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Category: Top 10

The Best 10 Films of the 1950s (That I’ve Seen)

Today, we continue the best of the decade feature. Three down, six to go. This week, please accept my picks for the ten best films from the 1950s. Enjoy and feel free to comment with your own picks.

10. Witness for the Prosecution

I’ve always wondered what it would be like if Alfred Hitchcock had adapted an Agatha Christie novel. I don’t know if it would equal some of their own, non-collaborative work, but I’m sure it would have been interesting. However, as you know if you read my last post, I’ll “settle” for Billy Wilder, who directed Witness for the Prosecution. Runner-ups: It Should Happen to You and The Night of the Hunter.

9. East of Eden

Is James Dean one of the all-time greats? No. But he was great in East of Eden. And the Academy didn’t nominate him just because he died, although certain people do get more applause after they’re gone (The Lincoln/Dean/Tupac/Ledger Effect). He earned that nomination by giving a gut-wrenching, authentic performance as a boy who will do anything to please and help his family. Note: He was the first person to be Oscar nominated posthumously, and it would happen to him again the following year (for Giant).

8. Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard opens with a murder, but who did it is not a mystery. Billy Wilder did it. This is neither the first nor last time he appears on this list.

7. The Red Balloon

Technically, I guess, this is a short film (it clocks in at just over 40 minutes). And if it weren’t one of the best films of the 1950s, I wouldn’t count it as a feature-length film, but fortunately it is incredible. The Red Balloon tells shows lets you feel and live in the optimism of the story of a little boy who finds a balloon, and the magical bond between them. True story: it won Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars back in ’57.

6. A Face in the Crowd

Andy Griffith, best known from his own sitcom, gives a powerful performance in A Face in the Crowd as a Southern man who is thrust into the media spotlight suddenly. A modern companion for A Face in the Crowd would be The Truman Show, seeing as they are two films about the people on our televisions and how we react to them.

5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Next week, on my best of the 60s list, I’ll discuss The Manchurian Candidate, a film that has a very literal connection to McCarthyianism. But here’s a fun, tight sci-fi thriller that is also McCarthyian in theme. Why don’t more people love Invasion of the Body Snatchers as I do?

4. Rear Window

Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s best, even if it isn’t my favorite. In fact, it might just be his best picture. No, it actually is. Yup. It is. This really should be higher on this list, then.

3. Roman Holiday

Call me sappy (I prefer George), but I love this movie. Might it be slightly derivative of Snow White, but with a twist of some awful chick-flick? Sure. That doesn’t matter, though. Roman Holiday is on top of its game, playing tour guide to a city and a relationship that equal each other in beauty. Try not to cry at the final shot… I dare you.

2. North by Northwest

Earlier, I told you Rear Window was Hitchcock’s best work. This is probably what I currently believe. So why, then, is NXNW higher on my list? I like it more? I’ve seen it more times and more recently (just last week it was on TCM)? I dunno. Most of the picks on this list are interchangeable, anyway. Why not add to the air of futility around these sorts of lists? Why don’t I just go ahead of switch my #1 and #10?

1. Some Like it Hot

Oh, wait… this is why. Some Like it Hot is, without a doubt, my favorite movie. I’d also call it the best movie I’ve ever seen. (But not the best movie ever. That’s Citizen Kane.) It is the reason I make this list. It is the reason I love the movies.

Roger Ebert thinks it’s all about sex, by the way, but I disagree. It’s about chaos and insanity. Yes, sex is often the cause/outcome of that chaos and insanity, but the main focus remains on the absurdity of life for most of the movie.

  • Late entrant: Vertigo. I’ll mull this one over, and perhaps issue a correction.
  • Soon, I will issue my final best of 2011 list. So… look forward to that.
  • Don’t expect a post this week, my wonderful readers. I am extremely busy.
  • There are no doubt mistakes in this post. I’m sorry I didn’t proofread.

The Best 10 Films of the 1940s (That I Have Seen)

Today, we continue the best of the decade feature. Two down, seven to go. This week, please accept my picks for the ten best/favorite/top/whatever films from the 1940s. Enjoy and feel free to comment with your own picks.

