Top 100 Movie Review: #47 – Taxi Driver (1976)

It Will Make You Squirm with Cognitive Dissonance.

Should we revere him or put him away forever?

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Robert De Niro in this psychological, punk-themed thriller.

American Film Institute’s Ranking: #47/100
Awards: Nominated for four winning none.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

The purpose of this film is to be disgusted. Robert De Niro’s character makes us cringe. We recoil from the degrading behavior found on 42nd street. The ending makes us face uncomfortable choices. I enjoyed this film, even though it made me squirm through out. There is also a message that challenges how we view people and events: we place so much burden on outcomes and sometimes fail to look at the person themselves.
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Top 100 Movie Review: #13 – Bridge Over River Kwai (1957)

Don’t Lose Sight of the Forest For the Trees.

A reformulation of the philosophical debate of what is morally right and lesson to be flexible in our approaches. 

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American Film Institute’s Ranking: #13/100
Awards: Nominated for 8 winning 7 including Best Picture, Director, and Actor.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

This movie is an odd one, but I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much — it’s a war movie that almost has nothing to do with war!

The movie uses the backdrop of a POW camp during WWII along with stereotypical cultural caricatures to make a commentary on virtue ethics, deontology, and consequentialism. Outside of one clandestine operation, there is no other action. The thrill is the interaction between the wills of the irreverent American (William Holden), the proper Englishman (Alec Guinness), and the stoic Japanese (Sessue Hayakawa).

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Top 100 Movie Review: #61 – Vertigo (1958)

I Was Getting Worried.

And then the twist cracks you over the head and everything changes. 

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American Film Institutes Ranking: #61/100
Awards: Nominated for two in the technical categories.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

This movie made me sweat bullets over wasted time. You get stuck watching, reading, playing, and listening to a lot of things you don’t care about when you review top 100 lists. Here I was, halfway through, and wondering if I really cared to make it to the end. I’m thankful I did. Hitchcock takes his sweet time, but once he finally decides to drop the bomb, everything that was “wasted time” becomes intricately plotted narration.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #9 – Schindler’s List (1993)

Milking the Emotions.

Spielberg uses all his blockbuster techniques which occasionally go too far. 

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American Film Institutes Ranking: #9/100
Awards: Nominated for twelve winning seven: Picture, Director, Screenplay and more.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

Presented in a black-and-white documentary style, Schindler’s List is meant to capture the true essence of the horrid holocaust. The goal was to make this as real as possible; this isn’t just some story, but a an actual event that affected all of humanity. The holocaust offers plenty of real examples of humans at their worst. Just replaying the instances of complete barbarianism would have been enough to devastate.

Spielberg takes it one step further; he tugs on our heart using narrative and plot devices that could have easily come from his other blockbuster films. These Hollywood maneuvers are at odds with wanting to create that pure narration of a historical event. Some scenes, gut-wrenching enough on their own, become too staged and the realism melts.

Even with this, it is still a beautifully impactful movie and an important film for its historical significance. Continue reading “Top 100 Movie Review: #9 – Schindler’s List (1993)”

Top 100 Movie Review: #29 – Apocalypse Now (1979)

He’s Crazy…Wait — Is He?

The journey up the river and deeper into the jungle is rewarding. 

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American Film Institutes Ranking: #29/100
Awards: Nominated for eight winning Sound and Cinematography.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

The right space for a lesson to exist is on a continuum where it goes past being a challenge but stops before it becomes inscrutable. Movies that are too easy become labeled as hackneyed. On the other end, movies that are completely impenetrable are only liked by a certain few; a parade of avant garde and social conscious critics try to prop up the significance as it falls on deaf ears.

Apocalypse Now hits that right spot. I’m not sure I understand all of it, but I get enough of it for it to continue to roll around in my brain. The movie exposes our faulty concepts on the meaning of insanity and then goes on to try and figure out who really is acting “crazy.” By the end, and maybe even still, I’m so disoriented that I’m not sure I can tease that one out.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #60 – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Good Fun with No Story.

Absolutely ridiculous at times — too ridiculous.Screen_Shot_2015-06-26_at_9.26.15_AM.0.0.png

American Film Institutes Ranking: #60/100
Awards: Nominated for nine winning the ones for sound and effects.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

I can’t recall ever actually seeing this film, but somehow I knew quite a few bits and pieces. Maybe the Simpsons are to blame.

This movie cheesed me out. The movie continues to expect more and more suspension of disbelief until you are reach an apex of phantasmagorical hallucination. Like a rich dessert, I was satisfied at first, but by the end, I reached a saturation point where I didn’t want anymore.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #24 – Raging Bull (1980)

Lacked Intrigue.

The most exciting part of this movie was watching Robert De Niro get fat.

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Robert De Niro with a BMI <25.

American Film Institute Ranking: #24/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for eight while winning two for Best Actor (De Niro) and Best Film Editing.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

This film has a lot of pieces: a boxing angle, character study, beautiful black-and-white cinematography, artistic flare. All of this is crammed into a predictable trite: the amazing boxer who is both protagonist/antagonist because of his inner demons.

While the individual pieces are solid in their own way, they never really coalesce into something bigger due to the overall narrative missing a hook.

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