Monday, April 2, 2012


  1. Apocalypse Now (1979) 5 stars
  2. Pulp Fiction (1994) 5 stars
  3. The Sixth Sense (1999) 5 stars
  4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 5 stars
  5. The Wizard of Oz (1939) 5 stars
  6. Midnight Cowboy (1969) 5 stars
  7. Unforgiven (1992) 5 stars
  8. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 5 stars
  9. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 5 stars
  10. Schindler's List (1993) 5 stars
  11. The Godfather (1972) 5 stars
  12. Goodfellas (1990) 5 stars
  13. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) 5 stars
  14. The Last Picture Show (1971) 5 stars
  15. A Clockwork Orange (1971) 5 stars
  16. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) 5 stars
  17. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) 5 stars
  18. In the Heat of the Night (1967) 5 stars
  19. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) 5 stars
  20. Rocky (1976) 4 1/2 stars
  21. Citizen Kane (1941) 4 1/2 stars
  22. The Godfather: Part II (1974)  4 1/2 stars
  23. The Deer Hunter (1978)  4 1/2 stars
  24. Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)          4 1/2 stars 
  25. Chinatown (1974)  4 1/2 stars
  26. The Graduate (1967)  4 1/2 stars
  27. Taxi Driver (1976) 4 1/2 stars
  28. Network (1976)  4 1/2 stars
  29. Forrest Gump (1994)  4 1/2 stars
  30. Do the Right Thing (1989)  4 1/2 stars
  31. Raging Bull (1980) 4 stars 
  32. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)  4 stars
  33. Gone With the Wind (1939)  4 stars
  34. Saving Private Ryan (1998)  4 stars
  35. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)  4 stars
  36. Sophie's Choice (1982)  4 stars
  37. Rear Window (1954) 4 stars
  38. 12 Angry Men (1957)  4 stars
  39. Bringing Up Baby (1938)  4 stars
  40. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 4 stars
  41. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) 4 stars
  42. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)  4 stars
  43. Casablanca (1942) 4 stars
  44. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)  4 stars
  45. Blade Runner (1982)  4 stars
  46. Sunset Boulevard (1950)  4 stars
  47. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)  4 stars
  48. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)  4 stars
  49. The Apartment (1960)  4 stars
  50. Toy Story (1995)  4 stars
  51. Jaws (1975) 3 1/2 stars
  52. Psycho (1960)  3 1/2 stars
  53. Cabaret (1972)  3 1/2 stars
  54. Sullivan's Travels (1941)  3 1/2 stars
  55. High Noon (1952)  3 1/2 stars
  56. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)  3 1/2 stars
  57. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)  3 1/2 stars
  58. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)  3 1/2 stars
  59. Spartacus (1960) 3 1/2 stars
  60. West Side Story (1961)  3 1/2 stars
  61. The Maltese Falcon (1941)  3 1/2 stars
  62. On the Waterfront (1954)  3 1/2 stars
  63. Nashville (1975)  3 1/2 stars
  64. North By Northwest (1959) 3 stars
  65. The General (1926)  3 stars
  66. American Graffiti (1973)  3 stars
  67. It Happened One Night (1934)  3 stars
  68. Platoon (1986)  3 stars
  69. Ben Hur (1959)  3 stars
  70. Some Like it Hot (1959)  3 stars
  71. Annie Hall (1977)  3 stars
  72. All the President's Men (1976)  3 stars
  73. The Philadelphia Story (1940)  3 stars
  74. Tootsie (1982)  3 stars
  75. King Kong (1933)  3 stars
  76. Singin' in the Rain (1952) 2 1/2 stars
  77. Titanic (1997)  2 1/2 stars
  78. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)  2 1/2 stars
  79. The Gold Rush (1925)  2 1/2 stars
  80. Easy Rider (1969)  2 1/2 stars
  81. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) 2 stars
  82. Modern Times (1936)  2 stars
  83. Double Indemnity (1944)  2 stars
  84. M*A*S*H (1970)  2 stars
  85. The African Queen (1951)  2 stars
  86. The French Connection (1971)  2 stars
  87. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)  2 stars
  88. Duck Soup (1933)  2 stars
  89. Intolerance (1916)  2 stars
  90. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)  2 stars
  91. The Wild Bunch (1969) 1 1/2 stars
  92. Vertigo (1958) 1 1/2 stars 
  93. All About Eve (1950) 1 1/2 stars
  94. Shane (1953) 1 1/2 stars
  95. City Lights (1931) 1 star
  96. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) 1 star
  97. The Searchers (1956) 1 star
  98. The Sound of Music (1945) 1 star 
  99. A Night at the Opera (1935) 1 star
  100. Swing Time (1936) zero stars
19 out of 100 were 5 stars. Exactly half were four or more and exactly three quarters were three or more. I swear I didn't plan it so neatly. All in all though, if you picked 100 movies at random, I almost certainly wouldn't rate half of them four or more stars, so there's obviously some merit to this list. Well done, AFI. You're better than random.

