tone.
For this film's entire runtime, I was absolutely spellbound by these characters and their story. They evolve so humanly and their tragedy becomes such a part of you - perhaps not since Wilder's "The Lost Weekend" and Mike Nichols' "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" has a film about alcoholism affected me so deeply. And the depressing ending (which has become so elusive in movies nowadays) ties the story together in the most natural and seemingly fitting way. Masterpiece.
Salinui chueok (2003)
A film that will leave you speechless and remain a part of your memories
Memories of Murder, the 2003 South Korean crime-drama film, absolutely blew me away - as the title implies, the recollections from a job as mentally scarring as a detective can be difficult to forget. This story takes its time in developing its characters, tone and overall story and does so with an amazing amount of beauty, suspense and even a little bit of humour. The cinematography is gorgeous, the musical score is both poignant and haunting and the characters develop in such an honest and believable manner. It masterfully shows how the murders become so internalized by the detectives, to the point where rationality ceases to exist. These different character views are so intriguing and it's really what makes this one of the best character studies I've ever seen.
Don't miss this minor cinematic masterpiece. It is in the smaller details where this film escapes formulaic development and becomes something so much more. Great stuff.
The Odd Couple (1968)
"He's too nervous to kill himself. Wears his seat belt in a drive-in movie."
The Odd Couple was a 1965 Broadway Play written by Neil Simon and adapted for the big screen in 1968. The film went on to serve as inspiration for an entire genre of polar opposite roommates struggling to live with one another. Lemmon and Matthau's chemistry in it is spectacular and it's really what carries the film. Lemmon playing Felix Unger, the neurotic neat freak to Matthau's Oscar Madison, the sportswriter slob whose lifestyle at home is one to which The Dude would abide.
This film is simply hilarious perhaps because there is such a real life irony to the actions of Felix and Oscar. When we laugh, we do so because we can imagine these things really happening, and reacting, as shown on screen. The directing is nothing to write home about but the two charismatic leads, and the wonderful array of supporting characters (including their poker buddies and two particularly amusing sisters) keep our attention with ease.
There are many scenes whose humour have an inherent timelessness to them. 50 years later and you'll still be killing yourself with laughter. The scene with Felix preparing the meatloaf and berating Oscar before their dates come over is a particularly memorable one. Then there's the date scene itself, with its jarring but hilarious shift in tone. There's also a great scene where Oscar, caught on the phone by Felix and his dinner requests, misses reporting on a Triple Play that ensues. There's many and this is one truly great film.
A film that 'fires' on all cylinders. And it just gets better with age.
Think about the best heist films, or mere scenes, that you've ever seen and look no further than this film as one of the chief inspirations for them. Heat (1995), the legendary crime-thriller film directed and written by Michael Mann (Collateral, The Insider), is a tour- de-force of direction, acting and creating an atmosphere of sheer anticipation. Perhaps most surprising is its zero Oscar nominations easily could there have been nods for Best Picture, Lead/Supporting Actor/Actress, Director and Screenplay.
Since I have seen it, there has been one scene in particular that's stayed etched in my mind and I need not regurgitate its specifics here. But anyone whose seen it remembers that legendary scene when our hero and villain finally confront one another it's a beautiful piece of on-screen acting and features a conversation whose subtext really defines the film in a nutshell; all these guys know is the jobs they've committed too, and they're both darn good at them.
"If it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna widow. Brother you are going down." The story is certainly a complex one because there is an undeniable sense a comraderie between Lt. Hanna and Mccauley and yet they know the second they step out of that restaurant, they're each other's prey and target. One senses it's too late for either of these guys to get out before it's too late and that is really one of the themes of the film; at one point can one be able to walk away from all they know?
I ramble on about this scene but the entire film is a masterpiece of its type compelling performances, a tightly-wrapped story and top-notch direction. There's meticulousness to how everyone operates and that craft is shown to near perfection it's a nod to the pacing as well that the three hour run time feels closer to two. This is one of the greats in a superb decade for crime films.
After Hours (1985)
Scorsese's little-known gem with a "King of Comedy" eccentricity to it
When people mention great Scorsese films, I rarely hear "After Hours" come up as one of them. Following up The King of Comedy (1982), Scorsese created yet another offbeat story filled with tension and danger set against the juicy backdrop of New York street life in After Hours (1985). This film finds the perfect note in combing aspects of black comedy with a general sense of unease. Definitely NOT your typical Scorsese film.
We've all had those bad nights; Maybe we missed that subway coming home from work or got showered with a puddle by that car driving by. But we'll forgive those nights after seeing what Paul Hackett endures - he's just your ordinary word processor and one night we find him reading his book in a Manhattan cafe. He meets Marcy, a seemingly normal girl who shows genuine interest in Paul. The two hit it off. Naturally. And Paul decides to see her later that night.
Perhaps the first bad sign should have been the abnormally out of control cab ride he has. The cab flys so fast down the road that the only money Paul had on him for the night flys out the window. Little does he know of the series of problematic and life-threatening events that await him. We'll learn that he tries to escape but (in almost a perfect embodiment of 'Murphy's Law'), by one inexplicable happenstance after another, something will prevent him from doing so.
