Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Critical Order's Top 10 Movies of All Time

In the year since The Critical Order published its first review, I've been sitting on this Top 10 list for some time. I've been wondering when it would be a good time to drop it because I never knew when I would be ready to talk about it. Trying to come up with 10 of your favorite movies, let alone rank them, is a nearly impossible task, and one that had me sitting for hours trying to figure out. You might say that it's stupid to take this much time to try and list off your favorite movies, but ask yourself to do it. Ask yourself to try and rank the movies that have touched your heart, made you smile, made you think, scared you, or even made you cry, and you'll know why this list was so difficult to make. As a site that gets its views mostly from movie reviews, I feel that this list was the best one to start with as I list my personal Top 10 Favorite Movies of All Time. Will this list change? Probably, but as it is, these 10 movies are the closest to my heart and will take a lot of effort to get them off this list.

#10: Watchmen
 Alan Moore's graphic novel of the same name is regarded as one of the best comics of all time and even as one of the best novels of all time. To say that Watchmen  is a legendary book is an understatement. Watchmen can be pointed to as one of two comics that led to a general sense of mature realism in comics that still persist to this day. So in 2009, Zack Snyder released this movie to the general public to mixed reviews... but that's not the version of Watchmen that I love. 

I was in a Barnes and Nobles one day when I saw a copy of Watchmen: The Ultimate Collector's Edition for $21, which included nearly an extra hour of footage that was cut from the theatrical release. That's the version that makes it on this list. This movie serves as a complete 1 to 1 adaptation of the book, with a few minor changes barring the alternate ending. Everything that you love about the comic is here, and all of the characters are perfectly represented. The Comedian is still a sadistic monster, Rorschach is still a soft spoken badass, and Dr. Manhattan, one of the most difficult characters to rationalize and make human, is portrayed beautifully by Billy Crudup. 

This movie clocks in at nearly 4 hours, so it's definitely not an easy sit. However, the movie doesn't just lecture you about its themes or ideas. It engages the viewer to try and work out their own perspectives on each of the characters and judge for themselves everything that transpires. And yes, I might as well talk about the ending for a minute. Just to alienate myself even further from most normal critics, I like the new ending a lot more than the one in the original comic. It just makes more sense and provides more emotional weight than just saying that a giant space alien did it. It makes the movie more believable and in a story like Watchmen, you want all of the believably you can. The use of music is impeccable, the shots are majestic, and it's just a great movie for any comic book fan that wants some more serious fare. 

#9: No Country For Old Men
I've never seen a movie that's quite as quiet, quite as slow, yet quite as terrifying as No Country For Old Men. In short, it's a movie about a man that steals a briefcase of money from a drug deal that went bad, and now he's trying to escape from the men hunting him down for it. In actuality, he's running from a man named Anton Chigurh, an unstoppable monster that believes in brutal predestination. He'll stop at nothing to get the case back, yet he'll stay incredibly quiet and small doing it. 

Every time I watch this movie, I always get a new sense of just how dark it actually is. This is a movie where there's very little music and tries to replicate real life accurately. In that regard, whenever violent scenes happen, they're never big action scenes. It's usually just Anton with a silenced shotgun firing a shot and leaving. It's all so very understated, but it doesn't need to be a big moment. The death in this movie has a point and a reason and never just happens because it just does. Like Chigurh's philosophy, everything has a reason and a point to it and nothing is left to chance. That makes every scene in this movie so fascinating to discuss. Hell, Chigurh's coin flip scene is one of the scariest scenes in any movie I've ever scene, and not a shot is fired in it. It's just a man asked to flip a coin and see what happens. 

This is one of those movies that not many people talk about anymore, which is a crying shame. No Country For Old Men is a beautiful and elegant movie that embraces the world it creates and the meaning behind it. I still don't fully understand the monologue at the end given by an old and weary police officer after everything happens, and I don't think I will anytime soon. Still, I'll just have to keep watching to fully understand what's at play here, and I have nothing wrong with that sentiment. 

#8: Summer Wars
I'm just going to come out and say it right now; Summer Wars is my favorite anime movie. It's actually kind of hilarious when you think about it, given that the director of this movie, Mamoru Hosoda, actually made this movie twice. The themes he explored in this movie regarding the use of the internet, community, and viruses were originally used in, I shit you not, Digimon: The Movie. Do you remember that middle section of the movie where Diaboromon infected the internet and was growing stronger the more data he consumed, to the point where he could control all electronic devices in the world? Well, that section was directed by Hosoda and the animation for that section was done by his production company as well. He has a very minimalistic approach to character designs and animation, yet that's what makes him so distinctive. 

