Monday, October 31, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson
3 titles, 43rd in points with 17,076

These are all the films of New Zealand director Peter Jackson’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001) #79
2. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003) #92 [AA] best picture
3. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002) #119

Should also be in the top 1000:
4. Heavenly Creatures (1994) #1746 Should be ranked

Jackson has made the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2003) New Zealand the work of a lifetime (and it only took a decade). After several failed or half-baked projects to film the popular fantasy trilogy, including a completely animated version, Jackson has finally done it justice, thanks to modern computerized special effects. The series, even though a trilogy, is really one long epic novel of a heroic journey, with Return of the King the ultimate in trilogy finales. The film won all 11 Oscars® for which it was nominated, tying the record count set by Titanic.

Written by J.R.R. Tolkien for adults and kids alike, it has to be seen from the perspective of juvenile fantasy literature. It's not meant to be a complex adult story, but one that the younger set can also understand. Some say it's an allegory of World War II (likely because it came out in the early 50's), but then that war wasn't much different from centuries of European wars. The world of the hobbits was small enough that everyone walked to nearby kingdoms to invade them, so one would surmise that the overall size of Tolkien's world was more akin to the European nations. Altogether, the three films won over 250 awards.

His first film, Heavenly Creatures, [photo above], was also the first for actress Kate Winslet, who sings an opera aria in one scene. It’s about two high school girlfriends who invent a fantasy world of their own, and overreactive conservative parents try to cool down the relationship with unexpected results. This was a true story and a mid-50’s ‘trial of the century’ with worldwide coverage. It’s also an overlooked and underrated crime thriller, also a very disturbing one, and should easily be in the top 500.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Jackson with Irish actress Saiorse Ronan

Top Ranked Films of Bernardo Bertolucci

Bernardo Bertolucci
5 titles, 48th in points with 15,127

Bertolucci is one of my favorite directors, The Conformist is a masterpiece. Beautifully photographed, you can see it’s influence on U.S. films like the two Godfathers. The Last Emperor was also beautifully made. He is severely underrated to me, he would be in my top 10.

These are all the films of Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Conformist, The (1970) #45 a true masterpiece
2. Last Tango in Paris (1973) #262
3. 1900 (1976) #504
4. Last Emperor, The (1987) #900
5. Spider's Stratagem, The (1970) #993

Those out of the top 1000
6. Luna #1826
7. Sheltering Sky, The #2007
8. Before the Revolution #2015

The Last Emperor should be much higher, it’s a legitimate top 100-200 of all-time, winner of 8 Oscars®, including best picture and director. It has to be a better film than Last Tango in Paris, though the latter is also a surprisingly good film, a much deeper love story than it seems. All these films are worth seeing, some several times.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of Vittorio De Sica

Vittorio De Sica
3 titles, 45th in points with 15,777

De Sica made post-war films in the style of Italian postwar realism. These films usually have a gritty, black-and-white style that closely resembles documentaries, shot on the streets in real light.

In an interview on a dvd, he said the day of studios making happy escapism for the masses were over, that a new world demanded films of social relevance that attacked the problems faced by humanity. De Sica usually cast amateurs in his lead roles. The lead actor of Bicycle Thief was a factory worker, and in Umberto D. a retired teacher. He probably would be ranked much higher had he made more films.

These are all the films of Italian director Vittorio De Sica’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. The Bicycle Thief (1948) Italy, bw #21
2. Umberto D. (1952) #80
3. Miracle in Milan (1951) #630

Just out of the top 1000
4. Shoeshine (Sciuscia, 1947) #1312

De Sica’s best films (the top two here) are tough to take, but ultimately tell universal tales of hardships faced by average citizens, especially after wars. Umberto D. is my favorite of his, dedicated to his father, it’s about an elderly pensioner who can’t survive on the meager payments he receives, yet who is somehow given hope and kept alive by his little Jack Russell dog Flike [see photo below]. This is now my favorite dog in cinema history, who by being dependent on his owner gives his owner a reason to keep going.

Umberto pretends his dog is clowning
around when a friend catches him begging

The Bicycle Thief is almost too much to take. It’s about a poor Italian man who gets a job only because he has a bicycle to get around to all the place he’ll be hanging advertising signs. One day while on a ladder putting up a sign, someone steals his bicycle. In the Sight and Sound film polls (that occur once per decade), this is the only film other than Citizen Kane to ever be ranked #1.

De Sica is a former actor who made a better director, as he was a competant actor yet prone to hamming it up. As a director he showed a delicate touch for humanitarian problems and made riveting films of Italian realism that also had social impact. These films could never fail to move a person with any compassion remaining for humanity. Umberto D. is an all-time top 20 film for me.

