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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

League Topic: Top 10 Movies

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The League has had a week off to regenerated those creative power cells, which is good because this week’s topic is sure to put a strain on all of us. Summer is upon us and you know what that means–it’s time for those Hollywood blockbusters we wait for all year.
This week’s League topic:
What are your Top Ten Movies?
Note, this list can be your top ten all time favorites, or your top ten in a given genre–go ahead and make up your own qualifiers! Google loves top ten lists, so make sure to use those words in your title and watch your traffic soar!

My top 10 list was one to ponder...there are so many movies I love for so many different reasons but when lumped into a sequential top 10, it can get pretty challenging.  Many were up there but landed just shy of making the cut.  One real deal breaker would pertain to the fact if the movie was one I caught on TV, that was it for my day because I was sitting down and watching this movie in its' entirety even if I owned the movie in question.  Anyway, here goes...

Honorable Mention - Brazil - Terry Gilliam's disutopian masterpiece. Brazil is one of those films that just make you sit back and marvel at the minds it took to conceptualize such a grand idea. The offices, the computer terminals, cars, settings...it's pure Gilliam with visuals that dazzle and make you think, they made this in 1985??? There's so much going on and so many little touches that breath life into this world gone wrong yet completely pleased with itself. Johnathan Pryce and Katherine Helmond are wonderful to watch. The dream sequences tend to drag and aren't my cup of tea however the rest of the movie does a great job picking up the slack.

#10 - Inland Empire - David Lynch's story of murder, infidelity and betrayal told the only way he knows how...through what only can be described as a nightmare committed to film. Laura Dern is great as an aspiring actress who's attempts at starring in a role of a remade movie based on a cursed story from the old country leads her to splitting her own time-line, crossing dimensions, being caught in a film that becomes real and fictitious all at once...I know. There are also talking anthropomorphic rabbits that wander in a hotel room and talk in coded phrases...Watch this movie twice.

 # 9 - Draw - Natural Born Killers and/or JFK.  Both are amazing works by Oliver Stone and utilize a veritable cornucopia of visual styles and cinematic technique.  They were made in almost "film school" stylization incorporating more stand alone looks to these movies than the viewer can comprehend.  I love it as well as the writing, the casting and the soundtracks (either the classical John Williams tracks to JFK or the Trent Reznor/Dr Dre production of NBK)  They are both longer films that have their own directors cuts and are actual directors cuts that you can really get a lot out of.  JFK's effective technique of chronologically putting together one of the biggest conspiracy theories in a discernible order as a feat within itself.  With Natural Born Killers we are taken along for a drug and rage induced killing spree all while we get commentaries on modern society, the media, the decade and infamy.  It truly serves as a all too real precautionary tale of where the American norm is going.

# 8  - The Fall - A newer film from the mind of Tarsem Singh (the Cell). I labored to see this movie as it was slated for universal release, then select theaters, then pushed back a year while released only in Europe, then even more select theaters...finally I just waited for DVD. It is a great movie with a striking visual style that blows the imagination away. It really pulls the viewer in with a heartbreaking story of addiction, regret and lost innocence. Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) makes this movie shine as our story teller and protagonist as he weaves us through the real world of the hospital where he's confined to the fantasy world he spins for his fellow patient. It has elements of Baron Munchausen, Princess Bride, Wizard of Oz, and the Neverending Story to say the least. This pulls it all together wonderfully.

# 7 - Wayne's World - This movie puts me in a great mood every time I see it. I could watch it every day. The SNL, Lorne Michaels movies usually are such disposable pieces of garbage but this movie does it right in pretty much every scene. Dana Carvey and Mike Meyers deliver their roles perfectly. It is expertly paced, has more hilarious cameos than you can count, has the best musical sequence of any film ever, and pretty much is entirely constructed of quote-worthy lines. It is the awesomeness of the 90's all rolled into a red rope licorice dispenser. Try the Sugar Pucks, they're excellent!

# 6 - Die Hard - The ultimate story of the one-man-army genre.  This one, however, is the first of its kind.  Not for the unstoppable killing machine of male machismo... we have plenty of that in American cinema.  What we see here is an "everyman" against near impossible odds who has to rely on staying 10 steps ahead, creeping, hiding and not charging in guns blazing.  As over the top this story goes or even further in its sequels, in this film we quite easily suspend our disbelief for the trials of John McClane.  We see every gunshot, bruise, gash, burn and cut this New York cop suffers and by the end of the film, we have a hero who doesn't triumphantly stroll out of the Nakatomi Towers  unscratched...he's limping on the shoulder of his wife he just saved while Carl Winslow saves the day!   Bravo, we feel your pain.

# 5 - Mothman Prophecies - The creepiest film of all time in my opinion. Not really a Richard Gere fan but boy, is he good in this. I love the whole actual story of the Silver Bridge in West Virginia and this movie does such a great job dramatizing it. The whole concept of the Mothman is so unsettling to begin with and this film does a stunning job keeping us wondering throughout the whole thing without ever having to show a monster or do any cheesy visual effects. We feel like he's watching through the whole film and Will Patton steals the show as the Mothman (or Ingrid Cold, or whoever) pretty much drives him insane.  The visual feel and the cinematography is flawless. Music is always important to me in films and Tomandandy do a great job setting a nice unsettling atmosphere.  I don't really believe in the supernatural but after this movie, I am always on the lookout for the Mothman.

