Archive for the ‘Best Movies Ever’ Category

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Revisiting 1990: The Grifters

August 27, 2010

Considered For: Top 5

“I looked and I looked and believe me, brother, I kissed a lot of fucking frogs…”

The Grifters has flown under my radar for twenty years now. I had never even heard of this movie until I started looking at the 1990 movie list, but a cast starring Anjelica Huston, John Cusack, and Annette Bening in a movie about con artists sold me immediately. A production credit from Martin Scorsese didn’t hurt it’s resume either. Despite its relative obscurity, The Grifters was immediately bumped to the top of my Netflix queue.

As noted, this is a movie about con artists filmed by then British director Stephen Frears. The story centers around short con man Roy Dillon (Cusack) and the women in his life. It’s clear from the beginning of the film that Roy is into small cons, like showing a bartender a $20 bill and then swapping it out for a $10 when the bartender comes back to make change for him… or using word play to his advantage for small gains against bar customers. His mother, Lily (Huston), is in a different league, however. She makes rounds at the horse tracks to place large bets for a mob-type organization, diving in at the last second to tip the odds. Not being educated on horse racing, it’s a concept that goes over my head, but I suspect she’s playing for high stakes, both in terms of money and her own personal safety. Roy’s girlfriend Myra (Bening) is a bit more of an enigma. She’s not as easy to figure out and Bening initially plays the character as happy-go-lucky and somewhat naive, but something still tells you that it’s the character doing the acting here. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say she might be the biggest con artist of them all. The core of the movie kicks in when Lily and Myra meet after Roy is hospitalized for a life-threatening injury suffered when a con goes wrong. In a way, the two women are threatened and intrigued by each other, an obsession that could have tragic consequences.

The acting in this movie is superb. We get Oscar-nominated performances from Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening. I’ll be revisiting Ghost relatively soon, but I’ll be surprised if Whoopi Goldberg’s performance is really better than Bening’s in this movie. In a lot of ways, Myra was my favorite character. She’s demented to a degree that the Dillons haven’t really reached yet. Myra is more than willing to use her sexuality to her advantage, even trading sex with her undesirable landlord in exchange for rent. Roy is completely ignorant of his woman’s indiscretions and it’s Bening’s performance within a performance that has him none the wiser. Myra has the wool pulled over everyone’s eyes… until she meets Lily. I wouldn’t ever name Anjelica Huston amongst my favorite actresses–she always seems to play every role with a detached and emotionless air, think The Addam’s Family and The Royal Tenenbaums–but it’s hard to say she’s not consistently solid in her roles. Even though Lily had Roy when she was 14 and didn’t have much to do with raising him, you still get a sense that she loves him and feels responsible for what he has become. She recognizes he’s not really cut out for “grifting” and is frequently suggesting he find another career. Speaking of Roy, John Cusack gives a solid performance as well. In fact, it was his character that hooked me into this movie immediately. In a lot of ways, Roy is the mark here, but Cusack’s calm confidence in the opening scenes makes you think he just might have it all figured out. All in all, a great set of performances from every one involved.

While the Academy recognized the acting performances in this movie, The Grifters may have been overlooked in the Best Picture department. Granted, I’m still early in my quest of 1990 movies, but I know for sure it’d rank in my top 5 at the moment, which at least gives it an edge over The Godfather: Part III, which was nominated. The story here is based on a novel, but I’ve never read it, so I have no basis for commenting on the translation to the big screen, but it did get a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and I’ve read that a lot of the dialogue is taken word for word from the book… dialogue that is often very good. I enjoyed the story here and was highly invested in all the characters. You can’t help but root for Roy in this movie… he’s out of his league dealing with his mother and girlfriend, which in a way, makes him more likable than Lily and Myra. I also can’t help but point out Jeremy Piven’s cameo in this movie. Piven was never a household name until Entourage, so it’s kind of funny seeing him in his earlier days as a relatively unknown. You can still see some of the character tics that Ari’s made famous today.

