Top 100 Films (2013 Edition): Part 1 of 5

Enough talk, let’s get to the list. I’ll still return to the topical discussion idea later on, when the mood strikes me, and I’ll pull from this list to do so, but let’s cut the crap and get into the mud to dig around and see what we find.

100. An American Werewolf in London

Have you tried talking to a corpse? It’s boring.

A kind of crazy romance, buddy movie with intense make-up and scares. It’s zany and messy and I love that about it.

99. The Devil’s Backbone

Like an insect trapped in amber. A ghost is me.

You’ll notice a lot of horror and horror-tinged movies on this list. I like the scares and the atmosphere. Guillermo del Toro is a master at both of these elements, and this, his second Spanish-language film clearly announces him as a filmmaker to whom attention must be paid. A combination of civil war ravaged Spain and gothic horror, The Devil’s Backbone delivers the creeps and the feels that make for a top 100 movie.

98. Contact

I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever… A vision… of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how… rare, and precious we all are!

Here’s a movie about something that really appeals to my interests. Space has always fascinated me, and the question of our existence as the sole life-supporting planet in the universe is endlessly interesting. Contact also treads in the time tested tracks of the religion vs. science debate, ending up on the side of experience vs. faith. Of course, nothing is that easy, and the the thematic and emotional complexities are what elevates this film onto my list.

97. The Man Who Wasn’t There

Because our minds… our minds get in the way. Looking at something changes it. They call it the “Uncertainty Principle”. Sure, it sounds screwy, but even Einstein says the guy’s on to something.

Leave it to the Coen brothers to turn quantum mechanics into a crazy film noir. The Man Who Wasn’t There not only looks great and feels like one of those tough-nosed crime movies of the 30s and 40s, it turns a quiet man into a kind of lightning rod that attracts all kinds of things, from the FBI to aliens. It’s dedicated weirdness, and that’ll always work for me.

96. The Fountain

Death is the road to awe.

A deeply interesting triple story follows two people throughout and beyond time. Always one is dying and the other trying to save her. Darren Aronofsky creates beautiful imagery to supplement the beautiful ideas that motivate the film. As a lot of my movies prove, if the feelings are there and the ideas thoroughly explored, I’ll be very inclined to like the film. The Fountain isn’t Aronofsky’s best, but it does capture something wonderful on film, even if that wonderful thing is death.

95. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Absence is a funny thing. I feel like Guy left years ago. I look at this photo, and I forget what he really looks like. When I think of him, it’s this photo that I see.

Here’s a bit of a curveball. Yes, I like horror films, but the (sometimes bitter) sweet romances can just as easily get to me. Here is a French musical about young love. It’s all fine and dandy for the majority of the film. Although economically depressed, 1964 France is a pleasant place to spend time. It’s the last scene, though, that turns this into a top 100 film, twisting what we know about these two characters into something true and heartbreaking. And they sing nice, too.

94. Hot Fuzz

You’re not seriously gonna believe this man, are you? Are you? HE ISN’T EVEN FROM ‘ROUND HERE!

Dense is the word I like to use for Edgar Wright movies. Densely plotted, dense action, a million jokes a minute. It’s that density plus the really great character work that turns a an action comedy into a really great whole film. The relationships here sell all the silliness, and the action is just as great as the comedy, when it finally arrives at the end.

93. Modern Times

Observe our counter-shaft, double-knee-action corn feeder, with its synchro-mesh transmission, which enables you to shift from high to low gear by the mere tip of the tongue.

This year I watched my first Chaplin movie and was floored at how great some of the bits were. This was a time when actors were directors were set designers (the blind rollerskating scene is a marvel) were stuntmen. They did it all, and Chaplin’s Tramp is a really great character to bumble through his Modern Times.

92. In the Loop

I can’t stand to see a woman bleed from the mouth. It reminds me of that Country and Western music which I cannot abide.

I am not a cynical person. I do, however, enjoy putting on a cynical hat for 90 minutes to romp around in a land where actions always have the worst consequences. In the Loop is one of those highly verbal, highly intelligent cynical comedies that just gets under my skin. The presence of the newly crowned Doctor Who (Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker) swearing up a storm certainly helps, too.

91. Exit Through the Gift Shop

It was at that point that I realized that maybe Thierry wasn’t actually a film maker, and he was maybe just someone with mental problems who happened to have a camera.

