Monday, February 7, 2011

My Top 20 Movies Of All Time: 16 To 13

What follows is a list of what I think are the best films of all time. Now rating films is a very subjective thing, and I have by no means seen every film ever made, so some of the films that you may think are the best might not be on this list. Feel free to suggest something that I might have missed, and if I agree with you I will amend my list and give you credit for introducing me to a new awesome movie. Other then that, enjoy and feel free to comment about my choices. Due to laziness, I will be using the synopsis's from, and then I will put in my two cents afterwards.

16. Flag Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima Although these are techincally 2 seperate films, I am counting them as 2 parts of one whole in this case, for reasons mentioned below.
Flags Of Our Fathers

What It Is About - Flags Of Our Fathers concerns the lives of the men in the famous picture of soldiers raising the American flag over Iwo Jima during that historic WWII battle. Battle scenes are intercut with footage of three of the soldiers - played by Ryan Phillipe, Jesse Bradford, and Adam Beach -- who survived the battle going on a goodwill tour of the United States in order to sell war bonds. Many evenings they are forced to reenact their famous pose, something each of them finds more and more difficult to do as they suffer from survivor's guilt. Eastwood frames the story by having one of the men's grown son (Tom McCarthy) interview his father's old comrades in order to find out more about what happened to his father.

Letters From Iwo Jima

What It Is About - In 1945, World War II was in its last stages, and U.S. forces were planning to take on the Japanese on a small island known as Iwo Jima. While the island was mostly rock and volcanoes, it was of key strategic value and Japan's leaders saw the island as the final opportunity to prevent an Allied invasion. Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) was put in charge of the forces on Iwo Jima; Kuribayashi had spent time in the United States and was not eager to take on the American army, but he also understood his opponents in a way his superiors did not, and devised an unusual strategy of digging tunnels and deep foxholes that allowed his troops a tactical advantage over the invading soldiers. While Kuribayashi's strategy alienated some older officers, it impressed Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara), the son of a wealthy family who had also studied America firsthand as an athlete at the 1932 Olympics. As Kuribayashi and his men dig in for a battle they are not certain they can win -- and most have been told they will not survive -- their story is told both by watching their actions and through the letters they write home to their loved ones, letters that in many cases would not be delivered until long after they were dead. Among the soldiers manning Japan's last line of defense are Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), a baker sent to Iwo Jima only days before his wife was to give birth; Shimizu (Ryo Kase), who was sent to Iwo Jima after washing out in the military police; and Lieutenant Ito (Shidou Nakamura), who has embraced the notion of "Death Before Surrender" with particular ferocity. Filmed in Japanese with a primarily Japanese cast, Letters From Iwo Jima was shot in tandem with Flags of Our Fathers, and the two films were released within two months of one another.

Why It Makes The List - Just as Tombstone is the only western that made my list, Flags Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima are the only World War II movies that are in my top 20. This may surprise people, as there are many great WWII movies that have been made over the years, so what makes these the best. Well, Clint Eastwood in his movie making brilliance, made two films at the same time, each dealing with the same battle from each sides perspective. Each film has incredible action and acting from amazing casts, but each is very much their own while still being part of a whole. Flags Of Our Fathers looks at the battle of Iwo Jima from the American side. It focuses on the story of the men who are in one of the most famous pictures taken in american war history, and how it caused their lives to be drastically changed for the better and for the worse, and what their country expected of them, because of it. Letters From Iwo Jima on the other hand looks at the Japanese side of the battle of Iwo Jima from a Generals perspective, and a few soldiers that are spread throughout the island. Eastwood chose to film most of the movie in black and white, which really helps get across the hopeless feeling that the Japanese soldiers must have felt, being torn between following orders, wanting to survive and fulfilling the honor code that many of them lived by. The dialogue in the movie for the most part was also in Japanese with subtitles, and it actually premiered in Japan before it did in America, which was an incredibly cool move on Eastwoods part. Ok, so that is all great, but you may be asking why is it on this list? Well, many of the war movies that I have seen deal with either one particular person or platoon, or are spread out over long periods of time, but this is not the case with these films. Both of these movies look at one battle, but they also cover personal, political and moral perspectives present in each country in such a way as to give a much greater understanding of what each side was actually going through. It puts this one battle, over the island of Iwo Jima, into a much clearer context , as to why it was so important in the grand scheme of this war and to each country in particular, yet, still has impact on the viewer on incredibly personal levels. Clint Eastwood has fashioned two movies that tell the same story through completely different eyes, yet stays true to both sides. I don't think this has ever been done before, and Clint Eastwood managed to do it brilliantly in two incredibly authentic looking, well made films, and that is why they made my list.

