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The 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century — BBC Culture

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Once every so often facebook has a trending event that I care about. Because of the reaction the top three films garnered, hell probably just the reaction to the top film (Mulholland Drive), this a trending worthy topic. My gut reaction was to defend this choice, because it is generally an underrated film. Well if you want to know what I have decided, you will have to read (or skip) to the end.

100. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016) — Haven’t seen it and never heard of it [hereafter HSI & NHOI].
100. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) — Great music, but not a great film. Disagree, overrated.
100. Carlos (Olivier Assayas, 2010) — HSI. Supposedly great. IMDb considers it a mini-series.
99. The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda, 2000) — HSI & NHOI.
98. Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002) — HSI & NHOI.
97. White Material (Claire Denis, 2009) — HSI & NHOI.
96. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton, 2003) — Strongly agree. I would rank this with Old School.
95. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012) — Strongly disagree, overrated. Wes Anderson’s second worst film.
94. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008) — Disagree, underrated.  Probably the best vampire film since Dracula. Yes, that Dracula (1931). I still have not seen the American remake with Chloe Grace Moretz, yet.
93. Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007) — Strongly disagree, overrated. It is a cute movie and I now eat ratatouille despite disliking over half of the ingredients in isolation.
92. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007) —Disagree, underrated. An out of time elegiac western.
91. The Secret in Their Eyes (Juan José Campanella, 2009) — Strongly disagree, underrated, except when considered against other foreign language films and then having it be three better than Let the Right One In makes perfect sense. I still have not seen the American remake with Ejiofor and Roberts, yet.
90. The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002) — Agree. Its star has an excellent surname.
89. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008) —HSI & NHOI.
88. Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015) — HSI. And yes I am embarrassed to admit that.
87. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) — Disagree, overrated. Yes, Audrey Tautou is a dream and I think A Very Long Engagement is a better Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. I suppose someone else might claim they prefer his Alien: Resurrection, because film appreciation is subjective.
86. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002) — HSI & NHOI. And this stars Julianne Moore, so it is odd that I thought this was an Algerian WWII film.
85. A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, 2009) — Agree. The best film set in a French prison that I have ever seen, and I include whatever Pink Panther movie that Clouseau gets himself sent to jail in.
84. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) — Agree. But it should not be above A Prophet.
83. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001) — Agree. Fitting that it should be adjacent to Her.
82. A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2009) — Agree. My review for this is from 2010 so it is about 30 words long.
81. Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011) — HSI. Fassbender + McQueen. I do not know any male friends who have seen this movie.
80. The Return (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2003) — Disagree, underrated. In fact, if I watched this again I bet I would rate it even higher than X2: X-Men United. That said, I did rate it higher than Return of the King, so I am not totally blinded by nerdom.
79. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000) — Disagree, overrated. I almost strongly disagree because this fine film is generally overrated, but Jason Lee is wonderful in it.
78. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013) — Disagree, overrated. The Departed is overrated too, but at least it is still pretty much great. This is possibly even more self-indulgent than Almost Famous. No, I take it back, that is nigh impossible.
77. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007) — HSI. Mathieu Amalric is the paraplegic main character, and he also played a Bond villain.
76. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003) — HSI. I do not watch von Trier’s movies because he sounds like an abusive jerk and I do not wish to support that kind of directing. And I just happen to have not seen any of his movies.
75. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014) — HSI. I have not seen it but I want to.
74. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012) — HSI. I wish I could unsee James Franco with grills.
73. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004) — HSI. I have not seen any part of this trilogy.
72. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013) — HSI & NHOI. I am sensing a pattern that favors the self-indulgent filmmakers. Still, his Broken Flowers is my favorite Bill Murray film. Seriously.
71. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012) — HSI & NHOI.
70. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012) — HSI. In fact I forgot that this movie existed.
69. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015) — HSI.
68. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001) — Agree. Not Anderson’s best work, but appropriately located between Moonrise Kingdom and his best film. To avoid spoiling the list I will put the name into Russian, Отель Гранд Будапешт.
67. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008) — Disagree, underrated. One of the seven times of the past 45 Academy Awards to have my choice for best film actually win.
66. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (Kim Ki-duk, 2003) — Agree. An eye-opening Korean film for me. It reminds me of beauty, tranquility and sadness.
65. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009) — HSI.
