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REVIEW OF THE YEAR!!!!! Jk look forward to seeing more posts from new faces!

Casablanca (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid

"They don't make movies like Casablanca anymore." Upon hearing that, I am usually tempted to roll my eyes. How many times have you heard someone utter those words? Far too often. I've tolerated it from the mouths of cinephiles for what seems like ages. But in preparation for this review, I realized just how honest and unmistakably true that thought is. Studios and filmmakers have not made a film like Casablanca since its release.

Humphrey Bogart's cynical Rick sticks his neck out for nobody, Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa reacts to Rick's words, her eyes sparking in the light as tears cloud her eyes. All of it, every frame and line, feels like something out of a perfect dream. For nearly 75 years, Casablanca has been praised as being one of the greatest films of all time. And to be perfectly honest, I'd have to agree with that consensus.

Casablanca is, without a doubt, one of the finest movies to date. Even after so many decades, it sweeps newcomers off their feet and into the mysteriously dangerous - yet somehow peaceful - Casablanca as presented in Michael Curitz's masterpiece. Thieves and vultures, vultures everywhere. Corrupt policemen and Nazis. Overcrowded streets full of immigrants. The occasional echoing sound of a gunshot as someone clinches in pain before falling to the ground followed by slowly forming pools of their own blood.

Yet, somehow, Casablanca is a place reminiscent of an exotic nightlife, where the glamorous manage to reside, and happiness seems to be around every corner. Like I said, it's a perfect dream. Nothing is too quaint, but everything seems just right. Enter Rick, the hero, the one who is always right, the morally justifiable. And Ilsa, his lost love. So it would seem. But Casablanca isn't entirely picturesque.

The characters in this film are undeniably complex. Rick is the most relatable - on the outside he seems to be the good guy, and maybe he is, but on the inside he is incredibly complicated and actually does not fit the stereotype. Ilsa, presented as a "lost love," brings with her to the story political intrigue and desperation above romance and a troubled past. While the love triangle between Rick, Ilsa, and Victor Laszlo - played quietly but, as a result, powerfully by Paul Henreid - is the necessary backbone for this film that works incredibly well in most aspects, it doesn't consume Casablanca.

A series of subplots ultimately connected to the main storyline sees the likes of Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre toe-to-toe with each other and the film's protagonists, which in itself is worth seeing. And there is not a single bad performance in Casablanca as well. Even the occasional one-timer characters deliver incredibly solid performances.

I would also go as far to say that Casablanca is the best-written film I've ever seen. But to me, this is a movie that represents something no longer present in most - if any - films today. It's hard to put a name on what I'm referring to. It's more of a feeling. And Rick's actions in Casablanca remind me of how people can change, how they can rebuild from the ashes and sacrifice all they care about in order to make the world a better place.

Plan B, you might want to read up on this little thing called paragraphs.

EDIT: Much better. Good review of a great movie.

Plan B, you might to read up on this little thing called paragraphs.
*might want

Just playing.

But in all seriousness, my post was blobby. So I decided to take the plunge and paragraph the thing.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Director: David Lean
Starring: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn

Looking for words to describe such a monumental film is just an exercise in futility. That's because Lawrence of Arabia is a great many things to a great many people, including yours truly. It's a grand spectacle. It's fascinating in size and scope. It's beautiful to look at and listen to. And it's also, in my opinion, one of the greatest films ever made. Showcasing sweeping, never-ending landscapes, gorgeous cinematography, an unforgettable musical score, and incredibly fine acting, David Lean's epic masterpiece is unlike anything I've ever seen, or will ever see again.

The story of T. E. Lawrence and his role in the Arab uprising is in its own right incredible. That being said, the film tells the story of a man who is alone in a vast desert with strangers, more or less, exposing Lawrence to countless emotions and changing him on a grand scale; for better or worse is for the viewer to decide. Regardless of how one feels about Lawrence's degrading morality throughout, and whether or not the film itself took the right approach to covering such an influential figure, it's easy to forget that Lawrence - at least in the film anyways - was not always understood by both the British or the Arabs. Which makes Lawrence of Arabia much more personal and intimate. In some way, we can all relate to Lean's Lawrence, expertly portrayed by Peter O'Toole. Flamboyant, even a little bit shy, he was nonetheless intelligent and an incredibly well-respected leader.