De Sica ranks among the best handful of Italian directors to me: Bertolucci, Antonioni, Tournatore, and Fellini would be the others. On a level below these: Rossellini, Visconti, Monicelli, Wertmuller, Pasolini, Pontecorvo, Ormi, and Caviani.

De Sica as an actor

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of Milos Forman

Forman, Milos
3 titles, 49th in points with 14,737

Forman was born in 1932 in Czechoslavakia; his parents died at Auschwitz. He first made small but successful films in Czechoslovakia before coming to the U.S. and making some huge pictures especially in terms of Oscars.

These are all the films of Forman’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) #44 [AA]
2. Amadeus (1984) #70 [AA]
3. Loves of a Blonde (1965) #703 (Czechoslavakia)

Just out of the top 1000
4. The Fireman's Ball (1967) #1119 (Czechoslavakia)

These top two films were among his first in the U.S., and both won best picture Oscars®. The bottom two are comedies made in Czechoslavakia. I found Fireman’s Ball to be hilarious, it’s like the “fireman’s ball from hell”, as door prizes slowly go missing and they can’t find any girls interested in the beauty pageant, so they start drafting unwilling victims.

I think Milos has his own
love of blondes

Some other big titles of Forman’s not making the polls are Hair (1979), Ragtime (1981), Valmont (1989), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Goya’s Ghosts (2006). Some love Hair, I hated it. I also prefer Stephen Frears' Dangerous Liaisons, the basis for Valmont. The People vs. Larry Flynt is a good one, Ragtime was forgettable. Haven't seen Goya's Ghosts yet.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Kenji Mizoguchi

Kenji Mizoguchi
5 titles, 46th in points with 15,534

These are all the films of Mizoguchi's that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Ugetsu (1953) #85
2. Sansho the Bailiff (1954) #240
3. Princess Yang Kwei Fei (Yokihi, 1955) #414
4. Story of the Late Chrysanthemums, The (1939) #617
5. Life of Oharu, The (1952) #635

Those just out of the top 1000
6. 47 Ronin, The (1962) #1237
7. Utamaro and His Five Women #1646

I found Ugetsu  [photo above] almost mesmerizing, one of the most unusual love stories in cinema, and beautifully shot. Sansho is also beautiful to see [photo below], but the story didn’t quite have the same magic for me. Mizoguchi is a true artist with film, shooting dreamy, ethereal black-and-white films that almost seem like a journey to a magical spot that is between reality and the psyche. I need to see the rest of his works, those I’ve seen make him one look like of the few true masters of cinema art.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of George Lucas

George Lucas
2 titles, 71st in points with 11,435

Wow, talk about doing a lot with a little, Lucas managed to crack the top 100 with just 2 titles in the top 1000. It's a little surprising that with his skills he hasn't made more quality films, he's become formulaic and almost a parody of his former self - I know, that sounds like Woody Allen as well, analyzing himself.

These are all the films of Lucas’ that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Star Wars (A New Hope) (1978) #8
2. American Graffiti (1973) #461

Out of the top 1000, his first
3. THX 1138 (1971) #1920

One thing worth mentioning - he had Raiders of the Lost Ark all set to be a film of his, and buddy Steven Spielberg had just had his first bomb with 1941, so Lucas got Spielberg to direct his own project in order to come back with a ready-made hit.

Not many titles, probably overranked at 43rd without much of a body of serious films. At IMDB, they have Empire Strikes Back properly ranked above the first Star Wars film, it’s much better science fiction and introduced Yoda, the ice planet, the land walkers, the floating city, and a non-Hollywood ending (a hero left hanging with one arm severed), albeit one that set up the third film rather than complete itself like the first film. This is much richer and more like science fiction literature than the first film, likely due to the addition of SF author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett, missing on the first. The second trilogy is forgettable and unnecessary by comparison, Lucas would have served the filmgoing public better by filming some classic science fiction that is yet unfilmed (The Left Hand of Darkness, Lord of Light, Floating Worlds all come to mind), there are a couple of hundred great SF books still just sitting there begging for films.

I would urge them to film some of these rather than recreating populist war films that are little more than westerns in space; there’s much more intelligent fiction out there that doesn’t even rely on typical good vs evil scenarios – I mean, that could be put to pasture by now, we need to evolve psychologically. Examples that got past this are Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – there’s no evil, just exploration, evolution, and the wonders of the universe, no bad guys or shootouts necessary if you have a little imagination remaining.

[I first had The Empire Strikes Back ranked here, but it was correctly pointed out that Irvin Kershner directed that, so I corrected the error. Ironically, this placed Kershner in the top 200 directors at 137th with the 90th film overall]

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet
5 titles, 42nd with 17,343 points

Lumet is a very talented director, I just wish he had made more films. A top 20 director for me, so I think he's very underrated on the polls overall. Network is his masterpiece.

