Tag: Before Midnight

Back Catalog Review: Breathless


The Back Catalog is a series following my quest to watch all the movies I own. Check out the index, or follow the Back Catalog tag to see what I’ve watched and what I’ve thought of the films. 

I missed a step. Somehow, in the space between going to a lot of movies in my childhood to today when I own what some would call too many Criterion and other movies, I missed the French New Wave. I knew of it, of course, but my first-hand experience with it was almost entirely lacking. I could see in movies like Submarine and Reservoir Dogs a kind of shared reference point and I could figure out what that reference point was by seeing what those kinds of movies had in common. However, when that actual reference point would come up in conversation, I’d just nod and smile. I started fixing this last year with The 400 Blows, which I absolutely loved. I picked up Breathless and Hiroshima Mon Amour recently thanks to that movie and we’ll see how it works out for me.

Breathless is one of those movies where it feels like you’ve seen it even when you’ve missed it for 29 years of your life. The details are intriguing and pulled me along when things felt a little rote. For example, the plot is such a straightforward genre type that when the movie focuses on that part it feels like almost any other crime thriller. The bits in between those standard plot beats are what make Breathless a movie to pay attention to, even though I didn’t end up loving it. There is a part of the film that ends up being almost a third of its 90 minute length which might have been five or ten minutes in another movie. It’s the seduction scene that takes place almost entirely in one room and features both Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo at the height of their strange mix of chemistry and philosophical musings. In what amounts to a short film on the topics of purpose, meaning, and desire, the two of them dance around each other wonderfully. Here are the beginnings of the Before Trilogy except I don’t particularly care if the two end up together or not. But then there’s 20 minutes of “necessary” cat and mouse policing and kind of standard moral conundrums that make the genre what it is and I start to disengage.

Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard's BREATHLESS (1960). Courtesy Ria

The ending is really great, though, especially after Seberg’s Patricia decides to turn her lover in for his murderous past. The consequences of this play out in two long shots that first map the dissolution of their relationship and then his bloody (almost comically dragged-out) end. Here Godard breaks from what has become the film’s most important feature–the jump-cuts that almost accidentally revolutionized filmmaking–and because the rest of the movie is full of moments spliced together which unmoor the audience to some degree, the long takes that close the movie brings everything crashing back down to earth. It’s a great effect and it’s these shots that I’ll remember from this movie, along with that audacious seduction scene. I’m not sure I’ll revisit this lovingly in the future, but I’m glad I watched it (and own the disc which features a lot of great supplements that I will seek out as I continue to learn more about how movies work. I’m glad I’m finally filling in this hole in my movie knowledge, and I’m excited to check out Hiroshima Mon Amour to see if Resnais can bring the power of Night and Fog to a feature film.


2013 in Film List: 20-1

And now the end is near and so we face the final curtain. It’s the 20 best movies released in 2013. Only a month and a half into the next year! Hooray! No new additions, so let’s get to the list. As always, an asterisk next to the title means I saw it in theaters and every title will link to my full review. Let’s do this.

20. Europa Report

Europa Report didn’t get as much press as that other space movie, nor is it quite as groundbreaking as it, but it is a remarkably well made low budget thriller that highlights the excitement of going to space and exploring and discovering through a well-cast crew and a clever found footage conceit. That particular genre isn’t dead as long as filmmakers continue to write and direct movies as smart and interesting as this one, which uses stationary mini-cameras attached to the spaceship in addition to helmet-cams in addition to interviews done after the fact that sell this as a both a documentary and exciting space film. It’s available on Netflix Instant, so go watch it tonight.

19. Thor: The Dark World *

Thor is a great character, especially as acted by Chris Hemsworth, and I’ll happily continue to pay for films that feature the character in any way. He’s probably the best of the first wave of Marvel characters, though I’m super excited to see what Paul Rudd and Edgar Wright do with Ant Man. Anyways, this movie is really fun, probably in the top 3 of all the Marvel movies so far thanks to continuing awesomeness from Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and the rest of the supporting cast. It looks good and Asgard is a hilariously over the top location that still works in the context of the rest of the film and the wider Marvel Universe.

18. Rush

Rush was a surprise for me. I’m not big into F1 or anything, and the prospect of a late era Ron Howard film wasn’t very appealing. It’s just another example of why expectations are dumb, and more proof than anything can be good. This one is helped along by a great script that pits the two main characters against each other both on and off the track and turns them into metaphors for two distinct styles of people, the head and the heart. Chris Hemsworth (again!) does a great job at being the heart, playing up the playboy nature of the man he’s being, and Daniel Brühl does an equally well with the super racing nerd who’s more technician than racer. It’s a fantastic story told with style and speed that really impressed me.

17. The Way, Way Back

This coming of age movie starts strong and continues its hot streak right through the emotional climax. It’s got a great cast to help it along, Sam Rockwell and Toni Collette and Steve Carell and Allison Janney are all wonderful as the adults surrounding the young boy at the center of the film. It’s funny and sweet and kinda sad, as these films are supposed to be. It’s an all around winner and it would have been higher in any other year, it just had the unfortunate luck to be released in 2013.

