Saturday, August 17, 2013

Top 100 Films of the 20th Century – Part 6: 80-76

Rank: 80
Release Year: 1975
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Psychological
Director: Milos Forman
Plot Summary: R.P. McMurphy is a mental patient who does not believe he belongs in an institution. In rebellion, he rallies the other patients against the oppressive head nurse.
What Makes It Special: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest works on many levels. It is in moments very funny, in others dramatically engaging, in others an interesting look at the administration of treatment to mental health patients and how society views and treats these people. At its heart however, the film succeeds due to its fantastic characters, lead by R.P. McMurphy and Nurse Ratched, played brilliantly by a great cast. Milos Forman is also unafraid to approach the film from a rather brash place. He does not delicately navigate the social stigma of metal health, instead taking it head on using McMurphy as his in (is McMurphy a con exploiting the system or someone actually in need of metal healthcare?). The result is a stunning, revealing look at mental institutions.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Streaming

Rank: 79
Title: Badlands
Release Year: 1973
Genre: Drama
Director: Terrence Malick
Plot Summary: Kit and Holly are infatuated with each other, but after Kit murders Holly’s father for trying to keep them apart the two take off on a killing spree across the American badlands.
What Makes It Special: Badlands is based on the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree when a fifteen-year-old girl and her twenty-five-year-old boyfriend slaughtered several people including her entire family in 1958. It was America’s first experience with this kind of homegrown carnage. Terrence Malick’s film perfectly captures the country’s fascination with these killers – their celebrity. The relationship between Kit and Holly is also very interesting, as Holly seems to be both enchanted and terrified by Kit. The performances from Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are absolutely absorbing, mixing innocence with sort of a primal evil. Aesthetically, the film is engaging as well – particularly its photography. Badlands is in many ways the quintessential American masterpiece.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

Rank: 78
Release Year: 1957
Genre: Drama
Plot Summary: J.J. Hunsecker is powerful but unethical New York City gossip columnist. He is unhappy with his sister’s relationship with a jazz musician. So, he coerces press agent Sidney Falco to break them up.
What Makes It Special: Sweet Smell of Success plays like a film-noir stylistically, as this is an underworld of sleazy people undertaking dirty business at all costs to get what they want. There are no heroes in this world. The narrative is built on the back-and-forth of the power struggles of its characters, each manipulating those around them to come out on top. It is a heartless world, and yet the shady treachery is wildly compelling. Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis are both wonderful as Hunsecker and Falco, respectively, each giving one of their career best performances. This is a forgotten film-noir masterpiece.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

Rank: 77
Title: Notorious
Release Year: 1946
Genre: Mystery/Romance Drama
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Plot Summary: Alicia Huberman flees America in shame after her father is accused of being a Nazi sympathizer. On her way to South America, she is approached by the CIA to spy on a group of Nazi working on a project in Rio de Janeiro.
What Makes It Special: Notorious perfectly employs many of Alfred Hitchcock’s narrative and stylistic devices, most notably the use of a McGuffin. The film wonderfully mixes romance, suspense, espionage, and drama all set in the fresh post-WWII world, with tensions still running high amidst hopeful optimism. Hitchcock’s directing is on point throughout, with each scene building towards a dynamically climatic conclusion. The performances are also fantastic. They are nuanced, and yet utilize the best attributes of each actor’s star quality. Cary Grant is ever charming, but here he has a darkly aggressive side, while Ingrid Bergman just commands the screen. Claude Rains is brilliant as the villain – playing his character as ultimately sympathetic. Notorious is maybe not a film that Hitchcock fans immediately point to, as it is not flashy, but it is secretly one of his best.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

Rank: 76
Release Year: 1974
Genre: Drama
Director: John Cassavetes
Plot Summary: Mabel and Nick have a loving marriage, but Mabel’s fits of madness prove to be a disruptive force, maybe too strong to overcome.
What Makes It Special: A Woman Under the Influence is a demonstration of powerhouse performances and phenomenal directing. Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands run the full gambit of human in emotion over the course of the film, all staged in a confined space. John Cassavetes cultivates such an emotional experience that the film is rather jarring. It is a directors’ film for directors and an actors’ film for actors. It is embodies the craft.
Trailer: Here
Available on: DVD and Streaming

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