89. Stalag 17 (1953)
Billy Wilder had one of the most prestigious and interesting careers of almost any Hollywood director ever. He’d move from screwball comedies, to dramedies, to noir films, to straight up drama at the drop of a hat. He was constantly challenging not only himself, but his audience and their general opinion of him as an artist. The truth is, Wilder could make a film in any genre and knock it out of the park. He had no real limitations to speak of. Having said that, I believe that his best works are some of his lesser appreciated ones, like “Stalag 17”. I had to sit through a lot of POW movies over the past couple months (ranging from “The Great Escape” to “La Grande Illusion”) and “Stalag 17” was by far my favourite. Not only does it not take itself anywhere near as seriously as most other POW films, it somehow manages to breathe fresh air into the genre. Its levity brings a sense of realism to the proceedings that every other POW film lost in its attempt to take its subject matter very seriously. Wilder had no problems playing with the conventions of audience perception and “Stalag 17” was a gamble he took that paid off marvelously.
88. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
It takes a lot for a movie to actually emotionally affect me and make me choke up. “Cinema Paradiso” found a way to do that at the halfway mark of its running time, well before the moving moments of its closing denouement. This Italian film has more heart in its first hour and a half than most Hollywood films put together have throughout an entire year. I suppose the subject matter of the film, a young man falling in love with both cinema and a woman, speaks to me more directly than most other films I watch, but the entire film is handled with such grace that it’s impossible not to get caught up in it all.
87. The Sixth Sense (1999)
Despite the eventual outcome of this film (the fact that M. Night Shyamalan is still making movies) there’s no denying the expert craftsmanship of this film. Every little detail works and painstakingly brings us into the world of the film so well that we never see the rather obvious surprise ending coming. Along with “Unbreakable” it might be the only good film Shyamalan will ever make, but if I have to put up with not going to see a new Shyamalan film just so that I can preserve my high regard for this film, it’s a price that I am more than willing to pay.
86. Oldboy (2003)
Speaking about films with twist endings… The ending of “Oldboy” trumps even “The Sixth Sense”, if not for its execution, than simply because of its emotional treachery and fallout. It’s hard to watch this film for a second time knowing what you know about the events that are unfolding throughout. But it’s masterfully executed and contains some of the most entertaining moments in all of Asian filmmaking. Plus, the fight scene in the hallway is about as badass as any film has ever been ever.
85. Rules of the Game (1939)
There’s not much to say about this film other than that to watch it is to experience it. That explanation in and of itself sounds extremely redundant and perhaps it is, but if you watch “Rules of the Game” you’ll know what I mean. There’s no real plot to speak of, the film simply spends the weekend with the privileged working class of the (new) French elite. It is a “chamber film” taking place in one of the most extravagant chambers of all time. And the dialogue, directing, acting, and editing, manage to come together to create one of the most interesting films ever made, even if you can’t really put your finger on how come.