Thursday, May 21, 2009

10 Awesome Movies

Here are 10 movies I've seen that I consider to be awesome. They're made well, some are a little artsy, but they're great.

If.... (1968)
This is a very surreal movie, reality steps into fantasy, and the film shifts from black and white to color and vice versa repeatedly. And, it has one of the greatest endings I've ever seen!

The movie is a fable about the British school system by depicting a school for boys. It explores the themes of repressing sexuality, religion, and bullying from peers and masters. It was followed up with two other movies, O, Lucky Man! in 1974, and Britannia Hospital in 1982. The three are connected by being fables about British life, but their only connection is that all of them have a character named Mick Travis who is played by Malcolm McDowell. While if.... is considered a black comedy, the later two were a little more outrageous in their humor.

A Clockwork Orange (1972)
Based on Anthony Burgess' book, Stanley Kubrick's controversial tale of violence and the human spirit is disturbing and awe-inspiring.

Malcolm McDowell stars as Alex DeLarge, a young man who enjoys his life of violence, rape, and classical music. But when he is arrested after an accidental murder, Alex looks to a new rehabilitation technique for a quick way out of jail. The technique works, but not in the way anyone expected.

The way the movie is scripted and filmed and acted is perfect. There's not a lot more I can say. (What'd you expect from Stanley Kubrick?)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972)
Despite the see-through costumes and visual effects, this film does something I really, really respect: it holds fast to it's source material. Instead of embellishing on Carroll's work or taking from it, it keeps it intact. (With the forgivable framing of Mr. Dodgson taking the Liddell sisters for a boat ride, the puzzling disappearance of the Cheshire Cat scene, and the odd addition of the Tweedles, the only concession this movie makes to Through the Looking Glass.) It features great performances by future Phantom Michael Crawford as the White Rabbit, and Bond-girl-to-be Fiona Fullerton as Alice. There are short songs and diddies that occur, some derived from Carroll, some based on lines from the book ("Off with it's head! Off with it's head! Mutilate it! Decapitate it! We'll be much better off with it dead!"), and some completely new ones. The biggest problem with this movie is that most home video releases use an exceptionally poor print.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Peter Weir's atmospheric film is chilling and enthralling. The movie circles around the mysterious disappearance of some schoolgirls and a teacher at the rock formation known as Hanging Rock. Some live with the mystery, some embrace it, but what is certain is that things will never be the same.

The movie has a gentle yet eerie pace. Soft classical music and the panpipes of George Zamphir heighten the mood. The acting from all the cast is perfect, but the most imposing character is the Rock itself. It is menacing and entrancing all at the same time.

Back to the Future (1985)
Did you expect it not to be here? In an entertaining and engaging tale, director Bob Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale spin a sci-fi adventure tale, with action, and even a romantic plot, making this a movie that does it all, and does it well.

The movie was followed up by a 2-part sequel in 1989 and 1990, titled Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III. The sequel picks up right where the first one left off and takes the audience far into the future and even farther into the past.

Did I mention the amazing performances of Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and Tom Wilson?

Shallow Grave (1994)
Danny Boyle's first feature film, and the first movie written by John Hodges. This gently-paced thriller takes on the adage "Never involve friends in matters of money." Three flatmates in Edinburgh take on a fourth. They wake up one morning and find him dead and a suitcase full of money. They're faced with the choice of reporting it to the police for proper body removal and confiscation of the money, or they can dispose of the body their own way, and keep the money for themselves.

Although there are some turns and the characters aren't too well developed, I just can't get enough of this one.

Forgotten Silver (1995)
Peter Jackson's mockumentary of an overlooked New Zealand film making pioneer is hilarious, engaging and touching. You find yourself wishing it was true. The tale they weave of Colin McKenzie, who supposedly made the first sound film, the first color movie, and the first feature-length movie is that engaging and well-told.

Well-shot silent footage (that was also brilliantly artificially aged), accompanied by commentary by Colin's widow, a woman who appeared in one of his films, film archivists and critics (including Leonard Maltin) add to the deception.

Trainspotting (1996)
This film offers a powerful look at the life of junkies by not being blatantly anti-drug. It also offers a stellar soundtrack! The movie follows the misadventures of Mark Renton and his friends as they make the decision whether or not to "Choose Life."

Honestly, the narrative of the movie pales compared to the novel by Irvine Welsh. What we wind up with is something that is considerably different from it's source, but still very respectful to it.

Spider-Man (2002)
This is, in my opinion, the way to do a superhero movie. Get a great story and a great cast (I don't care if Kirsten Dunst isn't a match for the Mary Jane of the comics). The hero's origin is related dramatically, altered a bit for screen, and does not drag through the movie. In addition, they handle the villain well, a great match for the hero, but the villain is not played down and robbed of screen time, and is not exactly a completely unsympathetic character.

So far, there have been two additional movies made in this series. Spider-Man 2 (2004) is often considered the best of the three, as it deftly handled handled the question "What if a superhero didn't want to be a hero anymore?" Spider-Man 3 (2007) is generally considered a let down, as it got bogged down with three villains who each could have handled their own film, and a conflict for the hero that needed more fleshing out. (The whole Peter Parker dressing in black and dancing thing could have gone, too.) Spider-Man 4 is expected for 2011.

EDIT: Unable to decide on a script, Spider-Man 4 has been shelved, and a new series of films based on the character will be produced.

Waiting... (2005)
A disturbing and engaging look at a day in the life of working-class America. The movie follows the crew of a night shift at ShenaniganZ restaurant who are working their jobs and making decisions that could change their lives.

The cast is hilarious (some viewers seem to have some emotional baggage about the cast, though) and perform excellently. The script is witty and makes the movie easy to relate to for anyone who's worked in a restaurant or a similar job. Music is used effectively to convey the action and thoughts of the characters. The thing that may drive some people away is the food-tampering scenes and "The Game."

1 comment:

Nathan said...

My dad, who read some of the original Spider-Man comics, said that he thought Kirsten Dunst looked a lot like the Mary Jane of the comics.