Back when I was getting into films and trying to broaden my palate, Amadeus popped up on my list. Like when it first came out, the hesitation in watching a 3 hour period piece about a classical musician seemed like it would be dreadfully slow and boring. Boy, was I wrong.
Amadeus is a decadent, tragic, and absorbing film with masterful performances, brilliant directing by Milos Forman, and gorgeous set-pieces. Tom Hulce and F. Abraham Murray give it their all as Mozart and Salieri, and whether or not you believe in this rivalry, it is one full of tragedy and envy.
Hulce is electrifying as Mozart; the shrill laugh, the immaturity, and his conducting all show a wide range that Hulce has never quite tapped into again. Murray, on the other hand, is more tragic because he wants to be something that he can’t be. He was born with an ear for music but can never quite achieve greatness. It is almost like a Greek Tragedy, and the only other tragedy is that Mozart died too young. If you’ve never seen Amadeus, please do so.
#15. Fantastic Mr. Fox
There’s something that makes Fantastic Mr. Fox get more charming with each viewing. Maybe it’s how crammed full of little wonderful details it is, or the wit of George Clooney as Mr. Fox himself, or maybe it’s just because it’s a fantastic film.
FMF is a novel written for kids and adapted into something that adults will probably find more enjoyment in than kids. There are some dark moments in here, but not quite as dark as some other Anderson films. The Willem Dafoe as the rat is pretty terrifying, and the fact that there is a bleak theme of humans destroying animal’s homes and the environment.
#17. 10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You is one of the most quintessential teen-flicks in the past 20 years. Spring-boarding from Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, it gives the classic play at 90s makeover, throws in a rocking soundtrack, and gives us real characters in a real world. While it may not resonate as much as Breakfast Club or Clueless, it still has enough punch and fun to make it a teen-movie that has aged decently, though it has only been 16 years.
Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger are one of the best couples in any teen-film. Stiles with her “F-society” attitude, punk-rock music tastes, and no-nonsense bitterness has a fun transition throughout the film resulting in probably her most memorable performance. Ledger, on the other hand, is utterly delightful once he sheds his tough-guy attitude and falls for Stiles. If you don’t swoon over him there’s something wrong with you.
#18. The Lives of Others
Having visited Berlin a couple weeks ago, I thought it was time to rewatch a film I first held animosity towards since it beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for Best Foreign Film in 2006. Since actually watching it, I realize that it is a wholly compelling and masterfully crafted film that will make you feel for even the Stasi.
It has the darkness of the Cold War Era, the triumph of the end of the Wall, and the hope for the future. Ulrich Muhe, who looks like a German Kevin Spacey, gives one of his last performances as the Stasi officer who begins to get caught up in the lives of the people he is tasked with spying on. It is a tragedy that he would die so soon after the film came out, but thankfully we still have this.
#19. The Darjeeling Limited
The Darjeeling Limited is my favorite Wes Anderson film. Much like his other films, it is layered with more feelings, motivations, and props that can be peeled away and noticed differently in each viewing. Perhaps it is the relationship of the brother’s in the film that feels more real. It is a journey to reconnect and redevelop the bonds that have been severed over time. The brother’s behave like any brother’s would.
Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, and Owen Wilson mesh exquisitely with each other. Each one of them has their weaknesses and downfalls, and the other’s notice these and exploit them at first but grow to build each other up over time. All of this is happening against the backdrop of India as the brother’s not only try to fix each other, but themselves in the spiritual nature of the country. It is a beautifully shot film with a tender story.
#21. Apocalypse Now
The journey into the heart of darkness in Apocalypse Now is a haunting and fever-dream like odyssey. The much fabled making of the film is only the beginning into the madness that is the Vietnam War. While it isn’t a wholly “anti-war” film, it definitely expresses it in a negative light, showing how it can create monsters out of all of us.
Martin Sheen is the leader of the expedition, and along the way he encounters sights and events that will forever haunt him as he himself enters the darkness. This was Coppola’s last great film after basically creating a huge name for himself over the course of a decade. Unfortunately, he never had quite the success or innovation as he did at this point in the career. Apocalypse Now will haunt you for days after watching it, not because of what it shows, but because you don’t know what will become of the characters once the credits roll.
Coming up next will be a journey through the Criterion films I have purchased from the Barnes and Noble sale. Perhaps I went overboard, but up first is going to be the combination of films that only had one per country. Other than that there will be America, Italian, French, German, and British films.