I’ve never heard one person I know mention this movie, so hopefully this review can open some eyes. The Grifters is a solid film, with an interesting story and some great performances. Bening is terrific here and the movie is fun, despite a noticeably dark tone. Anyone that’s never seen this movie, should at least give it a shot. I highly doubt you’ll walk away disappointed. It’s possible The Grifters will make my final Top 5 of 1990 list, but I can guarantee it will at least be in the Top 10. Check it out.

Grade: A-
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Maybe not collection worthy, but I’d definitely watch it again.
Sequel Potential: None
Oscars?: Four nominations: Anjelica Huston for Best Actress, Annette Bening for Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Stephen Frears for Best Director.
Nudity?: Annette Bening gets VERY naked… a couple times… and she’s spectacular.

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Revisiting 1990: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

August 24, 2010

Considered For: Guilty Pleasure

“You’re a claustrophobic!” — “You want a fist in the mouth? I’ve never even looked at another guy.”

Yeah, I went there. Not all the movies I’m going to be revisiting are because of Top 5 potential. Each year, I also want to take a look at my the top sequels, animated films, comedies, horror flicks, sports movies and guilty pleasures. I would define a guilty pleasure, in this case, as a movie that isn’t particularly great in the grand scheme of things, but either holds a special place in my heart because it’s a childhood favorite or has qualities that make it fantastic that don’t normally coincide with top film-making. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles certainly fits the bill. I grew up on The Turtles, so there’s an obvious sense of nostalgia here and while I didn’t particularly love the original TMNT movie as a youngster, when I was scrolling through the 1990 film list, I immediately wanted to see it again.

It’s silly to say this now, as an adult, but I actually think the first Turtles movie was a little dark. You have Raphael saying “damn” and “bitchin'” throughout the movie, which isn’t shocking today, but in 1990 I was eight, and I never heard any of the Turtles use that kind of language on the cartoon show. I remember as a child that it struck me and I remember thinking the film was a little boring. Even though I can see it’s clearly a campy movie now, it didn’t seem that way when I was young. I always preferred the sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze as a kid, something I now recognize as the inferior film.

Another thing I remember being disappointed about was the lack of any recognizable bad guys outside of Shredder and the Foot Clan. Seriously, no Rocksteady and Bebop? Three movies later and these guys still haven’t made an appearance. It’s an unforgivable exclusion. No Baxter Stockman? Come on! These are not only easy, but essential villains in the TMNT universe. I can understand why The Rat King, Leatherhead, and even Krang weren’t included, but I still can’t get over the fact that in four TMNT movies total, only Shredder and the Foot Clan have been used from a pool of a pretty solid rogues gallery. Snoooooooooze.

Thankfully, I’ve had twenty years to get over all of this and revisiting this movie in 2010 was actually fun. It’s rare that I like a movie I watched frequently as a kid more as an adult. Usually in this situation, I can barely stomach getting through one of my childhood favorites. While this TMNT movie is often corny, it’s actually a fairly decent origin story. As much as I want to ridicule a caged rat mimicking his master’s martial arts moves, I have to remember that I’m willingly and knowingly watching a movie about fully grown, Ninjutsu-performing, TALKING turtles. I forgive you scriptwriters!

The story here is pretty simple. Our heroes have been secretly living and training in the sewers of New York for over a decade. On the surface, the city has become overrun with organized crime and the Turtles rise above to start cleaning things up. This ruffles the armor of Shredder, the leader of The Foot Clan, and mastermind behind the majority of crime taking place in New York. He has taken in the rejected and morally challenged youth of the city and has created an army of ninjas. We come to discover that the Turtles mutated rat of a sensei, Splinter, has a history with this Shredder and the beef between the two camps becomes personal, especially after Splinter is kidnapped. Meanwhile, April O’Niell (Judith Hoag), the only news reporter that suspects the truth behind the crime rise, becomes the Turtles first human friend. Together, along with vigilante Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), they all set out to stop the Foot Clan from further damaging the city.

