10 Best films since 1980
|The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)||4|
|City of God (Cidade de Deus)||3|
|Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck||4|
Initially, this page started with me trying to think of a ’10 best films since 1980′ list, in response to that of my friend Daryl Sparkes, who works in the industry. Then I realised it would be fun to ask all my friends, since I figured that after spending endless hours obsessing, they should be similarly punished. Now I am treating the lists as a reflection of the cultural interests of the individuals and their backgrounds, as well as some kind of guide to great film.
I have discovered from the participants (aka victims) that they found the post-1980 constraint maddening, and have spent entire weekends stuck inside, forgetting coffee, bodily functions and other necessities of life, just trying to refine their lists when they could have been playing golf. Which makes me wonder what will happen when they get a really difficult challenge, like ’10 best films featuring dog-kissing scenes’…
|The list below is the one that started it, and was created after many years of cogitation by Daryl Sparkes, who is a lecturer in film and television at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. He has made a number of films for television, including various historical documentaries and one called ‘Shit of a Job’, an exposé of, well…shit. He only went for English language films, but even with this limitation, I have to admit it is a pretty good list.|
- Withnail and I
- Mad Max 2, dir. George Miller
- The Red Violin
- The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford
- Gods and Monsters, 1998 dir. Bill Condon [IMDB]
- Rushmore (“Life Aquatic” at a pinch could replace)
- This is Spinal Tap, 1984 dir. Rob Reiner [IMDB]
- Breakfast Club
- Blue Velvet, dir. David Lynch
- Blade Runner (equal with Evil Dead – so that’s 11)
This has ‘Withnail and I’ [IMDB] at the top, which I must admit was a close contender for me as well. And I did watch again it the other night – it is a linguistic near-masterpiece of the English language. Gods and Monsters – faultless drama and characterisation (when is Brendan Fraser going to get another decent role to show his stuff?); This is Spinal Tap had me in the aisle when it first came out since I just happen to be familiar with all the drowning-in-vomit legends of rock and roll.
Here is my list (slightly in revenge for the English-language constraint):
- Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Wo hu cang long), 2000, dir. Ang lee [IMDB]
- Burnt by the Sun (Utomlyonnye Solntsem), 1994, dir. Nikita Mikhalkov [IMDB]
- The Downfall (Der Untergang), 2005, dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel [IMDB]
- Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue), 1988, dir. Luc Besson [IMDB]
- Ridicule, 1996, dir. Patrice Leconte [IMDB]
- Dead Heart, 1996, dir. Nick Parsons [IMDB]
- Le Diner de Cons, 1998, dir. Francis Veber [IMDB]
- Excalibur, 1981, dir. John Boorman [IMDB]
- The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen), 2006, dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck [IMDB]
- Cidade de Deus (City of God), 2002, dir. Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund (co-director) [IMDB]
- Hidden (Caché), 2005, dir. Michael Haneke [IMDB]
- Unforgiven, 1992, dir. Clint Eastwood [IMDB]
- Man facing South-east (El hombre mirando al sudeste), 1986, dir. Eliseo Subiela [IMDB]
- Dekalog, 1989, dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski [IMDB]
I know, more than 10, but I can’t remove any… Films that almost made it: Pulp Fiction, The 5th Element, Spinal Tap, Miller’s Crossing, The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover, Bitter Moon, Une Pura Formalità, The Wind Shakes the Barley. Also, District 9 came out the week after I made my list, and I think I might have put that on as well. I feel another list coming on…. but that can wait…
|Now we get serious. Merilyn Fairskye is a video artist and lecturer in fine arts at Sydney College of the arts, and has made works in all kinds of disciplines, from urban sculpture to painting. But video and photographic images are her real love, and she knows short and long film inside out. I asked the ’10 best since 1980′ question at dinner in Newtown, in October 2009, and she came up with a list that I scrawled on a restaurant table before the waitress took the pen away.|
Her list after some days of consideration is as follows:
- Struggle, 2003, dir. Ruth Mader
- Children of Men, 2006, dir. Alfonso Cuaron [IMDB]
- 2046, 2004, dir. Won Kar Wei
- 71 Fragments, 1991, dir. Michael Haneke
- Hunger, 2008, dir. Steve McQueen
- All About My Mother, 1999, dir. Pedro Almovodar
- The Town is Quiet, 2000, dir. Robert Guediguian
- Samson and Delilah, 2008, dir. Warwick Thornton
- The Circle, 2000, dir. Jafar Panahi
- The Lives of Others, 2006, dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
She said: it was SO hard to leave these films off the list: The Double Life of Veronique,1991 dir.Krzysztof Kieslowski; The Comfort of Strangers, 1990, dir.Paul Schrader; Zentropa, 1991, dir. Lars von Trier; Monsieur Hire, 1989, dir.Patrice Leconte and Crash, 2004, dir. Paul Haggis.