"After Hours" showcases Marty's true filmmaking skills - the beautiful tracking shots, the extreme close-ups, the dark and foreboding lighting; it's all there and brilliantly keeps the viewer in a state of paranoia and discontent. The story of Paul is like a Kafka-esque nightmare combined with the surrealism and peculiarity of a David Lynch film. A colourful array of characters, a strong visual style. And the perfect example of why Scorsese is one of the best living directors out there.
Eastern Promises (2007)
A modern crime masterpiece
With shades of film-noir and clear inspirations from legendary mob films like "The Godfather", "Goodfellas" and "Casino", Eastern Promises unfolds as one of the greatest modern crime films of the 21st Century. The film stars Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, and Armin Mueller-Stahl and is directed by David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome, Dead Ringers).
The story, one of intertwined violence, corruption and mystery, focuses on a Russian mob family who may be tied to the rape and murder of a Russian teenager living in London. Her diary, which contained the secrets leading up to her demise, is found by British-Russian midwife Anna Khitrova and compels her to fill in the missing pieces. Anna's search for these answers is accompanied by the posthumous narration of the victim.
What separates this film from many modern crime films is the mood of the characters and the noirish atmosphere these moods seem to permeate. The musical score, composed by Howard Shore ("LOTR" franchise, dare I say more), is so evocative of the time it is portraying that to call it simply 'fitting' for the film would be an understatement - it becomes a character in itself and plays an integral role in shaping the film's authenticity and style.
It is so refreshing to witness a more recent film where the characters and story develop honestly, not in a contrived manner. It's a testament to the film's storytelling and respect for its audience - where feelings and inner conflicts are at the forefront; and the violence isn't so much exploited as it is a punctuation of the characters. EP pays homage to some of the greatest classic mob films while injecting enough mystery and charm in it to become a unique entry into the genre.
The Exorcist (1973)
A horror masterpiece
What can be said about this unsurpassed horror masterpiece that hasn't already been said? Perhaps the fact that it is so grounded in realism makes it the perennial kind of its genre. Some may look to the themes it so masterfully explores whether it be religion, faith, humanity, philosophy or ethics that puts it on a pedestal by itself. The spine-tingling score, one of the most memorable villains of all-time, the ominous pacing of the film - all reasons that separate this film as one of the single greatest horror films ever made.
As for the performances? They are all superb and each are vitally important to the film, since so much of it is the build-up of plot, characters and setting. In fact, the titular event doesn't even occur until much later than one would think. And this is because we have a director in William Friedkin who trusts his audience to be patient in understanding the ambiguity (a little paradoxical) of the subject matter at hand. As one doctor after another continues to feed BS diagnoses to Chris MacNeil, Friedkin forces us to confront our biggest fear: the unknown. Author Andrew Smith once wrote: "People fear what they don't understand and hate what they can't conquer."
Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil delivers one of the most chilling performances of all-time, transforming from a sweet, innocent and cheerful little girl to the definition of evil incarnate. The images of her slowly degrading condition have that raw power to stay so firmly entrenched in your mind. Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil tragically conveys a mother clinging to whatever hope she has left in saving her doomed daughter. Max von Sydow and Jason Miller also give memorably powerful performances as the two Fathers, Lee J. Cobb is superb as Lt. Kinderman - to single out just one person out of this superb ensemble performance would be fatal, every individual in this film is superb!
With images that have that rare power to subside and remain in your memory, The Exorcist is that special film that succeeds in being so realistic with subject matter that can be considered far from. The only other perfect horror film I can recall seeing (at least in my humble opinion) is Psycho. And though you can't compare apples and oranges, the images, music and deeper themes portrayed from both somehow manage to just stay with you; there's no other way to really put it. The Exorcist transcends the horror genre and becomes an experience, with images of beauty and terror that can never be forgotten. A deserved title of being deemed a 'classic'.
The Babadook (2014)
A frustrating second half dampens the effect of a spectacularly tense and promising beginning
For the first hour or so, The Babadook unfolds as a spectacular film. The story is set out for us of a widowed mother named Amelia who has struggled to cope in life following the death of her husband. What's complicated the recovery process is being the mother to Samuel, a six-year old with serious social and behavioural issues. One day, Sam finds a seemingly children-targeted book in his shelf called Mister Babadook, which she can read to make him fall asleep. But the imagery of the book is disturbing, so much so that it begins to haunt ("Dook! Dook! Dook") Amelia and Sam
It's as soon as from the opening scene that we get a sense of the surrealistic elements the film will present us with. And everything right from the beginning credits click - the sinister atmosphere is developed, slowly and unnervingly. Amelia is exhausted but sharp, emotionally damaged but poised and self-assured. Sam is unstable, impulsive and riotous. Both struggle in a world post the death of Oskar (Amelia's wife / Sam's dad) and even their closest loved ones struggle to have Amelia and Sam a part of their lives.
What makes this film spectacular in the first half is its gradual development and subsequent change of both its tone and characters demeanour. Without spoiling any of the plot, how the characters interact and behave in the beginning slowly transforms and this subtle shift is pulled off masterfully. Their is a loss in humanity that doesn't come off as contrived or forced. And with only a mere 90 minute run-time, it is done incredibly efficiently, something with which many longer horror films struggle. This is thanks to the incredible cinematography, direction and acting.