64. The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013) — HSI & NHOI.
63. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011) — HSI.
62. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) — Disagree, overrated. I like this movie. It has some really great tension in it. But it is far from great.
61. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013) — HSI. I need to see this, especially since I find Scarlett Johansson such a fantastic actress.
60. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006) — HSI & NHOI.
59. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005) — Agree. One of the finest moments of film for the burgeoning 21st Century came in a scene where the protagonist’s son stands up to his bully. *Crowd goes wild* And then keeps punching. *Some people stop cheering* And punching. *Awkward silence ensues* Cronenberg gave the audience what it thought it wanted and taught an important lesson about art, pop cultures, and schadenfreude. If I had not seen this at Doc Films (UChicago) I wonder if I could have fully appreciated that scene and this film as a whole.
58. Moolaadé (Ousmane Sembène, 2004) — HSI & NHOI.
57. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012) — HSI. The whole alleged glamorizing of torture was a major turnoff for me. It is not that I get squeamish, which I do, but that I know how susceptible I am to persuasive storytelling and how much I hate when things get awkward. I will root for detainees to crack and for the investigators to do anything they can. And I do not want to do that.
56. Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, director; Ágnes Hranitzky, co-director, 2000) — HSI & NHOI.
55. Ida (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2013) — HSI. I meant to catch this one too since it played locally.
54. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011) — HSI & NHOI.
53. Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) — Strongly disagree, overrated. There are a couple excellent songs on the soundtrack.
52. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004) — HSI & NHOI.
51. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) — Strongly agree. A five star movie that was only #3 on my Best of 2010 list.
50. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2015) — HSI & NHOI.
49. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014) — HSI.
48. Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015) — HSI. Was advised just yesterday to avoid this film.
47. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014) — HSI. Recognize the director’s name? He did The Return.
46. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010) — HSI. Recognize the director’s name? He did #98, which I also have not seen.
45. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013) — HSI.
44. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013) — Strongly agree. Earlier I said only 7 Oscar Best Pictures winners lined up for me since 1970. That is because I did not watch this until 2015 and it does not appear on my Best of list. But was it better than Captain Phillips? This list appears to think so as that film does not even appear on it.
43. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011) — HSI. See above. I did used to love Kirsten Dunst though.
42. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012) — HSI.
41. Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015) — Strongly disagree, overrated. Read my review to learn why. Or do not bother since it will probably make you mad because you love it so much. It is better than Minions though.
40. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) — HSI.
39. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005) — Disagree, overrated. This is a good movie and it looks beautiful. Malick’s The Thin Red Line could have had this spot, except it came out in 1998. Remember The Thin Red Line? It was the WWII film with an amazing ensemble cast that you did not go see because you had just seen Saving Private Ryan.
38. City of God (Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002) — Agree. Best Brazilian film off all-time. Unless you include Rio. Then your opinion is invalid.
37. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010) — HSI & NHOI.
36. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2014) — HSI & NHOI.
35. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000) — Disagree, underrated. I thought I would be out of underrateds by #35, but I think that is what I have to say. I have it as my 10th best film of the 00s and the best of 2000. The ending brings tears to my eyes every time I watch.
34. Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015) — HSI & NHOI. Sounds intense. I know when I watch it I will become filled with rage.
33. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008) — Strongly agree. I am listening to the sound track right now! Has Hanz Zimmer ever done a better job than on this soundtrack? Has Christian Bale ever done a better job of acting? Yeah, I suppose he is even better in Rescue Dawn. Sure 2008 was a weak year for movies and according to this movielog Dark Knight was a better movie than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But as time has passed I not only feel that Dark Knight should not be considered the best film of the 00s (according to IMDb in 2011 and still in 2016), but that it should probably be right where this list has it.
32. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006) — Strongly agree. Continued analysis from Dark Knight and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: this was #9 on my best of the 00s, just ahead of #10 Crouching Tiger and behind #6 Dark Knight, but actually is better than Dark Knight. Maybe I should revisit my best of the 00s? Maybe add Wet Hot American Summer in there somewhere.
31. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011) — HSI.
30. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003) — Agree. This is the lowest spot I would agree with for the most famous Korean film of all-time. It is a great litmus test for what disgusts different people. Rest assured, if you watch it, you will be disgusted by something in this pinnacle of the Korean revenge genre. The only revenge film I can think of on its level is the highly polarizing Irreversible.
29. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008) — Disagree, overrated. A very good movie that has a great look to it and an important message.
28. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002) — HSI. I had clearly heard of this film, but a movie about people talking while their loved ones are in comas sounds underwhelming. I have found some of Almodóvar’s other movies to be pretty good.
27. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010) — Strongly disagree, overrated. This is an average film for Fincher. At least the list is correct about his upcoming entry. Also, the soundtrack for this was overrated as well.
26. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002) — HSI. I have heard nothing but amazing things about this.
25. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000) — Disagree, overrated. This is a great movie and belongs at the start of this list. In fact, just switch it with Inception and wonder at how far Nolan has come as a director. It does showcase how amazing Guy Pearce is as an actor though.
24. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012) — HSI. I just never seem to watch PTA’s films.
23. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005) — Strongly disagree, overrated. I put this movie on par with The Social Network. That said, this is an international collection of opinions and Caché had a very foreign style to its suspense (French family receiving invasive recordings of them).
22. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003) — Disagree, overrated. I fell in love with this movie and saw Scarlett Johansson as a woman for the first time (she was great as a teen in Ghost World). This was also an interesting version of the world weary Bill Murray. This is the highest rated movie directed by a woman on this list.
21. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014) — Strongly agree. Wes Anderson is a great director and this is his finest film. Birdman beat it for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, which is interesting since Birdman did not make this list. I think that is very telling regarding the Academy’s self-adoration of film and demonization of critics. It is worth noting that Alejandro G. Iñárritu has no films on this list, despite several Oscars and a few more nominations. And Sr. Iñárritu is not an American.
20. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008) — HSI. And I have been to Schenectady, NY dozens of times in my life.
19. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) — HSI. I bet I will love it.
18. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009) — HSI & NHOI.
17. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006) — Agree. 2006 was an odd year for cinema. The Departed won for Best Picture, even though it was seen as Martin Scorsese’s lifetime achievement award. In fact, the Hong Kong original version Infernal Affairs, is generally considered a better movie (I like the Hollywood ending better). That said, 2006 was an amazing year, and has been appropriately represented with this film and The Lives of Others. I do not cry at the end, but I always come close. The Lives of Others actually got a couple of tears. But the shocking one missing is perhaps too American of a film to be appreciated, or simply has been avoided as “too soon” when it came out—United 93. That is 111 minutes of spellbinding suspense with about 40 minutes of tears coming out. It is not a tear jerker and it does not make me sob, but it is just such a powerful experience that my body needs a physical manifestation to the overwhelming emotion.
16. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012) — HSI.
15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007) — HSI.
14. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)— HSI & NHOI.
13. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006) — Strongly disagree, overrated. Best remembered for an extremely long single shot. If such a feat impresses you, then watch Russian Ark, which is filmed in one continuous shot. It takes place at the Hermitage and includes time travel. The action is better in Children of Men, though.
12. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007) — Strongly Agree. The story fit his strengths to a tee. To a T? I have never seen the expression written down.
11. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)  — HSI. I do love Oscar Isaac though.
10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007) — Disagree, overrated. I put this at 6th best of 2007, so that would not leave room for much else if I did not think this was overrated. A fine tale though with good acting.
9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011) — Agree. A powerful, challenging and insightful look into divorce in Iran.
8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000) — HSI.
7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011) — Strongly disagree. If New World was a stretch to make the list, then this is a leap of faith.
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004) — Disagree, overrated. This is a masterful film and while it is not perfect, it certainly belongs on this list. Just not better than #30.
5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014) — HSI. I know, I’m a bad person.
4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) — HSI. A really, really bad person.
3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007) — Strongly disagree, overrated. Good performances derailed by bad music and an unintentionally humorous ending, remember the milkshake which Daniel Plainview drinks up?
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000) — Agree. Wong Kar-Wai is an amazing director and everything just fits together. Having Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung as his stars worked perfectly.
1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001) — Disagree, overrated. In my opinion this is David Lynch’s finest film. I saw this in a theater with fools who did not appreciate it, and thus exposed themselves by laughing and cracking jokes simply because Lynch was too complicated for them on a Friday night.  While I do not agree that it is the best film of the past 16 years, it is great and deserves more attention than it has garnered in the past.

