Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Top 100 Films of the 20th Century – Part 3: 95-91

Rank: 95
Title: Mrs. Miniver
Release Year: 1942
Genre: War Drama
Director: William Wyler
Plot Summary: With the outbreak of war between England and Germany in 1939, a British family living in a small town struggles to survive the first few months, amidst the looming fear of invasion and continuous air raids.
What Makes It Special: When Mrs. Miniver was first released in America June 1942, the United States had just very recently declared war on Japan (following the Pearl Harbor attack December 7th, 1941) and Germany (and its allies). However, many in America were unaware of the struggles that Britain faced on a daily basis. And in this way, Wyler’s film does play a bit like propaganda to rally support against Germany – but it does so very eloquently with beautiful, touching, and heartbreaking performances and moments. This film did wonders rousing American support for the war in Europe (which had been somewhat waning, especially in the wake of WWI – a wholly unpopular war in America).
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Streaming

Rank: 94
Title: Rebecca
Release Year: 1940
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Romance Drama
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Plot Summary: An awkward (maybe even sheepish), naïve girl is wooed by wealthy widower Maximilian de Winter, and at first she finds her new life wondrous, but a little intimidating as well. However, she soon finds herself tormented by the memory of her husband’s late (and extravagate) wife.
What Makes It Special: Rebecca is often remembered as the only Hitchcock film to win a Best Picture Oscar; or maybe that it is the prolific director’s first Hollywood film (working with famed producer David O. Selznick). Those facts aside, the film is maybe most memorable for Hitchcock and his director of photography George Barnes’s mastery of black and white photography. There may not be a better shot film in the medium (playing wonderfully off the Gothic romance tone). Joan Fontaine also gives what ultimately amounts to be a very strong female performance very much coming into her own by the end (even though her character is not ever given a name), allowing the text (which can be taken as very un-feminist) to play as being a feminist work (which is a bit funny, given Hitchcock’s later films like Vertigo or The Birds).
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

Rank: 93
Title: Goldfinger
Release Year: 1964
Genre: Action/Adventure/Spy Thriller
Director: Guy Hamilton
Plot Summary: James Bond takes a mission to Miami to investigate smuggler Auric Goldfinger, only to uncover a much grander scheme – one that involves pulling off a heist to infiltrate Fort Knox (where a large portion of America’s gold is held – back in the 1960s, the value of the U.S. dollar was still linked to the value of gold).
What Makes It Special:  While Dr. No and From Russia with Love came first introducing the world to a new kind of film: the action/adventure spy thriller predicated on a suave lead (that all women wanted, and all men wanted to be), bombshell female stars, international locations, and massive action set pieces, it was with Goldfinger that James Bond really became a worldwide phenomenon (and Sean Connery the highest paid actor in the world). While Jaws is considered the first ‘blockbuster’, the James Bond films certainly seem to fit the bill a decade earlier. Even now with twenty-three James Bond films, Goldfinger remains the best and most iconic of the franchise (not to mention it is one of the greatest spy films ever made – even if James Bond is a lousy spy in the traditional sense).
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Streaming

Rank: 92
Release Year: 1981
Genre: Adventure Mystery
Director: Steven Spielberg
Plot Summary: The Ark of the Covenant might hold the power for complete world domination. On the brink of world war, the Nazis have hired their man to find it, and they are close. Thus, the U.S. government turns to famed adventurer and archeologist Indiana Jones to find it first.
What Makes It Special: Much like another George Lucas brainchild Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark has everything a cinemagoer could want from a summer movie: action, drama, comedy, adventure, thrills, iconic heroes, and great villains – and, like Star Wars this film was also nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. In today’s cinema landscape of studios investing everything in their big releases, it would be nice if we had more great films like Raiders of the Lost Ark that both excel as blockbusters and quality pieces of cinema (though, there are a few that still do) instead of the perpetual assembly line of bland, boring mind-numbing sameness. After more than thirty years since its release, Raiders of the Lost Ark is still an unheralded masterpiece of cinematic fun.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

Rank: 91
Title: Ben-Hur
Release Year: 1959
Genre: Epic/Drama
Director: William Wyler
Plot Summary: After Jewish Prince Judah Ben-Hur is betrayed and sent into slavery by the Romans, he struggles and fights to regain his freedom – all the while dreaming of the day he might return and have his revenge.
What Makes It Special: Throughout cinema’s history there have been epics (starting with The Birth of a Nation) expressing just what the medium is capable of in its grandest form, as they capture the imagination of the audience and show them something spectacular of massive scope and scale (something they could never see in real life). Ben-Hur fully embraces this great tradition (one that has been awfully sullied by the sorry excuse that is today’s event cinema – again barring a few great releases) with its grandiose action set pieces, wonderful score, lush design, and beautiful photography. Yet, its most striking feature might be just how engrossing Ben-Hur’s narrative journey is – from prince to slave and back. It is a magnificent piece of cinema (and one of its greatest epics).
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Streaming

No comments:

Post a Comment