Lawrence not only helped in the uprising, but he became the uprising. Lean's film examines this observation on many levels. He paints Lawrence not only as a significant historical and political figure, but also as a celebrity, and examines Lawrence's reaction to his status. At times, Lawrence is even painted as a puppet, which adds another layer to the character development.

I particularly like how Lean always paints Lawrence as a human being first, with flaws, rather than the Man with No Name. Any other route and things could have been disastrous. But perhaps this is merely testament to Lean's ability as a director. Additionally, I find it hard to picture anyone other than Peter O'Toole playing Lawrence. His newcomer status at the time of release reminds me of Al Pacino's role in The Godfather.

David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia is just a good movie. It could get away with blatant historical inaccuracy all it wanted to and it would still survive. But Lean of course isn't the only hand in the game. I must also mention the stellar performances of Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, and the always amazing Claude Rains. Without their performances and sheer presence, Lawrence of Arabia simply wouldn't be Lawrence of Arabia.

Steven Spielberg said it best. "Lawrence of Arabia is a miracle." It truly is. Everything about this film is perfect. There's not a frame wasted, a second spent in circles, or a moment lost. It's just mind-blowing. If you haven't seen Lawrence of Arabia, I highly, highly, highly recommend seeing it right away. It's essential viewing and demands the undivided attention that T. E. Lawrence and David Lean deserve.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates

Freaking out masses since its release, one simply has to wonder what makes a film controversial. A problematic message? Too much violence? Perhaps both? To this reviewer, it's purely how the public responds to something they are entirely unprepared for. And this perhaps has never been more apparent than in the case of A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick's masterfully crafted, dark, dystopian social lesson on the necessity of violence in the world, and how people react to its existence.

Does A Clockwork Orange actually promote violence? Most would argue no, but I would actually have to say yes, at least in the case of its protagonist - or antagonist - Alex. It's what he lives on, what he looks forward to, and what he so obviously enjoys. But Alex, more or less, isn't to blame for his actions - at least not to me. Instead, violence itself makes Alex a victim.

While most would argue that Alex is an evil, cynical monster - which he is - how he ended up as one is an entirely different story. In a world where violence exists, there are those that not only accept its role in society, but embrace it as a weapon or a way to express their feelings. Kubrick takes Alex's dilemma and, for lack of a better word, mutilates the very definition of good or bad, right or wrong.

Stanley Kubrick successfully addresses, some would even argue, the many problems our society seems to get wrong. For instance, even though this film was released in 1971, one could point out that the process of which Alex goes through after returning to the world is very similar to how most addicts are treated in the war on drugs. Rather than provide help, most are incarcerated and upon being "cured" through time behind bars, are flat-out rejected by society.

I also noticed Kubrick added some interesting subliminal messages into The Shining. At first, I thought I was just over-analyzing things, until I was surprised to find several of my theories addressed in the film Room 237. But that is for another movie, and another day. In a final analysis, Stanley Kubrick's incredibly well-made A Clockwork Orange has earned a place on my list of favorites.

The Godfather (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan

Reviewing The Godfather is the easiest thing I've ever had to do, while also, ironically, the most difficult. It's considered a masterpiece by many. Personally, it is my favorite movie, and it's likely to remain at number one for quite some time. My words will convince few to view the film, and those who have already seen it know that I am merely preaching to the choir. But here we are.

The Godfather is hailed as an all-time classic. Why? What sets it apart from the average gangster drama? Why does it have such a massive and devoted following? Why has it proven to be so influential among filmmakers? Like the opening to my review, it's all a contradiction, for the answer is quite too simple yet unbelievably complex. It's hard to point out what makes something perfect, perfect. But it's all right there in front of you.

