Top 50 - 31 through 35

31. Bride Of Frankenstein (Whale, 1935)

I won't go into detail because I already did recently, but I do want to say that this is, in my opinion, the best of the Universal monster films, and not just that but also a true auteur film: James Whale's imprint is everywhere here, and I wish more films made for profit were made with this amount of care and fun.

32. Annie Hall (Allen, 1977)

I long hesitated between this film and Manhattan. It was the opening monologue that finally made me chose this one, I think. Or maybe Diane Keaton's amazing outfits. That, and seeing Allen as much younger than him as Mariel Hemingsway's Tracy is just a little bit creepy. This is a funny, smart film, which is truer about relationships than most romantic comedies dare to be.

33. Out of Sight (Soderbergh, 1998)

Soderbergh has made much more ambitious and intelligent movies than this, but this remains my favorite. It's just perfect for what it wants to achieve. George Clooney is deliciously charming, Jennifer Lopez actually, y' know, acts (too bad she hasn't done it since), and together they just sizzle. It's one of those movies where I can't bring myself to buy them since I've already seen in ten times, but everytime it's on TV, I watch it anyway. For the scene in the trunk alone, this deserves to make my top 50, and due to the rest of it (including the great Don Cheadle as Snoopy, and Michael Keaton reprising his Ray Nicolette role from Jackie Brown) makes sure it's at # 33.

34. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981)

I know, I know, I promised (and am working on) a blogpost on "the trouble with Spielberg", but Indy, well, Indy is Indy. I can't think of any better pure action films: one set piece after another, a charismatic hero with great lines, a feisty girl (I like the other Indy films too, but the lack of Karen Allen makes itself felt), the only thing really missing, as Damian pointed out, is a great villain. Like Out of Sight, I watch this every time it's on TV, and I'm never bored for a second.

35. The Sting (Hill, 1973)

Completing the trio of "pure fun" films, this second pairing of Newman and Redford is probably the best heist film ever made. The jaunty Scott Joplin soundtrack makes sure this stays light despite the revenge story, the plot is intricate but not too far-fetched, and Newman and Redford once again make a fine pair. I think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a more interesting film, more inventive, but it is also, ultimately, a big uneven mess, and while I love it, I do believe this perfect and perfectly crafted film is by far the better one. If you ask me on any given day which one I want to watch, The Sting will win four out of five times, and that's why it makes this list, and Butch and Sundance did not.


Top 50 - 36 through 40

36. The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler, 1946)

I won't say much about this one, as there is a William Wyler blogathon coming up, and I plan to devote my entry to this movie. I don't like war movies, but this post-war movie I adore. It's very unassuming, doesn't aspire to tell a grand story or convey an important message, but by the simple tales of these three returning soldiers, it's much more moving than it has any right to be, and it makes you understand just how much war can destroy.

37. Sherlock Jr. (Keaton, 1924)

In The Dreamers, a movie which ended up just outside my top 50, there is a discussion about Chaplin vs. Keaton. To this question, I often feel like answering "Harold Lloyd" just for the sake fof being contrarion, but truth be told, For me, there's no question about it: the sad faced acrobat wins from the tramp hands down. Oh, I like Chaplin, The Kid, for instance, is wonderful, but there's something about Keaton that makes this more than just slapstick. Sherlock Jr., furthermore, is wonderfully self-referential, one of the first films explicitly also about film, as Keaton jumps from one frame to another. It's one of those films that make me wonder why people think black and white films are dull and slow: comedians nowadays wish they could make something as playful and light as this.

38. It happened one night (Capra, 1934)

There are so many screwball comedies I still have to see. I haven't seen the Lady Eve, nor the Philadelphia story, not even Bringing up Baby, although according to Adam and Sam, I'm not missing much. I did see It Happened One Night, and rewatched it only a week after the first time because I loved it so much. Cary Grant's rakish reporter Peter Warne seems to have inspired just about every George Clooney performance, but only very rarely has he approached this level: you can feel all the failed ambitions and missed chances here, and if not for his optimism, this could have been an almost tragic picture. And Claudette Colbert, ah, who would not fall in love with her? She seems so spoiled, slightly useless even, but she has more talents than you would suspect. The bon mots fly so fast you can barely catch them, and the scene where they pretend to be a married couple, well, the fourth time I saw it, I still laughed.

