Freelancer Film Critic, Podcaster, Photographer
|Medicine for Melancholy
|Paul Thomas Anderson
|The Tree of Life
|Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
|Monty Python and the Holy Grail
|Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Spike Lee updating Network for the millennium. Its righteous anger towards race and the media was ahead of its time in 2000. Yet it still feels deeply relevant today. If anything, it was only the tip of the iceberg.
Medicine for Melancholy
While bundled in with the mumblecore movement, Medicine for Melancholy showcased a progressive filmmaker cut from a different cloth. Socially relevant, yet profoundly honest, the film seemed to set the tone for black romances years after. Jenkins’ latter films may be award-winning darlings now, but this not only set the foundation for a thoughtful and assured filmmaker but feels like the essential benchmark for new indie filmmakers of colour.
The influences are obvious. The emotions are melodramatic. Many will perhaps argue the movies from his 00s’ run. But I keep coming back to this movie. A ridiculously young maverick throwing caution to the wind and making a ludicrously ambitious rumination on family and fate. It seems hard to find filmmaking this spirited anymore. Even the director himself has become more confined and precise. Just reminds me that 1999 seemed to be the last time American studios were truly happy to give filmmakers volumes of cash and see it burn for the sake of ambitious, overblown art. Magnolia was the last time we got a truly masterful Tom Cruise performance also.
The Tree of Life
Florence Agatha Pitt.
I can't explain it any more than that right now.
It's a British film about the erotic fantasies of nuns. I honestly don't think the British haven't been as gutsy with their filmmaking since. Jack Cardiff's cinematography is exquist while Kathleen Byron gives a uniquely arresting performance. There are moments in the film that linger in the mind like only a work of art can.
I find it quite surprising that Network wasn't on the list last decade. It's 4 years from 50, but still, only a few films have the acidic bite that Lumet's film holds. Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay feels like a prophecy to the "News Entertainment" we have now. Pauline Kael claimed Chayefsky held contempt for television and its viewership, but in the age of YouTube, TikTok and Fake News, the film feels more like a blueprint.
An astonishingly cutting noir. To pick the best Billy Wilder is an arduous task, but this is one of the movies that got me into movies seriously. It's as funny as it is haunting. I feel films lift elements like the famous silent cameos even now. The only other femme fatale that possibly compares to Gloria Swanson is in another Billy Wilder film. But I couldn't place two of his movies on my list. That would be cheating.
This satirical farce on bureaucracy is still Gilliam's most accomplished and relevant work outside Monty Python. The battle for its true cut is still one of the most astonishing fights for creative control on this side of the Synder cut. It's easy to see why. It's a bleak, relentless, undisciplined beast of a movie. However, in its full form, it's also one of the most hilariously absurd films about daring to dream and escaping the rat race ever placed on celluloid. It is a film where you see something new in it every time you watch it. And you still hope for a different outcome in the end.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
It might be blasphemous for some that I claim this to be better than The Life of Brian. However, Holy Grail is Python at its most anarchic. So much of the absurdest humour can now be seen in internet meme culture. Holy Grail's type of reckless abandon and cinematic subversion strongly missing in British comedy cinema today. The sight of the murderous bunny rabbit can still have me doubling up with laughter.
The 90s' was a boom period for African American cinema, yet I still wish for less of the "hood culture" movies and more movies like Hudlin's colourful semi-musical. A coming of age movie which was more about the joys of black youth culture than how easily black teens could be extinguished. There aren't that many black coming-of-age movies out there which are as exuberant. Playful performances, energetic dance numbers and not a drop of cynicism about it in any of the run time. Hudlin's House Party is one of the rare black coming-of-age films which is mostly interested in having fun. I applaud that.
Films I wanted to find space for:
City of God
The 7th Seal
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Invasion of Body Snatchers (1978)
The Blair Witch Project
Meshes of the Afternoon
The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Man Who Fell To Earth
Lawrence of Arabia
Synecdoche, New York
The Dark Knight
Un Chien Undulou
The Straight Story
A good handful of these choices will find themselves in the top 100 as they always do. In 6 months' time, my feelings could very likely change. Save for House Party and Tree of Life.