Final tallies:

Never heard of it (and have not seen it): 20/103
Have not seen it: 54/102
Have seen: 48 – 47%
Strongly disagreed: 12/48 – 25%
Disagreed: 15/48 (total disagrees 27/48 – 56%)
Agreed: 13/48 (total agrees 21/48 – 44%)
Strongly agreed: 8/48 – 17%
Overrated: 21/48
Underrated: 6/48

Thus the median film is one I have not seen, but if I have I disagreed with its position and thought it was overrated. Taking underrated movies into account (even excluding movies like Mulholland Drive and Eternal Sunshine that absolutely deserve to be on the list despite receiving disagree/overrated) my median film does deserve to be on the list. Having never compared numbers like this before, I do not know if I find this list to be accurate or not, but I am starting to think so. It certainly does have a lot of wonderful films, and tells me that there are more recent films that I need to watch.

Best of 2015

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This is just getting ridiculous. My annual lists are getting to become like reverse car releases—more and more disconnected from year attached to the item. So get excited for the Best Films of 2016, coming to you in early June 2017!

  1. Liza, the Fox Fairy – Liza, a rókatündér in the original Hungarian
  2. Spy – Melissa McCarthy + James Bond = better than actual James Bond
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – It felt like Star Wars in a way that no movie has since Return of the Jedi
  4. A Second Chance – I would like a second chance to watch this movie…*rimshot* Just kidding, it is horribly depressing!
  5. The Big Short – Our economy and version of capitalism are horribly depressing!
  6. I’ll See You in My Dreams – Great to see a film starring an excellent older actress. Not as depressing as it could have been considering just the plot.
  7. Dope – An original take on a traditional story—like Hustle and Flow
  8. Tangerine – I still do not know why it is called Tangerine
  9. The Wolfpack – A great new documentary from a new documentarian. In some ways her novelty really helped, and in other ways it made for an unsatisfying ending.
  10. A Few Cubic Meters of Love – The single most depressing film of the year, which is saying a lot, considering the competition.

Best Short Film: Kung Fury.

Worst Film: When Animals Dream. The tone of the film was excellent. Nothing else about it was.

Ten Great Scores: Part 2

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For soundtracks 10-6, click here. While there were some polarizing choices therein, these ones are universally loved by all (of me).

5. Vertigo — Bernard Hermann had several candidates for this list but I could not leave this one off. Here is the opening theme. The violins catch me every time, in a way that none of 10-6 could. The music is so good it makes me wonder if people think this is a better film than Rear Window merely because of the power of its music. In my review I compared this to Requiem For a Dream, which somehow did not make my top 10—it was #11.

4. Blade Runner – One benefit from living in 2015 is that all of these scores are available online. What brings this to mind is that fact that the primary composer, Vangelis, refused to license the soundtrack for 12 years! Even then it was incomplete. Unlike Vertigo, Blade Runner could stand on its own with an average James Horner score. But when you take this score and and Ridley Scott’s visuals you have one of the greatest films of all-time.

3. For a Few Dollars More – Everyone knows the third movie in the Man with No Name trilogy, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Well this is part two and it has the best of the music. It is the The Empire Strikes Back of scores. I like the twangy-ness of the Jew’s harp.

2. The Lord of the Rings – If Howard Shore never made another score his life would still be a stunning success. When I heard he was doing the score I was concerned. I had no idea who he was, but in my defense I was 19 and had not seen Philadelphia or Se7en yet.  My favorite theme within the series is probably the Fellowship theme. It sounds like optimism, camaraderie, and heroism. But I can understand someone picking any one besides Arwen’s.

1. Star Wars – It is the Star Wars Trilogy of scores. Everything wonderful I say about Lord of the Rings, I will say about Star Wars, but with a bonus. Maybe it is simply that those movies and this music have been with me for longer. Maybe it feels appropriate to have the greatest film composer, John Williams, with the best score of all-time. Maybe it is the opening overture. Maybe it is the Imperial March. Pick a reason, for me the conclusion is the same.

With only one appearance on the list does John Williams’ #1 outshine Ennio Morricone’s 2 movies? Maybe some day I can scientifically determine who are the greatest film composers of all-time.

Ten Great Scores: Part 1

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After rigorous testing I have determined the ten best scores/soundtracks of all-time. Besides #1 the list kept changing, so for the time being here it is. I am hopeful that maybe each year a new movie will supplant something I have listed below.

10. Tron: Legacy — Daft Punk’s second soundtrack, after 2002’s Irreversible. I found it groundbreaking in how much electronic dance music they could fit into one movie score. The plot and acting in Tron 2 are pretty poor, but the special effects and editing make for better synergy than exists in Interstella 5555. Familiar with Interstella 5555? That is the anime film set to “Discovery” Daft Punk’s classic 2001 album. Best Tron track — The Game Has Changed.

9. The Matrix: Reloaded — Second movie in a row with a colon in the title. Seven years earlier, in 2003, The Matrix 2 set the standard for hybridizing electronic music with traditional symphonic scores. The symphonic portions are very good, but it was the electronic, especially from Rob Dougan, that brought this score to the next level. Best track — (tie) Furious Angels & Chateau.