It’s pretty easy to nitpick this movie to death. My favorite scene in the movie is when Raphael puts on a trench coat and a hat to roam the city. Granted, he looks like a freak in a costume, but if we’re supposed to look at these characters as realistic, I’d have to assume that Raph’s disguise isn’t really cutting it amongst civilized people. It’d be one thing if he was completely devoid of human interaction, but Raphael has several encounters while costumed and somehow, no one is the wiser. I also like the fact that once kidnapped, Splinter is chained to a wall looking like Jesus on the cross, but is completely unsupervised and readily accessible to even the lowest of Shredder’s henchmen. It’s the type of nonsense that Austin Powers pokes fun at whenever Dr. Evil manages to imprison an enemy.

The costumes in this movie are also ridiculous. Yeah, it was twenty years ago, but it’s quite an embarrassing effort considering a movie as advanced as Terminator 2: Judgement Day came out less than a year later, followed by Jurassic Park in 1993. Those movies make TMNT look like it was made in 1980. I actually paused the movie last night during a scene where Michaelangelo pulls out a container of turtle wax and turns to Donatello to say something… you can see the separation between the head and torso sections of the stuntman’s costume! What part of the film editing game is that?

It seems like I’m griping, but in some way, it’s these flaws that make TMNT so endearing. I don’t think anyone involved with this movie thought they were going to be getting Oscar attention or critical raves. They set out to make a movie that kids that grew up on the cartoon could enjoy and I think they did a fairly decent job. With the exception of Donatello, the personalities of the Turtles were accurately depicted in the adaptation. I also like the fact that Shredder is a menacing and formidable foe, unlike his mostly hapless TV series counterpart. The casting of Elias Koteas was spot on for Casey Jones. In a film filled with laughable acting, he put in a laudable effort, despite some terrible dialogue.

It’s certainly easy to laugh at this movie twenty years later, but last time I checked laughing is an enjoyable activity, so TMNT is alright in my book, regardless of whether some of the humor is intended or not. In no way is this a good film, but in a lot of ways it is a fun one. We all know a better Turtles movie could have been made–and it was with 2007’s TMNT–but the original can still be viewed fondly, and I think the best Turtles movie is still ahead of us. I’m not going to offer any stern recommendations here, but revisiting the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t the worst way to spend a couple hours of a day.

Grade: B-
Viewings: 5-7
Replay Value: Surprisingly decent
Sequel Potential: 3 sequels have been made and I doubt we’re done yet.
Oscars?: No Best Costumes nomination?! What does the Academy want?!
Nudity?: We get plenty of turtles in a half shell, but the highlight is seeing April O’Niel’s nipples poking through her blouse.

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Revisiting 1990: The Godfather: Part III

August 22, 2010

Considered For: Top 5, Best Sequel

“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”

Here are some interesting facts: I own three movies that were released in the year 1990; all of them are sequels; and until last night, I had owned one of them for at least eight years and had never seen it. That movie would be Francis Ford Coppola’s conclusion to his The Godfather trilogy (the other two 1990 movies I own are Die Hard 2 and Child’s Play 2). There are a couple of reasons why I never bothered to watch The Godfather: Part III even though it is a sequel to two of the best films ever made. One, it was released sixteen years after The Godfather: Part II, which is a bad omen in itself. Two, when people talk about the best movies ever made, they always mention the first two Godfather films, but never the last one; it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist. Lastly, I’ve heard a lot of talk over the years that Sofia Coppola’s performance in the movie completely ruined it.

I finally forced myself into watching the last Godfather movie because of this column and after noticing that it actually was nominated for Best Picture, which surprised me because I’ve long thought it was a universally hated film. It was nominated for seven Oscars in total and even has a respectable 7.6 rating on IMDB.com. For all the negative energy surrounding this movie, when I blew the dust off the cover, I discovered that it was actually somewhat critically acclaimed and probably worthy of viewing for my Revisiting 1990 column.

