Friday, February 19, 2010

My Favorite Movies?


Ever read an old diary entry and realize that you aren't quite the same person you used to be? Well, I found a list I made of my favorite 100 films dated 1/30/2007. Not that much time has passed, but I've already changed enough that I'm not quite the same person I was. If I made the list today, it would be pretty different, I must say. Still, this list is a better reflection of my film tastes, as a whole, than the previous list I posted, which was "the best 100 movies" out of the 400 nominated by AFI. And I didn't pick those nominees.

Just for fun, I feel like posting the text of my marginally old list, from waaay back in 2007. Until I make a new list, which I will also expect to rapidly date, this remains a good indicator of my taste in flicks, and is not a bad set of films for you to consider renting:

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"You are about to find out what my favorite 100 movies are. Before you embark on this journey, please keep in mind that this list is by a guy who prefers Roger Ebert's list of Great Movies to the AFI list of top 100 American Films, and from one who likes movies from all eras, be they black-and-white, from the gritty 70s, or the special-effects-charged recent past.

Some of my friends find my choices interesting (John Nelka), others can't handle the fact that there isn't a single Martin Scorsese movie on the list, or Eastwood's Unforgiven (David Litvinov). Sorry. Don't like Unforgiven or any Scorsese movie enough to put it on the list. And you won't find any movies glorifying the South during the slavery era on this list, nor will you find Citizen Kane or The Wizard of Oz or High Noon. Sorry. I much prefer Shattered Glass, the Harry Potter films, and The Appaloosa, and even those films didn't make it on the list...

So what do I like?

My Favorite 100 Films Listed By Decade...


1920 – 1929


Metropolis (1927)


1930 – 1939


City Lights (1931)

Forbidden Hollywood: "Night Nurse" and "Blonde Crazy" (1931)

King Kong (1933)

Duck Soup (1933)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

The Thin Man (1934)

A Night at the Opera (1935)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The Grand Illusion (1937)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

1940 – 1949


The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Mark of Zorro (1940)

When Ladies Meet (1941)

Casablanca (1942)

Le Corbeau [The Raven] (1943)

The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)

Brief Encounter (1946)

The Big Sleep (1946)

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Odd Man Out (1947)

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)


1950 – 1959


Kind Hearts and Coronets (1950)

Ikiru (1952)

Roman Holiday (1953)

The Seven Samurai (1954)

Rear Window (1954)

Gojira (1954)

On the Waterfront (1954)

Lady and the Tramp (1955)

All That Heaven Allows (1955)

Nights of Cabiria (1957)

Paths of Glory (1957)

Curse of the Demon (1957)

Twelve Angry Men (1957)

A Night to Remember (1958)

400 Blows (1959)

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)



1960 – 1969


Psycho (1960)

Spartacus (1960)

Splendor in the Grass (1961)

From Russia With Love (1963)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

Seconds (1966)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

The Odd Couple (1967)

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)


1970 – 1979


The Last Valley (1970)

Valdez is Coming (1971)

Get Carter (1971)

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

The Last Detail (1973)

French Connection II (1975)

The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976)

Rocky (1976)

Annie Hall (1977)

Superman (1978)

The Muppet Movie (1979)




1980 – 1989


The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Somewhere in Time (1980)

Educating Rita (1983)

Amadeus (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984)

Withnail and I (1985)

Aliens (1986)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Glory (1989)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

1990 – 1999


Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

Candyman (1992)

Groundhog Day (1993)

Dazed and Confused (1993)

The Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, and Red (1993-1994)

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Before Sunrise (1995)

Emma (1996)

Fargo (1996)

Life is Beautiful (1997)

Donnie Brasco (1997)

The Edge (1997)

The Big Lebowski (1998)

2000 – present


The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)

Under Suspicion (2000)

Eyes Wide Shut (2000)

Ghost World (2001)

Mulholland Drive (2002)

Insomnia (2002)

Open Range (2003)

Broken Flowers (2005)

Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

Sideways (2005)

49 UP & The Up Series (2006)

Junebug (2006)

Walk the Line (2006)

Spider-Man Trilogy (2002-2007)



Honorable mention: Subspecies (The Epic Collection), which is really B-movie material, and can't be on the same list as Metropolis, but I adore those films.

Of course, if this was a list of my favorite westerns, stuff like The Quick and the Dead and The Cowboyswould make the cut, and a list of my favorite horror films would have to include The Wicker Man and some Hammer movies, like Horror of Dracula and The Witches. But when one writes up a broad "Top 100 list," one has to make some sacrifices.

By the way, for some really funny spoofs of a lot of films on this list, check out Angry Alien's 30-Second Bunny Theater website.

And compare my list to the films chosen by popular vote on The Internet Movie Database's User Top 250.

And, if you don't have time to watch so many films, here are some really funny "Movie-a-Minute" summaries.

AFI's Top 100 American Films: My Response

The American Film Institute released a second, revised list of The Best 100 American Films Ever Made on the tenth anniversary of their first such list. I am grateful to AFI for compiling the first list, as it spurred me on to investigate classics I had never seen before. At the time the first list was crafted, I had seen less than 30 of the films chosen, and felt guilty and uneducated enough to proceed to rent those I hadn't seen. While I decided that some films were terrible, and had not stood the test of time (say Tootsie), and that actors like William Holden and Joseph Cotten were so terrible that they effectively RUIN the classic movies they are in for me, I felt that the list, overall, was quite good.

This new list sees several films I like very much added to it, such as The Shawshank Redemption and Toy Story, but drops great movies like Amadeus, Fargo, and Dances with Wolves. As with the first list, there are not enough great independent films, and not enough movies written by, starring, or directed by women. The list also seems to be in love with gangster pictures and serial killer movies, and gives way too much credit to Martin Scorsese.

The movies were, apparently, chosen by committee based on a list of 400 nominees. Since I found myself, on balance, less happy with this new list than the first one, I decided, just for fun, to pick my favorite 100 films from among the 400 nominees. In some ways, the nominees are quite good. However, the fact that I am not entirely happy with my own list, let alone the one that eventually came to pass, suggests that there are some problems with the 400 nominees. So, I will include my list below, even though, looking at this, I'm not happy with all of the films I was forced to place on the list (by the limited nominee pool) and I'm not totally happy with the order I placed the movies in. So, please don't hang me for either the order or for including an action movie you think shouldn't be there. You should see the crap that they nominated that I didn't place on the list.


(By the way, the information and plot descriptions are directly cribbed from the 400 nominee list...)

1) IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
RKO, 1946
PRINCIPAL CAST James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore,
Henry Travers
DIRECTOR Frank Capra
PRODUCER Frank Capra
SCREENWRITERS Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra
This holiday classic features a complex performance by Stewart as a suicidal man redeemed by friendship and the recognition that each man’s life touches many others. Remember—every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

2) CASABLANCA
Warner Bros., 1942
PRINCIPAL CAST Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid
DIRECTOR Michael Curtiz
PRODUCER Hal B. Wallis
SCREENWRITERS Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch
Bogart is jaded idealist Rick Blaine, an American nightclub owner in French Morocco who sacrifices the love of a lifetime to join the world’s fight against the Nazis. "Here’s looking at you, kid.”

3) AMADEUS
Orion, 1984
PRINCIPAL CAST Tom Hulce, F. Murray Abraham
DIRECTOR Milos Forman
PRODUCER Saul Zaentz
SCREENWRITER Peter Shaffer
Abraham’s Antonio Salieri declares war against the heavens for speaking through the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, played by Hulce. Flashbacks illuminate the mad, energetic brilliance of Mozart and Salieri’s struggle with his own mediocrity. “There are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.”

4) FARGO
Gramercy, 1996
PRINCIPAL CAST Frances McDormand, William H. Macy
DIRECTOR Joel Coen
PRODUCER Ethan Coen
SCREENWRITERS Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
A frigid Minnesota landscape is the setting for a series of gruesome murders intertwined with a botched kidnapping. McDormand is Marge, the pregnant police officer who reconstructs the crime with a style all her own. “You betcha.”

5) SCHINDLER’S LIST
Universal, 1993
PRINCIPAL CAST Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
DIRECTOR Steven Spielberg
PRODUCERS Steven Spielberg, Branko Lustig, Gerald R. Molen
SCREENWRITER Steven Zaillian
The film is based on the true, complex, and often puzzling story of Oskar Schindler, the Czech industrialist who saved hundreds of Jews from the gas chambers during the Holocaust. “This list is an absolute good. The list is life.”

6) 12 ANGRY MEN
United Artists, 1957
PRINCIPAL CAST Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley
DIRECTOR Sidney Lumet
PRODUCERS Henry Fonda, Reginald Rose
SCREENWRITER Reginald Rose
In a jury room, Fonda methodically faces class and racial prejudices, and convinces eleven other jurors to change their verdict from guilty to not guilty, thus enabling an innocent young man to go free.

