Sunday, January 31, 2010

Kathryn Bigelow wins DGA award

Congratulations to Kathryn Bigelow for being the first woman to win the Director's Guild Award. Now the next stop is the Oscars!

I have to stop changing my mind on things. Two weeks ago it looked like Avatar was destined to win best picture, now the Oscar race has become more baffling than ever. Tuesday morning is when the nominations are announced so mark your calendars. I shall discuss them when they are released.

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #1

1. Fargo, 1996
Dir: The Coen Brothers
Cast: Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy

Roger Ebert once said that "Films like Fargo are why I love the movies." It's incredible what Fargo does to you, or at least, what it did to me the first time I watched it. What is it about Fargo that is so good? I felt the same way as Ebert felt when he watched the film. There came a point in the movie when I realized, at age 16, that I was watching one of the greatest movies that I've ever seen. It just came to me like that and I didn't even finish watching it. But Fargo's approach is so subtle, so simple that it's seductive. It invites you into this imperfect world about a simple, greedy man who is trying to make a couple thousand bucks but goes about it in the wrong way, completely. It's a movie about simple people in a simple, unexpecting town that gets rudely awoken by two very bad men. I don't want to call them evil... Anton Chigurh is evil. These are just very bad people and the wrong type of people that you wanna get involved with.

Unfortunately, Jerry Lundegaard had to be that person. He is a desperate, pathetic person who in some ways is just as bad as those two criminals in that he doesn't even fully understand what kind of mess he's getting himself into. In that way, he's scary. He genuinely believes that what he is doing is the necessary thing to do. He wants to stick it to his father-in-law. He wants a piece of his money. But to have your wife kidnapped in the process? What kinda man would do such a thing? Jerry doesn't understand the world of crime. He thinks it's a simple 1-2-3 step process. He was never going to get a piece of the action, he was always going to get screwed over because he's a naive son of a bitch. That's what makes him so pathetic.

The one that brings this movie together in such a beautiful, pitch-perfect fashion is Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand). She represents the happy-go-lucky folksiness of the region that she lives in with her cheerful demeanor and her "Minnesota nice" accent. But Marge also happens to be very smart. She's actually a brilliant police officer who is able to use different clues, in things that are totally unrelated, in order to successfully solve the case. There is just something beautiful about watching how Marge goes about her day as a police officer, solving this very violent and disturbing case. Just watching her eat lunch with her husband at a cafeteria or order food at a fast-food place is something special to watch. Frances McDormand completely embodies this character and makes us care about this story. Without her, the movie would be filled with contemptuous, disdainful people. The Coen Brothers know this and brilliantly add her into this story in such seamless fashion.

In fact, everything that The Coen Brothers do in this movie, every step they take is perfectly executed. Believe me when I say that in this 98 minute movie, there isn't a single imperfect shot. Everything in this movie is done to perfection, the plot is so tightly-wound and watching it unfold is a thing of beauty. This is the film that made me a film lover. It's the film that made me want to make films and write about films. Fargo is a perfect film, the single greatest movie of the 1990s.

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #2

2. Goodfellas, 1990
Dir: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert Deniro, Joe Pesci

And then there were two. Goodfellas is one of the movies that is just an absolute pleasure to watch. You almost want to thank Martin Scorsese just for that fact. That it is a pleasure to watch and you are thankful that you got to watch it. Or, best yet, watch it three, four, five, twenty, thirty times. I don't know how many times I've watched Goodfellas, but each time I did, I had a great time watching it. Remember how I remarked during my write-up on Good Will Hunting that watching that movie was like listening to a band's greatest hits album? That's what Goodfellas is in a nutshell. It's a greatest hits collection of Martin Scorsese all wrapped up into one. He may have made more compelling films, more important films, but I'll be damned if he ever made one that is this entertaining, escapist, yet realistic and grounded.

Goodfellas technically has all the great elements that make a Scorsese movie. You have that great music, the constantly moving camera, the quick jump cuts, the long takes, the authentic set pieces, and just a combination of all these things together. You have the romantic scenes between Henry and Karen. That is, the scene where Henry takes Karen on their first date through the back end of a restaurant. You have scenes with extreme violence and terror. Basically, any scene with Tommy DeVito. You have some comedy, including Henry Hill's frank narration and a classic exchange between Tommy and Henry... ("you think I'm funny...?"). You have the extremely tense sequence toward the end which chronicles Henry's last day as a member of the mob. You have the brilliantly detailed sequence regarding the Lufthansa Heist. Yes, this movie has it all. It flies on by through a brisk 145 minutes and never looks back.

It all ends wonderfully with that beautiful piano-driven second part to Eric Clapton's "Layla" which kind of brings everything all together and instantly gives you nostalgia for what you just saw. You watched these guys grow up together, kill together, take drugs, do all kinds of illegal stuff together. They are not glorified, they are most definitely scum bags, but they were fun to watch.

Speaking on pure craft, this is perhaps Martin Scorsese's finest effort. I always have a tough time deciding if I like Raging Bull more than Goodfellas. I've always considered Raging Bull to be my personal favorite. But, objectively, I have to give all the credit in the world to Goodfellas. It gave a whole new spin to the gangster/mob film. It influenced a generation of filmmakers, including Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson. And, it's the ultimate crowd-pleaser. This is a film that will be regarded highly forever.

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #3

3. Schindler's List, 1993
Dir: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson

The inclusion of Schindler's List on here is probably the most obvious no-brainer that everyone could see coming. Nobody should be surprised by it being on this list, or even being in the top 5. I doubt anybody is. This is just one of those de facto-type picks. A movie that almost a general consensus can agree on - that this is one of the finest, and one of the most important, movies ever made.

Steven Spielberg's movie of a man's decision to save so many Jews during a time when they're all being exterminated is very emotional, very poignant, and it's a testament to the human spirit. That there is someone out there like Oskar Schindler just proves that there will always be heroes out there in the harshest of times. But, unlike fictional heroes, someone like Oskar Schindler isn't perfect. He probably does not consider himself a hero and some people may look at his story and think that he was just looking out for himself the whole time. That might be true, but if looking out for yourself involves saving a bunch of people from being killed... then that can slide, right?

The movie won seven Oscars, but surprisingly did not win for best actor or supporting actor. It's surprising to me considering how important Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are to this movie. Liam Neeson, of course, plays Oskar Schindler perfectly. He's just a German businessman who is just looking to capitalize on the ongoing war by making army mess kits. He realizes that hiring Jewish workers is cheaper than hiring Poles, so he does so. Thus, both directly and indirectly saving them from being sent to concentration camps.