These are all the films of Lumet’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. 12 Angry Men (1957)) #116
2. Network (1976) #138
3. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) #179
4. Serpico (1973) #837
5. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) #853

Those just out of the top 1000
6. Verdict, The (1982) #1202

Lumet makes great topical films, they have the feel of documentaries and the look of big, well-crafted productions. He burst into directing with the classic 12 Angry Men, about a jury that begins with just one holding out for innocent in a murder trial, Henry Fonda. We never leave the jury room, just like the jurors, and we watch the final verdict ironed out over two hours of deliberations and votes. The story tells us more about the jurors than the accused, which is why the film is still highly valued today.

Network, for me, was his masterpiece, and it correctly predicted reality tv, where anything was ripe fodder for the masses as long as people watched it – in fact, that’s all that matters in his film. Network executives esort to funding terrorism and murder in order to maintain hit shows. The cast was brilliant, with lead acting Oscars® going to both Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway, and a supporting actress one for Beatrice Straight, who was amazing in a small part. William Holden turned in arguably his best performance as well, and could have also won had not Finch been so unforgettable as Howard Beale [photo above], the man who urged us all to go to the windows and shout, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Treat Williams with Lumet, Prince of the City

I didn’t think the Pacino films were quite as good, though Serpico remains an understated crime film in which Pacino was held in rein by comparison to other roles. The Verdict was also good enough for the top 1000 and should be ranked, as Paul Newman gives his most mature and versatile performance as an alcoholic lawyer.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki
6 titles, 39th in points with 18,021
All titles are 'anime' films

These are all the films of Miyazaki’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Spirited Away (2001) #78
2. Mononoke-hime (1997) #355
3. My Neighbour Totoro (1988) #382
4. Howl's Moving Castle (2004) #352
5. Ponyo (anime, 2008) #569
6. Castle in the Sky (1986) #668

Those out of the top 1000
7. Kiki's Delivery Service #1658
8. Porco Rosso (1992) #1996

For me, these Japanese animated films pale next to Disney and Pixar films, or those of Nick Park from the U.K. (of Wallace and Gromit: 3 Amazing Adventures (2005) fame). The artwork is very simplistic by comparison, about the level of very 2d tv cartoons [see photo below]. The stories are a little better but usually fall under the kids vs. the spirit world (demons, ghosts, witches, wizard stuff) theme. Therefore, to me these are way overranked, as well as Miyazaki. I’m guessing they are fun for kids, they just don’t exist on two levels like the best Pixar stuff, enjoyable for grownups as well. I get bored with these very quickly, they just don’t have any wow factor whatsoever, it may as well be Saturday morning tv fare.

Still, if you have kids, they'll probably be mesmerized.. "warning: contains scenes of peril" (I saw this warning on one) Heck, with demons, ghosts, dragons, and witches, it has all the things kids like! The films are distributed here by Disney, and the English language versions have all the parts dubbed by western actors - Susanne Pleshette has a major part in Spirited Away!

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Friday, October 28, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan
5 titles, 44th in points with 16,073

Christopher Nolan is certainly one of the best of the young directors, along with Darren Aronofsky. If anything, he's underrated currently, and almost certainly headed for the top 10 all-time at his current rate, given that Scorsese is now #3 and Spielberg #7, Nolan is that good.

Nolan’s films are always finely crafted, usually intellectually intense throughout. It’s said he spent ten years perfecting the complex screenplay for Inception. To me, his best is Memento, told in a style that fits the protagonist’s short-term memory loss, we see the story backwards in small vignettes, almost photographic flashes. Trying to imagine this working, and you can’t see how it can, yet it did, and the film won five Independent Spirit Awards, including best picture and director. It was far too creative for the Oscars, the type of film that scares the established film mediocricy.

These are all the films of Nolan’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)#189
2. Memento (2000)#195
3. Inception (2010)#302
4. The Prestige (2006)#395
5. Batman Begins (2005)#701

out of the top 1000
6. Insomnia #1712

Where the heck is Following (1998)? His first film is both creepy and interesting. A man randomly follows people on the streets under the guise of gathering information for his writing. One man that he follows turns the tables on him in this bizarre crime thriller shot in black-and-white.

The two Batman films updated a tired, comic-book genre with films of a more Asian look, they reminded me of good Chinese films, like Zhang Yimou (not sure why). These are more psychological and dark, more complex and less superficial.