Let’s see what a linguist from Brazil likes from the 1980- period….Solange Vereza is Associate Professora at the Linguistics Department of Universidade Federal Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro. Her main work is in the area of metaphor (the branch of linguistics largely founded by Lakoff & Johnson with ‘Metaphors we live by’). This means that when you meet her, you must be careful of what you say! She doesn’t work in film, but I think she and her husband, Jorge Chami Batista who see absolutely everything that comes to Rio, probably did in another life. I also have to mention that she means a wonderful spaghetti do camarãos (district-9 influenced) and moqueca, putting the quite good moqueca at Iguana bar, Southbank, London into distant 2nd place (it is made by Brazilians I believe!)
- Caché, 2005, dir. Michael Haneke [IMDB]
- Blade runner, dir. Ridley Scott [IMDB]
- District 9, 2009, dir. Neill Blomkamp [IMDB]
- City of God (Cidade de Deus), 2002, dir. Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund (co-director) [IMDB]
- Children of Paradise
- Paradise now
- Carne Trêmula,
- Three Colours: Blue
- Ghost dog (Jim Jarmusch)
- Paris Texas (Wim Wenders)
- High Fidelity
Dogsville reminded me that I would have gone close to putting Festen (a 1998 Dogme film [IMDB]) on my list. Blue remains one of my all time favourites (particularly for the soundtrack), but of course I could not have both it and Dekalog.
|I also managed to convince Jorge to give me his list of 10 best (like me he can’t really count to 10, but then he is from Rio, and 1 hour has about 92 minutes there). By way of background, Jorge is a professional economist – he is associate professor at the Institute of Economics, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.|
- Blade Runner(Ridley Scott)
- Yol (Serif Gören)
- Diva (Jean-Jacques Beineix)
- City of God (Fernando Meirelles)
- Kagemusha (Kurosawa)
- Dreamers (Bertoluchi)
- The Matrix (Andy Wachowski)
- Match Point (Woody Allen)
- Hanna and her Sisters (Woody Allen)
- Das Leben der Anderen (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
- Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood)
- Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood)
- Twelve Monkeys (Terry Gilliam)
- Inglorious bastards (Tarantino)
- Pulp Fiction (Tarantino)
- Central do Brasil (Walter Salles)
The Woody Allen entries made me feel a bit guilty. I remember thinking about Crimes and Misdemeanors, which I think is a masterwork, mainly due to Martin Landau’s tense performance, but also an excellent script.
|While still in Brasil in October this year, I hassled my friend and Colleague in the Ministry, Jussara Macedo Rötzsch for a list. Jussara is not your average Brasilian, she qualifies as something like what we would call a ‘goth’ in anglo culture, and knows all about 80’s anglo alternative music, manga comics and other weird stuff. Plus she lives across from the beach at Barra de Tijuca. Go figure!|
- Kill bill
- der untergang
- Good bye lenin
- The lord of the rings (everything, what fotos!)
