Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The long forgotten 11-20 of Iowa Film Nerd's Top 30 Films

Although this has been promised over and over again, I have felt that I am a little bored with filling in everyone why I love these old and sometimes odd films. But if I am to make a career of sorts out of this love for film, I must make an attempt to interest you guys on why you should see these infuriating and inspiring movies. It also helps when most of these are ones that you know and love as well.

Well, love me or not, here is the next step of films. 11-20:

The Godfather Part I:
Can’t say that I have read the book by Mario Puzo, but I saw this film during Christmas Break freshman year of college. I really liked it at first, but then brushed it off. It wasn’t until I revisited it every three or four months that I really started to get the family. I started to see the intricate structure of the family, the pain and triumph that can only happen through the structure of a real family. Coppola contained this all into a three hour film. I also started to see the talents that the father had, and seeing how it dispensed itself between all of the sons is a sight of intrigue. Sonny had the brute and aggression that Vito had to have when he was coming of age on the streets of Manhattan. Michael shows it nobility and virtue with his love for country because he is a pure character. Then he goes through a major journey and becomes defiant and cunning. Michael has tact that Sonny doesn’t have nor want. That brings us to Fredo, he is the family man. He has the compassion that is seen as a weakness in his father’s eyes. Fredo’s compassion is the leading reason that his father was shot.

This is a complex film that can be seen on many levels, it is also something that you can get lost in. Girls have their own chick flicks; this is a chick flick for guys. It is an excellent drama that covers a variety of emotions about loyalty and what you will do to defend your family’s honor and stake in the world. Another reason that this film is so great that is it so damn quotable, just ask Rob Reiner’s movie You Got Mail.

This is a wonderful and truly joyous films that can show us how to truly live. It seems that the best and most inspiring movies are about people who have terminal illnesses and crippling depression. The reason why it happens that way is that these characters are finally allowed to figure out what is important in their lives. It is because they have a small allotment to live and experience before they kick the bucket. The reason that I hold this film up is for the journey the main character grows on. He finds out that he had stomach cancer and despite all of the scrimping and saving that he has done over his life, it is all for nothing. He has a small house, an ungrateful child, and job that is meaningless. So he takes all of the money he has and splurges on all of the vices that are supposed to bring man levity and joy. He buys a new hat, expensive sake, beautiful women, and finds them all to be hollow. Besides the new hat, the night brings him home drunk and howling old love songs at the moon meant for his long dead wife. The main character is allowed to hit rock bottom, then discover that a life living in service of others brings you joy. The most powerful point in the film is his funeral. The world around him discusses his life and gets it wrong until there is one man who sees what truly happened. It seems to be something out of real life, there was one man who got the actions and were inspired by the last dying actions of a terminally ill old man.

Once Upon a Time in the West
I remember on three separate occasions trying to watch this and giving up on it. The beginning is slow and often a trial to finish, but the end result is something magical. The first time that I completed it, I went back to watch it start to finish again. It is like crack, the movements, the themes, the characters all blend and move together in a symphony, the ebb and flow is incredible. If you only watch this film to see Fonda change his all-too nice guy demeanor on its side, do so. I have never been more frightened when I see the first shot of Fonda walking into frame with those big blue eyes and kill that innocence child. The cast is filled with great Italian and American actors, I was a little disappointed when I found out that Clint Eastwood wasn’t in this Leone production, but was then glad that I had a completely new character from the Man With No Name series. The story of Harmonica shapes, a revenge seeking sharp-shooter is greeted by three strangers with guns. In almost 15 minutes without dialogue there is an almost short sweet climax of a gun fight. Never have I seen a film that is so concentrated on the build up of the gun play than the actual fight, but it doesn’t displease us.

The one thing that I instantly took from this film is the music that is within the 2 hours and 45 minutes. It is a weaving of personal theme songs that I could listen to without having to see the movie. I think that I could visualize the entire movie without having to see the visuals because of this amazing score. That is enough to make me watch the film.

Pulp Fiction
This is the reason that QT is popular today. He used his amazing dialogue to create a movie that made us all want to be those fake LA gangsters. I can’t tell you how many times that I wanted to scream out at people like Samuel L Jackson does in the Flock of Seagull’s apartment, not to mention creating your own quote from the bible to strike real fear into your enemies. The spoken words of the film are so catchy that I can remember a number of the full conversations without breaks.

I must say that the unique non-linear presentation of the film is another part that makes this unforgettable. But I think it is the mythology and the mystery of what the hell is in that briefcase gets me every fuckin’ time. I truly think that it is Marcellus’s soul is the contents of the briefcase.

This film is also one that refurbished a lot of different things. It brought back crime thrillers into the public eye, it made John Travolta a star again, Uma became his muse and a big star, and it brought back 50’s music, it even brought non-linear story telling back from the 60’s. QT helped those things, and those things helped him. I will leave you with this quote “What ain't no country I ever heard of! They speak English in What?”

