Sunday, September 15, 2013

Two More Fistfuls of Favorites! (Brad's Picks)

Two years ago, I finally settled on my Top Ten Favorite Films of All Time.  These are not The Great Films lauded by the AFI, Roger Ebert, or Sight & Sound.  These are the flicks that bring a smile to my face, or a race to my heart.  I don't believe in "The Best" - I only believe in Favorites.  I'm pleased to report that my films remain firmly set in stone.  I wouldn't switch a single number.  Unforgiven is certainly my #1 and Point Blank is certainly my #7.  Crafting the next ten, 11-20, was much more of a challenge.  I love so many movies.  What keeps Phantom of the Paradise on the list, but Lawrence of Arabia off?  Not exactly sure.  In another two years I'd safely bet my Top Ten is holding strong, but this Top Twenty will probably flip-flop a film or two.  Well, Dr. Jones is going nowhere.

20.  Phantom of the Paradise (Brian De Palma, 1974):  I only recently fell in love with this Rock n Roll horror musical from the king of the Hitchcock steal.  Maybe only a half dozen watches, and I'm kinda shocked to see it on the list.  All that being said, Phantom of the Paradise is everything the Rocky Horror Picture Show wants to be - and more!  Struggling singer/songwriter Winslow Leach (the super sad & adorable William Finley) has his art stolen from him by the diabolical record producer Swan (sexual deviant Paul Williams) just before a tragic accident takes his face & voice.  The film mixes elements from The Phantom of the Opera & Faust but is steeped in all sorts of rock n roll - surfer, glam, metal.  And thanks to Paul Williams's pen, the songs are utterly brilliant.

19.  Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007):  There is no better police procedural than Zodiac.  Following the infamous investigation of eight murders surrounding the San Francisco area from 1968 to 1969 and possibly beyond, the movie really excels in its depiction of obsession.  Breaking the film up into three parts & three characters, the Zodiac killings attract the attention of Robert Downey Jr's Chronicle Reporter, Mark Raffalo's dogged detective, and Jake Gyllanhaal's curious cartoonist.  Like the best mysteries, the enjoyment doesn't come from the answers but the questions, and how these killings root their way through the souls of the protagonists.  I grew up reading the Robert Graysmith books as well as dozens of other sensational true crime novels, but none of them came close to touching the humanity found here.

18.  12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957):  The Great American Movie.  This film has the power to grant every audience member the courage of their convictions.  12 jurors file into a room ready to sentence a teenager to death, wash their hands, and race home to the ball game.  Henry Fonda stand up, "wait a sec", let's discuss.  One man can make a difference.  And 12 Angry Men should be watched every Fourth of July.

17.  Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997):  Maybe not the flashy game changer that was Pulp Fiction or as violently referential as Kill Bill, however, Tarantino's Elmore Leonard adaptation has one thing going for it that all his other movies don't....Elmore Leonard.  Tarantino is famous for his sponge style to filmmaking, the director can squeeze every scintillating drop from a hundred/thousand/million other lesser films of yesterday and mold them into staggering works of genius.  That fetishizing is certainly on display in Jackie Brown, but less so - the man lets Leonard do the hard work.  You've got smart criminals, dumb criminals, smart cops, dumb cops.  Pam Grier's money mule flight attendant finds herself up the creek, but uses the opportunity to free herself from the rut of her daily life.  Sam Jackson gives his All Time Great Performance as showboating gunrunner Ordell Robbie, and Robert De Niro is the ultimate expression of an Elmore Leonard character with his putz of a convict.  Not enough love has ever been properly thrown their way.  And yeah, Robert Forester, Michael Keaton, and Bridgette Fonda are in top form.  All expertly shot & executed by master movie man Quentin Tarantino.

16.  Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974):  Movies about movies, we love em around here.  And filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, and Edgar Wright are virtuosos in cinematic dictation.  But the greatest movie about movies is Roman Polanski's Chinatown.  A love letter to the noirs of the 1940s as well as the hard boiled fiction of Raymond Chandler, Polanski's film is elevated by Robert Towne's paranoid, hateful screenplay and Jack Nicholson's escalating rage.

15.  Planet of the Apes (Franklin J Schaffner, 1968):  Whether you've seen the movie or not, you probably already know the story.  Charlton Heston's astronaut lands on a mysterious planet in which apes rule over man.  "Damn Dirty Apes" & Statues of Liberty ensue.  But similar to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, the film is much more than its quotes & twists.  Some of my favorite bits come in the first thirty minutes in which Heston, Gunner, & Burton explore the desert landscape and Chuck spouts his beautiful nihilism.  Then the horns blow, the hunt chases down our Earthly crusaders, and damn revelation tears our hero to shreds.  Planet of the Apes is some of the smartest science-fiction Athenaed from Rod Serling's skull, and I only wish the big, beastly blockbusters of our day bothered to mine the wit on display here rather than Ciffsnoting the climax.

14.  The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980):  What began as a Saturday Night Live showstopper quickly transformed into the greatest celebration of Rhythm & Blues ever.  But it's so much more than that.  Under the hyper enthusiastic direction of John Landis, The Blue Brothers reaches levels of cartoonish adventure worthy of the greatest Warner Brothers cartoon or, yeah, Tolkienian quest.  Jake & Elwood Blues are on a mission from God, and if they don't get the band back together then all the boys & girls of the Catholic Orphanage will go homeless.  Standing in their way are a caravan of hillbillies, a squadron of state troopers, the Illinois Nazis, and a bazooka packing Carrie Fischer.  The Blues Brothers is a madcap musical and totally badass.  Not too many of those around.

13.  Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter, 1986):  I was seven years old when I first saw John Carpenter's werido action, comedy.  I couldn't quite wrap my head around it.  Kurt Russell was all smiles and bravado, but he kept getting knocked on the ground while wearing ladies lipstick.  Russell's Jack Burton was boss, but he was also a dolt.  Of course, that's the whole point.  The John Wayne white man is the sidekick, and Dennis Dun is the chop socky badass fighting his way to the evil wizard.  Big Trouble in Little China is silly, goofy, and cool.  A combination hard for some, but absolutely in tune with the ITMOD sensibilities.

12.  Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (Sam Peckinpah, 1973):  Two friends find themselves on opposite sides of the law; James Coburn's Sheriff is charged by local government to hunt down and capture Kris Krisstofferson's rabble-rouser, Billy the Kid.  Peckinpah's obsession with the closing West continues, but it plumbs new depths of depression as Garrett's soul is traded for easy living.  Melancholy has never been represented so fully than in the posture of Coburn's sell-out.  Not a fun night out at the movies, but as far as Westerns go, few achieve richer emotion.

11.  Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981):  Spielberg may have ushered in the new era of Blockbusters with JAWS, and George Lucas certainly solidified it with Star Wars, but it was Raiders of the Lost Ark that perfected the phenomenon.  Hollywood and its audience have been doomed ever since.  But let's not focus on the negative.  Harrison Ford is the king of self-depricating cool.  He's a real man's man with the grit of Lee Marvin and the charm of Cary Grant.  He can take a beating from a Nazi thug, but jump back swinging.  He can play drunk, asshole, or bastard and we still love him.   He's everything I've ever wanted to be and have absolutely no chance of achieving.  Toss in an epic quest to save God from Hitler and you have the ultimate adventure film.  Fortune & Glory.

So there you have it.  My favorite films from 11-20.  Again, if you're still interested in reading drivel, check out 1-10 HERE.


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