Top Fifty Films: In This Space and Time Part III

Another deep hiatus from me. As I assembled this part of my list, I couldn’t help but ask myself if there are films out there that I simply can’t stand. Honestly, there aren’t many. Usually I can find something redeeming about most films I see. Creating a film isn’t easy, so one can certainly appreciate the time, effort, and creativity filmmakers and crews spend throughout the process, in spite of the finished product. Regardless, here are my next ten films. 

30. The Truman Show:

The Truman Show is the rare film that was ahead of its time upon release. Hell, it was a harbinger of the world’s inevitable addiction to celebrity and reality programming. Starring Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, a reality television star who doesn’t realize he’s in a show watched by millions of people, The Truman Show is a heartfelt and incisive examination of popular culture and the price of fame. Carrey is a revelation as Truman. Carrey’s vulnerable, innocent and sweet performance is easily one of the best of his career. The screenplay by Andrew Niccol and the direction from Peter Weir deftly balance wry humor with poignant drama, never sacrificing Truman’s humanity for the satirical kill.

29. The Wizard of Oz:

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz but every time I see it, I feel like it’s the first time. It possesses this immeasurable sense of wonder that’s awe inspiring, so much so that I feel like a kid from beginning to end. Maybe it’s because its production is timeless-I’m a sucker for practical effects- or maybe it’s because it has an infectious enthusiasm no film has ever matched. The sheer energy manufactured by Judy Garland and company is astronomical. Featuring ear worm musical numbers and an imagination limited only by the constraints of the time, The Wizard of Oz is a high mark in both the musical and fantasy genres as well as the history of cinema.

28. High and Low:

Akira Kurosawa is one of the most revered filmmakers in history. Known for unbelievable films like Rashomon and Yojimbo, it stands to reason that his filmography holds smaller, less discussed gems. One of those said films is High and Low, a crackling procedural that frighteningly dissects the social and economic schisms built within our societies. Told from the perspective of both victim and criminal, which is a bit of a generalization, Kurosawa masterfully weaves a tale of chance, greed, and morality within the confines of the frame. Featuring tremendous acting, measured pacing, and impressive staging, High and Low is a wonderful introduction for those yet to be enlightened by the legendary director.

27. South Park- Bigger, Longer, and Uncut:

I’m a man who has a penchant for swearing and indulging in graphic innuendo. It’s probably no surprise that I’ve gravitated to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park series at a tender age. In some respects I’ve always viewed it as a show reminiscent of my own youth and foul mouth. When the South Park film was released in 1999, I was only 12 and understandably impressed by its absurdities and dick humor. As I aged, the film’s clever musical flourishes and wicked satire became more apparent and resonated deeper with each watch. Now, in my mind, South Park is not only on point in its satire, but I firmly view it as one of the best musicals released in the last twenty years. Plus there’s a song called “Uncle Fucka.” How do you top that?

26. The Apartment:

Billy Wilder’s The Apartment is a pitch perfect experiment in balancing tone. Starring Jack Lemmon as “Bud”, a low-level employee who lets his bosses initiate infidelity in his apartment, The Apartment is a potently dark comedy. Lemmon is affable in his role, finding both the anguish and humor in his character’s plight. Acting opposite Lemmon is Shirley McClane, the inevitable love interest by way of a love triangle. McClane and Lemmon allow Wilder’s jilted cuts at corporate horndoggery to bleed deep, all while maintaining a tender touch that doesn’t let the film veer into the abyss.

25. Monster’s Inc.:

There are many Pixar films that I’m deeply in love with. I can easily squeeze a handful of their films into this list but the one that I simply can’t escape is the colorful, clever, and emotionally potent Monster’s Inc. Featuring a terrific voice cast and an imaginative story, Monster’s Inc. is the crown jewel in Pixar’s collection. On some level it calls out our incessant need to isolate ourselves from the things we fear but it’s also just a soulful reminder of how powerful humor can be. It’s a notion that’s been stressed by new age ideals for a long time but through the beautiful animation and a clear, sincere story, it’s hard not to view laughter and humor as beacons of hope in dark times.

24. Superbad:

Every time I watch Superbad I see a sliver of my youth replaying in front of me. Did I go out and party as a teenager? No, not really. But my friends and I certainly had the same relationship possessed between Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael), especially the uncanny ability to use foul language. What really strikes me about Superbad, beyond the fact that it’s deliriously funny and raunchy, is that it’s a genuine, heartfelt depiction of a friendship in jeopardy. Perhaps I’m giving the film too much credit but it perfectly encapsulates the impact life changes can have on a relationship that was once seen as irrevocable. The chemistry between Cera and Hill is hilarious and nuanced, featuring just enough disdain and unconditional love to sell the film’s bigger point: a true friendship isn’t devoid of challenges…or dick jokes.

23. The Wrestler:

For a good five years or so, I was a pretty dedicated wrestling fan. The macho pageantry tied to death-defying stunts hypnotized me in a way other forms of entertainment didn’t. As I grew older, wrestling’s absurdism gave way to an appreciation of the industry’s athleticism and catastrophic choreography. There’s a physical toll often unseen, which is one reason why Darren Aronofsky’s achingly beautiful The Wrestler still grabs me to this day.  It’s a gritty, unfiltered look at one man’s desperate attempt at reliving a glory that faded years earlier. Starring a mercurial Mickey Rourke, Aronofsky’s film is a love letter to the wrestling business, a palpable documentation of the human body’s limitations, and our incessant need to be loved and wanted.

22/21. The Godfather Part I and Part II:

I have a hard time choosing between the first and second chapter in Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy. Part I is an indelible story about family, crime, and disenchantment in America post World War II. It’s beautifully shot, impeccably crafted, and unbelievably cinematic. Seeing Michael Corleone’s transformation (a phenomenal Al Pacino) from a mild-mannered soldier to a man slowly dissolving his morals is enthralling. Part II expands upon its predecessor’s world by exploring the birth and evolution of the Corleone family. It’s a darker, more introspective film that further sees its central character evolve into a cold, calloused and manipulative monster. Like a good sequel Part II masterfully expands upon the first chapter, pushing its characters and story in a direction that’s organic. In many respects, I view Part I and Part II as one film…a perfect one at that.


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