39. Singin' in the Rain (Donen&Kelly, 1952)

Sometimes associations go the wrong way. I saw Kill Bill II before I saw the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and so the music had strange connotations for me when I heard it in its original context. Likewise, I saw A Clockwork Orange long before I finally saw this classic musical - one of the few films I saw on the big screen twice, thanks to circumstance - so for the longest time I found it an extremely unpleasant song. No more, though, because it's impossible not to feel giddy watching Gene Kelly dancing with his umbrella. Besides being a great musical, one of the greatest, this film also gives quite a bit of background info on the transition from silents to sound film, and is all the more priceless for it.

40. Fargo (Coen bros, 1996)

The first (or actually last, but we're counting down) of three Coen brothers entries on this list. Which isn't revealing much: they made so many great movies, anything could still be above, and any one of three other Coen brothers could have taken this spot. My affection for Fargo in particular is rooted in one thing, or rather one caracter: Marge Gunderson. 8 months or so pregnant, pragmatic, and just so essentially good, she's not just the center of this movie, she's its heart. The Coens have been criticized for their perceived contempt of these characters, but I think it's rather envy, and the relationship between Marge and her husband is the most loving one they've ever put on screen. Not their best (I have two of their films ranked higher, after all), but a great, great film.


Top 50 - 41 through 45

41. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

A confession: I didn't much like Vertigo the first time around. Having read a little about it, I kept waiting for the "second half" to start, and as such found the first three-quarters too mystical, pointless, even boring. And I do still think that the final part of it is much more fascinating than the rest, but I now realize it only works by virtue of what comes before. Now I'm fascinated by the whole thing, trying to decipher clues, trying to understand not only the sphinx-like Madeleine but most of all Stewarts Det. Scottie Ferguson. Hitchcock's stroke of genius was, of course, to cast James Stewart, the all-around good guy, as someone who turns out to be kind of creepy. He already tried in Rear Window, but his obsessiveness is all too understandable there: here, he truly is somewhat crazy, but it's something the viewer denies for the longest time because he just seems so normal, so healthy, and this dichotomy is what makes this one of Hitchcock's most fascinating films.

42. Moulin Rouge (Luhrmann, 2001)

This might be the most love-it-or-hate-it entry on this list. I, for only, fall firmly in the first camp. I don't like frenetic editing much, and I don't have much patience for sentimentality, but this film gets past all my defences: it's just dazzling, so unapologetically over-the-top and full of vibrant emotion I can't resist. It's hard for me even to pick the performances or the details
I like best, because I can't find anything to dislike here: neither the slapstick humor nor the high melodrama. Are there any recent movies with such intense color? I love Strictly Ballroom and Romeo+Juliet too, but this is the culmination of Luhrmann's red curtain trilogy, and the only film I know that manages to put the spirit of opera on screen.

43. Volver (Almodóvar, 2006)

Ok, ok, I should have said "recent American movie with such intense color". Almodóvar likes his reds crimson, and his blues as deep as the sky. In his films, death is often present in some form or other, but they're filled to the brim with life at the same time. Penelope Cruz has never been more beautiful than she is here, nor more feminine, and she shows once and for all that she can act, as long as she's allowed to speak Spanish. This is Almodóvar's ode to women, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, friends, and you can't help but fall in love with each and every one of them.

44. Edward Scissorhands (Burton, 1990)

This definitely is a highly stylized trio of movies. This is fairytale, but channeled through the gothic mind of Tim Burton. Johnny Depp barely speaks, but conveys an amazing amount of emotion through his big eyes. In his leather black gear, he couldn't contrast more with the town's pastels. The freak is feared, accepted, then rejected. It's a Frankenstein story, in a way: the "monster" abandoned by his creator, who doesn't quite know his own strength. Edward is more soulful even than Karloff, though, and the townspeople much more irrational and scary. This is not a subtle movie, but fairytales are not supposed to be subtle, just beautiful. And this one certainly is.

45. Before Sunrise/Sunset (Linklater, 1995/2004)

My only cheat in this list: a tie, but can these two movies really be viewed separately? One is a continuation of the other, and the second could not exist without the first. They are connected more intricately and intimately than most sequels, and as such I think they deserve to be here together. I like the first one better now, probably because I still in my early twenties, and despite my outward cynicism still have hope to once have a true connection with someone, but I do realize the second one is the better movie. I feel like I am like Jesse in Sunrise now, but will be like Celine in ten years, if that makes any sense. I probably will prefer it ten years from now, because it's truer, and as such also more romantic. No matter your age, I defy anyone not to long for romance after watching these films.


