Thought to be the granddaddy of all movies. Whiz kid Orson Welles stormed Hollywood with this movie based on the life of William Rudolph Hearst, the media tycoon. While most biographies still stop at the rise of their main character, Orson portrayed Kane as a vulnerable, fallible person, taking more interest in his fall on the eve of becoming President. The movie is famous for the use of the deep focus technique (ex:the shot of Kane playing with Rosebud) and astounding make up helping Orson age Kane from 20-something to his death in old age. Perhaps, what is less known is that many shots were stitched together into a single frame to save cost. Flopped critically and at the box office upon release. Rediscovered almost 10 years later. Orson was, however, eternally condemned by the studios and till his death remained an ‘outsider’.
2.The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
What began as a spaghetti western series with ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, ended in a big bang with GBU. Clint Eastwood, a failed B-movie actor, became superstar and Sergio Leone and composer Ennio Morricone became household names. Clint is all charm, pitching his voice like a whisper and chewing on a cigar. I don’t remember another scene that thrilled me as when watching Clint move the cigar from one corner of the mouth to the other to Morricone’s score. The out-of-the-plot civil war sequence was a turn off, but the wild climax – all belts, eyes, hands and pistols – made up for it. Morricone’s finest hour as Leone stretches the suspense and tests himself and us to the limits.
The movie begins with a favourite opening shot. A slow pullback from the baker’s face to Marlon Brando’s back. One of best opening lines is in this movie as well: ‘I believe in America’. When I first saw the movie, I was appalled it was all dialogue and no stunts. I wanted the damn sissies to throw a punch or two. Only as an adult did I realize how evil the characters were. Though ‘I will make him an offer he can’t refuse’ line became the most famous, dialogues throughout are exceptionally well written. A young Cappola, just out of film school, came out with all guns blazing. So endlessly copied and parodied, the movie is a permanent fixture on all best movie lists. But if you are a feminist, better not watch.
How do you write dialogue in which every third word is fuck. Quentin Tarantino made the definitive movie of the 90s in which everything from sound track to performance to the dialogue with the steam of abuses is awesome. He even rewrote a psalm from the bible to make it ‘hardhitting’. Made Tarantino the darling of discerning movie watcher worldwide. To me it showed how wildly interesting even movies that get at serious things could be. Tarantino seems to have lost footing since.
5.2001: A Space Odyssey
Kubrick and abstract filmmaking at their best. No dialogues for the first half hour. No recognisable stars. A story nobody understood. Shot mostly in Britain using techniques especially created for the movie. A score composed entirely of classical western music pieces. You really got to give it to Kubrick for making this movie. For days after watching, I couldn’t forget the scene in which Hal shuts the bay door leaving Dr Poole gasping for breath outside the spaceship. Amazing use of sound effects. Kubrick was to win his only Oscar for the movie’s astounding special effects.
Hollywood’s funniest movie, if you ask me. Made Woody Allen, with his crackling dialogues, the world’s reining neurotic. Diane Keaton, Woody’s muse for years, is equally good. Simon Garfunkel joins the party in a cameo role. Made love romantic for me. Exhilarating watch when you see it for the first time because of the way the movie is structured – narrative all seemingly jumbled. But as you keep watching layer after layer of meaning hits you.
Pretty much the movie that made the term ‘film noir’ popular. You really got to watch Humprey Bogart in this movie and The Big Sleep. Terrific actor. Bogard was Sam Spade in this film, Dashiel Hammett’s most famous creation. Mary Astor is the femme fatale. Takes Sunset Blvd’s rightful place in the list because of Bogart.
8.Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
It’s hard to leave Lucas out of any list. I almost like THX 1138 better but Star Wars movies are more addictive. I really wished Lucas could write a little better though by the time Revenge of the Sith came out, he was OK. Began the sci-fi/fantasy craze that has become Hollywood’s main attraction today.
When I first saw it I didn’t have the faintest clue what it was about. I saw it a couple of years after release, then I began to realise what Spielberg had achieved. I love the movie’s music. And Ralph Fiennes. What a role! I just could not swallow the scene in which he stands on that balcony and keeps shooting people dead. Words like Genocide and Holocaust took on a new meaning after that.
10.Terminator 2: Judgement Day
All I remembered of the first part was the scene in which the human sent from decades ahead makes love to Sarah Connor. And Arnie. But then Judgement Day arrived. Apart from the breathtaking special effects and the time paradox, you really got to see the two chases that define the movie. Arnie loading that double barrel as he chases John Connor on his bike and the final chase between trailer trucks.
Hasta la vista, baby!