7) GROUNDHOG DAY
Columbia, 1993
PRINCIPAL CAST Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott
DIRECTOR Harold Ramis
PRODUCERS Trevor Albert, Harold Ramis
SCREENWRITERS Danny Rubin, Harold Ramis
A self-absorbed, grouchy Pittsburgh weatherman keeps waking up to the same day over and over again. Until he turns over a new leaf and finds true love, he’s doomed to spend his days reporting on Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow. “Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”

8) A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
MGM, 1935
PRINCIPAL CAST Groucho, Chico, Harpo Marx, Kitty Carlisle
DIRECTOR Sam Wood
PRODUCER Irving Thalberg
SCREENWRITERS George S. Kaufman, James Kevin McGuinness, Morrie Ryskind
The Marx Brothers take on opera and give a drubbing to anyone who gets in their way. Some of the team’s most famous comic moments are from this film: rearranging the bedroom furniture, Chico and Groucho tearing up the contract, and the overstuffed stateroom scene, where 15 people crowd inside!

9) ANNIE HALL
United Artists, 1977
PRINCIPAL CAST Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
DIRECTOR Woody Allen
PRODUCER Charles H. Joffe
SCREENWRITERS Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Alvy Singer has more hang-ups than most neurotic New Yorkers. When he meets his polar opposite, the dingy Annie Hall (“La-di-da, la-di-da”), the die-hard city dweller winds up in a foreign country called Los Angeles! This comedy also launched a women’s fashion trend on Annie Hall’s “look.”

10) ON THE WATERFRONT
Columbia, 1954
PRINCIPAL CAST Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint
DIRECTOR Elia Kazan
PRODUCER Sam Spiegel
SCREENWRITER Budd Schulberg
Brando, a longshoreman who “coulda been a contender,” rebels against his brother and corruption on the New York City docks in this powerful story that mirrors the political climate of the early 1950s.

11) REAR WINDOW
Paramount, 1954
PRINCIPAL CAST James Stewart, Grace Kelly
DIRECTOR Alfred Hitchcock
PRODUCER Alfred Hitchcock
SCREENWRITER John Michael Hayes
When a broken leg forces photographer Stewart to become wheelchair-bound in his New York City apartment, he amuses himself by spying on his neighbors and soon becomes obsessed when he thinks he has witnessed a murder. Kelly, as his fashionmodel girlfriend, helps with amateur detective work.

12) THELMA & LOUISE
MGM, 1991
PRINCIPAL CAST Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon
DIRECTOR Ridley Scott
PRODUCERS Ridley Scott, Mimi Polk
SCREENWRITER Callie Khouri
What should be a weekend away from it all, turns into a tragic female-buddy road movie that broke all the conventional rules. Davis and Sarandon become fugitives from justice after great injustices have been hurled on them.

13) DUCK SOUP
Paramount, 1933
PRINCIPAL CAST Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo Marx
DIRECTOR Leo McCarey
PRODUCER Herman J. Mankiewicz
SCREENWRITERS Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby
The Brothers Marx defend Freedonia, with their own brand of anarchy and satire in this antiwar comedy that’s a combination of Gilbert and Sullivan and vaudeville. Groucho and Harpo had perfected their “mirror gag” on stage and brought it to Depression-era audiences sorely in need of a laugh.

14) THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1980
PRINCIPAL CAST Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
DIRECTOR Irving Kershner
PRODUCER Gary Kurtz
SCREENWRITERS Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan
The further adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo in their battle against the dark side of the force. Yoda, a Jedi master, makes his first appearance, and Luke discovers the true identity of his father.

15) ROCKY
United Artists, 1976
PRINCIPAL CAST Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith,
Carl Weathers
DIRECTOR John G. Avildsen
PRODUCERS Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff
SCREENWRITER Sylvester Stallone
No one believes a loser like Rocky Balboa can go the distance. When world heavyweight champ Apollo Creed wants to fight an “unknown,” Rocky gets his shot in the ring and at love. “Yo, Adrian!”

16) JAWS
Universal, 1975
PRINCIPAL CAST Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
DIRECTOR Steven Spielberg
PRODUCERS Richard D. Zanuck, David Brown
SCREENWRITERS Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb
A great white shark terrorizes the resort town of Amity. Spielberg shot some scenes at water level, making the audience feel as though they were treading water. John Williams’ pulsating score still haunts swimmers around the world.

17) GLORY
TriStar, 1989
PRINCIPAL CAST Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman
DIRECTOR Edward Zwick
PRODUCER Freddie Fields
SCREENWRITER Kevin Jarre
The little-known true story of the US Army’s first all-black regiment is based on the letters of Civil War officer Colonel Robert Shaw. Forced to deal with racism on all fronts, Shaw and his rag-tag unit march into history as heroes.

18) THE BIG SLEEP
Warner Bros., 1946
PRINCIPAL CAST Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall
DIRECTOR Howard Hawks
PRODUCER Howard Hawks
SCREENWRITERS William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Futhman
Bogart and Bacall make sparks fly while trying to outwit the blackmailers, seedy cops, and odd characters who populate the treacherous world of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles.

19) IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT
United Artists, 1967
PRINCIPAL CAST Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Lee Grant
DIRECTOR Norman Jewison
PRODUCER Walter Mirisch
SCREENWRITER Stirling Silliphant
Poitier is Virgil Tibbs, the Philadelphia detective drawn into a Mississippi murder case no one knows how to handle. Quincy Jones’ evocative jazz score punctuates the heat and bigotry, but it is Poitier’s “They call me Mister Tibbs” and the slap heard around the world that made audiences cheer.

20) ROMAN HOLIDAY
Paramount, 1953
PRINCIPAL CAST Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert
DIRECTOR William Wyler
PRODUCER William Wyler
SCREENWRITERS Ian McLellan Hunter (Dalton Trumbo), John Dighton
In this captivating modern-day fairy tale, Hepburn is a princess under lock and key who runs away and falls in love with Peck, a journalist who happens to be in need of a great story. Hepburn in her first American film became an overnight sensation.

21) SPARTACUS
Universal, 1960
PRINCIPAL CAST Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov
DIRECTOR Stanley Kubrick
PRODUCER Edward Lewis
SCREENWRITER Dalton Trumbo
Kubrick’s historic epic stars Douglas in the title role of the slave who leads a rebellion for freedom against the rulers of the Roman Empire. “I am Spartacus!”

22) WHEN HARRY MET SALLY…
Columbia, 1989
PRINCIPAL CAST Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby
DIRECTOR Rob Reiner
PRODUCERS Rob Reiner, Andrew Scheinman
SCREENWRITER Nora Ephron
Ephron and Reiner ask the eternal question, “Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning?” Over a dozen years, Harry and Sally come to grips with the answer in this episodic journey of love and romance seen through the eyes of couples of all ages.

23) ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST
United Artists, 1975
PRINCIPAL CAST Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher
DIRECTOR Milos Forman
PRODUCERS Saul Zaentz, Michael Douglas
SCREENWRITERS Bo Goldman, Lawrence Hauben
Nicholson is a troublemaker committed to a mental institution who sparks new life in the downtrodden inmates, giving them purpose and self-worth. His war on the system is fought at every step by Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched.

24) LOST IN TRANSLATION
Focus, 2003
PRINCIPAL CAST Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray
DIRECTOR Sofia Coppola
PRODUCERS Sofia Coppola, Ross Katz
SCREENWRITER Sofia Coppola
This is Coppola’s idiosyncratic and touching portrait of two lonely Americans in Tokyo, who meet and spend their free time together, sharing thoughts on celebrity and marriage and finding they need each other in the alien landscape. “Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than that.”

25) SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Columbia, 1995
PRINCIPAL CAST Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant
DIRECTOR Ang Lee
PRODUCER Lindsay Doran
SCREENWRITER Emma Thompson
Thompson adapted Jane Austen’s 18th century novel about the Dashwood sisters, who approach love and life very differently. Elinor is all sense, Marianne all sensibility. They struggle to make proper marriages after the family loses its fortune. In the end, true love triumphs.

26) NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
Continental, 1968
PRINCIPAL CAST Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones, Karl Hardman, Russell Streiner
DIRECTOR George A. Romero
PRODUCERS Russell Streiner, Karl Hardman
SCREENWRITER John A. Russo
Bloodthirsty zombies close in on people barricaded inside a farm house in this lowbudget black-and-white horror film that put people on the edge of their seats. Can the living survive the un-dead?

27) KING KONG
RKO, 1933
PRINCIPAL CAST Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot
DIRECTORS Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack
PRODUCERS Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack
SCREENWRITERS James Ashmore Creelman, Ruth Rose
With a mixture of live action, animation, and special effects, this film follows the plight of a giant ape whose love for the beautiful Wray leads to his death, as he topples from the Empire State Building. But it wasn’t the airplanes that killed the mighty Kong—“It was beauty killed the beast.”

