This week was a little everywhere for me so there wasn’t as much writing as I would have liked. I did have one piece after the unfortunate death of Robin Williams looking at the five performances of his that stick with me the most. I also performed my first sermon yesterday which was terrifying. But through preparing for that I hit a milestone in my film watching. At the end of this post you’ll see that the last five films are numbered and that is because those are the numbers that I have hit on my total films watched list. Hitting 1500 was remarkable and I’m pretty happy with it and the films that got me there. 

The Contenders

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) dir. Michael Curtiz

Thief (1981) dir. Michael Mann

The Insider (1999) dir. Michael Mann

Boyhood (2014) dir. Richard Linklater

Happy Together (1997) dir. Wong Kar-Wai

City of God (2002) dir. Fernando Meirelles

An incredible shot from Michael Mann's first film - Thief (1981)
An incredible shot from Michael Mann’s first film – Thief (1981)

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) dir. Jean Negulesco

★★★★★★ (6)

Not as fun as Some Like it Hot or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but a wholly enjoyable comedy with some spectacular lines from Lauren Bacall.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940) dir. John Ford

★★★★★★★★★   (9)

A spectacular film with an incredible performance from Henry Fonda. If you want a cinematic representation of Everymen from pre-WW2 America, watch this followed by Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) dir. Michael Curtiz

★★★★★★★★★   (9)

If you want one of the single greatest performances in the history of acting, watch this. James Cagney is electric and more than that, he gives the film heart that you likely wouldn’t expect from a propagandistic piece such as this. A great, great film.

North by Northwest (1959) dir. Alfred Hitchcock

★★★★★★★ (7)

It had its moments, but the film as a whole doesn’t mesh as well as I’d like it too and it’s definitely about 20 minutes too long.

Thief (1981) dir. Michael Mann

★★★★★★★★★   (9)

The better Rocky 2 and Drive before it was Drive. The more Michael Mann I watch the more I love. This is going to be a fun day of Mann films.

The Keep (1983) dir. Michael Mann

★★★  (3)

The first Mann film I’ve legitimately hated. It’s exactly what people didn’t like about the 80s and the horror is horribly mundane.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992) dir. Michael Mann

★★★★★★★★ (8)

When dealing with inherently problematic material, you have two options. Silently and satirically undermine your protagonist or humanize EVERYONE. Mann took the second route here and it is mostly effective. Day-Lewis gives a great performance and the film is expertly made. Mann trades in his neon blues and pinks for natural greens and reds. It’s a beautiful looking film and it works on more levels than it should given the material.

Last of the Mohicans
One of the most visually stunning shots in Michael Mann’s Last of the Mohicans (1991)

The Insider (1999) dir. Michael Mann

★★★★★★★★★  (9)

This is a brilliant film (which oddly enough I had seen before on television but forgotten about). Michael Mann took the standard biographical tale, and through his beautiful cinematic style, made it excellent with the help of a great cast. Russel Crowe and Al Pacino deserved Oscar nods for Best Actor in ’99 for their roles and Christopher Plummer deserved one for supporting actor. In trying to pick a best scene I simply couldn’t pick one. Those actors made the big scenes great and the expository scenes engrossing.

Ali (2001) dir. Michael Mann

★★★★★★ (6)

While I wouldn’t be opposed to watching this film a second time, there are numerous issues with it. First, I wish that someone had collaborated with him on the direction of the film. I use Spike Lee as an example because of the incredible Malcolm X film, but really the film just needed a director to tighten the conflict and give emotional weight to the context. Also, Will Smith is not nearly an good an actor as was needed for this role. It always feels like it’s Will Smith playing Ali, rather than Ali being Ali. It’s not a bad performance, but it wasn’t as good as it needed to be to carry the movie.

Miami Vice (2006) dir. Michael Mann

★★★★★★★ (7)

The first 20 minutes of this movie feel like an hour. But once they are done we get a really effective crime thriller with a bunch of great performances.

Public Enemies (2009) dir. Michael Mann

★★★★★★★ (7)

Michael Mann was totally the wrong guy to direct this. He directs it with the same style that he did Miami Vice and Heat and the aesthetic just feels off. That doesn’t make it a bad film, just one that thematically doesn’t mesh with the era its trying to portray. Acting is great all around and the movie is good; just not great.

Heaven Can Wait (1978) dir. Warren Beatty

★★★★★★★★ (8)

WHY WOULD YOU END A MOVIE LIKE THAT! ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME FEEL PAIN?

Bulworth (1998) dir. Warren Beatty

★★★★★★★ (7)

This is a remarkably weird film. And it goes a little farther than it probably should with Beatty’s performance (his rapping and attempts to emulate black culture that is). The message is still great and it is an entertaining and thought provoking film.

Deliverance (1952) dir. Jon Boorman

★★★★★★ (6)

The reputation this film has is unfortunate because while I’m sure there is a good movie here somewhere, so much of this just doesn’t work. The entire second act (after the infamous scene) doesn’t work at all and while the ending is incredible (and brings it up to the rating it has) the film as a whole has a lot of problems.

Chronicle (2012) dir. Josh Trank

★★★★★★★★ (8)

This is probably the saddest Superhero movie ever made. It’s also probably the best found footage film ever done.

Boyhood (2014) dir. Richard Linklater

★★★★★★★★★  (9)

1496 – This film is fantastic. There are too many things that I comment on but I think the most important aspect is that it chronicles a childhood and adolescence. For the first 100 minutes the film is a pure ensemble. Mason is not the star or the focus just like as a child you don’t become the focus of your own story until adolescence. And the transition is equally interesting. As Mason discovers himself we discover Mason and it goes from the ensemble piece to a focused story. That focus reveals how the impacts of the ensemble reveal themselves as a fully-fledged adult wanting to go and do something.

A few other notes; I have a second nominee for best supporting actress for this year in Patricia Arquette. Her role as the (sometimes) single mother is akin to few performances in film history. The way she creates empathy for imperfect people reminds me of Jeanne Dielman and for those of you who have made that trek you know it is no easy feat.

Boyhood is a great film and it is one of the best in Richard Linklater’s now long career. I doubt it makes the top five (he has a stacked top five) but that says less about this film than it does Linklater himself.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) dir. Guillermo Del Toro

★★★★★★★★★  (9)

1497 – What makes this film really interesting is how it deals with monstrosity. Del Toro is almost Lynchian in how he conflates monstrosity in the abstract with monstrosity in the flesh.

Happy Together (1997) dir. Wong Kar-Wai

★★★★★★★★★  (9)

1498 – The Latin music makes this film. The performances and style are great, but like it always should, the music ties the piece together beautifully. This is definitely going on the contenders list.

City of God (2002) dir. Fernando Meirelles

★★★★★★★★★  (9)

1499 – This is a great film. Not sure what more there is to say but that I want to watch it again soon.

Oldboy (2003) dir. Park Chan-Wook

★★★★★★★★★  (9)

1500 – Well that was a dark movie. When I get to 2000 I’m going to make sure that is a happy film

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