Category Archives: Member Wisdom

Essay Question: Queasicam

OFCS members answer the question:

Has the current craze for handheld and queasicam generally contributed positively to the look and feel of films, or has it generally been a fad that has been handled badly and that should go away?

Read responses after the jump.

Daniel Carlson:

I think, for the most part, it’s been poorly handled. The use of handheld cameras can give a sense of immediacy and urgency, but too often it comes at the expense of clarity and understanding just what’s happening in a given scene. For instance, the Transformers films aren’t (just) terrible because they have nonsensical plots; they also make it impossible to see what’s going on in any of the interminable action scenes, favoring rapid cuts and shaky framing over real suspense. You can only get really involved in an action scene when you have a sense of what’s at stake, and that means having the presence of mind to show the viewer what’s happening and where. The sub-genre of POV films like Cloverfield take this problem to the extreme and become a way for the filmmaker to avoid making tough choices about blocking a scene when they can just wiggle the character’s camera around and run away.

Wesley Lovell:

Please send it away. There might be a sense of realism that fits well in certain films, but some directors use it so excessively that it draws the audience out of the action and brings attention to itself. It’s appropriate for a film like Cloverfield which takes place entirely in front of a camcorder, but movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 don’t really have a need to use it. You have crisp, fluid, sophisticated shots and suddenly you’re thrust with a fast-moving, hard-to-follow handheld shot. It may have a narrative punch drawing attention to itself like that, but tonally it’s distracting. And it may be an inventive method of expression, most often they are handled so poorly that you can’t tell what’s going on in a scene, which is very frustrating.

Robert Roten:

The current craze for handheld shots has not contributed positively to the look of films, but it has enabled some filmmakers, such as those who made Monsters, Cloverfield, and The Blair Witch Project to make very low-cost films that appear to be more authentic in their depiction of perceived reality. These films appear to be like documentaries, so the shaky, amateurish camera shots actually give the film more of an aura of authenticity. This is a classic case of turning a weakness, lack of cash, into an advantage.

I’m all for making the filmmaking process more affordable and democratic. Inexpensive, hand-held camera equipment contributes to that worthy goal. However, I find excessive camera movement to be irritating. In some cases, the movement of a hand-held camera can make it impossible to actually see what is going on in an action scene. It can obscure rather than depict action. This technique was used brilliantly in Children of Men but the same technique, in less skilled hands, makes some scenes unwatchable in some other films. These handheld and queasicam shots should be done judiciously by cameramen who have mastered the art, not just for a cheap effect.

Felix Vasquez Jr.:

They’re meant to be statements about voyeurism. Why else would anyone be interested if they didn’t feel like people peeking in to something amazing? Diary of the Dead, Cloverfield, REC all did it perfectly.

Phil Villarreal:

It’s another tool for filmmakers to use, but can be a cliched crutch that weakens films. All in all, it’s better to have it available to use or discard than not.

Essay Question: A Single Movie Gift

OFCS members answer the question:

If you had to give your friends just one DVD (or Blu-ray) as a holiday gift, which one would you choose, and why?

Answers after the jump.

Xavier Donoso:

I would choose a movie that represents this year. It definitely would be Inception because it’s an original and brainy movie that surprised Hollywood with its success as if it were a commercial blockbuster, revealing that people are looking for good cinema and that the movie magic is still strong.

Mike Everleth:

Sins of the Fleshapoids (1965), directed by Mike Kuchar. Released by Other Cinema. This is probably my favorite underground film of all time and Other Cinema did a quality job for its DVD release a couple years ago. The DVD also contains two other rarely seen brilliant Kuchar films, The Secret of Wendell Samson and The Craven Sluck; plus, insightful commentary by the director; and has a printed interview with Mike Kuchar conducted by Jack Stevenson in the accompanying booklet.

