Tag: Black Swan

Movie Review: mother! (2017)

It’s next to impossible, and I would say almost entirely fruitless, to try to talk about this movie without delving too deeply into spoilers. So this whole review will be a spoiler. That being said, here’s my brief opinion, which I’ll go into much greater detail with below: mother! is a movie so offputting that I can’t really recommend it to anybody, but I also think it’s a unique theatrical experience that, if you’ve got the stomach for some intense shit, I think is worth seeing in a theater. 

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Friends, mother! is a trip. Though it touches on a lot of horror elements and is kind of an adaptation of one of the world’s most famous books, it is also unlike anything I’ve seen outside some very old books. Because mother! is really a film-length allegory for much of Christianity, and not only that, but also a critique of that religion’s inherent cruelty. The allegory is cemented early on, with versions of Adam (Ed Harris) and Eve (Michelle Pfeiffer) overstaying their welcome in a house newly renovated by a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) and her poet-husband (Javier Bardem). From there on out, each bit of weirdness can, through metaphors both tortured and kind of great, be explained as versions of biblical phenomena. But this isn’t an adaptation of the Extreme Teen Bible, this is an atheist’s nightmare vision of the foundational horrors in the book and religion.

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Perfection in Art: Black Swan and The Red Shoes

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Black Swan is my fourth favorite movie of all time, and The Red Shoes, which I watched on Friday night, has a fantastic shot at making the next version of that list. I watched The Red Shoes in part because I had heard it was a major influence on Black Swan from various reliable sources. The influence is pretty clear and they work superbly as companion pieces to each other. Not only are both about ballet (something I know little about, it should be said, so please excuse any technical flubs on my part there), but both also ask whether it is enough to be perfect at something, or if it’s even possible to be perfect at something, or if the price we pay for perfection is worth the payoff. The discussion of these ideas will necessarily involve spoilers, so please be warned that I will spoil both of these films several times over. If you’ve not seen one, take some time and get it watched before reading the rest of this. If you’ve not seen either, I don’t even want to talk to you! Begone, foul creature!

Perfection is a hard thing. It’s something you can aim at, wish for, but hardly ever reach. And perfection in the performing arts is even tougher, because, say, a ballet dancer is dependent not only on herself but also the composer, choreographer, her partner, and all the other people in front of and behind the scenes. Would Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) or Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) even conceive of the idea of perfecting their craft if they weren’t surrounded by people that helped them get to such a high level to begin with? I’d argue that they wouldn’t. Perfection in art is also tricky because we have to consider whether the artist’s opinion matters, or if it’s all on the audience to decide if something’s perfect. For example, I’d say that both Black Swan and The Red Shoes get really darn close to perfection, but might their makers see imperfections? Or, to look at it another way, do the people behind, um, 300: Rise of the Silver Surfer or whatever it’s called think that they’ve made a perfect movie even if (critical) audiences don’t agree? Quandaries built upon quandaries. So for the sake of this piece, let’s agree that perfection is possible in art and that it’s up to the artist to decide if they’ve reached that point since both movies concern themselves with an artist rather than a lowly critic and we should follow suit.

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Nina Sayers is driven to perfection from our first introduction to her on until her tragic (?) end. She begins the film as part of the company of dancers overseen by Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) but quickly rises to the become the principal dancer in the dual role of The Swan Queen who becomes the titular Black Swan. She possesses all of the technical skills to dance both parts but lacks the passion to perform the more sultry and emotionally motivated Black Swan role. It is this hurdle she must jump to reach perfection in her craft.

Victoria Page has less to deal with internally. She’s a well respected dancer and is employed early on in The Red Shoes to be part of the company run by Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) who soon promotes her to the principal dancer role in an adaptation of The Red Shoes. The structure of this film is quite different from that of Black Swan as we actually see Victoria’s transcendent moment in the middle of the film and only then is the drama introduced. See, Lermontov doesn’t believe that a great artist can be great (perfect, even) if they have any other kind of passion in their life, including love for another human being. And it is Victoria’s unfortunate fate to fall in love with the composer of her ballet, the similarly talented Julian Craster (Marius Goring). So she is cast out of the ballet company and into Craster’s arms, but she’s never quite satisfied with giving up her best opportunity to become the perfect dancer under Lermontov’s tutelage. The final scene has the two men pulling her in their respective dimensions and, though she initially picks Lermontov’s promise of stardom and perfection, she ultimately realizes she can’t choose between them and instead jumps in front of a train.

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Ok, now that you’ve been reminded of the circumstances in each film, let’s talk perfection. The first question is whether perfection is enough. Well, that’s a little broad, so let’s narrow it down a little. Is perfection enough to cover the lack of other human emotion or connection that one might normally experience? Both films demonstrate this lack in not-so-subtle ways (one of the things I like best about these films is just how big and obvious they are. Yeah, it’s total melodrama, but I love that stuff if it’s done well and they both knock these emotionally charged balls out of the park). In Black Swan, Nina is almost childlike in her lack of experience with love or even friendly camaraderie that might develop in a work environment. We see plenty of examples of the other ballerinas in her company being friends but her potential for perfection has driven her to ignore everybody else so that she can focus solely on that one pursuit. And when one of those other ballerinas, Lily (Mila Kunis) does come on to her she’s at a complete loss for what to do. It’s through that connection with Lily, tumultuous and ultimately unsuccessful though it is, that Nina ultimately achieves her perfection. There’s a point where Nina must sacrifice her budding friendship/romance with Lily and even her sanity for dance. She does so and it comes at the price of her life, just another debt paid to the god of perfection. Victoria, too, pays that debt, though she already knows that she has the seed of perfection in here where Nina only believes that she does. I’ve already covered how Victoria chooses dance over love and then realizes that even the necessity of that choice is too much for her to handle so she commits suicide. Unlike Black Swan, The Red Shoes actually shows us the toll a “normal” life takes on those that have tasted perfection. She is not content to just be a wife and even sneaks off during her husband’s first performance to be in a show of The Red Shoes. It’s not like she wasn’t warned about Lermontov’s weird (though maybe not incorrect, as the film never demonstrates otherwise) ideas about love and art, either. In fact, she was present for her predecessor’s demise as Lermontov was informed of the previous principal dancer’s love affair and summarily dismissed her in the middle of a performance. Still, both women see the toll their quest for perfection takes or will take and both decide that the toll is “worth it,” at least before they both die.

