Diehl40's Top 100 Films (Favorites)

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Dir Errol Morris
1988
My highest rating doc. The movie was made to help reverse a death row sentence of a convicted cop killer. Erroll Morris spent 30 months researching the case against Adams. The documentary was originally going to look at a state psychiatrist named James Grigson (Dr. Death) who almost always found his patients capable and most likely to murder again. It was during this process that he came upon Adams case. It was not so much that Adams convinced Morris that he was innocent, but rather that another young man (Harris) who was involved, was guilty.

In the course of Morris's interviews he asks Harris if Adams is innocent? Harris replies I am sure he is. Morris asks, How can you be sure? to which Harris says because I am the one who knows. When the dust cleared Adams was released.

many who do not usually enjoy documentaries might enjoy this one. Morris blends official police transcripts and evidence with his own interviews with many of the significant witnesses in the case. The result makes the film seem more like a drama than a documentary. By the time the film is over he has, in my opinion, humiliated the Dallas police force and Grigson. He shows how the police likely targeted Adams because he was the right age for a death sentence, while Harris is still a juvenile; how Grigson based his testimony on minimal interaction with Adams; and how most of the evidence that convicted Adams came directly from Harris mouth. Good doc. Recommended for those who enjoy documentaries, true crime movies, or those who would like to give documentaries one last shot.


That is my last documentary on my top 100. I am not a documentary nut, but there also two others I recommend even though they are not in my top 100. "Jesus Camp" and "One Day in September".







91. Ace in the Hole (1951)
Dir Billy Wilder
Featured Cast: Kirk Douglas and Jan Sterling,



A newspaper man who finds himself fired from several large newspapers for Slander, boozing and adultery, cons his way into a job at a local paper in New Mexico. He slips off a local assignment, to cover a rattlesnake competition, in order to cover a man who has been trapped in an abandoned silver mine. This movie's media circus was based on a true story in Kentucky, where a man was trapped in a mine. He bullies his way into control of the story by pure nerve, ordering around the local police and making sure he has the scoop to himself. He tries to milk the story as long as he can by convincing the rescue team that they cannot just clear the mine shaft for a rescue (that would have taken two days) and convinces them that they must drill down to the inured man from the surface which could take weeks or to accomplish.

The local general store owner gets in on the con by charging 25 cents for admission for travelers to watch the rescue efforts. His intention is to blow the story up to a bigger crisis than it really is, to draw the interests of some of the big newspapers so he might land back at one of the papers he was fired from. In the end the man dies when he is a mere couple of yards from being rescued.

One reason I liked the movie as much as I did, is because the issues it raises are still with us. Journalism today is reverting back to the days of yellow journalism, where headlines are designed to get clicks for advertisement rather than report the news objectively, and there is no shortage of people who will line up and pay admission for a good story. A good movie with a good message.



I'm a big fan of Ace in the Hole. It's a perfect film for Kirk Douglas' style of intense acting. My favorite though is Jan Sterling. I've seen her in a number of films and when given the right role she really shines.







90. All the President's men
Dir Alan Pakula


This movie is about Bob Woodard's and Carl Bernstein's investigative reporting into the Watergate burglaries in the early seventies. The two reporters, referred to as Woodstein, by their superiors at the Washington Post, did a lot of first rate investigative journalism into the burglaries; often making discoveries that the police were unable to uncover on their own. It also offers a glimpse on the contributions of "Deep Throat", the now famous informant who helped Woodard and Bernstein trace the break in back to the White House.

The movie has a stellar cast, including: Jason Robards, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, and Martin Balsam.

Some have faulted the movie for focusing too much on the investigative process and not enough on the story. The problem is that there are two halves to the Watergate investigation. One is the investigation portrayed in this movie conducted by Woodstein; the other investigation conducted by the Justice Department was independent of Woodstein, but they used each other as sources of information. Alan Pakula, the director, made a movie that was bogged down in the investigative details, into an exciting piece of work through his use of timing, and the more technical aspects of the film. The movie is best, if you do not already know a lot about Watergate. A good companion documentary to watch in conjunction with this movie would be the Discovery Channel's "Watergate" a multi-episode film that is available on You Tube.





