Monday, April 28, 2014

My Top 50 Favorite Films

I love movies. And there are a lot of movies that I really love. So, I've decided to put together a piece on some movies that I truly really love with all my heart and soul.  This is only my Top 50. There are plenty of films I consider my favorites that aren't on here like There Will Be Blood and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. You can see my full provisional Top 100 list here: Keep in mind these are my favorite films, not the best films. There's a difference. So, without much ado (okay that was a lot of ado), here are my top fifty favorite films of all time. Enjoy.
50. Looper
This was the first movie I reviewed. I remember watching it and being blown away at how awesome it was. Rian Johnson created an imaginative, original, and entertaining sci-fi flick with this that's different than anything else in cinemas. I must have seen it five times by now. It's a great film.

49. The Graduate
I actually only watched this the other day. I was so taken by it, I immediately began to think of it as one of my favorites. It's that good. Mike Nichols terrific direction, the acting, the smart screenplay, Simon & Garfunkel. Just writing this paragraph makes me want to watch it again.

48. Alien
Besides Star Wars, Alien is possibly the most influential science fiction movie to date. It's an astoundingly simple concept: there's a monster in an enclosed space. But it's executed with such sheer visceral awesomeness. It's the kind of movie you don't forget seeing. And that chest bursting scene with John Hurt? Wow, is all I can say.
47. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
This is the undisputed best of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the best thing Peter Jackson has ever done. It's grand, it's groundbreaking, it's really entertaining. Incredible. The film runs three hours long, yet I was engrossed the entire time. This is one of the few Best Picture winners that really deserved it. An all around great movie.
46. Mean Streets
Martin Scorsese's 1973 feature is everything he couldn't do in his debut film. It's practically a sequel to Who's That Knocking at My Door, and it's twice as good (not that Who's That Knocking was bad at all). The performances from Keitel and De Niro are top notch and the soundtrack is classic Scorsese. A must-see for anyone ever.
45. Duck, You Sucker
Can you say overlooked? Sergio Leone's 1971 western is a fantastic film that not enough people have watched. It's emotional, political, violent, and entertaining. One of Leone's best and most underrated films.
44. Raiders of the Lost Ark
How can one not like this movie? The best of the Indiana Jones films is an all out great movie that is still fresh even today. The best adventure film of all time? Possibly. It certainly should of won Best Picture in 1982. John Williams score is as iconic as ever and it accompanies the entire movie so damn well. A true classic.
43. Manhattan 
Many call this Woody Allen's best movie. I cannot agree, but it's still terrific. I love all of Allen's old stuff because of his hilarious humor, but also because of the way he himself delivers it. Diane Keaton and Mariel Hemingway are great too. It's beautifully shot too. Definitely Allen's best directed film. The music he uses pairs with the film awesomely. It's a great homage to New York and a great movie.
42. The Wolf of Wall Street
It's not Martin Scorsese's best film, and it's not for everyone, but I really dug The Wolf. It's an insanely insane and enthralling tale of greed and decadence on Wall Street. I love Scorsese's frenetic and constantly moving directorial style a lot and it's very prevalent here. All around it's a very well made movie. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill also give two fantastic performances here, maybe their best ever.
41-40. Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2
Quentin Tarantino's two part revenge epic is exactly that: epic. It's filled with classic Tarantinian dialogue and violence but, Kill Bill is more than an exercise in style. It's pure, incredible, and thought-out filmmaking. Tarantino gives homage to samurai flicks and westerns here, but the movie is all his own. And it is really great.
39. Zodiac
Zodiac is one of the best crime films ever made. David Fincher took a story that's already been told a thousand times and then made one of the most chilling and riveting movies to be released in the last decade. Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal give two unforgettable performances here also. Not my all-time favorite Fincher film, but I think it comes quite close.
38. Dog Day Afternoon
For a film over two hours long that takes place in about two settings, Dog Day Afternoon is really gripping. While not the best movie starring Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon displays what I think is Pacino's greatest performance. And that is saying A LOT. Sharp dialogue and Sidney Lumet's assured direction make this an undisputed classic film.