First off, the musical score. Wow. Nino Rota's iconic score is simply amazing. It conjures up different moods throughout the film. It'll make you feel nostalgic, sad, happy, upset, and anxious. Sometimes all at once. Never since Lawrence of Arabia has a film's score set the mood so well and, perhaps, nothing has ever set the standard since some 40 years later. Maybe There Will Be Blood is a contender, but it's not assured.

Secondly, the acting. The acting in this film is just incredible. Marlon Brando's iconic portrayal as Vito Corleone, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, Al Lettieri, Diane Keaton, Abe Vigoda, Talia Shire, Gianni Russo, John Cazale. Not a single bad performance. Not a one. Most people say Brando is the highlight here, but I say this will always be Al Pacino's movie.

Lastly, what does the film stand for? Loyalty at any cost? Radically defining the meaning of family for better or worse? To this reviewer, it's a combination of both, stirred together by Michael's role in the story. Al Pacino pulls off the shy, uncertain fish out of water to perfection, then transforms before our eyes into something else entirely, confirming Coppola's fascinating character study as a masterpiece.

The Godfather literally created a genre. Sure, there were mobster films before it, but this movie changed the game. Its presence is felt throughout cinema today. Goodfellas, Casino, Once Upon a Time in America, The Departed, American Gangster, Scarface. The Godfather dictates their violence, cinematography, musical score, and even their running time.

The running time. Some may question that observation, but if one takes a step back and looks at what makes an epic an epic, then looks at The Godfather, it's quite clear there is a connection, for whatever reason, to Francis Ford Coppola's film, and it's three-hour running time that draws the story out and makes it the grand spectacle that it is. When a film can influence the length of another film, it has left a permanent mark.

The Godfather is, without a doubt, the most influential film ever made. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino deliver two of the grandest performances of the past 50 years - especially Pacino - and Francis Ford Coppola, who has mysteriously lost his touch, is nonetheless one of the world's greatest filmmakers. Everything about The Godfather is perfect. Not only did it define a genre, but it reinvented the definition of "masterpiece."

I only watched The Godfather for the first time a couple months ago and I was blown away by it. I love its operatic take on the gangster genre, makes something (the life of a gangster) which seems so violent and radical into a graceful experience.

I watched Goodfellas a week ago and whilst I prefer The Godfather, it's still a great film with an exuberant approach that suits the story of mafia bottom-men, the minions. The Dons are The Leaders and just traditionally deserve a classical approach. Both are great and so is your review.

The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall

The Godfather, which I consider to be my favorite movie, was nearly topped with The Godfather: Part II, the sequel to Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 drama. While The Godfather is undeniably brilliant, its sequel pushes the boundaries even further. Everything that the original got right, its sequel takes advantage of - and it doesn't forget where it comes from. In fact, it embraces its roots, and rather than improve upon the first film, it seamlessly continues the story, as if The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II are the same movie. As a result, things have a strange sense of authenticity.

Out of all the films i have seen, there are only a handful of moments that I can call "real." What I mean by "real" is that at that particular part in the film - for about 10 or 15 seconds - things transcend the screen and boundaries of the film. One such example can be found within The Godfather: Part II. I am referring to a specific scene near the beginning of the film, when a young Vito Corleone sails his way to America.

Those on the boat stand and look at the beauty of the approaching Statue of Liberty. The music really kicks in at this point and it's just something to behold. Which brings me to Rota's musical score. It's just as incredible as the last time around. The score really brings out not only the mix of feelings brought about from the first film, but there's also an extra layer added here that seems to play along with Michael's actions as the movie progresses.

The acting, of course, is brilliant, as it was in the first film. This time, however, we see the addition of Robert De Niro, playing a young Vito Corleone growing up in New York City. For the brief amount of screentime he has, De Niro does wonders. Al Pacino delivers again, and some of the characters that were present, but not as involved, in the story of the first film make more appearances here, bringing in some strong character development.

