Movie Madness

My movie reviews and rants at your fingertips.

Monthly Archives: November 2013

The IMDb Top 250

I had lots of lofty ideas and hopes in high school. I wanted to date my long-term crush Rosalind, visit Europe, catch an Eddie Izzard performance, and see a lot of great movies. Still haven’t made it to an Eddie Izzard concert yet…

My need for organization made the viewing of great cinema very list-based. I’ve talked before of my pre-Netflix film lists; this was no different. The first list I ever accomplished was Bravo TV’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. Though some of those movies were instantly forgettable, a handful shocked the living daylights out of me. At the same time, I had a couple lists of American Film Institute’s 100 Best lists on my computer. As I saw a film or was in the mood for a classic, I’d reference the necessary list. On and off again I flirt with seeing all the Academy Awards’ Best Picture winners, but some of those films are real stinkers in my opinion.

Of all the lists, there has always been one that I’ve longed to complete. The Holy Grail of movie elitism and exploration: The Internet Movie Database’s (IMDb) top 250 films of all time. Based on an algorithm I don’t care to understand, ratings of films are calculated and given a total score on a 1-10 scale. The higher the number and the more votes it has, the more likely it makes it on the list.

In high school, during my pre-Netflix film list days, I decided to count how many of the films I had seen. My memory is a little hazy, but the highest I ever got was seeing 85 of them. Which wasn’t problematic except the list was living. Every day the list updated and recalculated. So my total would fluctuate through no fault of my own.

Since then, I would occasionally glance at the list and see what new films made the cut and add a few I’d not seen to my to-do list. That was, until last year.

Despite having a lot of family and friends nearby, I was eternally broke working for an insurance company right out of college. With the guilt of buying anything weighing on me, I turned inward. Fortunately I didn’t reach for the bottle, I reached for the computer. With IMDb’s list in front of me, I began my assault.

It slowly escalated. First it was adding one or two to my Netflix queue. Then it was clear that the movies I wanted to see and the rest of the list was quickly favoring the latter. So, I’d select five or six and go through them over the course of a month. If some were on Netflix Instant (and in English), I may put it on as I drove long distances to see my parents or my girlfriend. But then the number started to dwindle. As the list grew closer to 30, it became increasingly difficult to keep track of which I had missed. I almost blew past High Noon and Judgment at Nuremberg. So I started at the top and just worked my way down, but that wasn’t easy either. Littered along the bottom 50 were films that would test my patience and better managed free time from my exponentially improved job. I’ll admit, some of the films didn’t get my full attention, and a few I even skipped Act III, but I don’t have to fret over it anymore.

I’m completed the list.

As of this week I have seen every film on IMDb’s top 250 list. Through this marathon of celluloid, I’ve learned to adore Hitchcock whodunits, tolerate Japanese full-length cartoons, and witness the beauty of films in languages I have no intention of discerning. As I’ve explored this list of brilliant cinema, I realize that not all great films are included, nor are all films on the list truly brilliant. Many just don’t have the legacy that merits inclusion.

Of all the films I saw, some made me fall in love with cinema and others were merely educational. The ones that resonated with me changed how I viewed the moving picture. Below is a list of films from the 250 I watched solely to cross it off the list that wowed me.

Amadeus (Milos Forman) 1984

Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg) 1967

Das Boot (Wolfgang Petersen) 1981

Dial M For Murder (Alfred Hitchcock) 1954

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel) 2007

The Elephant Man (David Lynch) 1980

The General (Buster Keaton) 1926

Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean) 1962

M (Fritz Lang) 1931

Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick) 1957

Seven Samurai (Director: Akira Kurosawa) 1954

The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman) 1957

Twelve Monkeys (Terry Gilliam) 1995

Now, other movies caught me off guard. Some even blew my mind and shattered my world. I had almost no intention of watching many of the 250, but sticking with it gave me these aforementioned classics. Thank god I was wrong to skip them and gave them a chance.

If you look at the list, you’ll see it covers a pretty wide range of film history, from silent era to modern film. And many of them aren’t even in English, emphasizing my push for everyone to experience more foreign cinema.

With this list done, I can scarcely think of anything that would expose me to more films that have this diversity. And frankly, I’m ok with that. All those movies now ingrained in my memory will only make me a more appreciative cinema lover. Film is better discovered first, analyzed second. And I’ve discovered a great deal.

The Burning, an Underrated Slasher Classic

madmen-riptI got into horror films at a young age. Thanks to a coworker of mine at the movie theater I worked at, I too wanted to say I had seen all of Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers’s cinematic crime sprees. I started with slowly getting used to the dark corners by cutting my teeth on Michael. Despite getting the unnecessary attention from my parents, I continued to explore the classics of the macabre. I tackled The Exorcist on Halloween and absorbed all of Freddy and Jason in the years that followed. I quickly developed a desperation to find anything that could rattle my cage. I dug deeper and deeper, expanding my horror threshold for something new.

The past few years, it has been a real struggle to find any horror movie that really spooks me and wins me over. Excluding recent flick The Conjuring, straight-up horror doesn’t woo me anymore. I’m still watching many titles praying to uncover a gem. When I find something, it’s a feeling not unlike completing a 5k fun. A horror movie that captivates me is a diamond in the rough. Wading through a lot of crap to find them is necessary, but so worth it when a gem catches you.

the-burning-reviewLast weekend, I popped in a summer-camp slasher flick from 1981 into my Blu-ray player. I didn’t have in high expectations, but I was instantly blown away.

On the surface, The Burning appears like a generic teenage slasher flick. And it is. But what makes it so fresh is how original it was when you consider it was one of the first flicks in the sub-genre. It came out a year after Friday the 13th, riding its coattails. In The Burning, we learn the unfortunate fate of cantankerous camp director. After being burned alive from a prank gone wrong, the story moves a few years forward to a nearby camp. The usual shenanigans ensue until a group of teenagers head out for an overnighter. But Cropsy, the long-thought dead camp caretaker has returned to exact revenge. And so begins the violence and carnage.

I planned on buying this shortly after it started. I couldn’t get enough of it. Having seen it days ago, I’m still thinking about the film. I’m so glad I finally discovered this film and simultaneously shocked I never saw it sooner. The biggest downfall is the film sheds light on how sub-par today’s horror films are. I saw this right after rewatching the entire Saw franchise. I can’t keep the films straight. Jigsaw does not age as well as you’d hope (I love him anyway).

The Burning reignited my love of horror films. Horror films I somewhat enjoyed now feel weak in comparison. The love will be short-lived, however, since the next few movies will likely fail to meet expectations. If you enjoy the slasher movie sub-genre, see this. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.