37. Hot Fuzz
Edgar Wright is an ingenious filmmaker. People may not have realized it yet, but he is. Every movie in the Cornetto Trilogy is in my Top 100 and I consider Hot Fuzz to be the best of the three. It's not only hilarious, but but just amazingly directed by Wright. Simon Pegg is a brilliant comic actor, and he's no different here. An endlessly rewatchable film.
36. Being John Malkovich
Charlie Kaufman is my favorite screenwriter because of how weird, funny, and insane all of his movies are. Spike Jonze is one of my favorite filmmakers because his movies are always different and refreshing. Team the two up and you get films like Adaptation and this. Strange? Yes. Genius? Absolutely. Some say Adaptation is better. As a film? Probably. But I enjoy the sheer insanity of Being John Malkovich a lot more.
35. JFK
Oliver Stone has made a lot of crappy duds like Savages and Alexander. Granted, he's also made a lot of classics like Born on the Fourth of July and Platoon. JFK is his masterpiece. Whether you believe the story or not, the movie is still a terrifically entertaining and well-made political thriller. It also showcases a surprisingly good Kevin Costner performance. Even at three hours it's enthralling. A terrific film.
34. The Grand Budapest Hotel 
So what if this movie only came out a couple of months ago? It's fantastic! I really love Wes Anderson. I think he's a more than brilliant writer/director and I can't get enough of his wonderful style. Maybe that's why I was so taken with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Maybe it's also because it's a fantastic movie with great performances by Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, and many others. It's my favorite Wes Anderson film. And that's coming from a huge Wes Anderson fan.
33. The Dark Knight Rises
Most people prefer the second Batman flick, The Dark Knight, to this one. Me? I saw this three times in theaters. Sure, the second film has an unforgettable Heath Ledger performance, but The Dark Knight Rises is my personal favorite of the trilogy. It's great popcorn entertainment, but it's also damn good pure cinema. Nolan is a master of his craft and a super movie maker.
Sam Rockwell may be my favorite actor. He's terrific in anything. Moon is no exception. In fact, it's his best performance ever. Just watch the film and you'll see. Otherwise, Moon is a fantastic and realistic sci-fi film that really makes you think. Duncan Jones has a promising future in movies.
31. Taxi Driver
As I've said plenty of times, Martin Scorsese is my favorite director. His films are astonishingly well made and almost always fantastic. I count many as my favorites. Taxi Driver is a chilling portrayal of a man unhinged in the hellish streets of NYC. A great film in every way that stays with you long after you watch it. And De Niro is great in it too.
30. Seven Psychopaths
I often call Martin McDonagh the next Tarantino. His movies (especially this one) are terrifically written, very violent, and funny. He's a genius. Although In Bruges was great, I like Seven Psychopaths better. It's like Adaptation on steroids. A look at a troubled man with writer's block, mixed in with great dialogue and insane action. A future classic.
29. Rear Window
I think Psycho is Hitchcock's best film, but Rear Window is my favorite. It's a thrilling thriller that never ceases to entertain. Jimmy Stewart gives a great performance as the only major character in the movie. Alfred Hitchcock is often lauded as one of cinema's greatest directors. It's no surprise. He's a genius. Don't believe me? Go watch Rear Window.
28. American Beauty
American Beauty is beautiful. A dad falling in love with his daughter's friend may sound like an odd idea for a movie, but it works so well here. Kevin Spacey gives his best performance yet here as Lester Burnham, the aforementioned father. It's wonderfully directed and wittily written. One movie that really earned it's Best Picture win.
27. Apocalypse Now
Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam war epic is one of the greatest films ever made. Personally, I think it's better made than his Godfather trilogy, but I like The Godfather films a little better. Apocalypse Now is an incredibly well made classic and a hypnotic look at madness, war, and horror.
26. Star Wars 
What can I say that hasn't already been said about this science fiction landmark? I'm talking about the first, and best film, of the series. It's entertaining, fun, and revolutionary. I don't think there was, or ever will be a film as earth shattering for the entertainment industry as Star Wars is. Seriously, who hasn't seen it? I remember watching it on VHS as a little kid and being completely wowed by just the visuals alone. And hey, it has a pretty good story too.
25. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
This was the first western I was ever shown and one of the earliest movies I remember calling my favorite. Butch and Sundance are very close to me. I consider this one of the most beautifully filmed movies of all time. With all time great performances (Especially by Paul Newman) and a terrifically written script, this is fantastic cinema.