The Godfather: Part II jumps back and forth between the past and the present, detailing both the rise of Vito Corleone, and the continuing saga of his son Michael's control over the family. It shouldn't have worked. On paper the idea seems rather questionable and almost too involving, especially for a sequel. But Coppola works his magic, and The Godfather: Part II is just as solid as the original, forming a timeless tale of organized crime.

The Godfather: Part III (1990)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Andy Garcia

As the concluding chapter in Coppola's crime family saga, The Godfather: Part III feels just as seamless to the continuation of the story as the first two films. But, unlike Coppola's first and second installments, The Godfather: Part III skips ahead nearly 20 years, and relies on continuity, forcing the audience to allow additional closure to what was arguably a story that ended in 1974.

The Godfather: Part III is undeniably controversial. Sofia Coppola received a lot of hate for her wooden performance - even though I think it is somewhat warranted, she wasn't in the film enough for it to be the outcry that has shadowed over the entire thing - and a lot of people found the plot outlandish - I'm not one of them. I have two less dramatic problems with the film.

Avoiding spoilers, I'll say this. During a scene where very important people come together, things turn rather chaotic. That's the first serious problem I had with the film. Especially when one of the attendees, Albert Volpe, has a bizarre fit about retrieving his "lucky coat." I'm not entirely sure why Coppola went with this - actually, I might have an idea, and if I'm correct, I'll despise this particular scene even more - but whatever his reasons, it just didn't work. This scene wouldn't be that big of a deal if it didn't entirely change the direction of the film.

The other problem I have with the film, and this is the biggest one, is the love interest between Vincent Mancini and Michael's daughter Mary. If you haven't seen The Godfather: Part III, let me assure you this isn't a spoiler, because it's apparent they're interested in one another from the very beginning - which is troubling for a number of reasons, especially when this romance seems to dumb down the movie.

The Godfather: Part III is still a good movie. It's certainly the weakest in the series, yet it still manages to be a worthy continuation of the saga. While at times it seems to be too involved, believe it or not, with the concept of family, the ending of the film is brutal and arguably proves the necessity of some of its most frustrating scenes. The finale is probably one of the trilogy's finest moments. In fact, one of the most chilling revelations in the entire series occurs here, involving "the donkey."

Considered the black sheep of the trilogy, The Godfather: Part III really isn't all that bad. Sure, it's different, but I thoroughly enjoyed the film. At times it may feel like a brainless exercise and it can disappoint in some areas. But perhaps this is intentional, with Michael resembling more of a wise old man rather than a cold-blooded killer. Coppola's third film ends the epic story on a reasonably satisfying note, but visibly misses the mark on what the previous two films were all about.

Deliverance (1972)

Director: John Boorman
Starring: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty

Chances are that even if you have never seen Deliverance, you are at least familiar with some aspects of the film. The famous "Dueling Banjos" scene, for instance, is easily recognizable in pop culture today. I'm not entirely sure why Deliverance has recently gained such a cult following. Perhaps it actually is the "Dueling Banjos" scene, or maybe the movie simply speaks to a variety of people in different ways.

Regardless, there's no denying the brilliance of Deliverance, not only as a fine example of storytelling, but also as a technical achievement. The film was shot chronologically, and as mentioned in cast and crew interviews, those involved dreaded filming some of its now-infamous scenes. That being said, Deliverance is a great film for sure, and a nail-biting survival movie, but it also has some unbelievably dark moments that turn it nightmarish.

It appears as if Deliverance is the dream project of director John Boorman, for Boorman has not only made an exceptional film, but his style defines Deliverance from beginning to end, turning the movie into a chaotic mess that works perfectly within the situation the four protagonists find themselves in. Boorman leaves the audience never quite sure of what is really happening.

The concept of Deliverance - man versus nature, man versus man, nature versus man combined into a seamless whole - works so well that at times everything feels too realistic. The idea that this, or something similar, could be happening right now makes one feel uneasy. Perhaps this is Boorman's doing - there are many ways that Deliverance could have been filmed - and he chose an appropriate style of forcing the audience to watch the protagonists suffer the worst in order for their struggle to seem freakishly authentic.

