Alright, let's get this show on the road. I've decided to compile a list of my 20 favorite films of all time and reveal them in groups of four over a couple of weeks. It's not something I'm going to rush to complete because I want to keep my Supporting Actress schedule somewhat reasonable. Before I get some puzzled answers: These are not the films I consider to be the 20 Greatest Films of All-Time or anything like that, but the 20 that I would take with me were I stranded on a desert island. Yes, that's a giant cliche, but it works in this instance.
#20. Into the Wild (2007; Sean Penn)
On paper, Into the Wild is not the type of film that I usually gravitate towards. It's a movie about a college graduate who decides instead of getting a job he is going to hike around the country living essentially as a homeless person. I expected it to be dull and filled with a whole lot of scenes of natural and wilderness, something which I don't really find exciting. Instead, we get an absolutely captivated film that just pulls you in and never lets go. Emile Hirsch gives a tour de force lead performance that easily should have taken home the Oscar that year, especially when Daniel Day-Lewis' usual overacting somehow impressed the Academy...again. Sean Penn's film is clearly deeply personal, and it's clear in every shot.
This is another case of a genre I usually don't find all that appealing (the crime film) coming out of nowhere and absolutely blowing me away. Films rarely come as complex and multifaceted as L.A. Confidential. It thrives because Hanson puts almost more emphasis on the characters as he does the action and mystery in the story. Working with a talent cast headlined by a volatile Russell Crowe and a tightly wound Guy Pearce, each actor gives off a distinct erotic edge to their character that it's a shame only Kim Basinger managed an Oscar nod--and win. It's a dark and twisted crime noir for the ages, and among the best the genre has to offer.
#18. Chicago (2002; Rob Marshall)The most fun Best Picture winner in the last 20 or so years (only Forrest Gump comes even close in terms of light-hearted entertainment), Chicago is such an incredibly dazzling and joyous experience each and every time I watch it. It's got showstopping musical numbers (Highlights: I Can't Do It Alone and Cell Block Tango), some deliciously fun performances, and may just in fact be the most recent Best Picture winner that closest mirrors our present society, one where fame is achieved even if one has no discernible talent or is in fact just a terrible person. Rob Marshall just covers that message in so much razzle-dazzle you barely even notice it.
#17. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003; Quentin Tarantino)
Tarantino is well known to be a director who focuses on genres of film that most serious auteurs avoid like the plague, and manages to do wonders with them. Kill Bill Vol. 1 is far and away his most purely joyful film to date, one that highlights his own personal cinematic interests and brings back genres that had long been deemed inferior or silly. As usual the dialogue is typical Tarantino, filled with pop culture references and idiosyncrasies that film geeks go crazy for. Uma Thurman should have been nominated for Best Actress, especially considering the generally weak field that category had in 2003. This is not the last Tarantino film to make an appearance on my Top 20, but there is no doubt that it's the most compulsively watchable.
Next Four: Best Picture Winner, Another Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Pixar