Top 100 Movie Review: #39 – Dr. Zhivago (1965)

Everything’s Perfect Except the Ending.

A romance epic that’s damn good. 

doctorzhivago1965bq525lb.jpgAmerican Film Institute’s Ranking: #39/100
Awards: Nominated for 10 winning 5 losing out to The Sound of Music for the big ones.
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

I watched this movie over the course of three mornings. It became a mini ritual: waking up early, brewing some coffee, and watching this epic unfold as the sun came up. I didn’t expect to come out the other side with such affection. Like any good film, it has a little bit of everything. The historical context might be a little whitewashed, but the characters and scenery make up for some of the more superficial aspects.

Continue reading “Top 100 Movie Review: #39 – Dr. Zhivago (1965)”

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. 

rear
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.

Continue reading “Top 100 Movie: #42 – Rear Window (1954)”

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. 

001-a-place-in-the-sun-theredlist.jpg
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.

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

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.

1_IgmXRhmXrdHTRDKwSnASQg.jpeg
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.

Continue reading “Top 100 Movie Review: #10 – Singing in the Rain (1952)”

Top 100 Movie Review: #8 – On the Waterfront (1954)

A Supremely Good Character Study

This movie has it all: interesting story, good setting, great acting, amazing musical score, but the character of Terry Malloy is in another stratosphere. 

on-the-waterfront
A young Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #8/100
Awards: Nominated for twelve winning eight, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Supporting Actress.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

At its heart, this is a classic good vs. evil. Where it gets complicated is every character has a lean they are facing, and we wait to see how they are going to act under pressure. The character that has the most pressure is Terry Malloy; he a complicated and fascinating lead and is the reason this movie is worthy of such high praise.

Continue reading “Top 100 Movie Review: #8 – On the Waterfront (1954)”

Top 100 Movie Review: #33 – High Noon (1952)

Realtime Drama.

Time passage in the story is synced with realty, making the clock a constant motif and reminder — time is running out.

going-to-the-church
Will Kane (played by Gary Cooper) goes to church to recruit help against outlaws in this Western Film.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #33/100
Awards: Nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning four (Actor for Gary Cooper and then some editing and musical stuff).
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

This movie has a handful of things going for it, but I’m not sure where they stand against the test of time.

The backdrop of the movie was McCarthyism, and the film is supposed to be a representation of someone willing to stand up against evil when all others wilt. The film runs in real time, with every shot including a clock corresponding with the correct amount of time that has passed in real life. It flips the Western on its head, having an ending that is somewhat counter to what would be considered traditional.

Putting it all together, enough happens where it produces an average film, enjoyable albeit hard to recommend to others.

Continue reading “Top 100 Movie Review: #33 – High Noon (1952)”

Top 100 Movie Review: #2 – Casablanca (1942)

Play it Again, Sam.

Okay – I know that quote never happened, but what did happen is Hollywood’s template that it still uses today: love story, playful characters, happy ending, good always prevails.

casa_2438578b.jpg
Sam (Dooley Wilson) , Rick (Humphrey Bogart)  and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman).

American Film Institutes Ranking: #2/100
Awards: Nominated for eight winning three: Picture, Director and Writing/Screenplay.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

This movie.

From the first moments in Rick’s cafe, I realized that I was going to really enjoy this one. What Hollywood does so well is pulling the wool over our eyes. The movie’s plot and characters feigned, pushing against the boundaries of reality, but time and time again we find the magic produced so enticing we suspend our thinking minds and tap into our imaginations.

This doozy of a WWII flick combines anything you can consider to be Hollywood and does it at a high level. The dialogue, the characters, the setting, and the plot all swept me up, transporting me to a time that no longer exists (and truthfully never did) for one of the best films of all time.

Continue reading “Top 100 Movie Review: #2 – Casablanca (1942)”

Top 100 Movie Review: #96 – The Searchers (1956)

Beautiful Vistas Paired with Man-Made Caricatures

This movie combines the awe-inspiring nature of the west with mostly inorganic and stale characters leaving me wondering: can setting alone carry a movie?

Searchers3.jpg
A scene that epitomes the film: wonderful back drop with a typical Cowboys vs. Indian story.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #96/100
Awards: None
My Ratingsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

I sometimes take a peak at other people’s thoughts on a movie before settling down on my own: was there an angle I missed or a piece of lore that impacts how I view the film? Roger Ebert is consistently someone I go to first because of his acerbic wit and clear writing. His review for “The Searchers” is a study in character analysis as he slices and dices the depth of the two main leads, reading far into the director’s intentions and purpose.

I simply disagree with what he comes up with. 

Ebert dives deep into the shallow souls of these scantily-detailed characters, projecting life into them that I just cannot see. Where he finds impactful statements and testaments to the director’s hidden or subliminal messages, I see stage props — exception being the main character. This leaves me feeling that the environment was more dynamic than the story and characters: the West is daunting with staggering depth and isolation, while the characters are more true to the stagnant mountains that surround them.

Continue reading “Top 100 Movie Review: #96 – The Searchers (1956)”

Top 100 Movie Review: #1 – Citizen Kane (1941)

Easy to Enjoy This Seminal Movie

The cinematography, the art direction, and the chopped storyline of thousands of other movies owe their derivation to this original piece. 

citizen-kane-still-526x295
Orson Welles as the protagonist Charles Foster Kane.

American Film Institute Ranking: #1/100
Academy Awards: Received nine nominations, but only winning for Best Writing (Original Screenplay).
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

So the best movie of all-time, eh?

A movie with that distinction has rightfully been sliced and diced from a million different angles, and with having such an interesting figure in the middle of it all (Orson Welles) there is plenty of of wood to stoke the fire when discussing this piece of significant Americana.

First and foremost, the movie is very enjoyable. From the get go you realize this isn’t run-of-the-mill, early Hollywood; the movie opens up with an electric use of film angles and art direction, creating amazing intrigue with nothing more than ingenious camera work. This is followed with an inverted story, jumping back and forth between present and past in a way Quinten Tarantino would approve. Then, the fascinating main engine that keeps everything runningL the search for what “Rosebud” means.

What materializes is a move that has a little bit of everything: an intriguing story, well-written characters, a period piece of 1940s America, and a commentary on life, capitalism, power and fulfillment.

Continue reading “Top 100 Movie Review: #1 – Citizen Kane (1941)”

Top 100 Movie Review: #3 – The Godfather (1972)

The Offer We Just Can’t Refuse

A front row seat to the underbelly of Mafia crime, the movie about the Corleone family has plenty of malevolent retribution to enjoy.

62427-paramount
Marlon Brando who won Best Actor as Vito Corleone.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #3/100
Awards: Nominated for eleven awards with one being revoked and winning Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

This is one of the heavy hitters of film, obvious by how high it is ranked (#3!) but also by its universal acclaim. Unfortunately, I’m not 100% on the bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong. I find this movie very good and enjoyable, but I’m not quite sure I would put it in my top five movies of all time.

There is something intoxicating about seeing the inner workings of the mafia, and Francis Ford Coppola’s movie does a wonderful job of characterization — there are rememberable people, interactions, and changes amongst the cast over the course of the movie. The fact that no one is safe from the violence adds an additional level of intrigue, never knowing who might be the next one to “sleep with the fishes.”

Continue reading “Top 100 Movie Review: #3 – The Godfather (1972)”