The Prestige is a terrific film about rival magicians from science fiction author Christopher Priest. It finally makes magic into an interesting subject for a feature film. The acting of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Hugh Jackman make the film even more intense than the directing style, a lot is dependent on stage-style acting since these are stage performers. There are some great twists in this plot, which seem even better in retrospect – this film is growing on me over time, if anything it’s underranked.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top Ranked Films of F.W. Murnau

F.W. Murnau
5 titles, 38th with 18076 points

Murnau was the best example of a master of German expressionism. His films are moody, painterly, ethereal.. Sunrise is a silent masterpiece, winner of 3 academy awards for 1927, including the only one ever given for “Most Artistic or Creative Film”. It’s a far more memorable film than best picture winner Wings, as it’s ranking as #43 all-time shows, while Wings is unranked.

These are all the films of Murnau’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Sunrise (1927) #43
2. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) #112
3. Last Laugh (1924) #507
4. Tabu (1931) #606
5. Faust (1926) #618

out of the top 1000..
6. City Girl #1771

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of Frank Capra

Frank Capra
4 titles, 36th in points with 18,411

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) #17
2. It Happened One Night (1934) #160 [AA] best picture
3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) #209
4. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) #727

Those outside the top 1000
5. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) #1645
6. Lost Horizon (1937) #1940
7. You Can't Take It With You (1938) #2029 [AA] best picture

My favorite Capra is easily Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. This film attacked congressional corruption so realistically that the U.S. Congress offered Columbia pictures twice the cost of filming (3m vs 1.5m cost, and during the depression) in order to scrap the film before the public could see it, in effect using taxpayer money to censor the taxpayers! Capra convinced the studio that this was the very reason the picture needed to be released, in order to help protect freedom and the government by exposing potential corruption of members of congress by big business using bribes and kickbacks for contracts awarded. (Unfortunately, this is s.o.p. today, they call it “congressional lobbying” and it’s all legal for some puzzing reason - could it be corruption?)

James Stewart turned in his best performance here, but lost the best actor Oscar® to Robert Donat of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, but was awarded an “apology Oscar” the next year for a hardly rousing performance in The Philadelphia Story, a lightweight but classic romantic comedy.

Personally, I think It’s a Wonderful Life is overrated. According to Robert Osborne on TCM, the film was a commercial and critical flop when released in 1946, failing to win a single Oscar as Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives swept the awards. Later, the studio let the copyright lapse on the non-profitable film, so tv stations started showing it ad infinitum free of royalties, and a new audience was built up by repeated showings through the decades. I find the film depressing and also unrealistic – nowdays a banker who loses deposits through sloppiness is usually lynched in the press and thrown into federal prison.

This film seems to take the notion that everyone just takes up a collection (during the depression no less) and repays the money some idiot lost through negligence and incompetence. The film spends about 95% of its time in hard times before finally showing a little light at the end; by then, it’s too late for the holiday suicides, they’ve already jumped off a bridge for real. This film paints a Norman Rockwellian view of a utopian America, which is actually run by Mr. Potters while George Bailey is the rare exception – and the bad thing is the Mr. Potters are proud of themselves and consider making money by impoverishing the working class to be “good capitalism”. (Even in the film, Potter still benefits from the found money!) A more accurate picture of the U.S. is to be found in films like Taxi Driver (1976) and Wall Street (1987), where psycho killers and high level corporate thieves are both heroes for an aberrant society.

That said, the film does have a genuine and almost ribald sense of humor. When town hottie Gloria Grahame walks by the 'boys' one day and flirts (“I only wear this ole dress when I don’t care how I look”), as she walks away one says, “how would you like to..”, interrupted by “yes” immediately from Stewart, while policeman Ward Bond says, “I’m going home and see what the wife’s doing for lunch”. They (Stewart and Donna Reed) also keep singing the “Buffalo Gals (won’t you come out tonight)” song, and the real buffalo girls were the Native American women who hung around U.S. army camps to make money the old fashioned way.

You Can’t Take it With You was a completely wacky, if uneven, best picture winner from 1938, which should be ranked in the top 1000, as it's Capra's funniest film. A talented and eccentric cast is led by Lionel Barrymore and Jean Arthur, a poorly dancing Ann Miller, and two more wackos with a fireworks factory in the basement. I think it should change places with the limp It Happened One Night, which has a couple of mild chuckles and little else – for me that’s one of the worst best picture winners. It's obviously for a different generation than mine. Clark Gable is simply awful, no comic timing whatsoever, and generally wooden, as if he had to get his lines done and get back to something more interesting. (He was on loan from his studio, MGM, as punishment) I didn’t find it in the least romantic either, no onscreen chemistry is evident to me with co-star Claudette Colbert, who is just competent here, nothing extra. The Oscars for this had to be for “lack of competition”. I liked Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise (1932) far more from that year, a rauchy and more passionate comedy, about con-artists who slowly become attached while using their wiles to fleece others.

