Essential Movies – 1960 – The Alternative Opinion

So, by now you should have read and wept over my Essential Movies discussion post and my post about the Essential Movies Of 1960 where I discussed whether some of the best movies of the year should be considered essential by everyone. It was a bit of a mess, and the conclusion is that only a handful should be seen as essential by a wider modern audience.

As I realized how futile all of this was, I decided the only way to escape was by digging down and making things worse – the end result being this post. This one is a little bit more fun and loose and worthy of discussion with friends, enemies, and randomers (I don’t like the word ‘randoms’). What I’m doing here is looking at 1960 as a whole and picking 10 films which I would personally call Essential (capital E from now on) from that year – the twist being that I am presenting those films (and only those films) to someone, or something else. Imagine you’ve been frozen in time for five hundred years and awoken in a bizarre future where the inhabitants of Earth have the technology to download and watch ancient movies but only the time to watch 10 from each year – what a bunch of freaks. Or you come into contact with aliens and face the same deal. You get where I’m going with this – 10 films from each year.

There are caveats; The future weirdos/aliens are interested in our history and culture and want to see that reflected in Film – they want to see Film’s growth and change as a medium, they want to know what was popular with the masses year to year, they want to understand why certain films won awards versus others. It can’t simply be your ten personal favourites of the year. This means we have some very loose guidelines – I could make these more strict, by all means you can make them more strict – but I don’t want to strangle all of the fun out of it.

Rules; One of your ten choices must be in the top 10 grossing films of the given year. One of the films must have been nominated for a Best Film Oscar (Best Picture, Best Foreign Feature, or Best Animated Feature). One of the films needs to appear in a renowned critic or magazine or book’s best films of the year. These choices can’t overlap. I think that’s it – only three guidelines. When I give my list, I’ll make the first three films hit those guidelines – the rest are in no order. Everything else is down to you, so go nuts. A final note – we’ll all have those years where we want to pick more than 10 movies. I’ll allow that, but only if you sacrifice a film from another year – if you can’t pick 10 movies in any year, the surplus choices from that year can be held over for another year, but you have to pick at least eight – come on now. Mine ahoy!

  1. The Apartment (Best Picture Winner)

2.  Spartacus (Top Grossing Movie)

3. La Dolce Vita (Best Films Of Year choice)

4. Psycho

5. The Magnificent Seven

6. Peeping Tom

7. Black Sunday

8. Breathless

9. Jigoku

10. The Virgin Spring

Feel free to comment the ten movies from 1960 which you would show to the aliens and weirdos of the future!

Essential Movies – 1960

Psycho': The horror movie that changed the genre | EW.com

Greetings, glancers! As promised/threatened in my spectacular viewer categorization post (remember that???), I wanted to have a look at what truly classifies a movie as ‘essential’. My main point in the post linked above is that ‘essential’ is subjective to the viewer, but if we can roughly classify viewers then we can perhaps distinguish between what is essential for each viewer type, and what is not. Now, this is not scholarly in the slightest, nor is it researched in any way aside from in my own head between 1 and 2 am when I can’t sleep. Take it with as many pinches of salt as you like, and perhaps some vinegar.

I’m going to do a thing – this thing; I’m going to look back at my Oscars posts and take the major nominated and award winning movies, and also check out a few lists of the Best Movies of that particular year, and I’m going to break them down into what is ‘essential’ for each viewer type. In other words, this is a pointless thing, like licking the underside of a table, throwing a Guava at a cat, Brexit, or indeed, watching movies. All those things happen, regardless of how pointless they are so I’ll be damned if I’m going to let something like necessity get in my way.

We should get one thing out of the way – as per my other post – The Critic should view all films as necessary, as should The Wannabe. If you are a Critic, or if you want to be a Critic, then every movie is essential. Sure some movies are more essential but rather than muddy the waters we’ll just skip The Critic and assume that they should aim to watch every movie ever made and we’ll let The Wannabe cover those italic areas. That leaves us with The Film Nerd, The Fan, The Casual, The Careless, and The Twat. The Twat doesn’t really count either because they are barely human.

For the list of films, I’ll use my own Oscars posts which cover both the Official Winners and Nominees and my own personal picks, and I’ll also use filmsite.org for anything not covered in my posts. Finally, it won’t be as important in these early years, but as time goes on it will be – I’ll also use Wikipedia and IMDB to cover the biggest grossing films of each year so that we don’t just get critic’s choices filling the list. Lets do this!

The Alamo

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

It was both directed by and starred John Wayne, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history, it won a (minor) Oscar and was nominated for several more, it won a Golden Globe for Best Score, it has a large and varied cast of important actors of the time, and is probably the most famous movie based on the significant historical event.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

John Wayne was a huge star, but it isn’t one of his most fondly remembered or best films. In the rest of the cast there aren’t any or many names which The Fan, The Casual, or The Careless will recognise – Frankie Avalon, maybe? Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, possibly? For a film now 57 years old (at time of writing), it isn’t one which comes up in typical discussions of the best movies of the year or the decade.

What I Think:

Not essential for any of our groups, though John Wayne fans and Wannabes will likely get to it eventually. A Wannabe critic may gloss over certain films from certain eras or genres, and this one doesn’t have enough significance to pull in such viewers with any urgency – same goes for The Film Nerd.

The Apartment

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Directed by Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley Maclaine, and Fred MacMurray. It was nominated for ten Oscars and won five – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Film Editing, and Art Direction. It was one of the Top Ten Grossing films of the year and critical praise remains high.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Billy Wilder was once a household name, but not any more outside of Film Nerds, Critics, and Wannabes. It’s a black and white comedy featuring moral ambiguities which likely don’t exist anymore, so much of the humour and satire will not work for a modern, casual audience.

What I Think:

Every Wannabe critic should see every Billy Wilder movie, and The Apartment is one of his most successful. As an important and influential comedy, The Film Nerd should consider it essential. The Fan will only see it as essential if they are a Wilder or Lemmon fan, though it is still recommended for general movie fans. The Casual And The Careless will not seek out this movie and it is unlikely they will have heard of it; if they stumble upon it while channel hopping, it is unlikely that it will grab their attention.

L’Avventura

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Directed by Antonioni. That’s pretty much it.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It’s old, it’s foreign, it’s weird.

What I Think:

Essential for Antonioni fans, but not his finest work. Wannabe critics should consider it essential but given the film’s age and lack of enduring cultural significance it seems unlikely that many will get to it. Not essential for Film Nerds or any other group.

