Thursday, 10 November 2011

CRAIG'S TOP 100 FILMS - 80-71

80#. THE FIGHTER (2010)


Director: David O'RUSSELL
Starring: Mark WAHLBERG, Christian BALE, Amy ADAMS, Melissa LEO

WHY?: This bruising drama from last year, kept the sports film genre going strong with another knock-out (yet sweary) film proving that boxing does fascinate some film-goers. Based on a true story, Mickey Ward (Wahlberg) aspires to make it as a fighter but compared to the likes of Rocky Balboa, he is held back by his erratic family led by his fiery mother (Leo) and his former boxer-turned-drug addict brother Dickie (a superb Bale). The normally subtle Adams shows she has a potty mouth too as the no-nonsense girlfriend playing the Adrian role by ringside. Whilst not as acclaimed as Raging Bull, its focus on sibling division is emotional to watch at times as Mickey knows that his career is at stake but at the same he doesn't want to risk tarnishing his relationship with those around him.

BEST SCENE: A boxing match which proves that although his erratic family are not around, Mickey realises that one piece of advice from his jailed brother could still win him a match that he is on the verge of losing. One punch to his opponent in the kidneys is enough to produce one of the most unlikeliest of sporting victories; factual or fictional.



 79#. AVATAR (2009)


Director: James CAMERON
Starring: Sam WORTHINGTON, Zoe SALDANA, Sigourney WEAVER, Stephen LANG

WHY?: The highest grossing blockbuster of all time gets its reward with a mention on this list as James Cameron's luscious sci-fi epic provided one of the great cinema-experiences that I will ever have. In a futuristic world, paraplegic soldier Jake Sully (Worthington) gets the opportunity to undergo a mission using an Avatar system to transform into a creature which is part of the Naa'vi species to help the army find out more about the planet Pandora. The only problem is, he gets to like the species and ends up trying to help protect them from his own people. Yes the story is very Pocahontus like, but there is no denying its stunning visual effects which take you away from the average world we all live in, into a world of such wonder and beauty. All created with such precision by Mr Cameron.

BEST MOMENT: The attack of the tree led by the vicious Colonel Quartich is simply breathtaking as a visual spectacle and we see just how harsh our human race can be, with echoes of 9/11 being suggested here, while the clever use of CGI and emotional acting continues to show that some day, we will have an Oscar-nominated CGI performance.



 78#. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)


Director: Alfred HITCHCOCK
Starring: Farley GRANGER, Robert WALKER

WHY?: One of Hitchcock's underrated films, this engaging thriller brought together suspense and paranoia with such precision as tennis player (Guy) Granger and sinister Bruno (Walker) randomly meet on a train and end up discussing about killing each other's loved ones. Seen as a joke by one of them, the other one actually means it and when his crime is committed later on, it leaves the other person desperate to avoid being linked to the crime all because of a bit of dark humour. The suspense is built up immensely particularly for the fairground scene which leads to the murder with Walker giving such a dark, manipulative performance before we are treated to a thrilling showdown on a carousel that adds to the fun.

BEST MOMENT: The build-up to Miriam's death was a scene shown on my film course which showed how pace and top-notch camera work presenting danger well as we wonder which moment Bruno will commit the killing. From bursting the kid's balloon to the actual killing, it a clever example of a character with no remorse for what he does, classic Hitchcock



 77#. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)


Director: Bryan SINGER
Starring: Kevin SPACEY, Gabriel BYRNE, Benicio DEL TORO, Chazz PALMINTERI

WHY?: A renowned classic from the 90's with a worthy cast and a valued script as Bryan Singer gave us one of the more fascinating thrillers of the decade, with one of the THE great film twists in its climax. Gang member Verbal Kint (Spacey) recalls to Agent Kujan (Palminteri) about how his fellow comrades who had reputations as deceitful thieves were planning a major heist on a ship which led to them being bumped off by a mysterious killer named Keyzer Soze. The question is, who is Keyzer Soze? The web of intrigue is built up by Verbal's story which pieces together the characters and their plans but only when the twist arrives, do we realise that like the Agent, we too have been stumped by the revelation.

BEST MOMENT: That twist. All the time we have spent listening to Verbal's story goes right out the window and baffles us for a while before we soon marvel at the way the story has unearthed itself. Singer has never bettered himself with a film since then....


  

 76#. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)


Director: Stanley KUBRICK
Starring: Malcolm MCDOWELL

WHY?: Kubrick's shocking and provoking film appalled many who saw it back in the 70s to the point where the director withdrew it from UK cinemas until his death. Pinpointing the harrowing possibility of what could happen in future society, a gang of droogs led by the erratic Alex (McDowell) get up to horrible antics such as assaulting an old man and raping a couple of women, but when Alex gets arrested, he goes through a curing program to try and make him return to society as a good person. Certainly some parts of it are disturbing even by today's standards but it is still respected by many and seen as influential with its brutal set-pieces, a rousing use of classical music throughout and a maniacal performance by McDowell who displays both viciousness and a sense of sympathy about his character.

BEST MOMENT: A scene I wanted to show on here, but Youtube wouldn't let me, when Alex's paranoiac side gets to him when he attacks his own gang members though the scene is made more memorable with the mixture of slow-motion and classical music displaying the monster that Alex is and revealing that even his own crew suffer at times.



