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Paul Jensen

Silver Winners: 11-20

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DEAD MAN (1995) 5 stars

An acid western unlike anything else. The outstanding cast is lead by the brilliantly dumb Johnny Depp. The stunning black and white cinematography is complimented nicely by Neil Young's haunting score. This film only gets better with each viewing. Strangely, it's very moving in its existential approach. The deer shot is touching, the aboriginal message is admirable and the ending is a fine homage to On the Waterfront. This is Jim Jarmusch's masterpiece.

 

Genre: Western
Director: Jim Jarmusch

 

POSSESSION (1981) 5 star

One of the most sacred hidden gems that I've come across. How did this slip through the radar for so many years? Every single scene is free from cliche and holds some secret jewel waiting to be discovered. Neil and Adjani are spectacular. It's impossible to take your eyes off them. Adjani has a few moments that would make Cassavetes proud. The horror is both psychological and explicit. The direction is faultless with each shot being artful and evocative. I spent the entire two hours wide-eyed in awe, at times laughing at the absurdity, at other times riveted at the honest emotions lurking under the surface. As surreal as this film is, it's also very autobiographical. Think Cronenberg meets Polanski. Easily the finest video nasty I've come across. (Anchor Bay released it doube-billed with Bava's last film Shock.)

 

Genre: Horror
Director: Andrzej Zulawski

 

CONTEMPT (1963) 5 star

Godard's masterful statement on filmmaking. Brigitte Bardot is to die for. And that's the point. Fritz Lang also contributes. Also a brilliant approach to scoring with the help of Georges Delerue. (Scorsese borrowed the music for Casino.)

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Jean-Luc Godard

 

CASINO ROYALE (2006) 5 star

The greatest James Bond movie ever made. Ultra serious, intense, with a strong script and a great cast. Bond is back and I've haven't been this excited about the character in eons. Surprisingly, Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery. It also contains the most stunning action scene in the franchise: the opening chase on foot. Simply jaw-dropping. The way the film opens and concludes, perfectly establishes Bond's character arc. The length of time spent on the card game retains the classy and sophisticated attitude of 007. After all, what makes him so appealing is that he's so damn smart. Judi Dench is perfectly cold, and both the Bond girl and villain are brilliantly developed. Ultimately, it's leaps and bounds above all other 007 films. The final shot, line and musical score is masterfully poetic.

 

Genre: Action
Director: Martin Campbell

 

STARDUST MEMORIES (1980) 5 star

Allen's most underrated film. Beautiful black and white photography and surreal imagery that is clearly a tribute to Fellini's 8 1/2. Woody Allen manages to be both artistic, romantic, funny and melancholy. Allen often considers this among his best films and time is most definitely on its side. With each passing year, this film becomes deeper and more poignant. It's also his most experimental film to date.

 

Genre: Comedy
Director: Woody Allen

 

THE APARTMENT (1960) 5 star

Wilder's bold comedy about infidelity, loneliness and suicide. Lemmon and MacLaine are a perfect match and my heart goes out to Baxter. Wilder uses the cinemascope frame to illustrate the emptiness in everyone's lives. (Interestingly, Antonioni was exploring the exact same theme and use of space over in Italy with L'Avventura.) There is such pathos throughout this movie yet it's so utterly romantic. Thankfully, it never gets too sentimental because Wilder cynicism is intake. Considering the time, it's remarkable just how sordid everything is. Debauchery, shallowness, corporate sharks and empty sex. And they call this a comedy?

 

Genre: Comedy
Director: Billy Wilder

 

ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) 5 star

The bitchiest film ever made. An outstanding script with dynamite performances. It's a brutal attack on Hollywood and the fanaticism with celebrities. Timeless and way ahead of its time. It makes a nice companion piece to both A Star is Born (with Garland) and Scorsese's King of Comedy.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Josephn L. Mankiewicz

 

SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) 5 star

Billy Wilder's masterpiece. Dark, funny and tragic. Wilder dissects the "trappings" of Hollywood with perfection. Ironically, it never seems to get old.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Billy Wilder

 

THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES (1994) 5 star

Kiarostami's final chapter in his self-reflective trilogy. Beautiful storytelling with tender and engaging characters. He likes reminding us that we are watching a movie and it never seems to hurt the story.  It’s an agreement the filmmaker is making with the audience.  The trilogy is like a puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle.  As Kurosawa would say, there’s hope for the future of cinema so long as we have director’s like Kiarostami working.

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Abbas Kiarostami

 

FARGO (1996) 5 star

Pitch perfect black comedy. Coen brothers knock another one out of the park. The sparse location is matched by the vacant lead characters.  Unsettling, yet surprisingly profound and humane. It's a dual protagonist story where both Jerry and Marge are in denial and they're world views are shattered. Jerry by the consequences of his actions and Marge by the realization that Mikey lied to her in the restaurant (leading to her doubting Jerry.) Even the brilliant score sums up the sweet banality of the small town with an extreme impending violence that explodes under the surface (much like Taxi Driver.) The repressed societies are often the most violent. Clearly, the non-communicative Swede is the most frightening character in the film. Fargo is the kind of film that is unsettling, yet gets better with each viewing. Every scene is brilliantly hilarious.

 

Genre: Comedy
Director: Joel Coen

 

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