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Tokyo Story (T˘ky˘ monogatari) 1953, G)
Director Yasujiro Ozu never moves the camera but communicates such poignant themes of age and generational conflict through static framing. Just its distant placement communicates the feelings of detachment that the characters are going through. The simple story and slow pacing make the film an experience like we're living among these characters in postwar Tokyo. However slow the film may be, I was never uninterested in the lives of an elderly couple struggling to maintain connection with their children. Though they do see their kids (now all grown up), the only one who gives the couple thorough attention is their daughter-in-law, Noriko, played by Ozu regular Setsuko Hara. Noriko is impossible not to fall in love with. She has little wealth herself, but her giving deeds and kind smile make her one of my favorite female screen characters of all time. At the end when Noriko breaks into tears, afflicted by loneliness and convinced that she is not a decent woman, i nearly cried. A perfect film and one of my favorites!
Rear Window 1954, PG)
What an amazing movie! Hitchcock's directorial style hits the right chords of intensity, style, and elegance. The photography and editing are superb and the romance between Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly is fantastic. Of course Grace Kelly is a dime, but her beauty is cranked to 11 by those marvelous costumes. My second favorite movie of all time
Double Indemnity 1944, Unrated)
Dark, suspenseful, and sexy, just as a great film noir should be. I love how this film deals with the dark side of human nature and the danger of lust. The cast is phenomenal. Barbara Stanwyck's performance as the femme fatale is one of the greatest female performances ever put on film and the sexual chemistry between her and Fred McMurray is palpable. Billy Wilder is truly one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. I adore the beautifully cinematic lighting that characterizes his films. It makes for some of the clearest black-and-white cinematography I've ever seen. This film could be released at the theaters today and audiences would still be gripped by the dramatic suspense of this noir classic. My third favorite movie of all time.
Yojimbo 1961, Unrated)
Kumonosu J˘ (Throne of Blood) (Macbeth) 1957, Unrated)
Striking an impecable balance between theatric and cinematic, Throne of Blood showcases some of Akira Kurosawa's best direction, which is atmospheric and surreal. This is a terrific retelling of Macbeth featuring the always excellent Toshiro Mifune in the leading role. He commands the screen with his intense face and at times goes over the top in a rage that only a samurai could convey. The costumes and thin, often piercing music give this movie an extremely kabuki-esque feel, making this one of Kurosawa's most theatrical works. The film's final scene features one of the greatest death scenes ever committed to film. Its freneticism and brutality will leave you wondering if they actually shot Mifune with all of those arrows.
In the Mood for Love 2001, PG)
One of the greatest films ever made and my favorite film of the 2000s. In the Mood For Love sees Wong Kar Wai returning the the slow aesthetics that characterized his 1991 masterpiece Days of Being Wild, which is the first in an a loose trilogy with In the Mood For Love and 2046. Instead of using fast jump cuts and blurry camerawork like he used to depict the restlessness and confusion of living in a modern-day Hong Kong in films such as Chungking Express (1994) and Fallen Angels (1995), Wong uses slow motion in In the Mood to accentuate fleeting moments between two lovelorn neighbors whose respective spouses are having an affair. These "moments" are as small as glances and gestures, but the slowed-down sequences of the characters walking to the noodle shop set in rhythm to Shigeru Umebayashi's aching musical score evokes their yearning. The deep-red decor, Maggie Cheung's high-collared dresses, and Christopher Doyle's atmospheric atmospheric photography recreate early-60s Hong Kong in Wong's nostalgic, trademark style. Artsy as some may call it, In the Mood For Love depicts Wong's city during a time long since past and a love doomed by the mindset of that place and time.
Singin' in the Rain 1952, G)
High and Low (Tengoku to jigoku) (Heaven and Hell) 1963, Unrated)
The Searchers 1956, PG)
Though some of the acting is outdated, what John Ford created here is a masterpiece of filmmaking. His camera captures Monument Valley in all of its awe-spiring glory and through expressive maneuvers and framing. I also love John Wayne. Anybody who says John Wayne couldn't act has not seen this movie, because here he plays against type as an extremely flawed, racist, and unlikable anti-hero, Ethan Edwards. Despite his brutality and hatred, John Ford's subtext in the scenery and acting enables me to realize that Ethan's hatred for the Comanche is realistic and understandable, thus allowing us to follow him through his questionable deeds. This film doesn't tell me how to feel at all. It forces me to question what I see unfold and hasn't yet provided me with an answer. Ultimately, that's why i revisit "The Searchers."
