Portland Film Review’s One (Hundred) Year(s) of Film

In honor of Portland Film Review’s one-year anniversary and the start of 2018, our reviewers have chosen some of our favorite films from the last century. The following is a shortlist of our choices of the most inspirational, enjoyable, or important films from the last 100 years, as well a few upcoming films we’re particularly excited about. 

1918

Devin: The Ghosts of Slumber Mountain (Dir. Willis O’Brien; Herbert M. Dawley)

The theatrical release may have had a runtime of only 19 minutes, but The Ghosts of Slumber Mountain is exceptional in that it was the first movie to ever show live action and stop motion in the same frame. Willis O’Brien’s dinosaurs and creatures paved the way for Ray Harryhausen and a whole generation of special effects wizards.

1928

Devin: The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dir. Carl Theodor Dryer; Maria Falconetti)

Joan of Arc’s story is one that has fascinated generations of authors, artists, and filmmakers, but no one has ever surpassed Dryer in bringing it to life. The production design with its expressionistic flair and Dryer’s deft decision to linger on Falconetti’s face as she gives the performance of a lifetime make this film a pillar of filmmaking history.

Nathan: Steamboat Willie (Dirs. Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks)

In 1928, Disney introduced audiences to Mickey Mouse for the first time. I first saw the short film while visiting Disneyland as a kid, and like the slapstick that inspired it, I think the humour has remained relatively untouched by ninety years. Mickey’s classic (mis)adventures capture the spirit of Disney’s dream and are a joy to watch.

 

1938

Devin: Bringing Up Baby (Dir. Howard Hawks; Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn)

The pleasure of watching Hepburn pursue the reticent and bumbling Grant over hill and dale makes this my absolute favorite romantic comedy. The charm in every misadventure the two get wrapped up in, all in pursuit of one blasted dinosaur bone, are disarmingly hilarious.

 

1948

Devin: Bicycle Thieves (Dir. Vittoria De Sica; Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola)

The Italian Neo-Realist movement produced a number of talented filmmakers and films, but this always stands out as the most emotionally moving and artfully rendered of the lot in my eyes. Penned by Cesare Zavattini, this story of a father and son, and the heartache of simply living, is hauntingly beautiful.

Nathan: Bicycle Thieves (Dir. Vittoria De Sica; Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola)

I’m also going to have to pick Bicycle Thieves. Few films have brought tears to my eyes, and Bicycle Thieves’ human touch, its unflinching portrayal of the simple sorrows and joys of life, and its intense focus on the father-son relationship make for one of the most beautiful and emotional films ever made.

 

1958

Devin: Vertigo (Dir. Alfred Hitchcock; James Stewart, Kim Novak)

A masterpiece by one of the most gifted directors to ever take up the craft of filmmaking, Vertigo features Hitchcock taking his thematic obsession with voyeurism to a resounding new level. Easily his most gorgeously and carefully photographed film, he draws the audience into a San Francisco primed for any nightmare.

Jane: Vertigo (Dir. Alfred Hitchcock; James Stewart, Kim Novak)

Vertigo is a film that deepens by degrees, slowly letting us further and further into the plot and the world of our protagonist. By the time the film reaches its famous final scene, we, like Scottie, are unsure what truly happened and whether to believe our eyes.

Nathan: Touch of Evil (Dir. Orson Welles; Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh)

Attesting equally to Welles’s brilliance as a director and an actor, Touch of Evil is a Southwestern film noir with one of the most iconic opening sequences in cinema history. The plot is complex, twisting and turning as it crosses the border, and drawing us into the tension. Welles overwhelmingly towers over the cast in one of my favourite performances of his.

 

1968

Devin: Rosemary’s Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski; Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes)

Rosemary’s Baby was the first horror film I watched which genuinely terrified me. Watching Farrow dwindle to nothingness, stepping into her satanic nightmares, and wondering what the deal was with the damn baby had me shaken for days.

Jane: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Dir. Stanley Kubrick; Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood)

2001 is maddening and inspiring, confusing and enlightening, brilliant and illogical all at the same time. It is a visually beautiful film that showcases both extreme close ups of mouths speaking and the enormity of the cosmos.

Nathan: Stolen Kisses [Baisers volés] (Dir. François Truffaut; Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claude Jade, Delphine Seyrig)

The third film in Truffaut’s semi-autobiographical Antoine Doinel cycle, Stolen Kisses follows the now grown-up delinquent as he tries to decide between two women. Although often farcical, Stolen Kisses also exposes for the first time the more mature and sentimental side of Truffaut’s protagonist, while demonstrating his frustratingly charming persona as well.

 

1978

Devin: Animal House (Dir. John Landis; John Belushi, Karen Allen)

When John Belushi died, the world lost a comic genius that should have had decades more humor in him. This movie is his greatest showcase, and the story of the terrible frat and their revolt against all order and morality is endlessly entertaining.

Jane: Days of Heaven (Dir. Terrence Malick; Richard Gere, Brooke Adams; Linda Manz)

This film was the first of Malick’s that I saw and made me an immediate fan. Malick is most well known for his wide, sweeping shots, which are beautifully exemplified here, and while Gere and Adams are incredible, it is 15-year-old Manz who is the driving force of the film.

