We cross the halfway point in today’s part of the list. Some of these are even more idiosyncratic, which I enjoy. I hope you do, too! Part 1 and Part 2 at the links.
During the daytime people would want to hear songs that they know, just songs that they recognize. I play these song at night or I wouldn’t make any money. People wouldn’t listen.
A really lovely “realistic” musical. I already really like this kind of folksy rock music and with the bittersweet love story added on top I was destined to love this film. “Falling Slowly” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard and the quaint setting in this film allows the viewer to fully invest in the story and emotions of the song. Just wonderful.
59. Cloud Atlas
Moments like this, I can feel your heart beating as clearly as I feel my own, and I know that separation is an illusion. My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.
An adaptation of the superb book on which this is based would have to do one of two things to work. Either it would have to be a delicate balancing act, one which tones down a lot of the philosophical mumbo jumbo which works well on the page but often doesn’t translate when people have to say the words, or it could steer into the skid and, by holding nothing back, transcend the silly and reach a level of emotional and technical wonder that few films even aspire to. This is the latter and, though it is a mess, it is a spectacular and thrilling mess that really got under my skin.
58. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We’re not so different, you and I. We’ve both spent our lives looking for the weakness in one another’s systems. Don’t you think it’s time to recognize there is as little worth on your side as there is on mine?
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is perhaps the opposite of Cloud Atlas in every way except their ultimate quality. A quiet spy movie with only a few explosions to speak of, it relies instead upon intricate character work and a deliberately plotted story that takes its time getting where it’s going. Centered around a quiet but forceful Gary Oldman, the story takes many twists and turns and I’m still not sure I know all the ins and out of it as cold war spies deal with the end of their career’s work. A dense and marvelous clockwork spy drama.
57. The Shop Around the Corner
Flora, take a letter. Ah… To whom it may concern. Mr. Vadas has been in the employ of Matuschek & Company for the last two years, during which he has been very efficient as a stool pigeon, a troublemaker, and a rat.
This is one of the top 5 most delightful movies I’ve ever seen. A story of people who love each other in writing and hate each other in person which jumps to life thanks to the wonderful chemistry of Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. The other characters get a bit to do, as well, giving it a nicely rounded happiness. An all time great Christmas movie.
56. The Tree of Life
Toscanini once recorded a piece sixty five times. You know what he said when he finished? “It could be better.” Think about it.
Here is a film so rich that subsequent rewatches can seemingly change the film itself, morphing it from a coming of age story to a parable about mothers and fathers to a study of the evolution of man and nature together. Beautifully shot, a given for Terrence Malick, it mushes all kinds of stuff together into one floaty whole.
55. Throne of Blood
Admirable, my Lord. You, who would soon rule the world, allow a ghost to frighten you.
Throne of Blood is what happens when a master of cinema decides to do a mashup of a traditional Japanese theatrical style and one of the best plays Shakespeare ever wrote. Decidedly over the top actors play on relatively sparse stages and still the creepy ghosts and witches spook and the royal plotting delights. Our hero meets his end by a thousand arrows and it’s intensity defined.
54. The Quiet Man
There’ll be no locks or bolts between us, Mary Kate… except those in your own mercenary little heart!
John Ford’s most John Ford-y movie doesn’t even take place in the West! It does have all the myth-making and lush beauty (especially on the recently released Blu-ray) you come to expect with him, and the central romantic pairing totally works. Maureen O’Hara might be the only person who could ever put up with John Wayne’s particular brand of manliness. There’s some questionable sexism type stuff that happens here, but taken in the spirit of the film it’s only a minor bump in an otherwise exquisitely gorgeous road.
53. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Hallie’s your girl now. Go back in there and take that nomination. You taught her how to read and write; now give her something to read and write about!
One of John Ford’s more complex westerns is at least in part a meta-western about the end of the wild west and the beginning of bringing civilization to those untamed lands. Those two opposing forces are embodied by John Wayne (of course) and Jimmy Stewart (again, of course) with Vera Miles trapped in between and Lee Marvin providing the cold violence to get the story going. Shot in beautiful black and white, this movie does all kinds of nuanced things that one unfamiliar with the director and genre might not expect.
What are you telling me, that you’re, you’re, you’re gonna leave Emily, is this true? And, and run away with the, the, the winner of the Zelda Fitzgerald emotional maturity award?
I’ve still only seen three Woody Allen movies, but each of them (Annie Hall and Midnight in Paris being the other two) is great in its own right. Manhattan is consistently funny and really pretty to look at, much like Diane Keaton. It’s one of those movies that I can see myself coming back to every other year or so.
