Thursday, November 14, 2013

Top 100 Films of the 20th Century – Part 10: 60-56

Rank: 60
Release Year: 1978
Genre: Drama/Romance
Director: Terrence Malick
Plot Summary: After running away from an incident at a steel mill, the hot-tempered Bill decides to try his hand as a farm laborer. Travelling with his companions Abby and Linda, he gains employment for a rich but sick land owner. Bill encourages Abby to give in to the rich man’s advances in a play for his fortune (but is secretly jealous, as he too loves her).
What Makes It Special: With Days of Heaven American auteur Terrence Malick found the cinematic language that he is now best known for: an experience of beauty and emotion more than a straightforward narrative. The film is incredibly stunning visually, as Malick and cinematographer Nestor Almendros shot most of the exteriors during the ‘magic hour’.  There is almost no dialog in the film (aside from Linda Manz’s great voiceover narration), as Malick uses the montage of his images to evoke character and emotion. This film changed the landscape of American cinema (and then Malick did not make another film for twenty years).
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 59
Release Year: 1962
Genre: Western
Director: John Ford
Plot Summary: Senator Ransom Stoddard returns home to the small town of Shinbone for the funeral of a friend. While there, a local newspaper writer asks him to recount his famous duel with ruffian Liberty Valance. Stoddard obliges, but as he tells the story he decides to leave the legend behind and finally tell the truth about what really happened.
What Makes It Special: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is John Ford’s final great film and collaboration with John Wayne (they did work together again after this on a segment of How the West Was Won). What makes this Western particularly interesting is that it signifies the end of the genre (in a classic sense) and of the West as it was depicted in the genre. White hats and black hats would no longer be so easily distinguished – gruff heroes stepping aside for heroes of a new world. It is in some ways a sadly nostalgic experience, as the classic Western is now nothing more than an American Myth.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 58
Release Year: 1964
Genre: War Thriller/Comedy
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Plot Summary: An insane general initiates the United States’ failsafe against nuclear attack by the U.S.S.R., setting U.S. bombers on a collision course with targets within the Soviet Union, giving them no other choice than to fire nukes back.
What Makes It Special: Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove is an on-point satire of what was a very serious situation in the 1960s. People were terrified that the world really could come to an end at any moment if the Cold War escalated to a point of no return, the film coming out just over a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis. In addition to its sharp wit and daring political overtones, the film has stood the test of time thanks to Peter Sellers delivering a comedic performance for the ages, playing three separate characters.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 57
Release Year: 1938
Genre: Screwball Comedy
Director: Howard Hawks
Plot Summary: David, a paleontologist, is desperate to secure a one million dollar donation for his museum from Susan, an heiress. However, she proves to be impossible, pulling David into difficult and awkward situations – none more so than searching for her lost pet (a leopard named Baby).
What Makes It Special: While not the first, the screwball comedy was more or less born with the films It Happened One Night and The Awful Truth, but there is maybe none better than Bringing Up Baby. It features the genre’s two biggest stars Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn and is packed with wonderful comedy bits and laughs. The dialog and jokes come at the audience fast, as Grant and Hepburn are constantly at each other’s throats. Like many great films, audiences were not quite ready for it when it was initially released, as it opened as a box office failure. It has since found its audience and place among the cinematic comedic elite.
Trailer: Here
Available on: DVD and Video On-Demand

Rank: 56
Title: The Shining
Release Year: 1980
Genre: Horror
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Plot Summary: A writer Jack Torrance decides to take a job as the caretaker of a grand, secluded hotel so that he can work on his new novel. He moves up to the hotel with his wife and son, but strange things begin to happen. Evil and spiritual forces influence Jack leading him towards violence. Meanwhile, his psychic son sees horrific scenes from the past and future.
What Makes It Special: The Shining is Stanley Kubrick’s take on the horror genre. With the film, he spawned one of the most terrifying and affecting in the genre’s history. Kubrick is a master of visual imagery, and here he creates so many classic moments that continue to grab and scare audiences of each new generation. It is an atmospheric experience that while it finds its audience trembling is also an aesthetic marvel.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand


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