10. The Philadelphia Story

This past weekend, I had a chance to see The Descendants, which was excellent. When it came time to draw up this list, and I selected The Philadelphia Story as one of my nominees, I kept getting reminded of the craziness and chaos in The Descendants. Both movies perfectly capture the little misunderstandings that happen daily. It also helps (again, I’m talking about both films) if you have a talented all around cast. Runner-up: The Spiral Staircase.

9. Casablanca

Why so low? I actually think Casablanca is overrated. It doesn’t currently hold my highest star rating (****), but instead the second-best (***1/2). But I’m not saying it’s a bad movie… not at all. It’s classically gorgeous and beautifully emotional, but I feel how much you’ll like the film is based on how much you believe the one flashback scene served up near the beginning of the film.

1940

1944

8. Gaslight/Gaslight

No, that’s not the title of the film. I’m referring to two separate films. (Sorry, Prozac Paul!) The 1944 edition of Gaslight was my favorite film for years. And then I saw the 1940 version, and didn’t know what to think. Now, I just lump them together, because no one wants to see the same film on the list twice. (Note: if they’re available on Netflix, they’ll definitely be a double-feature in a film festival in April.)

Caption contest, anyone?

7. Double Indemnity

I’m not sure if I’ve told you this before, but Billy Wilder is one of my two favorite directors of all-time (we’ll get to the next one in a little while). While this isn’t my favorite film of his (it might actually just miss a Top 3 list), I still love it. It makes a near-perfect double-feature with Sunset Blvd., and I would definitely suggest checking out all of Wilder’s other work if you happen to like Double Indemnity.

6. Shadow of a Doubt

The reason making a favorite/best films of all-time list is so hard is this movie. Not necessarily only this movie, but movies like this one. Shadow of a Doubt is a film I’ve seen about six times, and it’s one of Hitchcock’s harder movies to stop watching in the middle (even if you know what’s going to happen, it’s addicting). Just like with DI, it’s not the best movie one of my favorite directors ever made, but I have an extraordinary attachment to it. Fun fact: bestness is in the eye of the beholder, because it is Hitchcock’s personal favorite.

5. The Bicycle Thief

I rewatched Never Let Me Go, one of my favorites from 2010, two weeks ago; and just as I was reminded of The Descendants by The Philadelphia Story, I was reminded of Never Let Me Go by The Bicycle Thief (just now, when I started writing this sentence). These films are, by far, the two most tragic I have ever seen. I’m a sucker for tragedy, but I really appreciate it when a movie is subtle, like the ending of these two. But let’s settle this one: is it The Bicycle Thief, A Bicycle Thief, or Bicycle Thieves?

4. Brief Encounter

This is just a beautiful movie. Plain and simple. Please look it up now. I’d tell you what it’s about, but you’d just call it sappy.

3. The Great Dictator

This is one of my favorite all-time Chaplins. I can’t pick my single favorite scene from it because I have no single favorite scene. This is surprising because, like most of Chaplin’s better work, The Great Dictator is a coherent that has plenty of memorable single moments.

There has been some criticism, though, of the film’s ending, and I’d like to defend it. (It’s been almost 72 years since it was released, so I’ll just assume everyone has already seen it.) In the end, the barber/tramp gets mistaken for Hynkle/Hitler, and is forced to make a speech. In this speech, Charles Chaplin presents his own views to the camera and to the world. It’s not funny and some would say it doesn’t fit in with the tone of the rest of the piece. But this is Hitler we’re not-so-subtly talking about. The whole movie skewers him anyway. Chaplin said what he thought had to be said and he was right (by me, at least) to include that.

2. The Best Years of Our Lives

1. Citizen Kane

It was a close one between The Best Years of Our Lives and Citizen Kane for #1, and I cannot promise that the reason I chose Kane wasn’t because I saw it last. But this is my list: flawed and imperfect. Some, including me, would say that there is no perfect film. If forced to choose a film to argue that it is, however, I would probably choose one of these. Neither is a particularly short or easy work to watch, but somehow the hours seems to melt away gladly. I don’t know if dramas are supposed to be fun, but when their quality is this high, I don’t know how they can’t be.

