The DVD Forums Top 100 Films 2007 Part 04: 70-61
Part 03: 80-71 saw more big films enter in the upper half of the list, and Steven Spielberg is emerging as the most popular director with 4 titles already in the top100. 70-61 is listed below, and there are some really great films listed that will surprise many with how low in the top100 that they are.
Don't Look Now (1973, Nicolas Roeg)
Don't Look Now is a film from which it is impossible to look away. Nicolas Roeg's finest work, it continues to dazzle, confound and fascinate 29 years after it was first released. As a horror film it is as scary as hell and technically it is often astonishingly accomplished, but it's also one of the most penetrating, moving studies of grief that has ever been produced. Not bad for a film made at the fag end of a production deal and then dumped into cinemas in order to turn a quick profit.
Don't Look Now is a peculiarly English horror film, from the same tradition that gave us Dead Of Night and The Innocents. It's packed with incident but it is actually very quiet and civilised. It's a horror film in which there is only one moment of gore, a romance in which there is one love scene and a powerful examination of grief in which nobody cries. Everything is dependent upon the potential of horror which only erupts explicitly at the end. The film has been called one of the best horror films ever made and it's easy to see why. Roeg unsettles the viewer right from the start and the whole movie is suffused with an atmosphere of foreboding menace. But it's also about love. John and Laura Baxter are a couple who are deeply in love with each other and this makes the film more than just a clever Gothic puzzle. In the performances of Julie Christie - a beautiful woman who was never more so - and Donald Sutherland, we can believe in the ongoing passion of these two adults for each other. - (Mike Sutton)
R2 DVD Review (Mike Sutton) | R2 SE DVD Review (Mike Sutton)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975, Milos Forman)
Until 1975, Milos Forman was another respected emigre Czech director who wasn't taken very seriously by Hollywood. Then he made One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, adapted from the cult novel by Ken Kesey, and became one of the most sought-after filmmakers in America. It's not hard to see why because this is a triumphant movie, an exciting, funny and heartbreaking story of rebellion against the system set in a mental hospital. The rebellion is embodied in Randall P. McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson in a deservedly Oscar-winning performance while the repressive system is represented by Nurse Ratchett, portrayed with terrifying quietness by Louise Fletcher - she also took home the Oscar. McMurphy's reign of constructive anarchy leads to tragedy but, finally, a kind of triumph and his unforgettable individuality is genuinely life-enhancing.
Jack Nicholson often threatens to take over the entire film with his virtuoso grandstanding but he's given a run for his money by the supporting cast which includes Danny DeVito, William Redfield and, most memorably, Brad Dourif as the sad, stammering Billy Bibbit whose attempts to assert himself come to a full stop at the hands of the ruthless Nurse. All the actors devour the scintillating dialogue and Forman keeps out of their way, using his camera to prowl the corridors of the institution and encircle the men with increasing intensity. It was the first film in forty years to win all five major Oscars and, for once, I can't argue with the Academy's decision. – (Mike Sutton)
The Blues Brothers (1980, John Landis)
Since their debut on Saturday Night Live in April 1978, The Blues Brothers quickly became one of the most famous and popular acts on the hit U.S show, and it took just 2 years before they made the leap to the big screen - with a little help from their old Animal House pal: John Landis. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd play the quixotic sons of Chicago: Jake & Elwood Blues, who need to raise $5000 in cash to save the orphanage where they were raised. Their plan: To seek out and reform their old Rhythm & Blues band and earn the cash gigging across Illinois, in a musical odyssey that will earn them more than a few enemies along the way.
The Blues Brothers is one of the most iconic films of the 80s. This wild and wacky musical action-comedy is packed to the seams with fantastic gags, some of the best car chases in film history, and numerous cameos from some of the greatest R&B, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, and Soul stars in America as Jake and Elwood carve their crazy trail through The Prairie State pursued by the police, a gang of Nazis, a redneck Country & Western band, and Carrie Fisher – with a quad rocket launcher! – (Matt Shingleton)
R1 25th Anniversary DVD Review (D.J. Nock)
City of God (2002, Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund)
A startling look at the violent gang and guns culture that rotted away the slum territory of Rio de Janeiro known as Cidade de Deus (City of God), co-directors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s first collaboration is a brutal, hard-hitting film that effectively exposes the cultural roots of today’s vicious gangs that make the borough one of the most dangerous places on earth to live. Narrated by protagonist Rocket, a young would-be photographer who witnesses firsthand the rise and reign of psychopathic gang leader Li’l Z through the 60s and 70s and his unrelenting gang dispute with Knockout Ned in the 1980s that turned the borough into a full-fledged warzone.