On the other side, you have the evil Amon Goth (Ralph Fiennes) who kills Jewish people for fun. Standing on his balcony, aiming his gun at random Jewish people, and shooting them. He is a ruthless, cold-blooded person and shows that just as there can be real heroes out there in the world, there can just as well be ruthless villains. Ralph Fiennes is so good, he's terrifying in this movie.

Technically, Steven Spielberg's film is absolutely a marvel of cinematic artistic achievement. The starkly beautiful black-and-white cinematography gives this film a type of documentary-like authenticity that it definitely needs. Spielberg pulls all the right punches with this movie and once again proves that he is a man that knows how to make both entertaining films and important films. And he can make them good, or in this case, great.

Terry Gilliam once quoted Stanley Kubrick in saying that Schindler's List is about success and the holocaust is about failure. I don't think Kubrick was saying that disparagingly, but I think Gilliam was. And while Terry Gilliam is definitely a proven cinematic master, what he may have failed to realize when he said that is... the Holocaust isn't a movie. The events of the Holocaust, alone, do not and should not, warrant a movie alone. People already know that what happened during the Holocaust was deplorable. In such tragedy, I feel, people need to know that there are bright spots somewhere. Obviously, Spielberg isn't saying what Oskar Schindler did makes up for another six million Jews being slaughtered. In fact, Schindler is beside himself at the end, bemoaning the fact that he wasn't able to help more Jews. But he did the best that he could. To me, Schindler's List is more than about success, it's just a tiny layer of hope that is caught in the middle of despair. Sometimes that tiny layer of hope is the only thing that people need in order to get by.

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #4

4. Silence of the Lambs, 1991
Dir: Johnathan Demme
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins

Some avid film fans may wonder how Johnathan Demme, who was already a veteran filmmaker by the time he made Silence of the Lambs, was able to make a movie that was far and away his best work. They look at his other work and do not see anything that they recognize so they call him a one film wonder. Of course, anyone who has seen his films before Silence of the Lambs could see how much of a talent he was and that Silence of the Lambs is just him utilizing his talent with some really, really good material. Yes, Silence of the Lambs is the perfect combination of top-notch writing, directing, and acting that lead to it winning all five major awards at the Oscars.

I don't quite know what it is about this film that made it such a hit with audiences and critics' alike. It is a perfectly realized, brilliant movie... but how was it able to connect with so many people? Consider the graphic violence, the disturbing images and characters, Hannibal Lector... how is that so many people are willing to forego things that they'd normally be turned off to and enjoy this movie?

It might be because despite all those things, this movie has a hell of a story and a script. The actors sell the characters so much so that you do not dissociate yourself with the movie because of the violence, it just happens to be a part of the whole journey. Not to mention the wonderfully layered performance by Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector whose commanding on-screen presence resonates throughout the film which is why he won the Oscar for best actor even though he's only in the film for about twenty minutes... or something like that. Jodie Foster also gives a terrific performance as the young FBI agent who interviews Hannibal Lector to help gain insight on the mind of serial killers which is essential to a case that the FBI is currently on.

Here is so a film that succeeds on all levels of filmmaking. It represents what filmmaking is all about - collaboration. The perfect collaboration of talent in the fields of directing, writing, and acting is what makes this such a masterpiece. A masterpiece that is enjoyable to watch by any kind of audience both young and old.

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #5

5. Eyes Wide Shut, 1999
Dir: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman

Wrongly dismissed as one of Kubrick's lesser works at the time of release even though the film never received outright negative reviews, the main reason for the dismissal, I feel, is the casting of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman who were married at the time. They were one of Hollywood's hottest couples and I remember the commercials in this movie hyped up the film as this big erotic drama featuring Hollywood's sexiest couple. Either you were into that or you weren't. That, of course, is completely not the case here as Eyes Wide Shut is a film so rich with context and so densely layered that even though I've seen the movie about three or four times and it has catapulted into my top 5 of the '90s... I predict that as I get older and see the movie a few more times that it will be one of my all-time favorite films. Until that happens, its place is firm at number 5 on my list here. And believe me when I say that this isn't just a personal favorite of mine, I truly believe it belongs up here both subjectively and objectively.

I would classify this film as an anti-erotic drama/thriller. There is nothing erotic about this film at all. Anything that is perceived as erotic between Cruise's and Kidman's characters are completely superficial, at least to me.

First, there's the wealthy couple (played by Cruise and Kidman, of course) presented one way in the public eye and another way in private. We see them in both ways which is evidenced by the opening sequence of the film which shows Nicole Kidman's character undressing. With that, it becomes clear that this film is going to explicitly explore sexuality both among the main characters and the characters around them.

Both main characters are haunted by sex. A man tries to seduce Alice (Nicole Kidman) at a Christmas party while two younger women try to seduce her husband. After the Christmas party, the couple are alone in their bedroom having an argument. Throughout the course of the argument, it's revealed that Alice was tempted to have a one night stand with a naval officer that she saw on their trip to Cape Cod. Later in the movie, she confesses to her husband, Bill, that she dreamed that she was having sex with multiple men while Bill was watching. Knowing the he was watching, she started laughing at him.

Clearly disturbed by these confessions, Bill goes on with the rest of his night (having heard about the first confession and subsequently becoming haunted by it) and gets summoned to a deceased patient's home. There, the daughter of the patient tells Bill that she wants to give up her life to be with him, which Bill refuses. Later, he accepts a solicitation from a prostitute which later gets disrupted when his wife calls him. Then, the centerpiece of the movie, Bill discovering this mansion which contains multiple people wearing masks and performing a sexual ritual. Eventually he is caught at the party and is urged never to speak of it to anyone or else he will be punished severely.

Yes, sex is everywhere in this film. During the sex rituals, you see lots of people having sex in the background. Bill is haunted by images of Alice making love to an unknown sailor. Alice is haunted by a dream where she's having sex with multiple men while Bill watches. Not to mention that the prostitute who Bill almost had sex with later turned out to be HIV positive.

Almost every sex-related scene has severe and dire consequences. Bill is tempted by nearly every woman he comes across but regardless of his marital situation with Alice, he refuses to go along with any of them or something prevents him from doing so. This is why I say it's an anti-erotic film. Any sexual temptation is smacked down by a disturbing reality.

