Monday, August 10, 2009

Top 100 Begins - 100 to 96

You'll have to put up with my ramblings for just a moment longer before this thing gets off the ground. In the course of obsessively reordering this little list of mine, I've looked for patterns and statistics that may give me insight into my subconscious movie preferences. What I've determined hasn't been earth-shattering, but here are my findings nonetheless.

I've got quite a range of film history covered; the earliest entry coming from 1924 and the most recent from 2007. It's no surprise to me however that after relatively few favorites coming from the 20s, 30s & 40s, the 50s begin to see a change that truly explodes when it comes to the 60s. The 60s have the most films on the list with 23, just one more than the 70s managed to get. It's no surprise that as director's gain more creative control over their films, I find more in these films to love.

My favorites are decidedly modern. I appreciate many of the long standing classics, but they're just not present here in great numbers. There's 11 entries from the current decade, 12 from the 90s and 11 again from the 80s. I include all without hesitation. Film isn't in a sorry state these days. There may be a lot to complain about, but there's also a lot to love.

I'd secretly been hoping that the United States wouldn't be responsible for the most films of any country on the list, but they walk away handily with that title, boasting 28 of the entries. France scores second place with 19 and the UK is just behind them with 17. 15 countries get films on the list, which ain't bad. Of course, these numbers are all a little muddled. There's more than a few international co-productions and there's not really a best way to qualify all of them. It's a nice mix though. I'll leave it at that.

And that's enough of that for now. There's movies to talk about so it's about time I shut up. Here we go.


One of the great horror films of the 60s (and not the last to appear on this list), Onibaba earns it's scares through an unsettling build accompanying a chilling story of survival in war-torn Japan that culminates in the arrival of a demon mask. The mask is terrifying, as is the deep hole in the earth where unfortunate warriors find their final resting place, but it's the tall, blowing grass that makes the haunting hunting grounds one of the scariest locations in a horror film imaginable. Watched simply for the scares, or looked into as a commentary on the post-atomic ailing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Onibaba is not a film easily forgotten.

99.The Production Code ushered a slew of unwelcome restrictions on Hollywood film starting in the mid 1930s, but in years right before the Code mucked everything up, some films were deftly pushing societal boundaries of the time, specifically through sexual innuendos. Ernst Lubitsch was one of the great classic Hollywood directors and certainly one of the most hysterical. Trouble in Paradise may not be his greatest comedic effort, but it's loaded with class and bursting at the seems with sexiness. A cunning thief is torn between two women, his partner in crime and his mark. The setup is simple and effective. It's funny and impossibly romantic, but the true joy of the film lies in it's subtlety. And for those without much patience for classic Hollywood fare, I sympathize with you, but the delights of this one should not be overlooked.

98.Another trend I noticed glancing over my list, apparently I've got a thing for fallen women, and the titular character here puts most women of the kind to shame. Lola Mont├ęs is paraded around as a circus attraction as her life, loves and downfall are shown through several exquisitely shot flashbacks. It's a visually remarkable film, and though it's been long since I've seen it than nearly every other film on this list, it's managed to stay with me because the whole experience is so breathtaking. Martine Carol as Lola holds our interest throughout the ups and downs of her life, and Anton Walbrook is always a welcome presence in any film. I'd love to see the Criterion Collection get their hands on this one, and given their recent release of some of Max Ophuls other classics, I hope this isn't far behind.

97.Could I have made a top 100 list without including either Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin? I very nearly did, but then I carefully considered Sherlock Jr. and realized that there's precious few films made even today that make me laugh as hard as this. All the more impressive considering that this comes from 1924. It's short, roughly 45 minutes if I recall correctly, and maybe just for that reason it never has a chance to grow stale. But hell, the epic motorcycle chase at the end could have gone on interminably and I still doubt I'd get tired of it. His gags are crafted masterfully, but consider that he performs all his own stunts and they earn a whole new level of appreciation. And of course, there's another running theme of this list, I love a good detective story.

Fallen women - what did I tell you? But there's a whole lot more going on her that draws me in than merely the story of a daytime prostitute. For starters, there's Catherine Deneuve (who I believe ties compatriot Juliette Binoche and Claudia Cardinale for most appearances on this list) at her most radiant, even when covered in cow manure. But there's also Luis Bunuel who's surrealist presence her can't be overlooked. Though it still must rank as one of his most normal films, it's still more than a little bizarre, and of course that's precisely what draws me to it in the first place. But as much as I love Bunuel, his films do run a bit cold at times. Here though, the teaming of the classically beautiful actress and the reliably uncanny director find something of an emotional spark. Much like in their other collaboration, Tristana, Deneuve and Bunuel create a main character we can empathize with. Overall, Belle de Jour's peculiarities render it not for everyone, but if surrealism is your thing, or perhaps if beautiful whores are your thing, you might want to give this a shot.

Continue to 95 - 86.

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