Archive | April, 2011

My Top 10 Movies (Not in Priority)

1 Apr


1) “Seven Samurai” (1954)

 Director: Akira Kurosawa

 Storyline: 16th century Japanese villagers hired 7 Samurai to defend their village from attacking bandits.

 Why I like it: Great acting led by the superb actors Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura. Thought-provoking issues of what it means to be courageous or to be a coward both for a farmer and a samurai. Great battle scenes and superb cinematography. It’s a beautiful but long 160-minute black-and-white film. The use of slow-motion, riders on a stark horizon, and intercutting techniques has been copied by many great directors but it started with Akira Kurosawa. It was voted onto Sight & Sound’s <>  list of the ten greatest films of all time in 1982, and to the directors’ all-time top ten films in the 1992 and 2002 polls. 

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2) “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946) 

Director: Frank Capra 

 Storyline:  An angel helps a suicidal man by showing him what life would be like if he never existed.

Why I like it: Is there a Frank Capra film I don’t like? (Meet John Doe, It Happened One Night, You Can’t Take It with You) The story grips me because I think we all think at some point that we don’t make a difference in the world. Capra goes deeply into the characters with whom we strongly identify. The dialogue, the humor, the pathos, the spirit of Christmas, God, it’s all there.  Clearly a classic.  Nominated for five Oscars but didn’t win a single one!! But redemption was found when the American Film Institute named it as one of the top all-time 100 films, and was put #1 on their list of Most Inspirational Films of All Time! Surely that should make my top 10 list!

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3) “Train Man” (2005)

 Director: Shosuke Murakami

Storyline: A young computer engineer saves a pretty woman on the Japanese subway from a drunk. That one event intertwines their life into a first date in which the engineer must ask his friends (whom he has never met) on an internet chat room what to do.

Why I like it: There is a transparency and a vulnerability of the engineer and his computer geek friends that I find so endearing. The film captures the fun, humor and anxiety of dating and perhaps, gives a message that awkward, insecure people can find hope. Has English subtitles.

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4) “Schindler’s List” (1993)

 Director: Steven Spielberg

Storyline: In Poland in World War II comes the story of German Oskar Schindler who rescues his Jewish workforce from the Nazi death camps.

Why I like it: It’s a difficult subject, the Holocaust, but Spielberg captures the horror and the heroism of Oskar Schindler in a moving way. The Oscar-winning cinematography by Janusz Kaminski (Saving Private Ryan), the editing of Michael Kahn (who is tied with winning the most Oscars for editing for this movie, Saving Private Ryan and Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark), the haunting music of John Williams (Jaws, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter) combined with Spielberg’s direction make a masterpiece of a film. Plus, it features two of my favorite actors – Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes.

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5) “The Ten Commandments” (1956) 

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

Storyline: The incredible story of Moses, played by Charlton Heston, who saves the Hebrew people and leads them to the Promised Land.

Why I like it: When you think of big movies, you have to think of this movie and Cecil B. Demille. For its time, the movie had fantastic special effects of the parting of the Red Sea, the ten plagues, the building of Egypt’s monuments. Got an Oscar for special effects. Nominated for six other Oscars but didn’t get any of the rest. Should have won Best Picture. It’s a faith-building film for me on a huge, grand scale.

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6) “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001)

Director: Peter Jackson

Storyline: The wonderful cinematic translation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book of the same name where Frodo saves his world by taking a journey from the safety of his shire to the fires of Mordor.

Why I like it: I saw the film at a time we were moving our church to a 242-acre golf club. It seemed impossible. Somehow I felt a kinship with Frodo in that I had a calling to deliver the church to a new land. I might die in the attempt. There were others smarter than I who would save me and the project, but I just had to have the faith to keep going to try to save the Shire. Peter Jackson opened up a whole new cinematic world for me in seeing his set designs and use of slow motion, the character study, the editing and mainly the progression of a compelling story.

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7) “Star Wars  IV– A New Hope” (1977)

Director: George Lucas

Storyline: Luke Skywalker leads the Rebel Alliance against the Darth Vader and the Evil Empire

Why I like it: When Star Wars opened, I was going to the USC film school and taking courses from the same teachers that taught George Lucas. When this film came out, it was like a rocket out of nowhere. The story captured a lot of the old mythological stories of heroes. The technology was groundbreaking at the time. Loved the characters and the music by John Williams. And the final dog fight was fantastic (even though the dialogue was strangely familiar to the 1955 British film The Dam Busters). Star Wars – A New Hope was like a new world for me. The Academy Award for Editing was won by Richard Chew, Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas (George’s wife at the time) for their work on this film and it really showed.

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8) “The Sound of Music” (1965)

Director: Robert Wise

Storyline: Maria leaves a convent to become a governess to the children of widower Captain Von Trapp. She learns to love them and helps lead them on an escape from the Nazi’s in Austria.

Why I like it: This is my only musical, but how often do you get a musical that uses humor, dance and romance and a dangerous theme of Nazism in Austria before World War II? Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and a great Rogers and Hammerstein score could not be beat with the backdrop of the beautiful Swiss Alps. Saw it as a teen, but I can still hum the melodies and know the lyrics of the songs in the movie. It makes me feel there is hope in the world to fight evil.

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9) “The Passion of the Christ” (2004)

Director: Mel Gibson

Storyline: The final hours of Jesus Christ on earth.

Why I like it: I can’t think of any film that captures the horror and the authenticity of our Lord’s last hours on earth. The crucifixion was so realistic that it felt like I was there. And after watching it, I felt like I was punched in the stomach. It was a privilege for our church to sponsor the only early screening of it (pre-final version) in Hawaii.

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10) “Chariots of Fire” (1981)
Director: Hugh Hudson

Storyline: Two British athletes, one a Jew and the other a devout Christian, compete in the 1924 Olympics.

Why I like it: Nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four – Best Picture, Original Music Score, Costumes, and Original Screenplay. Who can forget the dramatic music of Vangelis? Was risky to use synthesized music for a 1924 story but it worked. So beautifully shot by the late David Watkin (Jesus of Nazareth, Out of Africa, Moonstruck). Was inspiring, faith-building, and was a great example of integrity and character under fire.

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Out of the 10 movies I’ve chosen, two won Best Picture, three are foreign films, and all were nominated for or won an Academy Award (except for the one kooky Japanese comedy I chose. Just shows I am a pretty eclectic guy.)

I think Slumdog Millionaire would probably be my #11.  

If I could do another ten, maybe I would add Hurricane (the film in which Denzel Washington won a Best Actor Award) and another crazy Korean comedy called 200 Pound Baby. Or an American comedy like City Slickers. Or maybe the epics Ben-Hur or Braveheart, or the recent Social Network, or the piercing drama of Ordinary People (Best Picture directed by Robert Redford!!) or the courtroom drama of 12 Angry Men.  

  Gee, then there are the Godfather movies. Actually depending on the day I would probably juggle the list but for the sake of this edition of my blog I had to put something together.

Or maybe I should just throw onto the list all of the Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford films I can think of. Perhaps I need to pray and fast to come up with my next Top Ten list! Stay tuned. In the meantime, I challenge you and your friends to name their top ten films and then have a party and over a meal fight over who is right!