This is a fascinating film which I mentioned earlier has so many details within its context. It's fitting that Kubrick's final film is not only his most baffling and, perhaps, most controversial (next to A Clockwork Orange) as well as how rich this film is both thematically and technically. I haven't even mentioned how superbly crafted this film is but I suppose that should be implied when I mention the name Stanley Kubrick.

To close, I'd like bring back what I was talking about in the beginning. I think it was a brilliant casting choice to have Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise play the two lead roles. Yes, we know that they're married in real life and that is exactly what Kubrick is going for. Kubrick was a cinematic genius. He wouldn't have casted them both if he thought the viewer would be taken away from the movie because of such details. No, he knew that he could use that piece of fact to make their chemistry (or lackthereof) on screen 100% believable.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #6

6. JFK, 1991
Dir: Oliver Stone
Cast: Kevin Costner, Jack Lemmon

There are so many levels on which to cover JFK, I hope I can go over all of them. The reason why I love this movie so much is because of how good it is on so many levels. Every facet of this movie is excellent, some of those facets are almost ground-breaking for its time.

Some people seem to have the misconception that a controversial movie equals a bad movie, but that is not always the case. Of course there are bad movies that stir controversy, but this is a movie that deserved its controversy. If this movie did not have any controversy, it simply would not have worked. You couldn't just have a movie about Oswald assassinating JFK. This film delves into everything. Every possible conspiracy from small ideas to very, very big ideas. The one scene that sticks out in mind is the ridiculously long monologue that Donald Sutherland's character gives somewhere in the middle of the movie. The things that he says are so absolutely outrageous and left-field and yet, the more and more he goes into it, you almost want to believe that he is telling the truth just because it all fits together in an eerie way. On the other hand, perhaps you don't want to believe he's telling the truth because it is so eerie.

That's the thing that gets me the most about this movie. Even if the details that are given in this movie are untrue, the majority of them at least, they all make sense in its own world. JFK shouldn't be taken as a factual, historical account. It should be taken as a movie that raises questions, makes you think about the possibility of all these theories and conspiracies, makes you realize just how many crazy conspiracies can come up out of this. With something like the JFK assassination, it just doesn't end. The first time I watched JFK, I actually thought it wasn't going to end. It's a three hour, twenty minute movie after all. I didn't want it to end either.

First, let's go over the actors. The very first thing that should be striking to people without them even seeing this movie is just how loaded it is with amazing actors. For the most part, every actor in this movie, no matter how big they are, go into this movie with 100% dedication. And you would think with this many actors, that there could be a problem with people trying to steal a scene away from each other, but this is never the case. Almost every big named actor has their moment in the sun in this movie, even the lesser-known actors for crying out loud. Good for them, too.

Let's go through the list, shall we? Kevin Costner plays Jim Garrison. This could possibly be the best performance he's ever done in film. I've never been a fan of Kevin Costner for the most part, but he nails this role. He shows just how crazy and caught up in the conspiracies Jim was and over the course of the movie, you couldn't help but take his word on the things he was saying.

Then there's Tommy Lee Jones who plays a closet homosexual, who ever saw that coming? Kevin Bacon also plays a homosexual, ok, I kinda saw that coming. Gary Oldman's performance as Oswald is fascinating in that he's acting only in flashbacks, yet he plays the part so well that you forget that's an actor. Jay O. Sanders and Michael Rooker play Jim's right and left-hand men. These guys are more like character actors, but they each have their great scenes. Especially Rooker's perfectly spoken line in the beginning of the movie: "This is crazy." The emotional quiver in his voice just sells it for me.

Joe Pesci almost does steal the show in this movie. He plays the most raving, cracked-out lunatic in film history. Throughout the course of the movie, you can just see his character's heart start to beat faster and faster, the longer he gets caught up in the case until, finally, he snaps.

Then there's Jack Lemmon, John Candy, Walter Matthau, Sissy Spacek, Laurie Metcalf, Donald Sutherland, Ed Asner, and Brian Doyle-Murray. Jesus Christ, what an unbelievable cast. Sure, you recognize almost every actor in this movie but it doesn't stop you from following the story. These actors are so into the roles that you're excited to follow along on their conspiracy rants. That's what this movies does for me, it excites me. I know that not everything that's said in this movie is necessarily true, but who cares? It works as an entertaining movie in itself. It works on so many levels, but entertainment is the main one and that is what Oliver Stone is/was best at. You may not agree with the way he makes his films, but he definitely can make them entertaining on some level.

Another thing that I have to touch upon with this movie is the editing. The cuts, the jump cuts, the different video formats, the zooms, the switching from black-and-white is all edited perfectly together. This probably one of the best edited movies I have ever seen. This movie could've easily went into disaster mode if it wasn't for the editing just because there are so many snippets in each frame. There are so many flashbacks and flashbacks within the flashbacks, but I never found it hard to follow. And, most importantly, it wasn't necessarily done to be flashy. It all served a necessary purpose to be disorientating, nauseating, and exhilarating to the audience. You did not what to expect with each scene and even if you watch it for the second time, you still can't foresee all the images coming at you. This movie just a series of 180s and left-turns, but it's all necessary because this is a subject that is meant to be confusing. Attempting to clarify this conspiracy would be moronic.

You have to give a lot of credit to Oliver Stone for integrating all of the material that he used and being unwilling to show one side of the story as any form of truth. He exposed all of the conspiracies as being as crazy as they are intriguing. If you don't believe them, then that's fine, you don't have to. That's what I like most. He's not preaching anything to you, he's just showing you how insane things can get once you get in the middle of the conspiracy. I don't know any other director who would be crazy enough, or would want to pull off something like this.

The length of the movie may be daunting to some. Yes, this movie goes well over three hours and you feel those three hours, but I never thought about leaving my seat when I was watching this movie. From the opening scenes, I was completely fixated and I had to know what was going to happen next. The movie also leaves a pretty satisfying conclusion and the underlying theme of doing anything to find out the truth is an inspiring one.

All-in-all, JFK is a feeling, it's an emotion, it's a call to action. Ultimately, it's a film that is so compelling and utterly convincing and credit, once again, must go to the ensemble cast for delivering such believable lines. The cast really makes this film, but the combination of the editing, directing, and the writing makes this film something that should be remember for decades to come.

Just to add a little more...

