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Paul Jensen

Gold Winners: 81-90

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NOTORIOUS (1947) 5 stars

Quintessential Hitchock. The story is so perfectly layered and Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are heartbreaking to watch. Next to Vertigo, this might be his masterpiece. He makes it all seem so effortless and easy. All the characters are so nasty to one another! Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are truly lovely to watch - the epitome of classic movie stars at their peak. The story is suspenseful, sinister and sophisticated. And it was made in the 40's! There's much to learn from its script, imagery and acting. It's a masterwork deserving of its golden stature. (Robert Towne openly and blatantly ripped off its premise for a portion of MI2 & Roger Ebert considers it one of his top ten movies of all time.)

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

 

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) 5 stars

Just in the off-chance that people consider dismissing it as light and trivial Hollywood fare, it's important to note that it not only contains great musical numbers but it's a great film about filmmaking. After all, it gained its status as the most beloved of all musicals for a reason. Kelly is marvelous to watch and the sheer euphoria that leaps off the screen is gold. (It's the only musical to consistently appear on Sight and Sound's top ten greatest films list.) It remains my favorite musical from the Golden Age."

 

Genre: Musical
Director: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

 

THE THIRD MAN (1949) 5 stars

The humor, suspense and cinematic storytelling has rarely been better than in this definitive classic. British film noir at its finest. Captivating, enticing and has there ever been a more beautifully shot film in black and white? Orson Welles' cameo remains a highlight. The tight script has a classic twist similar to the other film noir classic - Laura. Plus, you've got the memorable score. It's fitting that the British borrow from the American film noir genre and end up bringing it back to its roots in German Expressionism. All the characters are written bu Graham Greene with such intelligence and wit and the visuals are so cinematic that we're left grinning and satisfied by this masterpiece from the 40's.

 

Genre: Film Noir
Director: Carol Reed

 

FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI (1998) 5 stars

Hou Hsiao-hsien's masterpiece. Mesmerizing, entrancing and totally unforgettable. Taiwanese cinema reached a zenith in the 90s and HHH remains at the forefront. Each shot lasts approximately ten minutes a piece. Unforgettable and as captivating as the colors of an emerald. You stare into it and its shape is always shifting, elusive and filled with complexity. It centers on high-class prostitutes in a brothel. The imagery is hypnotic and the story is so layered and intimate that the film casts a spell on the viewer. It's part of the reason why Taiwanese cinema of the 90's became so revolutionary.

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien

 

THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) 5 stars

PT Anderson's most mature and accomplished masterpiece. A cross between Malick's Days of Heaven and Welles' Citizen Kane, with a bit of a John Ford western thrown in. Completely cinematic with a haunting score by Radiohead's Greenwood. The relationship between Day Lewis' character (in a riveting performance) and his son, is what is most captivating about this elegantly dark and timeless story.

Anderson has succeeded with the third and most difficult step in the path of the artist: Metaphor. This is filmmaking at its finest. It belongs in the small handful of recent films that can truly stand next to classics like Citizen Kane, On the Waterfront and Chinatown. Day-Lewis goes beyond good acting and into the realm of transcendent.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

 

THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI (1959) 5 stars

David Lean's storytelling prowess reaches epic perfection. Excitement, social commentary and emotion all blend to deliver first rate movie making. It has astonishing characters, powerful morals, strong and emotional story beats. (Apparently, Spielberg's all-time favorite film).

 

 

 

 

Genre: Action
Director: David Lean

 

MAGNOLIA (1999) 5 stars

After a fine debut with Sydney (Hard Eight), and an excellent example of imitating his favorite filmmakers with Boogie Nights (Scorsese, Altman & Demme), Anderson gets extremely personal with a brilliant and daring approach to narrative in Magnolia. This film is bold, emotionally overwhelming and highly profound. PT Anderson's personal statement is truly admirable and extremely technically accomplished. He has mastered the second step in the path of the artist: taking the tools he learned from imitation and applying them to his own life. As excessive as it may be, the emotion, energy and sheer cinematic flair never lets up. What's it all about? "Be nice to your kids".

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

 

ANNIE HALL (1977) 5 stars

The breakthrough Woody Allen film that sums up a relationship perfectly. Or rather, the artist's "interpretation" of a relationship. This classic was the film that made audiences perceive Allen in a serious light. Surprising, considering how funny the movie is. It also re-invented the romantic-comedy and has become one of Allen's most influential movies. Clearly, it's a love poem to Diane Keaton and the jokes don't let up. It's both a heart-felt and a remarkably tight script. Most definitely in the top pantheon of comedies. Its story structure came from theatre (with a little help from Fellini) but the end result is entirely cinematic. It helped having Gordon Willis shoot the film. Why aren't comedies this artistically photographed anymore? It's probably one of the top five most influential romantic comedies in history. The way Woody ties it all together in the end is heartwarming, bittersweet and oh so poignant. The lobster behind the fridge never gets old.

 

Genre: Comedy
Director: Woody Allen

 

SE7EN (1995) 5 stars

A modern masterpiece. Dark, heavy and brilliant. Fincher creates such a complete world. One of the most influential films of the decade. Using a strong structure: seven sins, seven deaths, seven days; combined with a compelling theme, we are all capable of apathy. This masterwork flips the serial killer cliche on its head. It's earned the status of modern classic. Walker's script is layered, profound and re-invents the genre. Fincher's vision is dark, influential and beautiful in the Gothic tradition. Morgan Freeman brings such legitimacy and elegance to the role and Kevin Spacey is flawless and memorable as one of the greatest villain in 90's cinema.

 

Genre: Crime
Director: David Fincher

 

FALLEN ANGELS (1995) 5 stars

Quintessential Wong Kar-wai. Kinetic, touching and visually imaginative. The film takes an expressionistic approach and through romantic details we get a major sense of longing and heartache. We don't see the light of day until the final moments. This is where the yearning for an unattainable love seems to be finally overcome. What makes me love this film with such passion is simply the characters (in particular the father and son subplot) and the remarkable cinematic flair with which Kar-wai weaves his tale of multiple lost loves. It's a triple character study exploring crime, heartache and romantic loneliness. The music and imagery are gorgeous. It's also quite humorous and touching. Kar-wai in the 90's was quickly becoming one of the most compelling and unique filmmakers of the decade.

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Wong Kar-wai

 

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