Finding Nemo (2003) - dir. Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich
I have a bit of a personal vendetta against this film. I love it. I do. I’ve seen too many times, in fact. I’m just appalled by the Oscars in 2003. Sylvain Chomet’s the Triplets of Belleville is a work of sheer perfection. While Finding Nemo is an exceptionally good family film, proving, once again, Pixar is clearly onto something. The Best Animated Feature category is one of the few that has the ability to upset me.
All that aside, Finding Nemo is great. It’s funny. It made Ellen Degeneres bigger than anyone ever thought she’d be. [I love that, all it took was some voice-acting. Albert Brooks did some minor improvisations and spent time really working on his comedic inflection, but Ellen… well, she was just reading the script. Being herself. And BOOM! She’s huge.] It’s a charming tale that is chalk-full of wit. Also, it’s the classic Search Story, and animated films always succeed with children when they’re based on classic literary archetypes. Bravo Pixar.
Walk the Line (2005) - dir. James Mangold
Perhaps I’m alone in thinking this… but this film is nothing but glossed up garbage. The story of Johnny Cash might make a good film… but if it does, this is certainly not it. Reese Witherspoon walked away with an Oscar which she certainly didn’t deserve (*cough* Felicity Huffman *cough* Scarlett Johansson *cough*), Joaquin Phoenix was great… but he never actually felt like Johnny Cash (I’m a Phoenix fan, but I just didn’t buy it). The only redeeming part of the film was the costuming.
#50 - Max
Where the Wild Things Are (2009), Max Records, 9 yrs. old
The film was a terrible mess (not for lack of effort), but young Max Records churned out a solid performance - and he was doing all his acting with animatronics and yet-to-be-filled-in CGI.
The Little Mermaid (1989) - dir. Ron Clements & John Musker
Say what you will about the explicit sexism - but the Little Mermaid came as part of Disney’s strongest 5 film run in their prestigious history. Beginning with the unexpectedly great Mouse Detective in 1988, then Mermaid, then Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin and finally the Lion King - Disney really knocked it out the park here. If not for the story (Ponyo is a WAY better adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story) then at least for the music and the lovable characters. Flounder might be a bit daft but Sebastian is fantastic, Ursula is scary as shit and King Triton is the best Disney parent there is.
Ariel might be a terrible representation of a heroine and could even be the worst possible role model for young girls - but if you can look past that (it is, admittedly, a difficult task, but you always have to look past some form of oppression in order to enjoy a Disney flick) the film is rather enjoyable. The weakest of the aforementioned run of five, but a strong showing nonetheless.
Rust and Bone (2012) - dir. Jacques Audiard
Snubbed from last year’s Oscars, French filmmaker Jacques Audiard does it again. Now, allow me to explain: Marion Cotillard deserved a Best Actress nomination. Stephane Fontaine deserved a nod for Best Cinematography. But the film itself is incredibly varied.
Each scene is beautifully constructed and plays out to near cinematic perfection. But the plot is far too grandiose, convoluted and abstract. The neo-realism brought by Audiard falls on deaf ears with this one. The film’s got killer whales, bareknuckle boxing, amputee sex, child abuse, animal abuse, Katy Perry and more. Excellent in pieces but sort of melds together with as much cohesion as a greatest hits album.
Audiard will someday make a truly excellent film, but this is not it.
Equus (1977) - dir. Sidney Lumet
I’m willing to watch anything directed by Sidney Lumet (and you should be too). Equus is an award-winning play written by Peter Shaffer that probably should have just stayed as being a play. I’ve read it. It’s fantastic. This film… is moderately good. I mean… it’s not a bad film. There’s some good performances and some of the more stage-ready scenes translated pretty well, but it just falls flat somehow along the way.
#1 - Silent Shorts from the Turn of the Century
A Trip to the Moon (1902), directed by Georges Melies
& The Great Train Robbery (1903), directed by Edwin S. Porter
So you want to be a cinephile? Well, I’ve created this list of films as sort of a check-off list for newcomers and avid filmgoers alike. Lots of great films are skipped over but if you manage to watch all 101 films on my list - you will gain a better understanding and appreciation for film as an art form.
Before there were features… there were shorts. And these two shorts in particular have stood the test of time. They’re both on youtube and worth watching multiple times.