A Personal Journey with The Gunslinger45 through the Movies: A Top 50+

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Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 1964 (PG) + 5
USA / Columbia Pictures
100% (CF)

Stanley Kubrick is a very special filmmaker for me. For the majority of my life movies were just mediums for telling stories. Then I took that film class I took in college, where I was helped along by being shown a different way of looking at movies. I learned symbolism, themes, and a new visual language opened up for me. And one of the most significant films to be shown in that class was this one, the film I credit as being the movie that really got the ball rolling in my cinematic maturation. From the phallic imagery of the opening scenes, the beautiful camera shots, the perfect musical accompaniment, the razor sharp satire, to the cold but hilarious tone of the film; no one filmmaker helped me grow as a film watcher more than Kubrick. Though his masterful work I was propelled from being just a fan of movies to a true connoisseur of the cinema.

Now I did not fall in love with this film at first. It took a while and many rewatches for me to gain my current love and appreciation for the film. But like any great movie, there was something fascinating about this movie I really enjoyed, and that enjoyment kept me coming back to this movie. And as my cinematic maturation progressed paired with the many rewatches, I have learned to really love and appreciate the very dark humor and satire of this film. Many people say you are not supposed to laugh at Dr Strangelove, but I disagree, this movie is funny as hell! While Clerks II is my favorite comedy and makes me laugh more, I love this movie more as an overall film. Understandable since Kubrick is a master at his craft. What makes this film even more incredible is its rich behind the scene stories and its very creation given the global affairs at the time of production. If you would like to know more about this film from the mad genius of the cinema, here was my review of Dr Strangelove from my last Top 50.

See Review here

I think you will like this one Miss Vicky.


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: 1984 (PG) NEW
USA / Paramount
84% (CF)

Kubrick was the man who helped me look at film differently, but it was Spielberg who made me fall in love with movies in the first place. And the film that started it all was the film that was my favorite movie when I was 4 years old. Indiana Jones: and the Temple of Doom!

Indiana Jones is my favorite cinematic character, and this is my favorite movie of the trilogy. How did Spielberg do it? The best way to memorize a kid at 4 years old is to throw unforgettable imagery at the kid, and this movie did that in spades! I can remember sitting in front of the TV we had in Seoul and watching every single scene! Spielberg puts together a film with so many fantastic and unforgettable scenes and sets! There is the opening shootout in a Shanghai Night Club, the plane over the mountain scene, the river raft, the campfire poker scene, the “dinner” scene, the bugs, nearly being crushed by the lowering ceiling, the Thuggie sacrifice, the blood of Kali, Short Round busting out of imprisonment, fighting cultists while trying to save Willy, escaping the mines on the mine carts, the bridge scene, and finally the return to the village. That is just a handful of the awesome scenes in this movie. You could probably make into two or three other movies. Spielberg rolls them into one damn movie! Hell the bridge scene is my favorite scene IN ALL OF CINEMA! Needless to say this movie blew my 4 year old mind away!

Now why the hell was this not on my last Top 50? Well I watched this film to death and got burned out from it. I had not seen it in a few years until I watched it again a few months ago. It was there where I was able to reconnect with the film like I did when I was a child. The magic was recaptured and it shoots its way all the way up into my top 5. An appropriate spot if you ask me. This was the film that started it all. If it had not been for Spielberg, I don’t know if I would have ever joined this site.

Now I did not fall in love with this film at first. It took a while and many rewatches for me to gain my current love and appreciation for the film.
That's how it was for me, too.

it's a Wonderful Life, Seven Samurai, Apocalypse Now, Dr Strangelove, & Temple of Doom are excellent Top 10 choices!

haven't seen Clerks II, or Clerks for that matter, all the way through yet i've just watched a YouTube clip of a few of their Star Wars jokes

Love Temple of Doom!!!

Absolutely the best Indiana Jones movie and one of the most exciting movies I've seen of any genre or any decade.