Oh my God, wake me up when it’s over. That pretty much sums up my thoughts on The Godfather: Part III. You have to ask yourself: was that really necessary? It’s been sixteen years… your two Godfather films have been widely accepted as two of the five best films ever made… Mr. Coppola, why are you revisiting this franchise? Did this story really need to be told? After watching it, I’m going to say NO. Unlike the first two films, which have many memorable and iconic characters, this movie doesn’t really make much of an impression. Al Pacino doesn’t even seem like he’s playing the same person. He reminds me nothing of the Michael Corleone I remember and he looks sixty years older. With the exception of Kay (Diane Keaton) and Connie (Talia Shire), and some verbal and visual references to the first two films, this movie might as well have nothing to do with them.

It’s kind of hard to say what the story was here. I honestly had a hard time following it. I don’t know if it was actually confusing or if I just was having difficulty because I didn’t care about it. From what I did manage to retain, Michael Corleone is trying to legitimize his business. He has become estranged from Kay and his children, Mary (Sophia Coppola) and Anthony (Franc D’Ambrosio), and is reunited with them in this film. He’s displeased to hear that his son would rather sing opera than finish his degree in law. His son also wishes to have no part of Michael’s business. Michael is introduced to Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), who is apparently Michael’s brother Sonny’s illegitimate son and Vincent is more than happy to carry on the family business. Blah blah blah blah blah.

Seriously, who cares? What annoys me the most about this film is that it simply did not have to be made. The story here isn’t nearly strong enough to bring the franchise out of retirement after a sixteen year slumber. Mr. Coppola, you already made two of the greatest films ever, please don’t spoil it with a convoluted third installment. If there was a story dying to be told here, then I’d understand, but in my opinion, the script is the worst part about this movie. It’s not like the extremely belated sequel can’t be done. Toy Story 3 did it extremely well as recently as this year.

While the script was by far the biggest offender for me, the casting of Sofia Coppola is deservedly panned. She honestly does a laughably bad job in this movie. While the immensely talented actors around her naturally deliver their lines, she’s sounds like she’s doing an imitation of bad dialogue. Something about the way she says her lines screams that there is someone in this movie that doesn’t belong. Kudos to Coppola not letting this role ruin her self-esteem and growing up to become a pretty talented filmmaker in her own right. As if the casting of his own daughter wasn’t suspect enough the role called for an incestuous relationship. Sleeping with your first cousin is still considered incest, right? Seriously? Your own daughter? In her first major acting role? Good job, buddy.

While it might seem like I hated everything about The Godfather: Part III, I did enjoy Andy Garcia’s performance as Vincent Mancini. He’s the lone character that seemed like he would’ve been at home in the world created in the first two films and thus, is the really the only character I liked in this movie. He gets to shine in a quite a few scenes, particularly when a couple of would-be hit me break into his apartment and find themselves in an interrogation. I also enjoyed his line to Mary Corleone: “Love someone else.” Garcia was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise cloudy movie.

I don’t really understand how The Godfather: Part III received seven Academy Award nominations. It makes me wonder if these people saw the same film I did. Could they really tell me today, with a straight face, that they would rather watch this movie instead of Miller’s Crossing? I’ll give them credit for recognizing Andy Garcia’s performance, but Best Picture and Best Director for one of the more disappointing sequels of all-time? Really? While Coppola might have gotten a pass based on past credentials at the 1991 Academy Awards, my recommendation to everyone else is to skip this movie (or pretend like it doesn’t exist) and remember the first two Godfather films as the great pillars of film excellence that they are and not let this last entry tarnish their memory.

Grade: C-
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Not much. I would watch it again someday to see if I can better follow the story.
Sequel Potential? Has it been sixteen years yet? God, let’s hope not.
Oscars: Undeserved nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. Five more nominations, including a deserved nom for Andy Garcia in the Best Supporting Actor category.
Nudity? Bridget Fonda has a decent scene. Not sure if you actually see anything though.

