Category 10: War
Apocalypse Now (1979)
This was a flawed piece of work by Coppola and seeing the documentary ‘Heart of Darkness’ made it even more compelling. Coppola at this point was king of Hollywood after making ‘the Godfather’ and ‘GodfatherII’ and had developed the ego necessary to even dare try to make a movie like ‘Apocalypse Now’. Through sheer arrogance he went to the Phillipines with a partial script and thought he would know what he would do when he got there. Just as Captain Willard thought he would know what to do once he got to Col. Kurtz’s compound. And just like Willard, he DIDN’T know what he was going to do once he got there. This is such a masterpiece of American cinema, beautifully photographed and the river is such a perfect metaphor and backdrop for the story. What I like most about ‘Apocalypse Now’ is that it offers no answers or conclusions. Consequently, because of this open-endedness, it infuriates some viewers who like their movies to be much more obvious. It is an almost psychedelic cruise to a very surreal ending which makes it a movie not accessible to everyone. Very challenging to watch but rewarding as well. This movie is intended for interpretation and contemplation as opposed to immediate gratification. It topped the list on moviefone as the greatest war film.
Worth-Mentions would be Paths of Glory (1975) which is #1 on the Movie Review Query Engine’s list of the best military movies. It is also #1 on the MRQE’s list of the best World War II movies, even though the film is set during World War I.
Category 11: Mystery
“A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.” After viewing ‘Rear Window’ I’ve come to realize that Alfred Hitchcock was not only a great moviemaker but also a great moviewatcher. In the making of ‘Rear Window,’ he knew exactly what it is about movies that makes them so captivating. It is the illusion of voyeurism that holds our attention just as it held Hitchcock’s. The ability to see without being seen has a spellbinding effect. Why else is it so uncommon to have characters in movies look directly into the camera? It just isn’t as fun to watch someone when they know you’re there. When we watch movies, we are participating in looking into another world and seeing the images of which we have no right to see and listening to the conversations that we should not hear. Rear Window” is a deep and entertaining classic with many strengths, and a little bit of everything.
And for sure, we can’t forget North by NorthWest (1959) and Vertigo (1958) for this genre.
Category 12: Epic
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
“Epic rumination on a flamboyant and controversial British military figure and his conflicted loyalties during wartime service.” When it come to making epics, David Lean is the master and what better proof than this masterpiece. “Lawrence Of Arabia” was first shown in 1962 and after almost 40 years later, it is still beautiful. David Lean has shown us a man’s long, yet never boring journey into the deserts of Arabia. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is an ordinary man that becomes a hero during his extensive tenure in Arabia. He becomes a traveler, a great man, and a leader to the people that he has associated with. Only director David Lean could have given us a movie experience like this. From the universally admired cinematography of Freddie Young, the long shot of Omar Sharif’s floating mirage entry, the pre-CGI battles and pan-up scene changes, to O’Toole’s florid but career-defining performance and the (then) novel time-shift narrative, this film set standards not matched even by Lean himself, and, as many reviewers have commented, financially and practically unlikely to be attempted today. I too have rarely seen such clarity of image outside of Imax, and in my view the script by Robert Bolt (and I now have learnt, an uncredited Michael Wilson) is the finest in cinema.
Category 13: Musical
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
“A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound.” I don’t like musicals. They never made any sense to me but Singin’ in the Rain is one of the best movies ever made. The film is beautiful, tuneful, and loads of fun. While it pokes fun at Hollywood it also does so with great love. Little bits and pieces of Hollywood lore find their way into this great film and it’s a pleasure to get the joke or recognize the real star they’re referring to. Many good things can be and have been said about this one and they’re all true. It’s a great movie. The title number gives us Don Lockwood (Kelly) in love as no other person has ever been in love, no doubt. He steps out the door and it’s raining but he’s oblivious to the rain. Who needs an umbrella when you’ve got wings on your heart and on your feet? Not the incomparable Gene Kelly as he treats us to THE single finest moment in the history of cinema. It tops the American Film Institute’s list of the 25 best American musicals of all time, and the top rated musicals at the Internet Movie Database.
Category 14: Sports
Raging Bull (1980)
Easily one of the most powerful films I have ever seen. “Raging Bull” is a cinematic masterpiece which pulls no punches. Based on a true story, Robert De Niro (in his second Oscar-winning role) stars as Jake La Motta in “An emotionally self-destructive boxer’s journey through life, as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring, destroys his life outside it.” “Raging Bull” isn’t the average, stereotypical underdog boxing movie, because it isn’t really about boxing at all. Like most great movies, its focus is much deeper. It came out in 1980, earned Robert De Niro a Best Actor Academy Award, and was marked down as another solid triumph by director Martin Scorsese, whose previous 1976 outing with De Niro earned them both critical acclaim (and for De Niro, an Oscar nomination, although he would actually earn an Oscar for “Raging Bull” four years later). It was selected as the best sports movie ever by the American Film Institute during their 10 Top 10, and is currently #1 on the top rated sport titles at the Internet Movie Database.