Fernando Meirelles’ frenetic, subjective camerawork that constantly scoots, bobs, and weaves through the alleyways of Rio, really immerses you in the world of the characters, as does every other aspect of the production: the unflinching depiction of street violence, the use of real-life non-professional inhabitants of the district - and in particular the semi-autobiographical script (based on Paulo Lins’ novel) - that incorporates episodic anecdotes about instrumental characters from the ghetto, all combine to give City of God an air of authenticity that few gangster films can match, while Meirelles’ flair for visual narration imbues the story with excitement and energy. City of God was arguably the most critically lauded film of 2002, for a very good reason. Now it already frequents lists like this – also for a very good reason. – (Matt Shingleton)
Cinema Review (Mark Boydell) | R2 DVD Review (Matt Day)
American Beauty (1999, Sam Mendes)
A surprise smash hit upon release in 1999, American Beauty follows the lives of Lester Burnham and his family in the months leading up to his death. Lester’s marriage to wife Carolyn has evaporated into snide remarks and mindless pretension, and daughter Jane has become more and more aloof from her parents. Eventually the family strains reach critical mass, and all three begin to unwind in external pursuits. Lester becomes smitten with Jane’s best friend and Carolyn starts an affair with a rival real estate king, while Jane finds solace in a relationship with an eccentric boy who has just moved in next door.
American Beauty is essentially just another character drama that attempts to delve into the neurosis of middle-class American suburbia, with cardboard cut-out characters and a suitably ironic tone, but at the time it came out it was arch enough and edgy enough to make mainstream audiences think they were watching something pretty near the knuckle. Today, it’s very hard to imagine the impact American Beauty had when it came out, as there’s been a glut of similarly offbeat suburban crisis dramas coming out of Hollywood since, and we even have Desperate Housewives doing much the same thing across the airwaves. Indeed, modern audiences wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at the sight of Kevin Spacey masturbating in the shower in the opening sequences of a film, heck explicit “self help” scenes are starting to become a staple of the teen-comedy genre.
Lessened impact or not, American Beauty is still a very enjoyable film. Alan Balls script is dripping with witty dialogue and dry observations, while Sam Mendes makes an excellent start to his film directing career by filling the film with playful imagery. But perhaps the most impressive of all are Kevin Spacey and Annete Bening’s inspired performances, delicately capturing the comedy and tragedy of these dissatisfied individuals. Watching them bounce off each other is to be reminded of the great double acts of the golden age. – (Matt Shingleton)
R1 DVD Review (James Timothy) | R2 DVD Review (Raphael Pour-Hashemi)
Robocop (1987, Paul Verhoeven)
Set in the not-too-distant future where corrupt corporations rule supreme and crime has spiralled exponentially out of control, Robocop tells the story of Alex J. Murphy: A good cop who is viciously shot down by an evil gang of drug-dealers, only to be reborn as a cybernetic law enforcer with the strength and abilities to finally make a real dent in crime.
Robocop is everything you wouldn’t necessarily associate with action cinema in the strictest sense; a satirically charged film, it pulls no punches in ridiculing media consumption and mocking political movements. It brings together these elements in driving home the social concerns of our contemporary climate, with its greedy conglomerates and poor infrastructures, while the director himself playfully includes some Christ allegory to boot. Robocop is the eighties for sure; it effortlessly defined a decade, but it equally carries far greater impact by painting a concerning reality for a dystopian future, which may not seem too far from what we already know now.
It’s all staged so brilliantly. Robocop is loved so much today because of its unashamed honesty and crazy comic leanings. Verhoeven is a fierce director who effortlessly blends the concept and visuals with such raw energy, while Ed Neumeier & Michael Miner's script is fantastically quotable. And who can forget the violence? Robocop features a whole host of gruelling and gloriously violent sequences, which in themselves aren’t without their humorous side (ED-209 mercilessly gunning down a poor office worker, to which we get an awkward “whoops!” kind of moment being a particular highlight), but contain some remarkable FX work. We even see Robocop shoot a crook in the balls by aiming between a female hostage’s legs. Brilliant! – (Kev Gilvear)
R1 Trilogy DVD Review (Mike Sutton) | R2 SE DVD Review (Colin Polonowski) | R3HK Director Edition DVD Review (John White)
The Conversation (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)
Following the epic stylings of The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola moved into more intimate territory with The Conversation and the result remains, for my money, his best film. An intense character study of loneliness and obsession, it depends for its effectiveness on an astonishing performance from Gene Hackman who tones down his usual ebullience to become Harry Caul, the 'best bugger on the West Coast' and an anonymous man, a nobody who dreams of being somebody. But his romantic fantasies of doing the right thing and saving the day lead him into making an appalling mistake based on the conversation of the title. Harry is so tightly coiled that this one moment of indulgence unwinds and finally breaks him in one of the most harrowing climaxes in American movies.
