Tag: Never Let Me Go

Top 100 Films (2013 Edition): Part 2 of 5

The next 20 movies are here. It’s happening! If you missed the bottom 20, check them out here. And now, on with the show.

80. A History of Violence

Well, why don’t you ask “Tom” about his older brother Ritchie in Philadelphia? Ask “Tom” how he once tried to rip my eye out with barbed wire. And ask him, Edie… ask him how come he’s so good at killing people.

A History of Violence is Cronenberg relaxed, not as focused on the body horror that he built his name on. That isn’t to say there’s no horror elements here as the violence from the title is brutal and not masked at all. But this is a movie about a man and his family, the steps he would take to protect them. It’s really good at what it does.

79. The General

If you lose this war don’t blame me.

Buster Keaton makes his second appearance on this list as a rejected fighter in the Civil War who gets mixed up in a crazy train thing. Less inventive than Sherlock Jr., The General must rely on a stronger story and even crazier action setpieces for its thrills. And they are spectacular thrills indeed.

78. Aladdin

Oi! Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck.

Aladdin was the first film I ever saw in theaters. It began my lifelong love of film thanks to its beauty, songs, and one-of-a-kind performance by Robin Williams as the wish granting genie with pop culture references and fireworks blasting off at any given moment. It is very likely my most watched movie of all time, and I can still hear all of those great lines in my head as if I were watching the movie.

77. The Wicker Man

Don’t you see that killing me is not going to bring back your apples?

While this is often lumped under the category of horror films, it’s more of a kind of nutty musical with a little ritual sacrifice thrown in at the end for good measure. Edward Woodward (which, until Benedict Cumberbatch, was the best name to say out loud) is a proud Christian confronted by all kinds of pagan nudity and insane happiness. His counterpart, the “evil” Lord Summerisle is played delightfully by Christopher Lee. Forget the dumb remake, this one is crazy and good.

76. This Is Spinal Tap

Well, I don’t really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It’s like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how – what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what’s stopping it, and what’s behind what’s stopping it? So, what’s the end, you know, is my question to you.

There may never be a mockumentary as good as This Is Spinal Tap. A fantastic combination of dull wits and silly music, it’s a dumb comedy made very clearly by a bunch of intelligent guys. Nearly every element of the rock world is skewered perfectly.

75. The Proposition

Mr. Murphy, Russia, China, the Congo, oh, I have traveled among unknown people in lands beyond the seas. But nothing, nothing could have prepared me for this godforsaken hole.

The dirtiest, most unsettling western I’ve seen. It takes the harshness of the American West and ratchets up the grime and heat a few notches by setting the tale in the middle of the Australian summer. And the mission at the center of the film is a rough one, too, with one brother sent out to reign in another brother while yet a third brother is held ransom by the town sheriff. Existential, evolutional angst is on full display in this gorgeously ugly film.

74. Rear Window

Now, Doyle, don’t tell me that he’s just an unemployed magician amusing the neighborhood with his sleight of hand. Don’t tell me that.

A marvelous movie which creates the majority of its tension at a distance. Jimmy Stewart’s wheelchair-bound photographer catches on to some shady business and is helpless to do anything about it. Hitchcock is obviously a master and Rear Window is a perfectly constructed example of his ability to instill anxiety in his audiences.

73. Fantasia

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.

A fantastic (ha) marriage of sound and image, Fantasia is an early masterpiece from Disney. Each work of classical music is paired with a really great story or environment which has cemented the importance of music without lyrics for generations. At once a starters guide and an experimental art film, Fantasia will never lose its hold on the young and old alike.

72. Never Let Me Go

We didn’t have to look into your souls, we had to see if you had souls at all.

A heartbreaking beauty of a film. Never Let Me Go is a sci-fi love story that leans away from both of those elements into a melancholic meditation on loss and friendship. It’s a quiet little movie that packs a serious emotional punch.

71. Brick

No more of these informal chats! If you have a disciplinary issue with me, write me up or suspend me and I’ll see you at the parent conference.