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The fact that both die after achieving their perfection (The Red Shoes delays the death by an hour or so of film, but the effect is there) is another point worth noting. Death is the ultimate price but history is riddled with great artists who are driven to death by their art. Cobain and van Gogh paved the way for Nina and Victoria. Of course, the greatness of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or Starry Night is kind of unquestionable, but did Nina and Victoria reach those lofty heights, or were they just dreamers? It’s a question left up to the audience, but I think the films both argue that they did realize perfection, if only briefly. Let’s look at the dances themselves. There’s no better way to judge a dancer than by her dances, and both manage to transcend the bounds of boring old cinema by using clever camera tricks and augmented imagery to show us just how good these ballerinas are. In Black Swan, Nina is constantly told that she needs to work on her passion if she’s going to truly transform into the role of the Black Swan. By the end, through all of the paranoia and failed intimacies, she does finally have enough passion to quite literally sprout feathers and become the Black Swan. It’s her shining moment and through an increasing use of CGI, director Darren Aronofsky shows us that she’s made it, she has fulfilled her promise as a dancer. Victoria, too, gets a little help from her directors, Messrs. Powell and Pressburger, to show off her fantastic dancing skills. Though The Red Shoes debuted around 60 years earlier than Black Swan, it is no less visually impressive and even inventive even without the aid of computer generated imagery. The Archers (as the directing duo was known) used myriad techniques to bring what was happening in the story (and Victoria’s head) to life. Early, it’s all a lighthearted dance; Victoria sees the titular shoes in a shop window and immediately imagines herself in them, dancing beautifully. She buys the shoes and from then is fated to die wearing them as they force her to dance and dance through dreams and nightmares, circuses and ballrooms and mindscapes, with people real and imagined, flesh and blood and cellophane. Through it all we are transported into the world of the fairy tale by way of intimate camera angles, early rotoscoping (placing a smaller frame containing Victoria among a larger frame of impressionist background and foreground and painting out everything but her from her little frame) and wire work. The DP, Jack Cardiff, even went as far as messing with the film speed during the dancers leaps into the air so that they would appear to defy gravity for just a moment, lifted by the sheer power of their dance and artistry. If these images and tricks aren’t enough to imply that The Red Shoes was a complete artistic success in the world of the film, the characters tell us. It’s only The Red Shoes that tempts Victoria back from her ordinary life and to her eventual death.

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Now that we’ve talked about what the dancers give up to be dancers and established that both do reach a level of perfection, let’s talk about dying for art. In researching this piece I found two essays written for the Criterion edition of The Red Shoes, both of which cited a quote from Michael Powell where he considers the changing values of a peacetime society, “For ten years we had all been told to go out and die for freedom and democracy; but now the war was over, The Red Shoes told us to go out and die for art.” Yes, art is important enough for people to die in its name, I think. It’s sad when it happens, but there are worse things one can die for. Nina and Victoria share this belief and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to their craft. Will a perfect artist (or an artist who achieves perfection in their art) necessarily die from the effort, or from being separated from their art? I don’t think so, but both of these films indulge their melodramatic sides and melodrama can and should amplify those self-destructive tendencies artists have to their logical – if maybe a little histrionic – ends. Dance is such a physical activity, too, so the stress and strain of being a perfect dancer also lends itself to the final end. When an artist achieves perfection, where else might they go? We are programmed to want to see people go out on top rather than extending their career at the risk of becoming something less than they were. See the groaning about the US version of The Office‘s overly long run as opposed to the proclamations of True Detective‘s greatness as it wrapped up its very definitively ended first season. We don’t want to see anybody who reaches so high fall because it means they’re human rather than some kind of otherworldly entity that has momentarily graced us with their presence. Death at the height of artistic achievement means we never have to be reminded that people can be petty or imperfect. That’s why these movies are fantasies and play with fairy tales. We are more willing to accept the ideas of perfection and art if they’re couched in these old old stories. The films are modern versions of those stories, reminding us that art can change a person and even drive them to ignore the impulse to stay alive in favor of the need to create. Nina and Victoria are at once cautionary tales and folk heroes, an admonition to avoid giving oneself entirely to an artistic cause and an example of what great art one can create when they do dedicate themselves to art.

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

The cream of the crop! See the full list here. Or on Letterboxd.

20. Hoop Dreams

That’s why when somebody say, “when you get to the NBA, don’t forget about me”, and that stuff. Well, I should’ve said to them, “if I don’t make it, don’t you forget about me.”

Since this list is a yearly tradition and really like using quotes to introduce a movie and I’ve been a big fan of Hoop Dreams since first watching it while I was in college all those years ago, I’ve always struggled to find a variety of quotes for movies that perennially make the list. Especially when a documentary like this one has such a profound and compelling summary of the 3 hours a viewer must invest to see the full stories of the two young basketball phenoms at the center of this film. Those three hours give it room to breathe and consider all facets of their drive to become famous basketball players, including one’s inspirational push for his mother to receive her nursing certification in the film’s best scene. It’s all great.

