Thursday, July 10, 2008

The PBB Awesome Fifty: Part the Fourth

31. Casino Royale
(Daniel Craig)
I like smart action movies--movies that don't insult the intelligence of the viewer. I'm not saying everything needs to be perfectly logical or explained; I just want some faith on behalf of the filmmaker that I, the audience member, will be able to follow his plot without the plodding overexplanation. For years, I have not been a fan of the James Bond franchise for just this reason. However, this reboot of the Bond story is told in a smart, engaging, more realistic way. Craig plays a more human Bond than previous incarnations, a Bond who bleeds and stumbles, but is still cooler, stronger, and more deadly than I'll ever hope to be. If you're like me, and have avoided the franchise, buy this Bond. Here's a music video of one of the best Bond themes in years, to get a taste of the film:

32. Breakfast at Tiffany's
(Audrey Hepburn)
[I'll give you a second to finish singing the Deep Blue Something song in your head.] Based on Truman Capote's novella, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" follows the relationship of society darling/phony Holly Golightly and writer Paul Varjak. The film is charming, funny, and satisfying, even if the film's ending betrays the end of the source material (Capote is darker). Audrey Hepburn was someone special. Here's a scene where you get Holly at her most authentic:

33. The Third Man
(Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten)
Another great noir classic. Cotten plays Holly Martins, who learns his recently-deceased friend Harry Lime was not only a criminal, but responsible for the suffering of innocent children due to corrupted medical supplies. The final chase through the sewers is one of my favorite chase sequences. The scene below is the first time that Martins sees Lime alive after his "death," and is one of the coolest "character reveals" in film:

34. Night Watch / Day Watch
A Russian horror film, featuring vampires, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night. The main character, Anton, learns that he has supernatural abilities, and becomes the focus of a struggle between the forces of Good and the forces of Evil. It seems that they have an uneasy stalemate, and each person who develops "the Sight" must choose which team to join. Things take a turn when a young boy with a connection to Anton becomes the prize of both armies' efforts. Super-creepy films, amazing special effects, but very R-rated, so be aware. It's worth watching in the original Russian, with subtitles. Here's the trailer for the first one (warning: scary "jump" moment involved):

35. Double Indemnity
(Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck)
More noir? Any guesses what I've been watching lately? This one is another noir classic, starring MacMurray as an insurance salesman who falls for a married woman with murder on her mind. The question is not "do they get away with it?" for the very beginning of the movie shows us a gut-shot MacMurray. The story of the film is, "How did it all go wrong?" Great movie, great cast (it co-stars Edward G. Robinson in his first non-gangster role as a big star), and the sexual tension between MacMurray and Stanwyck is palpable, as shown here:

36. Pride and Prejudice
(Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFadyen)
Granted, this is not the BBC version that so many Austen fans rave about. But I really like this film, even if it takes liberties with the text. And Keira Knightley is enchanting. It's a great film, and I enjoy it immensely. That's all. Guys, watch this film with your lady--major points in your favor, and it's not as painful as "The Notebook." Here's the trailer.

37. The Great Escape
(Steve friggin McQueen)
Probably my favorite WWII movie, "The Great Escape" tells the true story of captured Allied officers tunnelling out of a Nazi POW camp. The tunnels were named Tom, Dick, and Harry. The film has an all-star cast (Richard Attenborough! Charles Bronson! James Garner! James Coburn!), but it's obviously McQueen's show, as he plays Hilts, "the Cooler King" (called that for the amount of time he spent in solitary confinement). Great film, great story, and even a great score. A good war movie for folks who don't like a lot of bloodshed; the key to this film isn't violence, it's the thrills of watching the soldiers avoid capture. I can't find a short clip, so here's the first 10 minutes to whet your appetite:

38. High Fidelity
(John Cusack, Jack Black)
Based on one of my favorite novels, "High Fidelity" is the story of Rob Gordon, a record store owner with a bad track record for relationships. In this film, Rob responds to his most recent breakup by obsessing over why his relationships always go wrong, and in the process learns a lot about himself. The dialogue is funny, the supporting cast is a blast, and the soundtrack is amazing. But don't just take my word for it, listen to the experts (that's right, I quote them when I agree with them):

39. Singing in the Rain
(Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor)
Surely you've heard the song. You've probably even seen the footage of Gene Kelly in the grey suit dancing down the street during a downpour. But have you seen the film? Because the song, as good as it is, gives you nothing about the film itslef. The story is about Don Lockwood, a silent movie star who has to deal with the difficult transition to "talkies" along with his co-star, squeaky-voiced Lina Lamont. When he falls for a dancer with a beautiful voice, he gets the idea to let his new love record the vocals to go with his on-screen leading lady's looks. And yes, trouble ensues. Great dialogue, great music, and although the ten-minute dance sequence in the middle drags on a bit (despite the lovely Cyd Charisse), it's worth the wait. Here's a song by Donald O'Connor, Kelly's partner in crime in the film and one of the key sources of the film's hilarious one-liners:

40. Raiders of the Lost Ark
(Harrison Ford, Karen Allen)
Okay, forget the new one exists. Go back to the original--the first "Indiana Jones" film, and easily the best. Harrison Ford channels all the best of the classic Hollywood serial heroes, square-jawed, daring, devil-may-care, and eager to throw a punch when called-for. This film still makes me geek out like I'm 9 years old watching it for the first time. Even if there were never a "Star Wars," this film would have cemented Harrison Ford as a star. There's no way I could have a list of awesome movies that doesn't include this one; it pretty much sets the bar.

Tune in tomorrow for the final selections!

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