Arsenic and Old Lace is another goofy one that works, as Cary Grant finds his two spinster aunts have a hidden homicidal streak. The film is cast well and is just bizarre enough to be interesting decades later, as it pokes fun of murder in a Hitchcockian manner.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town has Gary Cooper miscast in a gentle comedy – he’s ok but adds no comic intuition and the film suffers as a result, it's pretty dull throughout. Lost Horizon is a good adventure, sort of a fantasy about faraway places and escaping civilization to a hidden utopia, called Shangri-La. Unfortunately the film had some scenes snipped, now usually shown with stills and with dialogue intact, and it appears the scenes are little more than innocent conversations taking place in bedrooms in the morning – I assume the Hayes Commission cut them because clean living people don’t go into bedrooms unless married to each other (!) So the film is marred by an uneven cut that now exists, and as a result, the novel by author James Hilton is still far more artistic.

We occasionally get a modern film described as "Capra-esque", which usually means an uplifting and positive film about average Americans. Some of the best of these to me are also true stories - Coppola's Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), about the inventor of the Tucker automobile; and October Sky (1999), the story of rocket scientist Homer Hickham as a teen in West Virginia.

Capra is genuinely liked for his homespun sense of humor and lack of taking the big picture seriously. He was also healthily cynical of big government as You Can’t Take It With You and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington showed, rather overtly, too. In the 38 best picture winner (You Can’t Take It With You) Lionel Barrymore argues with an IRS agent over how much he thinks he owes the government for 10 years of non-filing, “I'll pay you what it's worth to me. Seventy-five dollars – that’s about all the government is worth to me, so that’s all I’m going to pay!”

During the war he spent those years filming the "Why We Fight" series of Allied propaganda films, often putting himself and his film crew in real danger. That series is a well-made series of short documentaries and should be seen by all those interested in both the war and the films of Capra. Of course it's propaganda, but when that's done for your side, we call it 'patriotic'. It's interesting to see Nazi versions of the same era war films - in those Nazi soldiers are welcomed as 'liberators' in the streets by occupied populations, freeing them from 'Allied invasion and domination', and of course, their belt buckles all said "God Is With Us". This all sounds eerily familiar.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Top Ranked Films of William Wyler

William Wyler
4 titles, 61st in points 13,007
If all films were included, would be 50th in pts

Still the record for most Oscars for his films, 39
Still the record for most Oscars for actors in his films, 13
Still a record for five best picture nominees in consecutive years, 5 (38-42)

1. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)#175
2. Ben-Hur (1959) #221
3. Roman Holiday (1953) #319
4. Funny Girl (1968) #770

and those outside the top 1000
5. Dodsworth (1936) #1570
6. Wuthering Heights (1940) #1662
7. The Little Foxes (1941) #1831
8. Jezebel (1938) #1883 This film should definitely be ranked, top 1000
9. The Heiress (1949) #2185 Had the biggest fall of any film, from 685 to here in 2 yrs

Where is 1942 best picture winner Mrs. Miniver (1942)? That's a top 1000 classic for sure, definitely above Funny Girl and Roman Holiday. So are Little Foxes, Jezebel, and The Heiress for that matter.

His ranking at 62nd is a travesty, should have 8 titles in the top 1000 not 4. Even if all films were included in the rankings, with these 9 he would still only be 50th, and trailing Tarantino by 30 places, of all people. For me, The Little Foxes, Jezebel, and The Heiress all belong in the top 1000 as well – Dodsworth is borderline, I’d leave Wuthering Heights where it is, not my favorite novel or story so I tend to always dislike the film versions. Funny Girl is also perhaps overrated, but still, one of the best American directors of all time.

The Best Years of Our Lives is terribly under-ranked. In 1946, Wyler dared make an anti-war film, about the effect of war on the psyche of its participants. Unlike 1942’s Mrs. Miniver, in which civilians bravely fought a face-to-face enemy, this film’s veterans battle inner demons that alter their lives. It begins with three soldiers returning to the same home town after wars end, then shows how they attempt to deal with emotional scars from the war and suddenly having to face the harsh reality of an uncaring world upon their return, where life was expected to return to someone else’s expectation of normalcy.

The film treated an adult subject with grace and humility and was rewarded with seven Oscars, including best picture, director, and actor for Fredric March. As one of the best American films, a case can be made that this warrants some arguments as an all-time top 10 film, certainly well above the current ranking of 175. I was surprised how few polls had it near the top. Films it obviously influenced, by being not about war but the effect of war on individuals, were Coming Home, Born on the Fourth of July, The Deer Hunter, and even 2002's A Very Long Engagement.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Carl Theodor Dreyer

Carl Theodor Dreyer
5 titles, 31st in points with 19,997

1. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) #34 [silent]
2. Ordet (1955) #143
3. Vampyr (1932) #349
4. Gertrud (1964) #398
5. Day of Wrath (1943) #546

I think Dreyer must be an acquired taste, but I've only seen three of his films, and those were dominated by religion. I have not seen Vampyr, because I've had quite enough vampire films for one lifetime, and by this point I doubt that any of them will ever make a positive impression on me, I just wish I had all that time back.

