THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 84: SIN CITY

by Brek the David

Sin City (2005) –  Director: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez   Screenplay: Frank Miller  Starring: Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Josh Hartnett, Michael Madsen, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Elijah Wood  OSCAR COUNT (0)

 Dwight: The Valkyrie at my side is shouting and laughing with the pure, hateful, bloodthirsty joy of the slaughter… and so am I
John Hartigan: I take away his weapon.
[shoots Junior’s hand]
John Hartigan: [pauses] Both of them.
[shoots Junior’s groin]
Marv: I love hitmen. No matter what you do to them, you don’t feel bad.

 Of all the comic book adaptations that have been made in the past twenty or thirty years none of them come close capturing and adapting the comic book medium to film like Sin City.  Now there is no question that the actual plots and characters and themes compare to other films on this countdown, but the execution of this film is an impressive achievement and stands far and away as Robert Rodriguez’s best work.  For anyone who is a fan of comic books, Sin City should rank at the top for transferring what’s on the pages to film.  Of course Sin City is far easier to adapt than complex works like Watchmen.  It’s that simplicity though that makes Sin City so damn good.

 Now Frank Miller, the creator, writer, and illustrator of Sin City won’t ever be confused with Tolstoy or Steinbeck, hell, he isn’t even among the elite writers of comics.  With Sin City, however, he hit the ball out of the park.  Sin City is homage to film noir and pulp novels of days gone by.  It’s a world filled to the brim with seedy and shady characters.  There are no good guys, just bad guys, worse guys, and the worst guys.  There’s booze, broads, and bullets, and all three assault and caress you from the opening shot.  This world is fueled on violence and sex, and often those two are inextricably bound as one.  It’s almost misogynistic in its portrayal of women, but then it’s not too keen on men either.  As I said, these stories exude immorality and debauchery.  That’s the whole point.  Sin City is humanity at its worst, a place where only death is redemption.

 In Rodriguez’s Sin City we follow Marv, John Hartigan, and Dwight through the wicked streets of Basin City.  All three men have their own codes and their glimpses of righteousness, but all this is tainted with extreme violence, sometimes justified.  Mickey Rourke owns this film as Marv, a hulking, simple-minded brute, seemingly invincible, a veritable war machine.  Bruce Willis works well as the old cop that falls in love with a much younger woman, and it’s this love and devotion that brings about his downfall, as he makes the ultimate sacrifice for Nancy.  And then there’s Dwight, played by Clive Owen.  This is the weakest part of the movie as Clive Owen just can’t match the presence of Rourke and Willis.  To be fair though, Dwight’s story isn’t as compelling as The Hard Goodbye (Marv) or That Yellow Bastard (Hartigan). Continue reading

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THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 85: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

 by Laurent Kelly

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) –  Director: Tobe Hooper  Starring: Marilyn Burns,  Edwin Neal, Allen Danzinger  Screenplay: Tim Henkel and Tobe Hooper  OSCAR COUNT (0)

This masterpiece of terror was made on a shoestring budget and yet its visuals remain alarming, its unrelenting dark atmosphere equalled by few if any from it genre. What makes the film so striking is its spine chilling bluntness in regards to its depiction of horror. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre doesn’t raise your heartbeat but rather it almost makes your heart stop short. Look at the scene where Kirk walks into the isolated house and one fall later has been bludgeoned in the head and locked in an enigmatic room where further torture awaits. This happens in a matter of seconds and yet its spareness is what makes the scene so unforgettable. In a genre where we have become so used to long and suspenseful tracking shots and teasing, Hooper’s film stands tall to this day because it subverts these expectations with its direct and gritty tone.

Hooper proves himself a master in this film of maximising the camera to its full potential to scare perfectly exemplfied in the scene where we see the female protagonist trapped in the chair surrounded by the twisted family members of Leatherface. Whereas most horror films focus only on the violence, Texas Chainsaw instead uses this moment to build audience empathy as we see close up the anguished, blooshot eyes of the poor victim and her rough tear stained sweat and bloody wounds and breathing. Seeing the impact the horror has had on her proves to be much scarier than the horror itself and in these moments where she finds herself completely trapped the movie becomes very hard to watch as the camera has made the pain and torment feel far too close for comfort. Continue reading

100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 86: THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY

by Daniel Suddes

Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)  Director: Peter Jackson  Screenplay: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson  Starring: Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, Ian Mckellen, Vigo Mortessen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett  OSCAR COUNT (17 in total)

Maybe I am cheating by including all of the films in one category. If it helps, Return of the King is the best of the three. But I don’t think that the individual parts were meant to stand alone. It was all just a portion of a greater whole.

The fact of the matter is, each of these films is special. They feel like the end of a long journey. Many filmmakers and celebrities (including Stanley Kubrick and The Beatles) had tried to film these books. Ralph Bakshi even managed to get one released. Whether or not it was a good adaptation, I shall leave to audiences. But Peter Jackson’s take will become not just the definitive version, but is already the great screen events of the ‘naughts’ and is something that others are hopelessly trying to replicate.

In many ways, Peter Jackson was both the best choice and the most bizarre choice for the project. His earlier B-movies showed an enormous amount of skill in blending special effects with life action. His debut, Bad Taste, was not only cheesy but hilarious and entirely convincing. I came out of that film believing in the spectacle Jackson had created for audiences.

It was that approach that made Lord of the Rings work to begin with. I know many who consider Tolkein’s work to be cheesy and light – and in many ways, they are correct. As Bakshi demonstrated, it would be very easy to turn it into an unintentional comedy. But then, Jackson treated the work with a certain amount of reverence. He believed that doing so would expose the traditional mythologies, the examination of the hero’s journey, and even religious themes. Continue reading

100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 87: FARGO

by Laurent Kelly

Fargo (1996) –  Director:  Joel Coen   Screenplay:  Joel and Ethan Coen   Starring: Frances Mcdormand, William H Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stomare  OSCAR COUNT (2) Wins for Best Original Screenplay and Best Lead Actress

SYNOPSIS: A man in need of desperate cash comes up with a poorly thought out plan to have his wife kidnapped and pocket the ransom money from her father. The chaos escalates from there….  

