Top 100 Movies: #60 – #56

Gravity, Supercop, Lost in Translation, Aliens, Purple Noon

60. Gravity

60. GravityI’ve been assigning these silly Seven A’s ratings as I go, there’s been an general upwards trend, but this is the first one that fucks with my system. Even though I give it top ratings across the board, having Gravity at 60th place feels right. Compared to many movies on this list, Gravity is unambitious. That’s a really crazy and condescending thing to say about a film that features all of space as a backdrop, but it kind of is. Gravity plunges a couple of characters into a deadly situation, and then we spend 80 minutes watching them try to make it to safety. That’s really all the movie does. Why rate it so high? I’m rating the theatrical experience, which is one of the most intense I’ve ever had, and which I knew even at the time would be impossible to replicate.

This was a movie I saw during one of the worst times of my life. It was a day in which I’d been awake for about 72 hours straight, all by myself, in an unfamiliar city. I went to the theatre, mainly so I’d have a comfortable seat to hopefully nap in for a couple hours, and picked Gravity at random. In my sleep deprived state, with those 3D glasses on my face and that giant IMAX screen in front of me, I felt lost in space along with Sandra Bullock.

There were chills all the way to my toes as Sandra became untethered. I think I kind of fell in love with George Clooney when he jet packed his way out into space to rescue me. I mean, rescue Sandra. I held onto my armrest any time characters were whipped around, and flinched in my seat when debris seemed to flying directly out of the screen. I’d never had such a visceral experience at the theatre. Needless to say, I never took that nap.

In a way I feel like I’m reviewing something that’s less a movie and more an amusement park ride I went on when I was stoned one time. Like if there was a building down in Orlando Studios that just screened Gravity then it’d be the best thing at Orlando Studios. But the message of Gravity, that it’s always worth fighting even in the face of insurmountable odds, was one that was good for me to hear at the time.

Even though Gravity was fated to become just another Blu Ray among many in my TV cabinet, for one day, it was the most important movie in the galaxy.


Amusement (Humour/Elation): LOW. George Clooney is the character who provide some levity. Let’s see how long that works out for him.
Appreciation (Construction): LOW. If you want to nitpick the plot in Gravity, then hello Neil deGrasse Tyson, welcome to Cine-Betweeners. No, not looking for a selfie, thanks though.
Affection (Emotional Impact): EXTRAORDINARY. I was so freaked out the first time I saw this movie I honest to god felt like crying.
Awe (Visual Impact): EXTRAORDINARY. So amazing looking you forget it’s just a couple of suspended actors in front of a green screen.
Adrenaline (Excitement): EXTRAORDINARY. It’s nothing but danger from the first shot and on.
Anxiety (Suspense): EXTRAORDINARY. My Christ Gravity sells the terror of being stranded in space.
Applicability (Real World Resonance): EXTRAORDINARY. A movie about a character far from home and fighting to get back was exactly what I needed when I saw it.

59. Supercop

59. SupercopThank you Citizen Kane.

Supercop is my favourite Jackie Chan movie. I don’t know if it’d be yours, but watching his entire catalogue to pick one out for yourself is one of the better ways you could use your time. For one thing, after you’ve seen them all, you can graft together the true greatest Jackie movie in your own head. That wouldn’t be hard, it’s no secret that Jackie’s same persona pretty much carries over from film to film anyway. He’s always a nice guy who doesn’t want to fight you, but he will and he’s really really good at it.

Actually, you remember that Bugs Bunny movie where there’s just a framing device of him in his bathrobe as he shows clips from all the best Looney Tunes? If they ever did that except with Jackie Chan, and they showed you the clock tower from Project A, the mall from Police Story, the fridge from Rumble in the Bronx, etc. that’d be the best Jackie Chan movie. Until then, we have Supercop.

Supercop, or Police Story 3, came out in the early 90s, a time in which Jackie had his filmmaking down to a science. There’s a confidence to the production, a sense that the team has a highly tuned sense both of what we embrace in these films, and what we want to push through as fast as possible. Once we’re through a bit of exposition in the opening, Supercop easily juggles action scenes, physical comedy scenes, and physical comedy action scenes. Every time you think you’ve seen the big climactic set piece, the movie goes onto something bigger and better.

Michelle Yeoh is what truly puts the production over the top. She’s as fearsome and fearless as Jackie Chan, and maybe surprisingly, has comedy chops as well. At no point is she positioned as a love interest or a damsel, Yeoh is every bit Chan’s co-lead. With her it really is like having two Jackie Chan movies in one, and that more than anything makes Supercop the best of a strong bunch.