I’d give this to both my non-underground film fan friends, who’d be in for the bizarre sight of a robot rebellion a million years in the future that’s mostly filmed in Brooklyn basements with sheets draped on the walls, as well as to my weirdo cinema friends, who if they don’t have this classic in their library, they should. Alas, with the DVD currently being out of print, I’d go completely broke buying up hoarded collector copies.

Eivind Grøtteland:

Since most of my friends are just as excited when I give them DVDs as they would be if I were giving them tube socks, I usually don’t bother. However, if I were to choose a film this year, it would without a doubt have to be Metropolis: Limited Steelbook Edition (Masters Of Cinema, Blu-ray & DVD-combo). Finally the ultimate sci-fi film is as complete as we will ever see it. If only one of my friends would open the gift and watch this great classic in its original glory, I’d have done my job as a film critic.

A.J. Hakari:

My title of choice would be A Christmas Story (pick an edition), for two primary reasons: 1) As my all-time favorite film, I won’t rest until every man, woman, and child in the world has seen it, and 2) No other film I’ve seen better blends the nostalgia we associate with the holidays and the cranky snark that we usually experience.

Phil Hall:

I would give Bikini Bloodbath Christmas, which just came out on DVD. My reasons are threefold: (1) it is a fun movie, (2) it is a holiday film – sort of, and (3) I’m in the movie (I play the villain and I get disemboweled with a claw hammer).

Mike McGranaghan:

I’d pick Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 House (a.k.a. Hausu). This cinematic phantasmagoria is hands-down the craziest film I have ever seen. And I mean that in a good way. Watching it is like having a 90-minute fever dream. Upon my first viewing, I became instantly obsessed. My reason for giving it would be simple: I’d want to give my friends an experience they’d never forget. Oh sure, I could buy them the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or a beloved indie, but I’d rather go for something that will knock their socks off in a totally left-field kind of way. House is completely insane and unpredictable, a work of mad genius that I’d love to share with everyone I know.

Karina Montgomery:

The DVD/Blu-Ray I would want everyone I know to have (had I the funds) is the Planet Earth series. Not only is it interesting and beautiful just as a work, but because I am passionate about advocating for the importance of preserving the earth. I feel like one cannot watch that series without being moved or without feeling the fragility of the wild world around us.

Brian Prisco:

Micmacs. Without a doubt in my mind, Micmacs. After such a sublime year of films — and I’m the kind of guy who has Black Swan and Piranha 3D on my top ten — it’s still the best film experience I’ve had all year. Jeunet’s a pretty whimsical filmmaker, and Micmacs was simply delightful. There’s no other word for the film. It’s like the bastard child of Amelie and Ocean’s Thirteen, a throwback to the slapstick heyday of Chaplin and Keaton. It’s something you could show to children and to grandparents, to cynical hipsters who praise the glory of Godard without knowing who he actually was and to ardent fans of Paul Blart: Zoo Keeper, and everyone would enjoy it.

José Manuel Robado:

I Love You, Phillip Morris. The funniest way to show how true love is even stronger than laws.

Betty Jo Tucker:

How I would love to give my friends a Singin’ in the Rain DVD! There’s not one boring minute in this entertaining musical. And, as Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) says, “If we bring a little joy into yer humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain’t been in vain fer nothin’.”

Felix Vasquez Jr.:

I would give them The Big Lebowski mainly because it’s a movie that needs to be spread among the general movie going public like the gospel. It only takes a friend to get you hooked, so I’d give a copy to a friend or loved one as a way of showing them that their lives were incomplete before they met The Dude.

Yaroslav Vishtalyuk:

My choice is Gone with the Wind — great reminder to never give up.

OFCS Top 100: 100 Best First Films

For movie lovers, there are few things more exciting than the discovery of a bold new filmmaker. Through cinema history, many extraordinary directors immediately made their marks on the industry with their first feature-length films.

The Online Film Critics Society celebrates the innovations and ingenuity of these extraordinary artists by presenting its selection of the 100 Best First Feature Films of All Time. Spanning the cinematic experience from the silent era to the digital age, the OFCS writers pay tribute to the most impressive filmmaking debuts of all time.

