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Paul Jensen

Gold Winners: 1-10

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2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) 5 stars

The greatest motion picture ever made. A truly cinematic and tremendously ambitious experience. The more you see it, the more you see in it. It is the story of the evolution of mankind. The mysterious black monoliths are like sign posts, pointing the direction in our evolution. Or perhaps, they represent God? Maybe they’re aliens? Either interpretation works. At first we encounter them when the apes discover weapons (and thus fight over land), millions of years pass illustrating that nothing much has changed. We are still monkeys fighting over land but now the weapon has become a spaceship (or even a pen). Next we spot a monolith on the moon (the film was released one year before man walked on the moon). Next when Dave transcends technology and then finally when he transcends flesh. After all, we are still flawed (the breaking of the wine glass) and we become a “Starchild” that returns to earth. As a result, fittingly Kubrick transcended all other science fiction films and to this day there really is nothing else like 2001.

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: Stanley Kubrick

 

RAGING BULL (1980) 5 stars

A tragic figure finds redemption. If there's hope for him, there's hope for humanity. Scorsese made his most poetic film in stunning black and white with the intention of never making another film again. He put everything he had into it (as did De Niro). The results are so powerful, the viewer truly feels as if they are intruding in on these character's lives.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Martin Scorsese

 

VERTIGO (1958) 5 stars

The greatest psychologically perverse love story (which says a great deal more about me than the film). Hitckcock's most personal and artistic film also contains one of my favorite film scores. It’s ultimately a cautionary tale: don’t fall in love with a romanticized image. In many respects, it’s a powerful feminist statement. Ironically, Stewart overcomes his fear in the end, but by vanquishing any possibility for love. Vertigo is not just about the fear of heights, it’s about the fear of falling in love. The heights that love can elevate us to and then traumatically drop us. Characters continue to fall throughout the story. Four deaths, four falls. It’s the ultimate tragic love story.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

 

BLADE RUNNER (1982) 5 stars

I find it difficult to come up with another film that matches the sheer beauty of its images - truly a visually immaculate masterpiece. The intelligent and eloquent script is endlessly fascinating. The score and sound design envelope the viewer in their rapture. Roy Batty's demise ranks as the most tender death scene on screen. A definitive cinematic experience. I've had more viewings of this film than any other.

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: Ridley Scott

 

APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) 5 stars

A true cinematic experience that astonishes both sight and sound. The finest war film ever made has only improved with age. It ranks among the most visually stunning film experiences I've ever had. The journey up the river mirrors the exploration of the human soul and it's consistently compelling. Traveling across Man's tortured psyche, animal instincts, carnal desires, confused history and teetering on the thin line between the rational and insane, this film proves to be an undeniable masterpiece. (Not to mention, the sound design is stupendous.) The Redux version, although controversial, enriches an already hugely complex story. Technically speaking, has there ever been a more accomplished film? The final resting place is the heart of darkness and you don’t just watch the film, you experience it.

 

Genre: War
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

 

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) 5 stars

The movie that started it all...for me. Raiders is probably the most entertaining film ever made. Indiana Jones' iconic image will always remain embedded in my childhood memories. What's most remarkable about this incredibly tight script, is that there hasn't been an action film that has topped it since. The action set pieces are rough and seemingly authentic (pre-CGI), beautifully choreographed and edited; all perfectly scored by John Williams' exhilarating music. There's a seriousness to this film that the sequels lack. The later films tried too hard to capture that 'Indy-feeling' and thus they were written with comedy and silly set pieces in mind. What they're forgetting is that the original Raiders script is actually quite mean and very intense. Almost all the humor, came from the actor's performances and subtle directorial choices. In the end, this rare occurrence of perfect escapism, is ultimately a glorious tribute to moviemaking.

 

Genre: Action
Director: Steven Spielberg

 

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974) 5 stars

Cassavetes most accomplished achievement. Staggeringly honest. Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk are mesmerizing. The love that permeates every scene is overwhelming. There are no easy answers throughout this heart-wrenching family drama. (Although, it is not without its humor.) The main protagonist is a woman who feels influenced to behave and act a certain way. In some respects, she represents the artist's spirit - that which does not fall victim to conformism. In the end though, it's the heart-felt emotion towards the family (in particular the kids) that makes this film an indelible emotional experience.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: John Cassavetes

 

TAXI DRIVER (1976) 5 stars

A disturbing character study that is as relevant now as ever. Scorsese's technical prowess is matched by a brilliant performance by De Niro, capturing self-induced loneliness perfectly. Paul Schrader wrote this classic script about a sociopath who, despite attempts, can't quite connect with others. All of which leads to Travis acting out his fantasy of having some sort of purpose. He strikes out at the two patriarchal "fathers" who control both the Madonna and the Whore that he becomes obsessed with. The orgasmic bloodshed is frightening and cathartic. However, Travis is like a ticking time bomb that may go off again. Herrmann's unforgettable score underlines both the romantic loner quality, coupled with the sleazy and violent force that almost appears like a angelic nightmare. Despite Travis' racism and inability to understand people, we still care about this incredibly lonely individual. Taxi Driver is both a powerful feminist film and part serial-killer movie. Either way, Scorsese, Schrader and De Niro all feel strongly in portraying this character as honestly as possible. Perhaps because there's a little bit of Travis Bickle in all of us.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Martin Scorsese

 

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) 5 stars

An extravagant epic and penetrating character study. Nobody makes motion pictures like David Lean anymore. Truly a jaw-dropping spectacle. It’s both a bold bio-pic of a flawed man and an epic telling of history in the making.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: David Lean

 

IKIRU (1952) 5 stars

What does it mean to live? Kurosawa's masterpiece. Gentle and profound. As Kurosawa explores this question, we are invited to ponder various possibilities. Just when the protagonist discovers the answer, we’re robbed of him. Then the third act becomes about the legacy. The Japanese equivalent of It’s a Wonderful Life with the narrative sophistication of Citizen Kane. It easily ranks among my top five most inspiring movies.

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Akira Kurosawa

 

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