This film is strongest when it suggests and doesn't show. Its buildups far exceed their payoffs - the incredibly subtle camera-work and construction of suspense is stuff Hitchcock and Kubrick would be proud of. In fact, in terms of a film creating a sheer tense atmosphere, The Babadook is among the best I've ever seen to do so. It is unfortunate that a strong first half is derailed by an unquestionably inferior second half, with a puzzling ending that will probably leave you frustrated. Nevertheless though, this remains one of the best horror films of the 2010s and certainly one of the best Australian horror films in recent memory.
An epic and spectacular climax to the greatest film trilogy ever created... just pure genius...
What a breathtaking end to an epic saga that will go down in cinematic history as the best trilogy that was ever created (if it hasn't already). The culmination of 10 years' work and the final chapter of Peter Jackson fantasy adventure film series, The Return of The King fires on all cylinders, as we follow our favorite middle earth characters in a larger- than-life journey that will lead to the final confrontation between the forces of good and evil. Whereas in FOTR and The Two Towers when we were still learning about our characters and their surroundings, everything about the ring's importance and power is unleashed in this third installment and to great effect.
With the exception of maybe only The Godfather Trilogy, the LOTR film series is indisputably the greatest in film history (it was only the second sequel to nab a Best Picture Oscar, the only other being -you guessed it- The Godfather Part II). And what more can actually be said? The breathtaking visuals, the outstanding character development, the epic musical score, gorgeous set designs, the plethora of visually striking creatures - there's never been anything quite like this on screen before. And there never will be again! Never has a film balanced electrifying action and substantial character development so deftly while also staying true to the original source material. It will never cease to amaze me how this was all brought to life.
Through this trilogy, Jackson presents us with an unprecedented odyssey of friendship, loyalty, bravery, self-realization and so many other things. In the beginning, we are introduced to a fellowship of 9 individuals who are given the seemingly impossible task of taking the one ring to the blood-curdling world of Mordor with the goal of destroying it and saving middle earth in the process. Over the course of 3 films, our characters learn so much about themselves, about what it means to fight for what you believe in and for something bigger than then yourselves. These themes, and the scale they're presented on, completely transcend the idea of a movie and almost operate on a more biblical and spiritual fashion.
And perhaps no film franchise has given us so many memorable characters as LOTR: Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimil, Boromir, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Arwen, Eowyn and countless more. And that's JUST the good guys. We are also given such memorable villains as Gollum, Sauron and Saruman, in addition to the plethora of evil Orcs, Goblins, Demons, Dragons and other horrifying beings. If you think this sounds like a lot, nothing can prepare you for the sheer scope and vast vision of Jackson and his team. The franchise also has some of the most powerful cinematic moments I can recall from the last 40 years (Gandalf yelling "You Shall Not Pass!", The Battle of Helms Deep, Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom). Iconic doesn't do this franchise justice; it's legendary and it's immortal. It's Lord of the F****** Rings!
Above all, Jackson stays true to the major themes and philosophies from the original source material while showcasing his extraordinary cinematic talent and vision. ROTK defines what a "fantasy" epic should be and becomes so much more in the process; it's a resonant coming-of-age story and a masterpiece of storytelling and filmmaking. There just aren't enough superlatives for this film. And for this trilogy. And when you do finish it all for the first time, you'll be left sitting there with a feeling of emptiness for having left this magical world but a satisfaction in realizing you just witnessed one of the all-time greatest films and trilogies ever put to celluloid. What a crowning achievement by every single person involved.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
A truly unique and dreamlike viewing experience
I can honestly say after watching Mulholland Drive that I've never seen anything quite like this... it helps to come into this film with the sole expectation that you are entering a dreamworld. Rather than being presented a straightforward plot with conventional tropes and rules, we are given from Lynch a succession of images, ideas and sensations - in that sense, Mulholland Drive really feels closer to a dream than a movie.
To say that David Lynch has a unique cinematic style would be an understatement - as a result, his films can be extremely hit or miss with people. But here, everything just seems to come together so well - the disquieting music coupled with the dreamlike surroundings creates a nightmarish and otherworldly environment to which you simply become a part of. Lynch re-creates the place we all see in our dreams that feels so real and yet is only a part of our subconscious.
There are many highlights in the film (the acting from Naomi Watts and Laura Harring specifically is outstanding) but what resonated the most with me was the beautiful imagery Lynch has crafted in this film. Ambitious in its deliberate approach to avoid conventional plot elements, the pieces of the film are so hard to put together that trying to do so would simply be futile. People have tried to solve its mysteries and contrivances but MD is meant to be left in its bare, enigmatic fragments.
Upon finishing the film, I was left with the same feeling I have waking up from an amazing dream: Unsure of what I had witnessed but stuck reminiscing at the mystery and beauty of it all. And until this point, I had never seen anything quite like this surreal, neo-noir experience. I seriously doubt I will ever come across anything like it again. This is great filmmaking by Lynch and his indisputable masterpiece.