As mentioned before, when JFK was released it was very controversial because of its approach to the subject matter at hand. I think what people have to understand before seeing this movie is that they have to give it a little room for creativity. Of course they're going to be throwing conspiracy theories at you left and right. Whether or not some or any of them are true is up for you to decide. I think that should be stressed the most; you don't have to believe anything that the movie says. It's just giving you all the different types of conspiracies... you can decide for yourself what's real and what's not real. After all, this is a movie, not a documentary. If you want to learn more, read more. Just don't take this movie as some sort of factual evidence, it's not. But if you come into this movie with an open mind, then you can be surprised with how much you like this movie. There are so many things to like about this movie. To be put off by the fact that it's not 100% factual is just bogus. It's not like it's a historical retelling of the JFK situation. It's using a whole bunch of different characters to showcase what they THOUGHT could have happened during the assassination. Some of those guys might have been giving an accurate recount. The point was that we don't know for sure and we'll never know for sure, but we still have to search for the truth. We, as Americans, must stop at nothing to make sure that something that doesn't feel truthful or honest gets exposed. That's really what this movie is about. I think that's what people should be taking away from this movie the most out of all the other things they can take away from this movie.

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #7

7. The Thin Red Line, 1998
Dir: Terrence Malick
Cast: Sean Penn, James Caveizel

It takes a different kind of moviewatcher to enjoy a Terrence Malick film. That's not to say only a specific amount of people can enjoy them, in fact, everyone can. It's just that they are a different breed of films. This isn't a war film, it's a Malick war film... and that, in itself, makes it stand out from any other war film ever released. Malick had only made two other films before Thin Red Line, but they already gave a clue as to what to expect with his third movie. You have your voice-overs and your beautiful, naturalistic cinematography. You also have a slow moving movie. You feel every minute of a Malick film. He throws all these images and words at you that at the end you're completely lulled in... that's if you're really watching.

Thin Red Line is not about war, it's not about the action we see on screen, this is about the soldiers. It's about their innermost thoughts, their feelings, their perspective on life. These people all know that life can go at any second and after living with that frame of mind for as long as they've been in the military, they've learned to dissociate themselves from the action.

This is true cinematic poetry. The movie just kind of floats along by through the action and the soldiers, almost as if this is all a dream. Don't get me wrong though... there plenty of wonderful war/action sequences and the most interesting thing is not how it affects the characters, but how it affects their surroundings. Malick focuses a lot on the beautiful scenery of the island and contrasts that with the destructiveness of war. This is a beautifully made, breath-taking movie by one of the most legendary filmmakers of all-time.

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #8

8. Glengarry Glen Ross, 1992
Dir: James Foley
Cast: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon

A... B... C... always be closing... by the time Alec Baldwin's character finishes his monologue to officially jumpstart the movie, it's already pretty obvious that we're in for a treat. Yes, Glengarry Glen Ross is nothing more than a couple of actors at their prime giving the performances of their lives but... wait... what the hell more could you ask for?

Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino... an unbelievable all-male cast turns the heat up on this yell-a-thon. These people are desperate real estate salesmen and if they aren't one of the top two sellers in their firm than they're fired. A lot is at stake here. When it isn't Alec Baldwin taking control of the screen, it's Jack Lemmon nailing the role of the older, experienced, yet out of touch salesman. He hasn't been making any sales because he doesn't have any leads! He needs the leads! And then you have Al Pacino tearing Kevin Spacey a new asshole because he lost him a customer. Yes, each scene after the next is just amazing to watch unfold as these actors give 100% into this material.

They are allowed to give 100% because Glengarry Glen Ross happens to be written by one of the master screenwriters, David Mamet. The movie is based off his play and that's pretty easy to tell. The movie basically is a play on screen just with real settings. But it's an acting tour de force and that's why it's worthy of being this high on the list. I can a personal thrill watching a few of my favorite actors go all out like this. All the action in the movie comes with the words. Hardly anything happens in the movie, yet the movie is so thrilling to watch. That can only be a testament to an amazing script and actors.

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #9

9. Heat, 1995
Dir: Michael Mann
Cast: Robert Deniro, Al Pacino

It took awhile for it to sink in, but after viewing this movie about five or six times in the past few years, I feel that it's safe to say that this is one of the ten best movies of the '90s. I feel no qualms about that, none whatsoever. This film is really a brilliant cat-and-mouse game; a film that is just as much about the criminals as it is about the cops. The cops carefully try to retrace the criminal's steps while the criminals carefully try to dodge being caught by the cops.

Of course, each side has a leader that happens to be played by two of the best actors in their generation: Pacino and Deniro. Both of them are at their vintage best. Al Pacino playing a very tough, very smart cop; Robert Deniro played the bad criminal. I don't know what's so appealing about Robert Deniro, even when he plays a bad guy, but he just has such a commanding on-screen appearance that it's a joy to watch him work his magic. This all culminates to the classic scene in the middle of the movie where the cop and criminal meet for a cup of coffee. Why do they do this? To me, it's like they're taking a break from playing this "game" and are just sharing each other's philosophies on life.

But that just adds to this film's greatness. This is really Michael Mann at his absolute best. There is the iconic and influential shootout and heist sequences as well as the classic lines: "She's got a... GREAT ASS and you have your HEAD ALL THE WAY UP IT!"

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #10

10. Happiness, 1998
Dir: Todd Solondz
Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jon Lovitz

Even if Jon Lovitz never really gets another role like he got in this movie, at least nothing can change the fact that his presence and acting in the beginning of this film pretty much set the tone and made you realize how this film is gonna pan out. How is it gonna pan out? We have no goddamned clue. ...Exactly.

Happiness is a film that almost takes pride in its unpredictability. Some of the scenes seem to go into directions you don't WANT them to go into. And by the time they get there, you can't bare to watch any further, but you have to anyway. It's almost like a horror film in the sense that the subject matter and what it leads to is just terrifying in itself. Just when you think we're going to have a nice, innocent scene... it turns ugly in almost an instant, but in a way that is darkly funny and clever.

