Friday, January 8, 2016

Top 50 movies: 31-35

31. Beauty and the Beast
Year: 1991
Country: USA
Language: English
Director: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

I know it's not the first movie I saw in the theaters, but Beauty and the Beast is the first one I have vivid memories of seeing. I was enthralled from the first second to the last. I had a huge crush on Belle, and knew all the songs by heart. Now, I'm older, more cynical, have a general distaste for musicals and still, I love this movie with all my heart. Belle is the best and most interesting of all the Disney heroines, smart, funny, kind, and fiercely intelligent. And the Beast is the most interesting of the Disney Princes, probably because he has his own fascinating personal journey. He goes from arrogance and self hatred to both learning to love himself and someone else. Meanwhile, the movie teaches us that we should be falling for the soul of a person, looks be damned. That's a pretty great lesson to be put on top of the impeccable animation, tremendous songs, and flawless voice cast.

32. In Bruges
Year: 2008
Country: Ireland, but filmed in Belgium
Language: English
Director: Martin McDonagh

The only movie I can think of that as soon as it was over, I started it and watched it again. I then watched it again the next day before returning the disc to Netflix and going out to purchase my own copy and then show it to every person I knew who I thought might like it (everyone did). Colin Farrell and Brendon Gleason shine as the standard "old guy/new kid" team on a much different kind of storyline than we're used to. Ralph Fiennes in all his hilarious over-the-top glory is also a delight. Almost play-like in its small cast, but very cinematic in playwright Martin McDonagh's first time behind the camera for a feature (he'd previously won on Oscar for his short film Six Shooter, also starring Gleason), I love everything about In Bruges. The technical aspects are great, with the cinematography of the gorgeous city of Bruges a particular highlight. But overall, it's funny, dark, existential, and leaves us with questions in our heads. I could sit down at any moment, in any mood, and love this movie.

33. Out of Sight
Year: 1998
Country: USA
Language: English
Director: Steven Soderbergh

Elmore Leonard, possibly my favorite author, wrote many great novels and Out of Sight was one of his best. Though plenty of things were changed around in the casting and whatnot of the movie adaptation, no movie ever got closer to capturing the true essence of one of his novels the way this one does. George Clooney and Ving Rhames have the easy repartee often seen between Leonard's characters. Jennifer Lopez (back before she was J.Lo and was just a talented up and coming actress) embodies the strong moral core and also the romanticism of the novel's Karen Sisco. The impeccable supporting cast is flawless, with Don Cheadle, Steve Zahn, Denis Farina, and Albert Brooks all delivering top notch performances (there's also a great unexpected, and uncredited, cameo from Samuel L. Jackson that isn't in the novel, but could've and should've been). Steven Soderbergh gives fascinating visual changes between each setting so that even though we jump back and forth in settings and time, we're never lost. And Scott Frank's script, really typified by Clooney's delivery, really gets Leonard's unforced cool and the wonderful kinda dialog Quentin Tarantino made a career of mimicking.

34. High Fidelity
Year: 2000
Country: USA
Language: English
Director: Stephen Frears

The movie I think about the most when thinking about how our views change over time. My 17-year-old self walked out of the theater thinking "I loved that chubby funny guy (Jack Black) but the rest was just okay" to seeing it a few years later and being bowled over by the depth hiding in plain sight. I've now had innumerable viewings and love it more each time. Adapted from the book by Nick Hornby (who's gone on the be one of my favorite authors), I love watching John Cusack's Rob Gordon slowly realize he might've let "the one" slip out from underneath him because he was too childish and stupid to see her for what she was. Watching Rob grow up over the course of the movie is something I missed the first time around, as I was just a kid with no life experience with which to connect to that movie and its characters. Now I look on it and see the pinnacle of the rom-com, even if it's got too much of its own character to really fit into that genre at all.

35. He Walked by Night
Year: 1948
Country: USA
Language: English
Director: Alfred L. Werker (uncredited direction by Anthony Mann)

A movie that has fascinated me since I first saw it, He Walked by Night is my favorite noir movie. It has all the cops and criminals in LA kind of noir-isms you could hope for, including the incredible photography and efficient run time. A predecessor to Dragnet in its use of real police files to inform the story, for me the biggest attraction is the slow burn case leading up to a flashlight lit chase through the LA sewer system that is much more impactful than the more famous chase through the sewers in the next year's The Third Man. Credited to journeyman filmmaker Alfred L. Werker, but uncreditedly directed by the legendary Anthony Mann (reports conflict on how much), I wish this tight, tense, terrific little noir was held up next to the most famous examples in the genre, as it's their equal or better.

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