8. Sunset Boulevard — Franz Waxman’s score to the 1950 film is haunting and catchy. My favorite portion comes from the organ music. The best way to encapsulate the overall audio is to provide the suite from the film. Even divorced from the images the music has power on the level of Jaws, but more subtle with its wake.

7. Once Upon a Time in the West — Ennio Morricone anyone? If anyone could unseat John Williams as the greatest film score composer of all-time it would have to be Morricone. His A Fistful of Dollars theme ranked at #18 all-time but even therein I addressed how the opening scene in Once Upon… overshadowed the opening theme to the film. It is almost impossible to choose which character’s theme is the best between Frank, the man with the harmonica and Cheyenne’s. Right now I prefer the man with the harmonica.

6. The Proposition — Most people know Nick Cave from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I know that I learned of them from the Batman Forever soundtrack. While in 1968 Once Upon a Time in the West may have been the roughest western yet, come 2005 and Nick Cave comes up with the toughest western, Australian or otherwise, I have ever seen. For the soundtrack Cave teamed up with fellow Bad Seed Warren Ellis to create tension out of nothingness and beauty out of misanthropy. Ellis deserves special credit for playing the ominous violin that permeates most of the songs. The Rider is a pretty ditty that hints at an optimism that one could choose to find within this barren film.

Nos. 1 – 5 here.

Best of 2014

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And not a moment too soon…

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Gone Girl
3. Chef
4. The Fault in Our Stars
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
6. Birdman
7. Maleficent
8. Guardians of the Galaxy
9. Interstellar
10. American Sniper

Best Animated Film: The Lego Movie

Honorable Mentions: Amazing Spider-man 2, Bad Words and 22 Jump Street.

I had a lot of trouble deciding between Gone Girl and The Grand Budapest Hotel for the best film of the year. They are both very different films, and both represent stellar directors at the height of their powers. Both have excellent casts and amazing soundtracks. While there were lots of good movies, this was, again, a year without any 5 star films. The top three are great, spectacular, and wonderful, but they also can be criticized. Hopefully next year I can get this out in a more timely fashion. February was just rough for me this year. 27 new movies though make for a good sample size.

Great Psychological Thrillers: Part 2

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Here are Five More Great Psychological Thrillers. That said, they are not necessarily better than The Conversation. Which I put at #1 of my Best Psychological Thrillers currently available on Neflix. Ignoring those five flix, here are five more absolute classics of the genre.

Mr. CSI in Manhunter.

Mr. CSI in Manhunter.

5. Manhunter — I alluded in my last Psychological Thriller post to Hannibal Lecter having a different original actor. Well this here is that movie. This has the original Hannibal, Bryan Cox. I learned of him through Super Troopers and then marveled at his acting ability as William Stryker in X2: X-Men United. But he is not why I chose to watch this movie. The villain, The Tooth Fairy—Tom Noonan, the really tall guy in Heat—who was excellent, was also not why I chose this movie. It was for its protagonist—Will Graham, played by William Petersen—”CSI”. CSI is a show I loved to watch while I played sudoku and over time I came to really like Petersen, but it seemed like he was not in anything else. That Michael Mann directed this made me need to see this. That Joan Allen was in this, as a blind woman it turns out, helped too. If you enjoyed the remake, Red Dragon, then I assume you will love this. Unless you hated Miami Vice and Collateral, in which case you hate Michael Mann, but then what is wrong with you?

psycho_tony_perkins

4. Psycho — “A boy’s best friend is his mother.” NO! No, Norman Bates she is NOT his best friend. This is how perfectly nice thieves wind up getting slashed by Norman Bates—Anthony Perkins, best known for, obviously, Psycho. Another nice thing about this classic is it’s atypical structure. Much like how No Country for Old Men survived the death of its protagonist, Psycho switches off into the antagonist’s path, as did No Country. The even more interesting aspect is how long the viewer waits to meet its antagonist-cum-main character. This is also a good film to see through the lens of the Hays Code. Here the basic tenet of the Hays Code being that no criminal can get away with it. In that light, how else could Hitchcock have Janet Leigh get slashed in a shower?

Not Bjørn Floberg–Robin William–and not Stellan Skarsgård–Al Pacino, © 2002 Warner Bros.

Not Bjørn Floberg–Robin William–and not Stellan Skarsgård–Al Pacino, © 2002 Warner Bros.