# 4 - Ghostbusters - This is a great film on so many levels.  What can easily be dismissed as a throwaway buddy comedy of the 80's has endured unbelievably well.  It's a movie, I can watch any time and enjoy thoroughly.  It was one of first movies I saw and loved as a little kid for all the little touches and ghost effects.  Examples being the little light patten on the back of the proton packs which fascinated me...as did the eggs cooking on the counter, the dog statues crumbling at the end, the containment unit...this movie just goes balls out on the sci-fi factor from inherently a team of comedians.  Then as an adult, I watched it over again, actually paying attention to the dialogue and saw that this movie had a really well written script as well that an entirely different audience could appreciate.  Murray, Ramis, Akroyd and Hudson work as such a great team and they expertly portrayed characters that stood the test of time so well that Egon, Peter, Ray and Winston will always be household names...at least in my house.

# 3  - Return of the Jedi - Can't make a top 10 without giving some love to the Star Wars trilogy...yes trilogy because I'll live in a world where the prequels have nothing to do with destroying the mythos I love so much with Metachlorians, emo Anakin, CGI Yoda, Padme, Jimmy Smitts, Mace Windu, Jar Jar, Pod Racing, Jango Fett, Nooooooo! and...well... this could be it's own post. Hey, "Cool and Collected", here's a topic: top 10 things we hate the most about the prequel trilogy :)   Anyway, this was the story I loved the most as a child... I officially like Empire more but this one just had so much influence on me growing up.  I filled sketchbooks with drawings of Jabba's court, the Shuttle Tyderium and the second Death Star.   I built my own skiffs from cardboard and made a Sarlacc in my sandbox.  Every scene was magical from the Speeders, the AT-ST's, Tie Interceptors, the Space Battle of Endor (best space battle ever on screen), the Scouts, Skiffs, Frigates, Sarlaac, Rancor...it just goes on and on...And, yes,  the Ewoks do look like Shaft next to Jar Jar. (thanks Spaced)  This movie encompasses pure imagination mind candy that wraps up the story beautifully with fully fleshed out characters we've grown to love and care for.  It tie up the entire story without any intrigue or political pandering, just straight up good vs evil with a clear winner touching on elements of every story and myth we've ever heard.  Luke definitely sums up the "Hero's Journey" as Joseph Campbell would have put it.

# 2 - Ravenous - One of my all time favs.  It doesn't seem to know if it's a war movie, a horror story, a comedy, a drama... it goes in every direction at once and I think it does an excellent job.  Guy Pearce is great, as is Jeremy Davies, Robert Carlyle, Neal McDonough, David Arquettte and Jeffrey Jones... it's such a crazy mix of actors set in the era of the Mexican American War, (a time period we never see in film)  along with awesome sets, great colorful costume design, plenty of violence and a soundtrack by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn. (from Blur and the Gorrilaz)  This is a sleeper hit that many people never heard of.  Where else will you be able to see Native American cannibal curses drive a company of 1830's era American soldiers insane in the Sierra Nevadas?  You own it to yourself to give this one a day in court.

# 1 - It's a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra's World War II era tale of George Bailey stands as one of the greatest movies of all time.  I wanted to put all unique picks on my list but I can't get away from Wonderful Life.  It is possibly the best feel good movie ever made and that's because we don't feel good through the whole thing.   We feel for the sacrifices George has to make and relate to how he has to struggle while keeping up a level headed, happy face for his family.  The relationship between Mary and George possibly could stand out as one of the best couples in American cinema as well.  Bedford Falls really is a believable place encapsulating the time period perfectly.  I keep thinking that the paintings of Norman Rockwell have come to life in so many scenes, it's not funny.  This movie didn't do well at all when it first hit the theaters for being too depressing and the House Un-American Activities committee looked into Capra for portraying the banker Potter as a villain, these things alone make this movie worthy of respect and looking into considering it's now seen as an uplifting holiday mainstay. 

Head over to Memories of Toymorrow who definitely thinks Han shot first and Green Plastic Squit gun to see a whole bunch of movies off the beaten path...OR check out UnderScoopFire! to see the top 10 movies he's never seen.


  1. The Fall was very close to being on my top 10 . Great list.

  2. Thanks brother! Your list made me realize as many movies I thought I've seen, theres a ton more out there which was the ultimate point of this assignment.

  3. Cool to see Ravenous make someone's list this week. I dearly love that film...

  4. Great call on It's a Wonderful Life, what an excellent movie.

  5. Its A Wonderul Life !! I cant believe I missed that !! Classic !!

  6. Terriic list. Ghostbusters probably should have made mine.

  7. So many of these were on the fence to make my list. I need to watch Inland Empire i've heard nothing but good things.


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