Thursday, May 8, 2014

Top 100 Films of the 20th Century – Part 15: 35-31

Rank: 35
Title: Blade Runner
Release Year: 1982
Genre: Sci-Fi Action/Mystery
Director: Ridley Scott
Plot Summary: Rick Deckard is a blade runner, hot on the trail of four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator. Deckard is charged with terminating the replicants, as they have broken the law and are very dangerous.
What Makes It Special: Blade Runner masterfully blends the hard-boiled detective and sci-fi genres, creating a film that is both visually striking and profoundly engaging. It is a film that has seen multiple cuts (I personally like Ridley Scott’s Final Cut the most) and started many debates regarding the meaning of the film and whether or not Deckard is himself a replicant as well. Blade Runner offers sci-fi fans everything the genre promises to be (visually and philosophically), coming together with beauty, intellect, and emotional depth.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 34
Title: Sunset Blvd.
Release Year: 1950
Genre: Film-Noir/Drama
Director: Billy Wilder
Plot Summary: Somewhat desperate for work, screenwriter Joe Gillis is hired by aging former silent cinema star Norma Desmond to write her a new film that will hopefully rejuvenate her career.
What Makes It Special: Sunset Blvd. takes film-noir in a different direction. Usually, it is a style used for mysteries and detective films, but here Billy Wilder uses it to create a sense of faded glory that has stripped away everything revealing a monster (Norma Desmond). The cinematography is wonderful with a stark contrast between its blacks and whites, accentuating the noir style. The film also features one of cinema’s grandest performances, as Gloria Swanson’s Desmond overwhelms each scene. As the drama plays, Joe Gillis finds that he is not some much a guest or employee of Desmond’s but rather that he is a prisoner that she has lured in and trapped forever in her mad, dark world. This is especially a gem for cinephiles, as it features cameos from some of cinema’s greatest silent film era stars and filmmakers.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 33
Release Year: 1968
Genre: Western
Director: Sergio Leone
Plot Summary: A ruthless assassin working for a railroad baron sets his sights on a beautiful woman. He kills her family to claim her and her land for himself; however, a mysterious stranger with a harmonica teams up with a notorious desperado to help her, setting up a showdown.
What Makes It Special: Once Upon a Time in the West is a fantastic epic spaghetti western, featuring all the iconic troupes the genre is known for as well as one of Ennio Morricone’s best scores. The western genre is all but dead today, but grand films like Once Upon a Time in the West saw it at its artistic height. This is a must-see for all fans of the genre.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 32
Release Year: 1959
Genre: Screwball Comedy
Director: Billy Wilder
Plot Summary: Joe and Jerry are two Chicago musicians who witness a mob hit. In a frantic attempt to escape the mob’s clutches, they pretend to be women, disguising themselves and joining an all-female band on its way to Florida. Complications arise when Joe finds himself falling for a ukulele player in the group named Sugar Kane Kowalczyk and Jerry is pursued by a millionaire (who really does think he is a woman). All this and somehow the mob has still tracked them down.
What Makes It Special: Some Like It Hot is a bit of a throwback to the 1930s. Billy Wilder brings back the screwball comedy style, creating wonderful hijinks and laughs using the classic ploy of men dressing up as women (my first film experience of this was Nuns on the Run, but there are many instances). The film is infectiously funny, succeeding on the pure comic genius of Jack Lemmon and his chemistry with Tony Curtis. Marilyn Monroe is also at her best in the film. Comedy has seldom been funnier or better done in cinema.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 31
Release Year: 1955
Genre: Horror/Drama
Director: Charles Laughton
Plot Summary: Harry Powell shares a cell with Ben Harper where he hears how Harper hid $10,000.00 he stole somewhere on his land. Powell is released from prison and Harper is hanged for his crimes. Powell makes his way to the Harper homestead to find the money. He takes advantage of Harper’s gullible widow, but the two young children are reluctant to tell him where the money is hidden.
What Makes It Special: The Night of the Hunter is one of the most artistically compelling films in cinema history. It plays like a nightmare, with scary almost fantasy imagery and Robert Mitchum is brilliant as the murderous villain Harry Powell, who uses charm and religious fanaticism to trick and deceive all around him. The great actor Charles Laughton only directed one film, but what a film he made. The noirish cinematography and production design alone are magnificent. The Night of the Hunter is a strange and special film, the likes of which cinema will probably never see again.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

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