Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The T&C 100 - #s70-80

Note: In assembling the T&C 100, I inadvertently left off at least one film. The result is that my numbering is messed up - hence the presence of two #80s. I considered going back and renumbering everything, but decided that if in the end the T&C 100 is 102 or 103 films long, and that some numbers repeat, well, what's the harm?

80. Memento (2000)
I'm actually a little disappointed in myself, in that I have yet to go back and rewatch this. The premise and structure are not only ingenious, but, more importantly, impeccably executed, making for a film that quite simply feels and views differently than any other film I've seen.
Favorite moment: The beginning of the film, as we begin to understand exactly what is happening.

79. Groundhog Day (1993)
A movie that just grows richer and more timeless as time goes by. The very simple concept is executed flawlessly, and Murray is just great at portraying the small degrees by which Phil becomes a better human being again. One thing that's always bothered me is the notion of how many times he relives that day. I haven't seen the film in a long while, but I recollect that if everything we see is taken literally, he must relive that day for the equivalent of decades (I mean, just how many days, for example, would it take someone to learn to lay flawless piano, especially if the teacher couldn't build on anything you'd done with her before?)
Favorite moment: The virtuoso moment in the diner when Phil convinces the Andy McDowell character of the truth of is predicament.

78. The Matrix (1999)
This movie has had an odd little eight-year history - from surprise hit, to immense influence on action movies, to a very rapid and sudden drop in equity caused by two pretty terrible sequels and by the sheer tonnage of the homages and parodies it inspired. Still, strip all that away and you have a very tight, suspenseful, original action film - which is, in and of itself, nothing to sneeze at.
Favorite moment: That moment when you realize the film's overall conceit- that all of existence is really just an elaborate computer-programmed construction that we are dreaming.

77. Toy Story (1995)
The Snow White of our era. What seems so astonishing, in retrospect, is how a film that impresses so much technologically succeeds on the merits of a wonderfully constructed and imagined story. That Pixar had the foresight to realize that the stunning images they were able to create would only work if married to beautifully told stories impresses me greatly.
Favorite moment: When Buzz finally flies. Just beautiful.

76. The Prestige (2006)
A movie that grabbed me and never let go - impeccably acted, shot, designed, and produced, with a twisty, suspenseful script that never lets itself become subservient to the twists. Another one I really would like to revisit.
Favorite moment: When we realize that the Hugh Jackman character has been drowning himself every night. Chilling.

75. Airplane! (1980)
The grandaddy of all spoof comedies, and still the funniest. The sheer laugh-to-minute ratio is simply astounding. Jamie Weinman, over at Something Old, has been posting a bit about how much of the seemingly deliberately overly serious dialogue (and plot) is taken right out of an old film, Zero Hour. Well worth a click over.
Favorite moment: Impossible to pick. I'll name the gag with the guy waiting in the taxi throughout the whole movie at pretty much random.

74. Chicago (2002)
A superbly made film musical, one that gets the tone, look, and sound just about perfectly. Dance aficionados might quibble at the way some of the dances are shot, but to the untrained eye they work great. Does anyone else get the feeling that Catherine Zeta-Jones will never get the chance to do something as good as this again?
Favorite moment: When we first go into Roxie's head at the beginning, for the first (non-diegetic) song. Some have called it a cop-out, that the songs are meant to be part of Roxie's fevered imagination, but in truth the conceit plays brilliantly in the film. That other musical movies seem to have taken that as proof that they can't just play musical numbers straight isn't Chicago's fault.

73. Rocky (1976)
Remember: Rocky loses. That alone makes the film for me. In the popular imagination, Rocky fights the odds and wins, but the film actually tells us that fighting the odds and losing can have power as well. That sometimes fighting is worth it in and of itself. A lesson I wish the next three would have remembered.
Favorite moment: Burgess Meredith screaming at Rocky in the hallway. Burgess Meredith is 101 flavors of awesome.

72. West Side Story (1961)
The decision to film this stylistically, with the washed-out streets, and painted skies, was inspired. To treat this material as "realistic" would have been a huge mistake; by treating it as stylized we are allowed to experience the songs without self-consciousness. And there are precious, precious few musicals that can boast songs as remarkable as these.
Favorite moment: The opening scene, which right off the bat says: "Yes, these are gangs, and yes, they will be dancing. Deal."

71. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
"These go up to 11" has become a touchstone for me, a way to indicate, very economically, the ludicrousness of those wanting more, more, more always. Just a hilarious film - and that I still have yet to watch the DVD with the actors' in-character commentary track is a source of deep, deep shame.
Favorite moment: The reveal of the miniature Stonehenge.

70. Erin Brockovich (2000)
Julia Roberts' finest moment, and a very well-made "issue" film. Not sure where the backlash against this film has come from.I love that the script and production design refuse to glamorize this woman - for all of her virtues the film celebrates, it's never shy about depicting the cost of her work, or the lesser qualities in her that, alas, make her as effective as she is. It's a more complex character study than it's given credit for.
Favorite moment: When Erin's son asks about the sick kids she is helping, and begins to understand why she's sacrificing so much. Part of what I love about the moment is how, again, Soderbergh doesn't really let her off the hook either - he makes us see the way she is to some degree sacrificing her family for others. And while that may be the right choice, it's not without its consequences.

Until Whenever

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