91. Ace in the Hole (1951)
Dir Billy Wilder
Featured Cast: Kirk Douglas and Jan Sterling,

I think Ace in the Hole is a great movie, but I don't consider it a favorite movie for me.
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90. All the President's Men
Dir Alan Pakula

It's been a long time since I watched All the President's Men, but I remember liking it a lot. It's on my watchlist of movies to rewatch for the upcoming All-Time Countdown.

If you haven't seen it, there's a follow-up documentary by Robert Redford on the impact of Watergate 40 years later. It's called All the President's Men, Revisited (2013), and it's on YouTube.






89. Down by Law

Principle Actors: Tom Waites, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni


I'll be the first to admit that Jarmusch is an acquired taste. Many of his movies seem to be slice of life stories (not even the most exciting slice) that may seem boring to most movie audiences. However, if you are patient, he usually has some subtle humor that makes it all worthwhile.
In Down By Law we see two of the principle characters framed for crimes they did not commit. They are Jack and Zack, one is framed for a murder he did not commit, and the other for prostituting a minor which he did not do. The third character is an Italian tourist who did commit the murder he was accused of,you'll have to see the movie to see how that happens.

The three escape and go on the lamb, but once they escape the personality conflicts that were a mere tempest in a teapot, compared to the conflict they experience when they have to make decisions as a group, as they try to escape from the Louisiana swampland that surrounds the prison. Waites and Lurie nail there parts, but Benigni shines in this film. He must have been given a lot of freedom to improvise, because his character is off the rails funny.
I meant it when I said that Jarmusch is an acquired taste, but that did not prevent this film from being included in the Criterion collection. Somebody thought this movie ad a lot to offer, and I agree with that assessment. This is a good introduction to Jarmusch if you have not seen any of his work up to this point.



It's been a long time since I watched All the President's Men, but I remember liking it a lot. It's on my watchlist of movies to rewatch for the upcoming All-Time Countdown.

If you haven't seen it, there's a follow-up documentary by Robert Redford on the impact of Watergate 40 years later. It's called All the President's Men, Revisited (2013), and it's on YouTube.




Thanks





88. Educating Rita


The movie has a lousy synthesized soundtrack, and the cinematography looks like it was filmed on a video camera, but I do like the two main characters played by Michael Caine and Julie Walters. The movie has bee compared to Pygmalion. An educated man takes a cockney woman under his tutelage and gives her an education (everything she thought she wanted) and she holds a mirror to his face and inspires him to (hopefully) clean up and stop drinking and start over in Australia. I have watched this several times, mainly because of Caine's and Walters' performances. It is in my top 100 for the above reasons. If the plot had been tighter and the cinematography and the soundtrack had been better it would have moved up the list. But despite its shortcomings I do like this movie a lot.







87 Mystery Train
dir Jim Jarmusch
Principal actors: Nicolatta Braschi, Tom Noonan, Elizabeth Bracco, Joe Strummer, Steve Aviles, Steve Buscemi


My second Jarmusch film on this list. Mystery Train takes three stories and weaves them like a tapestry into one story. The characters from all three stories are staying in the same run down dive of a hotel in Memphis

The first story us a young Japanese couple who are on a rock n' roll pilgrimage through the US (First Memphis (Elvis and Sun Stidios) and then new Orleans for Fats Domino. They check into the hotel for the night and hear a gunshot.
The second story features Niccolatta Braschi and Elizabeth Bracco. Braschi's character has come to memphis to transport her husbands body back home. Braschi and Bracco are both in the hotel accidentally and decide to share a room for convenience sake.
The third story features Joe Strummer (from the music group the Clash) and Steve Buschimmi. Buschemmi has to go to a bar where Strummer has produced a gun and caused an i9ncident. They get a couple of bottles and eventually land in the same hotel.
In the lobby of the hotel are two desk clerks. One old and wise (Screamin Jay Hawkins) and te other young and relaticely speaking naive.

The three stories meet when you hear a gunshot. I will let you watch the film for yourself from that point. Suffice it tao say that everything I said about Jarmusch in my review of Down by Law, is true of this film. Jarmusch takes his time to develop his stories. he does not rush things, and i don't think he cares if you think his films are slow. I believe at the end of his films you are well rewarded for patiently sticking wi the story. Others, I am sure, will disagree. This is the perfect Jarmusch film, i give it four stars because Jarmusch is an acquired taste.