Rian Johnson has gone on to make bigger movies (both The Brothers Bloom and Looper are larger in scope than this little film) but never has he matched the audacity of Brick, a movie set in a normal high school which just so happens to be populated with a student body that talks like they’re in a film noir. As out there as the premise is, the characters are grounded in an emotional reality that sells the film as a whole.

70. The Mortal Storm

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

The first Frank Borzage movie on this list is one of his better known works. An early example of movies decrying the Nazis, its historical importance often overshadows the sheer beauty of it all. Each scene is powerful in its own way and the cumulative effect of all the love and hardships is staggering. A career highlight for all involved (Stewart, Sullavan, Young, and Morgan), this is a devastating movie.

69. Shaun of the Dead

Take car. Go to Mum’s. Kill Phil – “Sorry.” – grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?

Edgar Wright’s second appearance on this list is another doozy. Working in the zombie genre, he deftly blends a romantic comedy into the mix alongside a touching mother-stepfather-son triangle. Also, it is really funny. Wright can blend homage with his own style quite well and is one of the few directors working today with a definite sense of pacing and joketelling through his editing.

68. Paths of Glory

You are an idealist… and I pity you as I would the village idiot. We’re fighting a war, Dax, a war that we’ve got to win. Those men didn’t fight, so they were shot.

This is a strange half-war-film, half-courtroom drama hybrid which uses Stanley Kubrick’s impeccable eye for composition as its guiding light. The war scenes are a wonder, the predecessor to Saving Private Ryan‘s opening salvo, and the courtroom scenes are just as intense, albeit on a verbal and intellectual level rather than a visceral one. Kubrick’s cynicism shines through and, although I hesitate to indulge in those kinds of thoughts, his vision is so well defined that it’s hard to find fault with it.

67. City of God

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

Here’s another organized crime movie. The unique setting is what elevates this above the drivel in the genre in addition to the captivating myriad stories being told at once. Participants include a young photographer, a maniacal teenage drug kingpin, and an apartment where everything goes down. Kinetic in style and broadly considering of its topic and scope, City of God is one of a kind.

66. Repulsion

I must get this crack mended.

The ultimate paranoia director takes on spooky apartments with even better results than his more well-known Rosemary’s Baby. Like some of the other horror films on this list, Repulsion isn’t crisp or smooth, instead it wallows in a creaky realism that keeps all the jagged edges in to great effect. An ever escalating thrill ride with a bit of feminist theory thrown in for good measure.

65. Out of Sight

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.

Soderbergh at the height of both his ultimate cool abilities and his experimental tweaking. He combines these two elements into one super great love story based on characters from the incomparable Elmore Leonard. Clooney and Lopez have such an intense chemistry and are surrounded by really great character actors in fantastic roles.

64. Metropolis

Having conceived Babel, yet unable to build it themselves, they had thousands to build it for them. But those who toiled knew nothing of the dreams of those who planned. And the minds that planned the Tower of Babel cared nothing for the workers who built it. The hymns of praise of the few became the curses of the many – BABEL! BABEL! BABEL! – Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a Mediator, and this must be the heart.

An early masterpiece of crazy expressionism and religious and social metaphor. Fritz Lang uses spectacular sets and direction to tell the tale of a populist uprising in a utopia of supreme architecture. Futurist in style and fable-like in story, this one really appeals to all of my little taste bubbles. It’s fun and heady and really beautiful.

63. Before Sunset

Maybe what I’m saying is, is the world might be evolving the way a person evolves. Right? Like, I mean, me for example. Am I getting worse? Am I improving? I don’t know. When I was younger, I was healthier, but I was, uh, whacked with insecurity, you know? Now I’m older and my problems are deeper, but I’m more equipped to handle them.

I watched all three Before movies this year, concluding with the recently released Before Midnight. This one, the middle in the trilogy, grabbed me way more than the idealistic Before Sunrise. Celine and Jesse are older and probably wiser nine years later, but no less infatuated, though they don’t often show it. It’s seen as the more cynical of the two first films but I feel like the ending really refutes that. It’s a romance that feels real and still like a storybook. I don’t know how that happened.

