Monday, April 13, 2009

My Top 30 Movies Of All Time Part 2 of 3


Number 20: Häxan

Some debate if this Denmark/Sweden made documentary was the first non-short attempt at horror, given that alot of the re-enacted scenes are on so graphicly violent that it would seem harsh even by today's standards. It does however have the honor of being the first film to be heavily censored, though shown in its untouched glory in both Sweden and Denmark, most counties edited the film do to graphic depictions of violence, sex and "unholy acts", and infact it was the first film to be banned in the United States. Infact the complete unedited version of the film was never seen outside of Sweden and Denmark until the recorded dvd release in 2001, 79 years after it was originally created. The film's english translation is "The Witches" or sometimes called "Witchcraft Through The Ages" and tells of how cultural and medical misunderstandings of both sickness and mental illness and false information and the paranoia that comes with miseducation or lack of on these matters can spread into witch hunts, much like those which swept Europe and most notatedly Salem Massachusetts in America in the 1600s. The film re-enacts alot of what it talks about, showing the real and the false depictions of what witches really do, setting both both sides of the argument out on the table for the viewer to choose which they believe, as a good documentary should, sure alot of its information is outdated now and deemed misinformation or propaganda believed to be truth do to saturation, which isn't uncommon in pre-World War 2 Europe when the church pretty much dictated things, but still, with all of that, there is sort of this eerie but beautiful feel to the film. I love that about it.

Number 19: Rashomon

Rashomon is the first of two films by the great Akira Kurosawa on my list, and though its kind of film school basics to admit the greatness of Kurosawa and how he's influenced everything from Star Wars to the Westerns that were so prevalent in american culture in the 1950s and 1960s, most people dismiss Rashomon as one of his greatest works, but I guess thats alright, I mean how can you seriously pick a masterpiece among masterpieces? Thats like putting two gold bricks together and saying to pick which one is more gold. Rashomon tells the story of the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife, told through four different perspectives, The Man accused or raping the samurai's wife, the samurai's wife, the woodsman that found the Samurai's body, and through a medium, The Samurai himself. It might seem like a classic film nior style film, and in its own way it basically is, just asian'ed up, time displaced and abit of sci fi added. But there is just something about it, i love the way its shot and how its written and acted, Kurosawa was a genius thats of no dispute, and it is such a joy to watch his visions come to life, its almost religious in a way for me.

Number 18: Vanishing Point

If you haven't realized this by now, I do have a special love for the Grindhouse era of movies, and if you hadn't, well you know now. One of the best of those types of films is Vanishing Point, a film that is so iconic that to this day, its ending is still debated and theorized on, it was just the perfect blend of late 1960s American art house counterculture and the underlying need to be free and to rise above all that can go wrong in life. Vanishing Point actually starts 2 minutes before the end of the film, and then goes backwards telling the story of a man named Kowalski, who literally has lost everything in his life, but he's not given up. He works as a car delivery man, the movie tells the story of how he's paid to transport a white 1970 Dodge Challanger that has been modified into a street legal race car, he has to transport it from Denver Colorado, to San Fransisco California in three days, but he makes a bet along the way that he can get it there by a certain time the next day. This bet, is how Kowalski gets on the radar of the police, who chase him through the entire film, as he tries to get to San Fransisco before the deadline of his bet. As the film goes on, you see Kowalski flash back and you find out how he's lost everything, and ended up where he is now, and how all of whom he meets he leaves impression on, all the way to the point where the movie begins, and then leaves you sitting in your set wondering what the hell has just happened. Its truly a work of art, that gives you an almost perfect snapshot of 1971 American counterculture and how it spread across the country. If you go looking, don't get the 90s remake, its complete crap.

Number 17: No Country For Old Men

Every now and then in modern hollywood, you will come across a movie that literally hits you upside the head with just how good modern storytelling can be, its kind of like looking for gold in a river of mud, but you do find some every now and then. No Country For Old Men was one of those movies. Its dark and gritty and it stands true to what its tag line says, there are no clean getaways. From the story it tells of a deadly game of hide and seek that is played out in a boarder town on the Texas/Mexico line, where a Vietnam veteran who happens across a drug deal gone bad, finding all those involved dead and the drugs and money still there, he takes the money and some of the guns, and heads off, feeling uneasy about it hours later he returns to investigate, he finds the drugs and the bodies gone and discovers some people there looking at the area, he avoids them but they get his truck's plate numbers, this leads him into the path of possibly the greatest movie villain sense Hannibal Lector, a hitman by the name of Anton Chugar (said "sugar"), who is also being tracked by a sheriff who knows both of them. The movie is brilliant in the fact that at no time, are the three main characters ever on the screen at the same time, nor do they ever actually meet face to face, making you wonder just who is really hunting who. The ending is one of those hit you in the jaw kind of endings, where you find out that sometimes, things just end, no happy ending, no sad ending, none of that, just an ending. Plus Javier Bardem is just friggin amazing.

Number 16: Lord of The Flies

Lord of the flies is an amazingly complex movie for something that was made so simplistically, most of the film's dialog was improvised on the spot, with all the stars having never read the book, given that it wasn't really age appropriate for them, they were given an explanation of the scene, and then let loose, thats pretty amazing for movie that stars a bunch of kids. For those that don't know, the story of Lord of The Flies is the tale of the power struggle tht goes on among a group of boys who survived a plane crash on a remote island in the pacific ocean. It tells how they are almost constantly fighting for control and are all leery of each other, it teaches us that no matter what, we will always give into our darker urges and ideas. Its scary in just real it all seems, its truly a beautiful bit of work.

