ahwell's Top 100 Movies - 2020

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There truly is a pattern to your list for me... either itís a film Iíve been meaning to see for the longest time or else itís a movie that desperately needs a rewatch - in most cases because I loved it so much and want to cement that opinion.

And thatís also the case with Modern Times. I thought it was great the first time so I would love to see what I think of it now. Itís been a long time since that first watch.



Like MV, I'm no fan of Chaplin. Unlike her, I don't know if I ever finished Modern Times. Inventive? Yes. Imaginative? Yes. Funny? God no. It's Chaplin.

That said, I did like The Kid, but it's still not funny.
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When I first joined MoFo I hadn't seen a feature length Chaplin film, but thanks to the HoFs and the Pre 30s Countdown, I finally got around to seeing some of Chaplin's most acclaimed works...I was impressed! So much so that I'd like to see more of his films. Modern Times was a good one, though I liked The Gold Rush better. Still need to see City Lights.





53. Aliens (1986)

Everything just works so well, the characters, the music, the action. It perfectly combines horror, thriller, and adventure elements to create a ride so different from Alien but just as good. I must say, James Cameron movies are a bit of guilty pleasures for me. Yes, they're trash compared with Hitchcock and Kubrick, but they're such quality trash.
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52. North by Northwest (1959)

North by Northwest was squish squashed between two of Hitchcock's greatest masterpieces, and two of the greatest movies ever made - that would be 1958's Vertigo and 1960's Psycho. They are both dark, relentless movies about obsession, fear, and death. North by Northwest is like Hitchcock taking a breath, and flexing his amazing skills at just being a pure entertainer.

And what pure entertainment this is!! Of course, deep down, this could be read as a commentary on how we perceive our own identities. But first and foremost, it is a light-hearted spy thriller that legitimately flies by, even at over two hours long. It's a clear influence on the Bond films that were to become all the range in a couple years. And you can even see it's comedic style reflected in action movies of recent - Guardians of the Galaxy and Indiana Jones were the first things that came to mind. It seems like an odd comparison, but that "wink in the eye" style of action seemed to be totally on par with a lot of thrillers today.

Which is perhaps a good reason why - like most of Hitchcock's masterpieces - this has hardly aged at all. It's certainly more entertaining than most of the action made today. And calling it action in the first place could be a stretch (although that last scene certainly could justify it). I can see these types of Hitchcock movies being the "Marvel" of their day. They must have been absolute crowd pleasers. I mean, who else had seen the sort of stuff Hitchcock pulls off in North by Northwest? A plane chase (and very realistic looking at that), double crossing (and double double crossing), and a climax on mother****ing Mount Rushmore?? This is all stuff we might expect today, but it's truly amazing how a 50s classic that has been imitated hundreds of times holds up.

And, oh God, how seamlessly it flows. There is not a shot wasted, not a bit of dialogue that doesn't have two meanings. The characters are both believable and likable. It's one of those films where I don't have too much of substance to say other than "cinematography is amazing acting is amazing script is amazing etc etc". Sometimes movies are just like that, and while it's easy to analyze the hell out of Vertigo and Psycho, North by Northwest stands in a league of it's own as true cinematic power.

And for that reason, I honestly don't think action/thriller of this entertainment value was matched until 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark. And even then, it could be argued that North by Northwest remains the masterpiece in it's own little niche genre (that it probably helped create). This doesn't seem like the most influential movie ever made, but it's certainly something I'm glad to say I don't just "admire for its influence". It is legitimately some of the most fun I've had in a movie for a while!!



I love Aliens. I grew up on the franchise and the first sequel is a blast and excellently executed. Cameron truly knows how to handle big budget stuff with flair and not forgetting whatís also important in a movie.

North by Northwest is special to me because it opened my eyes to what old cinema could do. I had not seen a movie this old before really and exactly like you said itís a blast and havenít really aged much. I was completely shocked at how glued to the screen I was.