And so nearly a decade later, Hosoda revisits the same ideas and themes he did before, yet expanded them into its own original movie. The movie now has everything that was in Digimon: The Movie, but now it has the added benefit of a huge cast of characters and the underlying theme of family throughout the whole movie. There are easily over 30 characters that are in this family, and we grow to understand and root for all of them as they try to stop the computer virus Love Machine from completely destroying the internet, which in this movie now controls all technology in the world. 

There are just so many moments in this movie that work that it's hard to cite one example. The action scenes are great, the animation still impresses me to this day, and the characters are all likeable in their own ways, even if some of them can be real jerks. In fact, that's probably the biggest strength of this movie. There are no outright villainous characters in this movie. Instead, every character is a fully realized human that has their own connections with other family members. Those relationships are what makes this movie even better. When one character learns of something that happens in the family, he thinks about all of the times that he's spent with that family member and how important they are to him. 

The entire climax is even centered around the power of community and how family can overcome any obstacle. Family will always be there for you, which is a perfect message to send to children watching this movie. It's a movie that shows the benefits of human interaction, which is something that more kids films and films in general need to have in them. 

#7: Silence of the Lambs
This was the hardest movie for me to put on this list. Not because of how dark it is or the quality of the movie, but because of my love for the franchise as a whole. I love the Silence of the Lambs series unconditionally. I love the musical parody of it that released two years ago. I love the TV show Hannibal with a burning passion. Not only that, but I love the character of Hannibal Lecter too with how smart and devious he is, yet still maintaining with reasoning and emotional core.

All of that being said, when I saw this movie for the first time, my reactions were relatively warm. I liked it, but I didn't love it. It was only with time that I grew to love the movie more and more for how dark and brilliant it is. But it's because of that time that I'm even more hesitant to place it even higher. I've seen so much of the franchise than I fear my judgment may be compromised when it comes to how much I like this movie. Do I like it because it's Silence of the Lambs, or because it's a great movie? 

At the end of the day though, I love this movie. I've slowly been discovering that my favorite movies on this list are movies that are a bit slower and take their time with establishing characters and letting the world they inhabit come to life on its own. There's no intense action or horror in this movie, but purely psychological and dark human depravity. Hell, this is the movie where the main villain wants to build a woman suit so he can become one. And yes, it's just as dark as you expect a plot point like that would be. 

And then we have Hannibal Lecter himself. Truth be told, he's not the reason why I enjoy this movie, While I do think that he's a good character and beautifully acted by Anthony Hopkins, the true meat of the movie lies in understanding Buffalo Bill. Hannibal Lecter is a character we grow to understand over several movies. Here, we just see a snippet of him and what he is capable of. He's a sideshow attraction at a carnival; he's not the crux of the whole affair, but you're going to see something that you've never seen before in your life. Then you'll just walk out and enjoy the rest of the carnival. 

Again,I may be blinded by the franchise, but I still think that this movie is brilliant and should be one every film lover's shelf. 

#6: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
This movie is so close to perfect that it hurts. About 90% of this movie works flawlessly and makes it a cult classic, but that 10% kills me every time. 

I never heard about the Scott Pilgrim series until I saw the trailer for this movie for the first time, and I instantly went out and bought all of the comics. I loved all of them and wanted to see a perfect adaptation of the series. I wanted all of the over-the-top action, the goofy nerd humor, and just comic book zaniness done in real life. I got all of that in this movie with every character being perfectly cast with their ideals real world counterpart. I know some people balk at Michael Cera being Scott Pilgrim, but I honestly have no real problem with it. He provides his own unique spin on the character that makes him awkward and likeable in his own original way. 

Then you have the action scenes. When I first saw each fight scene, my jaw dropped at how good they were and how insane they all were. The appeal lied in the special effects, but I didn't care! I just saw two chicks fight with whips and hammers and Scott fighting against an army of stunt doubles for Lucas Lee! It was awesome! 

But then you have the ending, the one stickler that stops me from unconditionally loving this movie. The ending feels so rushed in comparison to the rest of the movie. All of the characters go through sudden heel turns and the evil exes are rushed through with little introduction or fanfare. Even Gideon Graves, the main villain of the series, is quickly swept aside in the finally. He has such a huge presence in the books, so it's disappointing to see him to quickly shoved off in the end. This is one of those cases where I believe that the comics had a better ending and that this movie would have benefited from being split into two parts, the first part dealing with Envy Adams and the second part dealing with Gideon. 