One line that sticks with me from this movie would be, "You can't beat this river." Boorman understands that true terror comes from normal people being thrown into horrifying situations. And he uses this to his advantage, mixing his unique cloudy storytelling with the real world. But there's also an eerie sense of beauty, and in some cases, calm, as if the events that unfold onscreen are merely the natural order of things, which is far more frightening than the story of a serial killer wearing a hockey mask or a psychotic machete-wielding, shack-occupying backwoods hunter.

A system of cells interlinked
Went to tag this but it has a busted graphic near the top. Replace that, and I will add the review to the register.
"Thereís absolutely no doubt you can be slightly better tomorrow than you are today." - JBP

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

Director: Milos Forman
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Michael Berryman

If ever there was a role in American fiction suited perfectly for Jack Nicholson, then R. P. McMurphy would be the ideal choice. In fact, I would say that Nicholson's work in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the greatest film performance of all time. There are many films where actors become their roles. Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder, Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln and There Will Be Blood, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, or Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables - but Jack Nicholson doesn't just become McMurphy, but rather, he creates him.

I read Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in high school, actually after falling in love with the film. I cannot imagine anyone else playing McMurphy other than Jack Nicholson. I just can't. In Kesey's novel, when McMurphy said this, or McMurphy said that, I always pictured Jack Nicholson's voice, followed by that energetic laugh and eccentric facial expression.

Apart from Jack Nicholson's performance, Louise Fletcher offers up a stern performance as Nurse Ratched. She doesn't do nearly as good a job as Nicholson, but she is certainly the follow-up of talent in the cast. But that's not to say that the other actors fall flat. The rest of the cast consists of Michael Berryman, Scatman Crothers, Mwako Cumbuka, Danny DeVito, Sydney Lassick, Christopher Lloyd, Louisa Mortiz, Will Sampson, Vincent Schiavelli, Mews Small, and Brad Dourif, all of which, however minor their roles, do exceptionally well - especially Lassick and Dourif.

The book is largely different from the film in terms of chronology. Many of the characters in the film play different parts in the book. For instance, a minor character in the film is a main character in the novel, and one relatively important character in the book meets a disturbing demise, which is absent from Forman's movie. But the soul and spirit of Kesey's work is present, which in all honesty, is really the only thing that matters, similar to - I can't believe I'm making this comparison - The Lord of the Rings series; the books were, in some parts, very different, while Jackson was able to recognize and establish the core values of Tolkien's work into the films.

For years, I found the ending of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to be the greatest in film history. While it since has been relocated to the second slot on my list - Whiplash has since taken the top spot - Forman's ability to deliver such an incredibly powerful finale without restoring to sentimentality, but rather pure and honest heartbreak, deeply moves me, though Forman arguably uses melodrama in some areas to further the plot.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is, without a doubt, one of the finest films ever made. Milos Forman has crafted both a faithful and unfaithful adaptation to Ken Kesey's book - perhaps it sits somewhere in the center - but to me it's a rare example of a movie triumphing over its source material that can stand on its own two feet. I revisit One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest every once in a while and I continue to be swept up by its timeless values, its tale of personal gain, loss, oppression and freedom, and its ability to quietly push the boundaries of what it means to win a showdown.

Taxi Driver (1976)

Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks

Taxi Driver is one of the most ambiguous movies of all time. Martin Scorsese's career, despite previous critically acclaimed films, didn't truly kick off until this gem was released. With zero anticipation on Scorsese's part of Taxi Driver being a phenomenon of any kind - though he certainly wanted to be noticed as a director - the film hit theaters in February of 1976, far from awards season. But the film didn't come and go. It has stayed alive for the past 40 years.

Though Taxi Driver is considered a classic by many, it will mean something different to each viewer. The symbolism is there, but depending on how you view the film's final minutes, and Travis' slowly degrading narration, things will either seem like a complex character study or a simple, no-holds-barred decent into madness. Or both. Some people see it as a careful examination of the heroes our society praises, how people are driven to the brink of insanity, or a soapbox story of everything that is wrong with culture.