Passion is noted for the incredible performance of Maria Falconetti [photo below], certainly one of the best of the silent era. It's said that she was so drained by this effort and Dreyer's treatment of her that she never acted in another film.

Top Ranked Films of James Cameron

James Cameron
5 titles, 32nd in pts with 19,369

1. Aliens (1986) #75
2. Terminator, The (1984) #128
3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) #186
4. Avatar (2009) #456
5. Titanic (1997) #772

For me Cameron is more popular than artistic. I did love Aliens however, that's Cameron at his best, one of the best horror and best science fiction films ever, two genres in one. You could also say it's a great military action film as well, a "bug war" as Bill Paxton calls it early on. The film has genuine creepiness interspersed with some great action sequences, it blows away the Ridley Scott original, Alien, which was lame and predictable by comparison, with the same event over and over until there was one, Sigourney Weaver.

I found Terminator 2 to be a far better sequel than the original promised, which was almost 'b' level SF from the 50's, with an evil robot running after a kid and his mom to kill them and prevent some future revolution. The 2nd one emphasized action and mind-bending special effects. My favorite scene was when the new terminator became a linoleum floor as a disguise - I mean, who thinks of that?

By contrast, Avatar, which was a not so thinly disguised retelling of the story of the Lakota Souix, who were sitting on gold in the Black Hills of Dakota when the U.S. invaded them to steal the gold, is just another good vs bad guys war film, not very imaginitive other than some special effects, but a fairly juvenile sf story. He says he thought of it when he was a kid, that's about when boys find out about the Indian wars. The animation in the landscapes is also far better than the animation of the beings, something else that hurt the film, they looked stiff and fake, not as smoothe as early Disney hand animation even. Also overranked in the top 500 of all time. I see it as an animated film and not one of the best of those, just because the story is so lame - compare it to the Oscar-nominated screenplays of The Incredibles and Toy Story 3. (However, I did not see it in 3d, if that's it's true medium, and I'm seeing a limited version. As for Cameron on the photo at the top, I hear 3d is better with two women!)

It's obvious where Cameron got the aliens in
Avatar, from looking at Oscars on his mantlepiece
He gave one to some art director and said,
"Here, just stick some hair on it and pointy alien ears"

Titanic should only appeal to teenage girls, in my opinion, and that's from a Kate Winslet fan (from day one, in Heavenly Creatures (1994), Peter Jackson's first film and in which she sang an aria to the sunrise then lost all sanity). C'mon, it's total Hollywood b.s. It wasn't even the best picture of its year, Babe (1995), from Australia, was, easily - one of the best kids' films of all-time. Titanic was just a romantic best-seller put on film, it had mass appeal and little else. If you appeal to the common denominator, you'll make an average film that will appeal to the average filmgoer and you'll make big money. It's a simple formula. In another era, it was Gone With the Wind. The worst kind of 'chick flicks', those without much intelligence. I prefer Chaos (2001) or La Femme Nikita (1990), from France, or The Cuckoo (2002) , from Russia, or My Brilliant Career (1979), from Gillian Armstrong in Australia, for independent women, not those dependent on men.

I suppose The Abyss should be in here somewhere. Admittedly not great, but still, major league underwater science fiction - it just didn't have much pace or any 'wow' factor. But it was better than Titanic.

Classic dialogue in Aliens:
"Ain't you keeping up with current events, pal? We're gettin our asses kicked!"

"Hey, Vasquez, anyone ever mistake you for a man?"
"No - how bout you?"

"That's it, game over, man, game over!"
"This little girl survived"
"Then why don't you put her in charge?"

Yep, laughing to the bank - he now
has more money than the GNP
of 137 nations

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Top Ranked Films of François Truffaut

François Truffaut
5 titles, 29th in points with 20,408

These are all the films of Truffaut’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. The 400 Blows (1959) France, bw #37
2. Jules et Jim (1961) #73
3. Day for Night (1973) #334
4. Shoot the Piano Player (1960) #427
5. Wild Child, The (1970) #904

He had 4 more outside the top 1000
6. Two English Girls (1971) #1204
7. Woman Next Door, The (1981) #1300
8. Stolen Kisses (1968) #1767
9. Fahrenheit 451 (1966) #2065

I think they got Truffaut right, good enough ranking for me. 400 Blows is also my favorite, a largely improvised debut film with a non-professional actor in the lead role. Much of this film is auto-biographical, a reflection backward by a 25-yr old film critic of his boyhood and the influence of movies on his aimless life.

