Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top 100 Films of the 20th Century – Part 12: 50-46

Rank: 50
Release Year: 1969
Genre: Western
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Plot Summary: As the Wild West disappears around them, a gang of aging outlaws looks to make one last big score.
What Makes It Special: Director Sam Peckinpah made a statement about violence in the world (possibly and probably directed at the conflict in Vietnam) with The Wild Bunch, especially in its final scene (a brutal shootout). With the death of the Production Code in 1967, films were suddenly much more graphic (films like Bonnie and Clyde and Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs), as a new generation of filmmakers began to completely transform cinema artistically and content wise. The Wild Bunch is also a testament to the death of the classic Western. The world was just no longer a place for clear cut heroes and villains.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 49
Title: M
Release Year: 1931
Genre: Mystery
Director: Fritz Lang
Plot Summary: There is a child-murderer on the loose in Berlin, and the police cannot seem to catch him. As fear and anxiety grip the city, criminals too join the manhunt (while the man they are looking for, Hans Beckert, feels the rope ever tighter around his neck).
What Makes It Special: M is a beautifully shot and wonderfully designed film, creating a dark and suspenseful moody atmosphere. Peter Lorre gives the performance of his career as Hans Beckert, a child-murdering psychopath. Director Fritz Lang masterfully captures the emotional depth of his characters, especially Beckert – in a way creating a protagonist out of a villain. Lang also sets up an absolutely gripping and thrilling third act. Arriving in cinemas in 1931, M became the benchmark by which all thrillers and mystery films would be judged – even today.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 48
Release Year: 1960
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Billy Wilder
Plot Summary: C.C. Baxter wants to get ahead at his company. He comes up with an idea of how to get in good with the executives. He will let them use his apartment for trysts. It is all going along splendidly until Baxter falls for one of the girls an executive brings to his apartment.
What Makes It Special: With The Apartment, auteur Billy Wilder made one of the quintessential romantic comedies, and possibly the best of the genre, a romantic comedy that would influence the genre for decades to come (something that continues today). The film works so well because its characters are developed very well and most importantly it is very funny. The romantic comedy developed out of the screwball comedy (taking out most of the physical comedy, but not all of it, and digging deeper into the characters their relationships).Wilder, one of Hollywood’s greatest writers, perfected the storytelling style for the genre with this film.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 47
Release Year: 1937
Genre: War Drama
Director: Jean Renoir
Plot Summary: During WWI, two imprisoned French soldiers try to escape from their German POW camp several times, until they are sent to an impenetrable fortress, thought to be impossible to escape from.
What Makes It Special: La Grande Illusion is an antiwar masterpiece from French auteur Jean Renoir. Set during The Great War, a war that was supposed to end all wars, and yet Renoir made this film just as the world was on the brink of WWII with Europe and Asia in chaos. But, La Grande Illusion goes deeper. Something that is always very powerful about combat is that from afar opposing forces appear as enemies, but close up, in different circumstances, these men and women in conflict find that really they are not so much different – that they all want, dream, and fear the same things, which then begs the question of why are they fighting each other, killing each other. Renoir touches on this beautifully in his film.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 46
Release Year: 1958
Genre: Mystery
Director: Orson Welles
Cast: Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Orson Welles
Plot Summary: After an American building contractor is killed (via car bomb) in a small US-Mexican border town, Mexican Narcotics officer Ramon “Mike” Vargas has to interrupt his honeymoon to investigate, as the bomb was planted on the Mexican side of the border. American Police Captain Hank Quinlan tries to take charge of the investigation and already has a suspect (a Mexican); however, Vargas catches Quinlan planting evidence on his suspect. Vargas now realizes that this crime goes much deeper and that he is alone in town run by corruption. He begins to go after Quinlan, but this leaves his new American wife Susie vulnerable as a target.
What Makes It Special: The long-take tracking shot that opens A Touch of Evil is alone enough to make this a cinema classic, as is Orson Welles’s villainous Captain Quinlan. Welles’s neo-noir mystery thriller is utterly gripping. The opening shot grabs the viewer and the cat-and-mouse game that follows keeps them hooked throughout. Welles displays a complex storytelling that is often not found in Hollywood films. The black & white cinematography is also top notch. The original theatrical release was edited from Welles’s true vision; however, his cut was released on DVD in 1998.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

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