Borg McEnroe (2017)
Former rivals and best enemies
I was fortunate enough to see "Borg/McEnroe" on opening night for the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival. Without giving away too much (especially if you're like me and you didn't know much about this 1980s tennis rivalry coming into it), I will say that this is a fabulous film and everyone involved in the making of it should give themselves a huge pat on the back. They have done an incredible job in crafting a story that successfully explores, analyzes and pays homage to two contrasting albeit equally fascinating personalities in sports history.
Both of the titular characters are played to perfection thanks to virtuoso performances from Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf, the latter of whom was practically made for the role. Regardless of what you think about Shia, his commitment to any role is always awe- inspiring and here he gives a performance that so perfectly combines loud-mouthed arrogance with an icy determination that he actually makes it difficult for you to route against him. He creates a fascinating character alongside the calm, cool and collected persona of Björn Borg, played exquisitely well by Gudnason. Another performance that deserves a mention is that of Stellan Skarsgård, whose quiet loyalty really helps to anchor the film in the more pivotal emotional moments.
In a lot of ways this film reminded me of "Rush (2013)", another excellent film that deftly explored an iconic sports rivalry and how each athlete helped to shape the other. Like Rush, "Borg/McEnroe" transcends the sport at hand to become an exploration of human suffering, resilience and, ultimately, redemption. Aside from the themes at hand, the technical brilliance of the film completely grabs your attention and never lets go until the final frame. In what is the first full-feature length film of Janus Metz, he creates a film that perfectly captures a game-changing moment in sports history and the contrasting personalities of the men who changed it.
I really enjoyed this film and encourage anyone reading this to go see it!
Kimi no na wa. (2016)
One of the most beautiful films I've ever seen
This film will leave you speechless - it is quite simply one of the most beautifully crafted films I've ever seen. The animation is breathtaking and possibly the most beautiful animation ever put to screen. There really are no words to capture exactly how it makes you feel because this is simply a film that will move you in inexplicable ways. Sit down, enter the world that Makoto Shinkai has presented to us and soak in all of the magic. Un-be-lievable experience!
A harrowing film of Hitchcockian suspense and epic proportions
Christopher's Nolan latest film see him taking aspects we've seen him employ in his other films combined to make what might be his most mature feature to date. It combines the sheer scope we've seen in films like "Inception" and "Interstellar" with the structurally fascinating elements that make up those like "Memento" and "The Prestige". "Dunkirk" excites the senses with its ever-intensifying energy and is relentless in its barbaric portrayal of young men at war. It will, quite literally, shake you to the core.
The story of "Dunkirk" depicts the dramatic and real-life story of the Dunkirk evacuations occurring between May 26-June 4 in the spring of 1940. During this time, frequent rescue attempts of nearly 400,000 allied soldiers from Belgium, France and the British Empire were continually foiled due to being totally surrounded and cornered by the German Army at the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France.
The film is split into three different parts: Those that are told 1. On land 2. In air and 3. At sea, though each part of the narrative is unified by a common theme: these fighters, who are all merely young men, are here to live another day, not to get to know each other. It's unique as a war drama in the sense that its purpose isn't character exposition but collective emotions, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is little dialogue between characters and so the question isn't: "Who are these men?" but rather "Will they get out alive?"
Much like Memento, Nolan's themes of confusion, uncertainty and a persistent feeling of paranoia are in full throttle. The young soldiers appear in full survival mode and the directive choice by Nolan to not to delve too deep into any of their backstories (which he will likely receive backlash for) is fully understood. Let me quickly explain why.
Nolan has created an atmospheric narrative, where the anguish is felt collectively in a mass effect sort of way, I think. To establish character development with any specific soldier would be superfluous and so the viewer, like the soldiers amidst battle, feels a complete lack of personalization. Or rather, the dehumanizing effects of war are made that much more vivid.
Nolan's big-scale epic filmmaking (that would make David Lean proud) is a real joy with this film and has never been so evident. His avoidance of CGI and special effects make the war scenes seem as grounded as possible, presented in such a horrifyingly vivid and unapologetically realistic manner. To witness these scenes in a theater is to completely immerse yourself into the action.
Couple this with yet another epic score from Hans Zimmer and you're left with an experience that hammers home the horrors of the war in such a visceral way that it has to be considered up there (already) with some of the all-time great war films like "Saving Private Ryan", "Platoon" and "Apocalypse Now". In typical Nolan-fashion, we have been given yet another unique and engrossing interpretation on a genre and we couldn't be more thankful.
La haine (1995)
A film that bristles with style, authenticity and a general bleakness
For all the violence and despair shown in "La Haine", the film doesn't offer any solutions nor hope of improvement. As Vinz, one of the three ill-fated men at the centre of the story, says: "it's (the story) about a society on its way down. And as it falls, it keeps telling itself: "So far so good... So far so good... So far so good." There must be conviction in such words and the characters in "La Haine" seem to know they're in such dire circumstances, which are presented to us as almost inescapable for them.