28) THE LITTLE FOXES
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1941
PRINCIPAL CAST Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, Teresa Wright
DIRECTOR William Wyler
PRODUCER Samuel Goldwyn
SCREENWRITER Lillian Hellman
Based on Hellman’s play about a rapacious Southern family, Davis plays the viperous woman who blackmails her way into an unscrupulous business deal with her shady brothers, then kills her husband when he stands in her way.

29) OUT OF THE PAST
RKO, 1947
PRINCIPAL CAST Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, Jane Greer
DIRECTOR Jacques Tourneur
PRODUCERS Warren Duff, Robert Sparks
SCREENWRITER Geoffrey Homes
Mitchum is trying to escape the past that’s catching up with him. The cunning and seductive Greer betrays him and Douglas, men on opposite sides of the law. In this film noir tour de force, all three are caught in a deadly showdown.

30) PATHS OF GLORY
United Artists, 1957
PRINCIPAL CAST Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
DIRECTOR Stanley Kubrick
PRODUCER James B. Harris
SCREENWRITERS Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson
Douglas is a French World War I officer with a mutiny on his hands because his men refuse to engage in a suicidal battle. He defends three of his men when they are later court-martialed for cowardice. Kubrick’s consummate antiwar film highlights the differences between those who give orders and those who carry them out.

31) BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Disney, 1991
PRINCIPAL CAST Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach,
Angela Lansbury (voices)
DIRECTORS Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
PRODUCER Don Hahn
SCREENWRITER Linda Woolverton
This animated musical is based on the classic fairy tale of the girl who is trapped the castle of a hideous beast but eventually falls for his unusual charm. The film’s musical highlights include the title song and the show-stopping Be Our Guest.

32) ALIEN
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1979
PRINCIPAL CAST Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
DIRECTOR Ridley Scott
PRODUCERS Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill
SCREENWRITER Dan O’Bannon
Unbeknownst to its crew, spaceship Nostromo has taken on an alien stowaway that incubates in some humans and hunts the rest. A science fiction film that broke new ground by adding horror and gore and, more importantly, Weaver, as the action heroine.

33) A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS
Columbia, 1966
PRINCIPAL CAST Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller, Robert Shaw, Orson Welles
DIRECTOR Fred Zinnemann
PRODUCER Fred Zinnemann
SCREENWRITER Robert Bolt
Scofield is Sir Thomas More, who resists Shaw’s Henry VIII when he requests help to break away from the Roman Catholic Church to form the Church of England.

34) SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS
Warner Bros., 1961
PRINCIPAL CAST Warren Beatty, Natalie Wood
DIRECTOR Elia Kazan
PRODUCER Elia Kazan
SCREENWRITER William Inge
Wood and Beatty, in his screen debut, play sweethearts in 1920s rural Kansas. Sexual repression, class distinctions, and parental expectations crash along with the stock market. Wood suffers a mental breakdown as Beatty finds a simple future with another woman.

35) VERTIGO
Paramount, 1958
PRINCIPAL CAST James Stewart, Kim Novak
DIRECTOR Alfred Hitchcock
PRODUCER Alfred Hitchcock
SCREENWRITERS Alec Coppel, Samuel A. Taylor
Stewart’s fear of heights, Novak’s woman of mystery, Bernard Herrmann’s haunting score, and the city of San Francisco provide Hitchcock with a great love story and sexual obsession on a grand psychological level.

36) THE THIN MAN
MGM, 1934
PRINCIPAL CAST William Powell, Myrna Loy
DIRECTOR W.S. Van Dyke
PRODUCER Hunt Stromberg
SCREENWRITERS Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett
The first film to feature stylish detective Nick Charles, wife Nora and beloved terrier Asta launched the popular “Thin Man” series and ushered in a new era of sophisticated comedies. Contrary to popular belief the thin man is one of the film’s many characters, not Nicky, as Nora affectionately called him.

37) INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS
Allied Artists, 1956
PRINCIPAL CAST Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan,
Carolyn Jones
DIRECTOR Don Siegel
PRODUCER Walter Wanger
SCREENWRITER Daniel Mainwaring
McCarthy is a small town doctor who discovers to his horror that everyone around him is being replaced by emotionless doubles hatched from pods from outer space. Even at the film’s climax, no one on the busy freeway heeds McCarthy’s frenetic warning: “They’re here already. You’re next!”

38) ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN
Warner Bros., 1976
PRINCIPAL CAST Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jason Robards
DIRECTOR Alan J. Pakula
PRODUCER Walter Coblenz
SCREENWRITER William Goldman
Both a taut political thriller and detective story, Redford and Hoffman are Woodward and Bernstein, the two novice Washington Post reporters who uncovered the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

39) RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
Paramount, 1981
PRINCIPAL CAST Harrison Ford, Karen Allen
DIRECTOR Steven Spielberg
PRODUCER Frank Marshall
SCREENWRITERS Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas, Phillip Kaufman
Lucas and Spielberg’s cliff hanging, action-adventure, propels archaeologist Indiana Jones across five continents in a race against the Nazis to find the Ark of the ovenant.

40) BONNIE AND CLYDE
Warner Bros., 1967
PRINCIPAL CAST Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons
DIRECTOR Arthur Penn
PRODUCER Warren Beatty
SCREENWRITERS Robert Benton, David Newman
“We rob banks!” Dunaway and Beatty star in this story of real-life 1930s bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, a film that mixed romance, adventure, glamour, comedy and violence in a way never seen before.

41) ADAM’S RIB
MGM, 1949
PRINCIPAL CAST Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday
DIRECTOR George Cukor
PRODUCER Lawrence Weingarten
SCREENWRITERS Ruth Gordon, Garson Kanin
Tracy and Hepburn star as married lawyers representing opposing sides of a controversial case about “the double standard.” The battle of the sexes blazes hilariously during the trial, and a gun made of licorice is the answer to their marital woes.

42) THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
United Artists, 1962
PRINCIPAL CAST Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury
DIRECTOR John Frankenheimer
PRODUCERS George Axelrod, John Frankenheimer
SCREENWRITER George Axelrod
An ex-Korean War POW is brainwashed by communists to become a political assassin. This paranoid cold-war thriller shocked audiences with its terrifying look at a Soviet sleeper/mole who can be triggered into action by simply playing a little solitaire.

43) CITY LIGHTS
United Artists, 1931
PRINCIPAL CAST Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill
DIRECTOR Charles Chaplin
PRODUCER Charles Chaplin
SCREENWRITER Charles Chaplin
This silent masterpiece was released three years after the start of talkies. In this Chaplin classic, the Little Tramp falls hopelessly in love with a blind flower seller, risking everything to gain money for her much-needed operation.

44) MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1947
PRINCIPAL CAST Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, Natalie Wood
DIRECTOR George Seaton
PRODUCER William Perlberg
SCREENWRITERS George Seaton, Valentine Davies
Gwenn is Kris Kringle in this yuletide classic of a Macy’s Santa Claus who insists he is the real McCoy. A young Natalie Wood is the skeptical little girl who learns to believe in her dreams.

45) THE FRENCH CONNECTION
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1971
PRINCIPAL CAST Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey
DIRECTOR William Friedkin
PRODUCER Philip D’Antoni
SCREENWRITER Ernest Tidyman
Hackman’s Popeye Doyle is based on a NYC cop who busted a heroin-smuggling
operation with a French connection. His character is in sharp contrast with that of his nemesis, the elegant and dapper Alain Charnier. They play a game of cat and mouse all over the Big Apple, culminating in one of the most gripping car chases on film.

46) PSYCHO
Paramount, 1960
PRINCIPAL CAST Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles
DIRECTOR Alfred Hitchcock
PRODUCER Alfred Hitchcock
SCREENWRITER Joseph Stefano
Leigh is on the lam with stolen money and makes the mistake of checking into the Bates Motel, run by Perkins…and his mother. Hitchcock’s horror film is best remembered for the shower scene and Bernard Herrmann’s chilling score.

47) GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.
Warner Bros., 2005
PRINCIPAL CAST David Strathairn, Robert Downey, Jr., George Clooney,
Frank Langella
DIRECTOR George Clooney
PRODUCER Grant Heslov
SCREENWRITERS George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Clooney directed this stylish black-and-white biopic of legendary Edward R. Murrow and his CBS news team, during their struggle with red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy during the communist scare of the 1950s. The film title comes from Murrow’s signature last words on every broadcast.

48) 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
MGM, 1968
PRINCIPAL CAST Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood
DIRECTOR Stanley Kubrick
PRODUCER Stanley Kubrick
SCREENWRITERS Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke
Kubrick’s science fiction epic puts mankind in context between ape and space voyager. The film created a stir for its special effects, the computer HAL, and the debate about the meaning of the film’s final sequence.

