(A guest blogger today...anyone who regularly follows here sees his name pop up quite frequently. -et)
1. Nashville (1975, dir. Robert Altman)
Nashville is one of the only American cities built for the express purpose of creating music and the egos involved in propping it up are always on a collision course with one another. Robert Altman piles each level of humanity on top of one another until the personalities involved shirk or explode under the pressure. Most days, these characters just dream of fulfilling a greasy type of glamor they can’t even seem to justify to themselves in private.
2. The Third Man (1949, dir. Carol Reed)
An enchanting nightmare I can’t seem to wake up from. Von Trier’s Europa tried to take shortcuts with broad cinematic tricks to make the same points. He fell flat in providing any of the same charm or humor that Carol Reed dolls out like hard candies. We’re dropped into an eschew city to meet people we will never see again but will alter our perspective on human nature regardless. Our anchor, Harry Lime, seems both alive and dead in every frame even when we know the contrary to be definitively true. Possibly the greatest sense of unreality I’ve ever felt just looking at a movie.
3. Army of Shadows (1969, dir. Jean-Pierre Melville)
There have been probably dozens of anti-war movies with essentially the same message- it’s an endeavor managed by cruel incompetent amateurs that aren’t worth knowing in civilian life. Our heroes in Army of Shadows are resistance fighters so we get a better glimpse at the casual fascists they’ve always been.
4. Raging Bull (1980, dir. Martin Scorsese)
The grandest symphony of self-sabotage ever made.
5. Tokyo Story (1952, dir. Yasujiro Ozu)
Everything’s been written about how wonderful this movie depicts family and no one will argue that point for an instant. But it’s one of the most painful reminders of regional disconnect and the difficulty of stepping into and out of its shadow.
6 City of God (2002, dir. Fernando Meirelles)
“You need more than guts to be a good gangster. You need ideas.” Yep. Maybe the hardest breathing movie ever made. Everyone is just hungry to be rewarded for something in a slum where a passable idea makes you a legend or a marked man.
7. Once upon a Time in America (1984, dir. Sergio Leone)
I always felt if there was a film made about Tessio or Clemenza from the Godfather it would look something like this film. Noodles is adrift in years he can barely control and life-long friends he keeps alive in his memories only because he knows no one else. Leone’s made kind of an anti-epic with his final film. We begin with the rich large scale past of a washed up Jewish gangster that winnows into a muted and claustrophobic present.
8. Love and Death On Long Island (1997, dir. Richard Kwietniowski)
I went into this film without knowing anything about it and left wondering exactly what the motives were of every character. I wouldn’t dream of ruining it with a clip but I’ll just say we’re given tightly wound joy of an unhealthy obsession and how it can sustain, warp, and possibly enlighten us.
9. Say Anything (1989, dir. Cameron Crowe)
Cameron Crowe captures the intoxicating time between youth and the nervous hereafter by framing it as a love story. But more than that, it’s a tightly put together parlor drama about the fog of stability and honesty that can only be seen past during the longest nights of a single summer.
10. Alien (1979, dir. Ridley Scott)
Great horror movies are also incredible tragedies. The crew of the Nostromo in Alien slowly comprehends each element of the mystery of what they’ve discovered- but only after each member is killed by it. And even then we’re left decently confused by this creature and how every aspect of its lifespan exists for purposeless cruelty towards rational people. Within this void, the crew is deprived of the dignity of their terror before each one is picked off.