980. Z (1969) Dir. Costa-Gavras, 127 mins.
One of the most highly praised political films of the post-war era, Costa-Gavros’s thriller presents a thinly fictionalised account of the events surrounding the assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963. It’s fast paced action cinema and a satirical attack on Greece’s military junta who ruled the country from 1967 to 1974.
979. Raising Arizona (1987) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 94 mins.
Nicholas Cage is a store robber who decides to go straight if Holly Hunter’s police officer will marry him. Their new life together hits problems when they find they can’t have children and trying to break out of their ensuing depression, they decide to snatch one of a furniture store owners recently born quintuplets. There’s some fantastic and inventive madcap humour and it’s not hard to feel sympathy for the hapless kidnappers.
978. Gallipoli (1981) Dir. Peter Weir, 110 mins.
Weir’s first world war drama follows two young men from rural Western Australia who enlist in the army and are sent to the peninsula of Gallipoli. Whilst there are historical inaccuracies the film is a devastating anti-war piece and a moving tribute to those Anzac soldiers who found themselves fighting the futile Battle of the Nek.
977. Far From Heaven (2002) Dir. Todd Haynes, 107 mins.
Julianne Moore plays the seemingly perfect 50s housewife who’s life begins to fall apart in Haynes homage to the films of Douglas Sirk. Shot and designed to re-create the atmosphere of a 1950s melodrama the film is filled with intelligent writing and some heart breaking performances.
976. The Long Riders (1980) Dir. Walter Hill, 99 mins.
Made particularly notable for the casting of four sets of real life brothers, Hill’s western is a visually authentic and yet mythic retelling of the legends surrounding the James-Younger gang.
975. Black Swan (2010) Dir. Darren Aronofsky, 103 mins.
Psychological horror film that revolves around a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake by a prestigious New York City ballet company. Natalie Portman plays the ballerina who is consumed by a love of dance but loses her grip on reality when she faces competition for the main part from a new arrival. Overly melodramatic but gripping none the less, Black Swan is a technical marvel and has some wonderful performances.
974. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) Dir. Tony Richardson, 104 mins.
Based on a short story by Alan Silitoe (who also wrote the screenplay), the film stars Tom Courtenay as an ‘angry young man’ sentenced to borstal for burgling a bakery. He manages to gain privileges in the institution through his prowess as a long-distance runner. A British New Wave classic with a provocative stance on consumerism and the English class system.
973. Where the Wild Things Are (2009) Dir. Spike Jonze, 101 mins.
Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book centres on a lonely eight-year-old boy named Max who sails away to an island inhabited by creatures known as the “Wild Things,” who declare Max their king. It may be too dark for some, but Where the Wild Things Are is a gorgeous vision of childhood imagination.
972. Shutter Island (2010) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 138 mins.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels who is investigating a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island after one of the patients goes missing. This psychological thriller doesn’t rank with Scorsese’s best work but it’s still cleverly constructed and boasts some great performances.
971. Sleeper (1973) Dir. Woody Allen, 138 mins.
The plot involves the adventures of the owner of a health food store who is cryogenically frozen in 1973 and defrosted 200 years later in an ineptly led police state. A madcap sci-fi parody made as a tribute to comedians Groucho Marx and Bob Hope.
970. Donnie Brasco (1997) Dir. Mike Newell, 127 mins.
Johnny Depp stars in the true story of an FBI undercover agent who infiltrated the Mafia Bonanno crime family in New York City during the 1970s, under the alias Donnie Brasco. A tense and compelling character study by Mike Newell that’s bolstered by a strong performance by Al Pacino as the ageing hitman that Brasco befriends.
969. Early Spring (1956) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 144 mins.
Ryo Ikebe plays the married businessman who escapes the monotony of married life and his work at a fire brick manufacturing company by beginning an affair with a fellow office worker. Ozu’s family drama manages to steer away from being a depressive tale of marital discord and is ultimately a hopeful film filled with humour and sensitivity.
968. Videodrome (1983) Dir. David Cronenberg, 89 mins.
Cronenberg’s sci-fi horror follows the CEO of a small UHF television station who stumbles upon a broadcast signal featuring extreme violence and torture. An audacious piece of film making that starts cleverly before veering off into grotesque imagery and narrative confusion.
967. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 104 mins.
The film is set in Hollywood during the late 1940s, where animated characters and people co-exist. Bob Hoskins plays a private detective who must exonerate “Toon” Roger Rabbit, who is accused of murdering a wealthy businessman. Groundbreaking for its mix of live action and animation the film is also very funny and surprisingly touching.
966. Bandit Queen (1994) Dir. Shekhar Kapur, 119 mins.
With its release delayed by Indian censors for sex and violence Kapur’s tale of epic revenge was always going to be controversial. Seema Biswas is the infamous Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi, in a visceral powerful film that broke through to western mainstream cinema.
965. Vagabond (1985) Dir. Agnes Varda, 105 mins.
Sandrine Bonnaire stars as a young vagabond who wanders through French wine country one winter. A stark and strikingly beautiful film that becomes tragically haunting.
964. Jerry Maguire (1996) Dir. Cameron Crowe, 139 mins.
Tom Cruise stars as the title character who has a life-altering epiphany about his role as a sports agent and then writes a mission statement about dishonesty in sports management and how he’d like the industry to work. The then relatively unknown Renee Zellweger is the fascinating romantic interest but it’s Cuba Gooding Jr. who steals the show as a brash American football player.
963. The Cotton Club (1984) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 127 mins.
It’s perhaps most notable as one of a number of 80s big budget films made by leading white directors that incorporated black themes and images into mainstream cinema. Even if the tale of Gregory Hines dancer is no more than a backdrop to the story of Richard Gere’s cornet player, and his troubles with gangster Dwight Schultz (James Remar), it shows how far things had moved on. The film was another troubled production for Coppola and unlike Apocalypse Now he couldn’t quite pull the rabbit out of the hat.
962. The Mission (1986) Dir. Roland Joffe, 126 mins.
It remains notable for its stunning Ennio Morricone soundtrack but also as one of the big budget films that’s failure at the box-office brought about the effective end of production company Goldcrest and the mini-renaissance of the British film industry. Set in 18th century South America, Robert De Niro stars as the slave trader who kills his own brother and goes looking for redemption with Jesuit missionaries. Joffe struggles to find the sort of haunting, moving and dramatic power of his previous film, The Killing Fields.
961. Faces (1968) Dir. John Cassavetes, 130 mins.
Having vowed never to direct another studio film Cassavetes returned to independent cinema to tell the story of a dissolving marriage and the lovers to whom the couple turn to for solace. With the director at his most ambitious, Faces was shot on a small budget in black and white on 16 mm and, due to his painstaking methods, took a staggering 4 years to edit. Despite being entirely scripted, unlike his earlier improvised Shadows, the film is known for its powerful expressive acting and realistic dialogue.