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There isn't much to say about this list, except that these are just a handful of some great films from my collection.
My personal favorite film! This Is Spinal Tap never gets old, and always makes me laugh every time I watch it, or watch clips from it. Consistently funny while parodying and paying tribute to the classic heavy metal bands of the 70s and 80s.
M serves as the classic example of what a suspence thriller should be. Granted, I think a lot of the suspence comes from its thematic content, and many filmmakers now-a-days, I feel, want to use a controversial theme, such as child-stalking/murdering or whatnot, as a way to cheat the viewer into being shocked or scared. Fritz Lang, however, knew what he was doing when constructing this film. The majority of suspence also comes from its quiet tones, and being a silent film pioneer, Lang used silence to its full effect here to help establish the grim atmosphere. Peter Lorre's haunting performance, despite playing a serial killer, is also something to cherish because he portrays a flawed man filled with obsession, and his character aims for the viewer to understand what it is his exact dilemma is. If you either end up rooting for Lorre's obsessed killer or still end up despising him toward the end of the film, the effect of the film remains the same: that it is a truly haunting and scary film.
I am sure I have seen fewer Akira Kurosawa films than some other viewers (I have seen Yojimbo, Ran, Rashomon, High and Low, and I think that is about it), but any viewer just beginning to show interest in Kurosawa would have had to have seen the brilliant Seven Samurai. Kurosawa sure knows how to film a brilliant action sequence, but he also knows how to develop compelling stories and characters. Instead of rushing through how each of the seven central characters are introduced and how they came about meeting up, Kurosawa takes the time to thoroughly explain how they are brought together, which only greatly emphasizes the sympathy for all of the characters in the film. At three and a half hours long, there is never a dull moment in this true masterpiece (if someone were to edit out only a minute from the film, even if it were in the opening credits or even the intermission, it would be easy to tell that something grand would be missing from the film). This is one of the fine examples of how perfect a film can be.
I cherish every single film that Wes Anderson has made. I own every single one, and I am surely going to be in a rush to pick up the Moonrise Kingdom release. But I placed The Royal Tenenbaums in this list above the others in the Criterion Collection because for me, this is one of his films that ranks among the best. Although, it wouldn't be fair in my eyes to rank Anderson films because each one has something unique and fulfilling about it. However, the Royal Tenenbaums got me really interested in watching the rest of Wes Anderson's filmography (even though I had seen The Life Aquatic a few years back). The characters in this ensemble dramedy are well placed and each one is begging for the viewer's sympathy. Of course, the viewer really connects with Gene Hackman's Royal Tenenbaum, and that is how we come to understand the rest of the characters' motives.
Charlie Chaplin is another filmmaker in which it is very easy to cherish many of his films. Sure, Chaplin is known for his silent playfulness, and both Modern Times and The Gold Rush are two of the greatest examples in the silent comedy genre (Criterion needs to add City Lights to their cataloge very soon). In this sense, The Great Dictator may not seem like it is qualified as the "quintessential Chaplin film", but is there a reason why it shouldn't be qualified as quintessential? The Great Dictator shows Chaplin working with new ideas and a very challenging subject, by tackling Hitler head-on through essential parody, and then clearly addressing his issue through the film's powerful ending speech. A lot of the film's viewers have noted that the final speech seems out of place in concern to Chaplin's Tramp character (or the character reminiscent of), and even if Chaplin is breaking character to let the filmmaker himself speak, it helps to make the point Chaplin was trying to make all the more relevant. Whats more, The Great Dictator is also delighted to have the hilarious Jack Oakie on board. The Great Dictator would show that it was the best way for a silent film pioneer to transition smoothly into the sound era, even plenty of years after the advent of sound pictures.
Twelve Angry Men is a classic. There is no doubt about it. More importantly, the screenplay, written by Reginald Rose and based on his own play, shows excitement, and the twelve actors on screen really knew how to generate it. This film also presents a moral issue, which is used to expose each of the characters' inner motives and desires. Henry Fonda's Juror #8 isn't necessarily convinced that the convicted kid is innocent, but he is convinced that a decision can't be made without discussing the entire case from start to finish. All of the story's complexities are exposed through the brilliantly written and delivered dialogue, and the real power is shown as the story continuously expands and develops. Director Sidney Lumet was off to a great start.
At its core, The Third Man would present the basic plot that would become predominant in many noir films to come. A friend goes missing and the main character has to find the answers to his disappearance. Of course, many films have done the plot to death, but The Third Man makes the plotline seem absolutely fresh. Let us not forget the brilliant zither score and cinematography, by Anton Karas and Robert Kasker, respectively, and the performances all around, from Joseph Cotten's brilliant portrayal of the always curious Holly Martins, and Orson Welles's killer performance as Harry Lime. Of course, Graham Green's screenplay keeps the viewer interested in its compelling mysteries as the anticipation for Lime's first appearance in the film keeps on building. One of the finest film noirs ever created.
Independent minimalist filmmaker Jim Jarmusch can do a whole lot by doing a whole lot of nothing. Stranger Than Paradise is the perfect example of that. This is basic filmmaking at its absolute finest, and it is an all around different film viewing experience all together. With that being said, this film isn't for everyone, since many audiences would perfer to spend their time watching something more compelling than a few characters just hanging around aimlessly. Of course, that is where the film's heart comes from, in the fact that the three central characters are just hanging around and waiting to do something meaningful. The character's basic principles help the audience to connect with what is happening on screen as well.
Being John Malkovich is really something else. It shows that Charlie Kaufman would be one of the finest screenwriters of this generation. He has brilliant ideas, and incorporates big batches of humor to his surreal vision. Words cannot describe in full accuracy how amazing this film is. Not only is there the original and exciting premise, but there is also exciting character and story development. At first we almost connect with John Cusack's Craig Schwartz, but see his character slowly develop into a selfish and obsessed jerk. You just can't get enough Malkovich! Malkovich! Malkovich!
I have only seen two of Jean-Pierre Melville's films (this and Le Samourai), but I already know how brilliant Melville is at the crime genre. Le Cercle Rouge shows a strongly established atmosphere, and is the pure definition of the cool crime caper. There is consistent suspence in the quiet scenes, and the breathtaking heist scene is something to behold.