Still, I can't argue with the movie that we got instead, and to say that it makes it to my number six spot despite the flaws I have with it says a lot about the quality of the movie.

#5: Highlander
I don't think I can accurately describe how much the soundtrack makes this movie. In fact, that and the mythology of the movie might be the only two reasons I love this movie so much. Queen did the soundtrack to this movie, and every song sounds absolutely glorious! Never before have I seen a soundtrack match the tone of a movie so perfectly to the point where the songs coupled with the onscreen action makes the movie even better. It's just so, so, so good!

As for the actual movie itself, there's nothing worse than being a Highlander fan. Here you have a franchise with one singular and amazing movie that has constantly been disappointing fans with each new release. The entire tagline of the series, "There can be only one!", has been desecrated and diminished with each new entry to the point where ti holds no significance anymore. However, back when it first was released, the tagline meant everything and made the movie even better. 

Highlander had intense action and a great series mythology behind it that made every fight scene more impactful. Every fight would result in a death, and the deaths were almost always amazing. The sword fighting was top notch, and each action scene had its own weight and significance once you realize that a character that you love or hate may die once it is done. 

This movie is an 80's classic that still holds up to this day, and that is a compliment that is not given out easily. Think of the plethora of cheesy 80's movies that have been released and now think of how many of them were actually good in an unironic, meaningful way. To me, Highlander is that one title, and is still one of my favorite action movies to this day. 

#4: Blazing Saddles
Mel Brooks is a brilliant director with a ton of classic movies under his belt. He's done The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs, History of he World Pt. 1, and a ton of other comedy classics. For my money though, Blazing Saddles has to be his best work. 

I don't usually say that a comedy can be timeless, but that's the one phrase that just comes to mind whenever I see this movie. You can show this movie to anyone and they'll almost certainly get a laugh out of it. The jokes are racially charged, yes, but they just plain work. It's incredibly hard to describe why these jokes work so well, or else I'll have to spoil them, which is a fate worse than death. Just trust me when I say that this more gets better every time I see it. 

This is a perfect Western in my eyes, even though there are barely any gunfights or cowboys to be seen. This is just the story of a black man turned sheriff, turned hero, turned defender of the West. And then you reach the ending where the most insane and non sensical climax every occurs. If you thought that humor today and stuff like "Too Many Cooks" broke reality, this movie does it way better nearly 40 years ago. The best part is that it makes it work without ever getting dark or cynical. The humor is genuine and is funny for all of the right reasons. 

I'm not going to lie and say that I think that the racial humor works all the time and that it isn't offensive, but I think that's kind of the point of the movie. It's meant to show just how offensive it is and not sugar coat what life was like in the West. It's brutally honest, yet incredibly goofy. The things Mel Brooks makes fun of are very sensitive, but he balances it just right with the perfect amount of slapstick, wit, sarcasm, and puns. It's a masterpiece of comedy that gets funnier every time I watch it. 

#3: Spring Breakers
You think I'm joking, but I'm not, Let me just come right out and say this right here so that everyone can fully understand this. 

I think Spring Breakers is a brilliant movie that is so unappreciated because of its reputation. 

There, come at me. I love this movie. I love everything about this movie. I get tired of the fact that I have to explain to people constantly about why I love this movie so much. Hell, I said it was my favorite movie of 2013! Just accept that fact that I love this movie. And no, I'm not going to write a huge analysis as to why I'm defending this movie because, in my opinion, it doesn't need to be defended. Defending something means that it's weak as has flaws that you're trying to protect, even though you know they're true. You can defend a movie like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a movie that has flaws, but the flaws don't matter. Why should I defend a movie that has very little, if any, flaws?

So instead, I'm just going to repost why I placed this movie as my favorite film last year. I summarized all of my feelings about the movie a year ago, and I'll do so again. 

