Tag: Children of Men

Review: Children of Men (2006)

Children of men duo

In 2006, I saw a trailer for a movie that looked pretty cool. It sold two things: a nearly-apocalyptic world and that world’s potential salvation in the form of a pregnant woman, the first in a 10 year period. Looking back, it also lays out basically the entire film and yet it gets at very little of what makes the movie a very special example of the artform. But let’s just pause on that for a second.

If you ask 10 relatively knowledgeable people to name one thing about Children of Men, you’ll probably get some kind of comment about the long takes it features so heavily. This was not a new trick for Alfonso Cuaron nor was it the last time he’d go to this well, given the spectacular opening 20 minute section of Gravity. It is, you might say, his gimmick. I was impressed with this gimmick the first few times I watched Children of Men because, well, gimmicks are impressive, especially those that take a heck of a lot of timing and talent to pull off. Later on, though, I began to think of them in the more colloquial sense of the term “gimmick”, i.e. with a negative connotation. What does the movie have outside these trick shots? Does it even count if the shots have been digitally blended together? Do these long takes in fact detract from the film’s fairly powerful story and instead focus the audience’s attention on “look at me” filmmaking? So I thought, and so I have argued here. I turned on Children of Men, which at one point probably held the title for most rewatched movie in my adult life right at the beginning of my budding deeper appreciation for film.

children of Men

I think that might have something to do with why I turned on the film, actually. This was one of my first ever-so-slightly outside the mainstream films (it wasn’t shown at my local multiplex, I had to go instead to the arthouse theater in my closest city to see it) and I made sure all of my friends knew how great it was. But then I began to look further into the arthouse, I dug deeper into the past and went further afield into foreign cinema. Could I rightly go back to one of the films that I saw only at the beginning of those travels? Certainly not. I try not to be snobby about my taste in movies as much as possible, but I still have a slight tendency to overestimate the strange and underestimate the very normal but very good. With the gimmick tag attached to Children of Men, it never stood a chance of remaining on my top 100 lists and instead fell to the wayside of “movies I grew out of”.

And so now with all of that preamble out of the way, was I right about the gimmicky nature of Children of Men‘s aesthetics and did it rightfully fall out of favor? Well, no. The long takes in Children of Men are fancy, they are attention-grabbing, but most of all they’re integral to the way Cuaron crafts the deep sense of despair that permeates every frame. Take the film’s opening scene for example. It is effectively two shots long. The first is a wide shot of the interior of a cafe packed with shocked onlookers as they watch the news footage which reports that Baby Diego, the youngest person to be born, died earlier that day. You can hear quiet sobs but in the middle of it all Clive Owen’s dejected Theo pushes his way up to the counter and buys a coffee and then leaves. There’s a shot or two of the tv everybody else is looking at but mostly it places Theo as a man apart from the rest of the population. Later we learn that it’s because he’s already suffered his own great loss and has enveloped himself in a cocoon of unfeeling sadness. This is what they call depression.

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The second shot is an exterior one and unlike the first it is a handheld shot which doesn’t only follow Theo as he walks out of the store and adds his sugar a hundred or two feet away but also takes some time to pan around the area outside the shop. We see some signs of life that look relatively normal and some out of place futuristic things, but most importantly we can immediately sense that this is not the London we are used to. It is a depressed city, a little 1984-ish and a lot dirty. We already begin to feel just how far man has fallen before the bomb that was in the cafe explodes. It shakes Theo and the camera and it takes both of them a few seconds to get their feet back under them. And then the shot ends with a woman walking out of the smoke holding her dismembered arm in her other hand.

The rest of the film uses the many long takes (most are not quite as long as the car attack and the final battle which get so much of the press, but longer than normal for sure) it is made of for the same purposes as it uses those two: to build the world seemlessly and to ground the characters within it definitively. The camera isn’t always attached directly to Theo nor does it ever stray too far from him so we don’t run the risk of losing him in the gray and gritty world the film so adroitly creates and populates with the end of humanity. That’s what hit me the most this time around. It’s such an engaging and creatively crafted film that I couldn’t help but get pulled into its sad and fully realized universe.

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It is, then, a triumph when, at the end of the film, the fighting stops for a moment and everybody watches as Theo, Kee, and her baby escape the fighting in a refugee camp thanks to the crying coming from the baby. It is not to brag about my willingness to cry that I say I teared up at this scene but rather to poke a finger in my own chest. How could I have decried the film for being just a cheap gimmick when those long takes are what creates the emotional connection to the film, pulling me deeper and further in to its dark vision of the future only to show the light at the end of the tunnel, even if only for a moment? Have I ever been so wrong about a movie before?

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 _6’s

Today’s portion of the list is the _6’s. That means that by the end of this post you’ll know half of my top 100! Hooray! Today brings 3 sci-fi movies, 3 dystopias, 3 tragedies, 2 movies by one director, back to back, and only three from before I was born! New Things! Enjoy.

96. Minority Report (2005)

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Cruise and Samantha Morton

I’m sorry John, but you’re going to have to run again.

Spielberg has three periods of his career. This film is the best example of his latest period. He’s still got the goods when it comes to action and a slick visual style, but for some reason people don’t appreciate these films as much. Minority Report is a great action movie and a bit of a thinker, it can’t be all bad.

86. A Serious Man (2009)

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Starring Michael Stuhlbarg and Richard Kind

The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can’t ever really know… what’s going on. So it shouldn’t bother you. Not being able to figure anything out. Although you will be responsible for this on the mid-term.

