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I have been studying films and television programs since 1998. Formerly majoring in acting, I ended up majoring in theater and film studies. Throughout my high school and college years, I have written over 40 papers and essays analyzing various films and TV shows, as well as countless reviews, for academic purposes as well as for local school publications.
Anybody can send in nominations; instructions on how to do so can be found at the National Film Registry website (http://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/nominate/). You can vote, as well, but be sure to do so before September 4th.
To be eligible for the Registry, a film must be at least ten years old and must be considered "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." It also must be a film produced or co-produced by an American company (hence the *National* Film Registry).
There are currently 650 great (and not so great) films in the Registry (a complete list can be found at http://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/complete-national-film-registry-listing/), but there are many more that deserve to be included. Many are highly-regarded classics; others are not as praised but are in need of preservation specifically for their historical or cultural significance.
Three of the films I nominated last year were added to the Film Registry: 'The Big Lebowski' (1998), 'Rosemary's Baby' (1968) and 'Ruggles of Red Gap' (1935). The previous year, I had five of my nominees make it into the Registry: 'Forbidden Planet' (1956), 'Gilda' (1946), 'Pulp Fiction' (1994), 'The Quiet Man' (1952) and 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' (1966).
Below, in alphabetical order, are my nominees for the 2015 National Film Registry (which I have already submitted to the Film Board) as well as a brief description of my reasons for choosing each film. (Descriptions not yet added will be so soon.) Hopefully a few of these get into the Registry this year.
[Late "Honorary" Legends] This is a list for deceased showbiz personalities who made their film or television debuts after 1968 but otherwise would have been added to the "Living Legends" list.
R.I.P. Saul Zaentz (1921 – 2014), producer R.I.P. Harold Ramis (1944 – 2014), writer/director/actor R.I.P. David Brenner (1936 – 2014), comedian R.I.P. Bob Hoskins (1942 – 2014), actor R.I.P. Robin Williams (1951 – 2014), actor/comedian R.I.P. James Horner (1953 – 2015), composer/conductor R.I.P. Jerry Weintraub (1937 – 2015), producer R.I.P. Wes Craven (1939 – 2015), writer/director/producer
And now here is the main "Late Legends" list...
To be added to this list, a person must have begun working in films or television in or prior to 1968 (the death of the production code and the birth of the "New Hollywood" era). They also should have a reasonable amount of renown due to A.) their place in the history of film and/or television; B.) their involvement with one or more classic and/or important films and/or TV shows; C.) their prolific body of work; D.) their impact on society and/or pop culture; or E.) all of the above. Oh, and they have to be alive.
Obviously, when a legend listed here dies, he or she will be removed from the list. For a list of persons removed from the "Living Legends" list since its creation on Aug. 14, 2013, go here: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls07631527
To be eligible for the Registry, a film must be at least ten years old and must be considered "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." It also must be an American film or co-produced by an American studio or produce (hence the *National* Film Registry), although this last rule is not written, merely implied.
There are currently 625 great (and not so great) films in the Registry (a complete list can be found at http://www.loc.gov/film/registry_titles.php), but there are many more that deserve to be included. Many are highly-regarded classics; others are not as praised but are in need of preservation specifically for their historical or cultural significance. Below, in alphabetical order, are my nominees for the 2014 National Film Registry (which I have already submitted to the Film Board) as well as a brief description of my reasons for choosing each film. Obviously, not all of these movies will make the list this year (most of them won't), but hopefully a few of them will.
I started compiling the list several days ago, giving careful thought to what I truly felt were the greatest films I've seen. At about the halfway point, however, I thought, "There are tons of these types of lists out there. Does anyone really care what *I* think the greatest films are? The list is going to change frequently anyway." So I was just going to make the list for fun and probably keep it out of public view. Then on Friday, by sheer coincidence, a college pal of mine asked me for my thoughts on AFI's 100 Greatest Films list and whether or not I had my own top 100 movies list. Well, he asked and now all of ye shall receive. You can blame him if you don't like it. ;)
I am quite frankly surprised by some of the films I had to leave off -- particularly Barry Lyndon, The Conformist, The Rules of the Game, Stalker, The Bad and the Beautiful, This Is Spinal Tap, Toy Story 1-3, Rio Bravo, Ninotchka, To Be or Not to Be, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, The King of Comedy, Last Year at Marienbad, Spirited Away, Sullivan's Travels, The Philadelphia Story and Buster Keaton's The General, just to name... well, several. These films are all worthy of any top 100 list, but they just missed out on mine. Please note, however, that this list can and probably will change in the future. When it does, I'll re-post the updated version.