The Bad Sleep Well

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Kurosawa. Mifune.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Old. Foreign.

What I Think:

Not one of Kurosawa’s most famous films, but it’s still Kurosawa and Mifune, and therefore is essential for Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds. Not essential for anyone else, unless you’re a fan of Kurosawa.

Black Sunday

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Mario Bava. One of the first gore films, influential on many horror films and directors which followed, and generally considered among the finest horror movies ever.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Foreign. Old. Weird. Dated effects, dodgy acting, and dubbing.

What I Think: Essential for horror fans. Out of all Mario Bava films this is the one most Wannabe Critics should see and Film Nerds should try it out. Other viewers do not need to see this.

Breathless

Why It Could Be Considered Essential: Jean Luc Godard writes and directs. One of the first and best movies of the French New Wave movement which inspired and influenced later generations of Hollywood directors. Frequently considered one of the Best Foreign movies of all time and usually appears on Critical lists of the best films ever made.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Foreign. Old. Weird. The regular American or British person will not know who Jean Luc Godard is, nor will they care about the French New Wave.

What I Think:

Essential for Wannabe Critics – you can’t be a critic without seeing this and understanding its significance. Essential for New Wave or Godard fans. Film Nerds should see it and should consider it essential. Not essential for anyone else.

Butterfield 8

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Starring Elizabeth Taylor who won an Oscar for her performance. Controversial. One of the highest grossing movies of the year.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

No-one remembers it or talks about it now, so much of its importance has waned over time. Taylor herself didn’t rate the film.

What I Think: Not essential for Film Nerds and therefore not essential for the other categories, but a must see for Liz Taylor fans. Not important enough that Wannabe Critics will have it at the top of their to do lists.

Elmer Gantry

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Stars Burt Lancaster who won an Oscar, it won two more Oscars, and was nominated for several others including Best Picture. A prescient film about truth and lies.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Most modern viewers will not care about Burt Lancaster, or a film about selling religion to small town America. It didn’t make a lot of money and isn’t a film you see referenced elsewhere or talked about in general.

What I Think:

Essential for Lancaster fans, Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics may get to it eventually, but there is a long list of films ahead of it.

Exodus

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Directed by Otto Preminger, won an Oscar for Best Score, nominated for two others, and stars Paul Newman. 3rd Grossing film of the year.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Most people today will still be aware of Paul Newman, but outside of fans he won’t be a draw. Otto Preminger was once prolific and taboo-breaking but won’t be a familiar name to most.

What I Think:

One for Newman, Preminger, or fans of the other cast members. A significant political film but better to stick with the book, but hardly essential. Wannabe critics should see it at some point, but Film Nerds won’t need to seek this one.

From The Terrace

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward work together. Top 10 Grossing film.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Think of Paul Newman films and you don’t think of this. Have you heard of it? No, you haven’t.

What I Think:

Not essential for anyone.

Inherit The Wind

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Spencer Tracey, Stanley Kramer, Gene Kelly, nominated for four Oscars. Relatively important subject matter covering free speech, McCarthyism, science, religion, fact, and faith.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

No stars that modern audiences will be aware of and a subject matter that may appear to be dated no matter how relevant it is in today’s climate.

What I Think:

Wannabe Critics should get to this one at some point, as should Tracey and Kramer fans as one of their best films. Film Nerds should get to it too, but like others here it is not as vital as a bunch of movies.

Jigoku

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Groundbreaking visuals and one of the most famous and important Japanese horror movies ever.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Modern Western viewers have enough trouble watching foreign movies, they aren’t going to be interested in one over fifty years old.

What I Think:

Essential for fans of Japanese Horror, Wannabe Critics, and Film Nerds. Not quite essential for fans of horror of Japanese Cinema in general. No one else will care.

Late Autumn

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Ozu. One of few films with 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Old. Slow. Foreign.

What I Think:

Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds should see at least one Ozu film – this isn’t one of his most famous, but is as well received as any. No-one else will care.

La Dolce Vita

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

One of the most famous and influential foreign movies ever, always listed as one of Best Films Ever. Directed by Fellini, won an Oscar for Best Costume Design, noted has having iconic styles and imagery.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Same as always – old and foreign, and people most modern audiences won’t be aware of.

What I Think:

A film you feel everyone should see, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a hard sell. There is something here for everyone and it is absolutely essential for Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics. I’d like to say most in The Fan category should see this but it’s unlikely that Casuals or The Careless will ever be interested.

The Magnificent Seven

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Steve McQueen. Yul Brynner. Charles Bronson. James Coburn. Eli Wallach. One of the best remakes of all time. Had several sequels, TV series, and its own remake. Iconic score.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Too lightweight and fun to be considered among the greats? I don’t know.

What I Think:

Essential for Wannabe Critics, Film Nerds, Fans. If a casual was planted in front of this, they would love it, and chances are most in The Careless category would too. One of the best Westerns ever and simply one of the most fun films of all time, packed with action, one-liners, an iconic cast and a terrific score – no reason not to see this.

Night And Fog In Japan

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Directed by Nagisa Oshima, who critics love.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

You know the drill, slow, old, foreign. Oshima is not as highly regarded as Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ozu.

What I Think:

Wannabe Critics should get to it, Film Nerds will probably pick some of his other films ahead of this. Not essential for anyone else, unless you’re a fan.

Ocean’s 11

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Sinatra. Sammy Davis Jr. Dean Martin. One of the original heist movies. Led to a remake which also had several sequels. Top 10 grossing film.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It’s not very good. It was been overshadowed by the sequel.

What I Think:

I’d consider the remake the more essential choice as it is more likely to be seen by The Fan, The Casual, and the Careless. Even for Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics it isn’t going to high on their watch list, but essential for fans of The Brat Pack.

Peeping Tom

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

A controversial and innovative, shocking and groundbreaking movie. Historically notable for effectively ending Michael Powell’s career in Britain. That Powell – of Powell and Pressburger fame who have several essential films and therefore others should be considered for viewing too. Now considered one of the best British movies and horror movies ever.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It doesn’t have star power for modern viewers who will not be as shocked or impressed by the violence or techniques. Some weirdos don’t like horror.

What I Think:

Essential for Wannabe Critics, Film Nerds, and horror fans. Most in The Fan category should try to see it but given the choice will go for Psycho first.

