Monday, August 3, 2009

The RB 100, Part II, 80-61

Let's get rolling on the next twenty films and start with a couple of plain-old good guys.

80. In The Company Of Men (1997): The trailer there is a redband. Aaron Eckhart's breakout role, in which two businessmen visit another office of their company and make a vow to destroy a disabled women's life just for the fun of it. That's not sarcasm or paraphrasing, that's the actual plot of the movie. I feel like I need a shower to wash the sleaze off of me every time I see it.

79. Toy Story (1995): I'm surprised at how long ago this came out. Disney had reinvented themselves in the early '90s with modern takes on old stories, but then they partnered with Pixar and changed animation forever. I think, even moreso than with Robin Williams in Aladdin, that this is the movie in which Disney perfected the art of hiding jokes for adults inside a kids movie.

78. Dead Again (1991): When I think of Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, I think of Shakespeare and of flowery, boring British movies. Not so fast, as they starred as two different characters each in this film noir thriller involving true love, deja vu, and one of the more underrated twist endings. The definition of a "sleek" thriller. Directed by Branagh and written by Scott Frank, who also wrote a number of very good movies that didn't make this list, like Get Shorty, Minority Report, and The Lookout.

77. The Abyss (1989): I think you might be as surprised as I was to find out that James Cameron has only directed ten feature films, this being one of them. Some divers and some military go into a deep-ocean station to find a nuclear submarine that was lost in an abyss in the ocean floor. An unknown intelligence makes itself known, the military guy goes crazy, and hilarity ensues. Well, not hilarity, more like edge-of-your-seat fingernail-chewing suspense. As for the hilarity, I'm sorry to say that Cabin Boy didn't make the list (a spoiler!), so you'll have to get your Chris Elliott fix here.

76. Save The Green Planet! (2003, South Korea): Watch the trailer first. Done? So I see a trailer for a quirky foreign film that has a scene that makes me laugh (when he shoots the bees) and I decide to watch it when I have some free time. Pop it in, get ready to laugh, and... We've all seen movies where the trailer ends up painting a very different picture than the actual film contains. I'm ready to laugh at some dumb movie and I end up engrossed in a genius, excruciating glimpse into a lonely man's madness. This film is funny, touching, romantic, gory, exciting, and so on and so on. It has everything. It's mind-blowing enough that, after watching it, I watched every featurette, including one that involved the actors asking the writer/director (who has still only directed this one movie) how the heck he was able to come up with such an incredible movie.

75. 12 Monkeys (1995): Brad Pitt had a pretty good 1995. Even though both Interview With the Vampire and Legends of the Fall had come out previously, you can argue that Pitt earned his recognition as a real actor in that year, as this movie and Seven were both released. He's great in Seven, but he earned his first Oscar nomination for his role in this movie as a lunatic revolutionary who may or may not hold the key to a virus that will send the human race to a hellish future. Bruce Willis is as bad-ass, and David Morse as creepy, as ever.

74. Batman (1989): This one might be a bit controversial, especially as you see what the rest of the list holds (or doesn't). Jack Nicholson has had quite a large number of great roles, but this is certainly among his most famous. He takes Cesar Romero's camp from the old TV show and adds just enough menacing psychosis. Was Heath Ledger better? I don't know. Very different kinds of movies. Ledger's performance would be too edgy for Burton's movie and Nicholson's would be too over-the-top for Nolan's. Suffice to say that, as I said earlier, I'm a Michael Keaton fan and I like my nostalgia.

73. Good Will Hunting (1997): On the list of the best movie quotes to use in real life (which is different than the list of the best movie quotes, neither one a list I will compile), "Do you like apples?" has to rank pretty high. It's hurts my brain to think about Ben Affleck having an Oscar, but he and Matt Damon won for their screenplay of this out-of-nowhere hit. The acting is very good, especially Robin Williams. You have to wonder about his big scene. Would it still have the same impact if the movie came out today, seeing as how the Red Sox are no longer the lovable underdogs? It's still pretty good though:

72. Boogie Nights (1997): And we are into my favorite movies. It may have happened back around Dead Again or In The Company of Men, but I would consider from here on out to be movies that I don't just really like, but about which I am completely fanatical. Enter an homage to Raging Bull that takes place in the porn industry. Boogie Nights was the coming out party for Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly and among the first big movies for Don Cheadle and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Not bad. Throw in Alfred Molina and the greatest use of Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" in a movie, Burt Reynolds' comeback, and a surprise appearance by
Stan Bush's "The Touch". P.T. Anderson struck gold with this one.

71. Borat (2006): Give Sacha Baron Cohen all the credit in the world for being absolutely fearless, but give him even more for making a painfully funny movie. Painfully, as in I was doubled over and choking because I was laughing so hard throughout. Painfully, as in I had to strain my ears to hear dialogue over the laughs of everyone else in the theater. I'd actually like to see someone try to accomplish what Cohen did in this movie, because I don't think it can be repeated.