15. V For Vendetta

What It Is About - V for Vendetta takes place in an alternate vision of Britain in which a corrupt and abusive totalitarian government has risen to complete power. During a threatening run in with the secret police, an unassuming young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) is rescued by a vigilante named V (Hugo Weaving) -- a caped figure both articulate and skilled in combat. V embodies the principles of rebellion from an authoritarian state, donning a mask of vilified would-be terrorist of British history Guy Fawkes and leading a revolution sparked by assassination and destruction. Evey becomes his unlikely ally, newly aware of the cruelty of her own society and her role in it.

Why It Makes The List - Based on the Allan Moore comic book (although it is very different on certain key plot points), V For Vendetta is a movie that is all about truth and the power that one man can have when he decides to fully commit to an idea or ideal. It mixes politics, action, mystery, plot twists and the greatest speech of V words ever put on film. The acting is fantastic from an incredible cast, with Hugo Weaving giving his best performance to date and Natalie Portman is great and possibly the most attractive bald woman I have ever seen. V is a very multilayered character that would probably be considered a villain if he was in any other film, but that is only because he is uncompromising in his goals and direction with which they are carried out. V For Vendetta is a violent, fast paced, morality tale that looks at truth, justice, love, redemption and unity, all with a guy running around in a mask throwing daggers, how cool is that, and it is that, plus the fact that V For Vendetta looks incredible that it makes my list.

14. Spartacus
What It Is About - Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) is a rebellious slave purchased by Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), owner of a school for gladiators. For the entertainment of corrupt Roman senator Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier), Batiatus' gladiators are to stage a fight to the death. On the night before the event, the enslaved trainees are "rewarded" with female companionship. Spartacus' companion for the evening is Varinia (Jean Simmons), a slave from Brittania. When Spartacus later learns that Varinia has been sold to Crassus, he leads 78 fellow gladiators in revolt. Word of the rebellion spreads like wildfire, and soon Spartacus' army numbers in the hundreds. Escaping to join his cause is Varinia, who has fallen in love with Spartacus, and another of Crassus' house slaves, the sensitive Antoninus (Tony Curtis). The revolt becomes the principal cog in the wheel of a political struggle between Crassus and a more temperate senator named Gracchus, while Spartacus just wants freedom for himself and his people.

Why It Makes The List - You don't get any more epic then Spartacus. This is a movie that pretty much defines, "HUGE" and "CLASSIC" more then any other that I can think of. It has an absolutely amazing performance from Kirk Douglas as a man that becomes a slave, then gladiator, then free man, then general, all the while just wanting to be free and be with the woman he loves. One of the most impressive things about Spartacus, when watching it now, is to see just how massive in scale it was. The amount of people it must have took both in front and behind the camera had to be staggering. Add to that the stunts that are done, especially the "flaming rolling pins of death", and the gladiator fights, it is just an undertaking that deserves recognition for all the other films that it inspired after it, some of which are on this list, and that is why I place it among the top 20 films of all time.

13. Inception
What It Is About - Visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight) writes and directs this psychological sci-fi action film about a thief who possesses the power to enter into the dreams of others. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) doesn't steal things, he steals ideas. By projecting himself deep into the subconscious of his targets, he can glean information that even the best computer hackers can't get to. In the world of corporate espionage, Cobb is the ultimate weapon. But even weapons have their weakness, and when Cobb loses everything, he's forced to embark on one final mission in a desperate quest for redemption. This time, Cobb won't be harvesting an idea, but sowing one. Should he and his team of specialists succeed, they will have discovered a new frontier in the art of psychic espionage. They've planned everything to perfection, and they have all the tools to get the job done. Their mission is complicated, however, the repeated appearnce of Cobbs dead wife keeps changing the variables and only through resolution will they stand any chance of achieving their goal.

Why It Makes The List - Inception is one of those movies that as I sat watching it in the theater, just made me freak out by it sheer awesomeness. It has pretty much everything you could want in a big budget movie. It has great acting, an amazing cast, an original premise, mind bending special effects which help to further the story instead of overwhealm it (Total props go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the running around the hallways, cause that was just incredible) little touches of humor, and some great action set pieces that just put a smile on my face. Add to that the emotional rollercoaster ride that the journey that Cobb goes on to try and forgive himself for his wifes death and get back to his children and you have a movie that left me feeling as giddy as a little kid and fulfilled as an all growed up adult. Top all that off with the direction of my favourite and best director working right now, Christopher Nolan, and you have my number 13 movie, of my best movies of all time (Just a little note in case my friend Mike B. is reading this, I know you think Inception is overrated, and I am ok with that, I still value your opinion, even if it is that some of the movies that I love suck.)

So there are the next 4, let me know what you think, and look for numbers 12 To 9 to be up next week, and check out 20 To 17 if you missed it. Until then, may your internet never be down, and the corners of your mouth always be up. Stay toasty, or some other word that works better for you.

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