Top 100 Movie Review: #19 – Chinatown (1974)

Gut Crushing Neo-Noir

I don’t know if the ending could have been any other way.

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Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.

American Film Institute Ranking: #19/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for 11 winning one: Best Original Screenplay.
My Rating:cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

This movie gets a lot of hyperbole thrown its way with many people describing it as having the best script ever.  I like it, just maybe not on that cataclysmic of a level.

I love noir with the unscrupulous detective, ineffective police, corrupt government, and gritty delivery. “Chinatown” is just another reincarnation, and with an intriguing mystery paired with a stomach-punch ending, it fulfills the expectations of the genre.

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Top 100 Movie: #42 – Rear Window (1954)

A Movie That Does Everything.

Witty dialogue, a unique set up, and tension stick with you the entire way. 

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Jimmy Stuart.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #42/100
Awards: Four Nominations for Director, Adapted Screenplay, Color, and Sound Mixing
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Some movies struggle to do one thing well, failing to even be a good example of the genre that they are intending to represent.

Rear Window does so many things well. The four main characters are immensely interesting with their banter and witty dialogue moving the film along. The set up is a man stuck at home due to a broken leg with no entertainment other than the lives of his neighbors — voyeurism at its best. Add the murder mystery and you get to see an exquisite example of the great Alfred Hitchcock at work.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #23 – The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Many Firsts.

Bogart’s first big role. A new genre of film. Huston’s directorial debut. The Pairing of Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.

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Humphrey Bogart with the Maltese Falcon

American Film Institute Ranking: #23/100
Academy Awards: Three nominations and no wins in Best Picture, Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay categories.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I’m going to be rather worthless on reviewing this film on the merits of being a good movie. I read “The Maltese Falcon” and enjoyed it so much that I decided to watch the movie — immediately after I had finished reading the book. It was a shorter novel, too, meaning it was all very fresh in my mind after just a few days of reading.

The movie was immensely faithful to book and the casting absolutely perfect. I cannot recall how I imagined the characters pre-movie: Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet will be how I remember them going forward.

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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 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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Top 100 Movie Review: #10 – Singing in the Rain (1952)

A Musical with a Story.

Some of the numbers are a bit lame, but the story, acting and sets are intriguing enough to make up for the boring parts.

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Gene Kelly in the famous “Singing in the Rain” scene.

American Film Institute Ranking: #10/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for two – Supporting Actress & Original Music Score
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

The story’s iconic scene with Gene Kelly has been burned into the collective consciousness of Americana, but what about the rest of the movie?

Singing in the Rain pairs an interesting story with some solid musical numbers to be a pretty good film. While some of the lulls can be quite treacherous to get through, there is usually enough interesting things on screen, whether talent, clothing, set, or cinematography to make it bearable.

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