49) HIS GIRL FRIDAY
Columbia, 1940
PRINCIPAL CAST Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
DIRECTOR Howard Hawks
PRODUCER Howard Hawks
SCREENWRITER Charles Lederer
Give up the newspaper business for love and marriage? Hildy Johnson would love to, but her ex-husband, editor Walter Burns, can’t lose his ace reporter to a milquetoast. Overlapping dialogue and the speediest conversations on film twist the plot of Hecht and MacArthur’s The Front Page into a witty satire on love and life in the newsroom.

50) THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
RKO, 1946
PRINCIPAL CAST Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Teresa Wright, Dana Andrews,
Harold Russell
DIRECTOR William Wyler
PRODUCER Samuel Goldwyn
SCREENWRITER Robert E. Sherwood
Released immediately after the World War II, Wyler’s story of three men returning from war was the right film at the right time—mirroring the experiences of so many soldiers adjusting to a new life. Russell, a young vet who lost his hands, plays a man trying to figure out if he can pick up the pieces of his old life.

51) PLANET OF THE APES
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1968
PRINCIPAL CAST Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall
DIRECTOR Franklin J. Schaffner
PRODUCER Arthur P. Jacobs
SCREENWRITERS Michael Wilson, Rod Serling
Three astronauts crash after a long space flight, only to discover that apes rule their planet. Just as Heston is about to be lobotomized, he yells, “Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” The race is on in this science fiction thriller that takes Heston to the Forbidden Zone, where he discovers the awful truth about mankind.

52) CAT PEOPLE
RKO, 1942
PRINCIPAL CAST Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway
DIRECTOR Jacques Tourneur
PRODUCER Val Lewton
SCREENWRITER DeWitt Bodeen
In New York a young bride believes she carries a curse; if a man touches her she will turn into a panther and kill her prey—even the man she loves! The gripping low-budget horror movie left a great deal off the screen and much to the imagination of the audience.

53) CHINATOWN
Paramount, 1974
PRINCIPAL CAST Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
DIRECTOR Roman Polanski
PRODUCER Robert Evans
SCREENWRITER Robert Towne
An evocative score is the backdrop for 1930s Los Angeles. Nicholson is a private eye investigating the murder of Dunaway’s husband. But that’s just the tip of Towne’s unforgettable screenplay, where water rights, land deals and corruption clash with the unbearable secrets between a father and daughter on a lonely street in Chinatown. “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

54) DANCES WITH WOLVES
Orion, 1990
PRINCIPAL CAST Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
DIRECTOR Kevin Costner
PRODUCERS Kevin Costner, Jim Wilson
SCREENWRITER Michael Blake
Costner directs and stars in this lasting vision of the old West, where a disillusioned soldier leaves the Civil War and strikes out to the prairie on his own. After a difficult start, he learns to live, love, and respect the land when the Sioux Indians welcome him into their tribe.

55) DOUBLE INDEMNITY
Paramount, 1944
PRINCIPAL CAST Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson
DIRECTOR Billy Wilder
PRODUCER Joseph Sistrom
SCREENWRITERS Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler
Wilder’s searing adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel of duplicity and murder gave “nice guy” MacMurray a shot at film noir. He is the insurance agent seduced by Stanwyck into murdering her husband so that she can file an accident claim.

56) CITIZEN KANE
RKO, 1941
PRINCIPAL CAST Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore,
Agnes Moorehead
DIRECTOR Orson Welles
PRODUCER Orson Welles
SCREENWRITERS Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles
Welles broke all the rules and invented some new ones with his searing story of a newspaper publisher with an uncanny resemblance to William Randolph Hearst.

57) THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
Columbia, 1994
PRINCIPAL CAST Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman
DIRECTOR Frank Darabont
PRODUCER Niki Marvin
SCREENWRITER Frank Darabont
Banker Robbins is wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in a harsh Maine prison, which drips with corruption. His intelligence helps him gain the respect of his fellow inmates, including Freeman’s entrepreneurial “Red,” while secretly devising a plan to escape.

58) MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
Columbia, 1939
PRINCIPAL CAST James Stewart, Claude Rains, Jean Arthur
DIRECTOR Frank Capra
PRODUCER Frank Capra
SCREENWRITERS Sidney Buchman, Lewis R. Foster
Appointed to the US Senate because the power brokers believe they’ve got a hayseed on their hands, Jefferson Smith surprises everyone with his honesty and gravitas. Framed by the political machine that cleverly twists the truth, Smith almost waves a white flag, but Clarissa Saunders gives him a fast lesson in civics. Filibuster!!!

59) THE HUSTLER
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1961
PRINCIPAL CAST Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, Piper Laurie
DIRECTOR Robert Rossen
PRODUCER Robert Rossen
SCREENWRITERS Sidney Carroll, Robert Rossen
Newman is a top-notch pool hustler who gets cocky and challenges Gleason’s Minnesota Fats to the match of his life.

60) GHOSTBUSTERS
Columbia, 1984
PRINCIPAL CAST Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis
DIRECTOR Ivan Reitman
PRODUCER Ivan Reitman
SCREENWRITERS Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
As paranormal happenings strike a Big Apple apartment, three screwball scientists take on Satan, poltergeists, and every other apparition in the known and unknown world. “He slimed me!”

61) WITNESS
Paramount, 1985
PRINCIPAL CAST Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas
DIRECTOR Peter Weir
PRODUCER Edward S. Feldman
SCREENWRITERS William Kelley, Earl W. Wallace
Ford is John Book, a Philadelphia cop goes into hiding to protect himself and a young Amish boy who witnesses a murder tied to police corruption. These worlds collide when Ford falls in love with the boy’s widowed mother. The Amish barnraising segment highlights Weir’s look at a tiny community isolated within the larger world.

62) SPIDER-MAN 2
Columbia, 2004
PRINCIPAL CAST Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina
DIRECTOR Sam Raimi
PRODUCERS Avi Arad, Laura Ziskin
SCREENWRITER Alvin Sargent
Being a superhero is anything but easy! It’s a taking a toll on Peter Parker’s civilian life. Time to hang up the suit until Doctor Octopus, the menacing villain with four mechanical tentacles, makes the young hero accept his calling.

63) 42ND STREET
Warner Bros., 1933
PRINCIPAL CAST Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell
DIRECTOR Lloyd Bacon
PRODUCERS Hal B. Wallis, Darryl F. Zanuck
SCREENWRITERS Rian James, James Seymour
This quintessential backstage musical stars Keeler as the girl whose career begins when she stands in for the leading lady (“You’re going out there a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”), and saves the show from closing. It was the first film to feature choreographer Busby Berkeley’s dizzying overhead shots of dancers in kaleidoscopic patterns.

64) THE APARTMENT
United Artists, 1960
PRINCIPAL CAST Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray,
Jack Kruschen
DIRECTOR Billy Wilder
PRODUCER Billy Wilder
SCREENWRITERS I.A.L. Diamond, Billy Wilder
Wilder’s wry take on corporate America skewers the climb through the bedroom to the boardroom. Lemmon is a career-climbing executive who offers his boss’ the use of his apartment for an extra-marital fling. His foolproof plan falls apart when he falls in love with his boss’s girlfriend. “That’s the way it crumbles, cookie-wise!”

65) THE LAST PICTURE SHOW
Columbia, 1971
PRINCIPAL CAST Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson
DIRECTOR Peter Bogdanovich
PRODUCER Stephen J. Friedman
SCREENWRITERS Peter Bodganovich, Larry McMurtry
The closing of a movie theatre in a small Texas town during the 1950s marks the changes that face a group of young people coming of age.

66) HOTEL RWANDA
United Artists, 2005
PRINCIPAL CAST Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte
DIRECTOR Terry George
PRODUCERS Terry George, A. Kitman Ho
SCREENWRITERS Keir Pearson, Terry George
Hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina winds up saving over a thousand Tutsis from certain death while the Hutu population ravages Rwanda. Based on the true-life story of this ordinary man, the film brilliantly portrays a genocide largely ignored by the rest of the world.

67) THE GODFATHER PART II
Paramount, 1974
PRINCIPAL CAST Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire
DIRECTOR Francis Ford Coppola
PRODUCER Francis Ford Coppola
SCREENWRITERS Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo
This sequel to THE GODFATHER shows us the world of the Corleones before and after the events shown in the first film, with new godfather Michael struggling to bring his family into the modern age. In the film’s extended flashback sequences, De Niro is the young Vito as he gains power in the New York City mafia.

68) ROSEMARY ’S BABY
Paramount, 1968
PRINCIPAL CAST Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon
DIRECTOR Roman Polanski
PRODUCER William Castle
SCREENWRITER Roman Polanski
Farrow is a young wife who becomes pregnant and slowly learns to her horror that her husband is involved with a group of people who worship the forces of darkness. Pray for Rosemary’s baby.

