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Paul Jensen

Gold Winners: 71-80

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ALIEN (1979) 5 stars

A sci-fi/horror masterpiece that happens to be a work of art. Flawless on every level. It works due to many factors. Ripley as protagonist, Giger's creation of the alien is genius and the used spacecraft quality helps evoke the uncanny and therefore believable setting. A truly terrifying and visually gorgeous film. The art direction is flawless and the sexual subtext disturbs viewers on a deeply subconscious level, while Goldsmith’s sparse score is perfect and brave.

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: Ridley Scott

 

THE SHINING (1980) 5 stars

The most cinematic and artistically genius horror film ever made. Forget the ghosts, Kubrick has made a movie about domestic violence within a dysfunctional family. Brilliant performances and soundtrack. In the late 70s, America's divorce rate was at an all-time high. Kubrick taps into our cultural anxiety brilliantly. It's insane just how original The Shining is. Kubrick's pacing and use of space is what sets this masterpiece apart from most horror films. The over-the-top performances totally get under your skin. Nicholson and Duvall are perfectly cast. I saw this movie when I was eight and it scarred me for life.

 

Genre: Horror
Director: Stanley Kubrick

 

JAWS (1975) 5 stars

Perfect escapism on every level. The first major blockbuster remains flawless, intense and terrifically entertaining. Compared to the modern action film, it's amazing just how tight Jaws is. Spielberg's talent was clear right from the start. The attention to character is what truly sets this popcorn flick apart. Also, the pacing and tempo is exhilarating and when the horror arrives, Spielberg certainly doesn't shy away from the gruesomeness. I adore the sheer sense of adventure they capture once the first barrel is attached. Spielberg is also great at capturing life going on all around the characters. It never feels "Hollywood" but rather a constant sense of life happening all around. All in all, they rarely make them this good anymore.

 

Genre: Action
Director: Steven Spielberg

 

DERSU UZALA (1975) 5 stars

This 70's Russian film is an odd little epic. Shot in Syberia (in 70mm), Kurosawa captures nature in all its beauty, force and desolation. Certain brutal survival moments unfold almost in real time. Gorgeously cinematic, it won the Oscar for best foreign film and remains haunting and authentic. It's a story about friendship that takes its time and illustrates certain painful truths. It's an epic tale on the story of man and mother nature. Kurosawa's Russian journey through the wilderness of friendship and old age. It's filmed with an ancient visual palette, very slow-paced but endlessly rewarding. By the end, you feel as if you've been in the wilderness yourself. Most refreshing is how Kurosawa resists close-ups. Everything is matter-of-fact and neutral (just like in nature). There is no sentimentality yet the film is very touching. The scenes of intensity are gripping and extremely realistic and believable. The story is steeped in authenticity and it's not without its humor. It's fitting that Kurosawa made this unique film considering his most inspirational authors were all Russian. Ultimately, this 70's Russian epic illustrates nature's vastness amidst man. Capturing both the sun and the moon in the same shot, with breathtaking natural action sequences. One of Kurosawa's best.

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Akira Kurosawa

 

SHANE (1953) 5 stars

An iconic western that helped define the genre. Stevens' characteristic pacing is unique and thoughtful; the way the story deals with morality makes it a forerunner for post-modern westerns like Unforgiven. It has inspired countless filmmakers and is well-deserving of its almost mythic stature. The film explores the character's ethics in an entertaining and somewhat "ahead-of-its-time" fashion. Easily one of my top five favorite westerns.

 

Genre: Western
Director: George Stevens

 

HIGH NOON (1952) 5 stars

A 50's classic that often tops the list of greatest westerns. Gary Cooper is such a real and likable hero (Harrison Ford borrowed a thing or two from him) and Grace Kelly is her usual stunning self. The story's pacing and tempo are effective since the film unfolds practically in "real time". Released during the McCarthy era, the ironic ending was brave and bold, since this western had a great deal to say about America at that time. Its iconic place in movie history is well deserved - it's one for the library.

 

Genre: Western
Director: Fred Zinneman

 

L'ATALANTE (1934) 5 stars

A love story as old as time. Stunningly beautiful and ageless. Simple yet full of depth. What's most remarkable is how a French film from the 30's manages to still move us with the concerns and fears of relationships. Its honesty and humor linger long after the film ends. Widely and often regarded as one of the top ten greatest films ever made, it's a simple love story that resonates thanks to its odd assortment of characters. Vigo sadly died right after making it. Tragically, he was in his twenties - it was only his second feature. (Similar to Canada's very own Jean-Claude Lauzon).

Genre: Drama
Director: Jean Vigo

 

UGETSU (1953) 5 stars

In my top five Japanese films, this classic gives Kurosawa's best work a run for its money. It's part love story, feminist film, political drama, samurai period-piece and creepy supernatural thriller. Each shot is like a painting and the camera drifts through the landscapes effortlessly but with a poetic purpose. The plot unfolds like a scroll, leaving the viewer emotionally spent, by its tragic and inevitable conclusion.

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi

 

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (2002) 5 stars

The Two Towers, may very well be better than the original. It's such an intense journey for all the characters and the excitement hardly lets up. The resurrection of King Theoden is a highlight and the grand finale with Helm's Deep is so epic and masterfully staged. It manages to capture the actual dread of a bleak, nasty and massive battle. Also, one of the greatest accomplishments is undoubtedly the character of Gollum. They not only made us believe that he exists but more importantly they made us care. It's a stunning middle chapter that rivals the finest sequels in movie history. (The extended cut is an absolute must. Not least of all for the brilliant character development of Faramir.)

 

Genre: Fantasy
Director: Peter Jackson

 

ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002) 5 stars

An epic journey amidst love and war, with intoxicating imagery and impeccable FX. True, the love story ain't the strongest, but the clone wars, asteroid chase and lightsaber duels more than make up for it. Yoda kicking ass is the single most crowd-pleasing moment in the entire saga. Thankfully, Obi-wan is also developed further and Padme looks hotter than ever. The tone of Episode II is far more grown up than the previous chapter. Considering his age, Anakin's arrogance is fitting and appropriate. I also found that the transition of Yoda into a CGI creation did wonders for his character. There's far more depth and complexity in his expressions now (although I love the puppetry work in Empire.) The political intrigue was also appropriate considering the Bush election and 9/11 aftermath. The irony of the Clones fighting on the good guys side is genius. The worst evil always comes from within. This Star Wars chapter is one of the most continuously watchable entries for me. It's sweeping scope has a strong operatic flair that draws me in every time. (The IMAX experience was overwhelmingly exciting.)

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: George Lucas

 

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