Top 100 Movie Review: #15 – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

What Happened to Star Wars?

Watching the first makes you realize all the faults of the recent iterations. 

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American Film Institute’s Ranking: #15/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for ten winning seven.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

If you had ask me half a year ago which top 100 list I would finish first, it was going to be movies by a long shot. It makes sense: a movie is only about a two hour commitment while games and books expect much more. It’s still leading the pack, but I’ve really slowed down reviewing only 2 movies in three months. Here it goes!

Everything seems wholesome while watching because it is. Overt political messaging is absent in the narrative. The story is high Hollywood fare with plots, twists, and tension There isn’t CGI to bloat the aesthetics.  Then you layer on top the unique universe of Star Wars fully rounded out with the classic motifs of good vs. evil and you end up with a  purely enjoyable experience.

We’ve done an injustice to ourselves by changing our buying habits. The way we purchase entertainment has reduced the chances people are willing to take. Music is a great example: no one buys albums or songs anymore. You have to hit safe homeruns while reducing diversity and risk. The most popular movies for years now have been reboots, reruns, and rehashes. Look no further than the last five Star War films.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #36 – Midnight Cowboy (1969)

The Crumbling Legacy of the Hippie Movement.

Outside of the music, I’m not sure what people from the 60s left behind for us to enjoy. 

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Jon Voigt and Dustin Hoffman in wasted performances. 

American Film Institute’s Ranking: #36/100
Awards: Nominated for seven winning three including Best Picture and Director.
My Rating:cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

The hippie movement must have been one hell of a drug.

The seminal works of cinema from this time period which reached historically significant status play as complete messes today. The storylines are disjointed, the desire to give a middle-finger to the man supersedes everything else, and virtue-signaling tramples any legitimacy of authenticity. This last one is particular paradoxical as the movement’s ostensibly purpose was to reveal some truer and more pure self.

It’s a shame, too, with Midnight Cowboy. Even within the typical moral morass, Voigt and Hoffman both put on such good performances that by the end we somehow care what happens to these two, even though the previous two hours is a mess.

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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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