62. Funny Games

You’re on their side, aren’t you? So, who will you bet with?

Michael Haneke’s sarcastic indictment of horror audiences really gets to the point about halfway through the movie when something totally jarring happens and messes with the audience’s expectations entirely. Though I still enjoy silly horror films, this movie has forced me to at least think about the reasons why I do so. It’s crazy and the build-up is pretty slow, which makes for an even more intense film once it really gets going. The remake is a perfectly fine substitute, by the way, with the director returning and doing almost everything exactly the same as before, but in English.

61. The Prestige

The truly extraordinary is not permitted in science and industry. Perhaps you’ll find more luck in your field, where people are happy to be mystified.

Christopher Nolan’s only truly great film is, on its surface, a movie about jealous magicians and the terrible fates they bring upon themselves and their family and friends. Looking deeper, though, reveals that it’s a movie about movies, and the power they have to transport us away from ourselves and into unreality. It’s a puzzlebox like many of his other films that has (unlike those others) an emotional and thematic core that satisfies as much as the mystery, if not more.

That’s the end of round two. Let me know how you’ve been enjoying it, or if you hate a pick or something. PS, if that last part applies to you, you’re nuts. These are objectively awesome movies.

Top 100 Films List (2013): Movies about Brothers and Sisters

Time to come down to earth a little bit. After the portion of this list presented earlier in the week about God(s), my focus now turns to brothers and sisters. I have one of each and the relationships that form between brothers and sisters are some of the weirdest and sometimes strongest that we build in our lives. This is our family, and different though we may be, we are generally forced to live with each other for the developmental periods of our lives. Neither my brother nor my sister are very much like me, though I can see myself in facets of each of them. It’s this relationship that fascinates me and forms the basis of this part of the list. Some of these films will just be about brothers, or just about sisters, but they’re all about how these people that we don’t choose to affiliate ourselves with have a profound and lasting influence on our lives. And now, the poll.

Now that the voting is out of the way (you did vote for your favorite, right?), let’s get into the meat of it all. I don’t think I included any cannibal brothers or sisters here, but let’s start with the more strained relationships. Some of these are small in scope, take the snowball fight in Where the Wild Things Are as an example of a very minor but very important scene of brother and sister fighting. It’s a scene that provides a very grounded basis for the rest of the film, and also a scene likely acted out by every brother and sister in the known universe. A young boy spies on his older sister and her friends as she leaves the house to hang out. He goes into attack mode and tosses some snowballs at them while they are getting into a beat up old car and when she and her friends retaliate it all seems like a good time. That is, until one friend goes too far and jumps on top of the snow cave the brother built. What was fun turns instantly into a sad, angry scene as the brother gathers up some snow and throws it on her bed after she leaves. It’s almost too real a scene to be included in a fiction movie, but it’s that scene that sets in motion the rest of the film’s fantastical-if-sadly-strange wonderland. There’s a similar scene in Punch-Drunk Love, where Barry, a weird and lonely man, is invited to have dinner with his multitude of sisters. What starts as a nice, if forced, dinner conversation turns into a typical rage fit for Barry after all of his sisters pile on and pester him about his weirdness. It’s the ugly side of sibling relationships, but they do exist.

Even twins have antagonistic tendencies. Adaptation is a weird movie about a weird man trying to write a weird movie about a weird book. He becomes a character in his own film, and his twin (who doesn’t exist in real life) tries to be like him but fails spectacularly, writing all the wrong things and falling into all the screenwriting traps he is trying to avoid. Melancholia features, in its first half, the wedding of a young depressed girl. Her sister is organizing everything and as the wedding falls apart thanks to the bride’s depression, the sister gets more and more exasperated. All of these sibling rivalry type relationships are pretty obvious in their construction, but I think they say important things about the way we treat those that are related to us. Perhaps the biggest, and certainly the loudest, example of this is from The Lion in Winter, a movie based entirely around familial bickering over important and not so important things. On the important side, which of three brothers will take over as King of England, on the not so important side, which of the brothers is loved more by which parent. And then, to take it one step further, Halloween features an older brother who goes crazy and kills one sister and then spends the rest of the film trying to kill another. This relationship isn’t revealed until the second film, so it’s a bit of a cheat, but it’s too fun to keep off this portion of the list.