69) TOY STORY
Disney, 1995
PRINCIPAL CAST Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Annie Potts (voices)
DIRECTOR John Lasseter
PRODUCERS Ralph J. Guggenhein, Bonnie Arnold
SCREENWRITERS Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow
Groundbreaking computer animation creates the world of Woody, a toy cowboy who suddenly finds himself as the second-favorite toy. Replaced by the newer and very high tech, but doltish, Buzz Lightyear, Woody gets accused of killing Buzz by tossing him out the window. It’s a race to get him back. “To infinity and beyond!”

70) THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
United Artists, 1957
PRINCIPAL CAST Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Barbara Nichols
DIRECTOR Alexander Mackendrick
PRODUCER James Hill
SCREENWRITERS Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman
James Wong Howe’s masterful black-and-white cinematography casts a low light on the cynical and seamy side of New York’s press agents and the deals they make with the devil, just to get a bit in J.J. Hunsecker’s column. Lehman and Odets’ barbs still pack a punch: “I’d hate to take a bite outta you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”

71) SIDEWAYS
Twentieth Century-Fox, 2004
PRINCIPAL CAST Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Viginia Madsen,
Sandra Oh
DIRECTOR Alexander Payne
PRODUCER Michael London
SCREENWRITERS Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Two middle-aged guys who don’t believe they’ve accomplished much head to Central California’s wine country and discover a lot more about themselves and love than they ever imagined. Like a fine wine, they continuously evolve, because they’re alive.

72) CHARIOTS OF FIRE
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1981
PRINCIPAL CAST Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Ian Holm
DIRECTOR Hugh Hudson
PRODUCER David Puttnam
SCREENWRITER Colin Welland
Based on the true story of two English Olympic competitors in 1924. One is a Scottish missionary who runs for God, the other, a Jew who runs for acknowledgment and acceptance. Vangelis’s groud-breaking electronic soundtrack underscored the runners’ passions.

73) McCABE AND MRS. MILLER
Warner Bros., 1971
PRINCIPAL CAST Warren Beatty, Julie Christie
DIRECTOR Robert Altman
PRODUCERS Mitchell Brower, David Foster
SCREENWRITERS Robert Altman, Brian McKay
Altman’s anti-Western disassembles many of the myths of the West created by American film. Beatty, a gambling gunfighter, uses his winnings to open a brothel with the help of Christie’s shrewd hooker.

74) DIE HARD
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1988
PRINCIPAL CAST Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia
DIRECTOR John McTiernan
PRODUCERS Joel Silver, Lawrence Gordon
SCREENWRITERS Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza
Willis, a New York City cop who is hoping to reconcile with his estranged wife, is an unexpected guest at a Los Angeles high-rise office party when terrorists take over. Rickman’s intellectual madman matches wits with Willis’ scrappy cop in this stunt spectacular.

75) TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT
Warner Bros., 1944
PRINCIPAL CAST Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan
DIRECTOR Howard Hawks
PRODUCER Howard Hawks
SCREENWRITERS Jules Furthman, William Faulkner
In their first film together, Bacall instructs Bogart on how to whistle in this Ernest Hemingway-based story of intrigue on the island of Martinique during World War II.

76) THE USUAL SUSPECTS
PolyGram, 1995
PRINCIPAL CAST Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri,
Kevin Pollak, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Spacey
DIRECTOR Bryan Singer
PRODUCERS Michael McDonnell, Bryan Singer
SCREENWRITER Christopher McQuarrie
A non-linear, complicated, neo-noir is told through flashback by Verbal Kint, the
only survivor of a waterfront explosion that produced 27 bodies and a mystery
surrounding millions of dollars of cocaine. But who was the mastermind, and what
truths and half-truths are Verbal shelling out to the cops? “You think you can catch
Keyser Soze?”

77) PLATOON
Orion, 1986
PRINCIPAL CAST Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe
DIRECTOR Oliver Stone
PRODUCER Arnold Kopelson
SCREENWRITER Oliver Stone
Based on Stone’s own experiences as a grunt in Vietnam, Sheen is a young man from a privileged background who suddenly finds himself stuck between two officers with opposing ideas of right and wrong in a war filled with uncertainties. The conflict within a conflict results in the massacre of a village.

78) HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
Warner Bros., 2004
PRINCIPAL CAST Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman
DIRECTOR Alfonso CuarĂ³n
PRODUCERS Chris Columbus, David Heyman, Mark Radcliffe
SCREENWRITER Steven Kloves
After three years at Hogwarts, Harry has more serious problems than practicing magic outside of school—a serial killer is on the loose and headed straight for Harry. A past connection to the young wizard must be figured out before he’s done in!

79) THE LONGEST DAY
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1962
PRINCIPAL CAST John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda
DIRECTORS Andrew Marton, Ken Annakin, Bernhard Wicki
PRODUCER Darryl F. Zanuck
SCREENWRITER Cornelius Ryan
Zanuck’s epic, star-studded account of the D-Day invasion is told from both the Allies’ and Germans’ point of view. The documentary-style black-and-white cinematography set the tone for an unrelenting look at the storming of Normandy.

80) MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN
Columbia, 1936
PRINCIPAL CAST Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur
DIRECTOR Frank Capra
PRODUCER Frank Capra
SCREENWRITER Robert Riskin
Simple New Englander Cooper inherits a fortune and moves to New York. Ambitious reporter Arthur makes him front-page news and the laughing stock of the city. His sanity is questioned after he gives his millions away to those who need it, and the reporter comes to her senses when she realizes Mr. Deeds is the real thing.

81) MODERN TIMES
United Artists, 1936
PRINCIPAL CAST Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard
DIRECTOR Charles Chaplin
PRODUCER Charles Chaplin
SCREENWRITER Charles Chaplin
Chaplin speaks! And ends the silent era with this film about a little man working on an assembly line, who is literally caught in the hub of an industrialized society, and after several trips to the hospital and jail, ultimately finds happiness with a kindred soul.

82) DRIVING MISS DAISY
Warner Bros., 1989
PRINCIPAL CAST Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, Dan Aykroyd
DIRECTOR Bruce Beresford
PRODUCERS Lili Fini Zanuck, Richard D. Zanuck
SCREENWRITER Alfred Uhry
Tandy is a stubborn old Southern woman, and Freeman is her resilient chauffeur. The film chronicles their 25 years together as differences dissolve, friendship grows and respect blossoms. Uhry adapted the film from his Pulitzer-Prize winning play.

83) THE GREAT ESCAPE
United Artists, 1963
PRINCIPAL CAST Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough,
Donald Pleasence, Charles Bronson, James Coburn
DIRECTOR John Sturges
PRODUCER John Sturges
SCREENWRITERS James Clavell, W. R. Burnett
Allied POWs locked up in an “escape-proof” German prison camp do the unthinkable and dig a tunnel to freedom. Now they must outwit the citizenry in order to avoid capture. McQueen’s “Cooler King” and his motorcycle ride across the countryside highlight this film.

84) THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1951
PRINCIPAL CAST Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal
DIRECTOR Robert Wise
PRODUCER Julian Blaustein
SCREENWRITER Edmund H. North
Science fiction meets social commentary when a space ship lands in the center of Washington, DC. Klaatu warns Earthlings to end all things nuclear, but his arrival causes a panic and he’s shot. Gort, his robot companion, vaporizes the guns. The film broke new ground in visual effects and influenced a generation of filmmakers.

85) BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1969
PRINCIPAL CAST Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross
DIRECTOR George Roy Hill
PRODUCERS Paul Monash, John Foreman
SCREENWRITER William Goldman
The chemistry of Newman and Redford redefined the buddy movie. Goldman’s script follows Butch and Sundance as they rob banks from the Old West all the way to Bolivia, making heroes out of anti-heroes. The movie’s key song Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head is a fun counterpart to the actual plight of our friends.

86) GOLDFINGER
United Artists, 1964
PRINCIPAL CAST Sean Connery, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman
DIRECTOR Guy Hamilton
PRODUCERS Harry Saltzman, Albert R. Broccoli
SCREENWRITERS Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn
The third film in the James Bond series finds Connery trying to stop Auric Goldfinger, “the man with the Midas touch,” from contaminating the United States’ gold supply in Fort Knox. In Bond’s way, however, are the villains Oddjob and Pussy Galore.

87) BIG
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1988
PRINCIPAL CAST Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins
DIRECTOR Penny Marshall
PRODUCERS James L. Brooks, Robert Greenhut
SCREENWRITERS Gary Ross, Anne Spielberg
A little boy’s wish comes true and he wakes up big! But there’s still a boy inside that man’s body and he can’t quite navigate the world of grownups. Hanks and Loggia’s piano dance to Heart and Soul is one of the highlights in Marshall’s poignant comedy that proves the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”

88) ALL ABOUT EVE
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1950
PRINCIPAL CAST Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Gary Merrill
DIRECTOR Joseph L. Mankiewicz
PRODUCER Darryl F. Zanuck
SCREENWRITER Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Vanity almost gets the best of aging actress Davis when a ruthless young hopeful worms her way into all aspects of her life. Mankiewicz’s biting script of ambition and betrayal in the New York theatre gave Davis her best role in years and some of her most memorable lines: “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night!”

