19. Paris, Texas
A rather somber and beautiful film about a man (Harry Dean Stanton) who has been wandering aimlessly in the desert and comes home to reconnect with his wife and son. The cinematography and acting are incredible with Stanton delivering an immensely emotional performance of a man who hasn’t been the perfect husband. Interestingly, the film is written by actor Sam Shepherd, who imbues it with remorse and largely cathartic moments. It is a beautiful film, one that will stick with you for a while.
20. The Life of Oharu
A film from one of the great directors of the Japanese golden-era, Kenji Mizoguchi, The Life of Oharu is also a beautifully shot and powerful film. It follows the fall from grace of a lady-in-waiting as she falls for someone in a different class and is exiled along with her family. It is a devastating film as she is sold by her father, becomes a prostitute, and experiences numerous humiliating events. By the end of the film she is so full of pity and sorrow that we want to help her out. Kinuyo Tanaka, who plays Oharu, is astonishing. It is truly an exceptional film.
22. It Happened One Night
Shifting gears to something a little more light-hearted, It Happened One Night is the grandaddy of all modern rom-com films. Clarke Gable and Claudette Colbert are utterly delightful and hilarious. Frank Capra, the director who many know from It’s a Wonderful Life, directs the two into a romantic and charming flick that managed to do the rare task of sweeping the Big 5 Academy Awards (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence of the Lambs are the other two.) Gable is suave and funny, Colbert is strong-willed and snarky. It is one of the best on-screen duos in all film history, and one of the best films as well.
Another film from Japan, though just shortly after the golden-era, Harakiri is an exciting and meditative film that is also emotional and painful. A samurai wishes to commit seppuku, the ritualistic suicide, so he asks for permission to do it within a palace. It becomes more of a revenge tale, and has a violent and thrilling finale. For those interested in samurai films, I would recommend the early work of Kurosawa before seeing this due to its heavy influences from him. It has one of the most beautiful sword-fights I have ever seen, but many might find it inaccessible due to its slightly long run-time and subtitles.
24. The Night of the Hunter
Moving over to America, now, with the one masterpiece from actor Charles Laughton who manages to spin this dark story into a sort of fairy tale with religious undertones. Robert Mitchum is deliciously cruel and brutal as the murderous preacher with Love-Hate tattoos on his knuckles. He finds ways to sneak in and murder wives for their money and then disappear without a trace. Once he catches onto word that there is $10,000 hidden somewhere, he woos the wife, who then dies, and he is left in charge of the children, where one knows the location of the money. It is a haunting, poetic, and often beautiful film with images and moments that will creep under your skin and never leave.
25. Love, Actually
Not a Christmas goes by where I do not watch Love, Actually. It is basically the ultimate rom-com Christmas extravaganza with a star-studded cast and so many delightful moments that it is hard not to fall in love with. With Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Martin Freeman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, and a surprise from Billy Bob Thornton, it has probably one of the most respected and lovable casts ever. It has any kind of love you want; romantic, friendship, new love, old love, lost love, cheated love, and young love. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you do so.
If you follow this blog you will surely know that this has been my favorite movie all year. I cannot express more how beautiful, real, and impressive the entire thing is. With some great performances, it isn’t entirely a powerhouse in terms of acting. What it is, though, is an epic about life and family. It has no one story other than watching a young boy grow into a young adult. No CGI, no makeup, just the same cast filmed over 12 years by the masterful hand of Richard Linklater. It is not only the best film of the year, but perhaps so far into this young decade.
28. The Leopard
An Italian film this time, The Leopard is an early 60s film from the great Luchino Visconti. Burt Lancaster, in a rare foreign role, plays “The Leopard” a baron in Italy living on the brink of war and revolution. Featuring luscious cinematography of the Italian country side, it is an epic and grand film about love, politics, and the changing of times. For those invested in 1860s Italy, Italian cinema, or the breathtaking performance from Lancaster, The Leopard is right up your ally.
30. Begin Again
The little gem from summer has come to DVD and it was time to revisit it. It was such a breath of fresh air this summer, with its amazing soundtrack, charming performances, and its message about modern music. Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley make an interesting on-screen duo who some might not have expected would have chemistry, but they do, and it makes for some of the best banter and teamwork all summer. John Carney, the mind behind Once, infuses his film with romance, heartbreak, and music to make for one of the best films to have been released this summer.
31. Black Narcissus
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, two of the most formidable directors in the history of British cinema, were at the top of their game in the 40s with some of their best works. First there was The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, then Black Narcissus, and then The Red Shoes. They are Technicolor feasts for the eyes, and have some incredibly poignant stories. Black Narcissus has to do with the building of a convent up in the Himalayas. Conflict arises within the natives, and the nuns themselves, and we are propelled towards a harrowing climax. The cinematography is beautiful, even though they did not actually go to the Himalayas, and it has some fabulous performances from Deborah Kerr and David Farrar. For fans of British film, this is an absolute must.
A heads up: over the next couple days I will be working on my Top 10 of the year, which is no easy task considering the phenomenal films that have come out, both blockbuster-wise and smaller scale.