My Top 101 Films Part 5 (of 10)

So remember this series that I started way back when before life got a lil crazy!  Here we are at the half-way mark!  Anyone still here?  Let's hope!  I'm rather enjoying this trip down memorable movie lane!  Here's the running list of previous entries!

Happiness (1998)

Films that deal with hard topics in honest ways, showing nuance and complexity are fantastic.  It is why I appreciate independent films.  Many mainstream films do not have the time, gumption, or interest in delving into the complexity of everyday life.  Hence, Happiness make it onto my list.  The film follows a family and their intersections with happiness--particularly through the lens of sexual and relational happiness.  It's a powerful film because in all of the sexual issues covered (including BDSM, infidelity, developing sexuality, pedophilia, apathy), it does its best to not present it in a straightforward black and white manner, but rather explores the different levels and elements to each.  In some cases, it does condemn (as in the case of the pedophile) but not without trying to provide some insight and understanding.  This is not to excuse but to recognize that somehow mixed upon in such deviant behavior is an aspiration of happiness (which is the tragedy of it all).  This is a hard film for many to watch but worth it, if you want to look at the subject matter in a different light.  The trailer for this film can be found here.

Hard Candy (2005)

DVD Cover - Hard Candy
Here is a film that flips the idea of predator and prey on its head and provides a fascinating discussion of agency.  The film centers around a young teenager (portrayed by the phenomenal Ellen Page) who befriends and visits a man who is much older than her.  He brings her back to his house where he attempts to seduce her.  However, the young woman is more than she initially lets on.  The game of cat and mouse is flipped and the predatory male becomes the hunted as she drugs, confines, torments, and reveals all his secrets.  In many ways it is an unrealistic film, but it is one that powerful flips the dynamic of young women as victims.   The trailer for this film can be found here.

Harvey (1950)

DVD Cover - Harvey
Besides being a Jimmy Stewart film, which means it has great potential, the film itself is a fun but at times dark frolic into the world of eccentricities.  Elwood P. Dowd has a friend, Harvey, who is a six foot bunny that no one but he can see.  What's fascinating about the film is how well and genuine Stewart interacts with the invisible Harvey and how much this creates angst for the rest of his family.  More so, in some of the film's more somber moments, Stewart's dialogue with Harvey cuts deep for viewers.  Stewart's good-natured Dowd makes him such a loveable character and yet, so many people around him feel threatened by his attitude and of course, Harvey.  Yet, they are all complicit in this for they placate him without ever speaking to their inability to see Harvey.  Overall, the film makes us rethink the nature of eccentricity and sanity.  The trailer for this film can be found here.

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

DVD Cover - Hotel Rwanda
Of course, any film that tackles genocide is bound to leave a lasting impression, but I found this one to be more striking than others.  That's not to slight other films on the subject, but I just connected and was moved more by this on.  Don Cheadle's performance is excellence.  I appreciate that the film doesn't entirely try to paint Paul as a saint or as someone whose background helped him to do what he did.  That he largely lacks an origin story makes him an ideal "everyperson" for audiences to think about.  In truth, many of us are not likely to be Pauls in such situation but the film does show us how it could be done.  I think I like the film so much because it captures a lot of Philip Gourevitch's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda.  The trailer for this film can be found here.

I'm Not Scared (2003)

DVD Cover - I'm Not Scared
I remember the first time I watched this film, I was rather surprised.  I didn't anticipate to be as engaged as I was.  I approached it with the false idea that a title like "I'm Not Scared" was a challenge to the viewer.  But I did indeed find myself scared for the protagonists.  The story follows a boy in an Italian village who stumbles upon another boy chained up in an abandoned house.  As he tries to figure out what to do, he unlocks some rather dark skeletons in his town.  The film captured me because it has such beautiful moments wherein the trapped boy was experiencing the outside world coupled with an idyllic childhood world and contrasted with the dubious deeds of adults.  It all comes together quite well.  It's also a novel by the same name from Niccolo Ammaniti and the novel is equally solid.  I wouldn't say better as they both tell the tale well.  The trailer for this film can be found here.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Now, I get that this is a Christmas classic and people either roll their eyes or their eyes sparkle with excitement.  I never watched this movie through when I was a kid.  I saw bits and pieces of it, but sometime in my 20s, I finally watched it.  It was a solid film and reminded me of Citizen Kane; it's a film better appreciated as one gets older.  Jimmy Stewart, who is mentioned just a few films up does a fantastic job as George Bailey, trying to escape but finding in the end, there is no place like home.  The trailer for this film can be found here.

Jimmy Neutron (2001)

DVD Cover - Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius
This one probably seems like a bit of a curveball compared to the other films on this list (ok, maybe not).  But I just want to remind people there are my top films, not the best films out there.  That would be a bit of a different list.  It's funny when I first watched Jimmy Neutron, I watched it passively, while doing other things.  However, at the time, I was working at a video store and we could occasionally play movies, but they had to be G or PG.  So I popped this one in.  It was either a slow night or watching the film was a way to disconnect from people dishing out the typical complaints for that night.  Whatever it was, I found the movie to be delightfully quirky and goofy.  It had plenty of flat jobs, but also strange and amusing commentary such as references to llamas, the chicken dance, and jokes that could work for adults or children.  From that night forward, I would constantly play the film, much to the chagrin of my fellow workers.  The trailer for this film can be found here.

King Kong (1933)

DVD Cover - King Kong
Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, TBS, USA, and TNT were known for their movie-marathons on Saturday and Sunday.  Often enough, they would play the classic giant monster films of the 1950s-1960s.  This led me to have a profound love of giant monster movies and King Kong is, of course, a giant among giants.  It's a curious film with a level of complexity that some don't give it credit for.  Yes, there's the overwhelming racist elements of the film and those are hard to ignore or forgive.  Besides the depiction of Chinese as represented by the chef, the Pacific Islanders of Skull Island somehow ending up being black as Africans and Kong, himself, seems the embodiment of the African American experience.  But I find it curious that the film has shifting protagonists throughout the film.  At different times, the audience is rooting for both the humans and Kong, even though they are antagonists to one another.   The special effects may not hold up today are still pretty impressive for the time.   The trailer for this film can be found here.

L'Age D'Or (1930)

There's not much to describe about this film's plot; it's the epitome of surrealism, which is why it's a delight to watch and be baffled with.  I first encountered it years ago in a course on contemporary European history that I took.  It is not a film for the straightforward.  Best of all, the film is now available online for free.  I appreciated the chaotic nature of the film and the deep desire for anyone watching it to try to make coherent sense of it, only to mostly fail.  

The film can be found for free here.

Labyrinth (1986)

DVD Cover - Labyrinth
There are many things from the 1980s that I forget or shun in embarrassment.  However, Labyrinth is a film that I somehow missed when growing up.  I loved watching Dark Crystal and Neverending Story, but somehow missed this film until I was in high school.  Of course, then I was completely hooked.  The puppet-based fantasy is a genre that engrossed me and many of my ilk that grew up in the 1980s and 1990s.  Yes, there are times when you can see strings and times when it's clearly cheesy, but it felt so real and magical and still lingers with us decades later.   Now, most people can't seem to forget the epic package of David Bowie in the leather-tight pants.  That is indeed hard to forget, but the moment I knew I loved the movie is when we first meet Hoggle and he is pissing in the well.  I can only say that I appreciated that in a children's film, they were willing to include this scene.  I still giggle about it today. The trailer for this film can be found here.

Your turn!  What are some of your favorite films and why?  Post them in the comments!

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