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Paul Jensen

Silver Winners: 31-40

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MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971) 5 stars

Altman's masterpiece is an anti-western unlike any other. It's always raining or snowing. Astonishing cinematography and genre-bending writing makes this a one-of-a-kind experience. Our hero is part-fraud and the authenticity of the violence and environment is what stands out. The prostitutes are also portrayed realistic and unflattering. (Although, I was taken aback at how pretty Shelley Duvall looked.) The Leonard Cohen songs perfectly fit the melancholic mood and the lighting throughout is as tempered and exquisite as in Barry Lyndon. Beatty and Christie are always enthralling to watch, making this an original and truly engrossing film.

 

Genre: Western
Director: Robert Altman

 

DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) 5 stars

Greed and lust motivate everything - definitive film noir. It's remarkable how nasty this film is for 1944. It essentially wrote the textbook on film noir and the femme fatale was epitomized (the blond wig is as phony as she is.) Prior to this film we may have already had gangster films but Wilder's first masterpiece brought the filth to the everyman - an insurance salesman. We side with the criminals, which was groundbreaking for the 40s (after the murder, we even gasp when the car won't start - a first in cinema.) The film also captures LA in the 40s perfectly. Beneath the facade lurked something sinister and dark. It's a sexy and dirty film. Ugly characters doing shitty things. But at the heart of the story is the solid and emotionally moving friendship between MacMurray and Robinson. Much like the ending of Casablanca, Double Indemnity brings two souls together. However, in this case, it fittingly ends tragic.

 

Genre: Film Noir
Director: Billy Wilder

 

42ND STREET (1933) 5 stars

This is a pioneering musical with the help of genius choreographer Busby Berkely. It is a timeless story with truly archetypal characters. Considering that sound was still relatively new in cinema, this must have been a mind-blowing experience at the time. We get a dramatic, intense and candid insight into these Broadway artist's lives. The grittiness and cut-throat approach keeps the film relevant and the Director is an unforgettable character. The dialogue, dance sequences and constant conflict make this classic a favorite of mine.

 

Genre: Musical
Director: Lloyd Bacon

 

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (1993)5 stars

Another remarkable achievement from Merchant/Ivory. Based on a brilliant and moving novel, this film benefits greatly from having two exceptional actors in their prime deliver such layered and achingly heart-breaking roles - Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. The film is also a master class in understatement. Jhabvala is widely regarded as the finest screenwriter for adaptation and her work here is a testament to that esteemed position. A broom, book or wine bottle can hold such nuanced and complex significance, that the result is devastating in its subtlety. It's a restrained and expertly crafted film. Both grand and minimalist at the same time, while capturing love at its most heart-wrenching. In the end, the talent accumulated here (including producer Mike Nichols) makes the end result, simply put, a masterpiece.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: James Ivory

 

HUSBANDS & WIVES (1992)5 stars

This raw, hand-held, hilarious and truthful drama/comedy holds up brilliantly after twenty years. At times both vicious and emotional. (Allen considers this among his personal favorites of his own work). The cinema verite style was a challenge, but Allen keeps things grounded with fully-developed characters, clearly inspired by Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Woody Allen

 

SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) 5 stars

Easily one of the funniest films ever made. An hysterical premise with incredible actors. Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd may be smarter, but this film takes the cake as far as comedy goes. Lemmon and Curtis are a joy to watch but it's Monroe that steals the screen.

 

Genre: Comedy
Director: Billy Wilder

 

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1998) 5 stars

What an uncompromising film this is. The end of an era is summed up. Gilliam stays true to the novel and delivers a completely subjective experience. There's also nothing in it that feels dated. It's an experience of both sound and vision. Hallucinogenic, terrifying, hilarious and extremely accurate. If you don't take drugs, this may seem a little self-indulgent. On the other hand, it's incredibly well-made and Depp and Del Toro give us two of the most outrageous and entertaining roles in their careers. "Dog fucked the Pope, no fault of mine." What else is there to say?

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Terry Gilliam

 

CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (2011) 5 stars

One of the finest documentaries I've ever seen. Herzog has moved me to tears yet again. The profound spirituality and level of depth is staggering. It also happens to be the best use of 3-D that I've ever seen. However, Herzog's film doesn't rely on any gimmicks, instead we get enormous emotional weight and ancient history. It's as if Herzog felt the need to literally place us three dimensionally in this environment. The score is among the best in recent years. This film documents the birth of art and somehow unites all artists throughout time. 40,000 years in the making.

 

Genre: Documentary
Director: Werner Herzog

 

SPRINGTIME IN A SMALL TOWN (2002) 5 stars

Another brilliant Taiwanese achievement. Haunting, gorgeous, heartbreaking and captivating. It demonstrates that dramatic love stories can be skillfully told through visual storytelling. I found the long takes, touching performances and exquisite images all very moving (the original came out in the 40s.) Zhuang also made two other masterpieces: The Blue Kite and Horse Thief (voted best film of the decade by Scorsese.) Both were banned in China.

Genre: Foreign
Director: Tian Zhuangzhuang

 

ETERNITY AND A DAY (1998) 5 stars

Winner of the Palm d'Or, this Greek masterpiece helps answer the question, what does it mean to live? Visual hypnotic with an exquisite score, this existential experience lingers in one's mind long after the film is over.

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Theo Angelopoulos

 

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