51. Double Indemnity (1944)

Double Indemnity is the perfect noir. Billy Wilder - and the rest of the cast and crew - doesn't miss a beat, packing Hitchcockian suspense, typical Wilder wit, and a remarkably unpredictable and fascinating plot into a two hour film. It's tremendous. Every shot is well thought out. Every line.

It's one of the great experiences in cinema to just sit back and let magic unfold in front of you. Double Indemnity is like that. How it all unravels, how the characters - and the audience - puts the pieces together, it's so brilliant. I wanted to restart the movie right after I finished, because this is a special one.

While admittedly Fred MacMurray's performance is a little stiff (although that's just the character he plays too), Stanwyck fantastically portrays one of the great femme fatales. As Phyllis she pops out on the screen, stealing every scene she's in. She's the "antagonist" but I loved her character. Fascinating motivations are what makes a villain great, and that is why Phyllis is so great.

Of course that is all due to the script that Billy Wilder (and Chandler and Cain) wrote, based on an earlier novel. The screenplay is a masterclass in how to tell a suspenseful (and rather thick) story, while wittily introducing and building characters (I can see the guy who would go on to write Some Like it Hot). If Hitchcock is the master of suspense, Wilder it the master of the script. Both directors build their action and climaxes in different ways, and that leads to different - and equally splendid - results.

In the end, Double Indemnity captivated me for nearly two hours. There were moments when I held my breath, chuckled at a cheeky joke, and flat out dropped my jaw. Not only does Double Indemnity have the twists and turns to make you engaged, it has the brains and the skillful film making to make you in awe of one of the best (and most important) film noirs out there.



The Franchise (1944-2020) R.I.P.


52. North by Northwest (1959)

North by Northwest was squish squashed between two of Hitchcock's greatest masterpieces, and two of the greatest movies ever made - that would be 1958's Vertigo and 1960's Psycho. They are both dark, relentless movies about obsession, fear, and death. North by Northwest is like Hitchcock taking a breath, and flexing his amazing skills at just being a pure entertainer.

North by Northwest is one of my favorite Hitchcock movies. I like it even more than Vertigo and Psycho.
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50. Frances Ha (2012)

So, I loved this movie. I connected to it a lot, and I think it's my new favorite Baumbach. It's really a movie about having a direction in life, and that's something I sometimes don't think I have.

I'm not in college yet, but I already feel like sometimes I'm directionless and don't know what I'm doing in life, as I touched on in my Ferris Bueller review. Frances Ha, of course, takes a completely different approach than that movie by facing it more head on.

I often hear the complaint that because Frances is annoying, the movie is bad. First of all, I don't think she's that annoying. She's kind of adorable! She's a little kid! No clue what she's doing, stumbles over her own words (and feet) and generally makes awkward situations for herself. But she is genuinely a nice person and I found myself rooting for her throughout.

Noah Baumbach is often praised for his screenplays (in this case, Greta Gerwig too), and his characters, and his themes. But god damn, the cinematography in his movies are so subtle yet beautiful. In the Squid and the Whale, we get long and empty shots juxtaposed with fast cut dialogue. Same thing with Marriage Story, although Baumbach lets the camera sit. Here, I think it's his best cinematography yet, filmed beautifully in black and white. The use of different shades of black and white are stunning and make for a visual feast.

Greta Gerwig, my my, what a fine actress. I think this is my favorite "movie' of hers, as in, I liked it more than Lady Bird or Little Women even though she wasn't in them. I still kind of think of this is a Gerwig movie, although of course it's Baumbach. She's as much of a driving force in the themes and ideas as Baumbach is.

I still need to think about this movie more, but I just really enjoyed it. It was short and sweet, more entertaining than I expected, and actually pretty funny.



It's been awhile since I've been here...

Aliens (1986) I never realized just how darn good this one was until I rewatched it in the sci fi HoF. It deserved to win too.