Finished here. It's been fun.
If it had not been for Spielberg, I don’t know if I would have ever joined this site.
The same would apply to me, except that special movie was Jurassic Park. I fell in love with films when I viewed it,made me realize the magic and beauty of cinema. I've literally seen it around 100 times.


Red Dawn: 1984 (PG-13) -1

I LOVE Red Dawn! Why?

I am a proud patriotic gun loving son of a bitch! And this movie is about armed civilians killing invading commie hordes in their own back yard! The only way this movie could be anymore American if George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt came back to life to fight the Russians on horseback wielding M-16’s eating apple pie and high fiving Baby Jesus! Though Baby Jesus would be highly unlikely since Milius is Jewish. Anyway, I remember the day clearly when I swore an oath to defend this great nation from all threats foreign and domestic. And this is a movie that plays to my sentimentalities to a tee. This movie is a Cold War action flick set in Colorado where Swayze and Charlie Sheen kill a bunch of Russians who made the damn fool mistake of invading the USA! Five minutes into this movie you see a Colorado high school overrun by Russian, Cuban, and Nicaraguan paratroopers to begin their invasion of the US. Escaping the fray at the school, a group of teenagers including Matt Eckert (Charlie Sheen) and adult brother Jed Eckert (Patrick Swayze) grab a bunch of guns and supplies and head for the mountains. Together they start a guerrilla war against their Soviet invaders calling themselves the Wolverines. They set up ambushes, bomb movie theaters playing Soviet films, raid prison camps, blow up Soviet vehicles, and leave the Russkies lying in puddles of their own blood. The plot is simple, the characters are not the most complex, but the drama is real and the violence is in mass amounts. The story is told over months at a time, from what looks like fall in through winter. They fight long and hard and show what kind of prolonged and intense fighting does to a person. Some begin to crack, some struggle with tough moral choices, and some give into the darkest part of a man’s soul which burns hot with revenge and bloodlust. This follows in a long line of movies John Milius has made which are full of his typical macho bravado and I love it! And though the violence is relatively bloodless (at least by modern standards) the number of violent acts is staggering. In fact this movie was considered the most violent movie at the time in terms of number of violent acts on screen. This movie even held the title in the Guinness Book of Records. It was also the first movie to be distributed with the PG-13 rating. And the movie was a big hit!

Problem was, this movie got Milius in all kinds of trouble. Hollywood also has a reputation of being a pretty liberal town, and this being a very violent film where the Soviets were the bad guys and killed in massive amounts, the film did generate some controversy. It did not help that Milius had a history in Hollywood. Despite Milius being tight with the likes of Coppela, George Lucas, and Spielberg, and being an exceptional writer he was pretty much viewed as an outsider in Hollywood because of his very larger than life personality and personal politics. The self described Zen Anarchist was an un-credited writer on Dirty Harry, The Hunt for Red October, and Jaws; a credited co-writer on Magnum Force and Apocalypse Now; and wrote and directed Conan the Barbarian and this movie. He was also the writer who came up with a lot of the most memorable lines in American cinema. He wrote the “Do I feel Lucky” monologue from Dirty Harry, “Go ahead make my day” from Sudden Impact, USS Indianapolis speech in Jaws, and all the best lines in Apocalypse Now like “Charlie don’t surf” and “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” But that did not save him from a media storm where the film was condemned for its violence and political themes. Some called it irresponsible and some accused the film of saber rattling. After this movie he was pretty much black listed from Hollywood.

And as sad as it is Milius never got a lot of stable work after this again he has stayed active as a writer and even co creator of the TV series Rome so he can still pay the bills. In the end however this is still one of my all time favorite films, and at one point in time this WAS my favorite film. If you cry out “WOLVERINES!” people know exactly what you are talking about! And if you have ever seen Walter in The Big Lebowski, take a guess who is friends with the Coen Brothers and inspired that character. If you are curious about learning more about John Milius, check out the documentary about him. It is on DVD in the UK and can be viewed on E-Pix in a 14 day free trial.