- The cut
- Fight club
- The Matrix
- Le fabuleux destin d’ameli poulain
The thing I like about this list is that it was put together purely on personal taste and pretty fast after I suggested to Jussara that she needed to waste half her weekend. Probably she did it while sipping a Caipirinha by the pool of her local health club. Interesting points: the Matrix and Fight Club turn up again…and of course, we agree for der Untergang (the Downfall) – a chilling masterpiece of historical reconstruction.
|My dear Bulgarian world travelling friend Stella Boeva was enticed into my little game, and did exactly what I wanted: a first gut reaction list. She is only slightly obsessed by still photography (mainly black and white) as well as all things beautiful (including the poetry of Yehuda Amichai, and a wonderful book I once gave her called ‘Einstein’s Dreams’). Stella currently lives in Burgas, Bulgaria, but knows the entrails and smells of many other cities as well as something about their history and design, having taught on the topic at Harvard.|
- the lives of others
- paradise now
- ali zoua: prince of the streets
- in the mood for love
- last life in the universe
- talk to her
- blade runner
- fight club
|The next target of my little prank was June Kane AM, whom I met on a flight to Rio last year. I was on the way to do training with Ministry of Health people, she was on her way to speak at a conference on child trafficking and exploitation (in which she is a world expert), which made me reflect on my own work in health for a bit. June turned out to be one of those amazing people you only meet a few times in life, an arabic speaker (among other languages), full of amazing life stories (including some stomach churning ones to do with her professional work), and she has a world travelling schedule that puts mine in the shade. She is also a passionate Australian football fan, avid consumer of crime fiction and generally wonderful cultural companion.|
June admits to being a sucker for Hollywood movies, and produced the following list (which are mostly not Hollywood anyway).
- The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)
- To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Winmar (Beeban Kidron, 1995)
- The End of the Affair (Neil Jordan, 1999)
- Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
- Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer, 1998)
- A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006)
- Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, 2006)
- Jean de Florettes + Manon des Sources (Claude Berri, 1986)
- The Band (Eran Kolirin, 2007)
- Whale Rider (Niki Caro, 2002)
Now this is an interesting list. Shawshank is pure Hollywood, but the good side. I seem to remember it came top in the IMDB user ratings. The Stephen King novel (or I think short story from memory) is compelling. I remember The End of the Affair in the cinema as well – I really liked Stephen Rea in this one. Run Lola Run – should be in everyone’s DVD collection! Richard Linklater….damn… I forgot about Before Sunrise / Before Sunset. Ten Canoes and The Band are great as well. And I must get a copy of Whale Rider! The Manon des Sources/Jean de Florette pair reminded me of another French film I love – Les Enfants du Marais. Well, this list mania is helping me remember a lot of great films, even if it is making all my friends spend frustrated hours racking their brains over breakfast…
|I realised a while ago that there are other movie people in my extended family, and of course had to annoy them with the usual request. This time it was Brendan McCaul, long time head of Buena Vista International film distribution in Ireland. Yes, he’s seen pretty much everything, and also knows what audiences love, including little kids.|
Brendan’s list (with justifications):
- Pulp Fiction – class
- The usual Suspects – same
- Unforgiven – I like westerns
- The Tin Men – never trust a salesman
- Crocodile Dundee – a breath of fresh air
- Shrek 2 – impossible to better the original, but it did
- Gladiator – ticked all the boxes
- Cinema Paradiso – they don’t make ’em like that anymore
- Monsters Inc. – because my grandchildren love it
- The Commitments – it broke BO Records and won me 2 tickets to Cheltenham [a.e.p.]
This game is great isn’t it?!
|I also asked my brother Michael Beale (married to Brendan’s daughter Oonagh) to produce a list. Michael, like me, doesn’t work in the film, TV or arts, but he does know what wine tastes good, what cars look nice and go seriously fast around corners, and also what films are actually worth watching more than once. You can see from his photo here that he also gets into arguments with all kinds of characters, in this case a giant Australian parrot who has taken charge of the camera shoot.|
This his list, full of ‘big’ films:
- Blade Runner – Surreal
- Gladiator – just epic
- Pulp Fiction – Tarantino’s finest hour
- Unforgiven – One of the best westerns of all time
- Leon – Classic
- LA Confidential (1997 ) – pure class
- Snatch – The script, direction and Best Brad Pitt ever.