Read the list after the jump.

1. Citizen Kane (directed by Orson Welles)
“I started at the top and have been working my way down every since,” joked Orson Welles in the years following his startling debut feature. Citizen Kane has been so longed hailed as “the greatest film ever made” that it is in serious danger of becoming the least seen masterpiece around. The legends surrounding the film and its creator have too long overshadowed the actual film. Above all, Welles was a showman and Citizen Kane is a three ring circus of cinematic ingenuity, a startlingly entertaining blend of pulp melodrama, historical biography, detective story, political drama, storytelling confabulation, and plain old theatrical flourish. Years ahead of its time in its layered use of sound and score (a pioneering piece of dramatic composition by Bernard Herrmann, Welles’ radio collaborator), stunningly designed, and brilliantly shot by Gregg Toland with a creative invention that pushed the envelope of motion picture photography, Citizen Kane is a vital, exciting moment of American cinema brought back to life with every viewing. (Sean Axmaker)

2. Eraserhead (David Lynch)
David Lynch’s monochrome fever dream of frustrated desires and horrific unease was to be the last triumphant gasp of the Midnight Movie movement. Eluding easy definition or comfortable reception, Eraserhead was as much a phantasmagoria of tactile textures and immersive soundscapes as a nightmarish parable of fatherhood and the creative process. By turns beautiful, annoying, funny, exasperating and repellent, but always bristling with a nervous energy, Lynch’s debut merges the drab world and anxious subconscious of Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), a vacationing printer who must stay home to nurse his monstrous (and unwanted) babe in bandages. Sporting an impossibly tall haircut that has become one of the film’s most iconic signifiers of otherness, Henry is one of cinema’s great misfits, his very appearance and physical stiffness embodying the discomfort that the film inspires in its viewers — and yet Nance’s performance is a master class in tragicomic understatement, all minutely nuanced gestures and Tati-esque humanity. Beneath the amorphous surface of this unnerving filmic experience is an undiscovered planet of untold depths and hidden layers in which to become lost, sickened or sublimely elevated. (Anton Bitel)

3. Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero)
Simultaneously a sleeper cult hit and a candidate for arthouse exhibition, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead has become one of the most influential independent films ever made in the forty-plus years since it was originally unleashed. The “zombies” of Romero’s movie (a term never actually used in the movie) are not the reanimated/drugged servants of voodoo lore; they are, in fact, not the product of a mythology at all. They are simply the dead — corpses that have risen and now shuffle around aimlessly, their only impulse an unexplained urge to eat the living. Against this backdrop of an unexplained and incomprehensible menace, Romero places several average citizens trapped together in an isolated farmhouse and lets the human drama commence. Hysteria, frayed nerves, and an unspoken contest for Alpha Male supremacy keep the living from ever marshaling their forces effectively against the undead outside. At the time of its release, Night of the Living Dead was interpreted as a metaphor for the Vietnam War, microcosm of the breakdown of social order between generations and races in the middle of the Counterculture Revolution, and a critique of the reliance on authority figures for understanding and purpose. It can be all of those things, and it can be reinterpreted and resignified by current audiences two generations unborn when it was first released, but first and foremost it is a dark, relentless, and scary piece of cinema. (Nathan Shumate)

4. The Maltese Falcon (John Huston)
Unpromising project: young but already seasoned studio serf John Huston, desperate to make the difficult career leap from screenwriting to directing, takes on a pulpy property that’s already been filmed twice in the past decade with a low budget and lower expectations. Unlikely result: Huston’s rock-solid classical technique, exact casting, and carefully transcribed screenplay, lay the groundwork for a film that works with the drive and efficiency of a Formula One engine, even managing the unthinkable task of giving Citizen Kane a run for its money as the best debut film of 1941. Huston’s long, variable career would rarely see his pet themes and ironic romanticism as tautly conveyed as in this chamber-piece proto-noir. Humphrey Bogart’s incarnation of seamy, but honourable, private eye Sam Spade cemented him as a star, and Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr., and Mary Astor backed him up with some of the finest character acting on record. (Roderick Heath)

5. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
Breathless, the feature debut of Jean-Luc Godard, is an early film of the French New Wave. The film tells the story of Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a roguish petty criminal who crosses a line when he shoots a police officer after stealing a car. On the run from police, Michel seeks out his American student girlfriend, Patricia (Jean Sebring); Patricia hides him for a while, planning an escape with Michel to Italy, before betraying him to police. Breathless is notable for its visual style; shot on a handheld camera with mostly natural lighting, Godard intended the film to evoke a documentary feel, and the use of the handheld camera allowed for spontaneity in the shooting of the film. Breathless is most known for Godard’s groundbreaking use of editing jump cuts throughout the film, which broke all established rules of continuity editing that were prevalent at the time. Breathless today is seen as the cornerstone of New Wave, and has influenced countless filmmakers. (Kim Voynar)

6. Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino)
Reservoir Dogs was the gritty, engaging, and exhilarating debut film of a 29-year-old self-educated former video store clerk, and the result was a cinematic revolution. Soon to be a household name, Quentin Tarantino produced an imminently imitable ballet of macho posturing, gun-pointing, and creative deployment of verbal obscenity. With a testosterone level that is off every chart, it happily wallows in its own juvenile love of criminals and violence, but the film’s dexterity and complexity proved Tarantino to be an extraordinary filmmaker right out of the gate — his raw talent and an unmistakable understanding of film lore is embedded in every frame. The film is a landmark in film debuts because, despite borrowing widely in terms of both plot elements and style, Tarantino made Reservoir Dogs wholly his. (James Kendrick)

7. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton)
The great Charles Laughton delivered great performances in a number of great films. But he only directed one feature, which was — well – flippin’ fantastic. Meditations on good versus evil don’t get more beautiful and chilling than The Night of the Hunter, in which two

youngsters (Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce) are pursued by a phony preacher (Robert Mitchum) after their nogoodnik father’s money. Ostensibly a run-for-your-life thriller, The Night of the Hunter is at its finest in detailing how easy it is for the greatest terrors to slip by under the guise of virtue. Mitchum’s greed leads to a conclusion in which the forces of light and dark square off, a captivating cap-off to a spry and sneaky expressionist classic. (A.J. Hakari)

8. Blood Simple (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Just after Lawrence Kasdan and Bob Rafelson sexed-up classic noirs in the early 1980s — with Body Heat and The Postman Always Rings Twice, respectively — in Blood Simple the Coens took the latter narrative and turned it inside out. Instead of the discontent wife and lover successfully killing the husband (as in Postman), a seamy hitman (M. Emmet Walsh as Loren Visser), hired to off the adulterous couple, instead aims at the jealous man who hired him. When the body turns up not quite dead — as the lover buries this evidence — he gets his own shot, and a comedy of (t)errors follows. Though fate fueled the descent of classic noirs, in the Coens’ paranoia runs off absurdist misdirection. A true reassessment of noir, Blood Simple moves beyond the pre-erotic-thriller (not so)neo-noirs. Further proof: the freshness of Zhang Yimou’s 2009 remake, set in historical China. (Matthew Sorrento)

9. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut)
At age 27, François Truffaut kick-started the Nouvelle Vague movement with this gritty drama about feisty 12-year-old Antoine Doinel (an iconic character that actor Jean-Pierre Léaud would revisit five more times). The film’s free-form structure is still exhilarating today, bristling with schoolboy exuberance and a darkly evocative sense of pre-teen yearning. By the time that unforgettable freeze-frame appears at the end, we know this movie has changed the way we look at the world. Just as it changed cinema itself. (Rich Cline)