Blue Velvet: 1986 (R) NEW

I remember I had just completed my last Top 50 for the site. I was feeling good and accomplished, figuring this list would last a while. Then I watched this movie since it was very high on Daniel M’s Top 150. Mind was instantly blown. It is really quite comforting that even at my age and with all the films I have seen I can still find new films that still have a very profound effect on me. After watching this film for the first time I instantly put it into my Top 10. It has been slowly creeping up until it is now firmly my number 2 favorite film of all time.

Blue Velvet is a surreal and strange film from David Lynch. Not full Lynch like with Eraserhead, but surreal enough that it creates a strange and unique atmosphere. What begins as a look at a 1950’s style Beaver Cleaver-ville, you soon discover that there is more to this Eisenhower-esque town then meets the eye. Or to borrow a line from another Lynch work, “The owls are not what they seem.” We spend the rest of the film looking at the duality of human nature, of this small town, and really of the world in general. A picture painted of small town life free from the crime associated with the big city, only to learn there is a criminal underbelly hidden deep underneath the town’s visage. While most everyone seem to be good and honest folk, we then are shown there are some truly despicable characters in the world thanks to Frank Boothe and his associates. And finally we see the duality of the nature of man with Jeffery Beaumont as a good and naďve young man poised against Frank. And how Jeffery’s exposure to people like Frank may have a subtle corrupting effect on Jeffery, as some of his actions are framed in the same way as Frank’s actions. In addition, the film is an exercise in duality itself, a film beautifully shot, but dealing with some very ugly and disturbing imagery and themes.

In addition to this, there is that familiar strange eroticism in this film that is common in a lot of Lynch’s work. Combine the surreal imagery with the pairing of Dorothy and Jeffery makes this the strangest sexual awakening I have ever seen. And the ending is simply beautiful. The symbolism of the Robin, the song Mysteries of Love, and the return to normalcy makes it one of my favorite endings ever. Add in one of the best villain performances by Dennis Hooper, the atmosphere, and the music; and you have a film that almost became my favorite film of all time. ALMOST being the key word.


Taxi Driver: 1976 (R) -
USA / Columbia Pictures
98% (CF)

The more things change the more they stay the same. What more can I say about Taxi Driver? I mean when I did my last review I wrote a very long review of this film that told my exact feelings about this film in great detail. I am going to repost that review here, but in actuality what more can I add? I guess there is one more thing to say.

When I first wrote my review a year ago I said that this movie gets better and better every time I watch it. But it is more than that really. With the more life experience I gain and the more I grow as a person, it offers me new ways to look at this film; new interpretations and angles to explore. This film literally has grown with me through my adult life. With the rise of the internet, film sites like this one and streaming you can find a new great film every week. But to find a film that grows with you. You find that maybe once in a lifetime. And with that in mind, Taxi Driver will always be my favorite film of all time.

My original review:

Taxi Driver is often named as one of the greatest movies Martin Scorsese has ever made, and it has made quite a few lists of the greatest movies ever made. And it is very easy to see why. The movie is set in 1970’s New York City when Times Square was still seedy as hell and New York City as a whole was considered a cesspool. Watching this movie really reflects that feeling. From some of the neighborhoods, people in the background, the sex shops and porno theaters, to character’s apartments you really feel like this city is starting to crumble. Especially since very little of anything redeeming is shown. The protagonist is an honorably discharged Marine by the name of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro). He describes himself as “God’s lonely man” suffering from isolation and the after effects of the Vietnam War. He also has a very difficult time connecting to people, even though he tries to do so on several occasions. He suffers from insomnia, and as a result takes a job as a taxi driver working nights “anytime anyplace.” When he is not working he has a habit of going to porno theaters and keeping a diary. His diary expresses the frustrations of a man who sees nothing but filth around him. We also see that Bickle is (among other things) a racist, a homophobe, and a tad sexist. But all is not lost for Travis, as there is one beautiful thing in NYC, as he introduces himself to Betsy (Cybil Shepard) a woman who is working for the presidential campaign of Democratic politician Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris). Betsy also seems to be a lonely person in New York, (after all she agreed to go out with Travis after the most awkward beginning to a courtship I have ever seen). Awkwardness aside, it seems Travis is doing well, he goes on a lunch date and he asks her out for a second date. She says yes. The second date is an unmitigated disaster. Betsy breaks off contact with Travis, and now with nothing left that is beautiful in his life and completely alone; he sinks into a deep and dark depression.