Applicability (Real World Resonance): N/A
Affection (Emotional Impact): N/A
Appreciation (Construction): N/A
Anxiety (Suspense): N/A
Awe (Visual Impact): N/A
Amusement (Humour/Elation): HIGH. Not quite the funniest Jackie Chan movie, but close.
Adrenaline (Excitement): EXTRAORDINARY. Holy Hell the action scenes are incredible.

“Bill, don’t go. We love you, Bill.” ~ Billy Crystal, 2004 Academy Awards

58. Lost in Translation

58. Lost in TranslationHere’s the secret to loving Lost in Translation; allow yourself to become the unseen third wheel to Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. The idea of casting the two in a pseudo romance seems even more unlikely today than it was in 2003, given that Johansson has become an established star with a screen persona nearly as defined as Murray’s. You can’t think of two actors with less in common.

But the thing is, I myself also have next to nothing in common with the characters they play in Lost in Translation. I can only relate to them through the circumstances they’re in, and that’s perfect, because that’s the only thing they share as well. This is a movie about the kind of relationship that can only come about between strangers in a strange land.

I’m not saying anything revelatory to anyone who already loves Lost in Translation. But anecdotally, it really does seem like a lot of people I know hate this movie. It had so much acclaim back in its day, and that combined with Bill Murray’s draw caused everyone I know to watch it. My classmates hated it. My parents hated it. They saw it as being emblematic of every stereotypical arthouse film; dull, pretentious, overly personal. The only group of people who seem to love Lost in Translation across the board are film critics. Who spend a fair share of their time living out of hotel rooms in unfamiliar cities. Of course they relate to the movie.

It’s simultaneously really funny, really grounded, and really philosophical. Scarlett Johannsson’s star deservedly skyrocketed on the basis of her performance, and Bill Murray might never be better than he is here (Sofia Coppola has GOT to write another part for him). Tokyo just comes to life onscreen and the location is well chosen, the cultural and language barriers drive the point of the movie home more forcefully than if it had been set in a unfamiliar American city.

But in the end, Lost in Translation is about something pretty specific, namely the intimate yet fleeting relationship that forms between people who are out of their comfort zone. I’ve not often seen a depiction of that, especially not one so idealized (especially if you choose to believe that Bob is telling Charlotte how they can stay in touch during the final scene). Having travelled alone, having felt what those characters felt, I now relate to the movie like I never have before. I ain’t never made friends with no girl in a pink wig at any hotel I’ve ever stayed at, but Lost in Translation gives me hope.

Adrenaline (Excitement): N/A
Anxiety (Suspense): N/A
Appreciation (Construction): MODERATE. The loosest possible story structure, all the better to let the two leads share time together.
Awe (Visual Impact): HIGH. Especially when the movie goes out into downtown Tokyo.
Amusement (Humour/Elation): HIGH. Mostly earlier on, Bob having to make the rounds as a celebrity in Japan are really funny.
Applicability (Real World Resonance): HIGH. A movie about a very specific kind of relationship which, given the disdain some had for it, may not be a situation everyone has felt.
Affection (Emotional Impact): HIGH. I care about the future of Bob and Charlotte’s friendship more than I care about some of my own.

“The movie made me feel bad. It filled me with feelings of unease and disquiet and anxiety. I walked outside and I didn’t want to talk to anyone.” ~Roger Ebert

57. Aliens

57. AliensThat review has stuck with me. Ebert said the film aimed to be like a nasty plunging roller coaster, and achieved that goal so successfully he had a miserable time watching it. I’d already seen Aliens a bunch by the time I read that review and became obsessed with that idea… a horror/action movie that’s TOO effective? Was that even possible?

Having revisited Aliens with some newfound age and empathy, I finally get what Ebert meant. This is a movie that’s downright cruel in how often it tantalizes its main characters with safety, only for the roller coaster to lunge forward yet again. By the time we arrive at a long awaited moment of peace, followed by a character getting bifurcated by an alien out of nowhere, it happens so far past the point where it feels like the story could have wrapped up that it just comes across like James Cameron fucking with us. Forget out of the frying pan and into the fire, because there’s a Fish Fry Cookoff happening in the ol’ town square so it’s out of the frying pan and into a series of like fifty more frying pans. Was that analogy unwieldy and poorly worded? Sorry, I just watched Aliens so I’m feeling a little worn out.

