Tuesday, January 31, 2012

100 movies you should see before you die: Main Index

Below is an ongoing alphabetical list of movies covered in my 100 movies to see before you die. Each title links to the review. For an explanation of how these titles were picked, please scroll down.

1. 12 Angry Men
2. 127 Hours
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
4. The 400 Blows
5. Alien
6. Amelie
7. American Beauty
8. As Good as It Gets
9. Avatar
10. Babel
11. Bambi
12. Baraka
13. Being There
14. Black Swan
15. Blow Out
16. The Bourne Trilogy
17. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
18. The Bicycle Thief / Bicycle Thieves
19. Cache (Hidden)
20. Cast Away
21. Chungking Express
22. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
23. Closer
24. Control
25. The Dark Knight
26. Dead Poets Society
27. The Departed
28. Die Hard
29. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
30. Dog Day Afternoon
31. The Double Life of Veronique
32. Doubt
33. The Elephant Man
34. El Norte
35. Falling Down
36. Fantastic Mr. Fox
37. Fargo
38. Field of Dreams
39. Fight Club
40. Freedom Writers
41. Frost/Nixon
42. Gran Torino
43. Grave of the Fireflies
44. The Great Escape
45. I Am Legend
46. Jaws
47. Juno
48. Kes
49. Kill Bill Vol. 1
50. The King's Speech
51. Leon: The Professional
52. The Lives of Others
53. Lolita
54. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
55. Love Actually
56. The Matrix 
57. Memento 
58. Midnight in Paris
59. Million Dollar Baby 
60. The Mist 
61. Moneyball 
62. Monty Python and the Holy Grail 
63. Moon 
64. Mulholland Dr. 
65. My Neighbor Totoro 
66. Once 
67. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
68. Paris, Texas
69. Pay It Forward 
70. Play Time 
71. The Prestige 
72. Psycho
73. Pulp Fiction 
74. The Pursuit of Happyness 
75. Rabbit Hole 
76. Ratatouille 
77. The Reader 
78. Revanche 
79. Seabiscuit 
80. The Shawshank Redemption
81. The Shining 
82. The Silence of the Lambs 
83. Spirited Away 
84. Stop Making Sense 
85. Sunshine Cleaning 
86. Taken 
87. Taxi Driver 
88. There Will Be Blood 
89. Three Colors Red 
90. Up in the Air 
91. Vertigo 
92. Wall Street 
93. The Warriors 
94. Wings of Desire 
95. The World's Fastest Indian 

As I was working through my initial list of 100 movies, I found that five titles were no longer as good as I remembered them. For that reason, the final five entries were added after the initial list was exhausted and will not appear in alphabetical order.

96. Bottle Rocket
97. Apollo 13 
98. The Descendants 
99. No Country for Old Men 
100. Broadcast News

Have you ever read a list like this before?

Doesn't it seem a little arrogant to believe that if you like something it should be seen by everyone?

Think about it logically for a moment. Movies appeal to different people for different reasons. If you detest musicals, do you really want to watch The Sound of Music or The Wizard of Oz? If you don't like violence, will you enjoy Casino or Goodfellas? If you can't bear to watch a subtitled film, will you subject yourself to Das Boot or The Bicycle Thief?

Some people will never watch a black and white film. Others will avoid movies in which an animal dies or gets hurt.

Do you avoid movies with nudity, swearing, or extreme sadness? Can you sit down and watch something that runs for three or four hours, or will you only watch shorter movies?

Do you avoid certain genres or find yourself only watching comedy or action movies?

There is so much to consider when recommending a movie to other people. I regularly try to suggest titles to three or four different groups of friends. I want them to enjoy my selections, but I also want to wow them or broaden their horizons. It's enjoyable seeing friends react when they are watching a movie you have seen several times. Well, it's enjoyable if they end up liking it. It's not much fun knowing that you wasted two hours of someone's life. It doesn't matter how well you think you know a person, one tiny little scene can ruin the movie for them.

With all that in mind, it's clearly impossible to make a sweeping statement such as, "Here are 100 movies you must see before you die." That list differs depending on your audience.