Floating Weeds (Ukigusa) 1959, Unrated)
Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thief) (Bicycle Thieves) 1949, Unrated)
Late Spring 1949, G)
Yasujiro Ozu has a way of making so much out of so little. The camera moves more often in "Late Spring" than in "Tokyo Story," but the story is still an extremely simple a slice of life in postwar Japan, this time showing the struggle of Noriko, an unmarried girl of age to be wed, but who resists the idea out of fear of leaving her elderly father and the comfort that comes of being with him. Though marriage is the clear explicit theme of the movie, the most resonant for me is the apprehension of leaving a comfortable situation for an unfamiliar one. I deeply identify with that struggle
Taxi Driver 1976, R)
My favorite Martin Scorsese movie and my ninth favorite movie overall. The feelings of loneliness that afflict Travis Bickle are raw and powerful and are heightened by Robert De Niro's frightening performance. The film becomes very dark and menacing in its climactic scene, but in the end gives the viewer some beautiful camera work set to Bernard Herman's jazzy, seductive score. Oh yeah, and the scene where Robert De Niro tries to pick up Cybil Shepherd is one of the sexiest moments ever put on film.
Notorious 1946, Unrated)
One of Hitchcock's best movies and one of my personal favorites. Hitchcock's signature direction looks so elegant and black and white and the romance between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman is magnetic. Hitchcock shoots kissing scenes better than almost any director. They're intimate, sensuous, and lovely.
North by Northwest 1959, Unrated)
The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups) 1959, Unrated)
Chungking Express 1996, PG-13)
Some may call it trendy, but Chungking Express is one of Wong Kar-Wai's best films and is shows the Hong Kong director fully coming into his stride as a filmmaker. The Hong Kong nightlife is stunningly photographed and Wong's use of music and imagery rival Martin Scorsese. A masterful piece of artistry by one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers.
Days of Being Wild (A Fei zheng chuan) 1990, Unrated)
One of Wong Kar Wai's best films and one of my favorite of his.. I adore the disjointed plot structure and the way in which the film's atmosphere creates a mood of nostalgic longing for fleeting moments that will never come back. Though the protagonist will appear loathsome to many, the heartbreak experienced by the women who nonetheless fall for him resonates louder with each viewing. A great and important film in the Wong Kar-Wai cannon, effectively introducing his meandering narrative style, highly stylized atmosphere, and themes of lost love and the loss of precious time, all of which he would materialize in his later efforts, particularly this film's unofficial sequel, "In the Mood For Love."
The Apartment 1960, Unrated)
Sunset Boulevard 1950, Unrated)
A darkly comedic film noir and a masterpiece by Billy WIlder. A tragic look at the effects of denial of one's current station in life. Probably the best movie ever made about Hollywood and undoubtedly one of the greatest movies ever made. I love how the opening scene's narration changes point of view even though the narrator stays the same. That scene's opening shot of the curb that reads "Sunset Blvd," is also incredible. Gloria Swanson's gloriously over-the-top performance as Norma Desmond stands as one of the best in the history of cinema. I love how close to reality this movie is. Gloria Swanson is a former silent film star playing a silent film star and Cecil B. DeMille plays himself in a movie all about the stark realities of a glamorous, yet hard business.
Some Like It Hot 1959, Unrated)
A fantastic Billy Wilder classic with three marvelous performances and some of my favorite black-and-white cinematography. Marilyn Monroe gives perhaps her best performance that oozes sexuality while being oblivious to her effect on Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. This movie gets funnier every time I see it. Some of the subtle sexuality in the dialogue passed right over my head the first time I saw it, but upon repeated viewings Wilder's writing strikes me as all the more witty and hilarious. Billy Wilder is one of my favorite filmmakers and this film is one of the reasons why. A sexy comedy for the ages!
Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981, PG)
Top Hat 1935, Unrated)
Chinatown 1974, R)
It's a Wonderful Life 1946, PG)
My all-time-favorite movie. Frank Capra's masterpiece is ageless, heartwarming, and shakes tears out of me every time I watch it. Though the story is simple and not necessarily subtle, it doesn't have to be. This is a movie that drives the viewer to ask him/herself deep questions about life and humanity. For instance, what is our significance in this world? Are we capable of magnanimity at the expense of our personal desires? and of course, what does it mean to have a "wonderful life?" As I get older, these questions become more relevant and the film's humanistic themes grow more and more potent. Any corny moments that a modern moviegoer may pick out are insignificant, because a film of this much emotional power is truly a gift from god.
Beautifully shot and incredibly moving. I nearly cried three times while watching this understate drama about a widowed barmaid in Ginza. The film is quite elegiac and I was deeply saddened as Keiko's hopes to be married or start her own bar are one by one cut down. I also greatly felt for her as she tries to maintain her dignity as a woman while living a life of entertaining patrons.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 1966, R)
An epic masterpiece by Sergio Leone. Three incredible leading characters perfectly cast to make the greatest spaghetti western film that ever existed. The immortal musical score by Ennio Morricone excites me every time I hear it. The best of the dollars trilogy and my fourth favorite film of all time.
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope 1977, PG)