1. Citizen Kane (Directed by Orson Welles)
What a jerk way to begin a list of movies, right? Hailed as one of the greatest masterpieces of the last century, number one on the American Film Institutes' one-hundred best movies, and nominee of nine separate Academy Awards in 1941, Citizen Kane is potentially the most over-talked film in the universe. And while I wouldn't consider it one of my personal favorites I do like it quite a bit.
Being told to watch Citizen Kane since conception had me looking at the film with ultra-high expectations, and quite a few reservations. I suppose any movie as widely praised as Kane is going to set people up for a mind-blowing, and when it came time for me to actually watch the film it felt like I was reaching a grand milestone in my life. Rich with visual metaphor and across-the-board fine acting it wasn't difficult to understand the hubbub.
Welles' Charles Foster Kane was loveable throughout his descent into bitter wealth, and rest of the cast matched him admirably. Kane's shrill voiced mistress-wife Susan (Dorothy Comingore) struck me as both a stitch and one of the most endearing, relatable performances in the film. Definitely one of my favorites. I wasn't taken with Joseph Cotten's decision to put on an exaggerated accent playing present-day Jedediah Leland, but his Leland of the past was witty and charming. When paired with Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane) the duo present the funniest and most interesting segments of Kane's lifetime.
Cinematographer Gregg Toland captured mesmerizing depths of focus that give the film a still unmatched sense of style. Am I getting too stuffy about this? What I'm getting at is I like the way Kane looks. Young Charlie Foster playing in the snow while his childhood is signed away in the foreground and a wealthy newspaper man-Kane dancing in a window's reflection are two stand-outs. The way Toland conveys space is frankly inspiring, which I say at the risk of sounding gushy. Gooshy.
Yes, Citizen Kane is a technical masterpiece. The story is as relevant as it is fun to watch, and the film has undoubtedly stood the test of time. It may not be a masterpiece in my heart, but it holds a special place there, and it's on my top one-hundred list, if not in the top twenty-five.
20. To Kill a Mockingbird (Directed by Robert Mulligan)
I'm pretty sure I watched To Kill a Mockingbird in ninth grade as a companion to reading the book. It might have been earlier than that. Most of my memory of the movie is hazy. I know Gregory Peck was solid, and I'm being told Robert Duvall made his debut as Boo Radley, but I can't for the life of me remember Boo in the film. I liked the book a lot, and think the idea of watching the adaptation wasn't thrilling after so much class time already devoted to the story.
I paid attention to the whole thing, but I don't know where the novel ends and the movie begins. I do know the scene with the rabid dog terrified me, because that dog looked rabid with a capital r. Rabid. Gregory Peck seems to feel like he was a badass, and I know I wasn't bothered by scout, or any of the other performances. Clearly a forgettable movie, but it wasn't a bad movie. That I'd remember.
I'm doing these reviews purely on what I can recall. Really. I'm reviewing as far back as FernGully, and I can't remember anything about that movie. This is a gimmick. A good one.
40. The Deer Hunter (Directed by Michael Cimino)
Now here's a movie I remember. The Deer Hunter is another American Film Institute honoree, and one I expected great things from. Having previously fallen for Apocalypse Now and Platoon nothing sounded more satisfying than more doses of Vietnam-era stories with impressive acting talent and numerous awards. Then something terrible happened: the longer I watched The Deer Hunter the deeper the fact sunk in that I would not be adding it to any number of 'favorite' lists.
Almost everyone I know disagrees with me on The Deer Hunter and its merits, but I will not be swayed. I thought the amount of time spent with the young men in their small Pennsylvanian hometown dragged on for a nerveracking amount of time. I got jittery during this film waiting for something of any importance to happen. Their lives did not reflect an innocence before war but an oafish stupidity before madness. I could not see the pacing of hunting excursions and wedding antics being a means to justify the story's whole.
When the war and the Russian Roulette kick into gear they feel oddly placed. Though it is more interesting it's all so strangely put together that I could not to get into it. I see this as a failure on the film's part, not my own.
The actors and actresses were the cream of the crop for 1978. Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep and John Cazale in his final role before his death in the same year, all giving their all, yet all feeling so wasted. The skills were there, Cimino just didn't know how to utilize them. I worry the direction counted too much on the shock of the story and not enough on the heart of the actors. Many dispute everything I've just said. I'm here to try and dispute right back.
60. 21 (Directed by Robert Luketic)
Coming off the high of Across the Universe where he near-single-handedly taught the youth of the world that The Beatles weren't just for parents Jim Sturgess jumped into another leading role with 2008's 21, based on a true story. Just like Across the Universe!
I didn't like Across the Universe because it didn't respect The Beatles and portrayed bohemian artists as a bunch of pretentious nutjobs. I didn't like 21 for practically the same reasons. It doesn't give the viewer any credit. The movie is constantly pandering to the audience, piling on heaps of exposition and following through with every cliche in the cliched-plot-device handbook.
The lead flirts with the girl who doesn't like him until they fall in love and have sex. The teacher turns out to be the enemy. A large con is pulled off in a convoluted, successful way and no one questions how the characters had the means. It's dumb storytelling for a masses that won't give a damn the movie presented nothing interesting nor exciting.
I saw it with my parents over Spring break last year because it didn't look like it was going to be all that bad. My parents tolerated it, and I put on an "it wasn't bad" face for their sakes. I will never watch this movie again, and ask Kevin Spacey to stick to meatier roles. I also had a free poster for it on my door for a while because why not?
80. 300 (Directed by Zack Snyder)
The only action movie needing less story is 300. Whenever characters began to talk and nothing badass was said within two seconds of their mouths opening I considered leaving the theater. The movie was at its core about ripped men slaughtering other ripped men. That's what I wanted to see. Violence with honor. Stabbing of enemies. Beheadings. Magic. There was a story about political rape, and a story about father-son relationships, and a story about being too freakish to be a Spartan, and whenever this sort of nuisance would come up the movie screeched to a halt.
Most of the movie was brutal murder and shouting, though. At one point they build a wall of bodies and knock it over onto the opposition. That's a bunch of dead bodies, corpses, raining and tumbling down upon the heads of the living. That is so badass. There's also a point where you know this kid is going to get beheaded, but I hoped they weren't going to be so crass as to actually have him get beheaded, but then he totally does get beheaded! Hilarious.
Where 300 gained in action points it lost in style. The green screened atmosphere was an eyesore. Oranges and greens and reds blasting out at my poor corneas, shaking loose my retinas with their gross brilliance. The first thing I complained about when the movie'd ended was that the clouds were distractingly fake. I was laughed at. Oh, how bitter 300 has made me.
Also, did anyone know Gerard Butler was in movies before 300? Surprised the hell out of me.
This is going to be a struggle, pumping out a series at this magnitude as often as I'd like to. As long as I think I know what I'm talking about, and my fingers can typeitty type I will continue this series. Have mercy on me.
- Eric T. Voigt, Oxen? Oh! Oxen, Ho!