Please Don’t Eat The Daises

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Doris Day. David Niven. Top 10 Grossing Film.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

You’ve never heard of it. Doris Day and David Niven likely won’t be a draw for anyone today, and the comedy, while not dated necessarily, is a little light and fluffy.

Psycho

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

One of the most famous and acclaimed horror movies ever by arguably the greatest and most famous movie director of them all. Inspired countless imitators, essentially created a sub-genre, and was followed by a series of sequels, a remake, and an acclaimed TV series. Contains some of the most famous music and moments ever seen, moments which have been repeated and lampooned endlessly in the decades since.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It’s old and black and white and some people don’t like that sort of thing?

What I Think:

I think you know what I think. One of the most important horror movies ever and in my opinion this is the moment that modern Cinema began. Everyone needs to see it.

Spartacus

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Kubrick. Kirk Douglas. Olivier. I am Spartacus. Highest grossing movie of the year, won a load of Oscars.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It is very long, and some people don’t like that.

What I Think:

Kubrick’s first major hit – Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds should view every Kubrick film as essential. Depending on age and a variety of other factors, The Careless should see this, Casuals likely won’t care, should be essential for most in The Fan category though other Kubrick films will place higher on their must see list.

Suns And Lovers

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Nominated for Best Picture, Director and more, won Best Cinematography, Jack Cardiff directs one of DH Lawrence’s most important novels.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Most modern viewers will not care about the cast, Jack Cardiff, or DH Lawrence. It’s a watered down version of the book too.

What I Think:

Not essential for anyone, though Wannabe Critics may get to it eventually.

The Sundowners

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay. Fred Zinnermann, Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It didn’t win any of the Oscars and none of the people above will matter to anyone outside of Wannabe Critics and Nerds.

What I Think:

Not important enough to be considered essential for anyone, but Mitchum fans will see it.

Swiss Family Robinson

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Top five grossing film that year, probably the best version of the story.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Dated, and no-one today will care about any of the cast.

What I Think:

A good, family oriented adventure film that you may want your kids to watch, but not essential for any particular group.

Village Of The Damned

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

The best adaptation of Wyndham’s book and features several iconic moments which are referenced in later works.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Dated, no-one will care about the cast, horror fans watching for first time likely won’t have the scares and sensations generated at the time of release.

What I Think:

A classic chiller but hard to say it’s essential even for Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics. Horror fans should give it a go, and it’s a good introduction to horror and sci-fi for younger or newer horror fans.

The Virgin Spring

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

One of Bergman’s most famous and mainstream works and critics will say every Bergman film is essential.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Old, black and white, foreign.

What I Think:

If you’re going to pick any single Bergman film to watch, it should be this or The Seventh Seal. Essential for Bergman fans, Wannabe Critics, Film Nerds should see it, no-one will will give a toss.

The Young One

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Luis Bunuel. Critics love him. 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Luis Bunuel… who?

What I Think:

A lesser Bunuel work, but fairly conventional and simple – not avant-garde. Only possibility of this being essential will be for Bunuel fans and Wannabe Critics, but even then it’s touch and go.

Well, that was bubbling lump of garmonbozia. If you have any thoughts about any of the above or feel that any of my opinions have counter arguments then feel free to launch those in the comments. I’ll have an alternative post coming up shortly which takes a different approach to Essential Movies, and I’ll (try to) follow that through for the rest of the years from 1960 onwards!

The Password Is Courage

The Password is Courage original film poster | Movie Poster Studio 1184

If there’s anything to learn from The Password Is Courage it’s that Dirk Bogarde was a bad-ass. Check out any biography or discussion of his past, his own part in World War 2, and many other antics; bad. ass. The Password Is Courage was by no means the first POW movie, but it’s one of the most underrated and lesser known, with an opening 10 minutes which must rank among the most entertaining I’ve seen in the genre. Make no mistake, this is neither gruelling nor overtly political, or even particularly serious, sharing more similarities with something like The Great Escape. 

The film opens with Bogarde’s Sgt-Major Coward and cohorts already in a POW camp. We don’t get to see this camp actually being as horrific as we know they could be (there were of course limits to what movies could show and what audiences could tolerate back then) but we know the Allied soldiers want freedom. Coward consistently makes a nuisance of himself and is trying to look for ways to escape – on a forced march he slips away and hides in a farmhouse. Unfortunately for him, this farmhouse is already about to be taken over by the Germans as a hospital – luckily, the Germans are idiots and they mistake Coward for an injured German soldier and award him the Iron Cross in a particularly amusing scene. All of these antics are merely set up for his actual escape as he is quickly recaptured and sent back to his POW camp. A brave move to have a fake-out escape in the opening moments and which takes up a fair chunk of the running time.

The rest of the movie follows Coward continuing to lie, cheat, and steal his way from Camp to Camp – pissing off both Germans and Allies equally in his search for freedom. He gets a friend, he meets a pretty lady, and there are moments of both action and humour. The film never comes close to striking a serious nerve and while I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a jolly romp through the worst period of the 20th Century so much as offering a clearly fictional more light-hearted take on the audacity, bravado, and luck of some of those involved.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Password Is Courage!

Life

Life movie review & film summary (2017) | Roger Ebert

If movies have taught us anything, it’s that travelling to space will either lead to jolly adventures with feisty bikini clad Princesses and furries, or gruesome/slimy/explosive death. Life explores the second option, placing the viewer in a realistic present day landscape rather than the not too distant future of Alien – one of several movies it is more than inspired by. By camping us inside the orbital real world ISS alongside a skeleton crew of cross-continental familiar faces, yet giving us fleeting glimpses of what is happening back home – births, parades, cute kids asking cute questions – Life aims to alarm us into thinking what if the guys up there right now discover something hostile?

We join our crew of six as they collect soil samples from Mars which may contain evidence of <insert title here>. Turns out there is life out there, of the single celled variety, and turns out the cell just needs a touch of glucose to get it up in the morning. One taste of sugar and the little bastard begins sprouting, stretching, and expanding. Like all babies, translucent or otherwise, it wants to explore and wreck shit. Once named (by some cute Earthlings), Calvin crushes his daddy’s hand, yeets out, and begins an adolescent rampage. While the film has rightly been called an inferior mixture of Gravity and Alien, it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s a retelling of every parent’s experience with a toddler ever, with more CG. Like every movie set in space, there’s a frantic race against time, lots of clamouring to solve impossible problems, and people picked off one by one as they fight for survival and try to prevent the ever growing, increasingly wobbly Calvin making his way to the good ol’ US of Earth.