89) THE EXORCIST
Warner Bros., 1973
PRINCIPAL CAST Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller
DIRECTOR William Friedkin
PRODUCER William Peter Blatty
SCREENWRITER William Peter Blatty
Blain is Regan, a young girl possessed by Satan. Her mother, Burstyn, summons the help of a priest who tries to save the girl while confronting his own private demons. A landmark film that spawned a new generation of horror movies.

90) A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Warner Bros., 1971
PRINCIPAL CAST Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri,
Warren Clarke
DIRECTOR Stanley Kubrick
PRODUCER Stanley Kubrick
SCREENWRITER Stanley Kubrick
Alex and his “droogs” terrorize the back alleys of London in this dark satire based on Anthony Burgess’ stunning novel. After his capture and incarceration, an experimental aversion therapy seems to have “cured” Alex for good, but not in the expected manner, as it includes Beethoven’s “gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh!”

91) FRANKENSTEIN
Universal, 1931
PRINCIPAL CAST Boris Karloff, Colin Clive
DIRECTOR James Whale
PRODUCER Carl Laemmle, Jr.
SCREENWRITERS Garrett Fort, Francis Edward Faragoh
Dr. Frankenstein is obsessed with creating a man from parts of dead people. “It’s alive. It’s alive.” But the creature’s grotesque looks and strange manner cause him to be mistaken for a monster. Whale’s movie ushered in a new era of horror films, and Karloff was stuck with the image of the monster for the rest of his career.

92) DAYS OF HEAVEN
Paramount, 1978
PRINCIPAL CAST Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard
DIRECTOR Terrence Malick
PRODUCERS Bert Schneider, Harold Schneider
SCREENWRITER Terrence Malick
Gere and Adams are lovers who escape the big city and begin a new life as workers in a Texas wheat field. When a love triangle with the farm owner Shepard is revealed, apocalyptic events bring tragedy to their idyllic world. Nestor Alemendros’ cinematography is a towering achievement.

93) THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
Orion, 1991
PRINCIPAL CAST Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins
DIRECTOR Jonathan Demme
PRODUCERS Edward Saxton, Kenneth Utt, Ronald M. Bozman
SCREENWRITER Ted Tally
“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti,” hisses Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant serial killer engaged by Foster’s FBI agent in an effort to capture another killer on the loose.

94) WHITE HEAT
Warner Bros., 1949
PRINCIPAL CAST James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien,
Margaret Wycherly
DIRECTOR Raoul Walsh
PRODUCER Louis F. Edelman
SCREENWRITERS Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts
Cagney made an unparalleled comeback as vicious gangleader Cody Jarrett. The Freudian melodrama is highlighted by Cagney’s crazed reaction to his mother’s death and his own fiery demise: “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”

95) TROUBLE IN PARADISE
Paramount, 1932
PRINCIPAL CAST Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall
DIRECTOR Ernst Lubitsch
PRODUCER Ernst Lubitsch
SCREENWRITERS Samson Raphaelson, Grover Jones
This sophisticated comedy exemplifies the famous “Lubitsch Touch” as two jewel thieves’ relationship is threatened when one is tempted by a beautiful wealthy woman.

96) ON GOLDEN POND
Universal, 1981
PRINCIPAL CAST Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda
DIRECTOR Mark Rydell
PRODUCERS Terry Carr, Bruce Gilbert
SCREENWRITER Ernest Thompson
The Thayer family’s annual visit to their lakeside cottage in New England is fraught with tension, confrontations, and some peace just as Norman celebrates his 80th birthday. Fear of aging, and a daughter’s desperate need for approval gently collide as the loons linger nearby. “You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it.”

97) THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Twentieth Century-Fox, 1965
PRINCIPAL CAST Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Peggy Wood
DIRECTOR Robert Wise
PRODUCER Robert Wise
SCREENWRITER Ernest Lehman
Andrews is Maria, a nun who becomes governess to the Von Trapp family in this film adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical. Maria falls in love with the children and their handsome widowed father just as Austria is being annexed by the Nazis. The film’s songs include the title song, Do-Re-Mi and Climb Every Mountain.

98) NETWORK
United Artists, 1976
PRINCIPAL CAST Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch
DIRECTOR Sidney Lumet
PRODUCER Howard Gottfried
SCREENWRITER Paddy Chayefsky
Low ratings make for angry shareholders and veteran news anchorman Howard Beale takes the fall. But his rant, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” suddenly changes the picture and the lives of everyone at fourth-place UBS.

99) DESTRY RIDES AGAIN
Universal, 1939
PRINCIPAL CAST Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart
DIRECTOR George Marshall
PRODUCERS Joe Pasternak, Islin Auster
SCREENWRITERS Felix Jackson, Gertrude Purcell, Henry Myers
In a western town, peace-loving sheriff Stewart combats lawlessness with homilies along with some help from saloon singer Dietrich, who rallies the town’s womenfolk to take up their rolling pins in his support. The film’s See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have became Dietrich’s signature songs.

100) ATLANTIC CITY
Paramount, 1980
PRINCIPAL CAST Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon
DIRECTOR Louis Malle
PRODUCER Denis Heroux
SCREENWRITER John Guare
Parallel stories in this potent character study of an aging gangster and a young woman with dreams rooted in the image of the city’s past. Their worlds collide when they find themselves chased by an unglamorous, modern-day mob.

James Bond's Recipe for Scrambled Eggs

Inspired by my love of the James Bond film Casino Royale, I decided to return to Ian Fleming's original novels. Several years back I had read the final three books in the series, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, and The Man with the Golden Gun, because I knew he got married in the first of these three, and I was eager to see the character "humanized." The first of these was a great book. The others were mediocre, so I stopped reading them.

Since Daniel Craig's fun debut film as Bond was based on the first novel, I thought I'd finally act like a normal person and read the series from the beginning. So I read Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, and a few short stories - Risico, Quantum of Solace, For Your Eyes Only, and 007 in New York.

I have a series of impressions I'd like to share with you.

Casino Royale is a great book. I don't know what I think of Live and Let Die. It is on balance good but I have big problems with it. (More on that later.) I like Risico and For Your Eyes Only and The Living Daylights.

However on the whole the books and short stories are great and awful at the same time. They are astonishingly racist, sexist, and anti-American, even if you expect such things from James Bond ... as any one who has seen the movies would expect. However, the books reveal an interesting perspective on the Cold War era and have some very suspenseful and entertaining bits. They can be great fun, like the best comic books and westerns. Male escapism at its height.

Action aside, the best best parts of the books are the odd character bits and gratuitous editorializing that blurs the line between Fleming and his character, making readers wonder where Bond stops and Fleming begins. These little passages are, in effect, the only escape from the plot, which (given the fact that the books are all moderately short) usually pushes the action forward to the point that the narrative is soon revealed to be fairly ... thin?

These fairly regular editorial passages seeded throughout the books - often about what makes Japan interesting, how to serve a martini properly, what's wrong with American foreign policy - can be some of the worst parts of the books as well as some of the best ... especially when Fleming's prejudices rear their ugly heads in a way that is fascinating only as a study in the character flaws of the author. For example, sometimes Fleming describes ethnic types and social classes in insightful and revealing manners. During other times, however, his descriptions border on minstrel-show prejudice and can be at least annoying, if not VERY offensive.

Here are a few examples of what Fleming has to say about Italians, Americans, and African-Americans:

a) Fleming has fun describing the exaggerated speech and mannerisms of Italians and Italian-Americans. It is often appealing and affectionate, despite being stereotypical. In For Your Eyes Only, Bond befriends and Italian gangster named Columbo (who is played in the movie version by Topol). Here's a descriptive bit from the book in which Columbo demonstrates some of the same personality traits that I often display, including boisterousness, public displays of affection, and chest-pounding:

'[Bond] turned to find Columbo approaching him. The fat man was grinning delightedly. He came up to Bond and, to Bond's horror, threw open his arms, clutched Bond to him, and kissed him on both cheeks.

Bond said: "For God's sake, Columbo."

Columbo roared with laughter. "Ah, the quiet Englishman! He fears nothing save the emotions. But me," he hit himself in the chest, "me, Enrico Columbo, loves this man and he is not ashamed to say so.'"