- Usual Suspects – What can you say – just watch it again!
- Shawshank Redemption – Probably the true modern classic.
- Dances with Wolves (1990, dir. Kevin Costner) – Epic story and cinematography
I have actually watched every film on this list more than once, and enjoyed them all. Dances with Wolves I would say is another candidate along with Unforgiven for the short list of best westerns (in the most general sense of the term) ever – it is not often a film combines passion for the subject and great cinematography (from Aussie Dean Semler, who I think won an Oscar for this). LA Confidential is probably the slickest modern crime film in my view, no small thanks to the story from James Elroy. More Australians here as well – Russell Crowe strikes here and in Gladiator, Guy Pearce (now that I think of it, I suspect Memento will turn up on someone’s list soon) and Simon Baker (better known to many as ‘The Mentalist’). Michael also gave me his ‘cull list’, which is completely against the rules (did I not mention that? Well, I just made it up), but it is also pretty fun to read (note: he has 2 little girls, both adorable, both under 6… could this have influenced his thinking?!):
- Terminator – relentless and personal
- MadMax2 – Just about right and so copied
- Hostile Hostage – Denis Leary v Judy Davis & Kevin Spacey – oh the pain.
- Platoon – shockingly real
- Fargo – I spent 10 years travelling to that part of the US and they just hate it up there! Americans & Sarcasm – Yah Yah [editor’s note: somehow he avoided being fed into a mulching machine!]
- Sexy Beast – Best ever bad guy….maybe!
- Empire Strikes Back – better than the Star Wars!! And show any kid today and they will love it
- Raiders of the Lost Ark – Again show any kid today and see the reaction.
Good to see a film with Ray Winstone in it (he is not the main bad guy, Ben Kingsley is, and he is quite scary. Reminds me of Ralph Fiennes’ gangster character in ‘In Bruges’, which was nearly as good).
|My next victim was my old friend and partner in slightly drunken philosophical debates, arguments over ‘what is beauty’, why killing one kind of endangered to save another almost never makes sense, and many other oddities. Ray Genet is a conservation biologist by training, and is among other things one of the founders of the Quail Island restoration project. However, for the last 9 years he has taught English at Grenoble III University to engineers, mathematicians and other culturally-deprived rocket scientists. During this period he developed a most original approach to language teaching, based around bringing ‘real’ subject matter such as arts (e.g. Shakespeare), ecology (questions of environmental behaviour) and science (questions of rational thinking, evolution) together into a framework in which students improve their english by discussing topics that matter to them (including religion!).|
- Amercian Beauty 1999, dir. Sam Mendes, screen play by Alan Ball [IMDB]
- Back to the Future – Robert Zemeckis
- Matrix – Wachowski Bros.
- Strictly Ballroom, 1992, dir. Baz Lurhmann [IMDB]
- L’effrontee – Claude Miller
- Pauline a la Plage – Eric Rohmer
- Le Diner de Cons, 1998, dir. Francis Veber [IMDB]
- Being John Malcovitch – Spike Jonze / Charlie Kaufman [IMDB]
- Scoop – Woody Allen
- My Dinner with Andre – Louis Malle
- Hannah and her Sisters, Woody Allen
Ray’s keen interest in language (or should I say ‘good’ language) has certainly influenced his choice of films, many notable for wonderful scripts including American Beauty, Le Diner de Cons, and of course Being John Malkovich, which takes absurdity to new delicious heights (I still cry with laughter at the part where Malkovich is discussing his career move into puppetry with an interviewer). Strictly Ballroom is a favourite in Australia, and is a great feelgood movie, notable for Barry Otto’s hilarious father character. Speaking of Baz Luhrman, I suspect Ray must have been close to choosing his Romeo + Juliet, given his Shakespearean leanings.
