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Paul Jensen

Gold Winners: 11-20

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81/2 (1963) 5 stars

The greatest film about film making. Fellini's classic is a self-referential and layered masterpiece. Surreal, touching, funny and profound. It's ironic that a film about artistic bankruptcy is one of the freshest pictures around. The imagery seems beyond capturing. How did Fellini do it? The cross-cutting between past, present, dream and fantasy became hugely influential. The cast of characters are memorable, original and insane. It's an unforgettable film experience. Where Guido fails in making his movie, Fellini succeeds by making a movie about exactly this inner conflict. Truly a perfect work of art.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Federico Fellini

 

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) 5 stars

Growing up with Star Wars, this one made a significant impact on me. This is the most mature and serious episode. Dark, sophisticated, rich in colors and imagery, strong in character development and with a brilliant score. There isn't a wasted moment and the worlds that Lucas dreams up are unforgettable, with plot twists that are emotionally long-lasting. There has never been such a cliff-hanger. Solo has never been cooler, Vader more vicious and Boba Fett more mysterious. It never gets old. Undoubtedly, the finest Star Wars movie.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Irvin Kershner

 

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000) 5 stars

Exquisitely and achingly beautiful. Tony and Maggie are perfect together. The greatest love stories are those that are unconsummated. Kar-wai's sophistication in visual storytelling is unmatched. Every time he slows the image down, we get a pivotal moment in the story. Some are subtle, others are deeply moving. During the final moments, the homage to Last Year at Marienbad, is so heartbreaking and truly poetic. This is easily one of the finest films of the last twenty years. Kar-wai finds the metaphor for his love poem to a China that is no more. The beauty and magic of the celluloid is captured forever like the secret encased in mud. Did they sleep together? Perhaps. Is it his child? It just might be. After multiple viewings, In the Mood for Love only gets richer and more rewarding.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Wong Kar-wai

 

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) 5 stars

If I could give it six stars, I would. When was the last time you can recall a summer blockbuster/popcorn picture, based on a comic book, create so much applause? Box office through the roof, hardcore fans more than satisfied, critics raving and average viewers blown away. This truly was a phenomenon. Nolan approaches the subject matter with such sophistication and intelligence. It's an uncompromisingly dark vision that asks the viewer to pay close attention. The script borrows from '70s crime dramas, where intricate plot details are filled with set-ups and pay-offs. Gone is the comic book feeling, which is replaced with a harsh reality and a plausible story-line. The Dark Knight succeeds on multiple levels; in particular, the various thematic elements are not exclusive to the dramatic sequences. Thankfully, the action moments are integral to the substance of the film. There isn't a single moment where we can shut off our brain. It's a riveting experience both viscerally and intellectually.

Heath Ledger's Joker is a frightening and scene-stealing transformation. It is, quite possibly, the greatest representation of this maniacal character in the entire history of the Batman comic series. His point of view is so clearly realized that we almost agree with his madness. The intense tone of the film is matched by the staggering score. Under normal circumstances, Two-Face would receive tremendous acclaim. The development to his character is outstanding. Also, Commissioner Gordon is finally attributed his worthy attention. Ultimately, the poetry of this very serious and layered masterpiece, is that this is the right film at the right time. What's at stake? The soul of Gotham city. The fundamental questions this film raises are both crucial and profound. "When the Truth becomes Legend, print the Legend." In this film, audiences receive both.

 

Genre: Action
Director: Christopher Nolan

 

CASINO (1995) 5 stars

The epic film for the 90s. Complex and brilliantly made. Scorsese is working on all cylinders. The movie moves like a bullet train and doesn't let up. By the end you feel as if you've witnessed genius and all you can say is "wow!" The opening credits depicts De Niro being cast down into hell. There is definitely parallels to Milton's Paradise Lost. Pesci has never been better, neither has Sharon Stone and the music is perfectly synced to every outstanding sequence. How can a film be so electrifying, insightful, entertaining and profound all at the same time? After my first viewing, I left the theater trembling as if I'd been through a tornado. It truly was a religious experience for me. I love cinema so much and Scorsese's Casino nails everything so flawlessly. It's a film as seductive as Vegas itself.