After a very disturbing fare (played by Scorsese himself), Travis goes to talk to a fellow cab driver Wizard (Peter Boyle). Travis expresses he has some bad thoughts in his head, and Wizard does little to dissuade those thoughts. After that, Travis begins to get “orga-ni-zied”, and he sets his sights on killing Charles Palantine. He arms himself and begins a physical training regimen that gets him into shape. Also in proper military fashion he acquires a secondary target, a young prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster), or more accurately her pimp “Sport” (Harvey Keitel). Travis becomes obsessed with Iris and wants to see her stop hooking and return home to Pittsburgh so she can live a normal life. The movie moves along at a fairly slow pace, but it gets kicked up a notch for a few minutes at the end. Where Travis releases his anger and frustration, and engages in one of the most violent and gritty shootouts of all time! The movie presents a more negative view of vigilantism than a movie like The Dark Knight, in which you know that Batman is the good guy because… he’s Batman! Travis Bickle on the other hand is not a hero. He does have good qualities; he wants more from his life then self pleasure, honorable military service, wants to help Iris, and he prevents an armed robbery of a local convenience store. But he is obviously suffering from some serious psychological issues, and any good qualities he has get overshadowed by the fact that he means to kill a presidential candidate.

The ending shows the power of perception. Travis fails to shoot Palantine, but succeeds in killing Sport and the Mafioso who happens to be there, thus freeing Iris. As such, Travis gets celebrated in the press as a hero who takes the law into his own hands and fights the scum of New York City. But had he been a little quicker on the draw he would have been reviled as a murderer and a monster. He also wins back the affections of Betsy at the end of the movie showing that the one beautiful thing in all New York has not abandoned him. But when he gives a final look back in the rear view mirror, it does suggest he is still unstable and could snap again. A second interpretation reflects Martin Scorsese’s religious leanings. Scorsese was raised Catholic and at one point wanted to go into the priesthood before he chose a film career. Scorsese once compared Bickle as a saint who wishes to purify his mind and body early in the movie. Travis begins this purification by eating right, exercising, and by not popping pills. After he decides to go after Palantine he holds his hand over a flame on his oven. One can see this as Travis just being crazy, but famed critic Roger Ebert seems to suggest he is testing the fires of Hell. The idea does fit as Travis is still living in sin even though he is in the process of purifying himself. He stills goes to porno theaters and he continues his violent plans against Palantine. But at the same time he does want redemption, and he finds the key to his redemption in Iris. After the failure to kill Palantine he goes off to save Iris himself, and he is celebrated as a hero. Does this mean Travis finds redemption in reality or in his mind? That is up to the viewer.

The movie is pure genius! In fact I only have one very minor gripe with the movie. When Travis meets Easy andy to get some guns, he chooses 4 pistols. The first is the Smith & Wesson Model 29 in 44 Magnum, a Smith & Wesson snub nose 38 SPL, a Walther PPK in 380 ACP, and a Colt 25 ACP he turns into his sleeve gun. My only issue with this scene is Travis Bickle is an ex-Marine, and in the suitcase is a perfectly good 1911A1 in 45 ACP, a gun he would be very familiar with from his time in the USMC. The Model 29 is even called unsuitable by Fast Eddie himself. So why does Travis choose the 44 Magnum and not the trusty 45? My best guess is this was more of an influence of the Dirty Harry movie than anything else. After all Dirty Harry was released only 5 years before this movie, and the writer Paul Schrader and Scorsese most likely saw it. Robert De Niro plays Travis as a man unhinged in spectacular fashion. De Niro is one of those actors who have the ability to melt into the role. Any trace of him as an actor is gone and all that is left is the character. Part of that has to do with De Niro’s method style of acting.