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Revisiting 1990: Goodfellas

August 20, 2010

Considered For: Top 5

“What are you, a fuckin’ sick maniac?”

Interesting. I’ve long thought of Goodfellas as the top film of 1990, but after watching it last night, I realize that I may have never even seen it. I was positive that I had, but nothing about this movie seemed familiar and I know damn well I haven’t seen Lorraine Bracco in a movie since I’ve started watching The Sopranos. I really felt that I’ve seen this movie before, but last night I felt like I was watching it for the first time.

Goodfellas is an epic story, based on a true story, about the Italian mob in New York City from the 1950s through the 1970s. Ray Liotta plays Henry Hill, our “hero,” a kid that grows up wanting nothing more than to be a gangster. He starts off as a delivery boy for respected mob figures Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino) and Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and works his way up the ranks with friend Tommy DeVito (later played by Joe Pesci) and they both wind up integral parts of the organization by their early 20s (although Pesci was nearly 50 when this movie filmed… LOL). Henry eventually meets Karen (Bracco), they marry, and together they become enraptured and victimized by the ways of the organized crime business and the financial freedom and social dominance it offers.

I hate to say it, but I think Goodfellas might be a tad overrated. For one, I didn’t like it as much as Miller’s Crossing, another 1990 film focused on organized crime. I’ll take Gabriel Byrne’s Tom Reagan over Liotta’s Henry Hill any day, in terms of both character and acting. For two, a #17 of all-time ranking on IMDB’s greatest movies ever list seems overboard. With that said, Goodfellas is still a very good movie and probably deserved more acclaim than 1990’s most highly lauded film Dances With Wolves, a movie noticeably absent from IMDB’s same list.

Goodfellas does feature a stellar cast. I knew before watching that Lorraine Bracco was Oscar-nominated, but watching the film, I kept thinking of what a great job Joe Pesci was doing as the outlandishly violent and explosive Tommy DeVito. When I researched the Oscars after the movie, I was pleased to find out that not only was Pesci nominated, but he took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Very deserved. Bracco was also outstanding as Henry’s wife, Karen, dealing with the loose morals of a wiseguy husband, a man that thinks it’s okay to have multiple girlfriends in addition to a wife. She does a great job walking the line between jealous, vengeful wife and drug-addled woman addicted to the life of crime, quick money and supposedly easy living. I find it astonish that in the 9 years between Goodfellas and her role as Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos, the biggest movie she was in was Hackers. Robert De Niro offers a good performance, but it wasn’t much of a stretch for him and I wouldn’t rank it amongst the top five of his career or even his best of the year (check out Awakenings). I’m not sure Ray Liotta was the best choice for Henry Hill. Apparently, Liotta turned down the role of Harvey Dent in Tim Burton’s Batman in order to star in Goodfellas, a good move considering no one remembers Harvey Dent in the original Batman and Goodfellas is by far the best film Liotta’s ever worked in. Liotta does a decent enough job, but some of his scenes, mostly when he is laughing hysterically, made me cringe a little bit. Liotta has never really gone on to do anything worthwhile for his career and I wonder if Goodfellas could have been even better with a more capable actor in the lead role.

It would be a fair argument to say that Martin Scorsese should have won his first Best Director Oscar in 1991 for Goodfellas. While Dances With Wolves might have been an easier film for the Academy to swallow, I can’t imagine someone saying with a straight face that it’s a better film, particularly in the directing department. There’s a great scene in Goodfellas where the camera follows Henry and Karen through the back entrance of a restaurant, through the kitchen, and into the dining room where a table is immediately set for them, not once breaking for a separate take. Simply put, Goodfellas was better than Dances With Wolves and Scorsese, long overlooked by the Academy, was robbed.