Here's a link to the interview I did on the Drunk Monkeys site.

#1 CITIZEN KANE (1941)

Plot summary (with spoilers): An idyllic snowy landscape with a little cabin pans back abruptly to be revealed as a snow globe in a man's hand. An extreme closeup of his mouth. He whispers it:


He drops the snow globe, and dies.
At the movie theatre, before the flick starts up, a News of the World  segment begins, detailing the life and times of Mr. Charles Foster Kane, uber bajillonaire extraordinaire, who just died after years of self-imposed exile in his unfinished palatial estate, absurdly named Xanadu.
We learn he controlled newspapers around the US, was married twice, and was both hated and loved by enough people that it was likely he would become President one day, but his campaign was derailed when he was caught cheating on the first wife with whom would be the second. Newt Gingrich scoffs at your lack of ambition, sir.
The news guys who put together the news reel aren't happy. There's something missing in this story. They heard from Kane's butler that the last thing he said was "rosebud", and they decide to find out what exactly that meant.
A reporter goes to this creepily lit large room. A woman tells him it's the "private archives" of Walter Thatcher, a long dead banker who served as Kane's guardian growing up. "Private archives" are...a large book. That's maybe like a diary or something? Something from the Olden Times that rich people had, I'm guessing. The creepy archive lady stands in the shadows and tells the reporter he has twenty minutes.
The reporter opens the book and learns the story of Kane's childhood.
Kane's mother inherited property in her name only, property that was later discovered to be over the world's third largest gold mine. She sells it to Thatcher and makes a bajillion dollars and also stipulates her son Charles...go with Thatcher and learn from him how to be a cold and emotionally scarred capitalistic pig. Mr. Kane protests mildly to the selling of his son, but is overruled and ignored. The Kanes and Thatcher go out into the snow where little Charles is playing with his almost certainly nameless sled and inform him that he's to go with Thatcher on a train that very evening. Charles wigs out and screams and fights it, but the shitty asshole adults are a united front and he has no choice.
Charles grows up under Thatcher's stewardship, and once he's 25, he inherits his bajillion dollars and takes over a newspaper company, throwing the former Editor-in-Chief out on his ear, and declaring his intentions to make the news more sensationalistic and full of innuendo and bias. Kane says the paper is to be open twenty-four hours a day, because there is always news out there to report. Man, what a dummy.  News being reported 24 hours a day? If that ever happened in the real world, the media would be constantly ginning up fake controversies in order to fill the endless hours, resulting in less and less actual stories to report until the concept of "real" news  itself became nonexistent. Thank God we don't live in that sort of dystopia!
The reporter also interviews Kane's only sort-of friend, Jed Leland, who helped him run the newspaper, and Bernstein, his business manager.
The years pass. Kane's phoney gossip journalism is unsurprisingly well received by the masses and his success grows. He marries a cold fish just like dear old mom, but then one night out, he's splashed by a car driving over a puddle. A sassy young blonde named who doesn't recognize him laughs at him, then offers him a change of clothes back at her place. Her name's Susan Alexander. She's a local small-time singer. She keeps the door open at her apartment while he changes because the landlady doesn't allow her to close the door when men are visiting.
Kane doesn't react to this line which apparently means this was a normal fucking thing for a person to say in the early 20th Century. Wow.
Kane runs for governor, using a giant and extremely unflattering picture on his campaign poster. He's doing well in the polls, until his opponent discovers his affair with Susan. He confronts Kane, his wife Emily, and Susan, and threatens to expose the affair if Kane doesn't drop out of the race. Kane's arrogance and righteous anger compels him to tell the guy to shove it. Kane's wife begs him to drop out to save their son from shame and scandal, but Kane refuses.
The papers run the scandal: KANE CAUGHT IN LOVE NEST WITH "SINGER".
And Kane's political career and marriage ends.
Jed Leland explains to the reporter that Kane's true anger came from the snarky quotes around "singer".
He marries Susan, and hires the best singers in the world to teach her. But her skill is mediocre at best. Kane buys an opera house and buys a performance with Susan as the star.
Leland drunkenly writes a bad review of Susan's performance at work, then passes out before he finishes. Kane comes in and discovers the review, and finishes typing it, then fires Leland anyway.
And then we go backwards to the performance itself. Susan sings with all her might but can't really hit the high notes (in a nice touch, she's not comically movie-bad, she just...isn't good). The performance is over and the audience claps politely as Susan bows, and then in a the best scene in a movie full of incredible scenes, Kane continues to obstinately clap even as the rest of the clapping dies down. He stands up and angrily claps harder and harder until he is the only one doing so, as if he thought be shear force of will he could make everyone keep clapping. It's so unsettling.
Afterwards, he and Susan fight and Susan says she wants to quit but Kane won't let her and eventually she attempts suicide and after that, Kane says she can quit but she wants to leave him. He begs her to stay, despite clearly not giving two shits about her as a person, and she sees that, and leaves.
Then Kane spent the rest of his life at Xanadu, the unfinished palace where he was going to live forever with Susan. He died surrounded by employees.
The reporters stand in the middle of Xanadu among Kane's possessions. They're no closer to learning the mystery of "Rosebud" than they were before they started. They decide that sometimes mysteries don't get solved.
In the last shot, the nameless sled burns.