It’s a fine watch from start to finish, without really offering anything new. It feels more like a case of updating every aspect of the movies it apes; updated special effects, updated creature effects, updated dialogue – everything to make the film more appealing to today’s audience. The only time the movie puts its neck on the line is with its ending – a refreshingly un-Hollywood ending but one you know is coming so that, once again, it comes as no surprise and dilutes any shock value it was meant to generate. Most attempts at fleshing out each character – and to the film’s credit it does try to do this – most of these attempts feel trite and not genuine. Rather than any individuality, the film offers a stock archetype and then gives each one a single thing which marks them as different from the other. Sanada is Japanese, and has a kid on the way. There’s the disabled dude who, for some reason, becomes obsessive at bringing Calvin to life, Gyllenhaal is calm and cold, but is perfectly happy living in Space, Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds etc. Each aspect totalled up amounts to a perfectly average film – if you haven’t seen Alien or Gravity then maybe this will have more of an impact on you and for a night in it passes the time without forcing you to think or become too invested, while equally staving off the boredom.

Let us know what you think of Life in the comments!

Nightman’s Introduction To Foreign Cinema – C

Let’s move on to C! See!

Canada

Neve Campbell | Attrici, Neve campbell, Canada

For any unadventurous Americans, Canada should be right up there with Australia and the UK to get used to the concept of Foreign Cinema. Many big budget and hit films and TV shows are filmed in Canada with a Canadian crew and cast to save money, while the Country also has its own expansive and dedicated industry featuring both English and French language productions.

Key Gateway FilmsBlack Christmas (The original slasher), Eastern Promises (sex trafficking and gangsters with Viggo Mortensen), Ginger Snaps (incredibly overrated but watchable teen werewolf fare), Incendies (twins discover war and mystery in The Middle East), The Decline of The American Empire (sex and laughs between intellectuals), Resident Evil Series (zombies and freaks loosely based on the game series), Meatballs (it’s not Star Wars), Porky’s (sexy teen romp), Scanners (head explosions), Splice (man makes creature and gets horny), Trailer Park Boys (movies based on the show).

Notable Directors: James Cameron (The Terminator, Avatar), David Cronenberg (Scanners, The Fly), Sarah Polley (Away From Her Take This Waltz), Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners), Jason Reitman (Juno, Up In The Air)

Notable Stars: Malin Akerman, Dan Aykroyd, Pamela Anderson, Will Arnett, Raymond Burr, Genevieve Bujold, Neve Campbell, John Candy, Jim Carrey, Hume Cronyn, Michael J Fox, Lorne Greene, Corey Haim, Laurie Holden, Michael Ironside, Joanne Kelly, Margot Kidder, Eugene Levy, Evangeline Lily, Rachel McAdams, Rick Moranis, Carrie Anne Moss, Ellen Page, Mary Pickford, Anna Paquin, Christopher Plummer, Matthew Perry, Keanu Reeves, Seth Rogan, Donald Sutherland, Keifer Sutherland, Jennifer and Meg Tilly, Michael Wincott.

China

Hero (2002) - Rotten Tomatoes

The first thing to clarify for any newbs is that China and Hong Kong are separate entities – different place, different business, different movies, though there are obviously many similarities. If you want any more info, go to a news site as we’re here for da movies. Ho. China is huge, and it does make huge movies with many focusing on history and martial arts, yet I’ve seen far fewer films than those which fall under Hong Kong.

Key Gateway Films: Red Sorghum (Zhang Yamou drama about… pissing in booze), Raise The Red Lantern (that man again, gorgeously shot drama about one of many wives), Farewell My Concubine (Leslie Cheung masterclass about a circus/opera group destroyed by love and politics), The Opium War (ignore the plot and enjoy the sights), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (swordplay and skipping over rooftops), Hero (more epic swordplay), The Ghost Inside (fairly conflicting horror story with a dash of realism, or vice versa), Thru The Moebius Strip (3D animation sci fi), The Warlords (Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro are badass), Red Cliff (John Woo goes epic).

Notable Directors: Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine), Diao Yinan (Night Train), Feng Xiaogang (Aftershock), Huang Shuqin (A Soul Haunted By Painting), Tian Zhuangzhaung (The Blue Kite), Zhang Yimou (House Of Flying Daggers).

Notable Stars: There is too much of a crossover here with Hong Kong and Taiwan, so I’m not going to even bother – I’ll leave this for the Hong Kong entry.

There are also notable films from Chile, Croatia, and Czech Republic but I don’t know enough movies from those countries to adequately comment. If you have seen any from those places or any other ‘C country’ let us know what you thought in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1994!

 

Here is my updated list of favourite films of 1994 – there aren’t actually any new entries, I’m simply adding a few blurbs on each film. First, the few which missed out on my Top 20 – Heavenly Creatures which saw Peter ‘I kick ass for The Lord’ Jackson, branching out from his shlock horror comedies and making something more emotionally substantial and mainstream. The Last Seduction aimed to single-handedly bring the noir genre kicking and screaming back to life, with a great performance by Linda Fiorentino, while The River Wild is Die Hard in a dinghy.

And now, the Top Twenty:

20: Little Women (US) Gilliam Armstrong

I don’t know why, but I generally enjoy the Little Women movies. That’s not strange in and of itself – what’s strange is that I can’t stand the original novel. This movie is gorgeously shot and has all of the hair and clothing and all of that crap that people seem to love, but more importantly it has a badass cast of people just coming into their own or at the top of their game – Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale, Samantha Mathis, Gabriel Byrne, Trini Alvarado, Eric Stoltz and more. As acclaimed as this one was at the time, it’s a bit sad that it will now be overlooked by the overblown success of the 2019 version.

19: Ace Ventura (US) Tom Shadyac

Jim Carrey was maybe on the greatest sequence of starring roles in history in 1994, with a trio of all time classics. All three are on my list, this one and the next one are interchangeable in their quality and my enjoyment of them. This and The Mask are great fun. Pity the sequel is balls.

18: The Mask (US) Charles Russell

See above.

17: Stargate (US/France) Roland Emmerich

I loved Stargate when it was released – it was such a spectacle, plus it dealt with a period of history I have always been curious about, and it was done in a cool 90s way. AND you get Kurt Russell. It has since been overshadowed by the epic TV spin-offs but this was the starting point of one of the greatest, most underrated expanded universes in fiction.