Category 15: Propoganda
Triumph of the Will (1935)
Utterly brilliant film that was unfortunately very difficult to find (along with some other great films by propaghandist directors like Sergei Einsten)until a dvd release recently . Just look at the long shots. Absolutely no cameras visible. Truly meticulous work. Astounding score. The opening sequence of Hitler’s descent is brilliant artistry, with the director creating the implicit parallel of God’s descent from heaven. Excellent film for anyone remotely interested in politics since all these techniques are routinely used in campaign ads. People often neglect to realize the inherent politicality of all art. Art’s politics is at its most dangerous when we fail to realize this simple truth – art and politics are inextricably linked. Do you think there’s not a reason why the American market will soon be glutted with war films as we prepare for one? gee, i wonder. Riefenstahl is an amazing director, one that should have done more films. When we censor great works for fear of “what they might do to the ‘ignorant'”, we’re a lot closer to the fascists than their detractors. This film is truly a landmark work, and it is only an unfortunate historical accident that Hitler was involved. Leni Riefenstahl was the first and, so far, only female genius when it came to film-making. Her innovative uses of the camera, lighting, staging, etc., truly laid the groundwork for future cinematic endeavor. If you can divorce yourself from the glorification of the Nazi regime, you can appreciate the merits of this film purely on artistic grounds. It is brilliant, plain and simple. (Ironically, the French awarded it a gold medal upon its release!) Leni Riefenstahl’s documentary film glorifying Adolf Hitler and the 1934 Nazi Party Convention, in Nuremberg is widely perceived, renowned and acknowledged as the best propaganda film ever, although Riefenstahl asserted she intended it only as a documentary.
Category 16: Western
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
A sprawling Western epic that follows the adventures of three gunfighters looking for $200,000 in stolen gold, Sergio Leone’s `The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ is a masterpiece, one that continues to get better and better with each viewing. In a way, it’s a morality play, weighing the consequences of good and evil, but it does so in a realistic manner. Sometimes, crime does pay, at least in the short term, and sometimes good does go unrewarded. This film probably signaled the death knell of the traditional John Wayne `White Hat/Black Hat’ Western. Currently #1 on the top rated western titles at the Internet Movie Database, and listed as the 5th best film ever made.
Category 17: Courtroom
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
To Kill a Mockingbird is the movie based on the Harper Lee novel of the same name about Scout, Jem and their father, Atticus Finch who is an attorney in a small southern town. It is both a coming of age story about the children as well as a hard-hitting drama, as Atticus defends a black man who is on trial for the rape of a white woman. Enough good things can’t be said about this movie. It is undoubtedly one of the best and most moving films ever made. No other racial injustice or discriminatory based movie can even compare with “To Kill a Mockingbird”. This movie not only makes you sympathize with those who were being discriminated against, but also those who fought for those people. One of the most moving parts of the movie is when Atticus Finch is leaving the court room and Reverend Sykes tells Scout to “stand up your father is passing”. To Kill A Mockingbird” is truly a much loved and critically-acclaimed film. It is a perfect portrayal of childhood innocence, racial prejudice, moral tolerance and courage. No other words can describe this film except marvellous. The film is so wonderfully done that the audience actually feels as if they were in Alabama during the 1930s.
Category 18: Disaster/Tragedy
Every once in a while the conversation will turn to “favorite movies.” I’ll mention Titanic, and at least a couple people will snicker. I pay them no mind because I know that few years ago, these same people were moved to tears by that very movie. And they’re too embarrassed now to admit it. Technically the film is very well done. To get footage of the wreck at the bottom of the ocean it took twelve dives to get all of the footage needed for the movie. In addition, a special camera had to be created to withstand the intense pressure at the bottom of the ocean. Cameron did not plan on using the probe to go as far inside Titanic as anyone has in the 88 years since the ship sunk but it worked out that this provided an unique perspective into the ship. Furthermore, throughout the film fade ins and outs from the wreck of Titanic to the scene of Titanic during its actual voyage. This shift between the modern scene to the past scene during the voyage works as an excellent transition that makes the story easy to follow in aclear manner. Titanic plays almost like a historical biography and is like a work of art, a true epic. Like most history novels, we know the ending, but it doesn’t take away from the wonderful treats that can be found in this picture. Certain aspects of this film are Academy Award material including costuming, sound, cintematography, and editing. If you like interesting characters that will give you an insight into the life of characters in the early 1900’s and how they face disaster, then this movie definitely is for you.