December 29, 2014

Cinema 2014: My Top 10 Classic English Movies

This, and the three posts to follow, might be a futile exercise in comparing movies to create a list. But I'm excited to do this - to summarise my cinema experience of the year. 

This first list is composed of the ten favourite classics in the English language. I have considered close to 75 movies released more than five years ago, that is before 2010, for this exercise. 

Also, I have not considered re-watches. Hence 'Vertigo' and 'Psycho' don't feature in this list. 

So, here they are, in alphabetic order:

  • The Best Years of Our Lives (1946/ USA) by William Wyler: The oldest film in the list. And as relevant as ever. A war epic that does not have a single battle sequence. And emotionally so powerful that it left me teary-eyed more than once. Winner of 7 Oscars.
  • Forrest Gump (1994/ USA) by Robert Zemeckis: I watched it for the first time this year, on IMAX screen. A film that designs itself as life, and in that glorious effort turns into a box of chocolates surprising us at every turn. 
  • The Green Mile (1999/ USA) by Frank Darabont: Another Tom Hanks movie to feature in this list. I had no idea about the fantasy elements in it. So imagine my shock when the film turned magical. Also features one of the most unforgettable characters of all time.
  • Judgement at Nuremberg (1961/ USA) by Stanley Kramer: It has a running time of more than three hours. But you don't want it to end. As it questions moralities of wars and atrocities in a way that goes beyond the Nazi genocides. Also, what a performance by Spencer Tracy.
  • Once (2007/ Ireland) by John Carney: The most modern film in the list. I think it would make into my top 10 even several years from now. The most pleasant surprise. The biggest underdog. One film that most effortlessly makes you smile. And lets that smile stay.
  • Out of Africa (1985/ USA) by Sydney Pollack: This film features in the top 10 favourite movies of all time of a friend whose movie-taste I really admire. So, I watched it urgently. And as soon as it opens you know you are watching some great cinema. The only problem with this film is that once you've watched this, you won't be satisfied with something lesser the next day.
  • The Piano (1993/ New Zealand-Australia) by Jane Campion: The only film in this list that made it to my must-watch-before-you-die recommendation. Need I say more?
  • Sideways (2004/ USA) by Alexander Payne: For the wonderful drama-comedy only Payne can create. For its characters and the dialgoues. And for Paul Giamatti.
  • The Verdict (1982/ USA) by Sidney Lumet: Perhaps my favourite screenplay of this entire list. This is another Lumet film that is nothing less than a directing text-book. Also, it made Paul Newman my favourite American actor of all time, over Robert De Niro.
  • Young Frankenstein (1974/ USA) by Mel Brooks: One of the most absurdly hilarious movies I've seen. I ended up using it in one of the promos I directed for Mumbai Film Festival. And yes, the fact that I watched 'Frankenstein' and 'Bride of Frankenstein' before this really helped. Otherwise you won't get all the jokes.
Other honorable mentions: 
The Seven Year Itch (1955/ USA/ Billy Wilder) for the irresistible Marilyn Monroe, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962/ USA/ Robert Aldrich) for its timeless horror, The Untouchables (1987/ USA/ Brian De Palma) for being a text book in film editing, and What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993/ USA/ Lasse Hallstrom) for proving yet again that it is the characters that make a film unforgettable.

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