Of course, not all brothers and sisters want to kill each other. Sometimes they’re the only source of hope and the only people one can rely on in rough situations. The Night of the Hunter features a ferocious performance by Robert Mitchum as an evil step-father who tries to extract the location of stolen money hidden by the father of the young brother and sister at the center of the film. His evilness is elaborated upon as the film goes on, which only serves to bring the two kids closer together as everybody around them that should be their protectors are revealed to be ineffective.  The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are a little more obviously and immediately life threatening and as such the brother and sister in that film don’t demonstrate much beyond some playful jabs at each other’s nerdiness, and they learn just how resourceful they can be when the other is in danger. The Proposition‘s Australian outlaw brother trio is as messed up as they can be, and yet their relationship grows stronger and deeper the further into trouble they get. The titular family in The Royal Tenenbaums is falling apart and at the outset this movie would seem like it should go more in the first category of unfriendly siblings, but as the film develops the second generation comes together, puts aside their petty fights and hidden jealousies to save their family from dissolution. It’s a group of true and real relationships painted with Wes Anderson’s typical style, which elevates the movie into greatness. Similarly, Pan’s Labyrinth features a girl who’s mother is pregnant, and whose pregnancy is jeopardized by health risks and an evil stepfather (noticing a trend?). At first Ofelia is angry at her soon-to-be-sister for endangering her mother but once she grows up a little she realizes how much this relationship will mean and tries her best to save the recently-born child. Not all fathers must be evil, of course. Terrence Mallick’s The Tree of Life might seem at first to feature an evil father but repeat viewings reveal Brad Pitt’s father to be a loving, flawed human being. Still, the brothers often find themselves uniting against him and going on young boy quests through the wilds of the mid-century mid-west. Fanny and Alexander again features an evil stepfather and a brother and sister who team up to weather any abuse they must endure while their mother fights her own battles against the tyrannical man she married.

Some of the more observant of my readers might notice a few films on this list that seem like they shouldn’t fit the topic at first glance. What brothers or sisters are there in Blade Runner, for example? Well, if you’ll allow, I extend the idea of siblings into friends that have a tighter relationship than the norm. So the similarly created robots in Blade Runner share an impending death and they fight the system that tries to keep them less than human. The World’s End, too, features friends that, at the beginning, have fallen out with each other thanks to the destructive habits of their leader. Still, that leader succeeds in bringing them back together as they fight an evil extraterrestrial threat (and try to drink 12 pints from 12 different pubs at the same time). In Never Let Me Go the nature of the relationship between all of the characters in the film is left a mystery for much of the run time, but their strange situation brings them together and they form bonds that act similarly to the brother and sister relationship. There’s always the other side of that coin, though. The rival magicians in The Prestige know each other so well that they develop a deep jealousy which turns murderous. There Will Be Blood seems like a movie that features a real brother-brother relationship, with the introduction of Henry, a man who says he’s Daniel Plainview’s long lost brother (turns out, no) and the brothers that hate each other, Paul and Eli Sunday. The two young basketball players with dreams of going to the NBA in Hoop Dreams aren’t related by blood, but they nevertheless support and cheer for each other through high and low.

And then there are the siblings torn apart by circumstance. The Mortal Storm begins with a strong family bond which breaks as Hitler declares war on the rest of Europe. The older brothers become surprisingly fascist and leave to join Hitler’s fight while the only sister, the incomparable Margaret Sullavan, stays behind to help her elderly and disgraced father retain some kind of dignity. Later in the film she goes to one of her older brothers to ask for his help in escaping their country for one that has been kept out of the war. The conflict between his duty and his family is strong and quite affecting which, after several rewatches, is elevated to being at least as moving as the love story at the film’s center. Anna Karenina spends the first part of her movie trying to help her lecherous brother through an affair but turns into an adulterer herself as she leaves him to figure out his own issues. The sibling rivalry in City of God gets to quite destructive ends, as one brother tries desperately to stay out of the gangs that rule the slums and the other tries just as hard to get into one, to his ultimate demise. The problem between brother and sister in The Quiet Man isn’t quite life or death. Maureen O’Hara’s crazy older brother is dead set against her betrothal to John Wayne and gets into a hilariously long (in both time and distance senses of the word) fight scene over her. I guess that’s some kind of love. And, though they call themselves a family, the organization in The Godfather is a kind that says it’s all about loyalty at the front and will turn with jealousy at the drop of a hat. The secrets and lies that boil underneath the relationship between the two sisters in A Streetcar Named Desire are what leads to that film’s climactic battle of words.