 75#. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007)

Director: Paul T. ANDERSON
Starring: Daniel DAY-LEWIS, Paul DANO

WHY?: In a film which has shades of Kubrick within, this modern epic displayed a story of greed and corruption led by Daniel Day-Lewis's phenomenal performance as the cunning oil baron Daniel Plainview who stops at nothing to get what he wants when it comes to making more money even if it means disowning his own son. Plainview is a tyrant with no sympathy of the damage he causes although he does face humiliation in the religious sense by young priest Eli (Dano) though revenge is brutally served in the deranged final act. The production team work hard to make it epic through its stunning camera-work depicting isolation in the plains of California and the historical setting but it is mostly overshadowed by one of the great lead performances in film brought out with such ferociousness. 

BEST MOMENT: The final 10 minutes in the bowling alley gives us a cracking showdown of two minds colliding as an old but still vicious Plainview finally unleashes vengeance on Eli with references to milkshake thrown in before finishing off with the perfect ending line....



 74#. WALK THE LINE (2005)


Director: James MARIGOLD
Starring: Joaquin PHOENIX, Reese WITHERSPOON, Robert PATRICK

WHY?: This provocative if sometimes harsh depiction of the renowned country singer Johnny Cash (the hard-working Phoenix) was welcomed with respect especially by his own fans though at times it does over dramatize certain situations e.g. the way his first marriage ended. But it presented to us a tough life for Cash who despite being a chart-topping sensation who does eventually get the girl, suffered personal trauma through the death of his brother and his complicated relationship with his father. But thankfully, we support Cash throughout especially with his pursuit of his life-long companion June (Witherspoon) and it is to the credit of the two leading actors that they both proved why they received a lot of award attention with the dedication of bringing Johnny and June's songs to life.

BEST MOMENT: The final concert scene as Johnny and June sing The Ring of Fire (a quality version from the two) before he finally proposes to her publicly (after countless attempts), she says yes this time and one of the great romantic stories in recent film comes to a satisfying conclusion.



 73#. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)


Director: David LEAN
Starring: Peter O'TOOLE, Omar SHARIF, Alec GUINNESS, Anthony QUINN

WHY?: David Lean's glorious epic is regarded by many as one of the greatest ever made. Certainly I appreciate it for its beauty even though it is a patient film to watch but there's taking away how stunning and immaculate it looks even by today's standards. It bases itself on the real-life career of British soldier turned Arabian leader T.E Lawrence (O'Toole) who was assigned to help the Arabia people tackle the Turks during WWI and as the film progresses, he is referred to as a god by many of them, although the thirst for violence soon gets into his head leading to a bittersweet ending. It does a splendid job all round though the acting and story is put aside in favour of the magnificent cinematography and the storming musical score which continue to pinpoint its legacy as part of the epic genre.

BEST MOMENT: One of the best tracking shots in film as Lawrence leads his Arabian army to attack a seaside city and take control of it, not one edit is made as the long-camera angle shows the horses charging in before rampaging the city, one of those exhilarating scenes that sum up the brilliance of cinema.



 72#. MILK (2008)


Director: Gus VAN SANT
Starring: Sean PENN, Josh BROLIN, Emile HIRSCH, James FRANCO

WHY?: The normally controversial Penn gives a subtle and committed role as the courageous yet tragic homosexual leader Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's terrific biopic. It doesn't stir away from its honest portrayal of the times America lived in as Milk campaigned for the city of San Francisco and other US states to allow equal rights for gay people. Despite succeeding with his campaign, Milk would lose his life because of it, which proves why this film is important in displaying the hard work he gave to allow fellow people like himself to have their own independence. Dustin Lance Black's enriching script and the talented cast led by Penn's Oscar-winning performance combines well for a true-life story which inspired many, one of the best biopics anyway.

BEST MOMENT: The last scene (again), as Milk's death is made aware to the people of San Francisco, their reactions tell it all as a great man who dedicated so much time and energy is taken away from them, with the candle light march adding subtly to the final scene before the credits reveal the fate of those involved.


 71#. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975)


Director: Milos FORMAN
Starring: Jack NICHOLSON, Louise FLETCHER, Brad DOURIF, Christopher LLOYD

WHY?: Yet another Best Picture Oscar-winning film makes the list (though considerably low) in the shape of Forman's disturbing but feel-good drama. Criminal McMurphy (Nicholson) chooses to spend his jail time in a mental institution led by the sinister Nurse Ratched (a terrifying Fletcher) but finds that unlike himself, the other patients are far from normal but he decides to add something different to their imprisoned environment with various antics to keep them happy. It makes us laugh, and cry (the final 20 minutes are a tough viewing at times) but we embrace the characters and without doubt is one of the best adaptations to film that many can recall. Nicholson and Fletcher anchor the film with strong on-screen presence linked well with the tough story of unity and feeling wanted.

BEST MOMENT: Though I find it difficult to watch sometimes, the death of Billy is heart-breaking for the characters and for the film's audience though justice in a way is preserved as McMurphy finally loses it with his ferocious attack on Ratched though things don't end well for him as most people know....

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