A pseudodocumentary, we’re never quite sure whether what we’re seeing is the truth. Who is Mr. Brainwash? How is he related to notorious street artist Banksy? And what is truth, anyways? If this movie is wholly fictional, it’s still a marvel, reminding us that docs often lie, and that art can be anything. It’s out there, that’s for sure.

90. Sherlock Jr.

Say Mr. Detective, before you clean up any mysteries, clean up this theater!

Is there anybody better than Buster Keaton? Inventive both in front of the camera and behind it, he pulls off death-defying stunts with ease and marvels with clever editing and filmic tricks. Basically a showcase for his large skillset, Sherlock Jr. doesn’t have very much in the pathos category, unless holding my breath and gripping the armrests of my chair count as feelings. And it’s so funny!

89. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

There’s nothing to be afraid of. They were right. It’s painless. It’s good. Come. Sleep. Matthew.

The ultimate in social paranoia movies. Invasion of the Body Snatchers takes the ideas of it’s 50s predecessor and modernizes them (for the 70s) into a kind of global terror. Everybody is conforming! The Body Snatchers story has translated across decades quite well, but the imagery and ideas here make this the best version.

88. Holy Motors

Take my hand. Let’s walk. Most likely we’ll never see each other again.

There are a few movies on this list that I don’t really fully understand. Holy Motors is certainly one of those movies. A series of vignettes following an actor around a city as he performs various roles, this movie is a celebration of cinema and a crazy ride. There’s motion capture sex, a deathbed visit, and a monkey, among other things. Craziness.

87. Melancholia

Life is only on Earth. And not for long.

A kind of counterpoint to Contact, Melancholia is also not really in alignment with my worldview. As second film in Lars von Trier’s Depression Trilogy, it posits that we are all living a meaningless and thus empty life, and that a mirror planet could be hiding on the other side of the sun but could come into our orbit and crash into the Earth, destroying all life. Not exactly my sunny outlook, but the artistry and emotions are quite evident and expressive. A beautiful, sad film.

86. A Streetcar Named Desire

I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.

Three people are trapped in a small apartment (that seems to be getting smaller and hotter as the night goes on). They argue and get angry and sad and hysterical. It’s a Tennessee Williams adaptation, alright. The first of several plays-turned-films on my list, this one heightens the drama with superb direction and set design. Oh, and those actors are ok, too.

85. Anna Karenina

There can be no peace for us, only misery, and the greatest happiness.

And this one might as well be one of those play adaptations. Director Joe Wright takes an experimental approach to this classic work of literature, setting some of the action on a stage, with the other actors in the audience watching and gossiping as they do. It is a fantastically designed and directed movie, one which also gets at least some of the ideas of the book on the screen and does some justice to those marvelous characters.

84. The Fall

It was the natural order of things… all things must die.

The Fall is one of many films on my list that is about the power of stories. An injured and depressed stuntman convinces a young girl to do tasks for him by telling her stories which include elements from their depression-era hospital. What starts out nice and pleasant turns dark as the stuntman turns for the worse. The melodrama of the story is matched by the visuals which are often brightly colorful and painterly thanks to Tarsem Singh’s eye for real world locations that feel like giant sets.

83. The Godfather

My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.

You won’t find many organized crime movies on my list (there are only two others, one of which barely qualifies). It is a world full of dummies who don’t value their lives or any others, and I don’t enjoy most stories about them. Still, there’s something about The Godfather that forces me to love it. A large part is that Michael doesn’t want to be a part of it all until he is forced into it. Another part is the impeccable craft of it all. And the cast is pretty brilliant, as well. An undeniable classic.

82. Fantastic Mr. Fox

Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you’ll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?

Based on a Roald Dahl book, Fantastic Mr. Fox indulges in all the things Wes Anderson likes to indulge in. There’re old-timey songs and a lot of knitted things and animals having existential crises. It is too much fun, tinged, of course, with Anderson’s melancholy, and stop motion animated!

81. A Fish Called Wanda

My father was in the Secret Service, Mr. Manfredjinsinjin, and I know perfectly well that you don’t keep the general public informed when you are “debriefing KGB defectors in a safe house.”

A bunch of idiots try to steal some stuff. This is another of those cynical comedies, though it has more cynicism for its characters than it does for the world at large. A whip-smart blend of British and American humor, and there are plenty of laughs to be had at the clothes and hair, if the words don’t work for you.

Tune in again soon for the next installment of this year’s list.

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