Top 100 Films (2013 Edition): Part 4 of 5

40. The Grapes of Wrath

I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.

The quotes will be getting longer, probably, as this and the next entry go along because the movies are getting better and the scripts are usually a large part of that for me. That isn’t to say that the director has little say, of course, and this being the third John Ford movie on the list it’s pretty clear that I like the guy. I like this movie better than the book upon which it is based, in fact, because Ford brings his understanding of the harsh surroundings for which family is the only salve to the table and does so wonderfully. And you can’t go wrong with Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.

39. Sunshine

At the end of time, a moment will come when just one man remains. Then the moment will pass. Man will be gone. There will be nothing to show that we were ever here… but stardust.

How fantastic are the visuals for this film? They’re so great that the oft-maligned third act is redeemed by the last five minutes based on their beauty alone. A film about the immense power of the Sun and our understanding of our place in nature being thrown off balance by it must make channel that power effectively to work and Sunshine does through the use of some amazing visuals and clever sound design.

38. Halloween

I- I- I watched him for fifteen years, sitting in a room, staring at a wall, not seeing the wall, looking past the wall – looking at this night, inhumanly patient, waiting for some secret, silent alarm to trigger him off. Death has come to your little town, Sheriff. Now you can either ignore it, or you can help me to stop it.

Last year I watched the predecessor to this film, the real start to the slasher genre, Black Christmas. That film has a lot of fun elements and some which are clearly given homage four years later in Halloween, including the first person perspective for the opening sequence and the young woman protagonists. Still, Halloween is a much more accomplished film, one which gets many of its scares not from loud noises nor sudden appearances but rather solid filmmaking and a constant sense of dread. There’s a reason why it is often shown on the holiday that gives it its name, and it’s not just the coincidence. The movie gets the feeling of the season very right and is maybe the quintessential fall movie.

37. I’m Not There.

You know, saying ’cause of peace’, it’s like saying, ‘hunk of butter’, you know, I don’t want you to listen to anybody who wants you to believe is dedicated to the hunk and not the butter.

Bob Dylan deserves no less than this films fractured portrayal for his biographical film. The man has undergone so many transformations that each of the seven characters here could play dual roles and still not cover all of his bases. Highlights include everyone, plus the excellent soundtrack with covers by modern indie bands. Each of the versions also gets a genre of their own to play around in, echoing Dylan’s own dalliances in various sounds and spaces.

36. Scream

Did we ever find out why Hannibal Lector liked to eat people? DON’T THINK SO. See it’s a lot scarier when there’s no motive.

Scream not only works quite well as one of those slasher films inspired by Halloween and its ilk, it also effectively and hilariously skewers them and their audiences with a good dose of post-modern commentary provided by the media saturated characters in the film itself. There’s so much greatness underneath the surface that it’s sometimes easy to forget just how much fun the film is and how scary some scenes are. The movie even follows in its predecessor’s footsteps by having several sequels which pale in comparison to the film that started it all.

35. The Night of the Hunter

I can hear you whisperin’ children, so I know you’re down there. I can feel myself gettin’ awful mad. I’m out of patience children. I’m coming to find you now.

Perhaps the biggest cinematic mistake was the critical drubbing this movie received upon its release which warned Charles Laughton to stay away from directing any other movies. It’s a shame that this wonder of a first film was never followed up since Laughton shows a clear skill for making fairy tale stories in an expressive and dangerous style, and for getting great performances from some kids and the likes of Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish as opposing forces in those kids lives. The dark shadows and artificially beautiful sets heighten the fantastic vibe that pulses throughout this film.

34. 12 Monkeys

Telephone call? Telephone call? That’s communication with the outside world. Doctor’s discretion. Nuh-uh. Look, hey – all of these nuts could just make phone calls, they could spread insanity, oozing through telephone cables, oozing into the ears of all these poor sane people, infecting them. Wackos everywhere, plague of madness.

Terry Gilliam is a director that doesn’t hold back, ever. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes you get Tideland, which I couldn’t stand for longer than 20 minutes. 12 Monkeys is one of the good times. It uses Gilliam’s penchant for wackiness to its advantage by presenting the “present” to an outsider, a time traveler, so he can be just as confused and scared as we probably should be at some of the insane things that we just ignore on a daily basis. It’s also a really great time travel movie and has an early standout performance from Brad Pitt.

33. Punch-Drunk Love

I didn’t do anything. I’m a nice man. I mind my own business. So you tell me ‘that’s that’ before I beat the hell from you. I have so much strength in me you have no idea. I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine. I would say ‘that’s that’, Mattress Man.

What could be seen as a small detour between the sprawling movies early in his career and the more focused but no less epic later two films is actually an astute character study by Paul Thomas Anderson which takes a character that might be at home in Magnolia and treats him like Daniel Plainview or either of the two men at the center of The Master. It works as a bridge between those later, more serious films and the wide-eyed energy of the earlier movies and features a spectacular romance that basically takes the cop-and-druggie story from Magnolia and blows it up to feature length. It’s so great.

32. The World’s End

I remember sitting up there, blood on my knuckles, beer down my shirt, sick on my shoes and seeing the orange glow of a new dawn break and knowing in my heart life would never feel this good again. And you know what? It never did.

Yes, all three of the Cornetto trilogy of films directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost made my list this year, including this year’s entry, the sci-fi action/buddy comedy of The World’s End. It’s the strongest of the three films when it comes to style and theme, and the characters are just perfectly played and written. The beginning of the film tells you exactly what’s going to happen and it’s still a delight to go along with this ride. And the action is spectacular.

31. 2001: A Space Odyssey 

I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.

