ahwell's Top 100 Movies - 2020

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You can't make a rainbow without a little rain.

30. The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

It took me a long time to finally sit down and watch The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring, and I liked it, but I didn't love it as much as I had hoped that I would have.
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I saw it years ago, but I don't remember very much about it.
Look, Dr. Lesh, we don't care about the disturbances, the pounding and the flashing, the screaming, the music. We just want you to find our little girl.

Saw it when I came out because a friend wanted to see it. It's the best of the three and it's just 2 hours of walking.
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29. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

There are certain animated movies that make you realize that animation can transcend "children's entertainment." There are those that are blatantly adult - Mary and Max, Waking Life, Princess Mononoke - or films made for children that happen to mean much much more for a lot of adults - My Neighbor Totoro, Toy Story, Fantasia.

And then there are the movies that are in that in-between. What I'm talking about are movies like Spirited Away, Your Name, maybe even something like Up or the Incredibles. And, ultimately, Fantastic Mr. Fox, a delightful "adult-style" children's animation. It is made for no one and for everyone. A masterpiece.

When I think of feel good, I think of a handful of gems. There is the sparkling life of La La Land. The cheerful abandon of Singin' in the Rain. The delicious wit of Some Like it Hot. Or a simple joyous adventure like Raiders of the Lost Ark. I can add Fantastic Mr. Fox to my list of true comfort cinema. It must be the colors, the soundtrack, the absurdity and personality of all the characters. I want to jump into every scene. I want to dance with the foxes at the end. I want to steal squabs with the Beach Boys playing in the background. I love this movie so much. It's so important to me, one of the first "adult" animated movies I had seen, and I was blown away.

And there's nothing like watching it for the first time. The script! Noah Baumbach AND Wes Anderson, I mean, please, can't get much better than that. It's so witty, so sharp. There are so many quotes that I use in daily life, probably too many. And then when we get past the humors and look at the small moments of human - or, I guess, fox - truths that are revealed; when Mr. and Mrs. Fox meet for - what they think - is the last time. When Mr. Fox sees the wolf, and a tear springs in his eyes. When we let go of everything and dance for joy.

The animation is like nothing I've seen. And that's because of specifically the color palette. Name one other animated movie - or MOVIE - with a color organization and palette as wondrous as this. One could make a case for Ratatouille. Spirited Away. Fantasia. But Fantastic Mr. Fox holds firm for me... the autumn colors are to die for. In fact, no movie screams autumn like this one. I hear and feel the crunch of leaves, or the wind, the skies grey yet calm. A blissful calm at the heart of this wild story.

I feel for and love all of the main characters in this movie. At the center is Mr. Fox, who is confident, charming, all around wonderful. Ash is my favorite, though, a brooding, "different" young kid who I both painfully identify with and feel sorry for. He's a brat, through and through. Yet he's the character I see myself in the most. I'm glad he turns out good in the end, hopefully I will too someday.

To add on top of that, the existentialism and "beyond me" themes of Fantastic Mr. Fox are seriously on par with something like Into the Wild (both book and movie) and Thoreau's writings on civil disobedience; as fun as it is, Fantastic Mr. Fox isn't just a shallow romp.

But, what the heck, I'd love it just as much if it was a shallow romp. It changed my perspective on what animation could be; it changed my perspective on what FILM could be, especially as a visual treat.

I'm so grateful to have Fantastic Mr. Fox in my life. I hope it never leaves
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Love the book and have wanted a film of said book forever. Sadly, they gave it to Wes and the models look.... Beyond awful. Tried to watch some of it once and it was painful.

28. Casablanca (1942)

When a movie is mentioned as "iconic," I think of Star Wars. I think of the Godfather. I think of Pulp Fiction. And I certainly think of Casablanca. Yet I had never seen it. Maybe it was fear? Fear that a movie like Casablanca - with a premise that simply didn't interest me like the movies I mentioned did - would be one of those film classics that I just never vibed with.

But holy ****. I was drawn in from the first minute, the very first narration as we follow the map of refugees trying to escape Nazi-occupied France. And from there, boom, we get one of the most consistently amazing movies I've ever seen. It absolutely floored me across the board. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are two more "icons," actors who have transcended their fame and became Hollywood legends. And I'm thinking it's gotta be because of Casablanca. We get this lovely zoom in shots of their faces, especially when they're listening to Sam playing "As Time Goes By." And for 10 or more seconds, we see them staring off into the distance, thinking. That's acting. Not any memorization of lines, not even the emotion those lines are delivered with. Ingrid and Humphrey totally understand the characters they're playing - you can feel the sorrow and pain that Ilsa must be going through. And as for Bogart, his acting may often come off as "stiff," but remember, that's the character he's playing, and in the end he's really a likable softy.

I didn't realize how much the Nazis/World War II plays into this movie, as usually it's discussed as a Romance. Yet the themes tie in very closely with the themes about loss and regret. It's interesting thinking about when this was made. 1942. Damn, that was three years before World War II was over, and only a couple months after the United States had entered. As much as much of the "American patriotism and pat-on-the back" propaganda from the 1940s have become cringe-worthy and boring, Casablanca transcends that. Yes, the protagonist is an American, and an American saves the day so that a revolution leader can escape to a better life in America. In fact, the external conflict of this whole movie is getting to America. However, Casablanca chooses to celebrate all the good in the world (we hear the French national anthem for instance), especially in the face of evil.

There's so much to talk about with Casablanca, but another thing that incredibly impressed me was the screenplay. It has legitimately one of the best scripts I've seen/heard in a movie, and literally every other line is ICONIC. There were so many quotes that I already knew, and between those famous moments we get witty, often funny dialogue that never gets boring.