"What can really be said to describe Spring Breakers? Out of all of the movies released this year, this one is probably one of the most polarizing movies of the year. From an outside perspective, it looks like just another bad teen party movie. You know the kind. It's the kind of movie that's all about watching people act drunk, crazy, and stupid all because they're "adults" and can so whatever they want because of it. If that's your main reason for not seeing this movie, because it looks terrible and stupid, then I beg of you, see this movie. You are the perfect audience for this film. In the same way that The Breakfast Club serves as a time capsule of the 80's and what the general culture was like at the time, Spring Breakers, like it or not, is a time capsule for our generation. It does have all of the aforementioned traits featured. This movie is full of drunk, stupid people that only want to party and have a good time, but while movies like Project X have nothing going for it besides the debauchery, this movie is smart. Yes, Spring Breakers is smart. It shows both sides of the equation and how far people will go to have said good time. What starts out as an idea to go to Florida for spring break divulges into robbery, gang wars, and outright murder, all because this is what the characters think they want. I won't go into any more details, because deriving the meaning of various scenes and even plot points is spoiling the entire point of this movie, but frankly it's a bit difficult to write about everything this movie tries to do. It looks dumb, but it's smarter than most other movies released this year."

#2: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
When I first heard about this movie, I knew exactly was I was expecting to get out of this. I was going to get a Disney movie that has a lot of heart and soul and everyone lives happily ever after. You know, a standard Disney movie. Not only is this movie so not like other animated Disney movies, but it transcends what a Disney movie should be. Hunchback is a beautiful musical that expertly uses animation and music to tell its story and make every character memorable. 

This movie is split amongst Disney fans for how good it actually is. I have met numerous people that think this movie is brilliant for the risks it takes and for how stunning the music and animation are, while I meet just as many people that think of it as alright. Despite all of that, I would easily watch this movie on repeat instead of watching any other Disney movie for one reason. This is the truest definition of a musical. 

In my eyes, a good musical is a show that uses music to tell a story. We are able to understand characters, tone, themes, and story just by the music and what they characters are able to tell us. A bad musical has songs that serve no purpose besides to be a song, or to have a new dance number. Many shows that I see I don't like because all of the music is extraneous; songs are willed into existence because they need to. Here, every song has a purpose and event he background music portrays themes and tones that enforce what the movie is conveying. This is a movie about freedom and accepting the differences between love and lust. It's a modern morality play. 

But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Why does this work well as a movie? Because it takes everything that I've just listed above and melds it all together into a world that is vibrant, full of life, and is breathtaking to behold. Any shot of Notre Dame in this movie is unlike any other shot I've seen in an animate movie. The songs "Bells of Notre Dame", "God Help The Outcasts", and "Hellfire" have some of the best animation and sequencing I've see in a Disney movie, elegantly providing beautiful visuals to brilliant music. I can't lavish enough praise on this movie if I tried any harder. It's just a masterpiece in the purest definition of the word. Please, for all that's holy, go see this movie right now on DVD, Netflix, youtube, whatever. Just see it. 

#1: Pink Floyd's The Wall
I don't think I can accurately describe for you my connection and love for this movie.Back in high school, whenever I was going to leave for a theatre competition, I would always play this movie before I left. I have no idea why, but I always make it a semi annual event to watch this movie. This movie is so good that it hurts, yet I never feel like I'm in awe of it anymore. I've come to accept that this movie is a work of art and that I've seen it so many times that I just accept how good it is. 

This movie is a deeply troubled and psychological movie told through music, and by that I mean literally. There are barely any lines of dialogue in this movie, instead focusing on using the songs from Pink Floyd's album The Wall to tell the story. However, the album is a rock opera that is meant to tell a singular story, so seeing it put to screen is a culmination of Roger Waters and the band's efforts. 

I really don't have anything to say about this movie besides how perfect it is. It's hard to describe perfection, because in my opinion, it doesn't exist. Perfection is only in the eye of the beholder, and even then not everything can be called "perfect". There has to be at least a few flaws somewhere in the movie to merit it being called near perfect. Whenever I try to think of a criticism of the movie though, I just can't. I honestly cannot even pinpoint a single thing about this movie that I did not like, or was flawed, or needed more work. What I see when I watch The Wall is different from everyone else's interpretation of the movie, and I am perfectly fine with that. I think this movie has nothing that I can honestly say I did not like about it. To me, this movie is a movie that I can watch anytime and instantly fall in love with and immerse myself into, for better or worse. 

I don't even feel like I need to justify this as much as I need to for every other movie. All I'll say is that watch the movie once with all of the lights off by yourself. Let the movie absorb you and take you in, and you'll see why this movie has captured my heart for years. It's a masterpiece, it's art, it's Pink Floyd's The Wall. 

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