Recently the always awesome Quentin Tarantino posted a video where he talks about his top 20 favorite films that have come out since he’s been making films. I agree with most of his choices, but I really just enjoy listening to him talk about film — the dude is passionate and knows his stuff. Anywho, I decided to put my own list together and since it was hard enough to come up with the list I’m not going to even bother trying to order them, so here it goes in alphabetical order.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
This is the first film on my list that has its fair share of haters out there. Many say that it would have been much better if Kubrick had been able to make it himself, but I have to respectfully disagree. Kubrick just doesn’t have the warmth or the right touch to really capture the emotion in the film. Spielberg, however, is about perfect for the job. I have no issues with the ending, I think it not only fits the film but it’s downright heartwrenching. I remember when my film professor screened this at the end of our semester studying Kubrick, there wasn’t a dry eye in the classroom. It’s a brilliant science fiction film that melds the styles of two very talented and distinct filmmakers. It’s somber, surreal, emotional, and philosophical — making it one of the few genre films that really resonates with the viewer.
Before Sunset (2004)
To say I was completely blown away by this unexpected and unnecessary sequel to the poetic and moving 1995 film would be a gross understatement. Linklater doesn’t just top himself, he directs his best film to date…showing that he has grown as a filmmaker just as his characters have, and that’s one of the greatest things about this sequel — all of the pieces are in the right place at the right time and the result is magic. The film is beautifully shot and beautifully acted and it has probably one of the 10 greatest endings of all time.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
This may not be the best Coen Brothers film (that would be Fargo), but it certainly is the funniest. Jeff Bridges IS “The Dude” and The Dude is one of the funniest and most quotable characters EVAR. Of course it helps that the supporting cast is pitch perfect from John Goodman’s Jewish Vietnam vet to Sam Elliott’s mysterious Stranger. This is definitely something to experience in the theater if you ever get the chance, it takes it to a whole new level of awesomeness.
The Matrix (1999)
Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
For breakfast lunch: Sandwiches from Spinelli’s
I remember when this came out, my friend Sandy and I were so excited that we skipped basketball practice (something I had never done) to go see it opening day. During the opening sequence, my jaw dropped, and I don’t think I fully recovered until the credits started to roll. Even though it shared some things with Dark City, which was released one year earlier, The Matrix felt unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
Why did they have to go and ruin it?
Despite the fact that the film has held up quite well over the years, it is forever tainted by the absolute awfulness of the two sequels. I can’t help it. I can’t get the raves, convoluted plot lines, stilted dialogue, or disappointing fights scenes out of my head. Okay, the freeway chase was cool — I’ll give you that. It’s just frustrating that a film can stand so solidly on its own and still fall victim to the Hollywood machine’s insistance on taking it too far.
I still enjoy watching it though, and this latest Blu-ray release makes it look pretty damn spectacular. I’d say I was almost as mesmerized as I was that afternoon 10 years ago
Directed by Christopher Nolan
For breakfast: Egg n’ a holes w/ bacon
I’m beginning to realize that Christopher Nolan is a much better writer than he is a director. He is incredibly clever and has a knack for characters and stories, but visually he leaves much to be desired. I realize that Following was his first film and that it was made for virtually no money, but so was Pi and it is far more interesting to watch. That being said, it’s the story of Following that really makes it stand out. You already see Nolan’s keenness for interweaving timelines and his use of temporal structure to create suspense. He understands how to use what you know in combination with that the characters know to keep you guessing (Hitchcock anyone?). A technique he still uses quite a bit in his Batman films. Although, his shortcomings visually have also carried over into his recent work as he still seems to have problems staging scenes and making them, you know, coherant. Minor qualms aside, Following is a smart thriller and I like to revisit a director’s first film every once in a while to see how far they’ve come.
Alien Resurrection (1997)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
For breakfast: Pancakes
Much like Alien 3, I think the hate towards Alien Resurrection is pretty unfair. In both cases you have new and distinctly different directors coming in to take the reigns of the series, which does have its pros and cons. Unfortunately I would say that neither really fit in with the world created by the first two films, unlike James Cameron who took great care in expanding on the already established characters and universe, making Aliens one of the best sequels ever. While Fincher gives us the gritty and bleak prison planet, Jeunet (true to form) gives us a unique and bizarre vision of this future. They may not be the best continuations of the story, but each stand well on their own as different perspectives of Ripley’s conflict with these infamous creatures. I think Jeunet’s version stands out because of the rich and detailed atmosphere that he creates. He goes an interesting direction with the Ripley character, echoing some things brought up in the other films and also adding some new…existential layers into the mix. There are some parts that just make you go “Huh?” but he definitely makes it his own and I can’t fault him for that. Come on, the alien escape was badass and you know it.
It’s been years since I’ve seen this, so it was funny to see that it was written by Joss Whedon. I say funny because if you watch this and then check out Firefly, you will totally see similarities between the two crews right down to some of the same characters. They do add an interesting dynamic to the film but at the same time you don’t have the investment that you did for the first crew or even the marines. Otherwise, once Alien Resurrection gets going it’s an entertaining (and gory) feast for the eyes.
All that being said, I’m genuinely curious as to why people hate this film so much. Was Winona Ryder really that bad?
Directed by Ron Underwood
For breakfast: Homemade Egg McMuffins
I grew up watching Tremors on late night cable stations like USA and I pretty much know it word for word at this point. It’s silly, it’s cheesy, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward are charming as handymen Earl and Valentine and they play off of each other well. They’re not quite bumbling, but they’re not that far off either. The rest of the townspeople are quirky without being too stereotypical or obnoxious. I absolutely love rootin’ tootin’ Reba here too, hilarious. The kills are entertaining while the creature effects/gore are gooey and great, if a little dated. There are a lot of plot conveniences but those matter about as much as the logic involved in creating a perspective shot from a subterrenean beast with no eyes. This film also looks better than it has any right to on HD DVD, I had never noticed that Rhonda didn’t shave her legs, huh..