North by Northwest (1959) I seen this in the last few years. I liked it but it didn't really blow me away (at least I don't think it did). I must have reviewed it but I'm not even sure what kind of rating I gave it, probably a
In the time it took me to type that rating tag I could've just checked my review rating out

Double Indemnity (1944)
Oh yeah! Love this one. But really you and @gbgoodies don't care for Fred MacMurray? Bummer, because if there's one classic era actor that reminds me of me, it's Fred MacMurray...I guess that means I'm stiff

Frances Ha (2012) I like Greta better as an actress, than as a director, Ha I bet you could see that one coming.



OMG two movies I havenít seen but I just really so much wish I had! I canít believe I havenít seen them what am I doing with my life!? Why are you so great at watching all the good movies ahwell! Why am I so bad at it. Why do I suck as a film fanatic. Why am I writing this when all I do is complain anyways!?

Shout out @Captain Spaulding the legend



OMG two movies I havenít seen but I just really so much wish I had! I canít believe I havenít seen them what am I doing with my life!? Why are you so great at watching all the good movies ahwell! Why am I so bad at it. Why do I suck as a film fanatic. Why am I writing this when all I do is complain anyways!?

Shout out @Captain Spaulding the legend
Canít tell if thatís sarcasm lol



It's been awhile since I've been here...

Aliens (1986) I never realized just how darn good this one was until I rewatched it in the sci fi HoF. It deserved to win too.
Hard agree. Probably the best sci-fi ever made.



The Franchise (1944-2020) R.I.P.
It's been awhile since I've been here...

Double Indemnity (1944) Oh yeah! Love this one. But really you and @gbgoodies don't care for Fred MacMurray? Bummer, because if there's one classic era actor that reminds me of me, it's Fred MacMurray...I guess that means I'm stiff

I think that my problem with Fred MacMurray is that I watched him in "My Three Sons" for so many years, and in the Disney movies The Absent-Minded Professor and The Shaggy Dog, that I just connect him too much with that nice guy character, so when I watch him in Double Indemnity, it just feels wrong.





49. Fargo (1996)

Before Fargo, I had yet to see the Coen Brothers on their true comedic side. Fargo being my fourth, the other three had been Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men, and the Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Ballad has comedic touches, and I did laugh a couple times, but Blood Simple and No Country are the Coens at their blackest and grimmest.

And to see that style mixed with their delightful comedic writing makes for a masterpiece. Every character in this film just oozes with personality and uniqueness, a delightful flavor that makes everyone pop out to you. In another thriller with the same story directed by a lesser director, I might have forgotten the characters, gotten confused about the plot, and gotten - frankly - bored.

But the Coens are brilliant. At barely over an hour and a half (including credits), there is no dilly-dallying. We get concise, wonderfully constructed scenes that flow perfectly. There are a ton of characters to balance, but it is balanced effortlessly. The dialogue is snappy! The scenes are concise! Am I starting to sound like a broken record? Yes! But that's okay because this was amazing!

Set aside the ingenuity and stunning polished craft itself, and you get a marvelous analysis into themes the Coen Brothers seem to touch on a lot - the morality of crime, making decisions, fate and how it plays into our lives, and the often inevitability of death. While it's a "light" movie, there are seriously dark and gripping themes underneath the surface. At the heart is the moral dilemma that Jerry Lundegaard faces. He's a nice enough guy, sort of nervous, fidgety. He's not "evil" by any means. Yet he causes all the bloodshed in the film, whether intentionally or not.

There are scenes when we sort of sympathize with Jerry, and other moments when we want someone to just shoot him already. However, did he need the money? Was his plan that "evil"? And does it matter when innocent people died from it? As I said, Fargo masks all these themes in "Minnesota nice" and "Yah"s and huge midwestern buffets. But it also doesn't give us easy answers to its underlying questions about morality and mortality.

This cinematographer dude, pretty damn good. Wonder if he'll ever win an Oscar?? But yeah, Deakins is the man, proves his genius once again with sweeping, long distance shots of icy Minnesota, and fantastic use of blood in contrast with the snow.

Also, I would PAY to have Marge/Frances McDormand come interrogate me for a couple hours... one of the sweetest, most likable Coen characters out there!