Brothers and sisters are a strange bunch. Through love and jealousy and hatred and reverence they idolize and vilify each other. A port of refuge in a storm or a strong wind that sets the other adrift, the relationship between siblings, blood or otherwise, is difficult to get right. These 26 movies do, and for that I salute them.

That’s all for now. If you have another movie you like about brothers and sisters, leave a comment for me! If you haven’t voted for your favorite from my list, go do that. And if you’re on Letterboxd (and you should be), check out this list there and be sure to check off all that you have seen. And tune in sometime next week for the next installment of this ongoing series. It’ll be another familial relationship. Or not! Who knows!

Movie Review: Dredd 3D

It’s all the deep end.

Look up at the title of this movie. It has a 3D  in it. That’s part of the title. This is, for most cinephiles, enough to write the film off as another cynical Hollywood cash-grab. This is not the case. This second attempt at adapting the Judge Dredd comic series into a celluloid series is a labor of love for everyone involved. You can tell that these guys knew what they were doing. There’s a care in the set-up, where we’re introduced to a post-apocalyptic future where the only city stretches from Boston to Washington DC and is partially comprised of giant towers that act as their own mini-cities. We soon find ourselves following the titular Judge (the only law remaining) and a rookie with special skills into one of these tower cities to investigate a murder (or three) which turns into a quest for justice regarding a drug kingpin/crime boss/controller of the tower/Cersei Lannister. The two Judges fight their way to the top, at which point they fight some more. It’s an action movie, and a very good one.

The script is by Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later…, Sunshine, and Never Let Me Go. He knows his sci-fi action films and he knows how characters should act and when they should break away from their normal modus operandi, a quality which shines here. The script isn’t anything super special, but it does its job and it posits a clever “what if” scenario. The biggest flourish is a new drug that’s hitting the streets (floors?) called SLO-MO. Take three guesses what effect it has upon its users (and how we see it as the viewers). Here’s where we get our first hint that we’re in good hands. Director Pete Travis not only slows down the action whenever the drugs are in play, but he also adds a kind of glimmering sheen to everything. We see Ma-ma, the boss, take the drug while she’s ensconced in a bathtub full of plain old water. Plain and old until she takes a hit of SLO-MO, at which point it turns into a shimmering, beautiful display of wonder. How did nobody think to do this before? The 3D even adds to this effect, and enhances the ideas of the film. It’s the rare action movie that takes time to consider how the explosions can serve the camera instead of the other way around. Falling glass, high caliber bullets blowing walls to shreds, and even boring old room clearing is heightened and intensified by the combination of the SLO-MO effects and the 3D filming.

The thing with this movie is that it’s kind of empty. There are some things about duty and the role of fascism and even some character development in Dredd’s psychic companion, played admirably by Olivia Thirlby. That’s all nice, and another bonus in this era of the supremely dumb action film, but it’s not a movie that will leave you thinking. At best, you’ll appreciate the grimy beauty and the solid performances from Karl Urban, who, unlike that other Dredd, never removes his helmet and still manages to convey all you need to know about his character, and Lena Headey as the drug queenpin. She does some stuff similar to her iconic Cersei Lannister role in Game of Thrones, but Ma-ma is a little smarter and practical than that demon woman. You can see how she operates and why she can actually rule over a large area while Cersei fumbles around making grand speeches and getting nowhere. Also, there’s a lot of violence. That’s fun. What else do you need?