Review: Best movie ever? No. But pretty damn great. There was some amazing shit in here. The "trick" shots, the hyper realistic dialog where people talk over each other, the playing with time, toggling back and forth between flashbacks and "now", all phenomenal. I mean, how did the camera pull back from inside a snow globe without CGI, anyway? I honestly don't know.
The atmosphere that Orson Wells created was so cold and so creepy and so inevitably grim that I spent the entire movie a little bit sick and on edge, knowing that everything was going to end badly. I don't think knowing ahead of time that "Rosebud" was his sled really affected my enjoyment, but all the same, I wish I hadn't known. The acting here is top notch too, with no one overplaying the drama or weirdness at all, but really drawing you in instead.
As for the "trick" shots. I've heard the arguments before. A director shouldn't call attention to himself with flashy, stylized editing and such. We've all said it, and we've all meant it, and we've all hypocritically carved out exceptions for ourselves when we love the movie anyway. When it works, it works. When it doesn't, we accuse the director of self-indulgent nonsense. My rule is the "trick" shots must enhance the story instead of distract from it. But I'm not special,  that's everyone's rule and everyone decides for themselves if the tricky director made it work.
And here, Wells did. This movie is so far beyond any other movie I've seen during this time period or even beyond it. This is a movie that would fit in very well today, and would hardly seem dated at all. It's quite simply revolutionary.
My only complaint, and the only reason I'm not giving this five stars, is that it is ultimately a Character Study and not really a story, and sometimes is just a bit too cold for it's own good. Despite the great acting, I don't think we really got to know anyone other than Kane, and that's a bit of a shame. But still, what a great way to end this. I thought for sure I would find this mediocre at best.

Stars: Four and a half out of five.