Taxi Driver is full of, if anything, uncertainties. The characters' motivations and thoughts are foggy and there are no clear identifiable goals in this film. When has this ever worked? Rarely, almost never. But Martin Scorsese is able to pull it off. A major plot point in Taxi Driver is Travis attempting to help a prostitute. It's clear that Travis wants her to change, and is willing to help her, but exactly how this will be addressed remains a mystery until Travis' mental state comes full circle.

One of the things I love about Taxi Driver is Martin Scorsese's ability to cloud good and evil. Throughout the film, there is a gray area that many of the characters walk into, and they remain there until the end. Especially in the case of Travis. Is Travis doing the right thing? If not, what should he do? There are so many questions but one can only simply watch the events unfold on screen and try to decipher what is arguably Scorsese's most complex, yet somehow simple-minded story of a man and his troubles.

The mystery of Taxi Driver is figuring out exactly who Travis is. Perhaps the most unreadable character in the history of film, Travis is portrayed by Robert De Niro to perfection, and he's surrounded by an excellent supporting cast featuring the likes of Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle, and Cybill Shepherd. First-time viewers have just about as much to gain as those seeing Taxi Driver for the umpteenth time. There's always something new to interpret about Travis and who he is as a person, so it's always interesting to observe what drives him to act the way he does throughout the film.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is unlike any other film. There are many films about extraterrestrial beings, alien abductions, invasions. But there's nothing quite like Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the wild ride that this film has to offer. Starring Richard Dreyfuss, who plays his character perfectly, and featuring an intriguing mystery, this is a classic that will remain so for many more decades to come.

One of the truly fascinating things about Close Encounters of the Third Kind is its attention to detail. Steven Spielberg didn't just make a generic UFO and put it in his film. Spielberg researched eyewitness accounts of alleged extraterrestrial phenomenon and some of the concepts in this film I have read about in books. Which gives it an almost strange sense of authenticity.

For first-time viewers, don't go into the film expecting a special effects extravaganza. While the film has some incredible visual effects, this isn't like any other Spielberg movie to date. It's like Jaws without the shark attacks, or Jurassic Park without the chase sequences. Instead, it slowly builds towards its climax and it's so worth it. The last 15 minutes or so if this movie is practically gold.

Not only does Close Encounters of the Third Kind deliver on a visual level, but it is also quite emotional from time to time. The Neary family sees hard times by the situation and Roy's obsession with the structure he continually tries to visualize. But there is also some humor to it, as Roy tends to make things awkward for himself and those around him. Apart from Dreyfuss, filmmaker Francois Truffaut stars as Claude Lacombe, who is based on real-life French UFO expert Jacques Valiee. He also gives a brilliant performance.

If you haven't seen what is arguably one of the finest science-fiction films of all time, and regardless of whether or not this is your type of movie, see Close Encounters of the Third Kind and you'll probably fall in love with it. It has aged very well, especially given its subject matter, but that is only because Spielberg crafted the movie with a positive message rather than a negative one. That being said, this is, without a doubt, an exceptional entry into Spielberg's filmography, with a brilliant musical score, great acting, and interesting characters that will keep you hooked throughout a series of mesmerizing events.

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Director: Michael Cimino
Starring: Robert De Niro, John Cazale, John Savage

It's fitting when a film takes a biased approach towards a certain subject, but ends up telling a very honest story. Such is the case with The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino's 1978 Vietnam War film, starring Robert De Niro, John Cazale, John Savage, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken. At times blatantly one-sided, The Deer Hunter is still an impressive film that towers over most competition.

It's rather interesting that The Deer Hunter takes a pretty close-minded approach towards the Vietnam War. That's not to say the war was worth fighting. To this reviewer, it was wasn't. But one thing The Deer Hunter does get wrong is it, at times, offers up sentimentality as a tool to push the film along. Ironically, however, Hollywood and America have so much in common in comparison.