How do you even judge which 100 should be on your list? Should you include movies that introduced ideas or techniques which changed the way movies were made? What about just listing your 100 favorites? Could you even determine your 100 favorites, or would your list have changed by the time you finished compiling it?

What is the purpose of such a list anyway? Are you trying to show people that you have a vast amount of film knowledge? Or are you brave enough to list personal favorites that you know will be ridiculed by some of your audience?

Is the list for you, or is it for your audience?

In my case, I have decided to include 100 movies which are important to me in some way. I admire everything on the list, but the reasons for choosing each title vary. I have also decided not to just list 100 movies I love. I'm a fan of certain directors and actors, but including everything they have produced serves very little purpose.

One of the aims of this exercise is to introduce you to new movies. The best way I can think of to do that is to suggest other titles you may like if you like one of the 100 on my list. So, for each movie, I will include suggestions for similar films.

You have probably noticed that if I do that I'll have considerably more films than 100. Not only that, you'll realize that if you don't like 50 of the films on my list, there's very little point in investigating suggestions related to those particular titles. That's the idea.

I hope that my ramblings so far make some kind of sense and that you see what I am trying for here. I'm not an authority on film like Roger Ebert. He's been around a long time and has been reviewing films for a living for over 40 years.

I'm passionate about film and have been around a while too, but I wasn't always the person I am now. The importance of film is still quite a new realization to me and exploring the medium has only been a big part of my life for the past five years.

If I omit one of your favorites, it may mean that I simply haven't seen it. Or it could mean that it's just not my kind of film. Many on the following list will be loved by some of you and despised by others. There probably aren't two people on earth who would list exactly the same 100 films on a list like this.

Now that you know my reasoning, intent and (lack of) qualifications, I'll start the list. It will be in alphabetical order and I'll add to it when I have the time and inspiration.

Return to index of 100 movies to see before you die.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2012 Oscar Nominations

There are plenty of surprises this year. Here are the films with the most nominations:

Hugo 11
The Artist 10
Moneyball 6
War Horse 6
The Descendants 5
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 5
Midnight in Paris 4
The Help 4

Best Picture

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

One of the biggest shock inclusions has to be Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Surprise omissions include The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Drive.

The Artist is the early favorite, although my preference would be for The Descendants. Midnight in Paris is one of my favorites from the list, but has no chance of winning. It is a pleasant surprise to see The Tree of Life nominated. It's such an ambitious film, but not something likely to appeal to a wide audience.

Actor in a Leading Role

Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar) are the biggest omissions.

I'm a huge Jeff Bridges fan, but his 2010 win was not the best performance of his career. I believe that Clooney should have won that year for Up in the Air and his performance in The Descendants is just as good. The Artist has the potential to sweep the awards, so Dujardin has a strong chance. Pitt was great in Moneyball, but I don't think it's his turn this year.

Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Viola Davis (The Help)
Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn)

Once again, there's no love for Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin). As a fan of Jason Reitman's films, I'm a little sad that Charlize Theron (Young Adult) was overlooked. Mara did a decent job, but it's questionable whether she was better than Noomi Rapace in the original version of Dragon Tattoo. Streep captured Margaret Thatcher perfectly. I'm of the opinion that the best performances should be rewarded regardless of how many times somebody has won in the past. Streep has been robbed of several Oscars and this could be another with Viola Davis the likely favorite.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)

It's shocking to see von Sydow included, although I love his acting. Plummer is the likely winner, but my favorite performance came from Hill. Moneyball wouldn't have worked without the right actor supporting Pitt. Patton Oswalt was great in Young Adult, so it's a shame he isn't among the nominees.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)

I would like to have seen Shailene Woodley among the names for her work in The Descendants, but it wasn't to be.


Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

What a great list. Payne edges out Allen for me, but this category is wide open.

Animated Feature Film

A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Pixar usually wins with any entry so it's surprising that Cars 2 wasn't even nominated. Rango is the most deserving of the nominees, but I would rather watch Arrietty than any of them.


The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

It's hard to imagine a more beautiful film than The Tree of Life.