The french film, which took home the César Award for Best Film in 1995, succeeds in its sense of realism, almost appearing as a documentary with incredibly subtle camera-work that allows us to, not so much participate in but rather, feel shameful for unobtrusively playing witness to the crimes. The cinematography specifically is an absolute treat to the eye, with innovative shots and angles to seamlessly truck the story along in an engaging fashion.
The grainy cinematography paints the inner city as a place of cold emptiness and savagery. Its beautiful from a distance, though embodying an ugliness at its core that its characters persistently find themselves in the middle of. The atmosphere's harsh lighting and expressionist style of cinematography bears a striking similarity to the classic noir film, "The Third Man", where the surroundings are so vibrant that they nearly become a character in itself.
Director Kassovitz, in only his second feature, demonstrates a masterful understanding of space and shadows, creating feelings of distress, at times claustrophobia, and a general sense of uneasiness. He uses quick edits during violent scenes and shows a willingness to employ some longer shots during the film's quieter moments, which help let the surroundings and reality of it all sink in a bit for the viewer. Overall, this is an emotional triumph which succeeds seamlessly in both narrative and style.
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
"The cat's in the bag and the bag's in the river"
Now how many films could get away with a line like that? Among other memorable lines include, "You're dead, son. Get yourself buried", "I'd hate to take a bite outta you. You're a cookie full of arsenic", and "Your mouth is as big as a basket and twice as empty". One could argue that Alexander Mackendrick's amorality tale is most remembered for its slickly written screenplay, boasting one sharp one-liner after another. However, the film also succeeds in utilizing its top-notch cast (led masterfully by Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis) set against the backdrop of an atmospheric New York City to the tune of a fittingly accompanied jazz score - never has the city appeared as charming as it does sinister, with its shadowy presence and dark undertones felt throughout the film. To immerse yourself in this film is to hypnotically experience the 'City that Never Sleeps' as a setting of estrangement, overcrowded sidewalks, excessive street noise and the smoke-filled nightclubs and bars.
The story is of Sidney Falco and JJ Hunsecker. JJ is a powerful jazz columnist while Falco is an unprincipled press agent much of whose success is contingent on getting that next big story into Hunsecker's column. ("Exactly how does a press agent work?", a man asks him. To which Falco responds, "A press agennt eats a columnist's dirt and is expected to call it manna".) JJ is unhappy with his sister's latest romance with a jazz guitarist named Steve Dallas and seeks out Falco to break it up. We remember these names because these are some highly memorable characters; they talk fast, talk smart and use their charm to persuade people to do what they want from them. Together, both Curtis and Lancaster project a cynicism and otherworldly pizazz that almost transcend their own surroundings. Consider also the script's persistent attribution of its characters to dogs ("Tell me sir, when he dies, do you think he'll go to the dog and cat heaven?")
I think what's most compelling about these characters is not so much their complete disregard for human emotion but rather how their hunger and drive for dirt on anyone will come at any cost. Both Falco and JJ are constantly scheming and conniving in their pursuit for success, that 'sweet' smell of it. It's intoxicating to them and their aggressive wordplay distracts us from the true lack of elegance these men have. At their core, their sleaze balls and toy with innocents like puppeteers as a means for personal gain. This kind of greed and narcissism is maybe more relevant today than it was back then and understandably makes this film timeless in its themes and characters. Overall, it's a black and white film whose morals are anything BUT black and white. "I love this dirty town", JJ states in the film's beginning. He's right about the dirty part...
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
A one-of-a-kind cinematic treasure BUT an extremely important one as well...
"Judgment at Nuremberg" chronicles one of the most shameful periods in human history, one that some have not only forgotten but even dismissed as ever existing. Thanks to Stanley Kramer and Co. we are presented with a cathartic and engrossing take on the actual trials that took place between 1945 and 1949 that is as memorable as it is enduring. When four Nazi judges are tried for committing crimes against humanity, it is up to Chief Justice Haywood to carefully examine the evidence presented by many to come to a verdict.
In one has to be one of the finest courtroom dramas ever filmed, the 3 hour run time really feels like much less and much can be attributed to the tour-de-force direction of Stanley Kramer. His minimalist filmmaking and innovative camera angles almost instantly brings to mind the engrossing camera-work from another treasured courtroom drama in "12 Angry Men", directed masterfully by Sidney Lumet. The camera is so subtle and swift in its movement that it becomes a kind of conscious onlooker of the case this technique almost eliminates the feel of a screen between us and the film and inexplicably thrusts you right into the court with all of the other attendants. It also keeps your eyes absolutely glued to each nuance and detail that arises in the courtroom.
Spencer Tracy gives a fantastically understated performance as Judge Dan Haywood, the morally conflicted and kindhearted judge. Tracy's character is able to appeal to both our ethics and emotions by playing his role with complete conviction and honesty. As the trials progress, we find ourselves wondering how we would operate in his authority and he makes it clear throughout the film that every decision he makes affects not merely the soldiers on trial, but an entire country and even generations to come. Consider in the concluding trial scenes the way he shows a palpable struggle to declare Lancaster's character (Ernst Janning) guilty, masterfully demonstrating an imbalance between what his head and heart want. Also fantastic in their roles, albeit short-lived, are Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift and William Shatner.
