Saturday, April 09, 2016

100 Must-See Films! -- Humanity

What is humanity? For one, it is the subject which humans have the most trouble understanding. What does that say about the state of our minds? Big day today! Here we have five of the most significant films on the list; films which dare ask the biggest questions of all, on this critical subject:

27. Apocalypse Now (1979, USA)
Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland, Albert Hall, Frederic Forrest, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper

I’m not sure how possible it is to draw the deepest insights out of the film, concerning the dark side of the human mind and its manifestation in our industrial society, without having read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness novelette first. Having that perspective, the film seemed for me, to throb with a deadly heartbeat, as I sensed the looming presence of the dark anti-hero long before his arrival. And Coppola did not disappoint. Kurtz, in the film version a renegade colonel, looms just as powerful a beast here, embodied in Marlon Brando.

I personally feel that Coppola did an effective job updating the story from its 19th century African setting to the Vietnam arena, while still capturing its essence. I sensed allusion to Dante’s inferno, very appropriately, to boot! And some propose further homage to Homer’s Odyssey (just for the record).

Few projects have faced such adversity in the making. Thank goodness it survived to become one of the most revered films of all time. I’m betting you’ve probably seen the movie and not read the story. I strongly propose that you read Heart of Darkness and then re-watch the film (the extended 2001 edition). It’s a haunting experience. 

Writer: John Milius (Magnum Force), Francis Ford Coppola
Director: Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather)
Budget: $31,500,000
IMDB rating: 8.5

28. Lord of the Flies (1963, UK)
James Aubrey, Tom Chapin, Hugh Edwards, Tom Gaman, Roger Elwin

I find Golding’s work in the original novel an incredibly valuable and insightful commentary on the nature of the human mind; the base instincts having so much power over consciousness. Many great speculative fiction writers suggest in their works that humans, upon losing their societal structures will quickly revert to overt slave systems and I find this work consistent.

I prefer the 1963 film over the Americanized 1990 version which linearly strays farther from the book. The former bears a more haunting exotic feel. But both films deliver the gripping immensity of the boys’ peril.

Writer: William Golding (Alkitrang dugo)
Director: Peter Brook (King Lear)
Budget: $250,000
IMDB rating: 7.0

Do androids dream of electric sheep?

29. Blade Runner (1982, USA, Hong Kong, UK)
Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson

This first of several Philip K. Dick stories to reach the big screen is considered film noir, action, and sci-fi but reaches much beyond all that. I saw it at the theatre at age 13, expecting another action movie and was blown away by its fascinating moral complexity which I was just old enough to appreciate and had never seen before. To this day I could re-watch it any number of times (basically the criteria for inclusion in this must-see April movie list). The visionary dystopian scenery was captivating and the soundtrack by Vangelis hugely resonant.

It wasn’t necessarily a hit at the original box office (1982 was clogged with big-budget sci-fi), but grew in cult status (and is eternally brought up in academic circles) to the point of current regard as one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. Supporting actor Rutger Hauer called the film a “real masterpiece which changed the world's thinking.”

He might be right. It certainly got me thinking.

Writer: Philip K. Dick (Minority Report), Hampton Fancher (The Mighty Quinn), David Webb Peoples (Unforgiven)
Director: Ridley Scott (Alien)
Budget: $28,000,000
IMDB rating: 8.2

If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the forests, poisoned the water and air, and contaminated the food supply, would you resist?

30. End:Civ (2011, Canada)
Documentary with Steven Best, Zoe Blunt, Rod Coronado

American author Derrick Jensen has been regarded the poet-philosopher of the modern ecological movement and yet few so-called environmentalists speak as if they’ve heard a word Jensen says. This film is almost entirely his voice; a voice which is almost unfathomable in its unflinching honesty. Nobody, including Jensen himself, really wants to say what he has to say.

I imagine that 95% of the viewers who gather the courage to view this film will swiftly find excuses (all flawed) to rationalize its dismissal while the other 5% will be left immobile, unable to resolve the gaping disconnect between the reality presented here and our current circumstances.  

The production value here is necessarily tiny. Compared to Jensen’s books, this project does not fare particularly well due only to its brevity, but compared to other documentaries, the material here is of unmatched importance and astounding for its brute honesty.

Writer: Derrick Jensen (Earth at Risk: Building a Resistance Movement to Save the Planet)
Director: Franklin Lopez (Why I Love Shoplifting from Big Corporations)
Budget: $20,000
IMDB rating: 7.9

Are we still the good guys?

31. The Road (2009, USA)
Viggo Mortenson, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy has been called, “harrowing and heartbreaking”, “haunting”, “emotionally shattering” and “the most depressing book I couldn’t put down.” I read it twice, followed by the movie each time, and I judge the film perfectly consistent with the book and just as emotionally devastating.  Of course that’s hard to say with confidence because one can observe that a film does not stray from the book, but you never really know if the film delivered everything you thought it did, because you’re bringing those same elements you gleaned from the book into the viewing experience with you. Right? Regardless:

I earnestly recommend that you view the trailer to lock in a visual image of the characters, then read the book, be blown away, and then watch the film to let the familiar story come visually to life.

I’ve blogged about this hugely relevant book here, here, here and here but they’re full of spoilers. Leave them alone if you haven’t read the novel already. If you are going to experience or re-experience this story, please consider this notion: Think of the man as instinct and think of the boy as consciousness. In doing so, the story will provide the consistent answer from both writer and director, to the most immense question in the history of Earth’s mankind.

Writer: Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), Joe Penhall (Enduring Love)
Director: John Hillcoat (Lawless)
Budget: $25,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.3

Short List:
Koyaanisqatsi (1982, USA) Lou Dobbs, Ted Koppel
The Power of One (1992, Australia, France, USA) Stephen Dorff, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Morgan Freeman
The Wild Dogs (2002, Canada) Rachel Blanchard, Visinel Burcea, Mihai Calota


Sunday Visitor said...

I have read Lord Of The Flies, never sen the movie though. Will definitely watch it and the others you mentioned. Great post!!

Anonymous said...

A couple of those I have seen but will check out some more from the list. Thanks so much!
Best Wishes,

My A2Z @ Annette's Place | Follow Me On Twitter

Li said...

Wow, you've really done some thoughtful and detailed reviews. I read "Lord Of the Flies" in junior high and it's one of the books which truly cemented my love of reading. "Heart Of Darkness" was on our high school reading list, thank goodness, because as you stated it lends further depth to "Apocalypse Now" (which I was lucky enough to see on the big screen). As for "Blade Runner", I have yet to watch the entire thing. Perhaps it's time to try again.

Joanne said...

pretty much captured the dark side of humanity. Great film pics

IntrepidReader said...

Great idea to post the trailers. I was thinking I would like to see The Road, but after watching the trailer, I am pretty sure it's not for me. However, I am going to make a point of seeing Shine, both because of your recommendation and because of the trailer. Good writing!! Good picks!