The 101 Greatest Film Scores

Lists, and not baseball, have become America’s favorite pastime, and for fifteen years now, I have been passing as much time as anybody I know.   Continue reading

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30 Best Film Composers

As I stated in my “Brief Exposition on Movie Music”, 1939 was one of several watershed moments in film history, not only because of the sheer amount of great films that were pumped out of Hollywood that year, but also because it introduced forever the “thematic” elements of movie scores.  In particular, the Alfred Newman’s score in Wuthering Heights and Max Steiner’s work in Gone With the Wind were key players in this movement. Continue reading

Ninotchka (1939)

“This picture takes place in Paris, in those wonderful days when a siren was a brunette and not an alarm—and if a Frenchman turned out the light it was not on account of an air raid!”

So begins the riotous story of Ninotchka and Leon in Paris, penned by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. Continue reading

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the subsequent entry into World War II by the United States of America, James Maitland Stewart joined the US Air Corps.  Before the war, Stewart was a talented pilot in the private sector, amassing hundreds of hours of flight time and even participating in a cross-country race as a co-pilot.  He had invested (and recruited more investments) in a pilot-training program hosted by Southwest Airways.  He was an immensely popular actor on the home-front, starring in such films as The Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn and You Can’t Take it With You with Jean Arthur.  He was well-publicized, well-known, and was an interesting character, who loved flying, loved his country, and respected his family’s military tradition. Continue reading

Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

This is a movie with a simple plot, if you can call it a “plot”.  It’s more of an examination, a look-in on the life of an interesting and sad character.  This is a movie about a woman named Songlian, who is sent to an early twentieth-century harem to be a concubine to the rich landlord.  It’s simple enough.  There’s no real plot in terms of beginning, middle, and end.  It is mostly a documentary of her life—and her decline—as she struggles with the hostility of such an objectified existence. Continue reading

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2005)

Of all Yimou Zhang’s films of the last decade, the best is Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.  For some strange reason, this movie never gained the traction that some of his other films have made.  From the dramas of the early nineties (like Raise the Red Lantern and To Live) to the martial arts films of the 2000s (like House of Flying Daggers and Hero), Zhang’s popular films are well known.  But a mid-2000s contemporary drama?  Not as much.  Ultimately, Zhang’s best work has been in period pieces.  In Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, he has never been more modern. Continue reading

To Live (1994)

In light of my recent case study on the anthropological benefits of watching Yimou Zhang movies, I will now review the four Yimou Zhang films that appear in my list of the 555 greatest movies.  In order to maintain consistency and help this blog make sense, I will try to remain focused on the anthropological elements that were discussed in the chapter that introduced this section.  However, I will also dabble a little in the usual banalities: we will examine what makes these movies so great as movies, independent of whatever cultural elements they might introduce to us.  With that being said, it is important to retain in our minds the entire argument that I put forward in the case study: a movie is great when it causes us to connect with the mind of its maker.  When the movie’s auteur is precise with his decisions, and takes care of his story, its images and characters, then a movie is great.  I submit that not only do Zhang’s movies give us good culture, they film the culture in such a way that we can connect with it, and, by extension, with him. Continue reading

Seven Samurai (1954)

I plan on writing four different reviews on famous chanbara (or “samurai”) films.  Initially, I wanted to save the best for last, but, after writing my review on Hiroshi Inagaki’s The Samurai TrilogyI learned that I just couldn’t wait anymore.  Were I to keep waiting, I would have to keep mentioning Seven Samurai every other line in the other reviews, and you would not have the foundational benefit of having read a review on Seven Samurai.  So, I’m going to go ahead and save the best for second. Continue reading

Scrooge (1970)

One of my family’s most treasured Christmas traditions is to watch Ronald Neame’s unique musical interpretation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, named after the story’s main character, Ebenezer Scrooge.  Scrooge is, without question in my mind, the finest adaptation of this famous story ever committed to film.  Some of the more faithful adaptations (like the one starring Patrick Stewart in 1999) reek of Hallmark made-for-TV movies.   Others sacrifice the important emotion for the sake of Christmas commercialism, in what may be the most hypocritical move in the history of the industry.  But Scrooge…Scrooge is the perfect adaptation, integrating enough of its own originality into the purity of Dicken’s novella. Continue reading

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Image result for miracle on 34th street

So, it’s Christmastime.  Considering the fact that I have hit my recent “Great American Screenplays” saga pretty hard over the last few months, I think it is plenty fair to take a break and indulge myself—and you—a little holiday liberality. Continue reading