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.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
For breakfast: Blueberry Pancakes
I like to think of 28 Weeks Later as the Aliens to 28 Days Later’s Alien. It’s the brutal, no-holds-barred, balls to the wall, action sequel that is almost the exact opposite of the atmospheric suspense of the original. It may not be the better film, but it’s definitely more intense and I think it does a better job of portraying the ‘rage’ virus, which makes the infected much scarier. Of course, it might just be the fucked up situation these people create for themselves. It goes from bad to worse to just plain depressing, and really if a zombie film isn’t going to be funny it sure as hell better be depressing.
As much as I like the first film, I’ve always found the ending a little too upbeat. Well the sequel more than makes up for that. There is no glimmer of hope, no light at the end of the tunnel — instead we’re left with the haunting images of zombies storming the Eiffel Tower. Despite it’s faults, it’s an unrelenting film and I appreciate its tenacity. Plus the helicopter mow-down is hands down one of the coolest zombie killing scenes ever. Pure. Awesome.
28 Days Later (2002)
Directed by Danny Boyle
For breakfast: Biscuits & Gravy
Ah, finally back to the Sunday Morning routine after a hiatus due to travel and house guests. And what better way to start it than with one of the best ‘zombie’ films in recent years. I’ve been a fan of 28 Days Later since I first saw it in the theater with a couple of reluctant and terrified friends, and it still gets plenty of plays at my house. Oddly enough this is the first time my husband has seen it and for a non-horror guy he both enjoyed it and appreciated the lack of gore. Which is a big part of why I love it, it builds suspense using atmosphere instead of excessive gore. I like carnage as much as the next person, but I like a well-crafted film more.
It’s funny, some people I’ve shown this to get the giggles at some of the zombies…err…”infected”, but I’ve always liked Danny Boyle’s revisionist zombies and his refreshingly different vision of a virus outbreak in England that infects live people with “rage” and leaves the country as a wasteland. I love the way he uses surreal, surveilance-like, visuals against the abandoned city-scapes to really hammer home the desolation and bleakness of the situation. He certainly knows how to create tension too, there are some scenes that are so intense they still put me on edge. It’s nice to be reminded of a time when he didn’t distract you from the story with camera shaking and lens flares.
I suppose if I had to complain about something, it would be that the ending feels like a bit of a cop out happy ending. It’s slightly ambiguous, yes, but it’s too upbeat given the rest of the film. At least 28 Weeks Later makes up for that, but we’ll talk about that some other time.
Directed by Matt Reeves
For breakfast: Biscuits and Gravy
I love a good monster movie and when one comes around that’s as clever and well-executed as Cloverfield, it’s hard not to be pleasantly surprised. The shaky, 1st person camera is a tough thing to pull off without being obnoxious, see The Blair Witch Project, but I think Cloverfield does a pretty good job of it. Of course it helps that JJ Abrams seems to bring a certain amount of energy to everything he’s involved with and this film definitely has plenty of energy. It’s an intense ride that only occasionally dips its toe into silliness and despite it’s contrivances it keeps the viewer engaged for the swift 80 minute run time.
Speaking of the run time, I think it’s fairly impressive what all the filmmakers are able to accomplish in such short span of time. The characters and back story, while somewhat cheesy, are solid enough to make us care about what’s happening on screen. My only real complaint is that they’re far too young for the jobs they’re supposed to have and the apartments they allegedly live in…in Manhattan no less. Had the characters been maybe 10 years older I wouldn’t be distracted with logistics while a giant monster tears up New York City. But honestly, there’s really no place for logic when it comes to a film like this.
Now I’m not sure what all should be attributed to director Matt Reeves, or whether it was Abrams or the writing or all of the above, but I just love how everything about the film was so well done and thought out — from the great ad campaign that left us wanting more all the way through to the enjoyable finished product. That’s not to say the film isn’t flawed, it absolutely is, but the overall experience is so intense that it’s just plain fun.