16: Forrest Gump (US) Robert Zemeckis

It’s one of those films which I never feel like I need to revisit. It was fun, heartwarming, sure a little saccharine, but features one of the most iconic performances of the decade, one of the most recognisable characters in movie history, and some memorable one-liners. It’s an all round good film which hasn’t lost any of its potency.

15: The Lion King (US Disney)

It’s The Lion King. People love this a lot more than I do, and while I agree it is massively overrated, it’s still wonderful. Superb anmiation, great songs, amusing characters – classic Disney – before they sold out.

14: Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (US/Japan) Kenneth Branagh

Lets face it, the 90s produced arguably the best movie version of Dracula and almost certainly the best movie version of Frankenstein – coming from a big fan of both Universal and Hammer. It’s not without its problems, much of that is simply to do with bringing the story to the screen in the first place, but it gets the pathos and the monstrosity of the original text correct, and offers Robert De Niro the chance to portray the sort of character A-listers wouldn’t usually come within 50 miles of.

13: Timecop (US) Peter Hyams

Did I ever do a TTT for Jean Claude Van Damme? I don’t know man, I’ve been doing this blog for generations. Timecop is the movie Looper wishes it was, with added mullets.

12: The Shawshank Redemption (US) Frank Darabont

Frequently listed as the greatest movie of the decade, and often as the greatest movie of all time, it still gives me great pleasure when ardent anti-horror or anti-Stephen King fans begrudgingly admit how good this is. Sure the movie succeeds based on Darabont’s direction and the terrific cast, but it all comes down to the story by King – a story of hope and of crawling through all of the shit life pours on you. It’s another fine example of The Academy completely ignoring Horror – or even anything with the stench of Horror attached to it – as the film was overlooked in every category it was nominated in (though fair enough, there were some excellent movies and winners this year).

11: Ed Wood (US) Tim Burton

Ed Wood is Tim Burton Oscar bait… I think. It’s one of those movies about movies, about the love of making them, about the whole system and the business. While movies like this have always been critical darlings, Burton decided to flip the whole shtick and make the focus one of the most notoriously ‘bad’ filmmakers in history. Wood is presented as an exuberant guy with a dream, a man who refuses to allow reality to crush his pursuit of making his dream come true or dull his love of the movies. Depp and Landau are on top form here, and it’s another Horror adjacent movie which The Academy couldn’t avoid.

10: Natural Born Killers (US) Oliver Stone

One of the most controversial movies of the 90s, this was certainly ahead of its time with its protagonists/antagonists taking their murder and mayhem to the road accompanied by an orgasmic media. Lewis and Harrelson have a natural born chemistry and whip out career best manic performances, ably backed up by a ‘remember me, everybody’ Robert Downey Jr, Rodney Dangerfield, Tom Sizemore, and Tommy Lee Jones. Few films whip up such controversy in their wake and few films have such a unique mish mash of styles and genres, creating an orgiastic fever-dream of drama, comedy, and violence.

9: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (US) Wes Craven

If you want to breath life back into a dying series, you can do worse than handing back the reins to its creator a decade later. In a precursor to his meta mega-hit Scream, New Nightmare upends series and genre tropes as it peels back the curtain and blurs the increasingly more fragile walls between the real and fictional world. Wes brings back original cast members to tell the story of Heather Langenkamp – actress most famous for her performances in the Elm Street series – whose fictional arch enemy Fred Krueger has somehow found a way into the real world. The movie dispenses with much of the humour of the popular sequels, instead posing questions about fandom and the impact of fame and exposure to violent material on those who are both part of these worlds and help to create it. The film doesn’t scrimp on the gore even as it dispenses with many of the creative setpieces and kills which the series had become known for, but ends up being all the more nasty and interesting for it.

8: Clerks (US) Kevin Smith

There have been few better or equivalent Indie first times movies than Clerks – a movie of its time which capitalized upon the torchlight being shone on Indie film at the time, but which nevertheless remains fresh, vital, and hilarious even decades later. Smith would hone his writing and directing skills over the years, but this may be his most pure effort, pulling together friends and familiars and shooting on a shoestring, yet managing to create a much funnier, much stronger product than almost any other studio comedy of the decade.

7: True Lies (US) James Cameron

James Cameron doesn’t make many films, but when he does they’re either record-breakers, masterpieces, or at worst perfectly entertaining B genre fare. True Lies is neither a record breaker nor a masterpiece, but he did release it in between T2 and Titanic, so it can be viewed as a palette cleanser. More than that, it’s a send up of the spy/secret agent/Bond genre as Arnie leads a double life as a boring family man and a world-saving action hero. It’s the lightest, funniest film in the Cameron-verse, bolstered by an amusing trope-twisting script and fun takes by Jamie Lee Curtis and Bill Paxton.

6: Speed (US) Jan de Bont

The undisputed action movie event of the year, and one of the best of the decade. While the 80s featured muscle-bound bullet dodgers mowing down hordes of faceless bad dudes, the enlightened audiences of the 90s needed something more. Something like a bad dude who used to be a good dude, and a good dude who is flawed and hasn’t experienced the bicep sprouting pleasures of steroids, and a story more inventive than ‘bad dude kidnaps x and good dude must destroy everything’. Speed is one of the finest examples of the 90s take on the genre – reckless rookie Keanu Reeves comes up against crazed ex good guy Dennis Hopper and has to stop him blowing people up. The bulk of the movie takes place on a bus – a bus filled with passengers and Sandra Bullock – a bus armed with explosives which will go off if the bus goes under 50MPH, but there’s also a gripping climax involving a subway. Like its central plot device, the thrills, action, and tension never let up once they start, and the cast have a whale of a time.

5: Pulp Fiction (US) Quentin Tarantino

See my favourite movies of decade post.

4: Interview With The Vampire (US) Neil Jordan

See my favourite movies of decade post.

3: Leon (France) Luc Besson

See my favourite movies of decade post.

2: The Crow (US) Alex Proyas

See my favourite movies of decade post.

1: Dumb And Dumber (Top Ten Of All Time) (US) Peter Farrelly

See my favourite movies of decade post.

Let us know your favourites in the comments!