The Coens make smart movies about people doing dumb things. In A Serious Man their main character has a lot of bad things happen to him and he can’t figure out why. It’s a semi-modern retelling of the story of Job, except funny. The ending is ambiguous as they like to do, but it fits in with the rest of the story.

76. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Directed by David Yates. Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Imelda Staunton

Look at it this way: every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than we are now – students. If they can do it, why not us?

Now that the Harry Potter series is complete, I can safely call this one the best of the bunch. The first in David Yates’ tenure at the helm, this movie has one of the best on screen villains in Imelda Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge. She’s the epitome of mundane evil, a person who doesn’t stomp around and kill people but is still clearly villainous. And then throw in the first big magic battle and you’ve got a great film.

66. Brazil (1984)

Directed by Terry Gilliam. Starring Jonathan Pryce and Kim Greist

I assure you, Mrs. Buttle, the Ministry is very scrupulous about following up and eradicating any error. If you have any complaints which you’d like to make, I’d be more than happy to send you the appropriate forms.

It makes sense that a former member of Monty Python would make such a crazy movie. It also makes sense that a person whose job is making movies would be familiar with bureaucracy. What doesn’t make sense, at least on first sight, is that it would be such a funny and beautiful film. Brazil is satire of the highest order, a dystopian vision of a future run on paperwork. And plastic surgery to the extreme.

56. Children of Men (2006)

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Starring Clive Owen and Clare-Hope Ashitey

A hundred years from now there won’t be one sad fuck to look at any of this. What keeps you going?

What happens when there’s no hope in the world. Children of Men subtly realizes this through overheard news reports and glimpses of graffiti. Everything is messed up. Impeccably directed and full of strong performances, the action scenes are among the best of the decade.

46. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

Directed by Julian Schnabel. Starring Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner

Hold fast to the human inside of you and you’ll survive.

Movies are often kinetic, movie from one place to another as quickly as a cut can be. But this one stays mostly confined to one space and, at times, one point of view. Amalric’s character is paralyzed except for one eye, and the movie covers the way he deals with the situation and the beginnings of his book (which eventually turned into the movie). It’s a gorgeous film, heartbreaking and inspiring.

36. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Starring Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth

I don’t wanna kill anybody. But if I gotta get out that door, and you’re standing in my way, one way or the other, you’re gettin’ outta my way.

Here’s another angry men locked in a room yelling at each other movie. This one has the benefit of a great script and great performances. But when I rewatched it recently what stood out most to me was the sure-handed direction. It must be one of the best debut films I’ve seen.

26. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Starring Brad Pitt and Mélanie Laurent

We have all our rotten eggs in one basket. The objective of the operation: blow up the basket.

Some people complain that Tarantino is only able to rip off other movies and that he never does anything with his “homages”. Inglourious Basterds is proof that he’s got a lot more going on than just taking scenes from movies nobody else has seen. A treatise on the power of film to rile up the audience, IB deftly shows us Nazis cheering at the death of American soldiers only to have us cheer at the death of powerful Nazis. With clever dialogue scenes and bang up action scenes, this one has it all.

16. Three Comrades (1938)

Directed by Frank Borzage. Starring Margaret Sullavan and Robert Taylor

May I drink to that please? To nice weather for drifters!

A love story of the highest order. The only screenwriting credit for F. Scott Fitzgerald. Margaret Sullavan. Frank Borzage. A beautiful story beautifully told. Check this review.

6. The Shining (1980)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall

No sir, you are the caretaker. You’ve always been the caretaker. I ought to know: I’ve always been here.

The scariest movie of all time. The story of a family deteriorating with ghosts and elevators full of blood. It’s the little touches that make this movie tick, like the shot of the man in the dog/bear suit as Jack is chasing Wendy. It’s different from the book, but different in a good way.

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

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 21 – Your Favorite Sci-Fi or Fantasy Film

Day 21 – Your Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film 
Sunshine (2007, Boyle

Sunshine isn’t 2001. It isn’t Alien. It’s not Solaris or even Children of Men. It owes a lot to a couple of these films and others (even Event Horizon deserves some credit) but it is a great film in its own right. I saw it in a theater and the intensity of the sun is fully realized both aurally and visually. It’s as visceral a film as I have seen, an aspect of filmmaking that Danny Boyle is particularly good at. In addition to the directorial prowess, Sunshine boasts superb acting by a few of my favorite young-ish actors: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, and Chris Evans all give great, human performances. There’s often a tendency to disregard creating actual characters for sci-fi films because most of them end up dead but there’s a lot in the script to build theses into real people in little lines. Early on there’s a big almost-dinner table scene which serves to build the characters and get all the information we need for the rest of the movie to happen. It’s really well done. And then there’s the last third. Some people hate the final third of this movie. I think it works not only technically but thematically. The entire movie is about the power and near religious nature of something as big as the sun and the third act twist just plays that up to its logical end. And the final five minutes or so are nearly transcendent (much like his latest film, 127 Hours). So, watch it but don’t hate me if you don’t like the ending. You’re the broken one, not the film. 

Notes:

  • I don’t like that sci-fi and fantasy are joined in this topic. Maybe I’ll put a bonus pick at the end of this series so you can see why REDACTED is my favorite fantasy film. 
  • The sound is key to this film and the score is at once beautiful and dangerous. Like the sun! 
  • Trailer!