My Top 101 Films Part 7 (of 10)

I've finally returned to this series and here comes the next ten.  If you missed my previous entries--where have you been!?!?!?  Here's the running list of previous entries!

Metropolis (2001)

DVD cover to Metropolis (2001)
While Fritz Lang's epic film will always be classic and essential viewing for anyone studying film, this version of Metropolis is lovely.  This animated feature is inspired by Osamu Tezuka's manga of the same name which was originally inspired by Lang's masterpiece.  It varies in parts from both the original film and the manga.  The plot is standard anime fare in terms of it mixes genres (dystopia, noir, science fiction) and raises a variety of questions about humanity.  But what makes the film stand out above other anime and as an excellent film is the soundtrack.  Rather than using techno or other music genres generally associated with anime, the soundtrack is dominated by jazz, making for a surreal experience that is superb.  Looking at this futuristic world with a jazz soundtrack makes it simultaneously new and nostalgic.  Coupled with this is a more complex look at technology that raises questions beyond the machines and really questions the power structures of human society while also recognizing that the human-machine relationship has room for different ideas.

The trailer for this film can be found here.



MirrorMask (2005)

DVD Cover - MirrorMask 2005
This masterpiece comes from the wonderful minds of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.  Their work creates a cinematic collage that is a visual, aural, and emotional experience that is pure delight.  As someone who grew up with the wonder of The Never-Ending Story (see below), it captures the power of storytelling, the bridging of one's imagination with the real world, and purposeful fantasy.  It transports me into the fantasy world to a degree in which it feels authentic--even if it isn't real.  To this, much is owed to McKean who can create surreal worlds through his collage-approach to art.  He seems to take the every-day artifacts of life and weave them into a very curious and disorienting world that works so well, you'll want to visit them.  Like so many Gaiman's stories (and The Never-Ending Story), it contains a level of meta-fiction that always gets me.  

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Modern Times (1936)

It took a long time for me to finally sit down and watch Modern Times.  I have seen snippets of it for as long as I can remember but never felt compelled to watch it.  However, after hearing it referenced in a number of books, some dealing with film and others dealing with technology, it seemed that I couldn't go much longer without seeing it.  Of course, I instantly fell in love with it.  The criticism on technology is present--much like it is with Metropolis.  However, in both cases, it's worth noting that the technology is the tool of oppression--not necessarily the tool itself.  It's clear from the film that the supervisor and his authority are what causes so much trouble for Marx's character.  Indeed, authority is the problem throughout that keeps Marx and the woman from succeeding or continually impeding their ability to find stability and make something for themselves.  Their desire to work isn't impeded by technology but by the authoritative forces that would rather reduce them to de facto slave labor either in the form of prison labor or factory labor.

This film can be found here.



Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

DVD Cover of Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Never has there been a more quotable movie than Monty Python.  It's a fantastic post-modern comedy that it enrages some while leaving others in tears.  I remember the first time I came across it.  It was playing on PBS and I came in about half-way through.  I couldn't make sense of it but couldn't turn away from it.  It had bad special effects, split into cartoon at times, and a series of events that was considered to be its plot but felt like glued-together paper.  And yet, it worked so well and continued to work to today.  Whether it is the Knights Who Say Nee or the coconuts or the Holy Handgrenade, it all seems ridiculous, but somehow both fits for the humor and the narrative.  Ultimately, it is a film that never takes itself serious--and that is the only thing it takes serious.  

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Never-Ending Story (1984)

DVD Cover - Neverending Story
As far as I can recall, this is the first movie that ever made me cry.  Every kid that grew up watching the film knows exactly when this happens:  When Artax, Atreyu's horse, gives up and drowns in the Swamps of Sadness.  The masterpiece of that scene to make youth feel death in a way that may not yet be palpable to them yet is so powerful.  But beyond that, the movie as a whole is a magical exploration for any child who can lose himself (or herself) in a book and think about fantastic worlds that may exist.  The book's turn into meta-fiction at the end seems equally powerful in its ability to reach out to the child viewer and tell them that these fictitious worlds are real in some profound way.  Rolled into all of this is also the powerful story of the outsider, Sebastian who in some ways becomes the insider, Atreyu to save the princess.  The film is filled with oedipal influences (the princess is a form of his mother) and the Campbell's hero's journey, but the child doesn't realize this until years later.  The child just enjoys the story.  