Blood Fest

Blood Fest (2018) – Review | Mana Pop

I seem to start a lot of posts these days with the phrase ‘if you’re a regular to this blog’, which suggests I’m covering a lot of the same topics on a loop, but if you’re a regular to this blog then you’ll know I love fiction and movies set around theme parks, fun parks, carnivals and the like. In recent years we’ve had a few films in this vein, expanding out to also cover the Escape Room craze, and in 2018 alone we confusingly had Hell Fest and Blood Fest – two films set inside the curious theme parky world of Horror-Cons.

Blood Fest begins promisingly, with a mother and son snuggled up watching horror movies on the sofa. The mum goes into the kitchen to grab more popcorn, and when she doesn’t come back the son goes to the kitchen only to find a masked killer standing over his mum’s bloodied body. Flashforward to present day and the boy is now a teenager obsessed with Horror movies, while his dad is a psychologist who argues against Horror and other violent forms of media as they lead to the sort of disorders or crimes which led to his wife’s death. It’s a decent setup, and even though all I expect or want from a movie like this is some fun chase and kill shenanigans using the location in an interesting way, this had the potential to discuss some deeper topics.

It’s odd then that the setup doesn’t really go anywhere. There’s no sense of grief within the family, there’s little real discussion on the ills, perceived or otherwise, of Horror movies on impressionable people – which is especially strange because the entire plot hinges on that exact device – and it means that I was left a little disappointed by the final product. Had a more generic setup been in place I would have taken this as a simple fun slasher, but as it suggests its going to have more depth – when it doesn’t deliver on that promise I ask what the point of it all was.

We should bear in mind though that the movie is a comedy – it’s a comedy set in the world of Horror and Horror fandom, with plenty of nods and in jokes both broad enough for casual fans to get, and more specific such as a moment recalling The Exorcist 3’s famous jump scare. There’s quite a lot of gore – of the over the top, spurting Asian variety – but there isn’t an ounce of tension or true horror here. It’s 100% in the Comedy genre, like a poor man’s Shaun Of The Dead. The teenager hero and his two friends are planning to attend Blood Fest – a celebration of all things Horror, with rides, celeb meet and greets, booze, music, and everything else you would expect from an overblown Con. The twist is that once the guests arrive, all doors are locked, all gates are electrified, and all bets are off as the Con’s host – an overly camp Owen Edgerton – wants to film the greatest Horror movie of all time by killing all of the guests throughout the different areas of the park. The park is split into different areas matching a particular Horror theme or trope – zombies, vampires, killer clowns – and each area is filled with maniacal killers or monsters. Again, there’s a cool idea in here – a Horror based Battle Royale – but we focus on our small group of survivors, and the park’s areas are only given cursory glances. I’d have enjoyed more of a thorough Running Man style chase through these areas with a sense of progress and threat and a chance to feel the different atmosphere of each. A larger group of survivors, seeing them get whittled down as they make their way towards the Exit or the centre, would have been cool.

Our heroes are not the most exciting bunch – lead horror geek, his feisty love interest, his geeky friend, the hot blonde, and ostensibly the hot blonde’s jerk boyfriend and a cowardly horror actor. They never feel like they are in any real danger, and even when they begin to get picked off we’re not given any reason to care – and the survivors don’t react much. A sharper script would have improved matters, but there’s a much better film in here as I’ve alluded to; that idea of survival in a Horror version of Disneyland, complete with cameos from famous faces from within the genre, and by all means spice it up with social commentary or meta influence. As it stands, Blood Fest is a let down on most fronts – the laughs are flat, the commentary may as well not be there, the gore is silly, the plot is uninteresting, and the location is underused and not fleshed out. Still, it’s a brief enough watch and if you’re into films set in the same sort of universe and location as this, you’ll likely get some basic enjoyment out of it.

Let us know what you thought of Blood Fest in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1996!

Arnold Schwarzenegger brings Christmas cheer and gratuitous violence in Jingle  All The Way / The Dissolve

Brassed Off

1996 is a year I love, so my picks this year are less on the ‘I hated this side’ and more on the ‘meh’ side. Brassed Off is a shining example of this – there’s nothing wrong with the movie, and it’s certainly a damn sight better than the usual 90s English comedy fare I despise. But still, it is a quirky English comedy so it’s never going to be more than ‘meh’ for me.

Down Periscope

Everybody loved Fraiser, right? Sure, it wasn’t as laugh out loud as Friends, and it lacked any emotional connection, and it presented a world of high class intellectualism that few of us could relate or aspire to, but it was still a good show. Kelsey ‘that’s not a real name, and neither is my surname’ Grammer attempts to cash in on his flagship show’s fame by making this Police Academy/Airplane knock-off. It’s funny in places, but it feels out of place in the 90s.

Emma

Lets get out the checklist again, shall we? English? Costume Drama? Quirky rom com? Gwyneth Paltrow. Oscar Bait? This was a cert for my bottom films of the year as soon as it was announced. I like Jane Austin as much as the next English Literature University Graduate, but I much prefer these texts on page than on screen. It’s the story and characters I care about – not the costumes or the setting which are admittedly… pretty? Don’t care. But you ruin it by throwing Paltrow in there who, by her third starring role, I’d long since given up on ever making something I’d be remotely interested in. 

The English Patient

This is more of the same, but at least they dispense with any quirky comedy, replace Paltrow with Binoche, and have the film set in a period I’m actually interested in, but they hike up the sentimentality and the Oscar bait to ridiculous levels. You knew this was down for Best Picture as soon as it was announced, regardless of quality. It’s fine, but not my thing. 

Escape From LA

John Carpenter didn’t have the best of decades in the 90s – he made a batch of interesting films and relative flops, some less interesting material too. Escape From LA feels like a last gasp attempt to win his fans over again, a sequel to one of his most culty cult favourites and featuring one of his most beloved characters. But it’s horrible, mostly a rehash of what was done better in the original, with the added slap in the tits of some shocking special effects. There’s some interesting stuff here – the casting, the score, the nihilism, but there’s also all of this silly misplaced humour… I’m not sure what went wrong but another go over the script, and update of the effects, and a few tonal shifts and I’m sure it would have been a much stronger film.

The First Wives Club

I’m not sure why I even put myself through this in the first place as a glance as the synopsis was enough to make me vomit through every pore in my body. It must have been because Hugh Wilson helmed, and he gets a pass for me every time thanks to Police Academy. But Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton – actresses I’ve never cared for – and even worse they have Maggie Smith and Stockard Channing in supporting roles. Silly comedy and a silly story, annoying characters, and the whole thing is aimed squarely at the middle aged woman market who lapped it up like a discount Yoga DVD. All together now – not. for. me.

