Friday, September 26, 2008

The Top Ten Films of the Decade - The 1990s

Here at the Nerd Report, I've tried to resist spouting off too much. I personally don't like the pontificating film geek, and that may be because, well, I am one. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to list my top ten films for each decade going all the way back to the 1920s.

This list can't help but be subjective, so you may think I'm missing out films or placed some films too high or whatnot. If so, comment on it, I'll be happy to discuss. Hopefully you'll notice a few films here that you haven't seen before, and seek them out. Lists made by other people have done this for me, so I'm just paying it forward (Pay it Forward is not on any best of list, by the way. Terrible flick).

The 1990s

10 - Eyes Wide Shut - Directed by Stanley Kubrick - Okay, some people consider this film to be a mess, unworthy of being the final masterwork by one of cinema's most innovative geniuses. I disagree. I'm not sure how much of the film actually "happens" in a real sense after Nicole Kidman's character makes the fateful admission to her husband (Tom Cruise). The film, from my point of view, is a dream that turns into a nightmare for Cruise's character; a dark journey through a marriage that has to hit rock bottom before the couple can reach a level of honesty about themselves. A final, confident, haunting masterpiece.

9 -All About My Mother - Directed by Pedro Almodovar - Almodovar has long been considered one of the most consistently brilliant filmmakers around, and also one of the best directors of women ever. He called this film a "screwball melodrama", and that's a wonderful way to describe this touching, hilarious and deeply emotional tribute to mothers, actresses and women in general. It's his most accomplished and evenly balanced triumph.

8 - Saving Private Ryan - Directed by Steven Spielberg - Opening with a harrowing and brutally realistic depiction of the carnage during the storming of the beach at Normandy, this film then moves into a quieter, more subtle story of a group of soldiers being sent to rescue and retrieve one private near enemy lines. Although some accuse Spielberg of being manipulative and sentimental, there's no denying the power of this film, or its ability to leave you stunned and emotionally drained at its conclusion. A brilliant meditation on the value of a single life.

7 - Chungking Express - Directed by Wong Kar-Wai - A crossover hit that introduced Wong to world audiences, it is a bold announcement of a singular, exceptional talent. The film is made up of two stories, each a romance involving longing and seduction and told with incredible style and panache. A singular accomplishment and seamless melding of high style and big emotions.

6 - Goodfellas - Directed by Martin Scorsese - The fact that this film lost the Best Picture Oscar to Dances with Wolves still makes me crazy, as it's probably one of the most assured and enjoyable films ever made. What more can you say, except that if you haven't seen it, you're missing out.

5 - The Player - Robert Altman - After a decade of middling to terrible films, Altman roared back to life with this cynical black comedy about the movie business. In a way, Altman's old tricks (virtuoso camera moves, overlapping dialogue, a large and varied cast) seemed fresh again as he took everything about Hollywood that was reprehensible and poured it into one character; Tim Robbins' morally bankrupt and paranoid studio exec. One of the best black comedies ever.

4 - Three Colors : Red - Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski - The final part of the Three Colors trilogy is often cited as the best. I personally prefer Blue but only by a smidge. The almost unbearably luminously beautiful Irene Jacob portrays a woman who becomes involved in the reclusive life of a retired judge who electronically eavesdrops on his neighbours. Like all of Kieslowski's work, the film is focused on human relationships and how mysterious and absolutely necessary they are, and of course, it is one of the most gorgeous films you'll ever see.

3 - Three Colors : Blue - Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski - The first part of the triliogy is the one I find the most powerful and memorable of the three (If you're wondering where White is, well, if I could put eleven films here, it'd be here). Juliette Binoche (another unbelievably beautiful actress) portrays a woman almost devoured by grief following the deaths of her composer husband and her small child. There is almost no other film that so successfully and brilliantly integrates imagery, emotion and music to produce a truly wonderful and touching experience.

2 - Pulp Fiction - Directed by Quentin Tarantino - Now that we've grown accustomed to his style, Tarantino has been derided by some as a hack who is more of a mash-up artist, stealing imagery, tone and plot details from other sources, than a true filmmaker. That view misses the point; what he is is the first of a new type of filmmaker, and he's still the most bold. With its non-linear storyline, shocking violence and dialogue that allows characters to reveal everything while talking about nothing, it's important to remember how completely original and fresh Pulp Fiction seemed. It was simultaneously a punch in the gut and a breath of fresh air to audiences, making it perhaps the most innovative and influential film of its generation.

1 - Schindler's List - Directed by Steven Spielberg - Both Kubrick and Billy Wilder had attempted to make the definitive Holocaust story during their careers, but only Spielberg, the master entertainer and supreme mainstream craftsman, had the proper touch. It's three hours of riveting, harrowing, blindingly forceful filmmaking. And if it strays too far into sentimentality at times, it hardly matters, for the vast bulk of the film contains some of the most powerful moments you'll experience as an audience member.

See you soon for the 1980s!

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