Yeah I know it's not the most original thread idea, but Big Boss's thread has put me in a film making discussion mood, and I thought we could go into a little bit more detail as to why we consider these films to be so good instead of just ranking a list. Feel free to just list 5 if you're not particularly bothered to go into extraneous depth with 10.
10. Mad Max Fury Road
A visual delight in sheer action and universe building. George Miller crafted nothing short of a masterpiece when it came to stunt work and practical effects. It uses CGI sparingly and emphasises physical props and tools to give the actions more gravitas. It touches upon themes like gender roles, redemption and survival but doesn't make them the focal point of the movie, nor are they prioritised over the actual storytelling or action. A perfect example of how an action film can have serious depth if done correctly.
One of Fincher's most underrated pieces IMO. What makes Zodiac stand out to me is how it avoids the formulaic approach to detective thriller films with shoot-outs, chases and cuffing the bad guy after finding a stupidly blatant clue that a competent serial killer wouldn't actually leave before spouting a cheesy one liner at the camera. Instead it focuses on the methodical and painstakingly detailed approach to police work, which often times, doesn't always come up with results. It delivers authenticity to a tee, and feels like we're actually watching how the Zodiac case was conducted despite the artistic liberties it took.
Villeneuve's Prisoners is a potent, and highly disturbing thriller seeded with tension and mystery throughout. Jackman delivers a powerhouse of a performance as a man who has presumably lost his daughter to a child abductor, and Gyllenhaal as a resolute cop determined on solving the case. The two characters strike a perfect duality within the film, an emotionally driven lower middle class family man that performs morally questionable vigilante actions in order to find his daughter, and a systematic, logical government agent who takes a more disciplined approach to solving crime.
Roger A. Deakins as always, produces exquisite cinematography that captures the authentic feel of a rust belt community and the wallowing grief of its missing children.
7. 28 Days Later
Shot in grainy, pulp like definition that gives the movie a bleak and depressing aesthetic to it. The low budget horror revamped the concept of zombies/infected by giving them the ability to run, and the fact that it doesn't even require a bite to render you infected adds a whole new level of terror to the prospect of a post apocalyptic world ravaged by a disease. It balances scenes of horror and anguish with moments of tranquillity and reflection perfectly. As mentioned, the hyperactive visuals and filming techniques are unorthodox, and at first may seem cheap and low budget (which they technically are), but are intended to add to the movie's main theme of the political and social instability of mankind.
Shot in a single take with digital conjunctions to convey the seamless passage of time, Birdman excels in snappy, smart comedy, satirisation of the entertainment business, and what people are prepared to sacrifice in the name of art. At first it may seem snooty, taking jabs at high budget blockbuster entertainment films, but on second glance, it also depicts the pretentious attitude of art house critics as prejudiced and shallow as well. The film encapsulates what it means to passionately produce art and expressions of oneself from the perspective of a washed up Hollywood actor on the verge of a possible mental breakdown. Innaritu doesn't attempt to bog down the film in serious issues such as mental health and depression though, but translates the thoughts and intricacies of an artist attempting to produce real art to validate his existence, and the hilarious obstacles he has to overcome in order to achieve that.
5. The Prestige
As mentioned in a previous thread, I really think this is Nolan's finest work. Narratively structured in a Tarantino esque, non linear fashion, the story depicts two bitter rival magicians as they attempt to master their craft as a means to best one another. What starts off as heated competition, ends up with their lives and the lives around them in tatters. One of the select few films to actually have me taken aback with its twist, The Prestige is a fantastic display of delightful cinematography, brutal obsession and eerie visuals that compliment the overall tone of the film.
4. Children of Men
Set in a world where 18 years has passed since the birth of a human, Children of Men is probably one of the most unrecognised science fiction masterpieces in modern cinema. Instead of taking the conventional Hollywood approach to sci-fi, where the protagonist is a chiselled chad that solves a complex, worldwide problem such as infertility in the space of a 2 hour run time, Cuaron portrays the main character as that of a cynical, alcoholic bureaucrat, providing us with an unconventional, yet somewhat relatable main figure as a means to guide us through the realistic and palpable world he lives in. Taking a similar filming approach as Birdman, the director uses lengthy, detailed tracking shots to immerse us in the universe as aptly as possible, and yet, somehow never becomes gimmicky.
What makes Children of Men so unique is its ability to construct a detailed, teeming universe without resorting to exposition, and yet also simultaneously focus on fantastic characterisation throughout.
3. The Thing 1982
Undoubtedly my favourite horror of all time, and deservedly so. Initially people mistook Carpenter's The Thing as just another blood splattering horror, but there's actually a whole other layer of depth to the movie some people miss out on. The film provides you with snippets of clues to piece together throughout, but never treats the audience like morons, allowing us to play detective and figure out how the Thing assimilated various characters off screen. The practical effects are timeless, and set a precedent for the future of body horror films such as Hellraiser and The Fly. There are actually YouTubers
out there that have attempted to dissect the film's open to interpretation mysteries, that's just how fucking good it is.
This probably comes from a place of bias seeing as how it's set in my home town, but I don't really care. I could write essays after essays on how brilliantly constructed this film is. Set in 1980s Edinburgh, it depicts the lives of four junkies and one psycho and their hilarious yet somewhat grim escapades. It tackles heavy themes such as masculinity, pursuit of happiness, and hedonism, interwoven with clever dialogue, stunning filming techniques and pounding house music. The film got huge flak for its dark material, being accused of advocating drug use. Of course, anyone that's actually watched the film knows it's anything but that. In my mind it's neither pro drug, nor anti drug. It's simply just an insight into what drug use does to people, why people take it, and the lengths they will go to satiate their habit. To me, the film is a drug in and of itself, ironically enough.
NOW GO GET YA FUCKING SHINEBOX
Truly a testament to the directorial abilities of Scorsese, few films have left such a lasting impression on me as much as Goodfellas does. Where the Godfather depicts the intricacies of the higher ups within Italian organised crime, Goodfellas shines light on the boots-on-the-ground grunts that carry out the business orders of the bosses, depicting the shallowness and depravity of the lifestyle.
The film doesn't completely trash the organised crime way of life though. It doesn't necessarily follow a strict narrative either. It simply displays what it's like to live the mobster life, the good times and the bad.
Ultimately, what makes the film so poignant is its capacity to examine the mentality of mobsters and sociopaths. In the end, Henry isn't guilty for killing, threatening and extorting people. The ultimate source of his guilt comes from (spoilers) ratting his compatriots out and disregarding his mafia code for survival. That's what makes the film such a subtly complex masterpiece, and why I consider it to be the best film ever made, from my perspective.
A gripping portrayal of how utterly damaging something as menial as a false accusation from a child can totally ruin a person's life.
Might not be the most subtle of films when it comes to its themes but it's a fucking gotdam entertaining movie nonetheless.
The Last SamuraiChris Stuckmann
did a great review on this underrated gem of a film which pretty much sums up my thoughts.
Shame none of Tarantino's films made it to the list considering I watched so much of them during my teen years, but eh, none of them particularly blow me away in terms of narrative or film making. Don't get me wrong, they're all pretty much consistently entertaining films, with the exception of maybe Jackie Brown, but Inglorious is the one that really stands out for me and came really fucking close to making the list.