Top 100 Movies: #80 – #76

Superman, Bowfinger, Suspiria, Inside Man, 101 Dalmations

80. Superman

80. SupermanSorry not sorry, but I am by and large not a fan of superhero origin movies. For the most part, I feel as though they’re more concerned with getting all the exposition and introductions out of the way, and then if we’re lucky we’ll get a better sequel. And yet, because Richard Donner seems to view Superman’s ascent as a story that in and of itself is worth dedicating an entire film to, this winds up being (almost) the best comic book flick ever made. If someone ever makes a movie out of the story of my life, I want it to be Richard Donner. I’m not the most interesting guy, but hey, neither is Superman, and this is still pretty fantastic.

Superman was an epic, back in the time when the word meant something. A story that spans many decades and galaxies, top of the line character actors in roles large and small, decadent sets and visuals with thousands of extras, John Williams playing to the rafters with one of his biggest scores. Best of all, every stage of Superman’s journey is treated as its own story. Krypton is its own story, Smallville is its own story. Metropolis is a bunch of stories; Clark’s time at the Daily Planet, Superman’s emergence as a force of good, and his affair with Lois Lane.

By the time Lex Luthor gets ‘round to setting a dastardly plan in motion, we’re about 100 minutes into this 150 minute movie, and that’s not a complaint. There’s nothing at all perfunctory about the events we see on the way to the inevitable third act chaos, Donner builds Superman up like a modern day mythic figure whose entire life story is worthy of attention. Which is probably a bit of a pretentious way of describing the movie, it’s too lighthearted and at times irreverent for that. But underneath everything, the character is treated earnestly.

Superman is a product of its time in the best possible way. Along with the sequel, it’s maybe the only major example of a New Hollywood superhero film. It’s got the scope and the indulgence of something like The Deer Hunter or Heaven’s Gate, combined with the sensibilities and tone of an early Spielberg/Lucas blockbuster. You can’t replicate it either, Exhibit A: Superman Returns. Though the spectacle of the movie is right at home in the 21st century, its unhurried pace is not. Combined with its sequel, Superman is a singular experience when it comes to comic books films, and despite all the options we have today, I’d hate to see it forgotten.


Applicability (Real World Resonance): N/A
Affection (Emotional Impact): LOW. Mostly in the Smallville section, as Clark is suddenly thrown into adulthood.
Anxiety (Suspense): LOW. Like, it’s the one time a Superman movie never even bothers trying to make you think “Oh no Superman is dead!” and for that I’m glad.
Adrenaline (Excitement): MODERATE. You have to wait for the third act for some real action scenes but what we get is great.
Appreciation (Construction): MODERATE. Movie is neatly divided into segments.
Amusement (Humour/Elation): HIGH. Gene Hackman and Ned Beatty are a comedy duo for the ages.
Awe (Visual Impact): HIGH. Some of the special effects are kind of charmingly aged but in every other way it’s a superhero storytelling on a grand scale.

79. Bowfinger

79. BowfingerIt’s clever. It’s well constructed. It’s the last time either Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin have been funny in a live action movie. Imagine watching Bowfinger in 1999 and being told that out of everyone onscreen, Robert Downey Jr.’s star would be shining brightest 20 years later. But never mind…

The movie doesn’t have an agenda aside from making you laugh. But it sets about that goal carefully, with a terrific script credited to Steve Martin himself. The premise, a huckster filmmaker uses hidden cameras to put an oblivious A-List star in his movie, is terrific in and of itself. Once all the pieces are in place Bowfinger escalates perfectly, with every scene more outrageous than the last, and Murphy’s character Kit becoming more and more paranoid. And around the halfway point, Murphy pulls double duty and also plays Kit’s younger brother Jiff. This is one of most endearing characters I’ve ever seen in my life. Who knew Eddie Murphy could be such a sweet guy?

By the way, I work on a lot of low budget productions, so the set dynamics, the little fits of ingenuity to make up for a lack of money… this movie is special to me. It is my life. Even if it’s not yours, hopefully you’ll still get a kick out of it.

Adrenaline (Excitement): N/A
Anxiety (Suspense): N/A
Affection (Emotional Impact): N/A
Awe (Visual Impact): N/A
Appreciation (Construction): HIGH. Starts slow but gets bigger and funnier with every new scene.
Applicability (Real World Resonance): HIGH. For me anyway, I’ve had a lot of similar experiences.
Amusement (Humour/Elation): HIGH. “Happy premise #3: Even though I feel like I might ignite… I probably won’t.”

78. Suspiria (1977)

78. SuspiriaA film made up almost entirely of paint red viscera and expressionist technicolor production design, this is an experience like no other. And I realize it wouldn’t be special if every other movie looked like Suspiria. But why can’t at least one other movie look like Suspiria?

I have next to nothing to say about this one. It’s a film starring amazing sets, and then some actors are given a script and put in front of the amazing sets we can have an excuse to look at them for a while. Suspiria is a complete style over substance flick. Which is fine. Sometimes it’s fun to eat cake for dinner.