Those who know me would agree that I've acted like this on many occasions. As my friend Griffin would say on such occasions, "Marc, I'm Irish. Don't hug me. Shake my hand." I found this passage endearing.

b) Fleming talks smack about Americans a lot. He criticizes them for having lousy food, overly luxurious cars, and a minimal vocabulary, among other flaws. As Bond observes in For Your Eyes Only, "You can get far in North America with laconic grunts. 'Huh?' 'Hmmm...' and 'Hi!' in their various modulations, together with 'sure,' 'guess so,' 'that so?' and 'crap!' will meet almost any contingency."

Funny. True to a large degree. But tiresome after several consecutive books. As a recent article (either in The Atlantic or the New Yorker ... I forget) "James Bond: Anti-American" reported, the American Agent Felix Leiter is a nice character who exists primarily to show how incompetent Americans are and how much they need British help.

c) The movie Live and Let Die is far less racist than the book, but still makes me a bit uncomfortable. (The book is replete with racist moments, but the one that bothered me the most was Solitaire, descendant of a French slave owner, noting that she was rarely upset whenever she coaxed the black gangster Mr. Big into killing people because "very few of them were white." Shudder.)

- The sexism of the books is legendary. Of course, if one assumes that the books represent escapism for men, this is to be understood to an extent. The books cross the line, but they are admittedly titillating when they are not frustrating for running down women too much. The sex scenes in the books, short as they are, are far better than the lousy sex scenes in the movies, which generate no heat whatsoever. Also, Fleming is very good at describing every inch of a woman's body in a way that is enticing. Still, the passages do objectify and fetishize the women in a way that most women would find offensive (and that I do too ... when I'm not being enticed by them... sorry...)

- In the books, Vesper mentions that James Bond reminds her of Hoagy Carmichael. Bond disagrees. I popped in my DVD of The Best Years of Our Lives and took another look at Hoagy. He's a good look for Bond, which means that Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan look the most like the character was originally designed to look. I also remember hearing that James Stewart was Fleming's first choice for Bond, followed by Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra. However, he reportedly loved Sean Connery in the part.

In the novel, Bond has black hair, a Superman-like spit curl in front of his forehead, a scar on his cheek, and beautiful blue eyes that undercut the overall look of his face, which is revealed to be little more than a "mask of cruelty" when he sleeps.

- This is the funny bit: James Bond spends an amazing amount of time talking about food. Bond even informs the readers two of his favorite recipes:

1) Bond's Dry Martini: The Vesper (from Casino Royale)

Three measures of Gordon's
one of vodka
half a measure of Kina Lillet
Shake it very well until it's ice cold, then add a large slice of lemon peel.

And here's my favorite:

2) James Bond's Scrambled Eggs (From 007 in New York, page 128, Penguin Books 2002)

(serves four 'individualists')

"12 fresh eggs
salt and pepper
5-6 oz. fresh butter.

Break the eggs into a bowl. Beat thoroughly with a fork and season well. In a small copper (or heavy-bottomed saucepan) melt four oz. of the butter. When melted, pour in the eggs and cook over a very low heat, whisking continuously with a small egg whisk. While the eggs are slightly more moist than you would wish for eating, remove pan from heat, add rest of butter, and continue whisking for half a minute, adding the while finely chopped chives or fine herbs. Serve on hot buttered toast in individual copper dishes (for appearance only) with pink champagne (Taittainger) and low music."

WHAT?!?!? And my friends think I'm effete? They should check out how finicky James Bond is about his scrambled eggs and leave me alone.

- The best things the movies have over the books is the inclusion of beautiful location shooting in India, Russia, Venice, and a variety of lovely countries. The books seem to confine themselves to Britain, Jamaica, and a handful of other places, and the action is largely confined to Bond's hotel rooms, where he has lots of sex and eats lots of scrambled eggs. So the movies best the books in terms of visual pleasure. Beautiful locales as well as beautiful women ... that make you want to see the world.

- There are something like 23 James Bond movies. Here are the good ones, from great to very good:

1) From Russia With Love (Sean Connery)
2) Casino Royale (Daniel Craig)
3) The World is Not Enough (Pierce Brosnan)
4) Goldeneye (Pierce Brosnan)
5) Goldfinger (Sean Connery)
6) Dr. No (Sean Connery)
7)  The Man with the Golden Gun (Roger Moore)
8) The Spy Who Loved Me (Roger Moore)
9) *tie* Live and Let Die and Octopussy (Roger Moore)
10) The Living Daylights (Timothy Dalton)

Just my opinion. There are some good and mediocre ones I didn't mention. Diamonds are Forever has some good moments, despite some obnoxious gay-bashing. If For Your Eyes Only were a half hour shorter it would be wonderful. As it is, it is ... good.

These are the Bond films I really frickin' hate:
Quantum of Solace
You Only Live Twice
Tomorrow Never Dies
Die Another Day
Never Say Never Again
A View to a Kill
Moonraker
(sadly, this has one of the prettiest and most interesting Bond women, Dr. Goodhead, who is pictured just below.)

IMHO...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Unforgiven (1960)

Directed by John Huston

Written by Ben Maddow and Alan LeMay 

Starring Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn.


I can't figure it out. Why does everyone love The Searchers? John Wayne's young sidekick in that film, and his absurd romance, sink the Western classic like a stone. The Unforgiven, which deals with a number of the same issues that The Searchers confronts - racism, kidnapping, mass slaughter, etc. - treats them with greater seriousness and dramatic effect.

I think it helps that Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn are better actors than John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter, but the script and the directing is better here, as well.

There's wonderful moral ambiguity to The Unforgiven, an ambiguity which was obviously built into the story from the beginning ... so we need not pat ourselves on the back by rooting for the Indians in this one and thinking of ourselves as so much wiser than the filmmakers. When a lot of Kiowa get killed during the course of the film it is unsettling, partly because one thinks in real life that their fighting tactics would be better, but mostly because it is upsetting to see so much bloodshed.

There are better westerns than this film - Open Range, Valdez is Coming, Destry Rides Again, The Long Riders, The Cowboys - but that doesn't stop The Unforgiven from being a first-rate movie filled with suspense and fascinating characters.

And I like this film a heckuva lot better than that other Unforgiven with Clint Eastwood, to boot.

But there I go slaying another sacred cow of the Western genre.

Jennifer's Body (2009)

Directed by Karyn Kusama
Written by Diablo Cody
Starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried

I have a soft-spot for brave-but-flawed movies that are rewarded for their efforts with Worst Movie of the Year awards. Jennifer's Body has its problems, but it is one of the best mainstream films of last year, not one of the weakest. At some points, the film is brilliant. At others, it is offensive and silly. But it is always interesting and provocative - the cutting-edge work of a team of passionate female filmmakers daring to make a movie in an industry dominated by men.

As a rape-revenge horror-comedy film, Jennifer's Body is an odd amalgam of Juno, Rosemary's Baby, I Spit on Your Grave, Prime Cut, The Craft, and Fahrenheit 9/11. It has an odd mix of influences, to be sure, but the director's oddball vision is wonderfully explained in one of the best interviews I have ever read with a filmmaker.

Still... let's be honest. What is the target audience of this film? Nobody.

Generally speaking, women who are hostile to Megan Fox as the overnight star sex symbol from the Transformers films are unlikely to embrace her as a tragic wronged woman anti-hero. And the feminist critics of Bitch Magazine understandably felt that the use of humor in Jennifer's Body was often inappropriate, especially considering that the conflict's "initiating incident" is the ritual murder of an innocent teenage girl, depicted symbolically as a gang rape.

In contrast, the readership of Maxim is hot for Megan Fox but would prefer to fantasize about her body without contemplating what it would be like to be disemboweled by her if they dared to touch her.

So no wonder Jennifer's Body didn't clean up at the box office.

But I like it. As much as the Bitch Magazine critics doubt Jennifer's Body's feminist street cred, I believe that it is unflinching in its portrayal of masculine evil and is suitably sympathetic to Jennifer as a Greco-Roman "Fury." Hence, my disappointment that more women did not embrace the film.

And Jennifer isn't the bad guy. Not really. The real villains of the movie are several twenty-something males in an evil rock band. Failing to find fame after years of playing bars across the country, the band members achieve nationwide success by making two major sacrifices to Satan, first by burning down a small town pub and killing all the patrons and, secondly, by ritually sacrificing Jennifer (Megan Fox), a sexy young girl whom they wrongly believe to be a virgin. The spell works, and the rapist-murderers go on a nationwide tour with a hit single that, hypocritically, pays tribute to the bar patrons whom they themselves are responsible for killing.

Meanwhile, Jennifer returns from the dead, possessed by the spirit of a succubus, and has an insatiable desire for human blood. She chooses as her targets all of the boys in her high school, indiscriminately killing jocks, Goths, nerds, and preps. Interestingly, all of her victims are arguably sympathetic, and the film suggests that Jennifer is taking a form of revenge on all the wrong people. These boys didn't hurt her. The band members did.

