Broadway Danny Rose (1984) - dir. Woody Allen
Certainly understated…. once again Woody Allen delivers in a way only he can. With an impossibly tight script accompanied by beautiful city photography, a neurotic self-loathing jewish protagonist… this film was a delight. Not necessarily up to the range of his classics, but Broadway Danny Rose still plays out splendidly on screen.
#6 - Charlie Chaplin’s Personalized Twin-Cinema Club
City Lights (1931), directed by Charles Chaplin
& Modern Times (1936), directed by Charles Chaplin
It was really hard for me to exclude Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers and Harold Lloyd… but the thing is - they all pale in comparison to Charles Chaplin. Chaplin is more than just a funny man, he’s a writer, director, composer, etc. He’s the only other person who’s had a career comparable to Woody Allen’s. Chaplin’s films are so much more than slapstick humor… but the beautiful thing about them is they don’t even have to be. These little schticks still get laughs.
All Good Things (2010) - dir. Andrew Jarecki
Kirsten Dunst is one of the most beautiful and talented actresses around. Ryan Gosling is one of the most beautiful and talented actors around. This is a mediocre film at best. Though the film would have been less disappointing without the big names attached… no one would have watched it. But I did, and I was upset because it should have been better.
The Evil Dead (1981) - dir. Sam Raimi
When something like this comes out… people don’t know what to do with it. Raimi didn’t quite invent his own genre… but he came about as close as anyone’s ever come. Cheap thrills galore, with plenty of bad effects and laugh-out-loud (not on purpose) moments along the way, the Evil Dead is still entertaining thirty-plus years later.
People will watch this and just expect it to be so corny that they laugh and laugh and laugh… but Raimi knows how to scare people in way very few directors do. The film tends to cause a lot more tension than it relieves… and for that I commend him.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) - dir. John Hughes
Funny. Predictable. Definitely from the 80s. Definitely a John Hughes film. Watching John Candy doing pretty much anything is amusing. But the little affectations and terrible attempt at “heart” ruined this film from being anything other than the routing holiday themed buddy comedy.
Chinatown (1974) - dir. Roman Polanski
As a screenwriter, there are very few scripts that are widely regarded as being “the best.” Robert Towne’s Chinatown usually tops that list. It’s a carefully crafted film, with a young Jack Nicholson doing the most acting of his career (he’s actually JJ Gittes, not Jack Nicholson… shocking, I know). The thing I like about Polanski is that if the movie isn’t great: it’s not his fault. He’s so good at creating tension and drama that as most of his films come to their finale, he’s built it up so good that the writing typically can’t handle it (i.e. Rosemary’s Baby, The Ghost Writer), but Chinatown totally delivers in the clutch.
It’s really the first great neo-noir. I would put Chinatown in my top five neo-noir list, but it’s probably my least favorite one on there. As far as its place in history goes: it deserves to be held up. My problem here is with Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of Evelyn Mulwray. The femme fatale character needs to be a fierce vixen that only pretends to be helpless (Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises anyone?) and Dunaway’s Mulwray is decent… but she’s the slow kid dragging the whole class down in this one. A classic… that just doesn’t do it for me the way it does for others.
House of Flying Daggers (2004) - dir. Yimou Zhang
It’s funny, I often speak of films “getting it right on all levels.” Here’s a film that is visually stimulating, has a brilliant score, the costume and make-up design is splendid, even the basic plot is great. It’s a well executed film but somehow feels like its missing some glue… it’s not coherent enough to make up for its length (which is sad, because it’s under two hours). And even though it’s visually striking, this is a film with little to no replay value.
#8 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), directed by David D. Hand
The first feature-length animated film… and still one of the best. From the woodland night creatures, the unforgettable songs, and the classic Disney racism (yes, it’s here too!) we have Snow White… one of the most important films of all time, if only because it’s the first.