70. The Lost Boys (1987): The Coreys forever. Joel Schumacher's career is interesting in that he's most famous for taking Tim Burton's Batman franchise and destroying it, but he actually made some pretty good movies like this one, Falling Down, A Time To Kill, and Phone Booth. He also made The Number 23, which you should never, ever see. A darkly funny and eternally cool vampire movie, The Lost Boys is most memorable for the crappy saxophone song towards the beginning and the bad-assedness of Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric. It also has one of my favorite last lines ever:

69. Gremlins (1984): Another movie with Corey Feldman! When I was young, I liked it for how funny Gizmo was and how cool Stripe was. A fun, almost-scary movie. But when I got older and re-watched it, I realized what a great parody it is of horror movies. Stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates have great chemistry, Hoyt Axton is funny as the gift-giving father (he ad-libbed most of his lines), and there's a dark edge to the movie that you don't quite see as a kid. Much like Poltergeist -- which missed the Top 100, but not by much -- you can see the influence of this film's most famous producer, Stephen Spielberg.

68. This Is Spinal Tap (1984): For all that I said about Sacha Baron Cohen's prowess in Borat, that movie could have never happened if the mockumentary genre hadn't been blown wide open by Rob Reiner's feature film directorial debut. Similar to Cameron earlier, Reiner has directed a surprisingly small number of films, but he had a twelve-year run from this to Ghosts of Mississippi in 1996 that is nearly flawless. He first shows up on this list here, bringing us the story of the world's loudest band and their trouble with drummers and set pieces.

67. The Usual Suspects (1994): The script, the acting, the twist ending. One of the greatest last lines in movie history. People will knock it because it's a movie all about something that didn't actually happen, but that adds to the deception of the dastardly Verbal Kint. "After that my guess is that you will never hear from him again. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that... he is gone."

66. The Sixth Sense (1999): So which movie, this or the last one, has the best twist ending in movie history? This one flew very low under the radar, but the buzz built and built. I went to see it in the theater so that I could find out this shock ending for myself. I'm not generally a fan of horror movies and this one scared the hell out of me. After it was over, I ran home, called my friends, and told them, "See it now, before it's ruined for you." It's a lot of fun to discover a soon-to-be classic before it's gone completely mainstream.

65. The Jerk (1979): Every scene in this movie is as funny as the last. I can't think about any one of them without laughing to myself. Navin R. Johnson was born a poor black child. The rest is history:

64. In The Heat of The Night (1967): Norman Jewison's Best Picture-winning story of a racist southern town whose sheriff calls upon an African-American detective from Philadelphia to help solve a murder. Killer acting from Best Actor-winner Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier, who was not even nominated for an Oscar in a total travesty. A good (and disturbing) twist at the end. And one of the great lines in movie history as some good old boys give Poitier's Virgil a hard time about his race and his home in the north:

63. Finding Nemo (2003): What Pixar began with Toy Story they took to the next level (but didn't perfect yet) with this funny and emotional film about a fish separated from his father. Who was voiced by Albert Brooks! It's an animated film with freaking Willem Dafoe and Albert Brooks. Everyone's seen this at this point, right? Do I even need to extoll its virtues?

62. Fargo (1996): William H. Macy and Frances McDormand -- two great actors in their greatest roles. Macy as a henpecked car salesman who develops a scheme to kidnap his wife for the ransom money and McDormand as the pregnant, folksy cop who is investigating the crime. It elevated the Minnesota accent to a whole new tier of comedy and it made us look a lot differently at wood chippers.

61. The Breakfast Club (1985): If you grew up in the '80s, John Hughes is the master of the right-place-at-right-time movie, with none better than this study of high school archetypes meeting up at a day of detention. Anthony Michael Hall as the straight man/witness to the changes undergone by his fellow students as they step out of their normal silos. What happens when kids stop acting under peer pressure and start getting real. I hope I didn't just ruin the movie for you.

As always, any thoughts are appreciated. Coming tomorrow, #s 60-41. Stay tuned.


angie said...

Wow, I'm getting worse. Only 5 of these 20. I will comment though -- I haven't seen Finding Nemo, but I find it hard to believe it was better than Toy Story!

Anonymous said...

17 again. I didn't like Fargo, but most people think it's great, so there's probably something I'm missing there. I guess. It's strange that the Coen brothers, who I would rank amongst my absolute favorite directors, two most acclaimed movies are perhaps my least favorites (Fargo and No Country For Old Men, that is...although Barton Fink was worse than either of them).

This Is Spinal Tap would be in my top ten, possibly top five. I think it's the funniest movie ever made.

Angie, I like Toy Story better, but Finding Nemo is fantastic, well worth checking out.


Marissa said...

I've got 17 also. I'm actually okay with most of these. Might rank a few higher.

I too did not like Fargo, and always felt like I was missing something. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Jaimie said...

15 this time, I'm moving up!