10. 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet)
Twelve men arguing in a single room, in real time. It sounds like a play, because it was a play, and a television movie before that. But in the hands of the 34-year-old theater/TV veteran Lumet, 12 Angry Men became so intensely, thrilling cinematic, it’s hard to imagine it in any other medium. With a dazzling array of shots and visual perspectives that switch around with every bend in the drama, and anchored by a legendary collection of the best character actors the ’50s had to offer, the film that would arguably remain the pinnacle of Lumet’s career established him in one stroke as an unmatched master of both the camera and character. (Tim Brayton)

11. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo)
L’Atalante is, perhaps, considered by some, a dated film as far as its style goes. But there is no denying that it is still powerful viewing because of its magical poetical gestures to the subject of love and the refreshingly lyrical way it looks out at its surrounding seascape towns and at the human condition. Its romantic story is much like Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), of innocents from the country getting corrupted by the big lure of the city and then finding their true roots again. Because the story is such a simple one and the couple is so ordinary, it is not the story in itself that is exhilarating as much as the way the film moves us to look at our own lives with all its possibilities and disappointments. It makes us see things in a way that is disarmingly enchanting. That despite the daily grind of regular life, there is also a poetical and romantic mood waiting to be tapped. We are encouraged to look into our hearts and see what matters to us, just as Jean looked into the water for his missing bride and in a frazzled state saw an emanation of his bride and dove into the water to go after what he was looking for. Jean realized that the love he has inside him is manifested in his dreams, and sometimes our reality is merely an illusion. (Dennis Schwartz)

12. Toy Story (John Lasseter)
One of the traits one looks for in first features is the element of surprise that comes along with the freshness of a new filmmaker. John Lasseter, along with a handful of terrific writers (including Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton), brought on-screen a magical mixture of honest storytelling and compelling filmmaking, marking our hearts by reminding viewers of all ages of that wonderful time where kids actually held playtime heroes in their hands and their fantastical adventures were only limited by one’s own imagination, instead of their graphic cards’ capabilities and some programmer’s coding skills. Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang, set the ground for a new, exciting way to look at animated films, not only as an art form, but also as a very lucrative business model, paving the way for that marvelous thing that became of Pixar: a powerhouse of modern animation that seems almost unable to miss both viewers’ souls and box office records. What more can you ask for from a film debut? (Joseph Proimakis)

13. Badlands (Terrence Malick)
Viewers familiar with Terrence Malick from his sprawling epics The Thin Red Line and The New World may be surprised to discover just how spare and economical his debut is. Badlands is still very recognizable as a Malick film, though, with the ruminative voiceover, striking imagery, unusual rhythms and inspired musical choices all being key elements of this startlingly impressive debut feature. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are magnificent as the casually amoral Kit and naïve schoolgirl Holly, a pair of lonely, bored youngsters whose aimless romance drifts towards multiple murders. This is a supremely confident debut from Malick, who handles the film with a sense of cool tranquility, allowing the story to wind down seemingly inconsequential avenues before the narrative is abruptly brought into sharp focus by sudden acts of violence. As ever, this director is as fascinated by the environments his characters inhabit as he is by the characters themselves, and the badlands Kit and Holly eventually stray into are captured with a stark beauty by the film’s three credited cinematographers. Standing as one of the most distinctive and exciting debut films ever made and one of the great American films of the 70’s, Malick’s first masterpiece is essential viewing. (Phillip Concannon)

14. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze)
Chalk it up pre-millennial madness. 1999 brought us the off-kilter debut of two talents who would be integral to 21st-century cinema. Television writer Charlie Kaufman and video director Spike Jonze combined puppetry, alternate realities, and a post-modern affection of their titular star to create Being John Malkovich, an oddball journey by one man into another man’s mind. John Cusack stars as the confused individual who literally has access to John Malkovich’s skull, and Cameron Diaz, nearly unrecognizable in wig and glasses, goes along as the sweetly nerdy love interest. The fact that Malkovich himself shows up just adds further fruity icing to the madness. Assured in its quirks, yet not just quirky for the sake of it, Being John Malkovich is a triumph of the intellectually odd and would give many who came after permission to let their freak flags fly. (Jamie S. Rich)

