Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The T&C 100 - #s 40-49

49. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)
What struck me the most upon a recent reviewing of this film was how beautiful it is, from a purely aesthetic point of view. I'm not sure the story is as strong as it might be, but the aching, melancholic quality of the visuals, especially the fights, as anchored by on one of the young century's great scores, make the film.
Favorite moment: That first chase/fight between the Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang characters.

48. Mary Poppins (1964)
To these ears, "Chim Chim Cheree" possesses one of the all-time great melodies, just a remarkable tune. On top of that, of course, is Andrews' peerless performance as Mary Poppins, enchanting mixing of animation and live action, Dick Van Dyke's inspired dancing, Ed Wynn laughing, the classic stuffiness of David Tomlinson, and a passel of other none-too-shabby songs to boot. But what holds the whole embarrassment of riches together is the perfectly pitched tone, at just the right distance between earnestness and humor.
Favorite moment: Towards the end, Bert ironically sings to Mr. Banks of Poppins' faults. So well acted by both gentleman.

47. Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones (2002)
The love story, to at least some degree, is supposed to feel hammy - the point being that these are two people who have never interacted this way with a member of the opposite sex. Anakin's "sand" speech is supposed to be awkward and lame. That aside, the mystery and intrigue angle, of where this clone army came from, is very well-handled, and the epic first battle of the Clone Wars is just stunning in scope and visual detail and inventiveness.
Favorite moment: Yoda kicks all sorts of ass. A moment that by all rights should not work, that should be corny and laughable, and yet, because of the great character work of Frank oz and the animators who followed him, grabs us by the throat.

46. Good Will Hunting (1997)
A tender, well-written, and well-acted little drama. Affleck and Damon have become such superstars and celebrities that it's hard to remember how quirky and sweetly slow the screenplay is. And Robin Williams may never have been better.
Favorite moment: Will and Skylar's first date, so perfectly pitched, not as the typical deep-meaning, meet-cute Hollywood date, but as an aimless, wandering, guarded first date that feels completely real.

45. Titanic (1997)
I've hoed these rows before, but I still insist that, had Titanic flopped, critics would today still be bemoaning that audiences didn't appreciate such a glorious throwback to epic Hollywood storytelling. But it made a BILLION DOLLARS so critics had to attack it. A shame.
Favorite moment: The string quartet starts to disband as the ship sinks. The lead violinist, knowing he has no chance of surviving, plays alone. And the other members, realizing what he's doing and what the reality is, come back to play with him one last time, figuring that their last hours on earth could hardly be spent in any better way.

44. Jurassic Park (1993)
A tight story, well-told, and with special effects that, fourteen years later, hold up wonderfully. A very well-balanced blend of adventure and awe, with the perfect amount of seriousness and weight.
Favorite moment: Hammond eating his melted ice cream as his dreams crumble around him.

43. Magnolia (1999)
A great ensemble in a shaggy, bursting-at-the-seams story full of heartache and sadness, with fleeting hints of beauty.
Favorite moment: All of our principals sing along to Aimee Mann's great "Wise Up" in one of my all-time favorite film montages.

42. Aliens (1986)
One of the great action movies, full of suspense, frights, and momentum. It's been an unforgivably long time since I've seen this film.
Favorite moment: Weaver's reveal at the end, in the big construction suit.

41. Se7en (1995)
Morgan Freeman doing deep-seated weariness better than anyone, with Kevin Spacey putting in a truly creepy performance, and Brad Pitt showing us that yes, Virginia, he can act (something he proved again a few months later the same year in 12 Monkeys). A twist-laden film that holds up under repeat viewings.
Favorite moment: Freeman comes to dinner - he plays those quiet moments so well.

41 Stand By Me (1986)
A more real-feeling portrait of being a young, teenaged boy has not been put to screen. It's the chemistry among the young cast that really sells it, and makes the journey they take resonate with us.
Favorite moment: Gordy breaks down.

Until Whenever


Kelly Sedinger said...

I've mostly agreed with your choices through this list, but "Se7en"? Ick. In my opinion, that movie's ending is one of the greatest narrative cheats in movie history. I love it up until John Doe walks into the police station, and then I hate everything after that and everything before it too because it all ends up not leading up to anything. Yuck!

Tosy And Cosh said...

Not following how it's a cheat, though? It's bleak, sure, but it always felt fair and logical within the confines of what's come before. ?

Kelly Sedinger said...

I never felt that the ending had much logical connection to what had gone before, or that it arrived in logical story terms -- all of a sudden the killer just walks in and announces himself, and we're at The Big Shattering Ending (tm). It felt to me that the writers didn't know how to get to the ending from where they were, so they just cut right to it. It would have been much more shattering to have the detectives close in on Doe, perhaps even get the jump on him, and then discover that he's played them right into that moment. As it is, it just feels terribly underwritten to me.

And there's no surprise whatsoever in what happens to Gwyneth Paltrow -- I knew that she was marked for doom the second she showed up.

Tosy And Cosh said...

I'm gifted with a remarkable lack of foresight, so twists like that are almost never ruined for me. The moment where Doe gives himself up never felt contrived to me, or like a shortcut, but more as a great way of undercutting our expectations. That moment worked for me as as big a surprise as the ending. And within the story itself it always made sense as well. We know from the beginning that the killer is not just killing randomly but with a very pecise purpose, and to a very concrete end. That he would, from the beginning, plan on involving the detectives who have been chasing him in his last kills always made perfect sense to me - it allows him to complete his 7-murder cycle in the most elegant and (to him) meaningful way.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Meh. I can see that point, but it still felt terribly contrived to me -- not that the killer came up with that, but that the writers couldn't come up with a way to make it work better. I would much rather have waited until the last possible instant to have the big reveal that Doe had been in control the entire time; it would have been much more shattering that way, I think. The entire film we're basically rooting for the detectives, who seem to be making headway in the case; it would have been, in my opinion, stunning had the film unfolded in typical thriller fashion, with the detectives finally getting the drop on Doe, only to have it then turn out that he's played them all the way to that point already.

The film's a masterpiece of mood, though, I'll absolutely grant that. And Howard Shore wrote a good score for it, too -- in fact, he made quite a career for himself scoring these kinds of brooding, noirish films in the 1990s, so much so that when he was announced in 1999 or 2000 as the LOTR composer, I and many others thought, "Huh?!" And look how that turned out! :)