Maximilian Schell plays Hans Rolfe, a German defence attorney, who argues that the defendants were not the only ones to assist in, or turn a blind eye to, the crimes. This too is a morally conflicted man (one of many prominent themes in the film) who is determined on preserving the dignity of a nation. And his arguments are centered on the notion that these soldiers were trying to act in the best interest of the country. Schell is compassionate, astute and compelling in his role and makes each time he sets foot on the podium a memorable one. It's also highly entertaining to watch his back-and-forths with Richard Widmark's Colonel Tad Lawson in the courtroom.
This film is impeccably written, acted and directed. I am hesitant to use the word 'film' here because a creation of this kind, that tackles this kind of subject matter so perfectly, is so much more than that. It shows how pervasive and damaging an ideology can become in a particular context. It's devastating to imagine these times actually existing and it takes something like "Judgment at Nurembourg" to remind people that they did indeed happen. This is powerful filmmaking at its finest, whose merit far exceeds its mere entertainment value. Masterpiece.
Tôkyô monogatari (1953)
Ozu has created a quietly brilliant and timeless masterpiece with this minimalist piece of filmmaking
It's films like Yasujirō Ozu's 'Tokyo Story' that transcend the idea of a movie and enter the realm of art in its most pure and provoking form. Often considered the greatest achievement by a directed who constantly challenged his audience with pensive and realistic material, 'Tokyo Story' is a heartbreaking look at the passage of time and the gradual estrangement that unfolds between two parents and their absentee children.
The realism of the film is undeniable, much of which stems from Ozu's long series of pillow shots seen throughout the film. These shots are cutaways, for no obvious narrative reason, that serve to add that extra depth and sentiment by letting the natural landscape and surrounding themes sink in that much more. Many of Ozu's pillow shots convey darkness or the transience of family memories and, by letting these shots linger on for several seconds, his narrative is quietly telling us that the flow of the world around them continues to truck along.
These shots are as enigmatic as the feelings of the characters we come to know in the film, saying one thing but doing so with faces that would suggest a hidden subtext. At the film's most heartbreaking moments, we struggle to understand exactly HOW they feel though it's clear to us that their suffering exists - but to what end? Truly one of the most beautifully crafted creations to come out of Japanese cinema and even cinema in general. This film is a masterpiece in every sense of the word.
Up there with Apocalypse Now and FMJ as one of the best films to depict the horrors of the Vietnam war...
... and for good reason! Platoon is a unique war film in that it almost plays out as more of a morality tale and the inner conflict that eats away at the insides of man rather than focusing primarily on the conflict with the enemies. In Stone's film, we are given in-depth examinations into both the atrocities of the war and those committed by the Staff Sergeant supposedly on the 'good side' of it all. Played to perfection by Tom Berenger. his terrifying portrayal of a heartless Sgt. becomes all the more frightening when contrasted with the compassionate, caring nature of Sgt. Elias, portrayed by William Dafoe. The film is unapologetically outspoken in its depiction of the horrors soldiers faced in the war and with razor-edged editing that nabbed Academy Award honors, it really does immerse you, almost uncomfortably so, in the hell these men endure. One of the best.
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
As slick and enthralling as a movie can be
Ocean's Eleven is a superbly entertaining film - featuring an all-star cast in top-form and sharp direction that strings along the narrative seamlessly. Like the heist plan these thief partake in, everyone's role is vital to make the film work and each deliver in their respective parts perfectly. Soderbergh has created something that has to be considered one of the best heist films ever and has your eyes glued with one trick up his sleeve after another. This is as slick and enthralling as a movie can aspire to be, great stuff!
La La Land (2016)
The stuff that dreams are made of...
"La La Land" is the kind of movie that you can't help but fall in love with for the sheer energy that oozes out of every frame, every note and every second its on the screen. It really puts you into an inexplicable kind of trance, you become completely lost in its lust and aesthetic beauty. Director Damien Chazelle, already the youngest winner of the Best Director Award in the history of the Golden Globes, may very well accomplish the same feat tomorrow at the Oscars.
The premise of the film is simple: A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. We've heard it before, but what "La La Land" actually creates with a rather hackneyed plot line is anything but unoriginal. In fact, Chazelle deserves a ton of credit for creating a completely original musical, one that bursts with toe-tappingly poetic songs and melodies that will be entrenched in people's mind for a long time. He even pays homage to the more classic films of the Hollywood Golden Age by showing us alternate endings (many films of that era were known to film two endings) but how Chazelle masterfuly juxtaposes the fiction to reality merits an Oscar alone.
Aside from the incredible acting, cinematography and writing, one thing I must comment on about "La La Land" is the beautiful jazz score. This soundtrack is near close to perfect, especially for those that adore jazz. It perfectly encapsulates all those idealist thoughts people have when daydreaming about cities like LA or NYC. Have you ever listened to jazz music and, to quote fellow IMDb user ElMaruecan82, just felt nostalgic over a time you weren't even born in? Like "La La Land", Jazz has all the elements that pulls you in as a viewer: it has melody, it has harmony, it has rhythm, but most of all, it has soul. And boy, does this film have soul. It's energy is relentless and simply undeniable.