15. This Is Spinal Tap (Marty DiBergi; co-directed by Rob Reiner)
In 1984, a very special comedy arrived in cinemas and was overwhelmingly embraced by audiences. Made on a miniscule budget of only $4.5 million, it went on to gross approximately $146 million worldwide. It spent five weeks atop the U.S. box office and spawned six sequels. That film was Police Academy. A peculiar little fake-doco from comedian-cum-director Rob Reiner debuted in cinemas three weeks before Police Academy bowed… and went largely ignored. But here we are, twenty-six years later, and people aren’t dressing up like Larvell Jones and Carey Mahoney on Halloween. They’re dressing as the core members of the legendary metal band Spinal Tap: David St. Hubbins (named after the patron saint of quality footwear), Derek Smalls (notorious zucchini smuggler) and Nigel Tufnel (writer of the haunting piano solo “Lick My Love Pump”). This Is Spinal Tap — full of unforgettable one-liners, offensively catchy songs and genuinely touching performances — slowly but surely wormed its way into the public consciousness, kick-starting the mockumentary movement and making “11” a perfectly viable level of volume on future speaker systems. Although Reiner’s directorial career would not live up to the promise of his debut feature (Rumour Has It features more gut-churning moments than Videodrome), This Is Spinal Tap remains an unequivocally influential achievement in comedy. How much funnier could this film be? The answer is none. None more funnier. (Simon Miraudo)

16. Gates of Heaven (Errol Morris)
Errol Morris takes his camera around California and interviews various people involved in pet cemeteries. The first person we meet, Floyd McClure, opened his cemetery as his lifelong dream after his dog was killed; he saw his dream wither away when the cemetery went belly-up and more than 450 animal corpses had to be disinterred and moved. Morris moves on to Cal Harberts, who started his own cemetery with the animals left over from McClure’s land. We don’t get to know him as well as we do his two sons, Phil and Dan, who help run the cemetery. Phil is a former insurance salesman who’s listened to one too many motivational tapes. He seems to be psyching himself up to deal with the remainder of his dull life. Dan is a would-be rock musician who drags his amp outside and practices when nobody is around. The sound of his guitar riffs bouncing off the pet gravestones is incredibly sad and chilling. Did Morris set out to make a quirky documentary about what some would consider a trivial subject? He came back with an unforgettable mood piece about human loneliness, in which the mourned pets seem much more important than if they had been the movie’s true focus. (Rob Gonsalves)

17. Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais)
Hiroshima mon amour broke all the rules, even those of the Nouvelle Vague, of which it formed the initial, ear-splitting cannonade a half-century ago. Director Alain Resnais was no upstart critic, but a talent who had been cutting his teeth on short films and documentaries for fifteen years. His feature debut was a close collaboration with established literary figure Marguerite Duras, whose personal blend of melancholic nostalgia, suppressed horror, and sickly sensuality provided the springboard for Resnais’ semi-experimental narrative. Cinematic time and space was suddenly in dynamic flux, and sexuality of a kind barely seen before in a mainstream movie only added to the shock of the new. East and West, unthinkable apocalypse and private tragedy, and the flesh of lovers are as closely entwined and yet forlornly alienated as Resnais’ syncopated sounds and images, in a display of technique as challenging as it is original, and yet it’s the emotional heart of the film that triumphs in cathartic epiphany. (Roderick Heath)

18. Airplane! (Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker)
Airplane! changed the face of cinema by inventing a genre that didn’t previously exist. It was a disaster movie by way of Mad magazine, with a healthy sprinkling of comic non sequiturs and sight gags added for seasoning. Using the 1957 B-movie Zero Hour as the template for their spoof, the ZAZ filmmaking team (consisting of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker) mercilessly ridiculed every cliché and convention imaginable in the disaster genre. They did it with a frantic, high-energy style unlike anything audiences had ever seen before. There was literally a joke of some sort every three seconds, and the film required multiple viewings because some of the best gags were in the background, where you’d initially miss them. There have been lots of other spoof movies in the thirty years since the release of Airplane! but none of them have ever matched its comedic brilliance. Today’s spoofs are particularly missing the point; they simply reference other, better movies, whereas Airplane! spoofed the structure of an entire genre. (Mike McGranaghan)