Although a small film in comparison to much of Coppola's other work, The Conversation benefits greatly from his technical skill - shown up right at the start with an electronically controlled slow zoom. Gordon Willis, self-styled 'Prince of Darkness', lights the film in dingy greys and blues while David Shire's piano score underlines Harry Caul's loneliness and social isolation. The use of technology, while dated, was cutting-edge back in 1974 and brings a vital, contemporary element to what is, essentially, an old-fashioned morality tale about keeping your nose out of other people's business. But the heart of the film is in Hackman's performance - so rarely has a character who you want to slap ended up being so heartbreaking. – (Mike Sutton)
R1 DVD Review (Mike Sutton)
The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)
1982 was both a good and a bad year for science-fiction. Blade Runner, Android, Tron and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan were all released. Any other year, that would make for a vintage run of films but they were swatted out of the theatres by E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Bad aliens, a staple of the genre since the fifties, were out, while nice, suburban, phoning-home aliens were in. ET stumbling around in a bedsheet and Elliott and his friends flying in the moonlight were what people wanted to see.
1982 was not, then, a good year for the release of a film that saw a group of tubby, middle-aged scientists being devoured by a shape-changing alien, who, in its time on Earth, was a dog, a man with a giant and very toothy mouth in his chest and a severed head that sprouts legs and, spider-like, scuttles away. Director John Carpenter had long spoken about his love for the 1951 Christian Nyby/Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World. Carpenter knew that he couldn't match the film for snappy dialogue, knew that its man-in-a-suit effects were too old and clunky for a modern audience, knew there was no place for its watch-the-skies paranoia and knew that the intellectual carrot of the Nyby film would be laughed out of the theatres.
Carpenter's monster is a vicious, bloodthirsty creature whose own form is never revealed. Instead, it hides within others, first a dog then a succession of scientists until, finally, it and Kurt Russell face one another under the snow and ice of the Antartic. Creepy, unsettling and with some incredible Rob Bottin special effects, The Thing is the perfect antidote to the cloying sweetness of ET, more likely to flip Elliott upside down and eat him than to ride across the moonlight. – (Eamonn McCusker)
Oldboy (2003, Park Chan-wook)
Choi Min-shik plays Dae-su: a businessman who wakes up after a heavy drinking session to find himself imprisoned, with no idea as to how or why he got there. Fifteen years pass by until the day he’s finally let out, and now it’s time to seek answers.
Following on from Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy is the second of the director’s revenge trilogy. While the aforementioned film looked at revenge in its purest sense by asking ethical questions in light of personal tragedy and following through with desperate acts of human violence, Oldboy seeks to find answers in a very literal sense, thus forming the basis of a far more inclined detective thriller. Our protagonist has no idea as to why he’s been incarcerated for such a lengthy duration and this in turn serves the basis for an intriguing set-up involving blemished pasts and live squid eating. And it works - for a while.
Indeed Oldboy is a sumptuous looking film; Jeong Jeong-hun’s cinematography lends itself beautifully to the film’s non-too-subtle and gritty demeanour, and the acting is fantastic: from the ever reliable Choi Min-shik and company. However, for all Oldboy's flashiness, it lacks an emotional impact and falls apart during the final act. Also, the central character isn’t particularly likeable, and its plot machinations aren’t nearly as clever as Park thinks they are. Still, Oldboy has done remarkably well overseas, ensuring its place as being one of the most popular and widely talked about Asian films of recent years. – (Kev Gilvear)
R0UK SE DVD Review (Alex Hewison) | R3HK DVD Review (Bex) | R3Kr DVD Review (Kevin Gilvear) | Blu-ray Review (Michael Mackenzie)
Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola)
"The horror... the horror..." The final words of Colonel Kurtz no doubt mirrored those of Francis Ford Coppola as he struggled to complete his Vietnam War epic. Plagued by money problems, the internal politics of the Phillipines, a leading actor whose heart couldn't stand the pace, a movie legend who was twice the size of Buddha and had an ego to match, and his own raging paranoia and obsession, Coppola somehow finished his film and made something like a masterpiece.
But if it is a masterpiece, it's a one-of-a-kind masterpiece which doesn't work in all sorts of ways but still ends up being extraordinary. The story chugs along without ever quite cohering, the performances vary wildly from brilliant to indescribable and the overall message is thoroughly confused. It seems to be telling us that war is hell but it makes war look as thoroughly exciting and hypnotically beautiful as any film ever has done. It tells us about horror yet also wallows in the visceral excitement of horror. It's a film about the terrors of obsession made by a terrifying obsessive. Yet from scene to scene, it's impossible to tear your eyes away from the screen because every frame burns with filmmaking vision. And if there's a greater single expression of the terrifying, visionary madness of warfare than the 'Ride of the Valkyries' sequence, I've yet to see it. – (Mike Sutton)
R1 DVD Review (Michael Brooke) | R1 Complete Dossier DVD Review (Gary Couzens)