The Greatest Films Ever Made: The Top Thirty (#1-10)

Welcome once again to my can’t-miss list of the greatest films ever made. To review, the criteria is as rudimentary as I can make it: a) The immediate impact of the film and b) The compulsive need to see the film again and again. Yes, these are films I will think of on my death bed. The top ten films ever made..:

1. Aguirre, Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, Germany, 1972)

Indelible line: “I am the wrath of God. Who else is with me?” (Aguirre)

Lasting impression: The futility of man’s desires

2. No Country for Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen, US, 2007)

Indelible line: “What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a coin toss?” (Chigurh)

Lasting impression: Silent, relentless, unforgiving pursuit

3. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 2001)

Indelible line: “If you want to eat me, eat this first.” (Chihiro)

Lasting impression: Train ride with spirits across the flooded plain

4. Cleo from 5 to 7 (Agnes Varda, France, 1962)

Indelible line: “I always think everyone is looking at me, but I’m only looking at myself.” (Cleo)

Lasting impression: Adrift in the city

5. The Deerhunter (Michael Cimino, US, 1980)

Indelible line: “This is this. It ain’t something else. This is this.” (Michael)

Lasting impression: Not knowing what to do, knowing exactly what to do

6. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, US, 1939)

Indelible line: “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too.” (Wicked Witch of the West)

Lasting impression: Flying monkeys filling the sky

7. Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia, 2017)

Indelible line: “Twelve and a complete savage. Cries for no reason.” (Zhenya)

Lasting impression: Caution tape blowing over the frozen landscape

8. The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, USSR, 1957)

Indelible line: “What the hell kind of mother are you?” (Passing motorist)

Lasting impression: Running from her self, finding an orphan son

9. The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, US, 1998)

Indelible line: “In this world, a man, himself is nothing.” (Sergeant Welsh)

Lasting impression: The natural world in contrast to the warfare of man

10. Taxi (Jafar Pahani, Iran, 2015)

Indelible line: “They make your living a hell. Just let it go.” (Nasrin Sotoudeh)

Lasting impression: Who knew that defiance could have such a friendly face?

And, thinking you might want just a little bit more, here are the ten films that just missed the cut (in chronological order):

Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, US, 1926)

Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1927)

Tokyo Story (Yasujirō Ozu, Japan, 1953)

Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, US, 1980)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (John Hughes, US, 1987)

Superbad (Greg Mottola, US, 2007)

Gommorah (Matteo Garonne, Italy 2008)

The Florida Project (Sean Baker, US, 2017)

Shoplifters (Hirokai Kore-eda, Japan, 2018)

Capernaum (Nadine Labaki, Lebanon, 2018)

Ice Friday: James Jones “Thin Red Line”

The stark World War II prose of James Jones in The Thin Red Line remind us of what happens to the psyche when everything else is stripped away:

He heard the soft “shu-u-” of the mortar shell for perhaps half a second. There was not even time to connect it with himself or frighten him, before there was a huge sunburst roaring of an explosion almost on top of him, then black blank darkness. He had a vague impression that someone screamed but did not know it was himself. As if seeing dark film shown with insufficient illumination, he had a misty picture of someone other than himself  half-scrambling, rolling down the slope. Then nothing. Dead? Are we, that other one is I? am he? img_4553“Am I hit? Am I hit?”

“Yes,” Train mumbled. “Y-you are.” He also stuttered. “In the head.”

“Am I?” Fife looked at his hands and found them completely covered with the wet red. He understood now that peculiar red haze. Then terror blossomed all through him like ballooning great fungus, making his heart kick and his eyes go faint.

Terence Malick’s “Knight of Cups”

Words float through: Empty. Death. Grasping. Terence Malick's "Knight of Cups"The camera drifts underwater, everything a sweeping, swinging visual. Terence Malick's "Knight of Cups"Redeem my life. Justify it. That blinded you. Terence Malick's "Knight of Cups"I turned you upside down, my son. Longing for something other. Terence Malick's "Knight of Cups"There’s isn’t a story, just characters who stand about, some playing handsies. Terence Malick's "Knight of Cups"Nobody’s home.
Knight of CupsYou have to fly. Fly. Knight of CupsHigh up. Everything’s just a…speck.Terence Malick's "Knight of Cups"

(Extracts from Knight of Cups in bold italics)

Aspiring to the Enigmatic: Five Film Scenes

Advertisers want to give us answers, all of our confusion beaten into sell-able pulp.

Christian Dior sells the bag, not the question.

Christian Dior selling purses.

Movie trailers are the same.

Luhrman's "The Great Gatsby"

Baz Luhrman’s “The Great Gatsby”

All of it so simple and pornographically direct. Screenshot (208)The failure is in their intent, attempting to answer everything, give our lives a clear, cohesive narrative, when it is just the opposite.

Being John Malkovich

Spike Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich”

Real questions don’t do well under the spotlight; they wilt and are never clear. Sudden and enigmatic, they only offer a glimpse, making us stop and think, “Wait. What was that?”

5. Being There (1979, Hal Ashby) Chance watches cartoons in a limousine.Screenshot (262)4. The Thin Red Line (1998, Terrence Malick): American soldiers walk by a local in Guadalcanal.

Screenshot (277)3. Punch Drunk Love (2002, Paul Thomas Anderson): A car crashes in an empty street.Punch Drunk (3)2. The Graduate (1967, Mike Nichols): True love is realized…and then what?the_graduate_ending_shot_elaine_and_benjamin_on_bus1. Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog): In the end, only monkeys are left for the revolution.600x1000px-LL-89d5a674_aguirre

Who is with me?

Obsession II: Terrance Malick’s Images

Terrence Malick is a great filmmaker not because he knows how to tell a good story, but rather how he puts together a stunning set of visuals. Screenshot (96)I have been mildly obsessed with his work over the years, seeing all of his films – Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World, Tree of Life & In the Wonder – multiple times at various screenings. The Thin Red Line is the most striking piece of his career not only because of the images… Screenshot (80)Screenshot (67)Screenshot (94)but more so the thematic nature of how these visuals are ordered, offering a trail of creatures – man included – from beginning to end, an unnamed narrator speaking in questions and poetry: Who are you who live in so many forms?

Screenshot (69)Screenshot (74)Screenshot (118)Your death encaptures all.Screenshot (117)Screenshot (76)Screenshot (83)Screenshot (86) Where is that we lived together. Who were you that I lived with?Screenshot (114)Screenshot (84)Screenshot (87)Screenshot (89)Darkness and light, strife and love…are they the working of one mind? The features of the same face? Screenshot (90)Screenshot (92)Screenshot (93)Oh my soul, let me be in you now. Look out through my eyes. Look out at the things you made…all things shining. Screenshot (73)I saw the film just last night…and already want to see it again.

Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder”

To the Wonder is rich with Malickness: floating cameras, imprecise narrative and women, arms out-stretched, racing through fields. Wonder1All of this is easy to love or hate – or love and hate – but in the end misses the essence of what is being offered. It is through the lens of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki that we experience the wonder of the moving image, not only in nature…Tothewonder5but, more remarkably, in the light and line of suburban life. Tothewonder4These are the images that live in the corners of our collective memory. Tothewonder3It’s the kind of thing that you think you’ve seen before and must see again.