19. The Exorcist

There are no experts. You probably know as much about possession than most priests. Look, your daughter doesn’t say she’s a demon. She says she’s the devil himself. And if you’ve seen as many psychotics as I have, you’d know it’s like saying you’re Napoleon Bonaparte.

Some great movies are scary and some scary movies are great. This one falls into both categories quite easily. Half family drama and half spectacularly scary horror film, it is a classic for a billion reasons. Just check the set design in those later scenes for a truly tremendous transformation.

18. Raiders of the Lost Ark

What a fitting end to your life’s pursuits. You’re about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find. Who knows? In a thousand years, even you may be worth something.

If Jaws is Spielberg being perfect technically and Jurassic Park his attempt at proving that movie magic exists, Raiders is him simply having a blast. It is the cinema’s most fun film. Again, I got to see this on the big screen this year and it was a great experience. It’s old and new, an exciting throwback to the serials of the 30s and 40s with some slick writing and Spielberg’s propulsive style carrying anything Harrison Ford can’t lift on his own (which, it turns out, isn’t much).

17. Miller’s Crossing

All in all not a bad guy – if looks, brains and personality don’t count.

Miller’s Crossing is much closer to the fast paced dialogue of something like the Howard Hawks Scarface than it is the Brian De Palma version of that film. It concerns itself with seedy people at least pretending to be upstanding citizens, double and triple crosses, and some excellent machinegun fire to go along with the motormouths in the cast. It’s a credit to the film that it is steeped in a genre that I generally hate and still it maintains a spot in my top 20 of all time. Of course, the Coen brothers have a large part to play there, focusing on the inherent silliness of organized crime and emphasizing that the violence they perpetrate is ultimately quite stupid. “Nothing more foolish than a man chasin’ his hat.”

16. The Sixth Sense

And the tiny hairs on your arm, you know when they stand up? That’s them. When they get mad… it gets cold.

I guess I had forgotten how great this movie is until I rewatched it this year. What had faded in my memory was the emotional impact outside of the obvious ghost stuff and the thing that everybody talks about with this movie. Those are important, sure, but it’s the mother-son relationship that catapults this film so high on my list. The scene when Cole and his mother, played marvelously by Toni Collette, are stuck in traffic and Cole finally confesses his ability to see ghosts is garanteed to make you cry. It becomes a conversation about death and the difficult roles mothers must play in their kid’s lives. It’s a truly beautiful scene, one which lifts the otherwise great movie into near-masterpiece status.

15. The Iron Giant

Sorry about the crowbar, kid. You’d be surprised how many people want to steal scrap. But, man, once I make it into art, I can’t give it away. I mean, what am I? A junkman who makes art or an artist who sells junk? You tell me.

You may notice a trend as we get closer and closer to my number one: the films become a little less think-y and a little more feel-y. It’s not on purpose and it’s not to say that this film or the examples still to come are dumb, of course, but they are often more concerned with making you feel something than making you think about something. Movies have a unique ability to do that with not only words but also images and sounds, combining the strengths of books, photography, and music into one super-powered medium for making the audience feel what the filmmakers want them to. And as a work of feelings, few are as good at making me feel happy and sad at the same time as The Iron Giant which features a great vocal performance from Vin Diesel as an alien robot guy who must try to understand people or pay the ultimate price.

14. The Shining

Do you have the slightest idea what a moral and ethical principle is? Do you?

The feeling Stanley Kubrick is trying to get us to feel while watching The Shining can best be described as an unsettled, primal fear. There are forces at work here, including the strange geography and the power of alcohol to mess up a man faster and more thoroughly than nearly any other thing, which go beyond the ghosts that inhabit the Overlook Hotel. Though those are scary, too. It’s pretty crazy how the majority of the film contains very little in the way of actual scares, only the events in room 237 and some brief visits from those poor, bloody young girls qualify as typical horror stuff in the first two hours of this film. But those two hours are still deeply off-putting thanks to the near constant score which keeps the audience perpetually on the edge of their seats and Kubrick’s masterful compositions. It’s a simple family in the process of breaking apart story with trappings of psychological horror and pitch-black comedy (see: Dick Halloran). And those last 15 minutes are the scariest things in all of movies.

13. The Searchers

Well, Reverend, that tears it! From now on, you stay out of this. All of ya. I don’t want you with me. I don’t need ya for what I got to do.

The old west isn’t as lush as the Irish hills in The Quiet Man but The Searchers is no less starkly beautiful for it. It’s a harsh land and people must be harsh to survive it. John Wayne is atypically sad throughout this film, though he disguises it with anger and unwavering dedication. To save his family he must be alone, an idea echoed in the final shot and foreshadowed in the early goings. Wayne isn’t a good guy here as his racism belies his war hero past. Of course, as Zero Dark Thirty reminded us last year, depiction doesn’t equal endorsement and Wayne’s character is clearly shown to be an outsider in the slowly civilizing society of the old west.

12. Princess Mononoke

Ah, you’re awake. I was hoping you’d cry out in your sleep, then I would have bitten your head off to silence you.

Princess Mononoke appeals to so many of the things I like in films. It creates a fantastically detailed world which feels real and vibrant at the same time, steeped in traditional Japanese culture and ideas about industrialism. It’s a mythic story which concerns itself seriously with gods and monsters and forest spirits alongside iron forges and the development of advanced war machines. But it’s the smaller things, the kodama pictured above and the peaceful woodlands that are portrayed so specifically and wonderfully which make this movie so great.

