Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Favorite Movies: #87-81

And we continue on with my countdown of my favorite movies of all time.

87. 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957)
This movie is something special. 12 men are in a jury room deciding over the fate of an impoverished teenager accused of killing his father. Yet, save for a brief shot, the teenager does not appear in the movie. The film is about the men presiding over the case and the power they hold over somebody's fate. It's an inside look at the judicial system from a different and rarely-used perspective. Every single one of these 12 men has unique characteristics. The actors are amazing in distinguishing themselves from each other. The cinematography is sharp and keeps you on edge (apparently, as more footage was shot, Lumet progressively enclosed the set of the room around the actors to create a sense of claustrophobia). 12 men, one room, personalities clashing, arguments revealing information about the case. This movie is too good.

86. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
Wes Anderson's masterpiece. He has yet to top it, although the rest of his filmography is solid. But The Royal Tenenbaums stands above his other films in the uniqueness of its characters, the relationship dynamics of this dysfunctional family and a wonderful narration by Alec Baldwin (I knew the voice was familiar).

85. Cache (Michael Haneke, 2005)
While this film could be classified as a suspense thriller, I would say that those words don't quite fit the format that it follows. A couple panics when they begin receiving taped footage of their house. They try to figure out who is sending the tapes, forcing the husband to look back at his past. The movie's pace is languid, the performances restrained, the tension continues to build up but fails to reach a climax akin to those of true suspense thrillers. And that's what makes this film work. There's a sort of danger lying just below the surface, ready to explode. The film gives no indication as to when that will happen and when the credits start to roll you are left still on the edge of your seat. You feel disoriented, which is a great mood that the film establishes to prevent the viewer from focusing only on getting their questions answered. It took me a second viewing to love this movie, because the first time I did not comprehend that what I'd just witnessed was a modern masterpiece.

84. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)
A romantic comedy featuring a triple threat of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart in a love pentagon (they don't make 'em like this anymore). This film was the career revival of Katharine Hepburn where in the first scene she is shoved to the ground by Grant's character. Hepburn said that she knew that the audience wanted to see her fall off her high horse and that scene helped in appeasing their dislike for Hepburn's high society/uppity girl status. Grant and Hepburn give formidable performances, as does Ruth Hussey (the lady in the black hat behind Jimmy). Speaking about Jimmy, I really hated his character in the film. He came across as a mumbling idiot and just grated my nerves. Perhaps, it was intentional to make the Grant-Hepburn pairing that much more sensational. It worked. I laughed at almost every scene and at the sharp dialogue. This movie is pure celluloid delight.

83. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)
I rarely cry during movies even when feels overcome me. But by the last 20 minutes of David Lynch's reviled conclusion to the Twin Peaks series, I was in tears. I knew where the story was going and it was just as gruesome as expected (given that the film is a prequel to the series). What I did not expect was that final closing sequence. The song, the salvation, Laura's face bathed with light, tears and laughter. It's a perfect ending for a brilliant TV series and an emotionally-charged film. Only Lynch. If anyone wants to check this film out, I'd recommend you first see the TV series, otherwise you might be confused on certain parts. Because Lynch cares not to explain but to show, and it is this sort of voyeurism into the life of an abused teenage girl that makes us squirm in our seats.

82. The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011)
This movie makes me so happy! It's gorgeous to look at, the story is heart-felt, and the characters are extremely relatable. Peppy Miller is one of my favorite movie characters of all time. I could watch this every single day for the rest of my life and not tire of it.

81. Changeling (Clint Eastwood, 2008)
Based on true events, this film features stellar performances from the entire cast; especially Angelina Jolie at her very best as Christine Collins, a mother whose son goes missing. When the boy is returned to her by the police, she is adamant about it being the wrong boy, but the police force her to take in the stranger boy anyways to "try him out". The possible killer of Collins' son is also masterfully played by Jason Butlet Harner. His character is disturbingly crazed, complex and child-like. Who's the real villain in the end? The flawed law or the cunning murderer? The events portrayed in the film are scary as is, but that they are based on true facts and their combination with great acting/cinematography/soundtrack render this film a master turn for Eastwood, Jolie, and Harner.

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