Top 100 Movie Review: #72 – Ben-Hur (1959)

The Stock Dropped With Each Passing Moment.

Why didn’t the movie end shortly after the chariot race!!!

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Charlton Heston with his team of horses: Altair, Antares, Aldebaran and Rigel.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #72/100
Awards: Nominated for 12 winning 11: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, and on and on and on…
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

As television started to take away potential movie goers, Hollywood decided that they had to do stuff that television couldn’t: epics. The 1950s and early 60s produced a slew of these films (Spartacus, Lawrence of Arabia, El Cid, The Ten Commandments) and the style was defined by length, scale, scope, and production.

Ben-Hur encapsulates all of this. The sets, scenes, and clothing all beautifully intricate and worthy of the epic genre. Unfortunately, the movie runs way too long. The apex of this film is the chariot race, a scene that even upon recalling gives me goose bumps, but then there is still another hour and half left afterward. As I watched the clock tick away, my rating began to slip — all the way from a perfect five to a solid three.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #92 – A Place in the Sun (1951)

Dated.

Not only is the movie stale, it cycles through several formats never deciding what kind of movie it wants to be. 

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Elizabeth Taylor  and Montgomery Clift — at least they are pretty to look at.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #92
Academy Awards: Nominated for nine winning six, including Best Director and Screenplay
My Rating:cropped-smooth-star

I read about 300 pages of American Tragedy; it’s a behemoth of a book, clocking in at over 900 pages, and when I went to renew it someone had put a hold on it. I just rechecked it out, so I was shocked when I realized that a movie of a completely different name picks up at part 2 of the novel.

Even though I did not finish the book, this movie does it absolutely no justice — it wrings out all the juice leaving us an attempt at a love story. This film is simply dated, and while it might be a top 100 for cultural reasons, it exhibits little power today.

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Top 100 Album Review: #83 – I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love you, Aretha Franklin (1967)

It Took a Few Listens

But I finally came to appreciate the down-tempo album and majestic voice of Arethra Franklin.

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #83/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I remember when I found out Prince died: I was at my house and saw it on facebook. I hadn’t listened to my regular music in years, preferring chill/new age stuff while writing, reading, or studying. The last year was nothing but school, so my Amazon Music Library was the equivalent of cobwebs. I pulled up his discography and immediately started crying. Each song reminded me of something. 

I didn’t necessarily have the same relationship with Aretha, but her recent passing still had impact: songs that instantly transported me to another time. Memories. Experiences. I had just turned 21. Returning after drinking at a bar for the first time (legally, I should add), I listened to all of her greatest hits, soaking it up.

I’ve been listening to this album for weeks, way before news of her illness was made known. Her passing made it even more poignant. While I made my mind up about the rating and what songs to highlight a while ago, I was reminded that these greats won’t be around forever.

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Top 100 SNES Review: #70 – Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble (1996)

The Dumbing Down of America.

And the frail quilt of patched-together, leftover parts. 

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Dixie and Kiddy on a quest to destroy meritocracy.

Sydlexia’s Ranking: #70/100
Developer: Rare
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Cranky Kong is a prescient figure in the Donkey Kong Country series; complaining of video gamers today, he warns how things to use to be harder and how easy we have it today.

I never thought he would live to see the day where it happens to his own family. 

Donkey Kong Quest 3 (DKC3) was a very late installment on an old system — the N64 was released months prior when DKC3 was released for SNES. Because of this, it didn’t garner much attention as many people already moved to the new, shiny system. This is a good thing: DK3, while fun, is a step back from the other two installments on the SNES, mocking us with a false sense of achievement.

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Top 100 Novel Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey (1962)

An Infinite Amount to Think About.

Not only is their a dynamite narrative, the themes and competing ideas could fill a lifetime of consideration. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I’ve had a run of books that forgo traditional story elements, like having a plot, meaningful narration, or development of characters (here’s looking at you “The Sun Also Rises” and “Falconer”). While they get heralded as artistic masterpieces, I find both books lacking teeth since they are not only unenjoyable to read, but they can’t coalesce to say anything due to being stripped of narrative devices.

In comes my savior: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” 

Not only does this book have an immensely intriguing story, showing the power struggle between a Head Nurse and an Asylum patient who are both egomaniacs, it has as many themes as you can consider. Like an infinite ball of string, you are free to pull and unwind from any angle as long as your heart desires.

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Top 100 Album Review: #67 – The Stranger, Billy Joel (1977)

The Piano Man’s Reigning Achievement.

One of those rare albums where almost every track is a triumph of song writing perfection. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #67/100
Grammy: Song and Record of the Year for “Just the Way You Are.”
My Rating:cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Billy Joel intertwines with my coming of age. I found a 2-disc greatest hit collection in the streets of Richmond, VA when I just got my permit to drive — it didn’t leave my driving music rotation for years, and Goodnight Saigon become an anthem between my friends.

When I saw this track listing, I new most of the material with 6 out of the 9 songs being “Greatest Hits” material. Seeing the songs in their natural habitat on “The Stranger” along with the other solid material is almost unthinkable: how did someone come out with this much good material at once?

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Top 100 Movie Review: #32 – Godfather Part II (1974)

A Sequel Better Than The Original.

There, I said it. Godfather’s second incarnation is better than the first, having a cleaner plot and an interesting juxtaposition of past and present. 

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Al Pacino as Micheal Corleone.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #32/100
Awards: Nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (De Niro), Adapted Screenplay, & Score.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Initial reaction to this movie was divided with many people not liking the two story arcs happening at once. Canby writing for the New York Times described the film as “stitched together from leftover parts.” The film later became a focus of reevaluation with some considering it a better film than the first. Roger Ebert even went as far as to re-rate the movie with his highest ranking retrospectively.

Something about this film caught my eye more than the first, and I think it centers around me viewing the two-story arcs positively; it gives us time to breath from present day events while providing a solid, stand-alone story.

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