But really, I have nothing but praise for how Aliens is paced. It’s easy to remember this as a movie about characters getting chased through corridors by aliens non-stop. And it’s true that the pressure doesn’t let up after a certain point, but James Cameron’s script is not simply a series of action scenes.

The opening takes its sweet time unwinding out of the previous film, and Aliens feels like it properly begins when Ripley and the other marines are en route to investigate the alien occupied colony. For a long time it’s build-up build-up build-up, but once we get our first extended encounter with the aliens, they disappear for a good half hour. The threat of them is ever present as the characters barricade themselves into relative safety, plot their escape, and discover a traitor. By the time the aliens return in overwhelming numbers, they’re as potent a threat as ever, even though it’s two films in and we ought to have gotten used to them by now. They’re used sparingly enough to have impact when they appear, and Cameron finds plenty of other ways to crank up the anxiety in the meantime.

Ripley is a feminist hero for the ages, and the surrogate daughter relationship she forms with Newt raises the intensity all the more because there’s a strong human element. The supporting cast is great too. If Ridley Scott assembled a cast for Alien that would go on to become some of the greatest character actors we have today, James Cameron assembles a group that would… well, mainly appear in a bunch of other James Cameron flicks. But they’re really easy to like.

Mainly though, the movie is absolutely as intense as advertised. As I write this, my local revival theatre is screening Aliens next month, but I’m not going. I’m not up to it.


Applicability (Real World Resonance): N/A
Amusement (Humour/Elation): LOW. Bill Paxton gets more or less all the comedy.
Affection (Emotional Impact): MODERATE. Ripley’s story with Newt singlehandedly elevates this over the already great first movie.
Awe (Visual Impact): MODERATE. An extension of the set designs and creature work from the first movie, but a lot more utilitarian looking.
Appreciation (Construction): HIGH. The script isn’t the first thing you think about with Aliens, but it’s paced in a way to stay constantly thrilling without getting repetitive or monotonous.
Adrenaline (Excitement): HIGH. It’s honestly a relief any time a chase or gunfire breaks out, anything to stop the…
Anxiety (Suspense): EXTRAORDINARY. …unending feeling of dread that starts from the moment the Marines touch down.

56. Purple Noon

56. Purple NoonHey, you! Want to watch The Talented Mr. Ripley again? Except now it looks and feels like a lost, luscious Alfred Hitchcock film? And the actor playing Ripley isn’t Matt Damon, but a guy who looks like if Dick Grayson in the 1960s Batman had broken bad? If this sounds like something you’re interested in, I wish you best of luck with your eBay search of Purple Noon. I snagged probably the one copy in my city when the last video rental place went out of business.

Purple Noon is a movie I get an unseemly amount of pleasure out of watching. If you don’t pay attention to the story, it’s just a guy living my dream and getting paid to bum his way around Europe. You’ve never seen so many potential vacation destinations in one film. But we mustn’t get lulled, there’s a killer to watch out for. Our lead character Tom Ripley is a fellow who commits fraud, theft, even murder, seemingly for the sport of it.

The first section of Purple Noon, which winds up feeling like an extended prologue, is the best part of an overall strong movie. Tom has been paid to bring some deplorable rich kid named Phillippe back to his father in America, but as the two of them roam the continent Phillippe starts suspecting Tom of having more sinister designs on him. This little opening story is perfectly paced, structured like clockwork, and filled to bursting with intertwined violent and homoerotic undercurrents. And when the situation comes to a head, Tom spends the rest of the movie essentially playing speed chess. We get the tension of a calculated crime unfurling, and the tension of a hastily improvised cover-up. Purple Noon is a multi-course thriller.

The ending is controversial, and from what I’ve read it’s despised by anyone who loves the book. I have no connection to the literary Mr. Ripley, but I love me some Hitchcock, and the ironic, darkly funny final shot is worthy of him for me. It’s the perfect conclusion to an awesome film.

Adrenaline (Excitement): N/A
Amusement (Humour/Elation): N/A
Affection (Emotional Impact): N/A
Applicability (Real World Resonance): MODERATE. Tom’s life of crime is awfully seductive.
Awe (Visual Impact): MODERATE. Allows some of us to experience a time and a continent that is out of reach.
Anxiety (Suspense): HIGH. Oh Lord yes, especially in the first act.
Appreciation (Construction): EXTRAORDINARY. A brilliantly executed story that satisfyingly comes full circle.

#65 – #61 | THE LIST | #55 – #51

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