Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Top 100 Films of the 20th Century – Part 20: 10-6

Rank: 10
Release Year: 1952
Genre: Musical/Comedy
Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and, Debbie Reynolds
Plot Summary: With the advent of sound, the transition for silent film companies and actors is a bit awkward, many left behind. Silent movie star Don Lockwood is determined to make the jump, doing everything he can to succeed – but will it all be enough.
What Makes It Special: Singin’ in the Rain does what few musical do, and does it extraordinarily well – it both puts on a brilliant show with grand, wonderful, and even funny musical numbers and it tells a great story (a cinematic imperative). Kelly, O’Connor, and Reynolds are fantastic, creating many of cinema’s most memorable moments. Though this film came out over sixty years ago, it still feels as fresh as ever and its music is just on the tip of our tongues. 
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 9
Release Year: 1972
Genre: Gangster
Plot Summary: Don Vito Corleone is facing a choice. He must decide who will take over his crime syndicate. He has three sons to choose from: Sonny his eldest is a hothead, Fredo is very ill-suited, and Michael is reluctant (having never really taken an interest in the family business).
What Makes It Special: The Godfather is the quintessential gangster film in American cinema, building off all the great genre films that came before it (like: Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, Scarface, White Heat, and The Big Heat), creating a crime drama that is emotionally dense, with some of film’s most iconic characters, moments, and aesthetics. In many ways, it is still the genre film that all other genre films look up to and aspire to be.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 8
Title: 8 1/2
Release Year: 1963
Genre: Drama
Director: Federico Fellini
Plot Summary: While working on his latest film, film director Guido Anselmi retreats into his memories and fantasies for inspiration.
What Makes It Special: 8 ½ is Federico Fellini’s surrealistic narrative, built on wonderfully evocative imagery. It is a film about creativity and inspiration, which can come from anywhere. It also about embracing passions: artistic, emotional, and physical. Simply, it is about life, and what we make of it. Aesthetically, it is utterly compelling as Fellini blends fantasy, memory, and reality into one continuous stream of consciousness. Life is inherently chaotic – we grasp for meaning through our passions, but like Guido we too can become overwhelmed as our own creativity is stymied by our own assigning of meaning – if everything is meaningful then nothing is meaningful. Fellini uses 8 ½ to project artistically the emotional turmoil of life (and more specifically, one’s mid-life crisis, as one realizes that death is ever on the horizon). It is smart, flashy, and essential.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 7
Release Year: 1939
Genre: Satire
Director: Jean Renoir
Plot Summary: At the onset of WWII, a rich French family throws a hunting party for their friends. Everyone seems to be gracious, but they hide how they really feel, often involving their poor servants in their tangled affairs. Theirs is a frivolous existence.
What Makes It Special: Jean Renoir released The Rules of the Game in 1939 to an audience that was not ready to accept the truth about their decedent and trivial lives and decaying culture. The film was a disaster critically and commercially. Satirizing the dominate culture of one’s country is a bold move. Renoir was fed up with the way the upper classes lead unsubstantial lives at the cost of everyone else. Following WWII and the advent of New Wave Cinema in the 1950s-1960s in France, his film finally found its audience and has been regarded as a masterpiece ever since. The film works very well as a romantic dramedy, but it is also very cynical towards its characters. In fact, Renoir actively seems to detest them. It is funny, biting, and dramatically resonate.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 6
Release Year: 1979
Genre: War Drama
Plot Summary: During the Vietnam War, American soldier Captain Willard is tasked with a dangerous mission. He must travel deep into the jungle of Cambodia to assassinate a renegade U.S. colonel. Kurtz has set himself up as a god among a local tribe. It is a journey into the darkness of man’s heart.
What Makes It Special: Francis Ford Coppola almost killed himself making his adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The production was marred with delays, tragedy, and hardship; but, Coppola emerged with something magnificent and utterly compelling and absorbing (the documentary chronicling the making of the film Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse is very good as well). The film goes down the rabbit hole, showcasing the horrors that man’s heart is capable. It is beautifully filmed (Vittorio Storaro’s photography and lighting are wondrous) and acted. It is wholly iconic.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

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