Anyways, here's my current list of the 100 greatest films I've seen so far.
As with the previous lists, what I have here are 100 films which I consider to be essential viewing because they are either, A.) significant to the history of cinema; B.) are necessary for a better appreciation of the art of film; C.) have impacted or influenced our culture; or D.) any combination of the above. As always, the movies are listed in order of initial release date.
These lists are not intended to include *all* of the movies I find essential, nor are they solely for movies I like. There will be some films on these lists I don't particularly care for, but I still believe them to be mandatory viewing. For simplicity's sake, these lists will only include theatrically-released narrative features or serials; there will be no short films or documentaries (though I may do a separate list for those later).
Here are the links to my previous lists: List A: http://www.imdb.com/list/un7plnxygWY/ List B: http://www.imdb.com/list/TUf6VMObavs/ List C: http://www.imdb.com/list/T2wz9imlkRc/ List D: http://www.imdb.com/list/NmFAHpg9Mbw/ List E: http://www.imdb.com/list/6p48vVNyi0o/ List F: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls056112454/
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
A visual treat with a so-so script and an uninteresting protagonist
Tim Burton's extension of the classic Alice in Wonderland story is definitely a feast for the eyes. Script-wise, however, it is a bit of a let-down.
The movie's first act is a humdrum experience for the most part. When we first meet Alice, she is a little girl plagued by "dreams" of falling down a hole into a land filled with various odd creatures. We then fast-forward 17 years later to find she has become a fanciful young woman wanting to break free from her uptight aristocratic society, one that expects her to accept a marriage proposal from a complete dweeb. Instead, she chases a waistcoat-wearing, pocket watch-brandishing white rabbit into the forest and falls down a rabbit hole.
For the the next few minutes, the movie plays out much like the usual Alice in Wonderland story (you know, "Drink Me," "Eat Me," shrink, grow, yada yada yada). It's when she finally arrives in Wonderland (oh, sorry... "Underland") where things take a completely different turn. As it turns out, the Red Queen has taken over "Underland" and has made life itself a living hell for everyone. There is doubt amongst the denizens of "Underland" that this Alice is the right Alice -- you know, the Alice that visited "Underland" as a little girl. This is kind of a big deal because this Alice is apparently the "Underland" version of "The One:" she is prophesied by some mystical scroll as the one who will slay the terrifying Jabberwocky and end the Red Queen's reign of tyranny over "Underland" once and for all.
During the first, oh, 30 minutes or so, I found myself more interested in the CGI (and the 3D) than in the story or the characters. That did change, at least to some extent: I actually started to care about characters like The Mad Hatter, Bayard the bloodhound, and the Cheshire Cat, as well as their roles in the story. But one character I never became attached to was Alice herself. I blame this mostly on Mia Wasikowska; her portrayal as Alice was, well... a bit dull, really. She began to bring a bit more life to the character in the third act, but that's a bit too late: for the rest of the film, she struck me as surprisingly one-dimensional. Considering Alice is the one with whom we're supposed to have the most emotional connection, Wasikowska's predominately one-note performance was severely damaging to the film. It's never a good idea for the protagonist to be the least interesting character in the narrative.
My primary issues with the picture, however, lie with the script. I felt the story was not as engaging as it should have been, or as it strives to be. There were a lot of truly enjoyable moments, buoyed by lovable characters and some creative twists on the original Alice stories. To me, however, it felt as though the script wandered back and forth between inspired madness and uninspired hokeyness; between moments of pure delight and moments of pure blah. Of course, it didn't help there was very little emotional interest between myself and Alice. Then there's the climactic battle, which, even though it looked cool and took place on what looked like a mega-sized chessboard, seemed surprisingly generic and out-of-place in this film.
While the story and script were fairly hit-and-miss, the visual aspect of the film was outstanding (which is to be expected in a Burton movie). The effects were amazing (for the most part), and the designs (like the armor worn by the playing-card soldiers and the aforementioned chessboard battlefield) were a mix of inspired originality and creative adaptations.
Aside from Wasikowska, the actors gave some delightful (if not particularly outstanding) performances. Johnny Depp is suitably zany as The Mad Hatter; he is indeed mad, but not to the extent that it interferes with his judgment (well, usually) or his humanity. Helena Bonham Carter is great as the sadistic Red Queen, depicting her not only as a short-tempered tyrant but as an internally vulnerable woman seeking love and acceptance. Anne Hathaway is fine as the White Queen, making her an elegant eccentric, leading one to believe she, too, has a touch of madness. Then there's Crispin Glover, who is awesome as the Knave of Hearts ... heck, he's Crispin Glover, he's always awesome. The voice actors also do great work, notably Alan Rickman as Absolem the caterpillar and Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat.
