I hit 45 films this week which while scary was a lot of fun. I’m also adding a list to these roundups for documentations sake. Because my rating system has a rating that can only be achieved after a second viewing I need to keep a list of films that I will give a second viewing within six months to see if they move up the rating scale. I watched Catching Fire this week for that purpose so I think documenting those films should be good. So each week before the fold Β will be a list of films to visit again soon called “The Contenders.”

Other news: There will soon be two new pages on this site. The first is the aforementioned Contenders page which has movies that I really loved and could eventually attain my top rating. The second is a personal canon. My top 100 is something I’ve been working on for a while since I realized my last one fell apart.

The Contenders

Collateral (2004) dir. Michael Mann

Swing Time (1936) dir. George Stevens

Scarface (1932) dir. Howard Hawks

Baby Face (1933) dir. Alfred E. Green

The Philadelphia Story (1940) dir. George Cukor

Double Indemnity (1944) dir. Billy Wilder

The Great Dictator (1940) dir. Charles Chaplin

Screenshot 2014-07-30 04.40.58

So let’s dance πŸ˜€

Escape From New York (1981) dir. John Carpenter

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Kurt Russell is an unfortunately forgotten action star. Between this,Β The Thing, andΒ Big Trouble in Little China, Russell is a hugely enjoyable star.Β Escape From New YorkΒ is also an obvious precursor to a film likeΒ The PurgeΒ (which I loved) making it an interesting cultural piece too.

The Omen (1976) dir. Richard Donner

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It’s hard to not compare this to The Exorcist. Nevertheless this film is incredibly dark and a good, if flawed, addition to the supernatural horror genre.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) dir. Marc Webb

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Cut the first half hour of this movie and change the context to them graduating college instead of highschool. Give us more time with Peter being reminded of Captain Stacy’s death in flashbacks so the initial break up doesn’t feel like a cheapening of the awesome ending from the first movie. Then start with Max getting fried by the eels and his first action sequence but without all the dweeby backstory. The plot treats him like a Goblin henchman so they shouldn’t try to make him identifiable and then let us down. Then give more time to the establishment and development of the Peter/Harry relationship (and actually explain why he’s dying quickly while his father died slowly). Have a good reason for including the Peter’s father subplot so that the relationship between Peter and May has weight instead of seeming like it was tacked on for tears. Don’t have a gloomy atmosphere throughout. Instead use what made the first film so good and keep things childlike and funny. Because the best parts of this movie are those that remember the ludicrousness of this concept and ham it up. The cast is mostly perfect although you should never ever have Jamie Foxx play a dweeb because it just doesn’t work. Not everything needs to be super end of the world serious, this is Spider-man, let it be fun.

The Warriors (1979) dir. Walter Hill

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My thoughts have been provoked. It was sold to me as an action film but it isn’t really that. It’s a morality tale and an allegory for larger conflicts. And a really good one at that.

Collateral (2004) dir. Michael Mann

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I love Michael Mann, I wish he would work more because he has such a visceral and beautiful style but he never lets that compromise a great story and great characters.

I love Tom Cruise. I always have a hard time picking my favourite Actors and Actresses, but Cruise is one of them. I used to hate a lot of what he did, then Tropic Thunder came out, and I went back and saw Eyes Wide Shut, Minority Report, and Magnolia. Then I re-watched MI:3 and realized the brilliance of his performance and now he’s an actor that I look forward to.

This film is both of these artists at there best (and features an excellent performance from Jamie Foxx). I’ll be revisiting this soon

The Hunger Games (2012) dir. Gary Ross

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I like this better than I liked it when I saw it in theatres. It still not perfect and its not better than the sequel, buts it is an excellent film.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) dir. Francis Lawrence

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This film, this series would not work without Jennifer Lawrence. She holds her own against three veteran actors (Donald Sutherland, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Woody Harrelson) with grace and gravitas. On the list of actors to have starred in adaptations of Young Adult novel adaptations, Jennifer Lawrence is far and away the best. Her talent is what allows the primary emotional content of the novel, Katniss’ inner dialogue, to shine on screen.