11. Lucky Star

I guess you can make somethin’ outta just about anythin’, can’t you?

The third Frank Borzage film on this list is his best one. Lucky Star is Borzage at his melodramatic peak, a place where love rules all and can make even the worst of situations into a chance for magic to happen. The dresses, the amazing set design and cinematography, and the super fantastic performances from Janet Gaynor  (also great in the more popular but less awesome Seventh Heaven) and Charles Farrell combine wonderfully into this simple, silent tale of love and loss and, ultimately, snow. Best ending ever? Perhaps.

10. Blade Runner

It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?

Ok, maybe that last statement was a bit rash. Roy Batty’s final monologue is one of the best ever written for the screen and goes a long way towards cementing this film as an all time classic. Of course, the rest of the movie helps there, too, with its wildly inventive future-noir look – neon lights and a constant rain/fog combo – and compelling story involving hunting down androids that just want to be treated like real people. It’s got all kinds of existential questions (a theme you’ll see popping up throughout the top ten movies on this list) plus some pretty great action scenes. There’s not much better than Blade Runner.

9. There Will Be Blood

There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money that I can get away from everyone.

There are two levels, at least, going on here and each informs the other in fantastically intricate ways. The first is the historical battle between commerce and religion for the soul of society at large. These are embodied in the skins of Daniel Plainview, the ruthless and relentless oil tycoon, and Eli Sunday, a young preacher trying to bring his own twisted version of Christianity to the wild west. As money and faith duke it out we get the second layer, the portrait of a deeply flawed but somehow admirable man (Plainview) who must figure out who he is and what he actually wants from life. Unlike most films, it’s not exactly a pretty end to that part of the story. The stark beauty of the turn of the century west provides a perfect background to all of these elements, ensuring that nothing is hidden from its harsh winds for too long.

8. Pan’s Labyrinth

The captain has been so good to us… Please, Ofelia, call him father. It’s just a word, Ofelia, just a word.

Those of you who have been following this list as it evolves from year to year probably aren’t surprised to see any of the last 5 or 6 entries on this list, but their placement might be a bit of a shock (as much as this kind of thing can be shocking). For the longest time Pan’s Labyrinth was my number two film of all time and deservedly so. Its artful melding of the real and fantastic, wars and fairy tales, is only one of the multitudes of reasons why this film is so great. Guillermo del Toro moves his camera so fluidly and purposefully that we feel like we’re being carried along by the story rather than just told it. It should be noted that this 6-spot drop isn’t because I love it any less, I just grew in appreciation for some other films.

7. Inglourious Basterds

It seems I’ve created a monster. A strangely persuasive monster.

Not only is this movie more entertaining than any other in Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre so far, it’s also the deepest by a very long shot. His typically talky scenes often frustrate as we want to get to the bloody action quicker but here they speak volumes about the power of cinema and stories and spectacular showcases for the best cast he’s ever had. It’s a nutty propaganda movie about propaganda and revenge fantasies overflowing with historic and filmic references as he so often likes to do. The climax is an amazing confluence of these ideas and supremely bloody violence. It’s everything I want from a World War II movie.

6. Where The Wild Things Are

There were some buildings… There were these really tall buildings, and they could walk. Then there were some vampires. And one of the vampires bit the tallest building, and his fangs broke off. Then all his other teeth fell out. Then he started crying. And then, all the other vampires said, “Why are you crying? Weren’t those just your baby teeth?” And he said, “No. Those were my grown-up teeth.” And the vampires knew he couldn’t be a vampire anymore, so they left him. The end.

So many coming of age movies on this list! I guess it just appeals to me, that transition into becoming who you’re going to be is one which can only really be appreciated in retrospect and movies give us a great way to transport back to those moments for a few hours at a time. This one is filled with imagination and uses the classic children’s book as a jumping off point rather than a blueprint. At its time of release there was some talk about whether a kid would actually enjoy this movie. I don’t know the answer to that question, but I know I love the hell out of it with all of its melancholy and anger and beautiful happiness.

5. Magnolia

I lost my gun today when I left you and I’m the laughingstock of a lot of people. I wanted to tell you. I wanted you to know and it’s on my mind. And it makes me look like a fool. And I feel like a fool. And you asked that we should say things – that we should say what we’re thinking and not lie about things. Well, I can tell you that, this, that I lost my gun today – and I am not a good cop. And I’m looked down at. And I know that. And I’m scared that once you find that out you may not like me.

I think I’ve identified most with Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) in this movie. He’s just a guy trying to do the right thing, perhaps a little blind to the darker elements of his surroundings and shy. This quote, outlining his faults in his rambling and oversharing fashion, is a really fantastic portrait of the man. But the best part is how it’s put up against Claudia Gator’s own failings and triumphs. This 3+ hour film has 8 or 9 main characters and each is slowly fleshed out so that the climax can bring them together in unexpected and potentially insane ways. Any movie that can get Tom Cruise to feel as vile as he does here and then twist that into a fascinating relationship between a father and a son is one that will always be special.

4. Black Swan

Because everything Beth does comes from within. From some dark impulse. I guess that’s what makes her so thrilling to watch. So dangerous. Even perfect at times, but also so damn destructive.

Aha! I think any movie that has occupied my top 4 or so has been bumped down a few spots at this point, so here at the very peak we have some fresh faces. When I first saw Black Swan I really liked it. As time has passed I’ve continued to think about it, there’s a kind of insidious simplicity to it that turns a pretty basic story of obsession and perfection into a movie about art itself, and what artists would do to achieve greatness. It’s also a pretty rocking horror film, full of frightening imagery and psychologically unsettling touches that worms it further and further into masterpiece territory. Have we talked about endings enough here? Not yet! This one is a spectacular example and at once inevitable and surprising.