 

Genre: Crime
Director: Martin Scorsese

 

SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) 5 stars

Perfect blend of art and entertainment. Three and a half hours and not a boring second. Kurosawa takes his time in establishing every major character. Revolutionary and hugely influential battle scenes. In many respects, an anti-samurai film. Audiences had never before seen such action and spectacle. Yet, it never loses sight of its plethora of memorable characters. As rich and lengthy as a timeless classic novel.

 

Genre: Action
Director: Akira Kurosawa

 

REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005) 5 stars

There's a good reason why Revenge received the best reviews from critics, matched only by Empire, because it's friggin' amazing! It's easily the darkest and most emotionally intense of the series. A tragedy that perfectly bridges both trilogies. Lucas takes us to epic proportions comparable to Greek tragedy and Shakespearean themes. He perfectly nails the essence of classic space opera. For future generations who see the films 1-6, this chapter will be the most discussed. The story-line is brutal, unpredictable and totally mind-blowing. It all culminates with Obi-wan and Anakin dueling amidst lava while Yoda and the Emperor duke it out as the senate crumbles to the ground. Revenge of the Sith is ultimately a strong contender for the greatest Star Wars film ever made. Naysayers who hate the prequels are blind and will thankfully be wiped out in time, replaced by future generations who can see the complexities and brilliance of what might very well be a superior trilogy. Indisputably, all six films are a saga for the ages.

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: George Lucas

 

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003) 5 stars

It stands as a mammoth motion picture. What is so awe-inspiring is the sheer magnitude of its vision. The challenge that Peter Jackson and his team faced to try and get this epic scope on screen is mind-boggling. they pulled it off so majestically. The constant perfect balance between spectacle and character is what's so impressive. So many highlights: Shadowfox's ascension up Minis Tirith, the lighting of the beacons, "I CAN carry you!", the Hobbits back in the Shire sharing a drink, etc. All of which are so emotionally stirring. The battle of Pelennor fields may very well rank as the finest action sequence in film history. It escalates dramatically and this one battle scene alone includes enough "wow" moments for the entire trilogy. The movie may be long (over 4 hours) but Tolkien's legendary work deserves a proper finale and the filmmakers have earned the right to give the characters a proper farewell. The emotional weight of the final hour feels as heavy as Frodo's burden. Some may think it sentimental, others like myself, felt a cathartic release. This tremendous final chapter is not only the best of the series but it marks a pivotal moment in fantasy movie history. A trilogy for the ages that has gained as much respect and acclaim as cinematic works like Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars. Like The Godfather films, future audiences will likely continue to revisit the films with passion and emotion.

 

Genre: Fantasy
Director: Peter Jackson

 

GOODFELLAS (1990) 5 stars

One of the best film of the 90s is hugely influential and technically brilliant with astonishing performances. It also happens to be addictive to watch. By taking the middle of the book and placing it at the beginning, Scorsese proves that he is interested in "how did they do it" and not "will they make it?" He sacrifices the suspense and entertaining route and instead goes for the insightful and educational approach to why these gangsters are the way they are. Even the Lufthansa heist is not shown - this isn't exploitation, it is art. The pacing is relentless with every scene being crucial and revealing. The revolutionary voice-over was daring and effective in its intimate and almost musical approach. It's as much part of the soundtrack as the genius placement of the songs are. The level of authenticity is staggering because here was a story where a man's life depending on telling the truth. It's a perfect, complete and ironically complex film.

 

Genre: Crime
Director: Martin Scorsese

 

THE GODFATHER PART II (1974) 5 stars

When the young Vito Corleone makes his first kill, the celebratory images not only commemorate the birth of the Don but also the birth of American capitalism - a genius metaphor. Where the first Godfather was slightly flawed at times, Part II never falters. Complex and in some ways more complete than the original. Any sign of romanticizing the mafia is vanquished with Coppola's brilliant follow-up. How did he and Willis capture these images? The flashbacks alone are among the finest moments in American cinema. Watching the young Don Corleone take his first steps in crime - stealing the rug - while paralleling Michael's much larger choices years later - moving in on a Casino - is sheer brilliance. The times they are indeed changing. The absolute silence of Michael's final solitary moments is tragically unnerving. Once again, the second chapter in a series remains the darkest.

 

Genre: Crime
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

 

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