Film Editing

The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

The Descendants
The Ides of March
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Descendants deserves to win, but Moneyball doesn't deserve to lose.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

The Artist
Margin Call
Midnight in Paris
A Separation

Another win for The Artist? My vote goes to Midnight in Paris for actually producing something with fresh ideas.

Art Direction

The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
War Horse

Costume Design

The Artist
Jane Eyre

Documentary Feature

Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Documentary Short

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Foreign Language Film

Bullhead (Belgium)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)


Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady

Music (Original Score)

The Adventures of Tintin
The Artist
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse

Music (Original Song)

"Man or Muppet" (The Muppets)
"Real in Rio" (Rio)

Short Film (Animated)

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Short Film (Live Action)

The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

Sound Editing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Don't be surprised if Harry Potter wins something as it's the last of the eight films.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Moneyball - A sports movie with a difference

Moneyball (Biography, Drama, Sport)
Directed by Bennett Miller
Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Sony Pictures | 2011 | 133 min | Rated PG-13 | Released Jan 10, 2012

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

English, French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

English, English SDH, French, Spanish

50GB Blu-ray Disc
DVD Copy

The Film 4.5/5

Moneyball is a refreshing change from the usual type of sports movie. How many times have you watched the story of an underdog triumphing? How many movies introduce us to a controversial coach who is initially resented because of his methods and then revered by all when he succeeds? This story is certainly a celebration of success, but not in the typical sense.

It’s based on the true story of how General Manager Billy Beane (Pitt) employed a new way of thinking in order to enable the Oakland Athletics to compete with the likes of the New York Yankees. He did this with just one third of the payroll of that available to the Yankees.

Beane’s first move was to hire Peter Brand (Hill) – an economics graduate from Yale. Instead of relying on traditional scouting methods, Brand used statistical analysis to determine the true value of baseball players. Instead of paying huge salaries based on a players’ potential, he sought out value by considering players who were believed to have flaws. These might include injury or advancing age. Beane collaborated with Brand to assemble a team on a low budget. Departing stars were replaced with players who were a good fit for the team.

The reason Moneyball appeals to me so much is that I also rely on my own way of thinking rather than following conventional wisdom. That doesn’t mean I will ignore everything, but I will question the opinions of others and decide whether I agree. It’s something I have done my entire life and one reason I review movies. You might not agree with me, but at least you know that I’m not just repeating the opinions of others.

The dialogue is intelligent and full of humor. Some of the scenes, such as Beane pursuing trades with other teams, are quite exciting. Pitt and Hill work well together and are in most of the scenes. One source of conflict is Coach Art Howe (Hoffman). He’s concerned about his own situation and future in the sport, and is reluctant to adopt Beane’s desired strategy.

I enjoyed Moneyball because it was different and the story was told in an appealing way. I won’t ruin the ending for those who don’t remember whether the A’s won the World Series, but I will say that the story doesn’t show a huge amount of baseball action. This is about the people behind the scenes and the way in which they affected the sport.

The 133 minutes race by and that’s always a good sign. I can imagine myself watching this movie several times.

Video Quality 4/5

Sony’s presentation looks great for the most part. There’s plenty of detail and depth. Colors appear accurate and well-defined. The only minor fault is the presence of noise in many of the scenes. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it’s hard to dismiss it completely. The movie uses a few TV shots and some archive footage, and that’s clearly of lesser quality than the majority of the presentation. That’s purely intentional and no fault in the transfer.

Audio Quality 4/5

This is a story which relies more on dialogue than anything else. It rises to the occasion when required, such as during baseball games, but it’s fairly subtle overall.

Special Features 3/5

The extras are in full HD and offer just the right amount of content for those wanting more information:

Blooper: Brad Loses It (3:11) – A scene in which Pitt can’t stop laughing at one of the lines delivered by Hill.

Deleted Scenes (12:05) – Three extended scenes which didn’t make the final cut in their entirety.

Billy Beane: Re-Inventing the Game (16:02) – A discussion about Beane’s impact on the game.

Drafting the Team (20:51) – A feature explaining the reasoning behind some of the casting decisions.

Adapting Moneyball (16:33) – Showing how Michael Lewis’s book was adapted for the big screen.

MLB 12 The Show Preview Trailer (1:21)