Most of these may be considered a bit light, such as Day For Night or Stolen Kisses, but at the very least Truffaut’s love of films is evident in nearly all of these. Shoot the Piano Player is his tribute to film noir, and a pretty good film in its own right. Jules and Jim is an oddball romantic triangle, led by a sparkling Jeanne Moreau. Perhaps a little overrated, it remains fresh and interesting today.

Truffaut also had an acting role in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), as the scientist that was the musical expert working with sound to communicate to the aliens.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott
4 titles in the the top 1000,
27th in points with 20,824

Ridley Scott, one of the best modern action directors, has managed to direct both popular films, and films that were excellent examples of cinema craftmanship, among the best of their genres. These are all the films of Ridley Scott’s (brother of Tony Scott) that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Blade Runner (1982) #13
2. Alien (1979) #51
3. Thelma & Louise (1991) #287
4. Gladiator (2000) #517

Two more mentioned, both severely underanked, should be in the top 1000, especially Black Hawk Down
5. The Duellists (1977) #1999
6. Black Hawk Down (2001) #2181

Blade Runner is excellent science fiction, now considered a classic (perhaps ranked a little too highly, maybe around 50-75 on my personal list). It is based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? However, the main character and emphasis of the book was the electric animal repairman who takes in the androids due to his love of machines and his ability to fix them. The title was deemed too long, so they bought the title Blade Runner from an unrelated novel, this term was never used in Dick’s novel. The android hunter in the book was the bad guy, being a hitman for hire out there killing precious electric humanoids; the electric repairman was the only person in the book with a heart. My only complaint with Scott's film is that he turned it into less SF and more film noir detective fare, not the aura you get from the novel.

Alien is overrated, in Sigourney Weaver’s own words, "it’s just And Then There Were None in space" (and it made her a star) – this is the classic Agatha Christie novel (and Rene Clair film) where a small group of people are invited to a remote island then are murdered one-by-one, with the implication being that one of them is the murderer. In this case, we know the murderer and it's the same plot event over and over until the last human (Weaver). In this version, substitute an alien planet for the island, and one ugly alien designed by artist H.R. Giger, as the murderer - somehow a species unknown to human space that apparently gestates inside humans and that has acid for blood; go figure.

Aliens, the sequel directed by James Cameron, was much better science fiction, and a new level of creepy as well – perhaps the best horror film ever made because it works on three levels: science fiction, horror, military action. Bill Paxton’s lines were hilarious, “Ain’t you keeping up with current events, pal? We’re getting our asses kicked!” and “game over, man, game over!” When Sigourney Weaver tells him “this little girl survived”, he says, “then why don’t you put her in charge?”

Thelma and Louise is overrated to me (but is a fun and mindess action film, noted for the first onscreen appearance of Brad Pitt, as Geena Davis' lover), should be down around 500th-700th. A much better female revenge story is the French film Chaos (2001), in which an Algerian woman sold into prostitution plots to escape her life and punish her captors. In a way, it's a retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. This is a film you will applaud in the end.

Gladiator is perhaps underrated at 500, I’d have it in the top 200 for sure, one of the best adventure films ever, with supreme imagination, excellent acting, and top notch special effects. Easily the best film of a usually terrible sub-genre, the gladiator film. I’m always reminded of the line in Airplane, when Peter Graves asks the kid, “Tell me, Timmy, do you like gladiator films?”

The Duellists is a long film about a long feud between two officers, Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine, during the Napoleonic Wars, in which they fight a series of never-ending swordfights. This is a cerebral swashbuckler film, on the level of Kafka, in which life is not about winning or losing, but about the fight. Underrated at 1999, should be in the top 1000.

Black Hawk Down [see photo below] is one of the most intense war action films ever, on a level with Saving Private Ryan, and based on a true story of a downed U.S. helicopter in Somalia, being attacked on all sides as a rescue team searches on the ground. Almost too realistic, hard to believe it's not in the top 1000 - it would be in my top 200, one of the best 5 war films ever, perhaps, especially for action.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Friday, October 21, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood
5 titles, 35th in points with 18885

These are all the films of Eastwood’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Unforgiven (1992) #57 (AA) best picture
2. Million Dollar Baby (2004) #237 (AA) best picture
3. Mystic River (2003) #324
4. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) #367
5. Gran Torino (2008) #436

More that were out of the top 1000:
6. Outlaw Josey Wales, The (1976) #1178
7. The Flags of Our Fathers (2006) #1493
8. Bird (1988) #1579
9. Bridges of Madison County, The (1995) #1982

[with all these titles added, he would be ranked about 27th]

Eastwood had the best decade of any director at the beginning of this century, from 2000-2009. Missing from the list above is also The Changeling, so he really had six very good films over a 10-yr span.

