Lists by jzappa
The 1990s were a unique time in Hollywood when superhero films were not beholden to franchise motives and pre-determined fanbases. They were allowed to be obscure, original, even R-rated. Gothic style, practical effects and elaborate production design were the zeitgeist for the genre.
In any era, whatever its significance, there are good movies and bad movies. Some are great. These are what I feel, after careful deliberation, the ones that I consider great between 2001 - 2011. Movies came out during this period which I enjoy more than several of the selections below, but there are also choices here that are indeed pure entertainment. Entertainment and great art are not by the slightest means mutually exclusive to me.
Herzog doesn't count because for him there is no boundary separating features and docs as mediums, and makes both frequently. This list is about directors who made docs as exceptions to their bodies of work, which are all heavily dominated by features.
Movies that draw extended families in taste and genre, including parents, grandparents, young children and teenagers.
Basically a distillation of films which I think fall into this category. Big-budget Hollywood movies and star vehicles that nevertheless draw from the styles and tropes of old-fashioned film noir and classic neo-noir.
This does not include movies falling under the category of burglary, hold-ups, safecracking and things of the like. This is strictly a list of films about confidence graft or scams.
Also to be noted: This is not a best-of list. There are great, good and bad selections here, but if you're a fan of movies about grifters and swindles, you may feel compelled to check them out for yourself regardless of my opinion.
This does not include movies about confidence graft or scams. This is strictly a list of films falling under the category of burglary, hold-ups, safecracking and things of the like.
Also to be noted: This is not a best-of list. There are great, good and bad selections here, but if you're a fan of the genre, you may feel compelled to check them out for yourself regardless of my opinion.
Now, critics hardly seem to give a whole lot of thought in their notices to the potential influence they could have in the defense of films and arguing in support of movies that take chances. It's hard to feel encouraged to go to the movies by the constant lukewarmth and lack of true film literacy in the digital age's general output of movie critics on the radio or in web magazines. It used to be critics would be the driving force behind the success of movies whether Hays and Breen or the Catholic Legion of Decency liked it or not.
Don't take my embittered blurbs personally. You know how it is when something you love goes unappreciated by others. It doesn't make me right, but hopefully some of you agree with me more than not.
European-born filmmakers who work or have worked largely or entirely in Europe.
The beloved and inherently rich plot device where a character finds oneself in a scenario, environment, culture or time period completely alien to them. It makes for great humor, suspense, social commentary and combinations of those.
What I just realized about this list is that most of the selections are popular, whether box office hits or cult hits, most of which followed by less popular sequels that lost the key fish-out-of-water element. The exceptions are Back to the Future---which cleverly kept that novelty fresh throughout the whole trilogy, unlike the Beverly Hills Cop or Austin Powers sequels---and the Alien films, which are uniquely the inverse: Only the sequels were fish-out-of-water films, while the first film was actually a direct reversal of the convention.
Isn't it always intriguing when a movie separates its plot strands into isolated portions of itself? A plot is abandoned midway through in favor of another, or completely separate plots are held together by merely a thin sequence of events. It often creates a huge tonal or even entire genre shift that makes the movie a real rollercoaster. Unfortunately, for conventional marketing purposes, often necessary, the turning points in these films are either spoiled before we see them or concealed, which either makes for an unsuccessful turnout on account of not giving audiences what they've expected or keeping people away by advertising the film as much more dull than it actually is. Adult cartoons are hugely successful for the inherent potential for both absurdism and bullet-paced attention span of this device.
Whether applied to a work of cinematic art or mindless entertainment, this is a particularly interesting genre convention where a central character assumes a false identity to gain spy, steal or hide. Then, gradually, they begin to defect, growing a kinship his/her new identity: These new allies prove loyal and the protagonist is awakened to the contrast of values between both worlds. They usually even fall in love with another character whom they're directly depended upon to be taking for a ride. This echoes in many guises and excludes no genre, it seems.
Either the main character in a botched situation somehow inadvertently saves the day, or he/she didn't do it at all but still are all of a sudden charged with hero duties.
The tendency for some action movies to take place at or around Christmastime.
Generally referred to as Hollywood’s Golden Age, the studio system was THE channel of film production and distribution in the US from the early 1920s through the ‘50s, huge studios producing movies mainly on their own lots with creative staff under usually long-term contract. Here were some of the greatest among them. In our liberated age of Julie Taymors, Kathryn Bigelows and Jane Campions, as well as our Spike Lees and Shyamalans, one may take note that these are all white men, a sign of the times. Nevertheless, they were all talented forerunners and laid the groundwork for the conventions, technique and storytelling standards we expect today.
Let me stress that in almost all cases, there was no breaking even or modest success but rather a loss of millions. Many of these movies, now seen by film fans as favorites and seminal milestones, were in fact commercial disasters.
A term coined by ME to describe a certain element of gangland culture, the interpretation of the gangster or crime genre in the UK or an overall sense of grunge in British cinema.