3. Take Shelter

You think I’m crazy? Well, listen up, there’s a storm coming like nothing you’ve ever seen, and not a one of you is prepared for it.

If it weren’t for the next two movies on this list I’d be able to declare this the best family movie I’ve ever seen. That isn’t to say it’s a movie for families. I don’t think children will really enjoy the psychological horror that the father’s dreams portray nor will they understand the destruction they portend. But as a portrait of a family only two films top it. Michael Shannon gives an all-time great performance as a father struggling with keeping his family afloat amid a sea of bills and potential mental illness. Or are his visions which spur him into creating an underground shelter more than just dreams and is he a modern day Noah? The film is ambiguous when it comes to answering that question, but nobody can doubt that he and his wife (Jessica Chastain in a more down to earth portrayal than the same year’s Tree of Life) will meet the storm – real or metaphysical – together.

2. Moonrise Kingdom

Poems don’t always have to rhyme, you know. They’re just supposed to be creative.

Last year, the year Moonrise Kingdom came out, it roared onto my list at around the 50 spot. This year it takes a similar jump, all the way up to the penultimate spot. If you told me three years ago that a Wes Anderson movie would be my second favorite of all time I’d tell you to shut up with your lying lies. Impossible! Possible! All it took was a visit to the local theater to bask in Moonrise Kingdom‘s studied quirk. Critics often use that word and its variants (quirky, mostly) as an insult but with Wes Anderson it is more of a statement of purpose. He’s bringing his distinct point of view into the world of cinema and doing it with a nearly unmatched sense of artistry and detail. He likes broken families and this film is no different. Sometimes our families aren’t perfect and it is in those moments that we must rely upon friends and romances for our stability. This movie makes the point delightfully and thoroughly.

1. Fanny and Alexander

Therefore let us be happy while we are happy. Let us be kind, generous, affectionate and good. It is necessary and not at all shameful to take pleasure in the little world.

I already wrote a twoparter post about this movie and why it’s my new number one, so go read those for a detailed explanation. For those that don’t want to read the nearly 3,000 words there, know that it’s a movie that hits each and every one of my buttons, has a fantastic Christmas celebration and a few horror elements, and is as comprehensive a family movie as I have ever seen. Good parents and bad parents and good parents gone bad, children coping with the world shattering changes they can’t avoid, and plenty of stuff about storytelling in the middle of it all. It’s glorious.

And that’s all folks! Another year and another list. This one was a bit of a shakeup and I like that a lot. It’s as much a list about me as it is about the movies on it and since I’ve changed in the past year I think my list should as well. Have anything to say? Do so in the comments! And stick around, the big movie season is just beginning.

Top 100 Films List (2012 edition)

Surprise bonus list! Every year I revise my top movies list and this year I didn’t spend much time on the ordering, outside adding in ten new movies and dropping out ten old movies. The new movies are underlined. Click the movie title if it’s a link for a full review. I decided to not go into the full detail that I did last year, because those are still available for you to peruse at your leisure. I did pick out a new quote for each entry, though, so I hope you still enjoy it. Here we go.

100. Scream

“Sidney, how does it feel to be almost brutally butchered? People want to know. They have a right to know! How does it feel?”

99. This is Spinal Tap

“May I start by saying how thrilled we are to have you here. We are such fans of your music and all of your records. I’m not speaking of yours personally, but the whole genre of the rock and roll.”

98. 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.”

97. The Lion in Winter

“You’re so deceitful you can’t ask for water when you’re thirsty. We could tangle spiders in the webs you weave.”

96. The Fly

“I’m saying… I’m saying I – I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over… and the insect is awake.”

95. All the President’s Men

“You’re both paranoid. She’s afraid of John Mitchell, and you’re afraid of Walter Cronkite.”

94. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

“You could have dinner with us… my brother makes good head cheese! You like head cheese?”

93. Mother

“There’s a meridian point that can loosen the knots in your heart and clear all horrible memories from you mind.”

92. Days of Heaven

“You know how people are. You tell them something, they start talking.”

91. Exit Through the Gift Shop

“I think the joke is on… I don’t know who the joke’s on – really. I don’t even know if there is a joke.”

90. To Kill a Mockingbird

“There just didn’t seem to be anyone or anything Atticus couldn’t explain. Though it wasn’t a talent that would arouse the admiration of any of our friends, Jem and I had to admit he was very good at that – but that was *all* he was good at… we thought.”

89. Apocalypto

“I am Jaguar Paw, son of Flint Sky. My Father hunted this forest before me. My name is Jaguar Paw. I am a hunter. This is my forest. And my sons will hunt it with their sons after I am gone.”

88. Once

“What’s the Czech for “Do you love him”?”

87. How Green Was My Valley

“Everything I ever learnt as a small boy came from my father, and I never found anything he ever told me to be wrong or worthless. The simple lessons he taught me are as sharp and clear in my mind as if I had heard them only yesterday.”

86. Punch-Drunk Love

“I have to get more pudding for this trip to Hawaii. As I just said that out loud I realize it sounded a little strange but it’s not.”

85. Paths of Glory

“I apologize… for not being entirely honest with you. I apologize for not revealing my true feelings. I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you’re a degenerate, sadistic old man. And you can go to hell before I apologize to you now or ever again!”

84. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

“Maybe you don’t have to do this all by yourself, mate.”