Like many of Burton's recent films, his Alice in Wonderland is really a mixed bag for me. It is at some moments (mainly in the beginning) dull and meandering, and at other times delightful and fun. A tighter, more energized script and an actress who can bring vitality to the lead role would have done wonders. Kudos to Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton for attempting to make Alice "feel like a story as opposed to a series of events" (as Burton put it) in an attempt to make it connect emotionally, but they were only halfway successful. Going down that rabbit hole was certainly not a horrible experience... but it could have been better.
An outstanding production is hindered by a weak script.
'Avatar' is not bad, but it is hardly the outstanding film almost everyone seems to be heralding it as. It goes without saying that it has amazing visuals and great effects. It also has wonderful art direction and designs, outstanding music and sound, and a wonderful performance by Zoe Saldana. For the most part, the movie works fairly well, and it has many moments where it becomes a really engaging experience.
Unfortunately, its engaging moments are few and far between. It suffered so much from over-length and slow pacing that, despite the incredible imagery, there were many times I found my mind wandering. Sure, it was all pretty to look at, but nifty effects and scenery only go so far. The script is also heavy-handed in the delivery of its oft-told message and is filled with corny, amateurish dialog. It seems Mr. Cameron was more focused on perfecting the technical aspects of his film than on perfecting the script.
Script weaknesses are hardly the movie's only problems. As I'm sure you have all heard by now, the movie's entire storyline strongly resembles such films as 'Dances with Wolves,' 'FernGully.' and Disney's 'Pocahontas.' As a result, the film is not only unoriginal but predictable beyond belief. I don't think there was a single moment where I didn't know what was going to come next. Anyone thinking that 'Avatar' is some great achievement in storytelling is sadly deluding themselves.
The entire movie is practically recycled goods. That goes for the characters almost as much as for the plot; everything was practically ripped out of those previous movies, but instead of Native Americans or Fairies, we have an alien race known as the Na'vi. Now, having similar characters would not be so bad if it were not for the fact that they had almost the same exact personalities and story function. It seems there was no real effort to make these characters anything more than what they were before. Even the main villain was such a clichéd military baddie that he was laughable, despite veteran actor Stephen Lang's best efforts.
Amazingly, the movie was made in 3-D, but the characters -- the most important element of any story -- are nearly all one dimensional. The sole exception is Neytiri, who, despite clearly filling in the Stands With a Fist/Krysta/Pocahontas role, manages to break through convention thanks to an extraordinary performance by Zoe Saldana. Not that the other performances were bad, but none of them really managed to take their characters beyond their cardboard cut-out status like Saldana did.
Now, despite all of these issues, the movie was not that bad as a whole. I will admit, there were a few times I really found myself absorbed in the action of the story. I would say I really enjoyed myself for about half of the movie, maybe a bit more; there were even times when I felt like cheering. And, yes, I did even start caring for the characters, despite the fact they were heavily clichéd. Like I said, though, the movie could not keep my full attention for an extended period of time. The movie was two hours and forty minutes, and that's about how long it felt.
'Avatar' is nowhere near a great movie. It relies too heavily on convention and even stereotype, and it lags extensively. But there were several moments where I was really engaged with the action. I also want to point out that the performance-capture technology used to change human actors into Na'vi is amazing. Plus, James Horner's music is fantastic, the sound effects are awesome, and, of course, the visuals are really breathtaking. If it weren't for the amazing visual and auditory aspects, though, there wouldn't be a lot there that we haven't seen before.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Some origins are best left untold...
I saw this a while ago, despite my better judgment. I had already figured I wouldn't like it based on reviews and comments from friends. Well, it was much worse than even I anticipated. If you thought they couldn't screw up the X-Men universe any worse after X-Men 3, you were wrong. As disappointing as X3 was, Wolverine will leave you yearning for Brett Ratner. X3 killed the current X-Men film franchise; Wolverine buried it.
To his credit, Hugh Jackman gives it his all and does a pretty good job, as do Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth and Danny Huston as Stryker. Beyond that, there is nothing to recommend this movie. Absolutely nothing happens, the script is terrible (and often just plain stupid), the "action" and stunts are nothing we haven't seen before, a lot of the effects are extremely crappy, and the characters are sorely mistreated. Seriously, now that we know Wolverine's origin, I couldn't give two sh**s about him. There is almost nothing about this movie that worked. It's generic, it's lame, it's complete and utter crap.