Coupled with the beautiful musical score and exceptionally well written songs ("City of Stars", in particular, is enchanting) is first-rate acting by Gosling and Stone. Gosling can really do so many roles but where I find him most effective is in his minimalism - he's really one of few actors who can show so much with so little. His subtlety and nuances create such depth and mystery in a character like Sebastien you could find yourself spending hours pondering over what he is merely thinking. Stone was great as well, seemingly effortless in her ability to project a charm and likability. Together, their chemistry was electric; they really just looked like they were having a great time out there (for anyone who says they couldn't dance/sing well).
Honestly, I could go on for days about the magic of this film and this likely won't be the final copy of this review for reasons of continuing to think over and re-phrase my thoughts of the film; I get what people are saying about how the film finds a way to stick in your head. Case in point, "La La Land" is the stuff that dreams are made of. And whether you're part of the group that despises the film or not, one can't deny the elegance, style and melodic magic the film possesses, and the ability it has to totally immerse you in all its jazzy glory; and isn't that, by some measure, what any film really aspires to do?
A chef-d'oeuvre served by the Pixar-Disney combo
One thing that Pixar has always done exceptionally well, and that has distinguished them as the preeminent animated storytellers (with the exception of maybe Disney and Studio Ghibli), is put the story and characters at the forefront of each of their films. One of the most fascinating legends out there is the "Pixar Theory", which is the belief of a "shared universe" in which all the Pixar characters, and their stories, reside in. One certainty is, however, that all Pixar films are connected by their true-to-life themes, exploring subject matter that will never manage to be obsolete and always manage to tug at those heart strings.
When I first heard of "Ratatouille", I expected the usual, formulaic Pixar routine: A mismatched pair of partners embark on an adventurous journey. There will be a colourful ensemble of supporting players amidst the "hidden world" brought to life by everyday objects. But "Ratatouille" took the mismatch concept to refreshingly new heights. A rat is a virtual antithesis to humans and so we are enticed by the story to show us how similar these two characters are despite their inherent differences.
"Ratatouille" is carried by great storytelling and characterization, fuelled by the instant conflict between our titular rodent, a bumbling kitchen boy and his impromptu ascension on the food chain (no pun intended). Remy (Patton Oswalt), is a Parisian rat whose dream is to be a grand chef in "The City of Lights". He has quite the sophisticated palate and appreciates the art of fine dining. One day he finds himself astray and arrives at one of Paris' finest restaurants. And this is where the real story begins. Could we genuinely buy into the idea that a boy can befriend and cook with a rat? Usually no but Pixar, and their exquisite weaving of such dreams, makes this feat imaginable.
There is so much heart in this film and the usage of Paris as its backdrop adds a charming, exquisite touch to its telling. Remy's occasional musing gazes at the view of Paris invite us to similarly admire the visual allure Pixar has presented us with. The animation is simply superb the dark, polluted areas where the rats reside almost feel like a separate world when entering the dazzling, colourful city-scape of the Parisian neighbourhoods. The painstaking details of the rat are also impressive, from the movements of its fur against the wind to the functioning of the rest of its body parts like its ears, nose and eyes.
There is an undeniable realism felt throughout the film, largely achieved by the stellar voice acting present throughout. Patton Oswalt is someone I would not have pictured in the role as Remy but, after experiencing him, I could not have imagined anyone else capturing the pathos as well as he did. Same goes for Lou Romano, Janeane Garofalo, Brad Garrett, Ian Holm (and Peter O'Toole!). Overall, "Ratatouille" may serve up the conventional themes we have come to expect from Pixar, but it is able to deliver them with such depth and magic that I place it on a pedestal by itself as a cinematic masterpiece. "Ratatouille" is a dish best served to everyone!
Love and Death (1975)
One of Allen's funniest, and most underrated, creations
"Love and Death" is arguably one of, if not, the funniest Woody Allen film to ever be created. Allen plays Boris, the politically ambivalent, pacifist and neurotic soldier whom, against his will, must fight for the Russian Army. He's in love with Sonja (Keaton), his "cousin twice removed", whose never expressed any kind of mutual feelings towards him. But with their intricate, existential conversations, you'd think they're a match made in intellectual heaven.
This film offers us snippets of those who have inspired Allen's career. Ingmar Bergman, the acclaimed Swedish director, has always been a huge influence of Allen's work, with both men showing this kind of fascination with death. The scenes with the Grim Reaper (dressed in white, not black) and Boris are a wonderful homage that calls to mind Bergman's "The Seventh Seal", though done in a satirical manner which is more Allen- esque. He also pays tribute to Charlie Chaplin with the likes of a hilarious slapstick gag.
Some of the humour is straightforward while other jokes require that extra knowledge of classic literature and/or European cinema. But the humor is relentless and done with such care - every scene with Allen and Keaton together is absolute gold. And with the occasional 4th wall breaks, in classic Woody style, we are given that perfect dose of introspection that will make you question much of life's ambiguity once all the laughs have faded away. A near-perfect film by Allen.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
"I've been looking for you, lone star."