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Newsies (1992)

Newsies was the film that made me want to be in a musical.  First, there was Christian Bale--I found him fascinating (and still do).  However, there was also the music.  I've never been a music aficionado; I've just known when I found music powerful and moving to me.  Newsies had a soundtrack that had many sounds that energized and moved me.  In fact, it still regularly features on my playlist decades later.  Of course, I was biased to enjoy the film from the get-go because of course, I spent seven years of my life as a paper-boy.  Clearly, I was not anywhere near the dire conditions depicted in the film.  I had a very easy newspaper route.  But it certainly pulled me into the film more strongly. 

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Night of the Living Dead (1968)

DVD Cover - Night of the Living Dead
I admit that I wasn't that impressed with the first few times I encountered this film.  After all, I grew up in the 1980s, watching horror films of that time (like the next film).  It didn't strike me as impressive--it wasn't even gory.  How could that be the standard bearer fro all future zombie films?  But then I grew up and in growing up, I came to begin to look at horror films more critically, write about post-9/11 zombie narratives, and even teach a course on monsters.  When I revisited the film in this context, it became apparent that George R. Romero and his fellow filmmakers were pretty kick-ass.  The politics of the film (featuring an African American male lead) coupled with these relentless and mindless beings seeking to obliterate humankind made for a perfect coupling, especially when shot in black and white.  Taking individually, none of these items would have made it on its own but together, they make quite the film.  

This film can be found here.



Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

As we get to this film, it's becoming clear that I dig films that blend reality with fiction.  Neverending Story, MirrorMask, Monty Python and many others all play with this idea in some fashion.  Nightmare on Elm Street was the horror film that introduced me to the world where fiction meets reality.  I was fascinated by the idea that we are haunted in the real world by our dreams.  Years later, it came to no surprise to me that Wes Craven was originally an English high school teacher.  For those that say television and film are wastes of time, they certainly played a pivotal role in me becoming a reader.  I was also fascinated with Freddy because unlike his counterparts--Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers--he talked a good deal.  In fact, in later movies, that was part of the fun--to see what lines he was going to deliver with the next kill.  In reflecting on it, it reminds me of a documentary I've used in class about EC Comics wherein they talk about the Cryptkeeper from Tales from Crypt.  The humor always leveled off the violence.  It was a wink and a nod to admitting the fiction.  I also attribute the Nightmare on Elm Street series to a regular sense of being aware that I'm dreaming when I'm asleep and asking for "replays".

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Normal (2003)

Tom Wilkinson plays a man who decides to transition to a female in his 50s while living in middle-America town working at a factory, despite the reservations from his wife and children.  The film is not perfect in its portrayal of transsexuals and yet, it was one of the few mainstream TV films up until that point that didn't display a transperson as entirely tragic or ridiculous.  Thoguh there are confrontations throughout and the couple find themselves losing family and friends, the wife finds she is still capable of loving the transitioned character.  It's a powerful but quiet movie.  Wilkinson manages to walk the fine line of trying to find his way to her without being exploitative or exaggerating.  The couple prove that normal is just a word that we all find our own way to.

The trailer for this film can be found here.



Nosferatu (1922)

DVD Cover - Nosferatu
The earliest vampire film that is known to date.  Based upon Dracula by Bram Stoker but ordered to be destroyed by his wife (he had died a decade previously), the film survived and continues to be a hallmark of great film.  The use of angles, lens filtering, musical score, use of shadows, and other visual effects are significant enough that the film still holds up today for those that can enjoy a silent film.   Max Schreck as Count Orlok proves a haunting image that can still haunt the viewer years later.  His gestures, his eyes and his alien features are sufficient enough to make one run the other way.  Numerous other films have tried to capture the horror of Dracula, but few have come as close as Nosferatu.  Additionally, the film works well as a silent film, relying on textual elements like title cards to tell its story because that was part of the power of Dracula--it was a novel told in words; letters, recordings, newspaper articles, etc.  Nosferatu maintains some of that in its production that other adaptations typically lose.  

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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