Tag: Woody Allen

Top 100 Films: The _5’s

I guess it makes sense that as we go along the movies will get better and better overall. I think this might be my favorite of the bunch so far. We have 6 horror films (well, at least semi-horror for two of them), 5 movies from before I was born, 3 movies that reference a location in their titles, 2 movies in black and white, 2 shots of girls with blood on them, and 1 movie where it was hard to find a shot that wasn’t full of naked people.

95. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Directed by Tobe Hooper. Starring Marilyn Burns and Edwin Neal

My family’s always been in meat.

As a kid I saw a few shots from this movie and they scared me so much that I vowed never to see it. Then I grew up and realized that I liked horror films. When I watched it a few Halloweens ago I was terrified. It’s one of the most visceral and immediate films I’ve ever seen. And the scene at the dinner table is truly horrifying.

85. The Fly (1986)

Directed by David Cronenberg. Starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis

How does Brundlefly eat? Well, he found out the hard and painful way that he eats very much the way a fly eats. His teeth are now useless, because although he can chew up solid food, he can’t digest them. Solid food hurts. So like a fly, Brundlefly breaks down solids with a corrosive enzyme, playfully called “vomit drop”. He regurgitates on his food, it liquefies, and then he sucks it back up. Ready for a demonstration, kids? Here goes…

The Brundlefly is one of the more tragic characters in movie history. A simple accident melds his DNA with a fly’s and then he begins to lose his humanness as bits of his body turn into a fly. It’s body horror of the truest and grossest sense. Goldblum manages to keep the humanity of the situation in the forefront for as long as he can, which is why the movie is on this list.

75. Manhattan (1979)

Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

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

I only started to watch Woody Allen movies this year, starting with Midnight in Paris and ending, so far, with Manhattan, with nothing else in the middle. Manhattan is funny and smart and all that jazz, but nobody warned me how good it looked. Allen has a way with the frame, and working with Gordon Willis certainly helps.

65. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

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

A dream of a movie. A surreal comedy about Tom Cruise’s inability to get laid. It’s unfortunate that this movie got caught up in the real life story between the two main actors and Kubrick’s death because it’s a really great film in its own right. Give it a chance.

55. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Ron Pearlman and Doug Jones

Now, see, I love this song. And I can’t smile, or cry. I think I have no tear ducts.

A mix of del Toro’s two modes, Hellboy II is an artsy superhero film and an action filled art film. Clever and thoughtful, tragic and swashbuckling, this movie has everything going for it. And it’s better than that other superhero sequel from the same year.

45. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Directed by John Ford. Starring Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell

Well, maybe it’s like Casy says. A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just a little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody.

I’m not a huge fan of the book this film is based on, but the humanity brought by Fonda and Darwell in particular make this such a great film. As usual, John Ford directs an excellent film, but it’s these two performances that raise it above the rest.

35. Zodiac (2007)

Directed by David Fincher. Starring Jake Jyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr.

I… I need to know who he is. I… I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him.

The first in the second stage of Fincher’s career, Zodiac is much more understated than Fight Club or Panic Room. It follows the obsession of three men as they try to find the real identity of the Zodiac killer, though their quest is ultimately unsuccessful. It says a lot about Fincher that he can make such an unsatisfying conclusion seem like the only way the story could end.

25. Halloween (1978)

Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence

It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.

By today’s standards this is barely a horror movie. There’s only a tiny bit of blood at the beginning of the film and the rest is mostly tension building. But it does that mood so well you can’t help but be scared. When you have an audience jumping in their seats because your bad guy steps out from behind the bushes for a moment you’ve got a truly great film on your hands.

15. Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Starring Gabriel Byrne and Albert Finney

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

One of the few mob-based films that doesn’t annoy the crap outta me, Miller’s Crossing is a genius movie. Gabriel Byrne’s central performance is so strong and he’s surrounded by such a great supporting cast and a great story told wonderfully. Truly the best gangster movie of all time.

5. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano

I see the worst in people. I don’t need to look past seeing them to get all I need. I’ve built my hatreds up over the years, little by little, Henry… to have you here gives me a second breath. I can’t keep doing this on my own with these… people.

What I like to call a character epic, TWBB is half a grandiose tale of oil and religion and half a character study. With an all-time-great performance by Daniel Day-Lewis and a better-than-he-gets-credit-for performance by Paul Dano, this movie needed only to be shot reasonably well to be great. But Paul Thomas Anderson brought all of his tricks with him and we got an amazing movie out of the deal. I have no hesitations calling this a masterpiece.