3. Insomnia — What? There are two of this movie? Then you will have to choose which one to watch. Or you will at least have to choose which one to watch first. Well if you like Stellan Skarsgard—Thor & The Avengers & The Dark World‘s Erik Selvig—then watch the Norwegian original. If you prefer Christopher Nolan—The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception & Memento—then watch the English language one. This is a win win proposition though because they are both very good. Another way to decide is to see how loud it is where you are right now. If it is loud enough to want subtitles, then you should do Norwegian and maybe eat some pickled fish. If you can hear the movie just fine, then go American and eat some cannoli or a boston cream donut.

TheSecret

2. The Secret in Their Eyes — also known in the original Spanish as El secreto de sus ojos. Ricardo Darín stars in this masterful rape-murder investigation that jumps across from twenty years ago into the present. The same actors play both versions of themselves, but it works, especially for Darín who manages to show youthful exuberance and the weariness of time. I have difficulty explaining why this is better than, say, Sleepers, but it just is. Maybe it is just the mature attitude it has towards such terrible events. Maybe it comes from the moral weight it leaves on the viewer. While it has unpleasant events, it truly is a great film.

Zodiac

1. Zodiac — I have had mixed experienced with showing people Zodiac. Some people do not like its length. Some people do not like its ending. For me, I think that its director, David Fincher–The Social Network, has always had problems with wrapping things up neatly and this is finally a movie that lets him excel. He has the room to fully explore the themes and characters that inhabit this world. He evokes excellent performances in a variety of styles. This is probably Jake Gyllenhaal’s best role. I am not sure where it ranks for Robert Downey Jr.–Iron Man & Sherlock Holmes, but it has to be in his top five. When I try to picture Chloë Sevigny—American Psycho Boys Don’t Cry—this is the only version of her that comes to mind. And Mark Ruffalo? He gets to play the inspiration for Dirty Harry without being a self-parody.  Unlike Harry “Over the top” Callahan, Ruffalo’s Dave Toschi seems like a person you could run into at a bar, restaurant or at the police station. All told, this is a great movie for anyone who is not watching it at night in California.

Great Psychological Thrillers: Part 1

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This section is time sensitive and thus must be addressed first! I have Netflix and so do lots of you. I have their streaming service, their DVD delivery and I pay for them both! Thus for your viewing pleasure, here are five psychological thrillers that are currently available on Netflix, all of which I recommend:

Michael Parks, Red State © 2011 Harvey Boys.

Michael Parks, Red State © 2011 Harvey Boys.

5. Red State — This is sex and religion. The religion is more compelling, especially with Michael Parks as the cult leader who outshines the ten, or so, more famous actors in this movie.

Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs, 1991.

Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs, 1991.

4. Silence of the Lambs — I barely remember this movie because I found it to be very frightening. And I watched it on network
television. Watch the shortest ever Best Actor performance with Anthony Hopkins’ first crack at Hannibal Lecter.

Byung-hyun Lee & Min-sik Choi, I Saw the Devil, © 2010 Softbank Ventures.

Byung-hyun Lee & Min-sik Choi, I Saw the Devil, © 2010 Softbank Ventures.

3. I Saw the Devil — the best available Korean revenge film on Netflix. Also, possibly the best revenge film ever. It stars Min-
sik Choi as someone about as evil as the devil, which is particularly interesting for those of us who have seen Oldboy. The original Korean version, of course. If someone has seen the Spike Lee/Josh Brolin one, let me know if it is worth watching.

memento_ver3

2. Memento — Remember when Batman Begins was going to be directed by the guy who did Memento? Well in this modern noir, Guy Pearce plays a man who suffered a terrible trauma. As a result he has almost no short term memory and has to leave himself notes to help him in daily life and in his quest for revenge. It really makes you, the viewer, feel powerless, when all you want is to help him.

and at #1…

Conversation-Poster

1. The Conversation — Can I interest you in watching the film that Francis Ford Coppola made between The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II? What if I told you is has Gene Hackman’s best performance? Or that it also has Teri Garr, John Cazale, Harrison Ford and Robert Duvall? John Cazale was the most efficient movie star ever. Five movies. Five Best Picture Academy Awards nominations and Three wins! His worst movie is ranked #217 on imdb’s top 250!! Anyways, back to this film; to quote Netflix, this is a”film about an audio surveillance expert who faces a moral quandary when he suspects that a couple whose conversation he’s been hired to record will be murdered.” While the technology may have changed, the dilemma is even more pressing in our new world without privacy.

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