16. Stoker

Again, if it weren’t for that other space movie, I would confidently state that Stoker has the best sound of 2013. Mia Wasikowska has a strange hyper-alert nature that translates to the audience as hearing the rustles of a spider’s steps or the whispers of fingers playing a piano. The story is super weird, which isn’t surprising given the director’s previous films (Oldboy and the weirder, better Thirst) but don’t let that stop you from enjoying this gothic romance/drama/family feud thing the movie has going on. It’s not quite horror, but it gets close once in a while.

15. Captain Phillips

A career best performance from Tom Hanks drives this film, or is that captains? Anyway, he’s amazing throughout, giving life to the character, based on a real person who may or may not have been as heroic as he is here but also who cares about that. What matters is his journey in this film, poked and pulled along by Barkhad Abdi’s scary but human pirate, he saves his crew while being absolutely terrified. The last scene, though, is the high point. Maybe of the year, certainly of Hanks’ career so far. More of this, please.

14. The Conjuring *

Maybe the worst criticism of this film is also its selling point. It’s a throwback horror film, set in the 70s and using a lot of cliches of the time to get us all scared. Of course, if you’re a horror fan like me that’s liable to get your butt in the seat because movies like this “just aren’t made anymore.” Except, of course they are. The Conjuring is really really good, super scary and well acted. James Wan fulfills his promise as a director steeped in the old ideas and not afraid to bring them into new light. See the upside down shot for example, or the clapping game that forms the film’s scariest scene. Nearly everything works.

13. Short Term 12

Brie Larson. Pay attention to her. If the movie gods are benevolent she’ll be our next Jennifer Lawrence. She anchors this film in every sense of the term, bringing a weight to the role and forming the perfect center for the other characters to revolve around. Like few other roles this year she feels like a fully formed character, one which lives on after the camera stops filming. The movie serves her well, too, a small but important story about a group of young adults who run a short term foster care facility. The sense of community built in a short time is well observed and the dramatic shifts in tone are believable given the kinds of people the film deals with.

12. Her *

While it’s not quite as successful as I wanted and hoped it would be, it’s still a fascinating film full of futurism and flights of fancy that, thanks to Spike Jonze’s trademark melancholy, still manage to feel grounded in human folly and passion. Joaquin Phoenix reminds us that he can be funny in addition to his super intense mode and the movie works well as a romantic comedy thanks to the wonderful chemistry between him and Scarlett Johansson’s voice. The movie’s sci-fi ideas drive it and are actually its most interesting elements, especially its thoughts about the evolution of artificial intelligence and what that might mean for the rest of us lowly meatbags.

11. Evil Dead *

This may be blasphemy, but this is for sure the best Evil Dead film. Fede Alvarez avoids Sam Raimi’s loud silliness and instead opts for gore punctuated by wit and seeded with actual emotional weight. Unlike any of the three Raimi films, I actually cared about what happened to the people here and what kinds of horrible fates awaited them. There’s a clever drug addiction metaphor that carries throughout to the climax, 20 minutes of intense action and character development. Alvarez doesn’t just overload the gore, either, he gives it mass thanks to the confident camera work and well-thought-out use of space and frame. It’s not just a great horror movie, it’s a great movie.

10. Frances Ha

Count Frances Ha among the year’s surprises, and maybe the best in that category. Another strong woman carries it as Greta Gerwig flops and flounders around New Bohemia searching for something that will force her to grow up, whether she’s conscious of that or not. She’s a fount of charisma and we forgive her self-indulgence and general aloofness because we see that they’re coping mechanisms more than real facets of her character. The movie looks great, too, using black and white photography to give it a certain timeless feeling and a growing melancholic malaise (the Paris scene is special and so sad).

9. Gravity *

How much does the theater experience matter? A Great Deal, I’d say, and this is case study number one in that respect. I can’t imagine the movie working as well as it did for me in IMAX 3D at home, even on my pretty large TV. Nowhere outside a theater will you experience the enormity of the emptiness of space or the silence punctuated by cracks and bangs afforded by speakers bigger than I am. It’s proof positive that movies are meant to be seen as big and loud as you can get, or at least that some are. Oh, and it’s a pretty awesome movie, too. Alfonso Cuaron gets space, the axis-less void in which his camera floats and plays so delightfully. The movie is soft on the characterization and plot, big on the experience and action, and that’s fine. The final moments are spectacular, a shift from the weightlessness of the rest of the film that grounds the moment in something wonderful.

8. The Hunt

A call to compassion in the face of potential tragedy that works largely thanks to the always great Mads Mikkelsen. Here he swaps out of being uber evil on Hannibal (also awesome) and into being a normal loner who gets accused of some very bad things. What’s terrifying is the small town’s reaction to the accusation, turning instantly on a man who got respect if not friendship from most of the inhabitants of the town. It’s a horror film with no supernatural scenes and no real scenes of peril. It’s just so scary that things like this happen.

7. Upstream Color

The other big surprise of the year came from a place I’d written off long ago. Shane Carruth gave us the horribly boring Primer and followed it up all these years later with a totally great, engaging and emotional sci-fi film. Color me impressed. It’s still obtuse and there are parts of it I’m not sure I get even these months later, but the emotional through-line provided by the relationship between Amy Seimetz and Carruth himself (though next time around he might want to keep behind the camera, he’s fine but nothing special) is what kept my interest even in those scenes of a weird guy collecting sounds to play to his pen of drugged pigs who are psychically connected to the main characters among others. It’s pretty as all get out, too, much more aesthetically pleasing than the fluorescent bore that was Primer. Keep improving, Carruth, and I’ll have to call you one of the best directors of our time.

6. Pacific Rim ***

Yeah, I saw Pacific Rim three times in theaters. Get over it! It’s nothing new or groundbreaking. It’s not even especially deep, there are some brother things and some global hand-hold-y ideas but it’s really the giant robots killing giant monsters that get my gears going. Guillermo del Toro is really good at the monster thing and the machine thing, so it only makes sense that he is able to imbue these creatures and creations with weight and thoroughly designed mechanics so that they feel real. These aren’t Michael Bay’s flimsy Transformers, they’re actual objects that have mass and momentum and flaws. The middle fight is a masterpeice of increasing awesomeness and just as you think del Toro has outdone himself he proves it’s only the beginning of his imagination. It’s not as moving as Pan’s Labyrinth or as funny as Hellboy, but it is what it is: super cool and too much fun.

5. The World’s End **

The first of two trilogy-enders to appear in this top 5 is really really funny. This is, of course, not at all surprising given the other two films in the thematic trilogy written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (who also directs), Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The World’s End packs the biggest emotional punch of the three as Pegg plays the loser character surrounded by incredulous childhood friends that have out grown his antics until he comes around again for one last go that gets interrupted by, well, the end of the world. It’s a friendship movie, an addiction movie, a sci-fi movie. It’s all things to all people, but most of all it’s really really funny.

4. The Act of Killing *

This is probably the highest a documentary has ever gotten on my year end lists. It’s not that big a shock either, since the movie is totally crazy. It gives some of the perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide of the mid sixties a space to recreate their crimes against humanity using cheap make up and real fire. They think that they’re making a movie glorifying their actions but the documentary proves only that they’re totally messed up people. They rationalize much of their crimes and the wanton destruction of life with blithe comments about the cool bad guys in Hollywood movies whom they were just imitating. They’re no Elvis, though, as the film gets increasingly squishy and gross and terrifying. There’s a scene towards the end which shows that these recreations aren’t just harmless exercises, either, and that old wounds still hurt. It’s fascinating and frightening.

3. Before Midnight *

And here’s the other trilogy ender coming in at a fitting third best film of the year. It’s been another nine years since Before Sunset and Jesse and Celine are together (but not married) with two adorable kids of their own. That’s not to say all is well. After a few opening scenes the movie again settles into a long conversation that takes place as they walk around an idyllic European town and eventually in a hotel room. The philosophical debates return as well, this time grounded in discussions of what’s best for their kids (and Jesse’s own boy, whom he’s living far away from). As a child of divorce myself, I really connected with Jesse’s kid, seen only in the opening scene but used as a tool in the arguments later on, and through him cared even more about what happened between these two than I did last time around. The movie ends a little too unambiguously. A cut to black thirty seconds earlier would have been perfect and set us up for another installment nine years from now. I still hope it happens.

2. 12 Years a Slave *

Let’s talk about long takes, shall we? Steve McQueen has grown a bit of a reputation for using them in his films, from the 20 odd minute conversation with a locked down camera filming from the side in Hunger to the numerous examples here he’s confident in his control of a scene and a shot. Some are used to highlight the inhuman terror of a scene, as in the shot which sees Solomon (played expertly by Chiwetel Ejiofor) hanged from a tree with only inches of his feet squirming in the mud, while others demonstrate his disconnect from the slaves around him until he just can’t stand the sadness of his situation and begins to sing along with their rendition of “Roll Jordan Roll”. It’s a technique that he returns to just after that scene as Solomon stands in the middle of a field at sunset and looks into the distance until he turns and glances at the camera, acknowledging the history of slavery and his place in it. And of course, there’s the climax, an act of violence that shocks even more than it might thanks to McQueen’s boldly unblinking camera.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis *

That’s everything. 99 in total, at the time of this publishing. Follow me on Letterboxd to see what I think of the upcoming films from 2014 (one is already top 100 potential) and the latecomers to the 2013 party and everything else I watch. I’ll go back and edit the previous entries in this list so that it’s a continuous number sequence and put the addons back in place, plus I’ll put links to each section on the Lists page. See the whole list at Letterboxd here and see how many you still have to catch up with. Leave a comment here or there about what I got right and what I got wrong and if there’s anything I missed (probably some foreign stuff and a doc or two). And finally, stay tuned to this channel because there’s a lot more content coming in 2014 than there was in 2013 including potentially a read-along of Infinite Jest and some things that I haven’t even thought of yet.

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.