By Jarred Collins
I have always enjoyed watching movies. From a young age, I would watch movies with my parents or beg them to rent movies for me. When I was in high school, there was a video store that had a special 5 movies for 5 nights for $5. I would go on a Friday and get 5 movies, and then go back on Saturday and get 5 more. There is something special about being drawn into that make believe world. When I was college, I started to become intrigued by movies directors would talk about influenced them, or one that they would say is the greatest of all time. It peaked my interest and I got ahold of the AFI top 100 movies list. This opened my eyes to great actors/actresses, directors, and film in general.
So, when I was asked to give my top 5, I was excited and I already had my list ready. I always love sharing my thoughts and passion for movies. But as I sat down to look at it, I think that I want to cheat a little and give my top 8. To me these top 8 stick out above the rest of the list. Before you read the list, you should know that I have watched Casablanca, the Godfather, Citizen Kane and many other that are at the top of a lot of lists. I understand their importance, and enjoy them, but they are in my top 20 but I enjoy these others more. Also my favorite actor of all time is James Stewart. There is something about the way he carries the scene and put his passion on the screen. With that said here is my list.
I watched this movie two years ago and it immediately caught my attention. Classical music has always been a guilty pleasure. There has always been in intrigue with the thunderous drums, booming horns, calming strings and piano. This movie brings that passion to life. Tom Hulce portrays the musical genius Mozart, as an over the top character who slowly drives himself to madness through his music. F. Murray Abraham is the villain that realizes that Mozart is a musical genius and he is envious of him. He helps push Mozart further over the edge. It comes in at 3 hours on the director’s cut, but with Hulce and Abraham the movie flows really well.
My favorite western of all time. Val Kilmer gives one of my favorite performances as snarky Doc Holiday. Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp with one of the greatest mustaches in all of cinema. Bill Paxton and Sam Elliot are great in their supporting roles. The movie is well paced with action spread throughout the movie. Kilmer really steals the show with what I consider his best performance, and really has a great chemistry with Russell. The dialog between the two seems to come as naturally as it would between two childhood friends.
The Shawshank Redemption
“Andy Dufresne – who crawled through a river of $@!^ and came out clean on the other side.” There are not many things that I can say about this movie except, masterpiece of cinema. If you have not seen it, the opening quote says it all. Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, and the rest of the cast give one of the greatest performances of all time. Frank Darabont wrote the best screen play of the last 30 years, and it keeps getting better every time I watch it.
The first time I watched Apocalypse Now, I was in awe. You get to partake in this slow trip into madness. Set during the Vietnam War, Martin Sheen is Captain Willard. Willard is sent on a mission to kill Colonel Kurtz, Marlon Brando, who has disappeared into a remote area of the jungle and is using natives to carry out his idea of justice. Willard is put on a boat heading up river, and with each obstacle they run into, you can see things get more and more out of control. The last 30 minutes of the movie take place at Kurtz’s base. It took me watching the movie many times, before I truly began to understand the purpose and genius of this part. For some it is a great movie until that part, but once you understand what Coppola is trying to do it finishes the masterpiece.
North by Northwest
Alfred Hitchcock was a master of cinema. He found a way to get great performances out of people. This is not your typical Hitchcock movie. There is suspense, but not in the same sense as Vertigo, the Birds, or Psycho. This is more of a spy thriller, and Cary Grant is amazing in this movie. He portrays Roger Thornhill, who is mistaken for George Kaplan. He is kidnapped and then goes on the run. There are beautiful shots from around the country, as we follow Kaplan and his pursuers. Everything that makes Hitchcock great, comes together to make this his second best movie.
All the President’s Men
When I was in College, I had a professor spend an hour and a half lecturing about the Watergate scandal. It really grabbed my attention, and when I found out there was a movie about it I had to watch it. You may begin to see a pattern with this and the top two movies on my list. There is a lot of talking, then some driving and running, and then more talking. If you want to be an investigative journalist then this movie if for you. The excitement that Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman carry with every lead is contagious. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (Hoffman and Redford) are the only ones who keep pursuing the cause, but they believe and keep pushing until they are able to break the story and make national, and world headlines.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
As a senior in High School we were studying the judicial process in Government class, in particular the filibuster. We were made to watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. At first I saw black and white, and I thought this was going to be horrible. But after seeing a young James Stewart take command the screen, I was hooked. The story follows James Stewart as Jefferson Smith, as he is chosen to take the place of a deceased U.S. Senator. He is chosen because they think that he can be manipulated. They try to make him out to be the bad guy and take the fall, so that a larger plan can get pushed through. To stop the bill and try to prove his innocence, Smith decides to filibuster. This movie was shot in 1939, there is very little action, except the excitement put forth by Steward and the rest of the actors through their dialog. This shows the corruption, innocence, and the way every American wishes the political system would work.
I discovered this movie on a whim. One night, I saw that it was coming on and decided I would record it on the DVR. While I was watching it, I was blown away at the way James Stewart took control of the screen. For some people this movie might seem a bit boring. The main character L.B. Jefferies (Stewart) is stuck in a wheel chair with a broken leg, and the audience is stuck in his apartment with him. He passes his time by watching his neighbors out his window. Jefferies is visit by his insurance company nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) and Girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly). They quickly become intertwined, and hang on every suspicious movement happening across the courtyard. I would like to take two quotes from Roger Ebert that I think define the true nature of the movie. “The remote-control suspense scenes in “Rear Window” are Hitchcock at his most diabolical, creating dangerous situations and then letting Lisa and Stella linger in them through Jeff’s carelessness or inaction… We, and he, cannot move, cannot sound the alarm.” “This level of danger and suspense is so far elevated above the cheap thrills of the modern slasher films that “Rear Window,” intended as entertainment in 1954, is now revealed as art.” Hitchcock delivers a true masterpiece of suspense in what I believe is his best movie.
On a side note. The Blu-ray transfer of this movie is great. The picture is clear and the color pops off the screen. I would not have the Blu-ray if it were not for my wonderful and loving wife for not only getting it for me on father’s day, but also sitting down and sharing my favorite film.
If you enjoy these films, check out the AFI 100 Greatest list, the Criterion Film Collection, Roger Ebert’s Great Movies site, or any reputable movie reviews. But before you make a judgment, check it out for yourself you never know what you may end up liking.