Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Top 100 Films of the 20th Century – Part 8: 70-66

Rank: 70
Release Year: 1984
Genre: Gangster
Director: Sergio Leone
Plot Summary: Noodles returns home to the Lower East Side of Manhattan after a thirty-year absence to find that he must still confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life, as a Prohibition-era gangster.
What Makes It Special: Sergio Leone is best remembered for his Spaghetti Westerns, but his foray into the gangster genre also proved to be one of his most fruitful cinematic endeavors. Once Upon a Time in America combines wonderful elements from multiple collaborators: from the fine actors to Ennio Morricone’s beautiful score and Tonino Delli Colli’s magnificent photography. While American directors like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola have seemingly co-opted the genre in modern thinking, Leone’s film is still among the finest gangster films ever made.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video-On-Demand

Rank: 69
Release Year: 1947
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Plot Summary: Five nuns try desperately to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings after opening a convent in the Himalayas. The beauty and vastness of the landscape along with the way of life of the natives seems to be getting to them, causing each of them to question their vows.
What Makes It Special: Black Narcissus is a masterfully directed, acted, designed, and shot film. Jack Cardiff’s Technicolor photography is lavishly alluring and stunningly evocative. It is a haunting film that takes on what may seem to be the incorruptible vow a nun takes and shatters it with glimpses of divine pleasure. Powell & Pressburger create a wonderful sense of tension as the characters each feel themselves engulfed by everything their surroundings represent, each losing their devotion (or rather finding a new kind of faith).
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video-On-Demand

Rank: 68
Release Year: 1945
Genre: Romance Drama
Director: David Lean
Plot Summary: Laura is in a happy marriage, but one day she meets a charming stranger in a train station and is tempted to cheat on her husband.
What Makes It Special: Brief Encounter is a powerful and moving romance drama about a doomed love affair. What makes it particularly interesting is that Laura has no intension of cheating, as she is happy in her life with her husband, but then she meets Dr. Alec Harvey and he ignites something within her. Thus, Laura struggles internally with a choice – should she give in to her desire? This creates wonderful moments of joy and despair, perfectly capturing the feeling of falling in love (right at the beginning – the excitement and terror). David Lean brings such a strong emotional energy to the film that it is almost impossible not to be swept up in the narrative.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video-On-Demand

Rank: 67
Release Year: 1994
Genre: Romance Drama
Director: Kar Wai Wong
Plot Summary: Split into two stories about love. The first follows Cop 223, a man who cannot seem to get over his recent breakup with his long-term girlfriend – meanwhile, he is tracking a heroin dealer who is in trouble with her boss after losing her latest shipment. The second follows Cop 663, a man also dealing with a recent breakup – meanwhile, however, a local girl who works at a lunch counter he frequents has a crush on him.
What Makes It Special: Kar Wai Wong’s Chungking Express is visually mesmerizing. Wong tells his stories with flashes of almost impressionistic color and kinetic energy, matched by a brilliant and fitting soundtrack (specifically The Mamas & the Papas’ California Dreaming) and wonderful performances from his cast. The film explores both the pain and happiness that love can provide – the romantic longing that we all experience. It marks one of the clear turning points in cinema in the 1990s, embracing the new auteurs of independent film.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

Rank: 66
Release Year: 1940
Genre: Comedy
Director: Charles Chaplin
Cast: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, and Jack Oakie
Plot Summary: European dictator Adenoid Hynkel is leading his country towards war. Meanwhile a poor and kind Jewish barber living in the slums bears a striking resemblance to Hynkel. One day, the barber is mistaken for Hynkel.
What Makes It Special: Silent-film auteur Charles Chaplin did something extraordinary in 1940 – he made a film that both criticized and poked fun at Adolf Hitler, while the United States was steadfast in its stance to stay out of the war (most Americans believed that it was Europe’s war and that America had no place in it, still reeling from the bad sentiment felt by many over America’s role in WWI). Chaplin put his career on the line to justifiably and courageously attack a man (who had been named Time’s Man of the Year in 1939) who was brutally murdering and dehumanizing millions of people. This eventually resulted in Chaplin being victimized by American authorities and eventually deported. All that said, The Great Dictator is a brilliant political satire, and even more than that an extremely funny Charlie Chaplin film. It is also magnificently powerful and poignant. The final speech that the barber gives, posing as Hynkel, is maybe the most moving in cinema history.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video-On-Demand

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