Don't get me wrong, Jon Lovitz's performance in the beginning of this film, his speech, doesn't exactly steal the movie. It's debatable on who exactly stole this movie. You can make the conclusion that Dylan Baker's character stole the film because of the fact that the things his character does are so beyond messed up that it was inevitable that this film would cause controversy. And even though Happiness does deal with the issue of pedophilia, I feel that Todd Solondz tackles this subject the best way he possibly can. He doesn't get graphic, and yet he does get graphic. He doesn't show you what happens, but the "subtle" hints don't exactly make you feel better for not seeing them. Dylan Baker's character Bill Maplewood is exactly that: a pedophile. He finds himself trapped in this sick, perverse mind that carries the urge to do these rotten things to little boys. The perfectly written and acted scenes between him and his son cause for some very awkward moments and some very heartbreaking moments. The moment where he has to admit to his son that he is indeed a pedophile is probably one of the most powerful scenes of dialogue I've ever seen in film. Just because there's so much to take from it, there's this certain air of honesty going into it. Todd Solondz, the writer/director of this movie, isn't making a sympathetic portrayal of a pedophile. He's showing that they can act and be as human as anyone else and still have a sick, disgusting mind that allows them to do those terrible acts. So while we are completely turned off and perhaps even terrified of Bill Maplewood, we still feel for the situation that is made between him and his son when he has to tell his son what he is and what it means. His son is still at a young age and may not fully grasp what pedophilia can fully entail, but he does understand that it is something that is terrible and thus he cries.

Phew. And that's only a portion of the story in this movie. Todd Solondz is known for pushing the envelope in his films as he's done so in Welcome to the Dollhouse and Palindromes. Some people may be turned off by his material, and I do wonder sometimes... not wondering if he can go further, but wondering if he should go as far as he's going. The redeeming factor is that Solondz can write such nasty details about a character and yet put it in a context that makes sense.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Top 100 movies of the '90s: 20-11

20. Trainspotting, 1996
Dir: Danny Boyle
Cast: Ewan Mcgregor

Trainspotting is the type of movie that is so highly-stylized and edgy that when you watch you wish you could be as cool as what you are watching. This movie is the epitome of cool. And yet, it's about drugs. Very much so, in fact. This is actually a fairly dark film about drugs, but it's presented in such a soundly stylized way that you can't help but watch it. That, in fact, is the genius of Trainspotting. The main characters are Scottish and oftentimes it may difficult to understand them, but you still feel like you know these characters... even if you wish you didn't. No, these are certainly not characters you aspire to be, far from it. The comic/frank depiction of drug addiction in this movie is a refreshing change of pace from ultra-serious anti-drug movies such as Requiem for a Dream. As funny as it can be sometimes, there are scenes here that are just as hard-hitting as any movie depicting drug addiction.

19. Unforgiven, 1992
Dir: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman

Over the last few years, Clint Eastwood has been churning out films like nobody's business. Pretty much every film he's made since Mystic River has gotten serious attention from the Academy. But, no matter how many films he makes from herein, he'll never top Unforgiven. Which, by all accounts should be considered his magnum opus as a director and actor. This is the last Western film he ever made and boy does he go out in style. This very straight-forward revenge tale is so tight and focused, there is hardly any room for mistakes.

18. Secrets & Lies, 1996
Dir: Mike Leigh
Cast: Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethyn

There's a long scene near the end of Secrets & Lies where all the main characters are sitting outside on a patio, having a barbecue for a family gathering. Cynthia asked her brother if she can bring a "friend from work" Hortense to the gathering and he agrees to it. So here's the family and Cynthia's friend... having lunch together and celebrating Cynthia's daughter's birthday. Little do they all know that Hortense is a lot more closer to the family than they could ever know. What unfolds during this scene is so seamless, so natural, so un-rehearsed... or so it feels. It really looks like a family sitting down and having lunch. They all really seem like family... except with Hortense. Perhaps I'm rambling, but my description here is just a microcosm of what the film is like. This really is one very engrossing drama. A film that sucks you into the lives of these people and doesn't let go til the closing credits. It's a film that depicts a family that is slowly being torn about by its secrets and lies. Secrets and lies that ultimately leads to a very emotional, heart-breaking climax. Mike Leigh has never done better than he has with this film.

I should also mention Brenda Blethyn's performance is this movie is just magnificent. She cries in nearly half the scenes in this movie, it's such an emotionally draining performance that I don't know how she could've recovered from it, either way it's one of the finest performances by an actress that I've ever seen.

17. Boogie Nights, 1997
Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds

Hard Eight proved Paul Thomas Anderson's promise as a filmmaker, but I'm sure at the time, nobody expected a film like this as his next feature. On a path to confirm his status as America's youngest, most original filmmaker of the 21st century, PT Anderson started with this 2-and-a-half hour epic. Boogie Nights is heavily-inspired, borrowing a lot of elements from Scorsese and Robert Altman... in movies such as Goodfellas and Nashville. The constantly moving camera, quick editing, and rise-and-fall story is very reminiscent of Goodfellas whereas the big ensemble cast and their inter-mingled stories is very Altman-esque. It's fascinating to see these two influences being blended together. Of course, Boogie Nights is very much a Paul Thomas Anderson film. The story is fresh, creative, and original; Julianne Moore, Mark Wahlberg, Heather Graham... all give great performances, but the real star of this show is Burt Reynolds. Say what you will about Burt Reynolds, but he is completely on his game in this movie. The movie may have faltered severely if Jack Horner was played by someone less experienced to handle the role. But, Reynolds is a natural as a porn producer.

That brings me to another point that I would like to bring up before I move on. Yes, I first watched this movie because I heard there were a lot of nude and sex scenes in the film... I was 13 at the time, what do you expect? But the movie pleasantly surprised me by just how good it is. Back then, I did not know much about movies; now that I have seen the movie a few more times and have grown up, I can still say for a fact that this movie is brilliant. And people who dismiss this movie as being a porn film are completely nuts and if they've actually seen this movie and still dismiss it as such, then I can't help but lose a little respect for them.

16. The Insider, 1999
Dir: Michael Mann
Cast: Russell Crowe, Al Pacino

The Insider is a powerful drama film with great performances from Russell Crowe and Al Pacino. I'm not a huge Russell Crowe fan but I was impressed by his very restrained performance in this film; it's a performance that's 100% convincing and needed to carry the film. On the other side, Al Pacino gives very solid performance as a producer for 60 minutes. He is someone that will stop at nothing to get the true story out there and wants Russell Crowe's character to come out with the truth for justice's sake. But at what cost? This film explores the stranglehold that cigarette companies has on its employees both incoming and outgoing. Michael Mann is great (usually) at handling big stories and this film is no exception.