24. Raging Bull
Is there a film that captures the inner workings of a troubled man better than Raging Bull? I think not. Scorsese has a knack for doing films like that. King of Comedy, Taxi Driver, and Shutter Island all deal with the subject. But none do it as well as Raging Bull. Plus, Robert De Niro gives possibly his best performance ever as Jake La Motta.
23. Blade Runner
I don't think there's a movie out there that's as immersing and beautiful than Blade Runner. From the opening shots I'm dragged into the dystopian world where it always rains and is inhabited by philosophical androids. Time to die.
22. The Godfather
"I believe in America" are the words that start off the near perfect film that is The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola's more recent films may have fallen in quality, but the absolute classics he made in the past are enough to grant him complete forgiveness. The Godfather is really great. It's ridiculously entertaining for a three hour film, packed full of amazing performances, with fantastic cinematography.
21. The Godfather Part II
I might be somewhat alone here, but I think The Godfather Part II is the superior movie in the trilogy. It's so good it's kind of crazy. Coppola expands on the character of Micheal Corleone while simultaneously filling in Vito's back story. The addition of De Niro is terrific. I also liked how they added in the tension with Fredo and his story. It's a shame Pacino didn't win an Oscar for his role here. A cinema landmark.
20. Inglorious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino is one of my all time favorite directors. Right up there with Scorsese and Sergio Leone. I have seen, and love, all of his movies. Inglorious Basterds is one of his best. It's witty, entertaining, fresh, and with all the classic Tarantino signatures. It's somewhat a tale of revenge, as many of his films are, but also a solid war picture. Something we haven't seen since maybe Platoon. An all timer worth many watches.
19. Back to the Future
If I tried to tell you the number of times I've seen this movie I couldn't because it's ridiculous. It probably isn't as "good" a film as Apocalypse Now or Raging Bull but I love it all the same. It's a movie I enjoy so much it transcends all rational judgement and criticism. It isn't actually perfect, but I see it as such. Hey, I may go watch it again.
18. The Searchers 
People often say all westerns are cliche. People are wrong. The Searchers is one of the greatest and most beautiful movies ever filmed. It combines fun western action, with top notch performances, wonderful direction by John Ford, and a meaningful underlying message. It's no wonder it is considered one of the greatest films ever made.
17. The Departed
Haven't gotten tired of Scorsese yet? Good. There's more to come. Most people don't count The Departed as one of Martin Scorsese's best films. I'm not most people. The Departed is another look into the life of the mob (this time the Irish one) while also looking into the corrupt police force and whole of Boston. It's a terrific movie that never gets old. DiCaprio is great. Damon is great. Marky Mark Wahlberg is great. IT is great.
16. Donnie Darko
A dark and beautiful film that is still damn confusing no matter how many times you see it. But that's what makes it so awesome. Richard Kelly's debut picture is a strange little movie about teen angst and time travel starring the very underrated Jake Gyllenhaal. It's fantastic. Really.
15. Magnolia
Paul Thomas Anderson's 1999 ensemble film is also one of his best films. It's an astonishingly original and beautiful story, supported by amazing performances (I'm looking at you Tom Cruise), and great direction. It's the movie that put Paul Thomas Anderson on my ever-growing list of favorite directors. It may be three hours, but I was enthralled in every second of Magnolia. R.I.P Philip Seymour Hoffman. This movie is great!
14. Fargo
Fargo is one of my favorites for two reasons. Marge Gunderson (played wonderfully by Frances McDormand) and I don't need another a reason to love this movie! I kid, there are at least one hundred other reasons why Fargo is great. The screenplay, the other actors, the great story, etc. I could go on and on. The Coen Brothers are masters of the black comedy genre and they ace it again here. Oh ya, it's terrific.
13. Fight Club
Fight Club wasn't exactly lauded by critics when it first came out, which I find very puzzling. Now it's a universally loved classic. As it should be. Fight Club is a crazy good mind-bender filled with interesting questions and even more interesting answers. It's just an interesting movie. I think it Fincher's best work. He did some great stuff with Fight Club. Popularizing bullet time and making this crazy film a little more insane. The always good Brad Pitt is awesome in it and Edward Norton is terrific too. An A+ film.
12. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Did I say Blade Runner was the most beautiful movie ever made before? Because I may have to shift that title over to Eternal Sunshine. Charlie Kaufman's best work about love and relationships is as trippy as it is wholly wonderful. It's the movie that proved Jim Carrey as a great actor. It's a movie I can watch again and again and again.
11. Once Upon a Time in the West
The gunfights. The railroad. The actors. Ennio Morricone's musical score. Everything about Once Upon a Time in the West is fantastically awesome. Sergio Leone was a master of the western genre. His movies went beyond the norm with their distinct Leone-ian Italian style. He created the spaghetti western and in doing so revolutionized the entire western genre. Once Upon a Time in the West is one of his best. A classic every person should see twice.
10. Her
What? Her came out a few months ago! How could it already be in my Top 10? Because it is original, funny, beautiful, and oh-so good. Spike Jonze is an incredible filmmaker whose latest work is undoubtedly one of the best films I've seen in years. It asks questions about the future and AI while commenting on present society. Joaquin Phoenix is great and Scarlett Johansson is insanely amazing as Samantha. It's also hysterical and a truly genius movie. One I've already seen twice and plan on watching many more times.
9. Reservoir Dogs
This is another one of those movies I've seen an insane amount of times. Maybe eleven, maybe twenty. Reservoir Dogs is Quentin Tarantino's gloriously bloody debut film that I absolutely love. The dialogue is as sharp as a samurai sword and the pace is as swift as a 1950's Cadillac. Just the opening diner scene alone is enough to put a big goofy grin on my face. I love it so damn much. Hey, I may go watch it again.
8. The Shawshank Redemption
Isn't this *everyone's* favorite movie? It has good reason to be. The Shawshank Redemption is film about hope, but it's also about so much more. The acting is through the roof, Morgan Freeman's peformance alone seals the deal. This is Frank Darabont's best movie. It is damn near perfect. How can one not like The Shawshank Redemption?
7. The Shining
Stanley Kubrick is undisputedly one of cinema's great masters. The Shining is undisputedly one of Kubrick's finest films. On one level it's a simple horror flick about a man gone mad. On another level it's a semi-philosophical supernatural drama that transcends even Kubrick himself. It's terrifically entertaining and incredibly well filmed. Kubrick is a master, and this is one masterful film.
6. The Big Lebowski
There is no movie as endlessly quotable and entertaining as The Big Lebowski. With this film, The Coen Brothers have created a character as astounding and incredible as he is lazy. The story is hilarious and the script is really well written, but it's all about Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski. One of cinema's most endearing characters.
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Kubrick again! Damn, that guy makes good movies. I had the privilege of watching this masterpiece on the big screen and it was one of the most mind-blowing experiences of my young life. I'm not entirely sure what this movie is exactly "about", but I know it is incredible. An amazing feat of technical prowess and thoughtful filmmaking. A true classic.
4. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
You may have noticed I like westerns by now. Particularly, Sergio Leone westerns. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly tops them all. It's a mind boggling-ly well made film that hasn't aged a day, over forty years after it was released. Sergio Leone's magnum opus may not have the most original of stories, but the way he presents it all...oh man is it spectacular. This is grand and incredible movie making.
3. Pulp Fiction
Quentin Tarantino peaked with Pulp Fiction in 1994. He still makes great pictures but this is his best. Just the dialogue alone is enough to put this film on here. I don't even know what to say. It's wonderfully directed. With superb acting. And it's just a damn fine movie. Tarantino's movies are so startlingly fresh and original, this is his all-time best work.
2. Annie Hall   
My god is Annie Hall endlessly wonderful. I've seen this film so many time and it brings me so much joy. It's incredibly sharp and one of the funniest, if not the funniest, films of all time. Although I'm not a huge fan of Woody Allen's more recent stuff, he is still a genius. He's not only really funny, but great at making movies. This, my friends, is his best.