America is undeniably well-known for being proud and prideful regardless of any wrongdoing, and Hollywood tends to jump onto this, if you will, bandwagon. American Sniper, for instance, directed by Clint Eastwood, took Chris Kyle and turned him into something that I would say he wasn't - a messianic figure who, as far as the audience is concerned, practically won chunks of the Iraq War.

And yet, The Deer Hunter is a fascinating character study, a sobering tribute to the American - regardless of any lack of point of view, after all, it is what it is - and an examination of a troubling time in the nation's history, not just overseas, but at home as well. One scene of the film sticks out for me, when the guys are sitting in the bar listening to John play a beautiful piece on the piano. And suddenly, the film takes a violent turn as we are thrust into Vietnam.

Not only is it difficult to watch the characters of The Deer Hunter go through Hell, but it's even more difficult when they go through it together. Without spoiling any major plot points, things don't go so well over time, which is even more heartbreaking to me. War is Hell, no doubt, and The Deer Hunter paints a grisly picture of what it was probably like at a remote prisoner of war camp. This film inspired a rash of Russian roulette incidents due to its iconic portrayal of the game throughout, made all the more accessible since The Deer Hunter won the Oscar for Best Motion Picture of the Year, but it's message is never lost, exposing viewers to some of the most intense scenes ever caught on film.

Many have complained about the film's wedding sequence, or argue that the film takes too long to set its characters up in Vietnam. I strongly disagree. In order for the audience to feel even remotely sympathetic towards the characters, one has to be jammed into what is arguably one of the biggest nights of their lives, and only then dropped into war with them. And it's pulled off quite well. Actually, spectacularly. Which is why The Deer Hunter will always remain one of my favorite films.

Regardless of its insistence on America, rather than present a story without borders, The Deer Hunter is still an incredibly moving picture with one of the most heartfelt endings to any movie I have ever seen. Violent, but meaningful, and featuring incredible performances from Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken, The Deer Hunter is a gritty portrayal of the living casualties of war and how it effects the true American way of life, and while it isn't perfect, there really isn't much room to complain.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall

The term "apocalypse" has somehow come to define Armageddon, doomsday, or the so-called End Times. The original Greek word Apokalypsis means "revelation" or "change." That being said, Francis Ford Coppola's take on the Vietnam War is aptly named. Taken in modern context, ironically, the film suffered an, ahem, apocalyptic, production. Originally scheduled to be shot over six weeks, Apocalypse Now ended up taking 16 months.

Apocalypse Now almost seems like a product of David Lynch. It certainly feels nightmarish. The music, which sounds like something from Blade Runner, adds to an overall sense of surrealism. This does not feel like Francis Ford Coppola. Coming from the straightforwardness of The Godfather films, something like Apocalypse Now seems to come out of nowhere. And putting Coppola aside, there really isn't anything like this from any other filmmaker either.

As Apocalypse Now progresses, the film slowly, and successfully, piles on the questions. What will Kurtz do when they reach his village? Is he really insane? Will Willard join him? Without trying to spoil anything for those who haven't seen the film, throughout Willard's journey on the boat, it becomes a possibility that Kurtz and Willard are past and future representations of one another in some way. It is quite clear that Willard, at the very least, understands Kurtz.

It is also quite clear that Kurtz is the embodiment of war. The atrocities, the genocide, the destruction is portrayed through the actions of one man rather than an army. Depending on who you are, you'll either sympathize with Kurtz or loathe him, maybe a little bit of both. But there's no denying that Kurtz's constant gibberish will mean something different to everyone. Some will dive deep into its philosophical meaning, while others will brush it off as a madman rambling about complete and utter nonsense.

Regardless of whether or not you think Apocalypse Now is your cup of tea, there's no denying it is philosophically unsound, while all the more thought-provoking as a result. The acting is top-notch and the cinematography is, for lack of a better word, interesting, painting both the gorgeous landscapes and horrors of combat side by side. One cannot take the story or message of Apocalypse Now at face value, for there is just so much to deconstruct and think about. Personally, I believe Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam epic is the greatest war movie ever made.