Moving on – well not quite – to two of my favourite people in the whole world, Ray’s little girls Chloé (10) and Éva (7) also gave me favourite film lists. Chloé is definitely the romantic here, while I think Éva is shaping up to be either a pilot or a sorcerer!
These lists have started me thinking about my next version of this game: the 5 best films for kids. And as we can see from above, films like Strictly Ballroom and Porco Rosso weren’t made for kids, but are such good films that young people love them just as much as adults.
My cinema-going friend Cécile Favre from Grenoble was kind enough to provide the next list. Cécile is a teacher, has travelled all around Europe and has two lovely children. She is also a mean skier, loves the mountains around Grenoble and doesn’t mind a nice beer back in the city.
Her list is as follows:
- Into the wild, dir. Sean Penn
- Dead man, dir. Jim Jarmush
- Unforgiven, dir. Clint Eastwood
- Lost in translation, dir. Sofia Coppola
- Mulholhand drive, dir. David Lynch
- In the mood for love, dir. Wong Kar Wai
- O’brother Where Art Thou, dir. Coen brothers
- Edward Scissorhands, dir. Tim Burton
- Faux semblants de David Cronenberg
- De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté de Jacques Audiard
Cécile added: how difficult it was to choose – I could have included: Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World, two Jarmusch films – Down by law and Ghost Dog… The big Lebowski from the Coen brothers, Lost Highway from David Lynch, Un air de famille de Klapish, Polanski’s the Pianist, Kubrick’s Eyes wide shut, Crossing guard by Sean Penn, ….. but the list above are the ones that really had an emotional impact on me.
(try to imagine the person on the right standing on one leg, no shoes, in a bank queue in New Orleans, playing any well-known jig perfectly), writing, martial arts … and apart from that, drinking fine wine, cooking, and creating any other mayhem that comes to hand. Yes. In short, you can’t trust him with your grandmother.
Here is his list.
* of course that’s a pseudonym. If you ask for the real name, my response is just to repeat what he would say: bite me!
- Blade Runner (Director’s cut. Forget that foul voice-over).
- The Princess Bride
- The Fall
- Sexy Beast
- Sauna (a very, very rare entry from the horror genre. This one actually worked for me, making it — in my opinion — a truly remarkable piece of filming)
- Pulp Fiction (for its relentless exposure and parody of classic filmic technique)
For this Dirk wins two prizes: firstly for coming in under 10 films, and secondly for a film (Sauna) that I haven’t even heard of. So… another vote for Blade Runner, not unexpected from an SF cognoscento. I have to say that Memento also crossed my mind for the list at one point: it does plays with your mind, and Guy Pearce really manages to take you on a very strange journey. Sexy Beast deserves more votes here: of Ray Winstone reduced from a hard guy to a mouse by one of the most repellent characters ever to hit the screen, Sir Ben Kingsley’s gangster, Don Logan, is utterly compelling, nail-biting drama.
Dirk’s comments on his choice:
I suffer from the same problem with cinema that I do with literature. I go to the movies for entertainment, not enlightenment. I need to be interested in what’s happening. If you’ve got morals, themes, lessons, ideas and art — so much the better, but they need to be worked in to the tale, and the story itself had better be interesting.
There’s a whole debate to be had under this somewhere. The concept that Art necessarily ‘challenges preconceptions’, or whatever… what happens when you’re not bringing a lot of preconceptions with you? To make it more obvious: I didn’t bother to see “An Inconvenient Truth.” You know me well enough to know why: Gore didn’t have anything new to tell me with that film. Serrano’s “Piss Christ” didn’t shock me. It didn’t even interest me, because I have no stake in the holiness or otherwise of Jesus of Nazareth.
So. The films listed above incorporate what I regard as top-notch technique, coupled with intriguing storylines, interesting characters, and in most cases, something chewy to think about. I’m sure there are others in that thirty-year span I’ve forgotten, but that’s a good enough list for now. Oh: can I just speak up and put “Avatar” at near the very top of my list of films that should never have been made?