Jingle All The Way

This should have been for me – Christmas movie and Arnie? What could go wrong? Well, nothing in the entire movie goes right. Brian Levant has never made a good movie – Beethoven is about as close as he came – and what’s more, he’s been attached to a Police Academy reboot for a while, so God help us all. I know it was successful, and I know it was a festive release, but who the hell was this for? It’s an utter mess from top to bottom with not even an Arnie one-liner to redeem a single second.

Michael Collins

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but as much as I dislike quirky English comedies, I equally can’t stand Irish drama. There’s so much potential here, but they end up being so dour, so divisive, and so Award-baity. Michael Collins is each of those things, with the added bonus of featuring a character and story I’m never going to be interested in. It’s mostly well acted, and Neil Jordan knows his way about a movie, but it’s yet another example of the sordid history of a group of island nations whose greatest heroes are also war-mongering murderers.

Striptease

How exactly do you have a movie called Striptease and not show any boobs? At least Showgirls had the dignity to, you know, show girls. Sadly, the film is so boring and uneventful that there probably were boobs all over the place but I was too bored to notice. Look, it was a good year so I’m struggling with what movies to pick – this one is legitimately bad.

There you go – any favourites above? What other terrible movies were unleashed in 1996? Let us know in the comments!

The Forest Of Love

The Forest of Love | Netflix Official Site

Sion Sono is one of the finest directors working today – a true auteur and one whose films never shy away from controversy. Due to this fact, his films can be an acquired taste running the gamut from tasteless to touching, from being wildly inventive to morally dubious. Forest Of Love is no different – a film (and later a longer Director’s Cut transformed into a TV series rather like Tokyo Vampire Hotel and Love Exposure) based on a real life series of crimes which… yeah, you don’t really want to read about those. Having been unaware of the crimes, or the fact that film was loosely ‘inspired’ by the story surrounding the crimes, I was left with a confusing duality in my opinion about the film. The film walks a very thin line between who we should feel sympathy for and places its antagonist in such a Patrick Bateman-esque lead, bombastic position that you can’t help but be enchanted by his presence. I imagine that was half of the point – to attempt to show just how some people can become so wrapped up in the charm and mystique of a person that they would kill or die for them. Japan has a history of such cult figures, and Sion Sono has covered this type of character and belief system in many of his films. Forest Of Love may feature his most charismatic lead yet.

If you’re not familiar with Sono’s work, Forest Of Love’s opening moments can be jarring. There’s a multitude of characters interspersed over seemingly unrelated story arcs, and he plays fast and loose with title cards, editing, and musical score. The characters we meet early on include con man Joe Murata (in a star turn by Kippei Shiina), outcast film nerd friends Jay and Fukami, virgin loser Shin, and rebellious loner Taeko. Through shared secret pasts and hopes for the future, these groups come together, but further secrets are continually revealed as individual motives bubble violently to the surface.

Murata is a bewilderingly charismatic presence, at various times through the movie appearing as a screen writer, director, professor, businessman, pop star, cultist, masochist, and more, and the viewer can’t help but enjoy his performance and character. As things become aggressively darker in the second half, we’re forced to re-evaluate or opinions. His character is not the only one to make us question our feelings, with a number of core characters twisting 180 degrees or further.  When the closing text reveals that the film was based on a true, recent series of murders we need to re-evaluate further. What is the purpose of it all?

Sono enjoys making already muddy waters even more enticing and dank, seemingly revelling in the ambiguity of his stories, characters and audience reaction. In a film dealing with all manner of violence, from self harming to suicide, from torture and murder to body disposal, he directs with a wink and a smile, and with the auteur energy of a much younger, overly enthusiastic master. It’s easy to draw parallels to far such as Man Bites Dog or Natural Born Killers, but this is very much its own thing with its own style and fog-shrouded lessons. I can’t recommend it as a good time – even as I thoroughly enjoyed it – but I can recommend it as yet another top tier engaging opus from Sono. I know Sono is branching out with Nic Cage this year, hopefully bringing his madcap skills to a new Western audience, but there’s little stopping people from jumping in the bandwagon early as this is available on Netflix for everyone now.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of The Forest Of Love!

Nightman’s Updated Top Ten Movies Of 1998!

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

As always, I look at the films which narrowly missed out on my Top Ten. American History X  is a film which sadly has become increasingly relevant since its release, rather than less so. While recent cultural events have seen – not a rise in racism, but an increase in the number of existing racists feeling like they have a voice in society and that their sad little opinions deserve to be heard. Even if its events had become a relic of a less enlightened past, it would still remain a powerful, flawlessly written, directed, and performed film. 

Apt Pupil makes for the perfect partner if you’re looking for a seriously depressing double bill. Based on the riveting Stephen King Novella, it follows a deranged youth with a fasciation for Nazism realizing that a friendly old man in his town is actually a former Concentration Camp monster hiding in the US. Featuring career bests from Ian McKellan and Brad Renfro, it’s one of the most underseen movies of the year.

The Big Lebowski is just a lot of fun, a lazy laidback movie which it is deliciously easy to slip on in the background and find your happy place – and I’m nowhere near the biggest fan of it, while The Idiots is Lars Von Trier hitting his stride and entering the ‘I will offend everyone’ stage of his career.

Mulan is a late in the day hand drawn classic by Disney which was overlooked somewhat at release, and has been somewhat re-evaluated in the aftermath of it being remade, while Run Lola Run was a film like no other at the time, a film told from different angles in a looping Quantum Leap manner while we hope for a happy ending. 

10: Wild Things (US) John McNaughton

A dirty, perverted, hilarious thriller by the man who brought us Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, this is a teenage boy’s dream. Certainly for me, the idea of another Neve Campbell movie was more than enough to get my attention, but throw in the odd sweaty boob shenanigans with her and Denise Richards and a cast featuring Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, and Bill Murray, tied around a script which twists and upends Noir tropes, and you have a wonderful little film which people only remember for its threesome – it’s certainly a lot more. 