But its not just JLaw that makes this movie great. The three vets I mentioned above are all stellar, plus an astounding cast of character actors including Jeffery Wright, Lynn Cohen, Amanda Plummer, Stanley Tucci among many others. And Jena Malone comes out of nowhere as a total scene stealer. The acting in this film is totally top notch and that cements this film as one of the great pieces of science fiction film making for our time.

Sabotage (2014) dir. David Ayer

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This movie had a lot of potential. Its probably the best acting Arnold has ever done. Too bad the film itself is riddled with problems.

Flying Down to Rio (1933) dir. Thornton Freeland

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For all the Astaire and Rogers films come here to my ranking of them.Β 

The Gay Divorcee (1934) dir. Mark Sandrich

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Roberta (1935) dir. William A. Seiter

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Top Hat (1935) dir. Mark Sandrich

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Follow the Fleet (1936) dir. Mark Sandrich

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Swing Time (1936) dir. George Stevens

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Shall We Dance (1937) dir. Mark Sandrich

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Carefree (1938) dir. Mark Sandrich

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The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) dir. H.C. Potter

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The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) dir. Charles Walters

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Duck Soup (1933) dir. Leo McCarey

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This isn’t a perfect film and I don’t think of the Marx Brothers as highly as many do, but this is one of the most absurd comedies I’ve ever seen and on many fronts works well.

The Kid (1921) dir. Charles Chaplin

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It had its moments, but on the whole I wasn’t moved by this.

Need for Speed (2014) dir. Scott Waugh

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This movie takes itself way way way too seriously. If it let itself be more fun it would actually be a good film in the same vein of the last two Fast and Furious films.

The Circus (1928) dir. Charles Chaplin

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I think I just have to admit it. I don’t really like Silent film. I’ve now seen three of Chaplin’s silent films (among plenty of others) and I get how they were groundbreakingly funny at the time, but does this really hold up to the comedies released since? Chaplin came first, but does that really make him better than Mel Brooks? Is The Circus better than a film like Ocean’s Eleven simply because it was released first? I think comparing to Ocean’s Eleven is a fairly apt comparison because like The Circus, the plots of the two films are mostly functionaries of the comedy. And I would take Ocean’s over The Circus any day. Silent film just doesn’t work as well as film with dialogue for me.

The Jazz Singer (1927) dir. Gordon Hollingshead, Alan Crosland

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“You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.” That is the best scene in this movie. The rest isn’t very good although I’m sure there is actually a good movie in here. The story of a Jewish boy struggling with his relationship with God is actually a compelling story. Too bad this movie isn’t.

Smith Goes to Washington (1939) dir. Frank Capra

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This is a fun movie and one that has aged incredibly well as a political drama. It dramatizes an optimistic critique of the American political system and is entertaining to boot.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) dir. Howard Hawks

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This movie grows on me every time I watch it. The music is awesome and the cinematic elements carry such depth and meaning that I can’t deny how much I enjoy this.

It Happened One Night (1967) dir. Frank Capra

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The scene that really really touched me in this film come about 20 minutes from the end. Clark Gable has stolen a car to get to his newspaper publisher to give him a story about how Ellen will be marrying him. He needs a thousand dollars so they can get married. When he leaves, the publisher finds out that Ellen has called her father to come get her and rages that Gable is a crook. We then move over to see Gable on his way back to Ellen, only to see her father arrive and realize it’s all over. Through the movie there isn’t much focused on Gable and Ellen falling in love, until it classically happens near the end. A real friendship developped between Gable and Ellen and this makes Gable’s despair so much more powerful. But that alone wouldn’t be enough. Before we return to Gable, the newspaper publisher looks down next to him and sees Gable’s story. His fervor ends, because even on paper, Gable’s love is really sincere. I almost cried. This is a beautiful, beautiful film, and an example of the Romantic Comedy genre at its best. A romantic comedy where the relationship develops naturally, not in a predestined way, but organically, and so you believe it.

The Producers (1967) dir. Mel Brooks

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While it doesn’t work as well for me asΒ Blazing SaddlesΒ orΒ Young Frankenstein, this is a truly hysterical film.