Travis Bickle is based upon Arthur Bremer, the would-be assassin who shot Presidential candidate George Wallace. This man’s diaries had been published, and De Niro listened to taped readings. In addition, De Niro got himself a cab license and drove around New York City picking up fares. De Niro also interviewed a few soldiers to get down the Middle America way of talking that he does in the movie. That is incredible dedication. In addition to De Niro’s acting, actress Jodie Foster’s acting is FANTASTIC! Part of what makes her performance so good is that she was 14 when this movie was shot, and she is showing more talent as a teenager then some big name actresses are showing as adults in movies today *cough* Jessica Alba! That is impressive, and shows why she is one of my favorite actresses! The Bernard Herrmann score for this movie is haunting! It sets the mood and perfectly sets the tone for the movie. What do you expect from the guy who did the scores for Citizen Kane, Psycho, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Vertigo?

In addition to all the praise I can heap on this movie, I can identify with the theme of loneliness. After I graduated from college, I opted to stay in Tallahassee to attend graduate school and earn my masters degree. After that, all my college friends and roommates moved away and left me alone in Tallahassee. I was not a drinker at the time, I am not a pot head, and I hate the bar and club scenes. And since that is about 95% of all social interactions in Tallahassee, for two years I lived pretty much like a hermit. The film is also directed by my favorite director of all time, Martin Scorsese. The movie keeps to Scorsese’s themes of urban crime and grit (where he is at his best).

The movie was also a financial success, taking in $28 million on a $1.3 million budget. The movie does have a few controversies however. It will always be linked to the attempted shooting of President Ronald Regan, as Hinckley tried to kill Regan to impress Jodie Foster. What a nutjob. It also had to be edited at the end to get an R rating. The final shoot out, was deemed too graphic by the MPAA, and the colors had to be desaturated to allow the blood to appear brighter and somehow less offensive. Killjoys. But Scorsese said in the end he liked the change. There were also a few people concerned about Jodie Foster being in the movie with more graphic scenes she was in like the final shoot-out and when Travis first meets her in person pretending to be a john. For more graphic scenes of a sexual nature Jodie actually had her older sister as a body double. And as for the final shootout, she was there for the set up of the scenes and effects so she could see what was going to happen. This helped alleviate potential trauma to the young actress.

But the controversies aside, I still love this movie. And I am not the only one who loves this movie, as it was nominated for four Academy Awards, won 3 BAFTA awards, and won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival (the highest honor they have). And the late Roger Ebert also called it one of the best films he has ever seen. And to top it off it was added to the National Film Registry to be preserved for all time in the Library of Congress, as it is deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” to film. My love for this movie is also part of the reason I am not a Rocky fan, it won for best picture in 1976 beating out this movie. And the lack of a Best Director nomination for Scorsese is one of many beefs I have with the Academy. It also shows that you don’t have to do a movie about a good guy to make a great movie. De Niro would continue to make movies with Scorsese in the same vein with movies like Goodfellas, Casino, the Cape Fear remake, and Raging Bull. But this is the movie that is my personal favorite pairing of the two and in my opinion Scorsese’s best. It is a perfect blend of gritty, sleazy, urban violence, character study, and beautiful cinematic art. It is also a movie I can say gets better every time I watch it. And there is no higher praise I can give to a movie. And it is my all time favorite movie.

I remember sitting in the theater and in the row in front of me were two old ladies. I half expected these women to storm out of the theater in disgust (especially after the puppet sex scene). But instead they howled in laughter as much as I did!
This makes me happy.

love the list Gunslinger, & a strong ending with, in my opinion, Scorsese's masterpiece. can you put it up in list form, so i and others can share our ratings? if possible, include a list of the honorable mentions, there were a bunch of movies i liked in those posts

Good job gunslinger. I enjoyed the nice writeup for each film. Our tastes def diverge at points but merge a good bit as well. That is the fun of doing lists. Thanks for sharing your faves.