51. The Long Day Closes
“Wish I knew if he knew what I’m dreaming of.”
Yet another coming of age story graces my list. And again it delves into issues of religion and sexuality and escape-via-film. A deeply felt film which has stuck with me for over a year now, one which I find myself returning to in my mind quite often. The recently announced Criterion version will be a must-buy when it comes out in January.
50. The Truman Show
I have given Truman the chance to lead a normal life. The world, the place you live in, is the sick place.
The Truman Show has only gained cultural relevance in the years since its release with the proliferation of social media instigating a lot of intentional oversharing of a person’s life. Centered around a career best performance from Jim Carrey and smart direction by Peter Weir, this movie is one for the ages as it is entirely of its time and feels specially timeless.
49. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
No, that’s just dried blood. THOSE are his brains.
There really needs to be another movie in this series because Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany are too much fun to watch when they go sailing. The ship fights are great and the naturalism subplot adds a really interesting historical and thematic hue to the proceedings. And with a mostly child-populated cast it comes off as a well acted and well directed swashbuckler of a time.
48. The Seventh Seal
I shall remember this moment: the silence, the twilight, the bowl of strawberries, the bowl of milk. Your faces in the evening light. Mikael asleep, Jof with his lyre. I shall try to remember our talk. I shall carry this memory carefully in my hands as if it were a bowl brimful of fresh milk. It will be a sign to me, and a great sufficiency.
For a movie about death and the absence of God, The Seventh Seal gets a lot of play out of being kind of pleasant, especially in its middle section. It’s also pretty funny, given all those things. There are intense and scary scenes and a lot of deep philosophizing, but it’s those other, calmer scenes which work to make the existential angst even more effective and give it a spot on my list.
47. The Act of Killing
You acted so well but you can stop crying now.
As a movie about movies, The Act of Killing is a really fascinating look at the power of film to play into ideals and perverse fantasies. As a movie about insane people, it’s even scarier. It’s a truly singular documentary that leaves the viewer shocked, grossed out, and thinking.
46. In Bruges
A great day this has turned out to be. I’m suicidal, me mate tries to kill me, me gun gets nicked and we’re still in fookin’ Bruges!
Last year Martin McDonagh finally released his follow up to this sweet-and-sour little movie and, though it wasn’t as good as the intricately plotted and intimately performed In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths at least proved that he’s not a one trick pony in the film world. Though, if In Bruges was a once in a lifetime kind of thing I’d be cool with that because it’s just so darn good.
45. Haxan: Witchcraft through the Ages
And then we will console ourselves with the notion that the mildly temperate shower of the clinic has replaced the barbaric methods of medieval times.
Haxan is a compelling mishmash of “documentary” and reenactment footage compiled to both scare and draw parallels between our treatment of so called witches in the past and the mentally ill in the present (of 1922). It’s weird and totally interesting.
44. His Girl Friday
Of course he had to have a gun to re-enact the crime with. And who do you think supplied it? Peter B. Hartwell. B For brains.
How hilariously fast can a movie possibly be? I think this one pretty much maxes out both categories. Howard Hawks pairs Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell plus a guy that looks a lot like Ralph Bellamy to perfection. All wits and barbs here, and it’s all super fun.
43. Girl Walk//All Day
You should always be happy.
The unparalleled joy of Girl Walk//All Day can hardly be explained in mere words, so for the first and only time in this countdown, let a clip from this full album length dance video suffice. It’s got a flowing artistry that is really something special and can be seen in its entirety on youtube.
42. North by Northwest
Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then, but I have tickets for the theater this evening, to a show I was looking forward to and I get, well, kind of unreasonable about things like that.
And look, another Cary Grant movie! Hitchcock deftly plays into action movie tropes while maintaining a really fun romance and his impeccable direction. Just really well made.
I will step outside the church if that’s what needs to be done, ’til the door should shut behind me! I will do what needs to be done, though I’m damned to Hell! You should understand that, or you will mistake me.
You may have figured out by now that I like super-verbal films. Throw two or three people into a room and get them talking and I’ll be in, especially when it’s the likes of Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman (plus scenes with Viola Davis and Amy Adams) speaking the words of John Patrick Shanley. Doubt is a triumph of talking that doesn’t skimp on more typically movie-ish elements in the direction.
See, wasn’t that fun? The lower 60 are now done and the top 40 on their way sometime soon! Let me know anything you feel like saying here in the comments and check back for the penultimate section.