15. Toy Story, 1995
Dir: John Lasseter
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

What this film did for the animation industry is astounding. Yes, this is the film that started it all, it started the unbelievable run of great films that Pixar has produced since 1995. Pixar's emphasis on great, imaginative storytelling with memorable characters is inspiring. The way they are able to gather both child and adult audiences and entertain them both is amazing. The first Pixar film might just be the best of all the Pixar movies. Toy Story just might be the most perfect 80 minutes of animation that I've ever seen.

14. LA Confidential, 1997
Dir: Curtis Hanson
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe

A masterfully crafted police drama/noir ensemble with a great cast. It's beautiful, it's twisted, it's seductive... it's everything a film noir should be and more. This also might be one of the last great thoroughly studio films ever made. One last great reminder of what can happen when a studio brings some of its greatest stars together with a very capable writer/director and producer to make an absolute masterpiece. Now it's a completely different story in Hollywood and most of the movies that wind up winning all the critics' and guild awards are by films that are distributed by major studios but not produced by them. Nevertheless, it's a shame this movie soon got overshadowed by Titanic which wound up taking home all the important awards. But 13 years later, this movie stands out more to me. An excellent film.

13. Being John Malkovich, 1999
Dir: Spike Jonze
Cast: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz

That film that introduced the world to Charlie Kaufman and his twisted mind, Being John Malkovich is one of the most original American movies ever made. Seriously, how does one come up with a story about a guy discovering a portal inside the mind of a great character actor. An actor who causes people to ask "Who the fuck is John Malkovich?" John Cusack stars as a sad, longing individual who once he discovers this portal, he finds everything he could want in getting to be someone else. This is easily the funniest film written by Charlie Kaufman. The first half of the movie is filled with great lines, especially the short video that was made by the employer the John Cusack works for that explains why the building created a "7 1/2" floor.

12. Short Cuts, 1993
Dir: Robert Altman
Cast: Tim Robbins, Robert Downey Jr.

Everytime you watch Short Cuts, you get a new glimpse of how masterful Robert Altman is with the camera. His trademark zooms, which prevalent in a lot of his movies are just as prevalent here. His overlapping dialogue, his ensemble cast... it's all here and it's all set to a relaxing jazzy backdrop that allows you to just sit back and watch the master take control. After experiencing a bit of a renaissance with The Player after a long period of disappointments, Robert Altman proved that was not a fluke. Short Cuts is just a brilliant film in the way it follows its characters in a series of different circumstances. The centerpiece of this great film is a great performance by Jack Lemmon who has this wonderfully long monologue as he talks to his son in the hospital. Seriously, if you want to know what it means to be a great actor, you just have to watch that clip. Better yet, watch the whole film.

11. Pulp Fiction, 1994
Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson

Well, we've just about reached the top 10 of the 1990s, but before we do so we should talk about Pulp Fiction. Yes, Pulp Fiction is my 11th favorite movie of the 1990s. If I would've made this list five years ago, it'd probably be in my top ten, but here it is. That's not to say it's not a great film... obviously, it's number eleven. In fact, considering all the hype and praise it has gotten over the years, you can say that it successfully has lived up to the hype... everytime that I watch it. The movie is the zenith of creativity with an amalgamation of dramatic, comedic, and tense scenes. Not to mention how nearly every character in this movie is instantly memorable and almost every line is quotable. This film has everything you could ask for, but it can be topped. Tarantino topped it last year with Inglourious Basterds. This is a great film, a masterpiece of sorts, but it simply does not hit me emotionally as much as the top ten does and that's why it just misses it. I'd go into this movie further, but this movie has been talked to death over the years that I don't think I can add anything new or interesting to say about it. It's just brilliant, that's all that needs to be said.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Top 100 movies of the '90s: 30-21

30. Three Colors: Red, 1994
Dir: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cast: Irene Jacob

Perhaps one of the most underrated directors to have ever lived, Kieslowski's film Red marks one of the very few foreign films on this list. Regrettably, I have not seen very many foreign films in this decade, but of the ones I saw, this one really struck a chord with me. Just the way the movie takes you on this unpredictable ride where characters who otherwise had nothing to do with each other suddenly meet. Red was Kieslowski's final film - I'm sure there are many directors who would love to end their career making such a brilliant film, very few are able to do so.

29. Good Will Hunting, 1997
Dir: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Robin Williams, Matt Damon

The film that proved that Gus Van Sant could be a commercially successful director; the film that thrust Matt Damon and Ben Affleck into movie superstardom; the film that once again proved that Robin Williams is one hell of a dramatic actor. When I look back at films and rank them retrospectively, I often think of how much of the film I can still remember regardless of how long ago I've seen it last. I have seen this movie a handful of times and each scene in this movie is so memorable that I feel like I'm listening to a band's greatest hits album when I watch this movie.

28. Three Kings, 1999
Dir: David O. Russell
Cast: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg

I remember Roger Ebert calling this movie a "weird masterpiece" or something along those lines. He is correct on that assessment. This film really showed just how brilliant David O. Russell can be. Technically, the movie is masterful. Great performances by Clooney, Ice Cube, and Mark Wahlberg. Considering how heated things were during the production of this movie, it's surprising just how good this movie turned out.

27. Miller's Crossing, 1990
Dir: The Coen Brothers
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, John Turturro

Perhaps overlooked at the time for being released during the same year as Goodfellas and The Godfather, part III, Coen Bros' Miller's Crossing is an underrated classic. Beautifully shot by Barry Sonnenfeld, this film features a very cold, dark performance from J. E. Freeman who is not unlike Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men. Like most Coen Brothers' movies, this isn't a typical mob movie. This is a Coen Brothers' mob movie which should mean it's in its own category.

26. Se7en, 1995
Dir: David Fincher
Cast: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman

Very smart, sophisticated film by David Fincher; it really should be considered his first film since his "first" film was Alien 3. Zodiac proved that David Fincher knows how to make cop dramas and Se7en was his first crack at the subgenre. It should come as no surprise that those are two of his best movies. Se7en works in a similar way as Zodiac as the whole of the crimes are larger than the sum. The cops involved (Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman) in the case all feel legitimately sickened by the crimes and it all comes to a shocking, personal conclusion that has since received mixed reactions by many people. I, however, happen to be on the positive side of that reaction and think that this film hardly misfires throughout.