I can tell you the story involves a witch coven who run a dance academy and inflict murder and torture on the students, but it’s not even one of those movies where I can with any confidence tell you the name of the protagonist. Could have taken five seconds to look it up on Wikipedia, probably being derelict in my duty as a reviewer to not know that kind of thing, but I felt it far more important to make my point: the characters in Suspiria don’t matter. The story doesn’t matter. The resolution, which is baffling in its abruptness, doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the lead character is vulnerable looking with a bit of hidden steel, and therefore a blank enough slate for us for us to project ourselves onto as she navigates one of the most terrifying buildings ever put to film.

If there isn’t a good haunted house within driving distance, turn out the lights and put on Suspiria. And if the best haunted house in all of existence is within driving distance, it’s still not better than the experience you’d have watching Suspiria so put it on anyway.

Adrenaline (Excitement): N/A
Applicability (Real World Resonance): N/A
Affection (Emotional Impact): N/A
Appreciation (Construction): N/A.
Amusement (Humour/Elation): LOW. There’s some for funny banter earlier on between the dancers, any comedy after that isn’t intentional.
Anxiety (Suspense): HIGH. Terrifying moments throughout (along with a complete lack of jump scares).
Awe (Visual Impact): EXTRAORDINARY. I don’t know if I want to flee the academy or move there myself.

77. Inside Man

77. Inside ManThe most apolitical movie Spike Lee has ever made is still my favourite title on his filmography. For the most part he’s not making any grand social statements, he’s just got a damn good script and has come to play with all his considerable skills as a storyteller. What could be a standard bank heist story, he transforms into a brilliantly cast and deeply stylish thriller.

Inside Man is constructed oddly. Not long after the action is underway, we start glimpsing scenes depicting the aftermath of the robbery, all of which show that the hostages will survive their ordeal. As we see early and often, Clive Owen’s robber is seen as someone who’s not willing to kill despite all of his dire warnings. And a mysterious subplot involving the bank owner (Christopher Plummer) and his “fixer” (Jodie Foster) imply that maybe Clive’s more justified in what he’s doing than is initially apparent. Plus Denzel Washington (at his most likeable) has an easygoing vibe and has the situation well in hand.

All this kind of removes the tension that’s normally inherent in any kind of movie depicting a hostage situation, but amazingly this doesn’t hurt the story. Instead it puts the focus squarely on an enjoyable cat and mouse game between Denzel and Clive, as well the intrigue of what Clive’s true objective is.

Inside Man is one of those movies that plenty of people saw, liked just fine, and forgot about. And if you’re one of those people, I’d highly recommend a rewatch. It’s impeccable in its craft and entertaining as all get-out to boot.

Affection (Emotional Impact): N/A.
Adrenaline (Excitement): N/A
Applicability (Real World Resonance): LOW. An almost shoehorned bit of commentary on violent video games and/or race relations in a couple moments.
Anxiety (Suspense): LOW. Other than kind of a pleasant anticipation of what’s to come next, you never worry that things aren’t going to work out fine.
Awe (Visual Impact): MODERATE. The look of the movie is pure New York even though it rarely goes beyond this one city block.
Amusement (Humour/Elation): HIGH. Not quite a comedy but really amusing throughout.
Appreciation (Construction): HIGH. The screenwriter, the director, the performers are all doing great work.

76. 101 Dalmations (1961)

76. 101 DalmationsWhen someone set your four year old ass down in front of a TV with a Disney movie on it, you weren’t discerning. And that was nice. You didn’t think about the era, hand drawn vs. computer animation, or even objective quality. As far as you knew every Disney movie has existed at every point in history, and every single one of them were all exactly as good. If you had a favourite, it came down to personal resonance. For me, I like dogs a lot. So I liked the one about dogs. Even today, that’s all it really comes down to.

There’s a lot brilliantly observed little animated bits of dog behaviour, owner and pet dynamics, etc. but aside from all 101 Dalmatians is one of the more well rounded Disney pictures. It’s one of the most primal stories of them all, focusing on two parents out to rescue their kidnapped children, but there’s some terrific comedy, along with a good dash of action and suspense. I like the slightly desaturated animation, that combined with some wittier touches and a lack of musical interludes makes for one of the most mature animated Disney movies. Not to mention, Cruella has to be one of the best villains of them all. The repulsiveness of her goal combined with the sheer vindictive pettiness of her scheme makes her such a fun villain to hate.

And, I cannot stress this enough, I like dogs.

Not like that.

Appreciation (Construction): N/A.
Anxiety (Suspense): MODERATE. Mostly in the scenes where the puppies are escaping Jasper and Horace in Hell Hall, and later when they’re sneaking past Cruella.
Awe (Visual Impact): MODERATE. More subtle and less colourful than most Disney movies before or since.
Applicability (Real World Resonance): MODERATE. Gets a lot right about dog/owner relationships.
Adrenaline (Excitement): HIGH. Towards the end it gets action packed.
Affection (Emotional Impact): HIGH. I mean it’s a story about parents whose kids have been stolen.
Amusement (Humour/Elation): HIGH. Cruella alone is a riot.

#85 – #81 | THE LIST | #76 – #71

Leave a Reply