Dallas Buyers Club is a great film for so many reasons but what will win your heart over is the level of authenticity and honesty shown in the various character portrayals. McConaughey and Leto are simply spellbinding in their roles - both completely immerse themselves into both the physical and psychological state of their characters and show just what commitment to a role should look like. Together, they bring a sense of realism that elevates this biopic to first-rate material. The way both themselves, as well as their relationship with one another, evolves is a sight to be seen and done plausibly so. The on-screen text is a wise technique that makes us feel the passage of time and so we can understand how McConaughey's Woodroof has transformed from the sleazy, impudent person he was to the compassionate, altruistic individual he becomes. The movie is marvellously executed with its great writing, compelling themes and beautiful cinematography that captures the run-down, gloomy feel of the Dallas neighbourhood. It feels almost as a place of regret, where people's dreams have died in its shadowy abyss. The town's sense of lifelessness contrasts the sheer determination and vitality of Woodroof, a hero who defied all odds and whose relentless effort to merely cure himself developed into an inspiring story that showed the effect one man's resilience can have on others.
The Reader (2008)
An unforgettable and moving read
There is something extremely dangerous about internalizing the shame or embarrassment a person might have. They can act stoic, sure, but eventually what they tried to suppress will come back to them and at that point, it becomes all the more difficult to finally confront those demons when it does. "The Reader" shows us just how damaging such secrets can be, not only for the person keeping them, but also to whom they're keeping them from.
Its story is told in three distinct parts by Michael, including flashbacks that begin at the time when he was a reserved 15-year old kid, falling ill, being helped by and setting eyes on Hanna for the very first time. Their ensuing romantic relationship is a complex one - enigmatic but endearing, abnormal on paper but validated by the fervent, undeniable lust they show for one another. The conflicting forces of their bond are, in a way, what seemingly draws the two together. Below the surface, however, it would appear that their vulnerability plays an important part in it as well.
The film is not unpredictable per se, in that certain elements of the film, like Hanna's feelings towards Michael, are viewed skeptically due to 1. The inherent peculiarity of their situation and 2. Winslet's extraordinarily nuanced demeanour. Our consciousness of the situation allows us to more clearly analyze and understand it and so we are granted the time, amidst their time together, to ponder the psyche of each individual. This element, of its subtext being masked by a rather straightforward situation, makes "The Reader" all the more thought-provoking and powerful.
The direction and writing also play an integral role in bringing out the humanity of its characters. The shift in tone, beginning with its brevity and high pace, then gradually slipping to a more pensive, poignant feel, effectively divides its story into its own distinct parts but manages to flow seamlessly by the weight of its characters emotions that seem to never relent and so humanely evolve. This is thanks to masterful performances by David Cross, Ralph Fiennes and, of course, Kate Winslet.
The story of Hanna Schmitz is reflective, regretful and truly heartbreaking, as we watch her being slowly swept away by the uncompromising ugliness that stems from keeping her own her secrets. Perhaps confessing to her shortcomings may serve as the proverbial key to her freedom, but it is ultimately her shame which has imprisoned her for life. And in that sense, she can never truly be freed, only endure what has irreparably damaged her for so many years.
An exquisite journey of self-reflection and contemplation
Every once in a while, there comes a film that makes you question a lot about your own existence. In "Sideways", we are given a firsthand look into the lives of two men reaching middle age, both of whom are searching for something, yet neither of them are entirely certain what that something is. Miles (Giamatti) is a struggling writer, and wine enthusiast, who takes his engaged friend Jack (Church) on what he thinks will be a nice, tranquil trip through the California vineyards.
"Sideways" is very bold mainly because it focuses on in-depth conversation between its characters. The sharp, introspective dialogue present throughout the film is beautifully written and does an excellent job of allowing us to not only comprehend, but identify with, its characters. By the end I felt as if I truly knew these friends inside and out, showing the compelling results of such a true-to-life story whose soul focus is to help its audience better understand its two vastly different male focal points.
This film bristles with a certain 'je ne sais quoi' that is both charming and absorbing. Its inherent and forgivably episodic narrative takes you into the minds of its characters we are not merely watching Jack and Miles take a trip through California's wine country, but rather accompanying them for the ride. And the journey on the road is subtly symbolic of presenting us with two men at a crossroads whose lives until now are largely devoid of any real meaning. Jack is looking to sew some wild oats and Miles is, well, busy keeping his feelings bottled up as he continues to ironically open bottle after bottle of Pinot.
Paul Giamatti transcended himself to new heights with his performance of a stoic, withdrawn individual. He is able to inject his customary, animated self into the role, though it is far more subdued here. His sad, musing gaze helps to achieve a certain pathos and breeds further tension and vulnerability that shows the despair of a man that has struggled for years. Everything from the inflexion of his words to his character's nuances are so spot on, especially in the "Why are you so into Pinot?" scene, which was one of the film's most engrossing moments.
The supporting performances were also fantastic, including Virginia Madsen as the sweet, warm-hearted Maya, and Sandra Oh as the out-going, kinky Stephanie. But the real star was undoubtedly Giamatti, breathing life into a character with such profound depth that the fact he wasn't even nominated for Best Actor is a crime in itself. "Sideways" takes you on both a literal and figurative journey that provides an exquisite take on coming to grips with life's impromptu changes.