Josh over at JJames Reviews contributed his personal top ten list to us today, and it is quite the classic list. James is a teacher that runs a neat little site where he discusses film in a very cool bullet style format and is very educational and opinionated. It is a great place to get an opinion and just as much fun to have movie discussions with him that can go on for a fair amount of time, each on their own mission (though I maintain you need to back off of Prequel Anakin :P). Enough of my rambling, I am handing this over to James immediately!
Should you be interested in submitting a Top Ten list, draw up a list of either your top ten personal favourite movies or a top ten list by a specific genre/theme and send it along to me at email@example.com. Hope to see a few more lists!
Directed By: Michael Curtiz
Filmed before the end of the Second World War, Casablanca is a profound masterpiece, featuring incredible performances, flawless establishing shots, and perhaps the best screenplay ever written. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Isla Lund’s (Ingrid Bergman) might be the most moving romance in film history, if only because it remains true to the characters, ends logically and never veers into melodrama. Simply put, this movie is magical.
2. Ordinary People (1980)
Directed By: Robert Redford
Here Director Robert Redford announces he is more than a talented actor, leaving no doubt he is even better behind the lens. Combining a somber soundtrack with a camera that is always perfectly placed to generate the most emotion, Redford makes the audience feel intense grief, because of Conrad’s (Timothy Hutton) guilt and Beth’s (Mary Tyler Moore) inability to understand or comfort her son. It doesn’t hurt that Hutton and Moore deliver career best performances. More than any other movie I’ve ever seen, one word describes Ordinary People: Emotional. Which is why it’s so fantastic.
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece is successful as a historical account and as a narrative. It develops characters well, making us care about some and hate others. As impressively, it never shies from the horror of its content, showing it with remarkable harshness, so much that we feel many conflicting emotions watching it. There is even some clever symbolism to boot. Schindler’s List is haunting and immersive, a completely unforgettable experience.
Directed By: Michel Gondry
Though Writer Charlie Kaufman’s script follows a familiar formula, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind feels unique, which is one reason it is so moving. Another is that it has much to say about the nature of memory, relationships and identity. Plus, it is an artistic masterpiece that uses every filmmaking element to produce a beguiling whole. From clever editing, even better sound mixing, and wonderfully imaginative effects, Gondry makes the viewer feel Joel’s (Jim Carrey) panic, desperation and confusion. That Gondry didn’t win an Oscar for this movie is mystifying. Forget that he wasn’t even nominated.
Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Often imitated, Rashomon is a timeless classic that identifies and evaluates universal themes through flawless technique, an innovative narrative structure and note-perfect performances. It also includes the greatest score I have ever heard, one that alternatively creates intrigue, mystery, anxiety or whimsy. Making it all the more remarkable is that Kurosawa, the only director to almost appear twice on this list, knows exactly when to stop all music and play silence instead. Rashomon is a cinematic delight.
Directed: Stanley Kubrick
The only film on this list that doesn’t prioritize character development or produce much emotion, 2001 has slick visual effects that still don’t feel dated. It is also a thought provoking mystery that spans millennia. That Kubrick’s masterpiece is one of the most influential films ever, and that the performances here are universally solid serves to make 2001 a viewing experience unlike most others. So does the fact that HAL (Douglass Rain), a computer, is the most impacting character. But best all: the sound design. Kubrick employs silence for long stretches of the film, a fact that makes us uncomfortable. 2001 is visionary. And perfect.
Directed By: Lewis Milestone
Showing the despair of war without glorifying combat, All Quiet on the Western Front is one of the best book adaptations put on film. That Lew Ayres’ performance as Paul Baumer is tantalizing is secondary to the brilliance of Milestone’s direction, to the way in which he shows the boredom of war and also the tragedy, the latter of which is featured in a remarkable crane shot, the first of its kind. All Quiet is an effective message film because it remembers and focuses on its message with every shot, every speech, every moment.
Directed By: Bob Fosse
Few films establish tone as quickly as Cabaret, which opens with the Master of Ceremonies (Joel Gray) leading a rousing musical number, even as Director Bob Fosse intercuts Brian Roberts’ (Michael York) arrival in Berlin, being sure to show us close ups of forlorn German faces. Even fewer movies use musical numbers to quickly define character or to create as much emotion and tension as does this masterpiece. Include well-developed characters and award-worthy performances from Gray, York, and Liza Minelli (Sally Bowles), and you have 1972’s best classic, even if it isn’t the one best known to modern audiences.
Directed By: Steve McQueen
2013 is the only year to almost earn two movies on this list, which is why it’s notable that McQueen’s treatise on corrupt systems is not my favorite movie of the year. It is, however, the best. With an unflinching camera, a searing score, impeccable performances, and perfectly timed editing this one appropriately makes us feel horror and discomfort. Plus, it is an exceptionally well-written screenplay. Any flaws are minor, and its brilliance is impossible to deny, no matter its recency.
Directed By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
More than star Audrey Tautou’s breakout performance, Amelie is an enchanting comedy-drama that manages to employ an omniscient narrator, a sense of whimsy, and happy, exaggerated performances to make us laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously. Vibrant colors make the film beautiful at the same time they immerse us in Amelie’s narrative. As does Jeunet’s decision to ignore many conventions (the fourth wall, the rule of thirds, etc). Ditto that for electric dialogue, a complex female lead, and a surprising, feel-good narrative.