A Clockwork Orange
This film destroyed the song “Singin’ In the Rain” for me temporarily. I still will not think of it in the same innocence that I once did. Alex DeLarge is one of the most vile people in the history of cinema, but I wouldn’t want to change him one bit. I wouldn’t say that he is a good person but he is someone to admire. He loves every minute of what he terrorizes, and for that I commend him.

The film is hard to handle at first, but I admire it for the different language and flow that it takes on. I cannot forget what drooges are, and what kroovy means. Kubrick cuts into what a society can be like if we are not harness good values and allow true freedom to reign. Kubrick’s journey in this film is not to show that freedom is truly bad, it is that it is a double edged sword. He allows us to measure both sides and asks us if the end really justifies the means. That is the most important thing that I took away from this film.

This is the first film that I saw of Martin Scorsese, and it is one of my favorites of his. I would put Taxi Driver above this, but like the movie says “It is when I grew, it is when I met the world.” This introduced me to the gangster film in its purest and truest forms. It is the hard-hitting and almost comical look at the rise and fall of Henry Hill. I began to laugh through most of the film because of the Animaniacs homage to the film in Goodfeathers shorts. The line blurs on Tommy’s sanity, there was never in my mind an ounce of sympathy for that character. I will say that he is one of the most entertaining people to watch in this film though, it was a mixture of horror and nervous laughter the first time I saw the clown speech in the club. I knew that Henry wouldn’t die in the scene, but I didn’t know how far it would go.

Besides Tommy’s insanity, there is a lot that this film has to offer. I don’t think that I will ever forget the long steadycam shot on the entrance to the Coppola. Also, I shall not forget all of the excellent music that was in the film, or the actions that went with them. I never listened to the original Derek and the Dominos version of Layla until I saw this movie, the piano interlude is one of the perfect fits in all of cinema history. It makes one think about whether Scorsese had that piece in his mind during shooting.

Wall Street
Oliver Stone has a few masterpieces, and this is one of the few. It is the classic tale of a man selling his soul for the monetary advancement of himself. He sells out his values and even his own father to conquer the world, but in the end finds out that ill gotten money is usually rotten. Gordon Gecko is the supreme evil, a heartless man whose wallet is the only measure of joy that he gets, that seduces the young Bud Fox. Gordon wants people who are “young, smart, broke, and no feelings, if you want a friend get a dog.” Bud thinks that he is all of that, but finds out that wealth has a price. It is filled with fantastic performances by Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. It is a good film with an even better message about the price of being on the top.

The Shawshank Redemption
Unlike most of the films on this list, this is one that I experienced rather early in my movie career. I have seen it so many times that it is getting on the verge of becoming old, but luckily this film has longevity that is unseen by most classic films. It is almost hard to believe that this film was snubbed at the Academy Awards and was considered a flop at the box office. I am usually not big on movies that contain a wholesome and uplifting message, but this and It’s Wonderful Life are ones that contain such arcs that I cannot deny their powerful messages. It also has great dialogue as well as great performances that propelled Tim Robbins to legendary status. “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” I think that is one of the defining moments in the film, the difference between a man who survived by buying into the system and a man who never forgot what freedom is. I do think that their differences arise out of what their lives were before their incarceration. It is hard to do this film justice on what it accomplishes, there is a chill that goes up my spine when you realize that he is finally free, and I have only a few film moments where I get those chills up my spine.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Harrison Ford in his best pulp performance, it is one of those that if you see as a child that you will never forget that image. I remember that I wore out this and the Temple of Doom VHS, much to my father’s distaste. I always wanted to be Indiana Jones; the whip, the fedora, the leather jacket, action, adventure, dames, and the search for eternal fame. Sure the lines can be cheesy and the Nazi’s are way too comical, but it is all packaged in a fucking sweet story. The reason that The Ark is so fascinating is for that it turned something that we all love into something that the character was living. We all are fascinated and almost obsessed with legends, Jones lived the life. He searched for the gold that we were told about from the Incas and the Aztechs.

Empire Strikes Back
If I was to do Indiana Jones, I also have to do Empire. This is the best of the “Holy” trilogy, it is dark, has great light saber battles, and has the biggest film secret/revelation in cinema history. George Lucas knows that this moment when Luke finds out that Darth is his father is an amazing moment that he unsuccessfully tried to recreate it in his Episode III.

I am a big fan of this film because I am a big fan of the original series, the things that this film does great cannot be duplicated in the rest. The love of this section is out of the nature of the middle chapter of trilogies. It is meant to be a low point and is the darkest section of the journey, the rock bottom. The icy planet Hoth, an environment that virtually nothing survives, should be a major clue at the beginning. Also I like how the gang departs from each other, Luke can be pretty annoying with his whiny voice. Sometimes I want to shove a laser gun down his throat so he can’t speak. We all know that Han was the real hero. This chapter also has the sweetest bounty hunter alive, Boba Fatt.


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