9: The Truman Show (US) Peter Weir

I always championed Jim Carrey as a great actor, seeing behind his slapstick japes and face-pulling, but he never got the material to prove himself to Critics until The Truman Show came along. He’s the lynchpin which holds this high-concept drama together, and the focal point for the world wide reality show hit he is the star of. He lives in your typical ideal Good Old USA town, has the perfect job, perfect wife, and yet yearns for me – triggered by memories of lost love. Turns out his entire life has been designed for our entertainment and everyone he has ever known is an actor – his town a giant set, and every action he performs nothing more than the latest episode of a long running TV show. Slowly he begins to realise that something isn’t right and he tests the boundaries of his neighbours, friends, and family unsure if he is having a breakdown or if he is part of some big conspiracy. It’s charming, the perfect fuzzy comfort movie, and everyone is on hot form – Carrey, Ed Harris, Natasha McElhone, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich.

8: Dark City (US/OZ) Alex Proyas

I’m probably one of the few people who saw this before seeing The Matrix. Due to my love of The Crow, I wanted to see what else Proyas had up his sleeve – while this isn’t on the same level as The Crow, it is another twisted dark fantasy with signature cinematography and some bamboozling ideas. While it has plenty in common with The Matrix it equally draws comparisons to The Truman Show, Memento, Inception, and any number of European movies of the 60s and 70s, yet the same acclaim and fame has so far eluded it. It stars Rufus Sewell as a man who wakes in a bathroom with no memory, a corpse in the next room, and a group of trenchcoated freaks in hot pursuit. As the film progresses, he picks up clues about his life and surroundings including the fact that he can manipulate his surroundings with the power of his mind, and yet he seems to be the only person questioning the world’s perpetual darkness. It’s one of those films who have to see for yourself, and descriptions don’t do it justice. If the idea doesn’t pull you in, the shifting Expressionist city visuals should, but if those aren’t enough to entice you, the cast also includes Keifer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, Melissa George, William Hurt, and the great Richard O’Brien. 

7: Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (US) Terry Gilliam

Speaking of films which should be experienced rather than trying to explain, Terry Gilliam’s take on Hunter S Thompson’s Gonzo classic is the perfect example. Avoiding such niceties and narrative and plot, it loosely follows Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro’s drugged up shenanigans in Las Vegas as they encounter bats, giant lizards, motorcycles, rotating floors, horrendous casinos, and familiar faces such as Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey, Flea, Cameron Diaz, Ellen Barkin, Verne Troyer, Jenette Goldstein, Harry Dean Stanton and others. It’s a complete mess, but in the best possible way. 

6: Saving Private Ryan (US) Steven Spielberg

There’s surely a case to be made for Saving Private Ryan being the best War movie ever made. Some War movies focus on character with the violence and brutality in the background, while others may wallow in violence or patriotism or dubious political asides. Saving Private Ryan is very much an American take on WWII, but it takes the best of the best war movies, showing as a range of characters and the impact of War on them, all without shying away from the visceral realism of the battlefield. This being Spielberg, there are heavy doses of sentiment and the film feels like it plays out like a sequence of iconic scenes – but I’d prefer that over a sequence of forgettable ones. It’s also as star-studded as the epics of the past, but focuses on familiar faces if not huge A Listers in minimal roles – Tom Hanks and Matt Damon are the big hitters, but you also have Tom Sizemore, Ted Danson, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, Paul Giamatti, Nathan Fillion, Dennis Farina, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns etc etc. When first watching this, you got the sense that it was creating a new world for War movies and opening the eyes and doors for the next generation of Directors.

5: What Dreams May Come (US) Vincent Ward

I don’t think I’ve made such a list yet, but if I did so this film would likely be my Number One Robin Williams movie. The great man’s comedies could be sometimes hit and miss for me, but maybe because he made so many, but often his more dramatic moments are those which stick in the memory. What Dreams May Come is a tough one to watch in the aftermath of Williams’ death, dealing as it does with notions of suicide and the afterlife. But it’s a uniquely beautiful movie, a love story which transcends life, death, and religion, and features some visuals you’ll never forget. Based on the novel by the great Richard Matheson, the movie was always going to be a hard sell with its philosophical leanings, the tragic story of a man who dies and leaves his wife alone, having lost their children a few years earlier in a car crash. The man goes to Heaven but travels to Hell when his wife kills herself wracked with guilt over the deaths of her husband and children. It sounds rough, and it is utterly heart-breaking, but it is also a lovely film which ultimately ends up in a place of hope.  

4: Fallen (US) Gregory Hoblit

I’m still mystified that nobody has seen Fallen. It’s a police procedural which deals with demonic activity – it’s hardly the first time these lines have been blurred – but it does so in a fun, classy, sardonic way. Denzel Washington stars as a Detective hot on the tail of a serial killer who he just happened to have already caught, sent to death row, and watched die. Yet the guy seems to be back, knowing intimate details that a copycat or accomplice couldn’t. The film didn’t make back its budget, possibly because it simply dropped in the wrong month, the wrong year, the wrong climate. Or maybe I’m elevating it to a point it doesn’t deserve to be on – I’ll let you decide – but any film featuring Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz, James Gandolfini, and Elias Koteas is likely always going to get three thumbs up in my book. 

3: Blade (US) Stephen Norrington

I’ve gone on record multiple time on this blog bemoaning the cookie cutter nature of both Marvel and DC’s recent movies. They’re absolutely huge blockbusters, but I just don’t care about any of it. I don’t find anything unique or engaging about any of them, and they end up being about as exciting as jogging down some steps and as memorable as whatever I had for lunch three weeks ago. Comic book movies were a rarity in the 90s, and possibly because of this the movies we did get seemed fresh. Blade is one such example, seeing Wesley Snipes as the half-vampire half-human renegade working and quipping and killing his way to block a demonic apocalypse. It’s cool, it’s violent and bloody, it’s stylish, and Blade is a more interesting character to me than most of the other hundred thousand superheroes out there.

2: Ronin (US) John Frankenheimer

Another film which is rarely spoken of when discussing the great films of 1998 or the Nineties in general, Ronin is a perfect blend of action, drama, and crime thriller, directed by someone who had more than a little experience of each. John Frankenheimer’s penultimate movie features one of the best car chases of all time and brings together a fantastic international cast – De Niro, Sean Bean, Jean Reno, Natasha McElone, Jonathan Pryce, Stelland Skarsgard, and Michael Lonsdale. It’s like watching Reservoir Dogs unfold in the correct order but with twists and double-crosses peaking out from every frame. 

1: Ringu (Japan) Hideo Nakata (Top Ten Of All Time)

Check my Top Movies Of The Decade post.

Let us know yur thoughts in the comments!