These are my favorites, in order
1- Million Dollar Baby
2- Gran Torino
3- Unforgiven
4- Mystic River
5- Letters From Iwo Jima
6- The Changeling (2008)
7- Bird

Clint the actor, with paisley pants

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

Top Ranked Films of Sergio Leone

Sergio Leone
[24th w 21,210]

1. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, The (1966) #36
2. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) #52
3. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
4. For a Few Dollars More (1965) #508
5. A Fistful of Dollars (1964) #1583

For me, Leono has one really good film, Once Upon a Time in America (of course, the long version only), and a bunch of good popcorn entertainment, mostly designed for drive-ins - that's where I first saw all the spaghetti westerns, as the genre he helped create was called. It really meant Italian 'westerns', which were usually filmed in Spain or North Africa. In my opinion, they denigrate a more serious genre by creating satires built of excess and stereotypical characters.

They did make a star of Clint Eastwood, who had only done mostly tv (Rawhide) up to then. The first, Fistful of Dollars, is actually based on Akira Kurosawa's film Yojimbo, about a drifter who pits two rival sides of a town against each other, collecting money from each side. Kurosawa's film was in turn inspired by the westerns of John Ford!

Nowhere is this more evident than The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, perhaps the most over-ranked film in our compendium of polls, now #36 all-time and well ahead of such true classic westerns like The Searchers (1956) and High Noon (1952), which I find preposterous. Leone's hasn't nearly the grace or artistry of either of those films. This film has hammy acting, a long, boring pace, incongruent sequences (such as the Civil War intrusion), and a ridiculously long, anti-climactic ending - which comically ends where it begins. Once Upon a Time in the West is much better, casting Henry Fonda against type as a ruthless killer, hunted by Charles Bronson for reasons unknown. This one at least remains serious throughout, unlike GB and U.

This was still overlong and slow, however, and this languid pace of Leone's really works well only in Once Upon a Time in America [photo left], a brilliant, multi-decade study of Jewish gangsters in New York, their rise from street-wise kids to a successful, if small, crime organization. An overall perfect cast was led by one of Robert De Niro's best performances, as he ages about 40 years - almost matched by one of James Woods' best. It also featured the first performance of a 12-yr old Jennifer Connelly, as a young dancer and object of De Niro's eye as a teenager. This film is on par with the two Godfathers, in fact, I like it better than the first, not as much as II, and I can re-watch it more often than Godfather I.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Top Ranked Films of David Lynch

David Lynch
6 titles, 30th in pts w 20,400 (first in hair)

David Lynch is a mixed bag, but interesting to say the least. I really only like a few of his films: Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, and one totally out of his norm, The Straight Story. Most of his films are injected with a little too much Lynch eccentricity to work as films, at least not for me, such as Twin Peaks, Inland Empire, and Lost Highway, and I never understand the popularity of Mulholland Dr. either. Blue Velvet is certainly a film you don't easily forget.

These are all the films of David Lynch’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. Mulholland Dr. (2001) #122
2. Elephant Man, The (1980) #185
3. Blue Velvet (1986) #193 For me, his most unforgettable and interesting film, though I was a bit distressed over what they did to Isabella Rossellini
4. Eraserhead (1977) #388
5. Straight Story, The (1999) #498
6. Lost Highway (1997) #658

Lynch with Isabella Rossellini of Blue Velvet

3 more just outside the 1000, then there's Dune..
7. Wild at Heart (1990) #1047
8. Inland Empire (2006) #1198
9. Twin Peaks (1990) #1210
10. Dune (1984) #2206 Who in their right mind would rank this film? Some poll had it in their top 1000, that's the max I ever included from any poll.

[If all films were included, he would be 20th]

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

If they ranked directors by how cool they looked..

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Top Ranked Films of David Lean

David Lean
28th w 20784 pts, 5 titles

British director David Lean excelled in the modern historical epic film. Few directors would go to the isolated locations to film his biggest stories, films that defied the scale of the screen itself, as landscapes dwarfed both humans and the art of the cinema itself. The desert in Lawrence and the frozen Russian wilderness in Zhivago have few rivals in cinema history for environment as character.
These are all the films of David Lean’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls, and all were in the top 500.

1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) #24
2. Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957) #127
3. Brief Encounter (1945) #309
4. Great Expectations (1946) #481
5. Doctor Zhivago (1965) #499

These five are all top 1000 worthy, especially Lawrence of Arabia, one of the best historical films of all time and a primer on guerilla warfare.

The only other Lean film mentioned:
6. Ryan's Daughter (1970) #1836

Why does no one ever rank A Passage to India (1984)? It's much better than Ryan's Daughter, and on par with Doctor Zhivago and Great Expectations.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition