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Paul Jensen

Gold Winners: 61-70

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MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969) 5 stars

It spawned a decade of brave new filmmaking. A double character study that remains as moving today as it did back in '69.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: John Schlesinger

 

HEAT (1995) 5 stars

For the first time on-screen, De Niro and Pacino face off in this intelligent and flawless accomplishment. Mann balances the intense violence with plenty of sensitive character moments. So much of the film is about the male/female relationship. The minimalist ending distills the hero/villain archetype into almost abstract images. The deafening roar of the planes heightens the shadow play of light and dark. These two characters are two sides of the same coin. Heat also has what is the finest bank robbery & gun shoot-out in film history, making this film an epic crime masterpiece.

 

Genre: Crime
Director: Michael Mann

 

HIGH AND LOW (1963) 5 stars

The finest detective thriller ever filmed. But that's just skimming the surface. Kurosawa remains the emperor of cinema. It's remarkable just how much suspense and emotional involvement we get from one room with a few characters. The choreography and character proximities throughout is inspiring. Kurosawa clearly knows how to use the anamorphic lens. The second half/detective story is riveting. The finale transcends the crime genre and makes a bold statement with some of the most amazing imagery ever put to screen. This is the work of a true master.

 

Genre: Crime
Director: Akira Kurosawa

 

ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) 5 stars

Hollywood began its transformation to grittier more realistic filmmaking here. This truthful American classic, with Marlon Brando in his prime, is one of the top five films of the 50's. Partly thanks to its gritty approach, new audiences continue to be surprised how moving and entertaining it remains - it has aged extremely well. The supporting characters, love story and social commentary, all come together to create an emotionally charged masterpiece.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Elia Kazan

 

THE PIANO (1993) 5 stars

It expertly balances mystery, romance and a haunting darkness. A mature script, brave and impeccable performances, eloquent score and a timeless story, make this a perfect film. Easily one of my top five favorite love stories. Campion’s masterpiece is passionately assured. There's a magnificent contribution from composer Michael Nyman. The music is inherently a character in the film as well.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Jane Campion

 

BLUE VELVET (1986) 5 stars

As disturbing as it is funny. It marked an indelible impression in the 80's and paved the way for Twin Peaks and countless other quirky and subversive works. What makes it so intriguing is the constant tension between the light and dark aspects of human nature. Our young hero is torn between the love he has for the blond, innocent, girl-next-door, Laura Dern and his sexual desire for the brunette, mature, European Isabella Rosellini. This dichotomy is illustrated within the first five minutes through brilliant subtext. We may yearn for an idyllic world, yet we repress our darker impulses. Did I mention it's hysterically funny in a demented sort of way? It's cinematic, original and twisted: making it the defining Lynch masterpiece. His legacy will live on forever in this masterpiece of dreams, nightmares and unforgettable imagery.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: David Lynch

 

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA (1984) 5 stars

This is a tough movie. Its four hour running time might seem a struggle, the pacing crawls along at a snail's pace and the misogynistic undertones are unsettling. Yet, very few films capture one man's tragic existence in a more elegant and sophisticated manner. Like Last Year at Marienbad and Tree of Life, it's all about memory, filled with nostalgia and regret. Does the ambiguous ending really happen? Or is it a dream in the opium den? The poster-image of the iconic bridge represents the transition between boyhood and man, innocence and corruption, the gangster and the politician, the birth of America and the decay. Ten years in the making, Leone's final masterpiece, remains his greatest achievement.

 

Genre: Crime
Director: Sergio Leone

 

MILLER'S CROSSING (1990) 5 stars

Far more sophisticated than anything the Coens had tried previously. It's a mature, poetic and elegant gangster film that balances affection and humor in equal measure. The complexity of the script is like a house of cards, where every little set-up is paid off and characters are never wasted. Gabriel Byrne's character is like a puppet master who struggles to maintain his dignity and pride (symbolic in his fedora), while Albert Finney's godfather-like portrayal is memorably grand. It's here where the Coens began to demand respect and it's a film they've rarely bettered.

 

Genre: Crime
Director: Joel Coen

 

MODERN TIMES (1936) 5 stars

Released almost a decade after sound had arrived, this silent movie was Chaplin's swan song to silent cinema. It was also the last time he played The Tramp. It seems there was no place for this classic character in our modern world. The film pokes fun at sound and it's also the first time we hear Chaplin speak on screen. In a brilliant move, he sings gibberish. Paulette Goddard is adorable as his co-star (and Chaplin's soon-to-be wife). There's such charm and pure cinematic joy in watching our hero roller-skate, dangerously blindfolded, in a shopping mall after hours. Then of course there's the cocaine-sniffing scene: hysterical and genius. It may very well be the finest silent film ever made and it remains one of my top ten greatest comedies.

 

Genre: Comedy
Director: Charlie Chaplin

 

GRAND ILLUSION (1937) 5 stars

Renoir makes it all seem so easy. Writers could learn a thing or two from the way he tells his stories. It's a 1930's French anti-war movie that is more about friendship and acting honorably than it is about the horrors of war. The writing is so eloquent and the story unfolds effortlessly. The characters stand out as prominent as legends in classic literature. It turns into a prison escape movie and it's clear that Shawshank Redemption owes a thing or two from this memorable film. You'll be surprised how well it still holds up for a film over 75 years old. Beautifully timeless.

 

Genre: War
Director: Jean Renoir

 

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