1. Goodfellas
If there ever was a perfect film, Goodfellas is it. Have I mentioned Martin Scorsese is my favorite director? There's a reason, and that reason is Goodfellas. Watching this is like looking at the Mona Lisa, except it's way more fun. Film making at it's finest. I could literally watch Goodfellas all day. Each watch brings something new. It's quotable, wonderful, and glorious. Every frame of it is great. Goodfellas is more than just good, it's my favorite movie. And not to brag, but I've seen a decent amount of movies. Goodfellas is top-of-the-line cinema.

So there it is! My fifty favorite films of all time. Keep in mind this list may change as I am always watching new movies. You can check the link I posted above for updates. But for now, this is it. Hope you liked it. Now I think I'm gonna go watch Goodfellas again. Happy Viewing!
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore review

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is the worst Martin Scorsese film I've ever seen.
This isn't saying much, considering half of the guy's films are absolute masterpieces. I'm sure it's hard for him to measure up to his past successes like Raging Bull and Goodfellas every time he makes a movie, but he usually makes something great, if not better. He's bound to make a dud every once in a while, and even though I didn't like Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, it's in no way a dud. I consider Scorsese to be my favorite director, and I've seen most of his work. If you asked me my favorite movie, although this is a frustratingly hard and unfair question to ask, I'd probably reply with Goodfellas. I recently saw Scorsese's 1974 effort, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed. The film's about a housewife named Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) who's fed up with her rough and insensitive husband and mundane suburban life. She wanted to be a singer, but instead she's confined to cleaning dishes and dealing with her smart mouthed son Tommy (Alfred Lutter). That is until her husband is killed in a freak car accident. Leaving her without a man and independent for the first time in her life. So, Alice sets off to do the one thing she knows how to: sing. Thus begins the journey. First off, this movie isn't terrible. I wouldn't even call it bad. Yet, it's not especially good. I had a lot of problems with it. Alice and her kid talk a lot of smack to each other during the film. At times it's cutesy and even witty, but after a while I was starting to think Alice was just a really crappy parent. The kind of parent that, while maybe not a bad person, is terrible with children. The kind that yells at their kid in the park in front of everyone when he drops his ice cream or complains one too many times. That made it really hard to feel sympathy or connect with the character of Alice at all. Her character was supposed to have flaws and be a bit of a damaged person, but she wasn't supposed to be as bad as the film accidentally makes her out to be. Their were times when I was obviously supposed to be feeling sad for Alice, but I wasn't. She was a mediocre person whose parenting skills were cringe worthy. How could I sympathize with that? In fact, there were very few people in the film at all who I could connect with on any level. The only person who I liked at all was Jodie Foster's character, Audrey. But she's only in the film for about twenty minutes. That wasn't the only problem. The film uses sappiness and crying scenes as a crutch to make up for it's lack of substance in other areas. It gets tiring after a while. When this movie came out it was portrayed for it's strong female character. While I applaud the writer on making a movie only about a girl, I don't think she was as strong as people thought. Alice has her willful moments, and for a while you think she really can live independently without a man. But in the end she succumbs and ends up falling in with another dude. It's supposed to be a happy ending, but maybe it should be looked at as a tragedy? I did have a lot of issues with the movie, but it really wasn't all bad. Although her character annoyed the hell out of me at times, Ellen Burstyn gives a terrific performance here as the titular character. She won an Oscar for the role, and I can see why. She portrays her character with a realism often absent from many performances. She's sad and angry, but she doesn't overdo it. If you're going to watch this for anything, do it for Burstyn's wonderful performance. Martin Scorsese has done better things, but his direction here is sharp and great. His fast and constantly moving camerawork is ever present here, and it really gives the film a boost. The film has a lot of issues, but Martin Scorsese really has nothing to do with them. The guy is a master director. This was nominated for Best Screenplay at the Oscars back in the 70's. I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure why. It does have the occasional bit of smart dialogue and I guess it portrays it's characters somewhat honestly but it resorts to cliches and the dialogue is too unrealistic and stilted too often. I really didn't feel that it was that impressive of a screenplay. If I can say one thing for the movie, is that it's not boring. Although I obviously had a dearth of problems with it, I was entertained throughout the whole film. Alice is a lesser installment to Scorsese's canon but it's not bad by any means. Just very, very flawed. I suppose it's worth a watch, although I'd just skip it and watch Taxi Driver again. Happy Viewing. Remember to follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Thanks!