The 10 Best Films of 2011, According to Me

10. Certified Copy

The first time I saw Abbas Kiarostami’s latest picture, I was inspired. Certified Copy opened my eyes to the world of art (including filmmaking). I got the chance to see it  a second time, and I was struck by how much more fun thinking about it is than watching it. Oh well, that still counts. Where: Air Canada/Netflix Instant.

9. The Tree of Life

I wasn’t sure how I would like The Tree of Life, but I knew I had to see it. Well, I did see it; and obviously, I liked it. The Tree of Life really is visual poetry, and it is about both everything and nothing at the same time. I don’t currently (and probably will never) know all of Malick’s intentions, but I gave scenes and shots my own meanings, based on my life. Perhaps that’s exactly what he wanted me to do… Where: St. Anthony Main, Minneapolis.

8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

#7 is the spot in which the Swedish version landed on 2010’s list, but the David Fincher film is better. While I still believe an amalgamation of the two would be the best film, I recognize the 2011 effort is more artful than its 2009/2010 counterpart, while retaining the thrills and titillation. Where: my hometown Cinemark.

7. Moneyball

Brad Pitt has had an excellent year. He gave two killer, Filmtooth runner-up performances. Imagine the number of times this film could have not been made. I’m interested in what Pitt does from here, with retirement rumors swirling. Where: hometown Cinemark.

6. Attack the Block

If 2010’s films’ general theme was communication (see: The Social Network, The King’s Speech, Dogtooth, etc.), 2011’s is community. And my favorite part of Attack the Block was the way it captured the perfect communal atmosphere. My second favorite thing? The amazing aliens. Where: Amazon Instant.

5. Trust

The camera work is neither dazzling nor particularly informative, but the story is strong enough to carry the film into my heart (and my top 10). I don’t know if I’ll ever see Trust again, the subject being a pedophile and a rape, but if I do, I hope I find the same tragic beauty I got out of the first go-round. Where: Netflix Instant.

4. In a Better World

High stakes situations are usually very interesting to watch, and that holds true with In a Better World, a Danish film that won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars last spring. I don’t want to spoil it, but it deal with violence; where does it come from, who should we blame, what can we do to stop it. It is shear brilliance, and if you’re anything like me, it will set your brain on fire. I’m still digesting it, a month after my first (and most recent) viewing of it. Where: Amazon Instant.

3. Weekend

This is, quite possibly, the sweetest film I’ve ever seen. The story is simple: two gay men have what they think will be a one night stand, they develop feelings, but one is moving away. It sounds like an awful subplot from Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve, but it’s executed masterfully. I shudder to think what this would have been in lesser hands. Where: Netflix Instant.

2. Hugo

Hugo is pure magic. It finished the year at the #1 slot, a position it held since the November night I watched it. It was gorgeous to look at, without being false, as it was wonderful to be emersed in this world of characters, none of whom felt fake. I have seen neither The Artist nor The Descendants, but even if I had and thought they were of higher quality, I would rooting for Hugo at the Oscars. Where: hometown Cinemark.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Best Leading Film Performances of 2011

Female

Honorable mentions:

Catherine Deneuve (Potiche), Liana Liberato (Trust), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)

5. Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Mara as Lisbeth Salander

I didn’t know where Lisbeth Salander began and where Rooney Mara ended. Sure, that can be said about a lot of the performances up here, but the range that Mara had to cover was enormous. The instances that sealed the deal for me: all the scenes with her most recent guardian, and the final shot.

4. Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)

Dunst as Justine

Melancholia was weird. The good kind of weird you get when directors try big things. It could have been bad weird, though, had it not been for this very powerful and believable performance from its star (cosmic pun intended). The Dunst we saw in the first half was good and all, but it was the brilliance of her in the latter half that was amazing. The way she just slightly looses her cool and gets angry at her sister for being pathetic was glorious, and her half-depressed half-“I could care less, but I don’t care enough to” attitude was (ironically?) inspired.