I don’t want you to come away from this review with the impression that I didn’t like Goodfellas that much. I loved it. Yes, maybe Ray Liotta wasn’t the best choice for Henry Hill; yes, I liked Miller’s Crossing more; but Goodfellas was still a GREAT film, just maybe not as great as some people have made it out to be. If you haven’t ever seen Goodfellas, I’d bump it to the top of your Must Rent list and if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, it’s worth revisiting.

Grade: A
Viewings: maybe 2?
Replay Value: A must for the DVD collection.
Oscars: A Best Supporting Actor win for Pesci. Nominations for Bracco, Scorsese, Best Picture, Film Editing, and Adapted Screenplay.
Sequel Potential: None. Based on a true story.
Nudity? Amazingly, no. Lots of sexual references, but no nudity that I can remember.

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Revisiting 1990: Dances With Wolves

August 18, 2010

Considered For: Top 5

“Turned Injun, didn’t yeh?”

I can’t say I was looking forward to watching Dances With Wolves as its run time was intimidating (3 hours, 45 minutes) and the story didn’t really scream of excitement. Usually when I’m not amped up for a sweeping epic, I’ll start the movie a couple of times, watch about ten minutes, before giving up and sending it back to Netflix. It did take me roughly 48 hours to make it through Dances With Wolves, but I found myself enjoying it a lot more than I was expecting.

Based on a novel, the story thrusts us into an undisclosed time in history and introduces us to Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) suffering from a wound on his leg that most likely will cost him the limb. Next thing you know, Dunbar forces his foot into a boot and starts riding a horse in the middle of an open war zone, basically on a suicide mission. The opposition apparently has the worst shot in the world as Dunbar survives unharmed, rallies his troops, and is eventually seen as a hero. He’s rewarded for his efforts by receiving a post in an isolated fort on the frontier to be manned by himself.

At this fort, Dunbar becomes lonely and finds that his only company is his horse Sysco and a wolf he names Two Socks that frequents the area. Before long, a few Indians show up and after realizing that the white man is not a threat, Dunbar finds himself assimilating in their culture. The majority of the film focuses on Dunbar’s experience with the Sioux tribe, conveniently assisted by a white woman (Mary McDonnell) the tribe had taken in as a child, but ultimately, conflict arises, and Dunbar finds himself at odds with the American Army.

I’m no fan of Kevin Costner as an actor and his perfomance in Dances With Wolves, although Oscar-nominated, is nothing spectacular either. Dunbar is a good character, but Costner doesn’t bring anything extra to the table and I can imagine several more talented actors making this an iconic character. I’m not really sure what to make of Mary McDonnell’s performance either. She has gone on to star in one of my favorite science fiction shows (Battlestar Galactica) and grew into a solid actress. Her work here was Oscar-nominated as well, but she spent the majority of the movie with a seemingly blank look on her face. Perhaps it was because her character, Stands With A Fist, was in mourning for most of the movie, but the effect left me slightly unimpressed. The best acting in this movie is clearly done by the Native Americans and any movie that can take actors I’m not familiar with and turn them into memorable characters gets kudos from me.

spoilers ahead

I wasn’t really moved by Dances With Wolves, like I think I was supposed to be, but I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. It’s kind of weird that an animal (Two Socks) without a speaking role was my favorite character and the saddest parts in the film were when both Sysco and Two Socks got the ax. Sysco’s death made sense in the scheme of the scene, but killing off Two Socks was purely pointless. I refuse to believe a wild animal would stand still while humans are repeatedly shooting at it. The wolf can barely muster up the courage to take a piece of meat out of John Dunbar’s hand, but was willing to stand its ground and be shot to death? Really? The end of the film confused me as well. It concludes with Dunbar leaving the winter camp of the Sioux Indians with his new wife, Stands With A Fist, because he fears the whites are going to come looking for him. Well, if they are going to come looking for you, they’re no less likely to stop by the winter camp simply because you left. Does he think the American Army is going to show up and be like “Hey, is John Dunbar in? No? Okay, thanks… sorry to bother you.” No, there will be bloodshed regardless, so dude might as well stay and take part in the fight. It was a very weak way to complete an otherwise very enjoyable movie.