After this and X-Men 3, I am really hoping Marvel Studios fights to claim X-Men movie production rights from Fox. Then maybe they can reboot the X-franchise and start making good X-movies again. Taking great comic book characters and throwing them into a s**t storm like this has got to stop. Seriously.
Star Trek (2009)
An amazing adventure, despite a somewhat muddled plot
:::The following review was originally written on May 7th, 2009. It has been modified to fit IMDb guidelines.:::
I spent three years looking forward to this movie. From the moment it was first announced in April 2006 up through today, my anticipation for this movie has steadily increased. Tonight, I finally got to see if the waiting and anticipating was worth it. And holy crap, was it ever.
In simple terms, Star Trek is awesome! I have been a Trek fan for many years and have seen every movie and every episode of every TV show and none of them thrilled me as much as this one. This is one of the best Treks ever, and it's one of the best movies I have ever seen.
Director J.J. Abrams and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have outdone themselves by doing what many believed was impossible. They have not only revitalized the Trek franchise by making a great sci-fi/action saga that appeals to a wider audience, they have done so while capturing the spirit of the original Trek series.
The extent to which the writers alter Trek history might be met with anger by some, but the story is so fun and the characters so lovingly written, I did not see it as a huge issue. In fact, I think it was a smart move: if the movie was set in the old timeline, there would be little suspense or surprise because we already know what happens to the characters. As controversial as it may be, the writers handled it beautifully and without a hint of disrespect.
The recasting of the other iconic characters from the original Trek is perfect, and the performances are top notch. There was as much care in casting as there was in writing the movie. All of the actors do wonderful jobs with their characters, with the standouts being Simon Pegg's Scotty and Karl Urban's McCoy. The supporting cast does great work, as well, particularly Bruce Greenwood, who owns the role of Captain Pike, and Ben Cross, who is a perfect Sarek. Most notably, however, it was great to see Leonard Nimoy return to the role of Spock. Mr. Nimoy did a beautiful job (as always); it was as though he had never stopped playing the role.
The visual effects are possibly the best I have ever seen in any film, certainly in any Trek film. ILM and FX Supervisor Roger Guyett have surpassed all of their prior work. The visuals were nothing short of awe-inspiring, yet, at the same time, they didn't completely rule the movie. Make no mistake, the stars of this movie are the characters, not the effects.
The story unfolds at a nearly break-neck pace. It holds your attention throughout the entire movie, and leaves you wanting more when it's over. It was thrilling, emotional, funny... everything a movie should be, especially a Trek movie.
My only real issue with the movie was the somewhat muddled plot. The story moves along so fast, certain plot elements are lost in the rush, and some lack explanation either because certain lines or scenes were cut or because the writers chose not to elaborate. For example, Nero's motive for destroying Federation planets is pretty weak because the writers chose not to more fully describe his origins. There were a few other very minor things about the movie that didn't work for me, didn't make sense, or at the very least could have used a bit more explanation. How did Starfleet make the connection between the "lightning storm in space" in the neutral zone and the seismic activity on Vulcan, anyway? Why would Nero have to drill a hole into Vulcan when he could just drop red matter onto the planet and detonate it with a torpedo or something? You know, little things like that.
Another disappointment is the lack of screen time given to Winona Ryder, Jennifer Morrison, Clifton Collins, Jr., and especially Eric Bana. All did good work in their roles, I just wish we could have seen more of them. I was also disappointed (though not surprised) that scenes featuring young James Kirk and his brother were deleted from the movie. The boy Jim Kirk drives by was actually supposed to be his brother, but the character's other scene was cut and the movie was re-dubbed so that Kirk's brother became an unrelated boy named "Johnny", making the entire exchange pointless. I'm also still a bit disgruntled that a scene at the Klingon prison camp was deleted, but its omission didn't hurt the final product.
The movie isn't perfect, but it is nonetheless successful both as a mainstream sci-fi adventure and as a Star Trek movie. It's fun, it's exciting, it's funny... seriously, I have trouble believing anyone could not like this movie, including die-hard Trekkies like myself. The characters may be played by different actors and they may be part of a different timeline, but make no mistake, these are very much the same iconic characters seen in the original Star Trek. And they are clearly handled with all the care and respect that is humanly possible.
Star Trek is full of almost non-stop action, but it also has a lot of humor and a lot of heart. Not everything worked, but what did worked brilliantly. I commend Abrams, Orci, Kurtzman, and everyone else who helped make this Trek a truly glorious enterprise. Like The Dark Knight before it, Star Trek lives up to the hype, and it was most definitely worth the three years of waiting and anticipation.
The human adventure is just beginning!