Nathan: Superman (Dir. Richard Donner; Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman)

Watching Superman as a kid, I laughed at how cheesy the special effects were. Superman’s flying scenes may look less realistic than Aladdin’s, but Donner’s film, combining the classic comic books with Star Wars-inspired effects, invented the superhero genre, and for that, we have to recognise Superman as one of the most important films of the 70s. 

 

1988

Devin: Cinema Paradiso (Dir. Giuseppe Tornatore; Salvatore Cascio, Philippe Noiret)

Ennio Morricone’s theme for Cinema Paradiso will forever have my vote for the most beautiful piece of cinematic scoring to come out of the 20th century, and it is with great luck that Tornatore sculpted a film just as striking to accompany it. It is a love letter to the movies, and a love letter to those who took the time to show us what movies could do.


Jane: My Neighbor Totoro (Dir. Hayao Miyazaki; Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning)

While all of Miyazaki’s films are delightful, this one is especially poignant with the adorable relationship between sisters Satsuke and Mei as they anxiously turn to each other for support while their mother is in the hospital. Luckily, they meet a new creature to comfort them as they explore their new home, and the beings that Miyazaki creates (e.g. the cat bus) are, like the film, nothing short of genius.

Nathan: Heathers (Dir. Michael Lehmann; Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty)

Heathers is a delightful twist on the 80’s high school teenage genre. Sarcastic and full of black humour, the film explores two teenagers’ rebellion against the social hierarchy through an unorthodox means: murder.

 

1998

Devin: The Truman Show (Dir. Peter Weir; Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris)

Seemingly foretelling the reality TV obsession which began in earnest only a few years later, the story of Truman unknowingly living his life while its every moment is broadcasted to millions of viewers employs comedy to get at a disturbing truth about humanity. Carrey embodies this happy man who slowly unspools the disturbing truth about his surroundings.


Jane: The Parent Trap (Dir. Nancy Meyers; Lindsay Lohan, Natasha Richardson, Dennis Quaid, Elaine Hendrix)

While The Parent Trap is sometimes cliché, it’s so classic and fun that we are easily wrapped up in the story. This was one of my favorite films as a kid, and watching the plucky twins battle Meredith Blake never fails to entertain me. Lohan deserves countless accolades for this role; she even alters her British and American accents when the twins are impersonating each other.

Nathan: Mulan (Dirs. Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook; Ming-Na Wen, BD Wong, Eddie Murphy)

One of my all-time favourites, Mulan is a witty and often subversive Disney princess story about a girl in China who ends up saving her country from the invading Huns. The clever dialogue and short musical interludes add to the humourous, rewatchable classic.

 

2008

Devin: In Bruges (Dir. Martin McDonagh; Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson)

McDonagh’s first directorial effort about two hitmen relegated to Bruges so they can cool off after a job gone wrong is somehow as raucously funny as it is moving. Farrell and Gleeson turn in heartfelt and humorous performances which McDonagh’s blisteringly original script brings to life and paves the way for future features by Ireland’s preeminent playwright.


Jane: Slumdog Millionaire (Dir. Danny Boyle; Dev Patel, Frieda Pinto)

Slumdog Millionaire is non-stop excitement and energy as it explores the life of Jamal, ostensibly only the winner of a TV game show due to his cheating. But the film goes then delves into a vivid picture of Jamal’s childhood and the reasons why he happens to know the answers to the questions he is asked, revealing a story that is heartbreaking, poignant, and triumphant.

Nathan: The Dark Knight (Dir. Christopher Nolan; Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine)

Other than Superman (my pick for 1978) I think The Dark Knight is the only other superhero film that can be called a great movie. Nolan takes every film to a cinematically epic level, combining dazzling special effects with heart-pounding scores and action sequences. Ledger’s performance should be mentioned as well, as he brings the Joker into a sickening new life.

 

2018 (expected)

Devin: Annihilation (Dir. Alex Garland; Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Oscar Isaac)

Based on the bestseller by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation will be Garland’s sophomore effort, following up his brilliant debut Ex Machina. The past few years have seen an exciting uptick in virtuoso science fiction filmmaking, and after the promise of his first film, I am impatiently awaiting Annihilation’s premiere, hoping it doesn’t fall into the tradition of the ‘sophomore slump.’


Jane: The Post (Dir. Steven Spielberg; Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks)

Now more than ever, we need journalists that are committed to the truth and their duty to the American people. The Post could not come a more opportune moment, and with Streep at the helm, it is sure to be  phenomenal.

Nathan: A Wrinkle in Time (Dir. Ava DuVernay; Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Zach Galifinakis)

I loved Madeleine L’Engle’s books as a kid, and I’m excited to see what a high-budget production, complete with a star-studded cast and the Oscar-nominated DuVernay, can do with the text. Although I’m suspicious of plot changes, the two trailers promise beautiful scenery and a fast-paced foray into L’Engle’s universe.


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