Some Like it Hot (1959) dir. Billy Wilder

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While I’m not sure its the funniest American film ever, its damn good.

Scarface (1932) dir. Howard Hawks

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Holy crap. This is an amazing movie and the DePalma version doesn’t hold a candle to this. The writing is great, for 32 the cinematography is unbelievable. It has one of the best car chases ever. I could gush for days about this.

Little Caesar (1931) dir. Mervyn LeRoy

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Rico is one hell of a character even if the movie as a whole doesn’t come together as nicely as Scarface.

The Public Enemy (1931) dir. William A. Wellman

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Scarface has better direction, but Cagney’s performance is incredible here.

Baby Face (1933) dir. Alfred E. Green

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Barbara Stanwyck is an incredible actress. Of all the Pre-Code films I’ve seen recently this is my favourite because of how blunt it is about everything. I’m so glad the uncensored version survived because it wouldn’t be the same film without much of what was censored.

Adam’s Rib (1949) dir. George Cukor

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I love Katharine Hepburn, a lot. She is a remarkable talent that is survived by modern talents like Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lawrence. Range and depth of skill but all with an incredible gravitas on the screen. She’s magnetic and I really want to watch more of her films nowΒ (I hear there are 52 of them).

The Philadelphia Story (1940) dir. George Cukor

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“You’d had too much to drink Tracy”
“That seems to be the consensus ofΒ opinion”

Katherine Hepburn is amazing in this. She’s incredibly sassy but in the classiest of ways. The rest of the cast is great too and the writing is inspired. But Hepburn steals every scene she’s in (which is a lot of them.

Roman Holiday (1953) dir. William Wyler

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Audrey Hepburn builds an unexpectedly complex character in this film that has a really human and tragic bend. Gregory Peck is also a way better actor in comedies than he is in dramas.

Female (1933) dir. William A. Wellman, William Dieterle, Michael Curtiz

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I really need to start watching more Pre-Code films. With five in two days I’ve realized how much I adore the style and guts the filmmakers had with theseΒ films.

The Maltese Falcon (1941) dir. John Huston

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This is noir at its most iconic. It is really amazing how the last twenty minutes, in spite of being entirely filled with dialogue, are dramatically fascinating and entirelyΒ thrilling.

City Lights Β (1931) dir. Charles Chaplin

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Adorable. Thats what this film is. Sure its got its funny moments, but the adorable qualities are what make this film.

Modern Times (1936) dir. Charles Chaplin

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This is my favourite Chaplin film so far (there is one more to go). Easily. Its delightfully hilarious and actually shows off Chaplin’s range as an actor and aΒ writer.

Chinatown (1974) dir. Roman Polanski

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Once you start realizing the depth of what’s going on in the story. The depth of Noah Cross’s relationship with his daughter and grand-daughter. The depth of Los Angeles. That’s when this film becomes truly powerful. Its slow burning, absolutely stunning, and filled with dread and saddness. “Forget it Jake, It’sΒ Chinatown”

The Parallax View (1974) dir. Alan J. Pakula

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This film is good, and the ending is really interesting, but so much of the set-up feels contrived once you think about it that I can’t go higher than an 7

3 Days of the Condor (1975) dir. Sydney Pollack

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While generally I prefer Beatty to Redford who stars in this, the writing and relationships in this film are so much more interesting. It also features the most interesting use of a Christmas song I’ve ever heard in its finale.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967) dir. Arthur Penn

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I know that this is a beloved film, but it doesn’t do it for me. It goes on too long and the pacing feels weird because most of what happens is similar event-to-event. Its a pretty good movie really, but it doesn’t do much for me.

Double Indemnity (1944) dir. Billy Wilder

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This is the noir film I was waiting for. I likedΒ Maltese Falcon but this was so entertaining and so suspensful and so dramatic that I kind of just want to watch it again today.

The Great Dictator (1940) dir. Charles Chaplin

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Charlie Chaplin is way more funny when he is talking. When he’s just doing complicated slapstick he’s not reaching his true potential. This is the film where he reached his true potential. (Again, I really don’t like silent film so this should come as a surprise to noΒ one)

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