I wouldn’t rank this movie amongst my all-time greats, and I’m not going to say you have to see it if you’ve somehow missed it these past twenty years, but it’s worth watching and wasn’t nearly the chore I was expecting it to be. It’s a good story, with mediocre acting, and a solid directorial effort from Costner. Better than I was expecting, but definitely not worth it’s Best Picture Oscar.

Grade: B-
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Most films with running times of 3+ hours are tough to watch repeatedly.
Oscars: Won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Costner), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Nominated for five others, including acting nominations for Costner, McDonnell, and Graham Greene.
Nudity: Mary McDonnell almost gets naked, but unfortunately nudity is limited to Kevin Costner’s ass… several times.

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Revisiting 1990: Miller’s Crossing

August 9, 2010

Considered For: Top 5

“What’s the rumpus?”

This is the first movie I watched on my quest to figure out the best movies of the past twenty years. I knew I’d seen it before, but for some reason I couldn’t remember anything about Miller’s Crossing. Even reading the synopsis didn’t ring much of a bell. I wonder how long it’s been since I’ve seen it… certainly since watching films has become important to me, which makes it weird that I was drawing a total blank. Not long into the movie though, things started clicking, and I remembered liking Miller’s Crossing very much. I left it off my initial top five list for 1990, but after getting a grilling on a hip-hop forum I post on for omitting it, I knew it was time to revisit this early Coen Brothers production.

Joel and Ethan Coen have been some really consistent filmmakers over the years. No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski, and Fargo all rank amongst my favorite films of their respective years, and now, Miller’s Crossing can be added to that list. I have no doubt that when my journey through 1990 is finished, this movie will be in my top five and, possibly, my top flick of the year. In Miller’s Crossing, the Coens tell a mob story that finds Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) playing a loyal advisor to crime boss Leo (Albert Finney). Tom finds himself in hot water when it’s discovered that he’s banging the boss’ lady (Marcia Gay Harden), but Tom is never one to panic when he finds himself in hot water and always seems to have a plan in motion.

While I won’t say Miller’s Crossing is a spectacular mob film like, say, The Godfather, it’s definitely a solid story. Byrne plays Tom with a calm, cool, and collected suave… so much so, that you never doubt that he’s in control of all his problems. John Turturro shows up as Harden’s brother, and the cause of the initial conflict in the film…. the shmatte. He’s at his pathetic best when he’s taken out to Miller’s Crossing for his reckoning. Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden, and Jon Polito all give solid performances as well.

It’s probably been a while since most people have seen this movie and for those of you that haven’t, I’d highly recommend it. An early Coen Brothers classic!

Grade: A
Viewings: 2
Replay Value: Worth owning
Oscars: Snubbed
Nudity?: I don’t think so.

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The Best Movies Of The Past 20 Years

August 1, 2010

I’m going to start a series of posts highlighting the best movies of the past twenty years. I’ve made some pretty solid lists for the 1990s, but I feel there are a lot of important films that I either haven’t seen in forever or just haven’t ever watched. I was eight in 1990 and I didn’t really get into movies until 1999, so there is a bit of catching up to do. I’m going to start with the year 1990 and over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be watching some of the films from that year that I think should be considered and I’ll be posting mini-reviews for all of them. I’m going to start with the past twenty years and see how that goes, but I ultimately want to expand the series to the Best Movies Of My Life, which would date back to 1982.

For each year, I’m going to pick what I think is the best overall film and also include a list of my top 5. Since certain genres are often overlooked in Best Of lists, I’m also going to include my top comedy, horror, and animated movie for each year. Lastly, we all have a movie that we love but isn’t particularly good; something that holds a special spot in our heart anyways. For each year, I’ll be selecting my top guilty pleasure. Stay tuned. I’ll be starting on 1990 this week.