Fargo is a deceptively mature film in spite of the whacky nature of the plot. It expertly shows how weak minded people make stupid decisions and the senseless nature of violence which can never lead anywhere positive. In the end we see that the simple life with all its kind virtues appears to be the key foundations  to happiness and that it is possible to not be polluted by the corrupt nature of the planet.

This theme is explored through the actions of heroine Marge Gunderson who is able to balance her life as a  loving wife with her role as a police officer. She does what she has to do at work in solving grisly cases but when she returns home she is able to  live a good and simple lifestyle with her husband. This is best exemplified when after solving a highly intense, adrenalin pumping case she is still able  to express genuine joy over her husband Norman whose wildlife work has been selected for use on a postage stamp.

In regards to the actual plot itself, the sequences are sharp and superb with some Vintage Coen Brothers  black humour peppered in every scene. The dialogue in particular is a delight to behold especially in the scenes between loudmouth Carl Showalter and mute Gaer Grimsud as the mismatched and idiotic crime duo.

Plot and story work in perfect unison as we are taken on a weird and wild journey and then shown at the end how it could have all been dealt with differently were it not for the rash and panicky instincts of man.

  DID YOU KNOW?  None of the scenes are actually filmed in Fargo.

 

 

THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 88: NIGHT AND FOG

by Laurent Kelly

Night and Fog  – Director: Alan Resnais     Screenplay: Jean Carol   Starring: Michael Bouquet (narrator) Archive footage of Reinard Heyrich,  Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler and Julius Streicher

Night and Fog is a remarkable documentary for adopting a rare subtle approach to the Holocaust  subject matter. This isn’t about a child crying two inches away from the camera or providing  melodramatic images from the concentration camps. Rather it is a film which makes us think about  a complex subject which requires deep thought.

A series of images and video clips are accompanied by a narrator who tells us the story of the Holocaust and it is  the manner in which the story is told which is so impressive. Rather than attempting the impossible task of trying to encapsulate the entire horrible experience the documentary instead acknowledges the difficutly of this task by asking questions  as opposed to trying to answer them. The camera  trails through the places where the horror happened as the narrator struggles to imagine the terror that
took place there. Poetic language is used  to try and sum up the thoughts of those who endured the horror but whenever it feels as if we are being given a representation of the event the documentary returns to the present and reestablishes the fact that the true nature of the Holocaust is impossible to comprehend.

The documentary also does a fantastic job of making the victims feel three-dimensional in a bid to show us see how families much like our own were so suddenly subjected to such torment. It is the sensitivty at the heart of the film and the awareness of the topic that makes Night and Fog such an incredible  achivement. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DID YOU KNOW? The word Jew is barely used in the film. This is because Resnais wanted the documenary to reflect the inhumane nature of all wars and in particular to reflect on the French intervention in Algeria which was taking place at the time of the film’s release.

100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 89: TOY STORY

by Daniel Suddes

Toy Story (1995)  –  Director: John Lasseter   Screenplay:  Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow   Starring:  Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, R.Lee Erney, Laurie Metcalf

One has to wonder what the creators of Toy Story ultimately intended. Did they know that they were ushering in a new era when they released the film? I am not sure. I know that the objective in making the film was not to revolutionize the world. Usually, such films fail, as they are too caught up in their own gimmick.

Ultimately, Toy Story’s strength is not solely in its visuals. It is also in its embrace of the medium. Animation is meant to create world that could never exist, but still feels familiar. Toy Story is one of the most original animated films ever created. Even after only 15 years, the influence of Toy Story is far and wide.

Now, I could talk about the animation. If time has been unkind to any part of Toy Story, it is this part. Every single animated film is now animated on computers, even when it is not necessary. Toy Story started a revolution, and I am not sure it even knew it was doing so.

This has become one of those films that everyone knows. The catchphrase “Too Infinity and Beyond” entered the common lexicon for a time in the mid-nineties. Besides, the film was clever enough to incorporate real toys into the film. Normally, I would call this shallow product placement, but here I find it a nice touch. There is a reason for this (as I will describe below) but right now a problem has become apparent with the film. Namely, no one gives it as much credit as they used to. Toy Story now looks like every other animated film. In that regard, no one views the animation as particularly special. Continue reading

100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 90: BLUE VELVET

by Daniel Suddes

Blue Velvet (1986)  –  Director:  David Lynch   Screenplay:  David Lynch   Starring:  Kyle Machlachan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern.  OSCAR COUNT: (0)

Blue Velvet is the mythical “greatest film Alfred Hitchcock never made.”

Hitchcock actually had quite a few bizarre sensibilities that few commentators seem to care about. Hitchcock was obsessed with subdued sexual desires, mental illness, and small town, simple living. Lynch was at least honest about his material. As a result, it is easy to be caught up in the emotional energy of the film (which the film delivers in spades). But it is easy to overlook everything that is happening in the film, from the satirical edge Lynch gives the material to the layered performance by Hopper (most assume he is just bombastic and direct. Watch it again and pay attention.)

The story takes place in Lumberton USA (there IS a Lumberton in North Carolina, I believe, but I doubt this is meant to be that town). Jeffrey Beaumont comes home from school after his father becomes gravely ill. While there, he tries to play detective by hiding out in Dorothy Vallen’s apartment, where he uncovers an underground web of drugs and violent sex, most of it caused by the evil Frank Booth. Continue reading