Top 100 Movie Review: #21 – The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Degrading Capitalism.

I might be in favor of free markets, but damn does this movie show you all the problems with it. 

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American Film Institute’s Ranking: #21/100
Awards: Nominated for 7 winning 2 for Best Supporting Actress and Director.
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

I wish things were simpler.

I’ve been inundated with pro-capitalism news. Steven Pinker has no shortage of statistics showing how global poverty is being eradicated, environmentalism is thriving, and wars are being reduced due to the principles of free markets. It’s a compelling and important message to get out there given how easy it is to be nihilistic in present times; we live in the most abundant times, but feel as if we have nothing.

Then, something like The Grapes of Wrath comes along and shows you that all that cheery news has a darkside. There are real people this system grinds up. It makes us lose our humanity. It changes our relationships with each other.

By no means have I flipped to some socialistic view. Hell, if we followed the Joad family for a little longer, the post-WWII years would have lifted many out of this meager existence. However, it has made me rethink what we need to do to minimize the negative effects.

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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.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #62 – Tootsie (1982)

This Movie Makes Me Uncomfortable.

I laughed but there was plenty to make me squirm. 

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American Film Institute’s Ranking: #62/100
Awards: Nominated for ten Academy Awards only winning one for Best Supporting Actress.
My Rating: StarStar

I rarely go social justice warrior, but something in this film made the progressive side of my values light up. Sure, some snide things were said in Some Like it Hot, another classic Hollywood film centered on cross dressing, but that film gets a pass for being from such a distant era. There is no way it should be more cognitive of possible offenses than Tootsie with its 1982 release date.

Well, get ready to cringe.

I laughed enough to enjoy the film (that classic gender confusion humor y’all), but there were three things that made me take pause:  the destruction the main character caused, the attempted rape scene, and how the best woman ended up being a man.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #64 – Close Encounters Of A Third Kind (1977)

Too Agitating To Be Great.

Kids will forever ruin movies for me, but so do aliens that play tubas. 

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American Film Institute’s Ranking: #64/100
Awards: Nominated for eight winning one for cinematography
My Rating: StarStarStar

Nestled within all the classic Steven Spielberg movies (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Arc, E.T., Hook, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List) is this little egg of a movie recounting human contact with aliens. It’s kind of the forgotten child of his filmography, and I came into it knowing very little other than its spiritual sequel Super 8. 

Overall, it’s a fun little ditty that has some amazing individual scenes and sequences that craps all over the endless CGI vomit of today.

However, there are some personal distastes that this movie puts on a pedestal: too many annoying kids; boring domestic disputes that end in yelling and crying; the powerless female in said domestic dispute. Adding this to the spell-breaking ending, I realized I was half pissed off for too much of this movie for me to consider it great.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #65 – Silence of the Lambs (1991)

“I Got Your Dog Mister!”

I miss the days of quoting movies.

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American Film Institute’s Ranking: #65/100
Awards: Won the Big Five of Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay)
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

I worry about the lack of common rallying points in society that keep us culturally cohesive. There was a time where mass entertainment passed the gauntlet from one generation to the next due to limited selection. At 8pm, Nickelodeon turned into Nick At Night where I soaked up “I Love Lucy” and “The Brady Bunch” and was able to connect with grandparents or Aunts and Uncles.

That’s absent now; we can all branch out and end up on very unique and narrow twigs on the expansive trees of netflix, youtube, and hulu. We need some common humanity.

Enter Buffalo Bill.

I love to quote this movie. You want to bring a group of some well-rounded 30-50 somethings together? Pretend to be Hannibal Lector. What some cheap laughs? Start talking about putting the lotion on the skin. Maybe Silence of the Lambs can save us from these polarized times.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #20 – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

This Movie Makes Me Angry.

But in a good way — Nurse Ratched deserves all the misfortune she gets. 

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American Film Institute’s Ranking: #20/100
Awards: Nominated for nine winning for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Adapted Screenplay.
My Rating: StarStarStar

We all know a Nurse Ratched. Mine was a school administrator.

Calm and deadly, she would bait students into arguments and then put them away in detention. One time she saw me using my cellphone on school property after hours and told me that it wasn’t allowed; I didn’t fall for it knowing what she was trying to do. She attempted to further raise my gull by threatening me with punishment if I didn’t put away my cell phone, but I kept my cool, and she eventually shrugged her shoulders and walked off looking for her next prey.

Of course, she was the one who would speak to the school board or other public forums on the importance of school discipline. Untouchable, school allowed a social miscreant to hold power over the powerless. What hypocrisy.

That same immense indignant feeling is what Nurse Ratchet brought back up in me. While it’s hard to evaluate the movie because the book is just so much better, the movie still gives rise to pure joy when the “patients” get to experience life and pure disgust when someone like Nurse Ratchet is allowed to exist, and even worse, protected by the system.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #55 – The Sound of Music (1965)

WHY DO I LOVE THIS SO MUCH?

And why are these Eastern Europeans speaking such good english?

image.jpgAmerican Film Institute’s Ranking: #55/100
Awards: Nominated for ten winning for Best Picture and Director
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

I’m usually pillorying overly sentimental films from Hollywood’s yesteryears. Perpetual Manichaeism, old movies are not only black and white in coloring but their moralizing. Our friends pure, enemies fully evil. Faults within our inner circle are assigned to mistake while other’s transgressions are obviously malicious intent. Who could believe any of that crap?

Then a movie comes a long and smashes my cynicism to smithereens. Damn you Julia Andrews!

Somehow, a musical about whiskers on kittens that takes place in the hills of Austria during the rise of Nazi Germany slipped past my alarm systems. Nothing to see her folks, just a family dancing their merry way out of the reach of the Third Reich. Who cares — I loved every minute of the three hour run time.

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