3. Manjinder Virk (The Arbor)

Virk as Lorraine

I’d like to take a moment and congratulate the entire cast of The Arbor. I firmly believe they were the best overall cast at the movies this year, and their jobs were extra hard, since (for most of them) none of their real voices were put into the film. Manjinder Virk was the immediate standout for me, but not only because she had the most to do. She not only gets the lip-syncing right… her expressions throughout are fully emotional and occasionally heartbreaking. The Arbor requires its actors to become the character they’re portraying, and Virk does just that.

2. Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy)

Binoche as a character without a name in Certified Copy

I’ll talk about Certified Copy way more in depth next week, but I can tell you now that one of the things I’ll be praising is Juliette Binoche. There would be no movie without her. For those of you who were inspired by this film, go ahead and imagine it without her. Replace her with any other actress, even the most talented of them. See? It doesn’t work.

1. Yun Jung-Hee (Poetry)

Jung-Hee as Mija

Jung-Hee is our surrogate in Poetry. She is our window into all of these different worlds/plot lines. When I spoke typed about Rooney Mara earlier, I said that I didn’t know where her character began and she ended. But with Mija (Jung-Hee’s character), I didn’t know where what she was experiencing began and where what I was watching ended.

Male

Honorable mentions:

Steve Coogan (The Trip), Paul Giamatti (Win Win), Andreas Lust (The Robber), Hunter McCraken (The Tree of Life), Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Luis Tosar (Even the Rain), Koji Yakusho (13 Assassins)

6. Asa Butterfield (Hugo)

Butterfield as Hugo Cabret

This was, for sure, the best underage performance of the year. The movie’s name is Hugo, and the main character’s name is Hugo. So, based on that information, I’d say that miscasting the role of Hugo would probably have been a huge mistake. Fortunately for everyone involved, they got it right.  I’ll be rooting for Hugo on February 26. [Note: I listened to Filmspotting talk about my current #2 just before I posted this, and decided to push him into the top 5.]

5. John Boyega (Attack the Block)

Boyega (left) as Moses, with fellow Filmtooth semi-winner Jodie Whittaker (center) as Sam

Talk about a powerhouse performance. Boyega is angry in this movie, and I love that. Attack the Block gives him so much to do, it’s a miracle he pulls it off. I’m looking forward to the rest of his career.

4. Mikael Persbrandt (In a Better World)

Persbrandt as Anton

Persbrandt got slapped a good amount In a Better World, but each time, his reaction was perfect. I felt for the pacifist who was separated from his wife (for whom he still has feelings). I don’t usually like watching people stare at the distance, but I didn’t mind it when Persbrandt did it, because I was staring right there with him.

3. Tom Cullen/Chris New (Weekend)

Cullen (right) and New (left) play Russell and Glen, respectively

Honestly, I couldn’t pick just one. They are this film. You cannot hope to have a successful movie about a relationship if you don’t have all-in performances from the leads, and Weekend benefits from Cullen and New being beyond all-in. But more on that later.

2. Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Pitt as Billy Beane

This is the one. Last week, I was convinced that his best performance this year (and perhaps ever) was in The Tree of Life. But then I listened to Filmspotting, the movie podcast, and they reminded me about a part of the movie I completely forgot about. (For those of you that have seen it, think “coulda been.”) Something in my brain clicked, and Pitt went from being an honorable mention to being at #2. Now, before I name the best films of the year, I have some thinking to do regarding Moneyball.

1. Michael Parks (Red State)

Parks as Abin Cooper

Boy, do I have a hipster list. Seriously, all of these picks feel underground [with the exception of the late inclusion, Brad Pitt]. Especially my #1, Michael Parks. Say what you will of Red State (I happened to like it), but you must agree that Parks was committed to his role as the violent leader of a violent, anti-homosexual cult. He was mesmerizing and very powerful, sure, but my favorite scene of his was the final one. I suggest you go and see it (not only the scene, but the entire movie).