83. Manhattan

“I had a mad impulse to throw you down on the lunar surface and commit interstellar perversion.”

82. In Bruges

“Number One, why aren’t you in when I fucking told you to be in? Number Two, why doesn’t this hotel have phones with fucking voicemail and not have to leave messages with the fucking receptionist? Number Three, you better fucking be in tomorrow night when I fucking call again or there’ll be fucking hell to pay. I’m fucking telling you – Harry.”

81. The Godfather

“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you or my boy to me?”

80. Metropolis

“There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.”

79. A Fish Called Wanda

“To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I’ve known sheep that could outwit you. I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you’re an intellectual, don’t you, ape?”

78. The Proposition

“I know where Arthur Burns is. It is a God-forsaken place. The blacks won’t go there, not the tracks; not even wild men. I suppose, in time, the bounty hunters will get him. But I have other plans, I aim to bring him down – I aim to show that he’s a man like any other. I aim to hurt him.”

77. Repulsion

“I must get this crack mended.”

76. The Shop Around the Corner

“Well I really wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralik, because I know exactly what I’d find. Instead of a heart, a hand-bag. Instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter… which doesn’t work.”

75. Hot Fuzz

“You wanna be a big cop in a small town? Fuck off up the model village.”

74. The Conversation

“I’m not following you, I’m looking for you. There’s a big difference.”

73. RoboCop

“Let me make something clear to you. He doesn’t have a name. He has a program. He’s product.”

72. Young Mr. Lincoln

“I may not know much of law Mr. Felder, but I know what’s right and what’s wrong. And I know what you’re asking is wrong.”

71. Brazil

“Listen, this old system of yours could be on fire and I couldn’t even turn on the kitchen tap without filling out a 27b/6… Bloody paperwork.”

70. Eyes Wide Shut

“I have seen one or two things in my life but never, never anything like this.”

69. The General

“Heroes of the day.”

68. Catch Me If You Can

“For the last six months, he’s gone to Harvard and Berkeley. I’m betting he can get a passport.”

67. A Streetcar Named Desire

“But some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable! It is the one unforgivable thing, in my opinion, and the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty.”

66. Synecdoche, New York

“I know how to do the play now. It will all take place over the course of one day. And that day will be the day before you died. That day was the happiest day of my life. Then I’ll be able to live it forever. See you soon.”

65. Moonrise Kingdom

“I love you, but you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

64. The Mortal Storm

“I’ve never prized safety, Erich, either for myself or my children. I prized courage.”

63. The Truman Show

“If his was more than just a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him.”

62. The Night of the Living Dead

“We may not enjoy living together, but dying together isn’t going to solve anything.”

61. The Brothers Bloom

“This was a story about a girl who could find infinite beauty in anything, any little thing, and even love the person she was trapped with. And i told myself this story until it became true. Now, did doing this help me escape a wasted life? Or did it blind me so I didn’t want to escape it? I don’t know, but either way I was the one telling my own story…”

60. The Wicker Man

“You’ll simply never understand the true nature of sacrifice.”

59. Children of Men

“And now one for all the nostalgics out there. A blast from the past all the way back from 2003, that beautiful time when people refused to accept that the future was just around the corner.”

58. Hellboy II: The Golden Army

“Demon! What are you waiting for? This is what you want, isn’t it? Look at it. The last of its kind. Like you and I. If you destroy it, the world will never see its kind again… You have more in common with us than with them.”

57. The Quiet Man

“No patty-fingers, if you please. The proprieties at all times. Hold on to your hats.”

56. 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?”

55. 7th Heaven

“I work in a sewer but I live near the stars.”

54. 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.”

53. The Incredibles

“No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for… for ten minutes!”

52. A History of Violence

“This isn’t a completely dead eye, it still works a bit. The problem is, the only thing I can see with it is Joey Cusack, and it can see right through him… right through your husband, Edie. I see what’s inside him, what makes him tick. He’s still the same guy. He’s still crazy fucking Joey! And you know it, don’t you? How much do you really know about your husband, Edie? Where he’s from, where he’s been, his life before he met you some 20 years ago?”

51. Mulholland Dr.

“It’ll be just like in the movies. Pretending to be somebody else.”

50. Out of Sight

“I’ve, uh, vertically integrated myself. You know, diversified and shit, and now I’m into the occasional grand larceny, home invasion… shit like that.”

49. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

“Hold fast to the human inside of you, and you’ll survive”

48. The Grapes of Wrath

“Tom, you gotta learn like I’m learnin’. I don’t know it right yet myself. That’s why I can’t ever be a preacher again. Preachers gotta know. I don’t know. I gotta ask.”

47. The Social Network

“I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try – but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.”

46. The Prestige

“You never understood, why we did this. The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It’s miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder, and then you… then you got to see something really special… you really don’t know?… it was… it was the look on their faces…”

45. Die Hard

“You know my name but who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne? Rambo? Marshal Dillon?”

44. Chinatown

“After you’ve worked with a man a certain length of time, you come to know his habits, his values – you come to know him – and either he’s the kind who chases after women or he isn’t.”

43. Where the Wild Things Are

“Happiness isn’t always the best way to be happy.”

42. Throne of Blood

“Admirable, my Lord. You, who would soon rule the world, allow a ghost to frighten you.”

41. My Darling Clementine

“I ain’t gonna kill you. I hope you live a hundred years… so you’ll feel just a little what my pa’s gonna feel. Now get out of town – start wandering!”

40. 12 Angry Men

“Well, I’m not used to supposin’. I’m just a workin’ man. My boss does all the supposin’ – but I’ll try one. Supposin’ you talk us all out of this and, uh, the kid really did knife his father?”