A term coined by Film Comment in 2005. Ebert popularized the term. More official, modern examples may have stylistic flourishes in common like captions working as cross-reference and split-screen---in an age influenced by the internet and thus a culture of multitasking---monkeying around with time and characters’ back stories, plot twists, interlaced and mingling plot strands between numerous characters and jumping between beginning and end also tend to be essentials. But at its core, hyperlink cinema is where characters or action in a movie occupy unconnected independent stories, but a link or stimulus between those unrelated plot lines is gradually revealed to us. Robert Altman arguably established the configuration for the genre and, while he intended the overall structural elements for a more atmospheric purpose, showed its value and wit for merging intermingling plots in his films.
Because noir’s essential building blocks are as hazy in their definitions as when it comes down to it, the term can be connected to other movies that likewise integrate such patterns. Noir has become so fluid and nebulous as a genre, any film with a detective or crime seems to meet at least someone’s criteria. It’s owing to this genre’s ambivalence that noir is still twisted and construed so impressionably today. And that is what makes it such a truthful school of filmmaking: It’s infectious and elusive in a way that’s more of a sense than a genre.
Tech-noir merges the film noir and science fiction or cyberpunk genres. Technically (no pun intended) it’s a manner of neo-noir focusing more on science fiction subject matter.
While there have been hardly any major recent films in the classic “film noir” genre since the early 1960s, even so it’s had substantial effect on other genres. These films more often than not include both thematic and visual rudiments suggestive of film noir. Newer, more present-tense ideas and threads involved in neo-noir films comprise identity-related predicaments, problems of memory and subjectivity, and most significantly, technological harms and their social consequences.
Film noir is a cinematic term, both word and period, mainly referring to trendy Hollywood crime dramas that underline cynical outlooks and sexual motives. Hollywood’s characteristic noir era is by and large considered as reaching from the early 1940s to the late ‘50s, and is combined with a minimalist black-and-white visual approach that has ancestry in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the exemplary plots, characters and much of the mindset come from the hard-edged movement of crime fiction that came out in the Depression-era U.S. Initially coined, supposedly, to Hollywood films in 1946, the expression “film noir” was unfamiliar to the U.S. studio-era film industry. The noir standard was characterized with the benefit of hindsight. Before the concept was commonly embraced some 30 years after, countless classic noirs were thought of just as melodramas. The issue of whether film noir makes the grade as a clear-cut genre is material of unending deliberation. Noir covers a variety of plots. The central figure may be a private detective, a plainclothes cop, a weather-beaten boxer, an ill-fated grifter, an honest citizen enticed into a life of crime or just a fall guy.
The prospects provided by the thriving Hollywood film industry and, shortly, the menace of rising Nazi power led to the mass departure of tons of significant film artists working in Germany who had either been major participants in the Expressionist movement or schooled with its initiators. Popular movies of the Little Caesar, Public Enemy and Scarface sort showed that there was an audience for crime dramas with morally depraved leading men. A significant, and maybe inspiring, cinematic precursor to classic noir was 1930s French poetic realism, with its dreamy, fatalistic approach and salute to condemned protagonists. That movement’s emotional response is reflected in the Warner Bros. drama I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, a crucial ancestor of noir.
A French movement of the 1980s, these directors were held to strongly, almost unilaterally prefer style over substance, spectacle over character. It meant films that had a glossy visual style and often a concentration on young, alienated characters that were apparently supposed to stand for marginalized youth. Social cliques instead of families, a contemptuous view of the police, alternative underground societies, etc. They were inspired by the last New Hollywood films (the tapering-off point in the early 1980s), late Fassbinder films, TV commercials, music videos and fashion photography.
A boiled-down fashion of punk guerrilla filmmaking that lays emphasis on tone and feel above everything else, this short-lived movement had a hefty effect on underground film, generating a new age bracket of indie feature filmmaking.
This is a list of seminal films made throughout the roughly less than twenty-year span when a new generation of young filmmakers came to prominence in America, influencing the types of films produced, their production and marketing, and impacted the way major studios approached filmmaking.
The films they made were part of the studio system, and these individuals were not independent filmmakers, but like the car manufacturers, shop owners and restaurants before the days of unfettered conglomerates and trickle-down plutocrats, they cared about their product, took risks to give you something special, and prided themselves on it.
Yes, this was a time of excess. Most of the directors, producers and actors featuring prominently on this list were heavily into hard drugs, promiscuity and lost in an epic mirage of their own egos. But it was born out of being the first and last batch of filmmakers in this country to truly experience an actually exciting, invigorating and rewarding time in serious movie-making. You’ll notice these films, whether you like or dislike most of them, are rooted in human reality, natural relationships, dialogue, wit and the cadences of experiential cinema. This was a time before special effects replaced substance, before movie studios were just giant corporations forging a culture of detached cost-cutting. Movies weren’t just products. They were art. They were experiences. I’ll stop ranting. Just check out the roll call and it‘ll speak for itself.
This is a selection of films that achieve what is arguably the most difficult to do in movies, at least in American culture. That is, blend the humorous with the harrowing. It's not necessarily a matter of black comedy or satire, though both appear on the list, as well as a non-American film or two. It's simply a matter of making light of horrible circumstances, and horrible circumstances coming out of light-hearted hilarity. Like life more than anything else.