The Awards Schedule (for this blog)

In this, our inaugural year, 18 awards will be handed out by me, starting December 2. Here are the categories:

  • Best 2010 Film I Didn’t Get Around to Seeing Until After the Oscars — December 2
  • Most Overrated 2011 Cleveland Cavalier — December 4
  • Best Mouthwash — December 7
  • Best Voice Alive — December 9
  • Best New Show of 2011 — December 11
  • Best 2011 Comedic Cameo/Limited Role — December 13 (see below)
  • Best 2011 Film App — December 15
  • Best 2011 Comedic TV Actress — December 17
  • Worst 2011 Purchase I Made (Shamwow Memorial Award) — December 19
  • Best 2011 Comedic TV Actor — December 21
  • Best 2011 App, Non-Game Category — December 23
  • Best 2011 Podcast — December 25
  • Best 2011 App, Game Category — December 27
  • Most Godawful, Painful, and Insulting Movie I Saw This Year (not exclusive to 2011) — December 29
  • Best TV Comedy That I Watch — December 31
  • Best 2011 Supporting Film Performances
  • Best 2011 Leading Film Performances
  • Top 10 2011 Movies

I think I have everything I need… except a name. I thought I would name the movie awards after an object from my favorite movie from last year, and the same for TV. But then, thinking about Dogtooth, my favorite film from 2010, I thought that having Filmtooth (also a play on sweet-tooth) as a permanent name might be a good idea. What do you guys think?

And another thing… you guys get to decide who wins Best 2011 Comedic Cameo/Limited Role. Please vote below.

Top 10 Movies I’m Embarrassed I Haven’t Seen

I stole this idea from filmophilia.com, a brilliant website.

Note: this list does not include movies I’ve “forgotten” or haven’t seen in a long time.

10. Drive (2011)

I was very, very excited to see Drive. I’m talking Up level excitement, here. A few hours before I was going to go, I found out it was rated R. R means I can’t get in (and I’m not tall enough to pass for 18). I’ll catch it on Amazon… I guess.

9. The Dark Knight (2008)

Oh boy. This is a biggie. It was, for a time, the highest ranked movie on IMDb. And it still is the highest movie on flickchart. All of my friends were talking about it at the time (some still are). But I’m just not into comic book stuff. I saw the last 10 minutes on cable once. I’ll catch it on cable… one of these days.

8. The Matrix (1999)

I was a fan of the “bigness” of Inception, plus people are referencing this a lot these days. I feel left out.

7. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)

I’ve seen some excerpts, and this is my type of movie. Fawlty Towers and Keeping Up Appearances are two of my favorite TV shows ever, and Python is even drier. Coconuts.

6. The Departed (2006)

For this one, all I have to do is list names. Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, and best of all, Alec Baldwin. I need to see this film!

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

I’ve seen pieces of this film, but I don’t really remember it. What I do remember is seeing 2010. Honestly, it wasn’t very good.

4. Up in the Air/The Hurt Locker/(500) Days of Summer (2009)


I’ve always enjoyed film, but I didn’t really get into it until late 2010. I missed out on a lot of films made in the decade before, and I haven’t gotten caught up. These three very different movies all look very good, and I can’t wait to see them. Also, I haven’t seen Avatar either.

3. City Lights (1931)

Charles Chaplin is up there with Hitchcock and Wilder in my mind as one of the all-time great directors. I love Modern Times and The Great Dictator, but I’ve heard that this tops those.

2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Dark Knight used to be #1 on IMDb, but now it’s Shawshank. (Here’s that link again.) I don’t know a lot about it, but people talk about how great it is.

1. The Godfather (1972)

10 days ago, you guys voted The Godfather the best picture of the 1970s. Awhile ago, Empire named it the greatest movie of all-time. I needed to see it before, but once the “all-time” sticker is applied, it gets serious.

What movies are you embarrassed that you haven’t seen?