86. To Kill a Mockingbird


The famous novel by Harper Lee brought to the big screen by Robert Mulligan. The film was made the year before Kennedy was shot. Some believe that it allowed the director, Mulligan, to infuse the movie with almost naive views about race in America during the time period of the movie. The fact that Atticus and his family were unharmed and that Aticus does not seem to understand that the black man he defended was killed while 'attempting to escape". Gregory Peck has always been one of my favorites and he is in large part why I placed this film here on my list. Also the first film appearance of Robert Duvall, another of my favorites.









85. Touch of Evil
Dir Orson Welles
Featured Cast: Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Marlene Dietrich,


The film begins with the the most famous tracking shots in Hollywood, 3 minutes and 20 seconds long. Once again, Welles shows of his directorial skills at the expense of the plot. There are other clever uses of the camera, such as an extended interrogation in a cramped room, and a shot that follows its characters from the street into the elevator in a hotel.

The story takes place in Los Robles, a Mexican- American border town. Heston and Janet Leigh play a newly married couple. Heston is Mexican and works for drug enforcement on the Mexican side. It might have been to daunting a prospect to find a Mexican or Mexican-American actor to play this part , but I have to believe that this is one of the most obvious examples of white-washing a part for American audiences ever. This film reminds me a lot of Citizen Kane in that the story is enough to support a film that highlights many technical achievements of the film, but could have been improved.






84. Glory
Dir Edward Zwick
Featured cast: Mathew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, and Morgan Freeman


Glory tells the story of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts volunteer infantry, made up of black soldiers, led by white officers. The story is told from the perspective of Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the regiment. Some argue that the film should have been told from the perspective of the black soldiers. That would have been great, but I doubt that any first hand accounts from any of the black soldiers remain. Regardless their are some scenes that are from the black perspective. One would be when Denzel Washington's character is talking trash about the white soldiers. Morgan Freeman's character points out that the Whites had been fighting the war for some time, and had been dying, only in part, to buy the blacks freedom. Another is the night before the big battle, when they know thyt will almost certainly die the next day. I thought the latter scene was the best scene in the movie. Reccomended for civil war buffs, and those who like a dramatic action film







86. To Kill a Mockingbird


The famous novel by Harper Lee brought to the big screen by Robert Mulligan. The film was made the year before Kennedy was shot. Some believe that it allowed the director, Mulligan, to infuse the movie with almost naive views about race in America during the time period of the movie. The fact that Atticus and his family were unharmed and that Aticus does not seem to understand that the black man he defended was killed while 'attempting to escape". Gregory Peck has always been one of my favorites and he is in large part why I placed this film here on my list. Also the first film appearance of Robert Duvall, another of my favorites.

I first saw To Kill a Mockingbird many years ago when I was in school, and I loved it back then. I've seen it several times since then, and I think it just gets better every time I see it.






80. Through a Glass Darkly- 1961
Dir Ingmar Berman
Principal Actors: Harriet Andersson, Max Von Sydow, Lars Passgard, and Gunmar Bjornstrand.


This is the first of Bergmans Trilogy concerning the "Silence of God". In this film Bergman tells the story of a father, his daughter and son, and the daughter's husband, isolated on a remote island for a summer vacation. We are told about the sickness of the daughter. This sickness is a severe mental disorder, most likely schizophrenia. She has been treated, but is going through a period of recovery. The husband loves and feels powerless to help her. ?Her father is an author, highly regarded, who has just returned from travels to Switzerland.

The daughter almost immediately starts having problems wit mental episodes. She goes upstairs at night claiming that voices had called to her, that the wallpaper opened a door where she met a group of people waiting for something... God. Later she says she saw God, and he was a spider.

Bergman followed up this movie with two others 'Winter's Light" and "The Silence". These three films make up his silence of God trilogy. I will review "Winter's Light" later on this list. I watched the silence once several years ago. I watched it late at night and found it difficult to follow. I need to go back and watch it again. I highly recommend This film and Winter's Light to Bergman Fans.