Number 15: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

there are alot of movies that tell you about the horrors of war, and the innocence of children, but not many have ever really told you about the horrors of war through the eyes of innocent children. The film tells the story of two young boys, who become the best of friends, even though there is a fence between them. That fence was the razorwire, see, one of the boys is the son of a high ranking Nazi who runs a concentration camp, and the other is a jewish boy who's imprisoned inside. You find that the boys don't really understand the world around them, even though it is surrounding them, all they know is the childish innocence that we all wish we could continue to have as we get older. Its a beautiful film that makes me cry when I watch it.

Number 14: David and Lisa

Alot of the time, the best movies tend to be ones that get overshadowed or forgotten by about 98% of the world, such is the case with 1962's David and Lisa, an unconventional love story about two very unconventional people, by unconventional i mean they're both mentally ill, I always love when i find a movie from so long ago that actually deals with mental illness right, its so rare, but its also very refreshing, plus you find yourself starting to love the cast, because they're just so great in their roles. Here is the basic plot, David Clemens is brought to a residential treatment center by his apparently caring mother. He becomes very upset when one of the inmates brushes his hand, as he believes touches can kill him. Cold and distant, he mainly concentrates on his studies, especially that of clocks, which he appears to be obsessed with. We later learn that he has a recurring dream in which he murders people by means of a giant clock. He meets Lisa Brandt, a girl who has two personalities: one of them, Lisa, can only speak in rhymes, while the other, Muriel, cannot speak, but only write. David befriends her by talking to her in rhymes. Following an argument with his mother when she comes to visit him, his parents decide he should leave the place. After staying at their house for a short time, David runs away and goes back to the residential treatment center, where he is allowed to stay. He has a small argument with Lisa, and she takes the train to the city, unnoticed by anyone, David braves his illness and goes out to find her on his own, knowing exactly where she would be, and the ending is a happy one. So beautifully done and acted, I just love this film to death.

Number 13: Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion

I know afew people might be abit confused as to why I picked a Japanese woman in prison movie as one of my greatest of all time, but its simple, I find this to be the greatest of that entire genre, as well as the fact I wanted to have the great Mieko Kaji on here somewhere, mostly because I love her ever so much. So yeah, call me whatever you like for having a selfish moment.. hehe. Anyway, for those of you that haven't ever seen the film or the other three films in the series, Meiko plays a woman named Nami who was set up for a crime by the man she loves, who just happens to be a detective in the local police force, he did it to gain a spot in the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. The story is how Nami fights her way to freedom out of a corrupt prison full of violent women and sadistic and lecherous guards, to finally take revenge on her former lover and those who made him put her away. To some it might not seem that special of a movie, but for me, it just is, plus, the image of Mieko in the long coat and hat at the end of the film is one of the more iconic images in asian cinema, so thats an added plus.

Number 12: Jaws

Now personally, I liked Orca alot better, but as far as importance and impact, you don't get much better then the movie that made an entire world scared to go in the water for upwards of over a year. This about that for just a moment, an entire world in the middle of a sweltering 1975 summer were literally scared to go in the water, all because of a movie, some are still scared because of it. Can you grasp the level of impact that is? We all know the story, Jaws is a great white shark who runs ruckshot over the beaches of Amity Island, a small summer resort town in the middle of its busiest time of the year, its up to the local sheriff, his deputy and a marine biologist to put a stop to the shark's rampage. Its just so iconic, and is seen as the first "summer blockbuster" movie in history, given how it just printed money in its time. There is just so much right with the film, how you hardly ever see Jaws, thus proving the concept that what you can't see is more scary then what you can, and plus, how can think of this film with out saying "we need a bigger boat" atleast once?

Number 11: Powder

Now, before I get into this, I need to state something, for me personally, what an actor or director does in their personal life, no matter how bad it is, doesn't effect their art for me. See, alot of people dismiss Powder for the masterpiece it is because its director went to jail for molesting a 12 year old boy on the set of an earlier movie. A masterpiece is a masterpiece, its like how people buy art made by serial killers and hang it in galleries, art is art, it doesn't matter who made it, with that said, again, I state Powder was given a death sentence by most over this fact, and thats just not fair, its a beautiful film and I refuse to let it fall to the wayside like most (Robert Ebert you fat pug faced jerk thats for you). What Powder is about, is how we, as a people, do not really understand or feel comfortable with those that are truly different. We like to believe that we're evolved and understand our surroundings, but really we don't. we convince ourselves we do just because we feel we need too. The film begins with the discovery of Jeremy Reed, later called "Powder", living in the basement of his grandparent's home, his grandfather is dead on the floor upstairs, you later find out Jeremy was trying to save him but couldn't. Jeremy is, well, different, he is an albino who has a beyond measurable IQ and is completely hairless and has this strange reaction to electrical equipment whenever he is near it. He claims he wants to just be left alone in his home, but given the fact he's 16 he's not allowed too do so, he forms a relationship with both the local sheriff and a state social worker who both are amazed at him, the film follows how Jeremy learns to interact with those around him, the other boys at the home where he's placed who mistreat him because he's different then them and that scares them, with a local girl named Lindsey whom he opens up too the most and its implied the two of them fall in love, even though her father demands she no longer see him, through all of this, and the testing done on Jeremy, all he wants is to be left alone and just left in peace, and ofcourse given human nature no one will let him do that. Its kind of based on the theory that if we were to be given actual proof of life on other worlds, or even proof of angels and demons, we would attempt to destroy it while trying to prove with science what we see with our eyes. Most people remember the scene simply called "the hunting scene" or "the deer scene", if you youtube it, its a scene where Jeremy grabs the deputy who's just shot a deer, and while holding the deer's neck and the Deputy's arm, forces him to feel all the pain and things the deer is feeling as it dies. Such a beautiful film that doesn't deserve its death sentence. Also, it was remade as a more successful bollywood film called "Alag" which is very good as well.




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