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If you watch films on disc like me, look for the Criterion Collection, Cohen Media, Kino, Cinema Guild, and Mongrel Media.
Arrow Video, Blue Underground, and Scream/Shout Factory are great for horror & cult films.
Kino-Lorber/KL Studio Classics, Olive Films, and Twilight Time are some of the best companies issuing HOLLYWOOD studio classics.
Twitter : @un_samourai
I've watched a good deal of the most acclaimed films of all time, and seen pictures from most all of the celebrated directors. For me, these are the very best. It would be a much duller world if there were a calculable equation for the worth of a film. Don't let anyone tell you their opinion on art/entertainment is not subjective.
At the end of a brief note, is my rating with a decimal point to be more accurate. It helped me try to rank the films in order of importance to me. I hope readers will enjoy browsing this list, and even find some films to add to their Watchlist.
I started buying DVDs in 1998, Blu-rays in 2008. I have also been upgrading some of my very favorite films from DVD to Blu-Ray. Will 4K/UHD discs interest me? Not yet...
DVD = digital versatile disc BR = a Blu-ray ( * = upgraded from DVD ) BR&DVD = combo pack OOP= out of print disc KL = Kino Lorber, KL Studio Classics CC = Criterion Collection SPCC = Sony Pictures Choice Collection TT = Twilight Time (limited to 3000 discs)
Disclosure: Horror films are not my specialty. I'm more of an art-house fan. Giallo (like film noir) is a style that I'm drawn to. I like the luridness, the 70's funk/groovy scores, the pretty girls, and the mystery/suspense. The over the top sex and violence sometimes works for me, sometimes not.
The score at the end is my rating out of ten: not a Giallo ten, but a "films just don't get any more perfect than this" ten. It helped me order the list.
The tag 'Film Noir' is a subjective one. The style was only really identified and extensively written about after the classic cycle was already over. No one making a picture then (1940-1960) thought of it as a Noir. They probably thought of these films as "second feature crime thrillers".
Let's face it, we generally categorize to simply help find or avoid certain types of art/entertainment. My point being, Noir is an invented category, so let's not get too pedantic about which films are and are not Noirs. For further reading, I suggest Paul Schrader's wonderful essay from 1971, Notes On Film Noir.
This list contains a few peripheral entries such as Allen documentaries, and "Play It Again Sam", of which Woody wrote the source play, but did not direct.
Bushidô zankoku monogatari (1963)
Criminally underexposed top-notch (anti)samurai film.
What a shame that an excellent film like this is languishing away with not even 200 votes.
I happen to think that the two nations with the richest film cultures are the French, and the Japanese. Both have multiple examples of excellence in every decade, in every genre. I say this to show my admiration for Japanese cinema writ large. I've seen around 250 Japanese pictures, and "Bushido..." is in my top ten.
I'm not going to get into plot points and things like that. I'm simply going to say that this is a knock-out picture, and a hell of an indictment of the injustices of the samurai era. It features an excellent central performance by Kinnosuke Nakamura (playing a number of different characters over many generations of one family's struggles).
I've only seen this film and "Aduachi" aka Revenge, (which is above average for sure, but not as great as "Bushisdo..."), so to me Imai is a director to keep exploring.
Tange Sazen: Hien iaigiri (1966)
The third best Gosha film. Lots of chanbara fun to be had.
I wanted to add my voice as a counter opinion to the couple of reviews here that don't like this film very much. I've seen 7 Gosha films, and this is my third favourite after the superb "Sword of the Beast" and the very good "Three Outlaw Samurai". Secret of the Urn is a great, entertaining samurai film that I think many people who like this type of film would be well pleased to see.
Sure the cliché of the wounded/disadvantaged hero is present, but I found it works perfectly fine. I certainly liked the hero. If we start bitching about film clichés, why don't we mention that aside from Yamada's more realistic recent samurai fare, the cliché of the hero sword master taking on 60 enemy swordsmen at one time and winning, is present in virtually any chanbara films (personally, I love those types of scenes). Do we discard all those films because that is trite and unrealistic?
We all see films through our own subjective filter, and what expectations we have also influence what we may make of a film. I enjoyed this film quite a bit, and think this is a very worthwhile watch for most samurai film fans.
Viva la vie (1984)
Reminded me somewhat of Charlie Kaufman's scripts.
First off, the IMDb rating is criminal. 'Viva La Vie' should be averaging in the highest 7's IMO. On the positive side, going in with such low expectations, I was floored by how cool, and progressive this film is, and it's given me another under-exposed, excellent film to prosthelytize about to fellow film fans.
It's a fascinating film that I'd highly recommend to art house film lovers. I watched this film with a friend who is a fellow cinema fan, who can reasonably often have a different opinion than me on films. He loved it too, and we were both puzzled at the super low average this film has received.
I guess you could say that some people would be a little lost trying to decipher this film, but most should have no problem what so ever. To me, there are Charlie Kaufman qualities to this script. It keeps you guessing what is illusion and what is reality.
The Criterion Collection needs a few Claude Lelouch films, and this one is a prime candidate of a hidden gem. 'Le Voyou' would be a good pick as well. One doesn't want to know much about the plot going in, and Claude Lelouch actually turns up in the film to urge viewers to not spoil it for people who haven't yet seen the film.
Le bon et les méchants (1976)
It's quite underrated IMO, but give it a half hour to get cooking.
I'd seen the crime film, "Le Voyou", and aside from the silly opening dance sequence, loved it, so I wanted to see more Claude Lelouch pictures. I found this on a two DVD set with "Viva La Vie" (which is excellent, it is the best of the 5 Lelouch films I've seen. It's very original).