Michael Curtiz - director of Adventures of Robin Hood - did a fine job with this, but as I was told it was more of a studio effort. Still, it's not like Michael Bay could have pulled off the same thing. The cinematography is pretty great - although not the highlight of the film - and we get sweeping shots of the cafe and the terrain outside. Some of the movements almost reminded me of the zoom shots Scorsese would develop much much later. Impressive.

At the heart of Casablanca, though, is the warm grip it took on me. I want the characters to succeed so badly. I want all of them to be happy. No character is truly "happy" at the end, and that's why the bittersweet finale was so perfect. "I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." That's one of the last lines, and it's Rick's farewell to Ilsa. In the end, he's a great character not because he changes - I don't think his character is actually dynamic in the same way as, say Chihiro in Spirited Away or Michael in the Godfather - but because he does something that he's been wanting to do for years. Rick was never a cold "I stick my neck out for nobody" type of person. He suppressed his warmth, love for humanity, and goodness when Ilsa left him, and her return gave him the opportunity to bring that out again.

So if there are any real flaws in this movie, I can't see them and honestly I'm not sure I want to. The rewatchability level of this must also be crazy high, I feel like I could start it again right now...

Anyways, it's going to rank very highly in my list. This movie hit my soul, and I'm glad it did.

27. Parasite (2019)

Parasite seems like one of those movies that you watch once, and then on second watch the experience drops dramatically. That's sort of true, in that the movie is not as shocking this time; I know all the twists and turns. However, this second watch I may have enjoyed even more because not only is Parasite entertaining, it is a brilliantly detailed, layered film that made me think even more.

I really noticed how great the acting was this time around. I have no idea whether the actors did good in Korean, but the facial expressions, inflections, all of that was perfectly timed for humor or horror.

The color contrasts also totally popped out, as we saw the comparison between the Kims' home and the Parks'. The green palettes of the basement contrasted with the outside was so cool.

Sorry, these are such basic thoughts lol. I just came out maybe even more impressed than my first viewing.

It's not the greatest film of the decade, but it is well worth a watch and my favorite of the year.

Still haven't seen it, but not at all surprised that it made your list.
Think you’d at least really appreciate this, if not quite love.

28. Casablanca (1942)

Anyways, it's going to rank very highly in my list. This movie hit my soul, and I'm glad it did.
Very nice review, Ahwell!

I'm sure a lot of people think that some of the sentiments in the film are corny, but I assure you that most people shared those sentiments in real life in that era. And there was a strong feeling of country above self. I'm not sure that kind of sentiment will ever again be felt by the population.

26. Psycho (1960)

What is fear? I am so afraid of death. I am so afraid of climate change. I am so afraid of being alone in the dark. I am so afraid of where my life will bring me - to success, or even to self-fulfillment? Afraid of the consequences if I can't achieve that.

What Alfred Hitchcock does in Psycho is brilliant - he takes these normal, day to day fears, and expands them, makes them larger than life and in your face. He forces his character's to confront fears that had been boiling inside them for their whole life. Perhaps we all need a little bit of that, although for the unfortunate protagonists in Psycho it doesn't end quite so well.

Hitchcock with Psycho portrays life in such a novel way - as a series of occurrences, and chances, that we all take - one minute, you are the center of the story, and within a snap of the fingers (or a shower stabbing) someone else has taken your place, as more important, more relevant, or maybe just plain alive. There are so many incredible tropes and symbols and characters and ideas just bursting to the brim in Psycho, yet Hitchcock knows that if he wants his audiences to relate to his characters he has to "tone it down" for a horror movie. Of course, back then, this was extremely shocking, one of the scariest movies made up to that point I'd think. Today, it remains just as scary, for different reasons. It's scary in that when Marion steals the money, frantic, in the moment, act-before-you-think, I relate so hard. She is taking a risk that she would never take in any other moment of her life.

And then we get to the Norman Bates character, who is possibly the most soft hearted, weirdly sweet serial killer in cinematic history (although of course the same year we got Mark in Peeping Tom). The reveal at the end is always shocking, but it almost feels like a weight has been lifted off of Bates's chest, as he comes to terms with his secret and how it has warped his personality - no, he is not suddenly *sane* at the end (although we realize later in Psycho II that he does recover), but he is realizing who he is, that as much as he would like to be a nice helping motel owner, he is a bit of a monster who killed an innocent woman.

There are so so so many analyses of Psycho reading into the psychosexual and even Freudian subtexts - how Bates's childhood must have affected him, how Marion's instincts drive her to steal the money, how her sister and her boyfriend and everyone in her life is driven by different fears and motives to try to "crack the case". We all go a little crazy sometimes, and that's the crazy fear that is the center of all the decisions in our lives.

It feels so funny to call Psycho a really personal movie to me, but in many ways it hits me on a deep personal levels, asking questions, and telling me I need to start asking questions - about how I confront my problems, what my future has in store for me, and that every day there is a small chance that I'll meet my own Norman Bates. And, even scarier, if I am Norman Bates, and that one day I'll realize I'm not even who I thought I was.

What then? It's always interesting to think about what might have happened to Marion if she had escaped from the Bates Hotel. Would she have been caught and imprisoned? Gotten killed in a car crash from nervous driving? Or perhaps once in a while we do bad things and get away with it. What then? Would Marion have felt guilty? Does she feel guilty even in the movie? Did she need the money?

Psycho never answers any of these questions, and that makes it all the better. It infuses itself into my mind, as a tight, brilliant dive into the human conscious/subconscious, and what we do when we're left to our own thoughts, in the shadows where it's too difficult to distinguish reality from fantasy.

P.S. - the scene between Marion and Norman inside the office is possibly the greatest scene/dialogue Hitchcock ever did.

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Psycho is awesome. Casablanca is even better. Parasite will definitely be a favorite someday I have only seen it once though. And Fox is really good. Great last 4!