Top 50 - 46 through 50

46. Dogma (Smith, 1999)

I must have watched this film over a dozen time. It's not only Kevin Smith's funniest film, but it's also a satire and critique of religions that manages to be full of belief. You can tell Kevin Smith is not an atheist, but just that he questions some of the interpretations along the way. There are too many good moments to mention here: the buddy Christ, Loki expounding on how Alice through the looking glass made him lose his belief in God, Alan Rickman as the Metatron in every scene he's in...Over the years the not-too-great filmmaking has started being more obvious to me, but the script and the performances are still awesome.

47. Lost In Translation (Coppola, 2003)

I went on about Scarlett Johansson's performance here, but there is, of course, more to this film. The mood music. The tentative atmosphere. Bill Murray at his most funny and poignant. And, of course, that last whisper in her ear. There's a lot to be said in criticism of this movie, but the truth is, it made me feel like few movies can: entranced.

48. Jackie Brown (Tarantino, 1997)

Tarantino's most underrated and underseen movie shows that despite all evidence to the contary, he does, in fact, have a mature side, or at least a potential for maturity. Oh, this is clearly a Tarantino picture: a shot from a trunk, violence, long dialogue laced with references and so on. But unlike the other pictures - and maybe because this is an adaptation- this isn't about impressing anyone, and his tendency for toying with conventional narrative is almost absent. Not only that, but the wonderful conversation between Robert Forster and Pam Grier about getting old seemed to indicate Tarantino might, one day, grow up. Ten years later it seems more and more unlikely, but I still have hope that he might move on beyond great style exercises.

49. Dirty Pretty Things (Frears, 2002)

An oddity, perhaps, this little under-the-radar thriller. Why did this beat out so many classics? I'm not quite sure, myself. Maybe it's simply because if I get just one more person to watch this, it'll have been worth putting this on my list. If you think Sergi Lopez was scary and evil in Pan's Labyrinth, wait until you see him here, and the other actors are also great: Chiwetel Ejiofor is deservedly an up-and-coming star now, and Audrey Tautou shows she is more than Amelie. The film also manages to sneakily address the immigrant problem without being a pamphlet: the plight of illegals in London is a strong undercurrent, but it doesn't get in the way of the suspense and the surrealism. I could have put a classic in its place, but while this might not be a perfect film, it deserves to get more notice than it has.

50. La Jetee (Marker, 1962)

The only short on this list, but definitely not a trifle. Marker's film might sound difficult and hard to approach: almost all stills with narration, it can't even be called a movie. The story he tells is incredibly compelling though, and you understand why Gilliam was inspired to make 12 Monkeys from this. Unlike 12 monkeys, you will find no empty action here, and no crazy Brad Pitt: just a meditation on the nature and unreliability of memory.

Top 50 - Introductory comments and those who just missed the cut

I heard some time ago that in my new capacity as a real film journalist (tm) I would have to make a top 50 of all time. This threw me into a panic. I can never even come up with a best of favorite movie, let alone 50. Also, I felt like I just hadn't seen enough movies to qualify to even make such a list. In preparation, I looked up the top 50 movies I had seen from the top 100 at They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? and I had to go up to movie #178 to find 50 I had seen.

I did start on it though, and today I impulsively started numbering along my long list, and decided this would be it: the list I'll count down from now on. Of course, this is a top 50 strictly as of today, Wednesday August 15th; ask me tomorrow, and the list will be different. But it would be similar, and I'll stick to the list as it is now.

I'll go through the 50 through 11 in groups of five, with short comments, and the top 10 I'll go through one by one, post by post. Afterwards I'll post the full list with some statistics, and some justifications as to why some films you might expect are not there.

Some criteria: one important one was whether I would want to watch it right now. This means that movies I admired but found unpleasant or harsh will not be here. Also, the top movie might have been any other in my top 10, but the one I chose is one I'm certain will still be in my top 10 ten years from now (oh, the suspense...).