And yet, Jennifer's Body seems very uneasy about masculine sexuality, and suggests that there is something fundamentally horrifying about the male libido. Consequently, Jennifer may well be "correct" to punish the lustful feelings of even gentlemanly and inhibited young men. This is an interesting reversal of viewer expectations. Based on the poster and the title, one might expect Jennifer's vagina dentara to be the main source of revulsion in this particular horror film. No. As it turns out, the real horror show here is male lust. Whether that makes the film feminist is, of course, up for debate. Bitch Magazine votes a resounding "no." I kinda say, "yes."

If Jennifer is the film's anti-hero, the heroine of the film is the poorly named character "Needy" (Amanda Seyfried). She is sympathetic to Jennifer's pain, and shares her desire for revenge against the touring band members, but she cannot stomach Jennifer killing innocent boys.

An amusing line from the coming attraction, that was sadly cut from the theatrical print of the film, has Needy yell at Jennifer, "You're killing people!" And Jennifer wryly rejoins, "No, I'm killing boys." Jennifer may be a succubus, but it is the humanity of boys that is really in question here.

That is a funny line, and goes far to justify the presence of the comedy elements, even when they sometimes mix uncomfortably with the horror and the drama. Sadly, since its target is men, this joke was dropped. And, unsurprisingly and unfortunately, jokes at women's expense, concerning "gusher" periods and exclamations of "Ow! My tit!" sadly remain in the film, unfunny and drama-killing as they are.

Needy's emotions throughout the film are complex. She is Jennifer's friend. She is attracted to Jennifer. She hates Jennifer. She is jealous of Jennifer. She is protective of Jennifer. Much of this works. Some of it falls a little flat. But her main concern is not so much that Jennifer is seeking revenge for her rape and murder. She just wants Jennifer to avenge herself on the right men.

The humor and the horror in Jennifer's Body are designed to make the viewer uncomfortable. Much like Hard Candy, this is not a fun viewing experience. In some ways, it is like the 1970s crime film Prime Cut. That movie features scenes of naked, doped-up prostitutes being auctioned off like prize cattle to rich male buyers, and cross-cuts between sides of beef being processed in a food plant and shots of men sizing up the breasts and thighs of hog-tied women. The message is unsubtle and stomach churning. It also makes one take a hard look at how sexist American society remains to this day.

Jennifer's Body confronts its audience with similar uncomfortable questions, centered around the perfectly cast lead, Megan Fox, who happens to be the sex symbol du jour. The Marilyn Monroe of the 21st century. And we all remember what fate befell Marilyn Monroe. Hopefully, Megan Fox won't be found dead and naked, too, in a few years...

Jennifer's Body inspires viewers to consider the questions: what do I think of Megan Fox? Am I jealous of her? Do I want her? Do I have no respect for her? Am I at all interested in acknowledging that she is a human being? Or is her body all that really matters in the end? Should her soul be damned, for all we care?

Is that what we think of her?

Is this what we think of pretty, sexy women?

Is this what we think of women?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wolf (1994)

Directed by Mike Nichols.

Written by Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick.

Starring Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Kate Nelligan, and Christopher Plummer

There's a scene in Wolf when Jack Nicholson's character has a dizzy spell while at a swanky party, falters, and accidentally places his hands on Michelle Pfeiffer's breasts when he is trying to steady himself. Embarrassed, he tears his hands away and apologizes to this woman he has just met, telling her that she's perfectly safe being alone with him because he's a married man. She smirks and says, "You're married? And that makes you perfectly safe to be around?" Nicholson looks confused and hurt. "Why ... yes." This is the moment when Pfeiffer begins to wonder if she really is dealing with a genuinely nice man, and not a lecherous wolf. By the end of the scene, she declares him "the last civilized man."

The irony is, Nicholson's character, Will Randall, has recently been bitten by a werewolf and he is slowly becoming one himself.

The further irony is, even as a werewolf, with heightened levels of testosterone, super hearing and strength, and an elevated libido, Will Randall is still nicer and more civilized than every other character in the film - except perhaps Michelle Pfeiffer, who is bitter that she is the daughter of a rich, corrupt man, but is capable of great love and compassion.

Provocatively, Wolf presents the America of the 1990s as a corporate wasteland filled with Machiavellian businessmen and ambitious toadies. It is a world where the institution of marriage has degenerated to the point where Loreena Bobbit has become a folk hero for cutting off her husband's penis, where political discourse has degenerated into bumper sticker slogan wars, and where art and literature have been replaced by "popular culture." This world is not much different than the one director Mike Nichols has visited in his other films, The Graduate, Primary Colors, Working Girl, and Wit. Here, as in many of those films, American society is sterile and insane, and the only way for anyone to truly survive as anything but an automaton is to either find a way to subvert the system from within or flee from it for your very life.

Nicholson's Will Randall's approach for much of the film is to fight the system from within. He is waging a one-man war against this wasteland of a culture, trying to hold on to his own sense of good taste and a strong code of ethics. This approach gets him fired from his job as an executive at a major publishing company. But when Randall gets in touch with his newfound inner power, "the analog of the wolf," he is recharged and finds himself ready for a rematch against his old enemies - the ones that wrongfully assumed they had beaten the fight out of him. As a fundamentally "nice" character, Will Randall figure is not the usual role for Jack Nicholson. But he is a welcome change of pace for an actor who usually plays tough and off-centered. And when Randall finally starts to get the upper hand against the creeps who have been giving him grief the whole time, the film starts to become immensely satisfying.

I have loved Wolf for years and I am glad to see that this "thinking person's horror flick" is finally getting its due in select reviews on the Internet Movie Database, and in retrospectives of werewolf films of the past in newspaper articles related to 2010's Wolfman remake. The greatness of Wolf is that it dares to examine the bitter conflict between idealism and cynicism in modern society within the context of the classic werewolf story. The result is a creative, thought-provoking film with superb acting and fascinating characterization.

As a horror fan, I always appreciate seeing a genre film that boasts intelligence and does not scare its audience away with excessive violence. Some critics have complained that the same story could have been told with greater emotional impact had the werewolf action been excised, but I disagree. The physical transformations are symbolic of the psychological theme of the story - that our civilization has become so corrupt and inhuman that the only way to reclaim our souls is to return to nature.

While I enjoy the werewolf movies featuring Lawrence Talbot, the kindly man who is cursed to lose his soul whenever he turns into a werewolf, his story is a deeply depressing one - even when one celebrates the fact that he was eventually cured in the classic monsterfest House of Dracula. The Talbot story arc is so depressing because, like other werewolf films (Curse of the Werewolf, Bad Moon), it hints that men really are savage wolves deep down, and will never be capable of controlling their baser instincts - the desire to murder other men and to rape women. They will only ever be the Wolf from the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.

In contrast, the film Wolf takes a refreshing and startlingly different approach to the werewolf subject matter. Like recent Little Red Riding Hoods that have reimagined the heroine as a survivor instead of a victim, Wolf recasts the Big Bad Wolf as a good guy. The film offers hope for men, that they may be able to find a way to champion their own baser animal instincts, while still holding on to all that is good about being a man. Yes, there is a danger that Nicholson's character will be corrupted by his newfound power, but he is at heart, a good and civilized person. So he really isn't the one Pfeiffer has to worry about. He's the good Wolf to her Little Red Riding Hood.

It is the other wolf in the film that she needs to worry about...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Little Red Riding Hood (1997)


Written and directed by David Kaplan. Starring Christina Ricci.

An erotic, 12-minute, black comedy version of Little Red Riding Hood starring a 16-year-old, voluptuous Christina Ricci? This may be one of the oddest films I have ever seen. But it is also a masterful work of art. Almost counter-intuitively, writer-director David Kaplan's use of black-and-white film and a classical music score featuring the haunting Debussy piece Prelude of the Afternoon of a Faun enhances this short subject's surreal beauty and contemporary feel. Oddly, and arguably less romantically, this film also features an androgynous ballet-wolf, a distractingly colloquial narration by Quentin Crisp, and the inexplicable presence of a morally outraged Muppet cat. 

Like Hard Candy, this is a very modern take on the fairy tale, and a feminist one. But the two films couldn't be more different. In both versions, the wolf is no match for our modern, empowered heroine. However, each Red is powerful in her own unique way, and the two heroines - played by Ellen Page and Christina Ricci - have startlingly different relationships to the darkly dangerous Wolf. I'd tell you what those relationships entail, but I'd have to kill you.

On the one hand, it is difficult film to recommend, with its off-the-wall blend of bathroom humor, cannibalism, and dream imagery. On the other hand, I feel like I can recommend this little masterpiece enthusiastically - for all of the above reasons. If you are a weird person, you should definitely like it. I can't vouch for it if you are pretty straight-laced, though.

Aw, heck ... you really should give it a look. After all, what's 12 minutes out of your life?