25. American Beauty, 1999
Dir: Sam Mendes
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening

It came as a surprise to me when I found out that one of the all-time great directors, Robert Altman, trashed this film and lumped this with "Titanic" as one of the best picture Oscar winners that he considered to be the "worst ever." Well, I'll respectfully disagree with the late, great director's opinion because I feel this film is a near-masterpiece. By the way, I'm sorry if I use to word "masterpiece" from here on out, I've reached the top 25 after all. But, nevertheless, this film is fantastic----from the acting, the cinematography, and a story about the disillusionment with suburban life in America, whether from the perspective of a father going through a mid-life crisis or a rebellious teenage girl... this film hits all the right notes at all the right times and seemingly struck a chord with the country as it was very successful at the time of its release both critically and commercially.

24. Hard Boiled, 1992
Dir: John Woo
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung

Highly stylized, brilliant, John Woo Hong Kong action film. Featuring two of Hong Kong's most legendary actors, this shoot 'em up features some great action scenes and is considered the last truly great film from John Woo. Since then, he has unfortunately decided to make some pedestrian Hollywood films, but in 1992 this was John Woo at his undeniable best.

23. Malcolm X, 1992
Dir: Spike Lee
Cast: Denzel Washington

Many consider Do the Right Thing to be Spike Lee's masterpiece, but I find it hard to believe that after going through the three and a half hour behemoth that is Malcolm X. Carried by an unbelievably convincing performance by Denzel Washington, a performance he's never been able to top, add that with impeccable direction by Spike Lee... and you have yourself one of cinema's all-time great biopics.

22. Saving Private Ryan, 1998
Dir: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon

When you ask the average film fan what their favorite war movie is, they will probably say "Saving Private Ryan." And while that's the typical, popular pick, anybody who dismisses this film as such is severely underrating the film. I have very little complaints about this film. What surprises me is how Steven Spielberg can make these big budget Hollywood films such as Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones and yet manage to make a film like Saving Private Ryan that is both commercially and critically pleasing and really goes into the depths of artistic filmmaking. You can call Spielberg a populist filmmaker if you want, you'd probably be right in that assessment. But he has shown time and time again that he can tackle more serious subjects that utilizes his artistic side and still winds up commercially successful. If all of his films happen to do well in the box office, does that make him any less of a director? Absolutely not.

21. Terminator 2, 1991
Dir: James Cameron
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton

Most people generally consider The Godfather, part II to be the greatest sequel of all-time and I would be inclined to agree... but with Terminator 2, James Cameron totally revolutionizes everything we think a sequel could be. Let's face it, this movie has all the goods. A great, tough performance by Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger is his usual badass Terminator self, and even the young kid Edward Furlong managed not to be annoying... and that's hard to accomplish. Some of the action sequences in this film are still impressive. They were groundbreaking back in 1991 and they are groundbreaking still. James Cameron has made two of the highest grossing films of all-time, but this is by far his best.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Top 100 movies of the '90s: 40-31

40. Election, 1999
Dir: Alexander Payne
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon

Alexander Payne's funniest film, by far, Election is a biting satire on politics set in a high school where a couple of teens are running for HS president. What's even better is the passive-aggressive rivalry between Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon's characters. A rivalry that lasts all the way up til the end of the movie. Election really demonstrated Payne's potential as a director when he made this '90s classic.

39. Beauty and the Beast, 1991
Dir: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

Visually arresting, a wonderful (if not, somewhat odd) love story and it's clearly one of Disney's best 2-D animated movies. That is, at least of the latter half of the 20th century. This movie was even nominated for Best Picture which is impressive considering all the impressive efforts made by Pixar in this decade and all they can get is Best Animated Picture (which wasn't around in 1991, as you may know).

38. 12 Monkeys, 1995
Dir: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt

Easily Terry Gilliam's most commercially films and proof that he can make movies for the people. This could also be considered his most accessible film and it's interesting to see Gilliam working in a more controlled nature. I use the term "controlled" loosely as he still leaves us with a film that's quite a head-scratcher. Also impressive is how he worked with Bruce Willis to give him one of his most vulnerable roles where he's not just kicking ass and taking names all the time. Brad Pitt also gives a wonderful performance.

37. Out of Sight, 1998
Dir: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez

The movie that broke Steven Soderbergh out into the maintstream; Out of Sight also turned George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez as true movie stars. Of course, one has continued to become a success both financially and critically (winning an Oscar in the process) and the other has managed to squander her career slowly throughout the next decade. I'll let you guess which one is which... even though I already used some key pronouns that should give it away.

36. My Own Private Idaho, 1991
Dir: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Keanu Reeves, River Phoenix

Gus Van Sant is usually hit-or-miss for me, but when he hits... wow, I can be his biggest fan. Sure he's made some films that I've hated, but My Own Private Idaho is not one of them. A movie about two gay, male prostitutes searching... trying to find a home. River Phoenix really shows just how talented he is and what a shame it was when he passed. This is one of the definitive road movies of the '90s.

35. Shawshank Redemption, 1994
Dir: Frank Darabont
Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

Before Frank Darabont made The Green Mile, he made this other prison drama classic based off a Stephen King story. What's striking about this story is just how well it translates onto the screen as well as how convincing and wonderful Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman's performances are. But the real treat is watching how this story unfolds. Obviously this movie has stricken a chord with people since its 1994 release as it's ranked #1 on imdb. Perhaps that gives the film an unfair overhyped status, but it didn't have that when I saw it the first time and I loved it too.

34. The People vs. Larry Flynt, 1996
Dir: Milos Forman
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Edward Norton

I've seen this movie quite a few times and, I don't know why, but I love both of Forman's biopics: the one of Larry Flynt and the one of Andy Kaufman. What makes this one so much better is the fact that... well... Larry Flynt's life story is that much more interesting. But, more than that, this film really is masterfully made by one of the cinema's great masters.

33. The Player, 1992
Dir: Robert Altman
Cast: Tim Robbins

Starting off with a very long, 8-minute, one-take shot introducing us to, pretty much, all the characters that we are to later see in the movie... The Player is a wonderful sardonic take on Hollywood. Starring a wonderful ensemble cast, this almost feels like a Robert Altman revenge tale. Robert Altman, of course, was one of the greatest directors of the 1970s, but in the 1980s his career took a serious hit. He came back in a big way, however, with The Player and it happens to be about the very same town that turned on him during the '80s. The film could be considered bitter... if it weren't so damn right.

