880. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 103 mins.
The film tells the story of a young witch, Kiki, who moves to a new town and uses her flying ability to earn a living delivering for a bakery. A charming, warm coming of age tale that’s beautifully animated.
879. Synecdoche, New York (2008) Dir. Charlie Kaufman, 124 mins.
The plot follows an ailing theatre director (Philip Seymour Hoffman), working on an increasingly elaborate stage production, whose extreme commitment to realism begins to blur the boundaries between fiction and reality. Writer/director Kaufman’s film was lauded for it’s ambition and it does have some brilliant parts but many will it find it uneven and baffling.
878. The Bad Sleep Well (1960) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 151 mins.
Another entry in the legendary collaboration between Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, the film follows a young man who gets a prominent position in a corrupt postwar Japanese company in order to expose the men responsible for his father’s suicide. Influenced by the Hollywood crime dramas of the 1940’s and Shakespeare, The Bad Sleep Well is a competent thriller and while it doesn’t quite match Kurosawa’s best work, it’s visually striking and Mifune is compelling as the office worker looking for revenge.
877. Shadows (1959) Dir. John Cassavetes, 87 mins.
Based on improvisations which originated in his actor’s workshop, Cassavetes’s low budget ($40,000), independently produced film is notable for its intense realism and sensitive handling of racial issues. It depicts two weeks in the lives of three African-American siblings on the margins of society, two brothers who are struggling jazz musicians and their sister who dates several men.
876. Wake in Fright (1971) Dir. Ted Kotcheff, 114 mins.
Wake in Fright offers a cutting critique of Australian masculinity through a story of a young schoolteacher from Sydney who descends into personal moral degradation while trapped in a menacing outback town. Seen as a pivotal entry in the Australian New Wave, the film is brilliantly directed by Kotcheff.
875. Eyes Without a Face (1960) Dir. Georges Franju, 88 mins.
Franju’s influential chiller, an adaptation of Jean Redon’s novel, follows a brilliant but crazed surgeon who resorts to horrifying measures to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured face. Was met with disgust by some critics when first released but is now lauded for its visual poetry.
874. Letters From a Dead Man (1986) Dir. Konstantin Lopushansky, 87 mins.
The film takes place in a Soviet village which is devastated by a nuclear meltdown. A professor (Rolan Bykov), a Nobel Prize laureate in Physics, is trying to survive in the basement of the former museum of history with a small group of children and adults. The professor begins composing letters to his son, Eric, who had disappeared shortly after the disaster. Clearly influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky (Lopushansky worked on Stalker) Letters From a Dead Man is an eloquent, powerful and strangely beautiful film.
873. Edward Scissorhands (1990) Dir. Tim Burton, 105 mins.
Burton’s modern fairy tale stars Johnny Depp (in their first collaboration) as an artificial young man named Edward who is built, but unfinished, by an eccentric inventor (Vincent Price). When his maker dies, Edward is left with scissor blades instead of hands. He is taken in by a suburban family and falls in love with their teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Delightfully charming cinema that is also a visual treat.
872. Brooklyn (2015) Dir. John Crowley, 111 mins.
Set in the early 1950s, the film tells the story of a young Irish woman’s immigration to Brooklyn, where she falls in love, but her past catches up with her, leaving a choice between the two countries. An old fashioned, sensitive period drama bolstered by an excellent lead performance by Saoirse Ronan. Brooklyn was ranked 48th on BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.
871. Glory (1989) Dir. Edward Zwick, 122 mins.
The film is set during the American Civil War and follows one of the first military units of the Union Army (the 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry) to consist entirely of African-American men except for its officers. Told from the point of view of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, its white commanding officer, Glory is a visceral, emotive war film and a fitting long overdue tribute to its black heroes.
870. Roman Holiday (1953) Dir. William Wyler, 118 mins.
A romantic comedy that stars Audrey Hepburn as a sheltered royal princess, of an unspecified country, who falls for an American news reporter (Gregory Peck) in Rome. A funny and lovely fairy tale immaculately directed by William Wyler.