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

Movie Review: Midnight in Paris

No subject is terrible if the story is true and if the prose is clean and honest.

There is something in a person that will yearn for the golden days. You know the ones. Before. When everything was better. The art was better, the culture was better, the people were better, the world was better. It was always better, back then. There weren’t the social, political, cultural problems that we have today. Everybody was happy and awesome. Owen Wilson‘s Gil feels this was about the 1920’s in Paris. That’s when all the great writers lived and Gil, a neurotic Hollywood screenwriter, wants to be there – or then – instead of here and now. And it’s an alluring proposition. What writer wouldn’t want to hang out with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway? Who wouldn’t want to commiserate with Dali and Picasso about your love problems? There’s no denying that the 1920’s in Paris were a happening time. But would you want to live there?

It’s an idea we’ve all had. Woody Allen (in the first of his that I’ve seen, shamefully) explores it by giving Gil the opportunity to live life in the 20’s. After a quick car ride through the magical streets of Paris he finds himself at a party where Cole Porter is the musical accompaniment. The real Cole Porter. He gives his novel to Gertrude Stein for criticism and inspires Luis Buñuel‘s The Exterminating Angel. He drinks with Fitzgerald and Hemingway and takes an art history lesson from Picasso which he later regurgitates during a modern segment. It’s a fun time. As his late night visits to late years go on he meets an enchanting young Parisian woman, Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard. These two begin to meet up more and more and their attraction grows. It gets to the point where Gil wonders whether it’s cheating on his wife, the beautiful Rachel McAdams, to be with a girl from the 1920’s. It’s kind of slight but also kind of important.

That really describes the film. Kind of slight but also kind of important. I don’t mean important like it will change the way the world works or have and deep cultural impact, but its viewers should find themselves thinking about some of the ideas in the film. See, Adriana thinks that the glory days were the Belle Époque, some 50 years earlier. She, too, is trapped in thinking that the present is just not good enough and that yesteryear was better in some ephemeral way. And when those magical Paris streets give Gil and Adriana the chance to go to the Moulin Rouge during it’s heyday they gladly do so. But it’s here that Gil realizes the key point of the film and the thing that makes it important. This kind of idealism is just a combination of foggy memories and insecurity with the present. The toils of today is what makes living worth it. We are a product of our times and as much as we’d like to be elsewhen we have to come to grips with the fact that we are built to live today. Olden days might seem better but things were just as bad then, if not worse. Yeah, the 1920’s seem like a cool time to be but we know that it was a hard time for a lot of people, too. Hell, Hemingway was probably only as good as he was because he went through a lot of crap in WWI. There’s something about the struggles that make the highs better. And it’s fine to look back and identify what might have been better if only to apply it to your modern life.

That’s not to say this film is a serious treatise on the perils of nostalgia. It is a Woody Allen movie, after all, and the jokes are hilarious. Tom Hiddleston‘s Fitzgerald, Alison Pill’s Zelda Fizgerald, Corey Stoll‘s Hemingway, and Adrien Brody‘s Dali were highlights, each playing the myth and the person in small amounts of screen time while highlighting Allen’s superb screenplay. I’d watch a movie with Brody’s Dali and Stoll’s Hemingway saying things at each other for 90 minutes. There’d be talk of rhinocerous confrontations and war wounds. It’d be great. The film remains funny throughout, though the modern day stuff is a little less interesting. I get that it’s supposed to be a bit on the boring side so we’ll see what Gil sees in the 1920’s section but purposefully lifeless is still lifeless. Only Michael Sheen‘s pompous professor character brings the consistent funny in the early goings, establishing Gil as a lowly writer-for-hire trying his hand at “real literature”. Here is where the slight criticism comes in. The revelation is not earth shattering. The perils are not all that perilous. The jokes are not side-splitting. There’s some romantic drama but even that doesn’t seem to matter all that much. This isn’t a knock, really. I’m the guy calling Winnie the Pooh the best film of the year so far and that has little to nothing going on in terms of drama or deep meaning. It just makes for a movie that could slip out of your mind if you’re not careful. Midnight in Paris is a quick, fun, thoughtful movie that is worth seeing and worth taking the lesson from but ends up being a just little too minor for its own good.

Midnight in Paris – Written and directed by Woody Allen