To start: the bottom of the long list, the films that might have made it, the runners up, just to give you a taste:

- Masculin/Feminin (Godard, 1966)
- Romeo + Juliet (Luhrmann, 1996)
- The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, 1940)
- The African Queen (Huston, 1951)
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Mitchell, 2001)
- The Dreamers (Bertolucci, 2003)
- The Piano (Campion, 1993)
- L.A. Confidential (Hanson, 1997)
- Say Anything (Crowe, 1989)
- 8 1/2 (Fellini, 1963)
- The Big Heat (Lang, 1953)
- Easy Rider (Hopper, 1969)
- Cool Hand Luke (Rosenberg)
- Atame (Almodovar, 1990)
- Gun Crazy (Lewis, 1949)

So, these did not make it...stay tuned to find out which ones did.


2 Days in Paris

I love going to Paris. By now, I've been there so often that I don't feel the need to do any of the touristy things any more, and especially since this time I was there all by myself, I could just wander around at my own pace, at each intersection going into the street that looked nicest, with only the vaguest of goals in mind.

I was in the same hostel I also went to with my sister two years ago. It's not that great a hostel, but the location is perfect: it's on the Rue Mouffetard, a road with many small eateries, bars and shops and people walking around at all times of the day.

I'd never really been on holiday by myself. I'd traveled alone, yes, and I'd been by myself for a day, but never two whole days. It was a bit lonely, but in the end I liked it a lot: there's a freedom to it that really allows you to relax. Nobody gets bothered if you decide to take twenty pictures of one statue, if you spend half an hour browsing in a DVD shop (bought a wonderful version of The Science of Sleep, filled with extras, and Orson Welles' The Stranger), if you just sit in a park or next to the Seine for an hour, reading or making notes. The first evening, was, however, a bit strange, I had no idea what to do with myself, but the second night I had dinner with a big group from the hostel and had a lot of fun.

You have experiences by yourself you otherwise probably wouldn't have. I had myself a "free" massage, for example (I gave a 3 euro tip), and I had a really nice conversation in a park with two clochards who were lying in the park there, one with a half a liter can of beer, the other with a bottle of wine standing next to him in the grass. When the can was finished, the guy dutifully stood up to throw it in the garbage bag, and when they left, the other even offered me a piece of flan as they left. I checked: up was still up, down was still down.

I think what made me fully accept the being alone part was seeing 2 Days in Paris on Sunday. In this Julie Delpy directed film, she and her American boyfriend (played by ex Adam Goldberg) spend, well, 2 days in Paris. Before Sunset, however, this is not. Before Sunrise and also Before Sunset are about the start of a relationship, when you discover each other and are amazed by the connection you find. Two days in Paris, on the other hand, is about what happens two years later when all the character traits and habits you used to find adorable are now highly irritating, you wonder whether it's worth all the effort and bickering, and you discover you don't really know each other at all. This sounds pretty depressing, I know. But while it is true that it made me realize that spending two days alone in Paris is definitely better than spending two days fighting with a boy or girlfriend in Paris, that wasn't why I left the theatre with a grin on my face: this is probably the funniest movie I've seen all year, funnier than Clerks 2, for instance. How funny? Well, one noise it incited in me got its own laugh from a fellow moviegoer.

The criticism the film will get is, of course, that the characters are caricatures. And yes, the are. But at the same time, let's not forget what a caricature is: a depiction that takes the flaws and funny things that are there, and magnifies them. For instance, I don't know if all French families are as open about their sex lives and sex in general as Delpy's family (her parents plaid by her real-life parents) is here, but they are definitely much more open than American families. And Adam Goldberg? His character is not a hick, he's one of those Americans who is critical of his country, who is a democrat and who images he has a European sensibility: he knows French authors, even speaks a few words, and when he encounters a group of American "code-breakers" (i.e. Dan Brown aficionados) looking for the Louvre...well, I won't spoil what he does, but you can smell his contempt. He is, nonetheless, American, in his food preferences, his paranoid sense of hygiene, and the way he thinks about relationships, and that's where the conflict stems from.

Ok, ok, admittedly, it also stems from the many exes of Delpy's Marion they run into, and their -unfortunately very French- behavior. It also comes from the fact that French people will just go on talking in French even if there's someone who doesn't speak the language in their midst. But who cares, really, where it stems from, when the result is so funny: each taxi driver they run into is worse than the previous one, a "fairy" shows up to give Goldman advice, and there's a scene with Goldman holding a phone in one hand and a dictionary in the other getting progressively angrier that had me doubled over. Its maybe a little exaggerated, ok, a lot, but the comedy stems from human behavior and emotion, not from convoluted misunderstandings and toilet humor, and that's incredibly refreshing.

The best film this year? Not by a long shot. But the funniest? I definitely think so.