869. Suspiria (1977) Dir. Dario Argento, 98 mins.
Full of the stylistic delirious excess that made Argento a cult director, Suspiria follows a young American ballet student who transfers to a prestigious dance academy in Germany and, amidst a series of murders, finds herself battling a witches coven. As well as being recognised as influential in the horror genre, The Village Voice ranked Suspiria #100 on their list of the 100 greatest films made in the 20th century. It was also ranked #312 on Empire magazine’s 500 greatest films ever as well as number 45 on their list ‘The 100 Best Films of World Cinema’.
868. United 93 (2006) Dir. Paul Greengrass, 111 mins.
The film chronicles events aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked during the September 11 attacks of 2001. Treating the subject matter with real respect and apparently made with the cooperation of all of the passengers’ families, Greengrass’s film is obviously not an enjoyable watch but is well crafted, powerful and sobering.
867. The End of Summer (1961) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 103 mins.
Manbei Kohayagawa (Ganjiro Nakamura) is the head of a small sake brewery company that is in difficulties. As the family patriarch he also has to deal with daughter problems, one, a widow, needs help in finding a new mate and the other needs help making the right choice in a future spouse. Whilst some have dismissed The End of Summer as boring, others admire the beautiful cinematography and witty script.
866. On the Silver Globe (1989) Dir. Andrzej Zulawski, 166 mins.
Falling somewhere between Tarkovsky and Jodorowsky, Zulawski’s weird and visually extravagant sci-fi deals with a group of space researchers who leave the Earth to find freedom but their spaceship crash lands on an Earth like planet. Only one crew member survives into old age and becomes both hated and revered as a sort of demi-God by the new society he and his fellow travellers had created. The film had a hugely troubled production history and was shut down by Poland’s vice-minister of cultural affairs when only 80% complete. Fortunately the film studio and members of the cast and crew preserved the existing reels and the film was eventually released after the end of communist rule. It consists of the preserved footage plus a commentary to fill in the narrative gaps.
865. After Hours (1985) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 97 mins.
After a string of box office disappointments in the early 1980s and Paramounts’s abandonment of The Last Temptation of Christ production, Scorsese decided to focus on a small scale project. After Hours follows Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), as he experiences a series of misadventures while making his way home from New York City’s SoHo district during the night. A high energy dark comedy that’s also a visual treat.
864. Love and Death (1975) Dir. Woody Allen, 85 mins.
Filled with Allen’s much loved neurotic humour, Love and Death is a satire on Russian literature following Boris (Woody Allen) and his distant cousin, Sonja (Diane Keaton), who are living in Russia during the Napoleonic Era. After Boris accidentally becomes a war hero and Sonja is left a widow, they get married and engage in mock-serious philosophical debates. Silly, very funny and even poignant at times.
863. This Sporting Life (1963) Dir. Lindsay Anderson, 85 mins.
Adapted by former professional rugby league footballer David Storey from his own novel, Anderson’s raw and brutal ‘kitchen sink’ drama follows a rugby league player, Frank Machin (Richard Harris), in Wakefield, a mining area of Yorkshire, whose romantic life is not as successful as his sporting life.
862. The Straight Story (1999) Dir. David Lynch, 112 mins.
The film is based on the true story of Alvin Straight’s 1994 journey across Iowa and Wisconsin on a lawn mower to visit his estranged brother Lyle, who has suffered a stroke, and hopefully make amends before he dies. The slow pace may well bore younger viewers but The Straight Story is a lyrically profound work that features a perfect performance by Richard Farnsworth.
861. Skyfall (2012) Dir. Sam Mendes, 120 mins.
Full of terrific action sequences and memorable performances, Skyfall centres on Bond (Daniel Craig) investigating an attack on MI6, which turns out to be part of a plot by former MI6 agent Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) to humiliate, discredit and kill M as revenge for her betraying him. Thanks to smart direction from Mendes and more brilliant cinematography from Roger Deakins the film has been lauded as one of the best Bond movies to date.