This film may start out as a fairly standard crime film, and it was feeling more OK than great for the first half hour. Once it opens up though, and gets to the time period of the Nazi occupation of France, it's a dead interesting, very good film. Very good acting by all the main players.
Because of the standard beginning, I wouldn't quite rank it along side Malle's 'Lancombe, Lucien', or "Au Revoir Les Enfants", but I could still see it being included in the Criterion Collection's Eclipse series.
Don't be afraid of this film if you like art films.
It's not that scary or disturbing. From some of the comments here on IMDb I was expecting quite a tough film to sit through. It isn't exactly cheery, but I did crack the occasional smile at Bergman's homage to various Horror films. It is as beautifully lit and framed as Persona, and if you like Liv Ullman, and/or Max Von Sydow, you'll want to see this for their very good performances. It is sometimes "Lynch" like, sometimes "Fellini" like, but not nearly as disturbing as say Mulholland Drive. See it if you're a Bergman fan, or if you like movies with a surreal sense. I bought the DVD on Bergman's reputation (I've seen about 25 of his pictures, and loved, around 20 of them). I was not disappointed in the least.
Not to be missed masterpiece.
David Milch has done such an amazing job with Deadwood in every way. The cast is a who's who of veteran character actors that, led by Ian McShane and Kieth Caradine, are truly superior in expression and delivery. The writing is top notch (Milch may be the best dialog writer going), and weaves the facts of the real history of Deadwood Gulch (one of the last American gold rush towns) with a few imagined characters amongst the many based on actual personages to craft and pace the storytelling properly. Milch has said that the underlying theme of Deadwood is the development of order in a culture where laws do not yet exist (Deadwood is in Indian territory, and hence outside of the U.S. proper). It is set in 1877, two weeks have passed since Custer's defeat, and the new town that sprung up on the back of the gold rush is chockablock with foul mouthed characters of all types, either looking to prospect, or service those who are finding the gold. This is by far the best western I've ever encountered. There is a lot of swearing, and the violence that occurs is fairly disturbing, but in my opinion, are necessary to the authenticity of the show. 10 out of 10
Elvis Meets Nixon (1997)
Very "Watchable"comic jaunt with the King, a surprisingly good time.
First off, don't expect anything super authentic. This is an imagining of what Elvis might have done on his way to meet Nixon.
The actor that plays Elvis doesn't do the best imitation that I've seen by any stretch of the imagination, but he captures the narcissism, and swagger of Presley very well. It's fun to watch him interact with normal people without his handlers around. I liked the scenes that stressed how far removed from the reality of the sixties that Elvis was, being that he hated the hippies, the Viet Nam protesters, and the Beatles (who stole his thunder).
A good laugh is also when you get to see Nixon's enemies list. Definitely give it a go if you see it aired, I've seen it twice, and it really has a charm to it.
The Castle (1997)
Thoroughly charming characters, and superb detail.
The plot is very standard, predictable fare, and frankly, from what I'd heard through word of mouth, I was afraid that this would be a MIRAMAX formula feel good picture like "The Full Monty", or "Little Voice". Well, I'm very glad to be able to say that it isn't. This is the real thing, and it is the character of the family, all their quirks, and the small touches that makes this a great comedy. I have no doubt this will be a film that I'll revisit again and again. How many films do you see that, the next day a number of lines, and bits still playback in your head? If you like films like "This Is Spinal Tap", and the other Christopher Guest films, and like characters from "Fargo", I'd recommend "The Castle". It's a charming little gem.
Andrey Rublev (1966)
A Masterwork of serious art, but requires patience...
Don't bother with this film if you haven't got patience. Don't bother with it if you aren't interested in being challenged by a serious art film. There is nothing fast or light here. Those who are seeking out films that are spiritual, reflective and artistic, you've found one of the absolute best.
One could recommend it simply as a master-class in visual composition. Tarkovsky shares some of the mature Fellini's sensibilities for many different elements of dimension and movement in a medium or long shot. There are often people in the fore, and background. He includes fog, smoke, or drifting snow to add further dimension to the shot. It is very painterly.
It is an interesting approach to a biopic of a painter that barely ever shows him paint. Instead, the encounters he has, the things he sees, and his reactions to these things are what inform us. His work is showcased at the end of the narrative, as a coda to the story. How true to history Rublev's story is, in my opinion isn't important. Tarkovsky has created a protagonist, and events that not only explore the mind of the man well, but also give an overview of what Russia was going through at that time.
I recently watched this film for the second time. While the first viewing left me thinking that the ending segment is the strong pay-off for the patience it takes to watch the unabridged version (the Criterion Collection DVD was my my medium of viewing this film),on second viewing, I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. I would also recommend the partial commentary on the CC DVD in helping inform the viewer about Tarkovsky's approach to making this film.
Rating: first viewing- 8 of 10 second viewing- 10 of 10
Shadows and Fog (1991)
Much better the second time around.
When I saw this at the cinema, I was very disappointed. Woody based it on an old Kafkaesque play he had written in the '60's that I had read in one of his books. I think it was called "Death- A Play". It seemed to be a weak revisiting of material that was so-so in the first place, and I believe Steven Soderberg's film Kafka had been released not too long before, which I felt was a quite good vision of Kafka's writing compared to "Shadows...". Seeing "Shadows..." again (with very low expectations), I was surprised how much I quite enjoyed it. There is a lot of good dialogue, some fine performances, and some great camera shots. I'm not saying it's one of his best films, but in my opinion, it has gone from being a dud to one I can gladly revisit every once in a while.