Though it took 45 years to happen, Gravity finally improved upon Kubrick’s vision of space. That film is a spectacle of the highest order but it lacks the absurdly brilliant thematic and story concerns that lift 2001 above the rest of the field. It’s a truly singular film, tracing technological warfare and humanity’s reaction to things it doesn’t understand throughout history and into the future. And if HAL singing about a bicycle fit for two while slowly ceasing to exist isn’t horror I don’t know what is.

30. A Serious Man

You understand the dead cat? But… you… you can’t really understand the physics without understanding the math. The math tells how it really works. That’s the real thing; the stories I give you in class are just illustrative; they’re like, fables, say, to help give you a picture. An imperfect model. I mean – even I don’t understand the dead cat. The math is how it really works.

A not-entirely serious movie, A Serious Man is the Coen brothers at their very best. It’s so well studied in its time and place and the characters are at once unique and relatable. A man’s marriage is falling apart, along with the rest of his life and everybody to whom he reaches for support is unhelpful or actively working against him. No Country for Old Men won all the awards, but A Serious Man remains their best movie in a decade.

29. Jaws

So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

What is left to be said about Jaws? It’s nearly perfectly constructed and spawned a whole new kind of movie, the summer blockbuster. It’s horror and adventure and a bit of family drama all wrapped up in one, and it’s shot with an impeccable eye. I don’t think Spielberg has ever reached this level of iconic, painterly composition again since the summer of ’75.

28. Three Comrades

I drink to us, the three of us. Not from day to day now. From year to year.

This is not the first Borzage movie to make the list nor will it be his last. Three Comrades is the best of his talkies and is a wonderful little movie about friendship and romance and life changing circumstances. Margaret Sullavan (in her third appearance on this list) is typically great and Robert Young does a wonderful job. It’s so lovely and sad.

27. The Thing

I know what you mean, Blair. Trust’s a tough thing to come by these days. Tell you what – why don’t you just trust in the Lord?

Isolation and an inability to trust anybody will lead to the most intense paranoia captured on film if John Carpenter is to be relied upon for such things. The Thing maintains that high-strung tension throughout its runtime and continues to scare 30 years later thanks to his wonderful direction and some of the best creature design I’ve ever seen. And Kurt Russell armed with a flamethrower and an awesome hat is nothing to scoff at, either.

26. Before Midnight

I am giving you my whole life ok? I got nothing larger to give, I’m not giving it to anybody else. If you’re looking for permission to disqualify me, I’m not gonna give it to you. Ok? I love you. And I’m not in conflict about it. Okay? But if what you want is like a laundry list of all the things that piss me off, I can give it to you.

Three movies released this year might be blasphemous on other lists but I take no time considerations into account. If I see a movie that I think is great, I’m going to put it on my list, not wait a few years to see how it’ll settle. If Before Midnight slides off of this list, or off of it, in the coming years, so be it. But the 2013 list is a reflection of the movies I loved in 2013, and Before Midnight, the third of the Before trilogy which follows the young love, reunion, and now the ramifications of a marriage with kids and time taking their tolls on Celine and Jesse, is one of the movies that I love right now.

25. The Lion in Winter

I’ve snapped and plotted all my life. There’s no other way to be alive, king, and fifty all at once.

Like Doubt, an earlier entry on this list, The Lion in Winter is a shouty movie based on a play that takes a certain historical scenario and turns it into a fountain of ideas battling through words instead of swords. Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn are amazing as the feuding royal family heads, each jockeying for their favorite son to take control of the throne. The words and the way that these actors say them are the real treats of this film, it’s almost too much fun to watch this family tear each other apart.

24. The Royal Tenenbaums

I think we’re just gonna to have to be secretly in love with each other and leave it at that, Richie.

And look, another family in turmoil. Though this one was never really together to begin with. It’s the first Wes Anderson movie I ever saw and I can’t say I liked it. I revisited the film after appreciating Anderson’s later works and the scales fell from my eyes or something like that. Anyways, I really liked the movie and could finally get into Anderson’s persnickety style of filmmaking and writing.

23. Alien

I can’t lie to you about your chances, but… you have my sympathies.

The title of this film doesn’t just refer the the killing machine that terrorizes the crew of the Nostromo for much of the movie. It’s also a reference to the cold, inhospitable nature of space and the environments in which these weak humans find themselves. No, nothing here is ordinary. Ridley Scott creates an uncommon sense of terror based around superb sound design and his background as a set designer. The world of Alien feels real and alive, though that life is murderous

22. Adaptation. 

Yeah but it’s easier for plants. I mean they have no memory. They just move on to whatever’s next. With a person though, adapting almost shameful. It’s like running away.

Given the task of adapting Susan Orlean’s book, The Orchid Thief, Charlie Kaufman found himself at a loss. So instead of presenting her story at face value, he wrote a movie which starred him and Susan and his imaginary twin brother and folded in on itself a few times. It’s a brilliantly confusing work, but it also has a beating heart which shines through the murk of cleverness. The emotions are real, which makes all the silliness surrounding them even more effective and astounding.

21. Jurassic Park

John, the kind of control you’re attempting simply is… it’s not possible. If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh… well, there it is.

Earlier in this section I stated that Jaws was Spielberg’s best movie, formally speaking. While that is likely true, it’s still doesn’t compare to the feat he pulled off with Jurassic Park. The sheer imagination and cine-craft that went into bringing the dinosaurs to life for this movie combine to illustrate exactly why movies are so wonderful. They give us pictures and sounds we can believe in, if done well enough, and can show us things that can’t or haven’t or couldn’t exist. I finally got to see this movie on the big screen this year thanks to a 3D re-release and it was everything I ever wanted from a movie.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s