32. Leaving Las Vegas, 1995
Dir: Mike Figgis
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue

Mike Figgi's poetic, beautiful, heartbreaking film (by the way, I'm doing 100 of these movies, if I repeat some of these adjectives then I'm SORRY, ok??) Leaving Las Vegas features Nicolas Cage's best performance ever. His performance is so raw and sad that it shocking how he often stars in all these stupid action movies that almost seem like a self-parody. Either way, this movie about a man's never-ending bout with alcoholism is very sad, but not in a manipulative way. It's a great film, but you might not want to watch it if you're in a really happy mood because it's quite the downer.

31. Dazed and Confused, 1993
Dir: Richard Linklater
Cast: Jason London, Matthew McConaughey

Virtually ignored when it was released, Dazed and Confused has since become a cult success. But, honestly, this isn't just a film for druggie teens and college students. This is, in many ways, an amazing film. Filled with so many interesting characters just hanging out and having a good time. If you expect the usual high school comedy, then go see American Pie. This is a honest and mature film about growing up and trying to make high school a time where the memories will never die. This also features a great performance by Matthew McConaughey as 20-something guy you like to hang out with, but you never want to grow up and be like him. Dazed and Confused contains so many great lines, great scenes, and great acting. Many of these actors have gone on to have mainstream success and indie success from Ben Affleck, McConaughey, Parker Posey, and Adam Goldberg. What's funny is that Adam Goldberg essentially plays the same character that he's since gone on to play in many subsequent movies and tv shows.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Top 100 movies of the '90s: 50-41

50. Chasing Amy, 1997
Dir: Kevin Smith
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jason Lee

By and large, this is still Kevin Smith's finest film. I can say so much about Chasing Amy, about the characters' motivations, about how smart and witty the dialogue is, about how this movie can go from the low-brow sex jokes to very emotionally raw scenes within minutes from each other and it all completely works. This movie works on so many levels and it's fun to watch and appreciate a movie by Kevin Smith at his best.

49. Metropolitan, 1990
Dir: Whit Stillman
Cast: Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements

This movie, like a fine wine, just ages better over time. With Metropolitan, Whit Stillman really set the tone for comedies featuring really intelligent, yet disillusioned characters in their early-to-mid '20s... comedies you'd see a lot more of in the '90s thanks to the movie. They talk about Jane Austen books, socialism/communism, and judge you based on what type of overcoat you wear, or whether or not you take the taxi or a bus home. One of the best indie movies of the '90s, another film I can watch over and over again and enjoy it for different reasons.

48. The Truman Show, 1998
Dir: Peter Weir
Cast: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney

Jim Carrey's first dramatic role and boy what a great movie this is. Peter Weir, one of Australia's finest directors, made a brilliant film about a man whose life has unknowingly been broadcasted on television for over 30 years. Jim Carrey is flawless in this movie and so is Laura Linney who is a very underrated actress.

47. Leon: The Professional: 1994
Dir: Luc Besson
Cast: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman

Near-perfectly crafted film by Luc Besson, easily the best movie he has made and that is strange because of how effortless this movie feels. There's plenty of action in this movie to satisfy those kinds of fans, but it's also a wonderful drama about a hit man forced to take care of a 12-year-old girl whose parents were recently killed. This is unlike any action movie in '90s: one for action movie fans and art-house fans. That's probably why it's ranked #34 in imdb's top 250.

46. Total Recall, 1990
Dir: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Arnold Schwarznegger, Sharon Stone

Setting the bar for sci-fi action thrillers to come in the future, Total Recall is a fantastic, violent movie with great scene after great scene. This is very much a Paul Verhoeven movie in its great visual effects, the aforementioned violence, as well as the way he injects his twisted tongue-in-cheek humor in some of the most intense scenes.

45. Magnolia, 1999
Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman

It's hard to believe that Paul Thomas Anderson was twenty-nine when he created this movie, but it's true. By Magnolia, PT Anderson had already perfected his craft and this movie is one of most expertly crafted films of the '90s. Top on some great, intensely emotional scenes with a third act that starts with a strange twist and you have yourself a wonderful movie. The movie sort of loses its edge with repeated viewings, but that only stops it from becoming one of the top 5 best movies of the '90s.

44. Jackie Brown, 1997
Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson

I never understood why fans of Tarantino regard this as one of his lesser works when it most definitely is not. In fact, Jackie Brown is still Tarantino at his most mature, most layered, and it contains some very surprisingly tender scenes between Pam Grier and Robert Forster that really makes this movie great.

43. Casino, 1995
Dir: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert Deniro, Joe Pesci

I know it's weird to say, especially since this movie is at #43 on my list, but this Scorsese on autopilot. Martin Scorsese, at this point, has become such a master at this type of movie that when it was released, it really didn't come as a surprise to many people. I don't know what people expected from Scorsese but after you make Taxi-Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas it's hard to continually top yourself. Truth be told, however, this is the perfect companion piece to Goodfellas. It's just as wonderfully directed and crafted as Goodfellas, but it doesn't have some of the timeless, classic scenes that Goodfellas has. Also, Joe Pesci's character in this movie is not very different than his character in Goodfellas. But, again, Goodfellas is an all-time classic and this is a very great companion piece to that movie. Individually, it's great, compared to other Scorsese movies, it's business as usual. But the usual business is a great movie... see how it works? It'd be unusual business if it was a bad film about this subject, but that's not the case at all. Also should be mentioned that Sharon Stone almost steals the show from Deniro and Pesci in this movie.

42. Groundhog Day, 1993
Dir: Harold Ramis
Cast: Bill Murray, Andie Macdowell

Like Wayne's World, Swingers, and There's Something About Mary, Groundhog Day is another wonderful comedy that can be watched over and over. Which is ironic in a movie like this since Phil Connors lives the same day over and over in this movie. While this is a film that's primarily for the laughs, this movie also has a rather deep message about mortality... perhaps not that deep, but it's still there. Phil Connors living the same day everyday ultimately drives him to suicide... but he can't commit suicide, he has to learn to give up his cynical viewpoint of the world and impress its finer points.

41. The Big Lebowski, 1998
Dir: The Coen Brothers
Cast: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman

It's hard to add much to this movie as it has been talked about repeatedly since its gained a cult following. It's funny how the Coens followed this up to Fargo (which is so meticulous in its plot) because this movie does not care about its plot. I mean, yeah, there is a plot here somewhere, but... whatever dude. Let's go bowling. I don't know how this movie works so well, but it does. It's got the Coen Brothers magic sprinkled onto it and that's why it's still being watched (repeatedly) by people today. Nothing about it ever gets old and almost every line is quotable. Every. Single. Line.