39. Black Swan

“Perfect? I’m not perfect. I’m nothing.”

38. Reservoir Dogs

“If you shoot this man, you die next. Repeat. If you shoot this man, you die next.”

37. Zodiac

“Do you know more people die in the East Bay commute every three months than that idiot ever killed? He offed a few citizens, wrote a few letters, then faded into footnote… Not that I haven’t been sitting here idly, waiting for you to drop by and reinvigorate my sense of purpose”

36. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

“I tell him about destiny; he’s shaking his head. About dreamgirls; he doesn’t care. I mention the underwear thing? He has a *fucking conniption*. And you? How ’bout it, filmgoer? Have you solved the case of the – the dead people in L.A.? Times Square audiences, please don’t shout at the screen, and stop picking at that, it’ll just get worse.”

35. The Thing

“I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

34. North by Northwest

“Now you listen to me, I’m an advertising man, not a red herring. I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting myself “slightly” killed.”

33. Princess Mononoke

“Look, everyone! This is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you! It’s eating me alive, and very soon now it will kill me! Fear and anger only make it grow faster!”

32. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

“Liberty Valance defeated. D-E-F-E-E… T-E-D? The unsteady hand betrays. What’s the matter, Mr. Peabody? Are you afraid? The answer is indub… yes. No courage left. Well, courage can be purchased at yon tavern. But have we credit? That is the question. Have we credit? Well, credit is cheap. Wait for me, old servant of the public wheel. Our shining hour is yet to come. As for you, Horace Greeley, go west, old man, and grow young with the country.”

31. Hoop Dreams

“Four years ago that’s all I used to dream about was playing in the NBA. I don’t really dream about it like that anymore. You know, even through I love playing basketball, you know I want to do other things with my life too.”

30. 127 Hours

“Aron from Loser Canyon, Utah. How do you know so much? Well, I’ll tell you how I know so much. I volunteer for the rescue service. You see, I’m something of a… well, a big fucking hard hero. And I can do everything on my own, you see? I do see! Now… Is it true that despite, or maybe because you’re a big fucking hard hero… you didn’t tell anyone where you were going? Yeah. That’s absolutely correct. Anyone…? Anyone. Oops… Oops. Oops.”

29. The Night of the Hunter

“You know, when you’re little, you have more endurance than God is ever to grant you again. Children are man at his strongest. They abide.”

28. Fargo

“There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”

27. Sunshine

“For seven years I spoke with God. He told me to take us all to Heaven.”

26. Inglourious Basterds

“I love rumors! Facts can be so misleading, where rumors, true or false, are often revealing.”

25. Halloween

“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.”

24. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

“Well, if you’ll pardon my saying so, I guess it is interesting, the many ways you and I overlap and whatnot. You begin with our Daddies. Your daddy was a pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church; my daddy was a pastor of a church at Excelsior Springs. Um. You’re the youngest of the three James boys; I’m the youngest of the five Ford boys. Between Charley and me, is another brother, Wilbur here, with six letters in his name; between Frank and you was a brother, Robert, also with six letters. Robert is my Christian name. You have blue eyes; I have blue eyes. You’re five feet eight inches tall. I’m five feet eight inches tall. Oh me, I must’ve had a list as long as your nightshirt when I was twelve, but I’ve lost some curiosities over the years.”

23. Shaun of the Dead

“Lizzy, how can you put your faith in a man you spectacularly binned for being unreliable? A man whose idea of a romantic nightspot and an impenetrable fortress are the same thing? It’s… This is a pub! We are in a pub! What are we going to do now?”

22. Fantasia

“What you will see on the screen is a picture of the various abstract images that might pass through your mind if you sat in a concert hall listening to this music. At first, you’re more or less conscious of the orchestra. So our picture opens with a series of impressions of the conductor and the players. Then the music begins to suggest other things to your imagination. They might be, oh, just masses of color or they may be cloud forms or great landscapes or vague shadows or geometrical objects floating in space”

21. The Lady Eve

“You don’t happen to be a mouthpiece, do you? You talk like a law school.”

20. Toy Story 3

“Now Woody, he’s been my pal for as long as I can remember. He’s brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he’ll never give up on you… ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what.”

19. His Girl Friday

“Walter, you’re wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way.”

18. The Exorcist

“Have you ever heard of exorcism? Well, it’s a stylized ritual in which the rabbi or the priest try to drive out the so-called invading spirit. It’s been pretty much discarded these days except by the Catholics who keep it in the closet as a sort of an embarrassment, but uh, it has worked. In fact, although not for the reasons they think, of course. It’s purely a force of suggestion. The victim’s belief in possession is what helped cause it, so in that same way, a belief in the power of exorcism can make it disappear.”

17. The Long Day Closes

“Erosion is the cumulative effect of a great variety of processes – full stop. In general, these can be divided into five groups. One. River erosion. Two. Rain erosion. Three. Glacial erosion. Four. Wind erosion. And five. marine erosion. Life also cooperates in the work of destruction.”

16. The Fall

“What a mystery this world, one day you love them and the next day you want to kill them a thousand times over.”

15. Three Comrades

“So long as you don’t give in, you’re bigger than what happens to you.”

14. Miller’s Crossing

“All in all not a bad guy – if looks, brains and personality don’t count.”

13. Adaptation

“You and I share the same DNA. Is there anything more lonely than that?”

12. Jaws

“You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”

11. City of God

“A kid? I smoke, I snort. I’ve killed and robbed. I’m a man.”

10. The Searchers

“Well, Reverend, that tears it! From now on, you stay out of this. All of ya. I don’t want you with me. I don’t need ya for what I got to do.”

9. Alien

“I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.”

8. Lucky Star

“You’re a cannibal and a dirty, no-good low-down little thief!”

7. Jurassic Park

“You never had control, that’s the illusion! I was overwhelmed by the power of this place. But I made a mistake, too, I didn’t have enough respect for that power and it’s out now. The only thing that matters now are the people we love. Alan and Lex and Tim. John, they’re out there where people are dying.”

6. The Shining

“I think a lot of things happened right here in this particular hotel over the years. And not all of ’em was good.”

5. There Will Be Blood

“Drainage! Drainage, Eli! Drained dry, you boy! If you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake and I have a straw and my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!”

4. Blade Runner

“Not very sporting to fire on an unarmed opponent. I thought you were supposed to be good. Aren’t you the “good” man? C’mon, Deckard. Show me what you’re made of.”

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark

“You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.”

2. Pan’s Labyrinth

“You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts.”

1. Magnolia

“Want to know the common element for the entire group?… I’ll tell you the answer: I’ll tell you, ’cause I had that one. I had that question… Carbon. Carbon. In pencil lead, it’s in the form of graphite and in coal, it’s mixed up with other impurities and in the diamond it’s in hard form. “Well… all we were asking was the common element, Donnie… but thank you for all that unnecessary knowledge… haha, kids! Heads so full of useless knowledge. Thank you. Thank you.” And the book says: “We may be through with the past… but the past is not through with us!” And… no, it is not dangerous to confuse children with angels!”

Top 100 Films: The _7’s

Today’s portion of the list leans heavily on the romantic side, with 6 of them containing heavily romantic elements. There’s also only two movie from before I was born. And it leans towards the generic side, with 2 period epics, a rom-com, a courtroom drama, a con film, a 2 crime dramas, and 2 films about artists and their works. And dinosaurs.

97. Gangs of New York (2002)

Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis

That’s what preserves the order of things. Fear.

Another mini-epic, this film survives thanks to strong performances by DiCaprio and Day-Lewis and remarkable directorial work by Scorsese. He’s not a favorite of mine but here everything works. It is forgotten all too easily.

87. The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Directed by Josef von Sternberg. Starring Marlene Dietrich and John Lodge

I want to play with my toys!

This telling of the story of Catherine II is probably the best looking film on this list, at least in terms of set design. The opulence on display is overwhelming, and Dietrich’s performance matches it. Then there’s the hilarious Sam Jaffe’s over-the-top Grand Duke Peter, amping everything up to 11.

77. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson

I didn’t ask for a shrink – that must’ve been somebody else. Also, that pudding isn’t mine. Also, I’m wearing this suit today because I had a very important meeting this morning and I don’t have a crying problem.

The best Adam Sandler film takes the typical Adam Sandler shtick and puts it in the real world. Mostly. It’s funny and romantic and thrilling and sad. All the things you want a movie to be.

67. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

Directed by John Ford. Starring Henry Fonda and Marjorie Weaver

By jing, that’s all there is to it: right and wrong.

More great Henry Fonda, more great John Ford. And there is another on the way. This one shows a small part of the beginnings of Abe Lincoln’s career. It’s mostly a courtroom drama, and a great one at that.

57. The Brothers Bloom (2008)

Directed by Rian Johnson. Starring Rachel Weisz and Adrian Brody

The perfect con is the one where everyone involved gets just what they want.

I’ve not seen a great deal of con movies, though I have seen some of the big ones. This one has a lot more heart to it than any of the others. It’s also hilarious and all of the con stuff works. The ending is super great. So’s the middle and the beginning.

47. Out of Sight (1998)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez

It’s like seeing someone for the first time, and you look at each other for a few seconds, and there’s this kind of recognition like you both know something. Next moment the person’s gone, and it’s too late to do anything about it.

Cool and hot, this movie has it all. Clooney’s on top of his game and Jennifer Lopez has never been this good since. A tale of impossible love and criminals, there’s a lot of humor and violence. That’s how you know it’s a good romance.

37. Black Swan (2010)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis

Perfect? I’m not perfect. I’m nothing.

A movie about art, the pursuit of perfection, and going crazy. There’s much melodrama in this film, everything is black or white. It’s not subtle, but I love it. The final performance is one of the best things I’ve seen recently.

27. Fargo (1996)

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Starring William H. Macy and Frances McDormand

There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand.

Sometimes you just gotta laugh at some of the silly things that people do. The Coens know this, which is why their seminal Fargo is at once real and hilariously un-real. The accents just enhance everything to another awesome level.

17. The Fall (2006)

Directed by Tarsem Singh. Starring Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru

You should ask someone else. There’s no happy ending with me.

A movie about storytelling and why we do it. With two amazing performances at the center, filmed all over the world in what must be the most beautiful places, this film is something to get wrapped up in. The story within the story doesn’t always make sense, but it shouldn’t, really. The ending is, again, amazing.

7. Jurassic Park (1993)

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Sam Neil and Laura Dern

But with this place I wanted to show them something that wasn’t an illusion, something that was real, something they could see and touch. An aim not devoid of merit.

Dinosaurs always fascinated me. Things that did exist but don’t any more. But Jurassic Park gives us a glimpse at what might happen if we weren’t the top of the food chain anymore. It’s thrilling and thrilling and thrilling. Also, Jeff Goldblum is amazing.

The other parts of the list:

The _0’s section

The _9’s section

The _8’s section

The _7’s section

The _6’s section

The _5’s section

The _4’s section

The _3’s section

The _2’s section

The _1’s section