19. Duel (Steven Spielberg)
The inclusion of Duel on a list like this courts controversy because it famously made its 1971 debut on American television. But watch it some time and you may likely conclude that it doesn’t feel at all like a TV movie from the ’70’s. This is because its wunderkind director, Steven Spielberg, shot it with a theatrical presentation in mind — it even had additional scenes shot to pad it when its studio, Universal Studios, decided it could be released theatrically in Europe. That it did premiere overseas on the big screen before Spielberg’s next feature, The Sugarland Express, would arrive in U.S. theaters may make a convincing case to consider it his legitimate first feature film; but an even better argument emerges from just watching the movie itself. Duel is a tense, tightly controlled exercise in suspense — not the cheap kind that demands someone jump out at the audience every five minutes, but a real sweat-inducing, hand-wringing, consistently anxious affair. Spielberg, with the sure hand of an expert, draws out the cat-and-mouse conflict between Dennis Weaver’s unlucky commuter and his unseen tractor-trailer-driving nemesis and keeps it alive, interesting, and inventively involving. The film bears the mechanical hallmarks of his future works — his abilities to understand and manipulate audience sympathy and to effortlessly generate thrills, and his uncanny mastery of timing to elicit the strongest desired reactions. Spielberg would further hone and utilize this skillset with mega-successes such as Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jurassic Park, but the first evidence of his auteurism can be justifiably located in Duel. (Jeffrey Chen)

20. The Iron Giant (Brad Bird)
Originally developed as a big screen take on Pete Townshend’s concept album The Iron Man (itself an adaptation of Ted Hughes’ book), The Iron Giant became something entirely different — and entirely wondrous — once Amazing Stories and Simpsons vet Brad Bird came aboard. Townshend’s songs were ditched; Bird relocated the setting to small town America at the height of the Cold War; screenwriter Tim McCanlies supplied the film’s central theme: “you are who you choose to be.” And in choosing to be the good guy instead of the villain, the Giant displays more humanity than most of the cowardly humans he encounters. His genuine goodness betrays his original war machine programming; his determination to “not be a gun” leads to an act of heroic selflessness which still resonates eleven years and countless viewings later. (David Cornelius)

21. The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi)
22. The Producers (Mel Brooks)
23. Knife in the Water (Roman Polanksi)
24. The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont)
25. The Kid (Charles Chaplin)
26. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp)
27. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones)
28. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly)
29. L’Age d’Or (Luis Buñuel)
30. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman)
31. Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray)
32. Henry V (Kenneth Branagh)
33. Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper)
34. Clerks (Kevin Smith)
35. The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez)
36. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols)
37. Gattaca (Andrew Niccol)
38. Primer (Shane Carruth)
39. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (Tim Burton)
40. Brick (Rian Johnson)
41. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett)
42. Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh)
43. Mad Max (George Miller)
44. Pi (Darren Aronofsky)
45. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
46. Harlan County U.S.A. (Barbara Kopple)
47. American Beauty (Sam Mendes)
48. Boyz N the Hood (John Singleton)
49. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell)
50. Delicatessen (Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
51. Elevator to the Gallows (aka Frantic) (Louis Malle)
52. Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson)
53. Titicut Follies (Frederick Wiseman)
54. She’s Gotta Have It (Spike Lee)
55. Shadows (John Cassavetes)
56. Moon (Duncan Jones)
57. Monsters Inc. (Pete Docter)
58. Slacker (Richard Linklater)
59. Say Anything… (Cameron Crowe)
60. Shallow Grave (Danny Boyle)
61. Closely Watched Trains (Jiri Menzel)
62. Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck)
63. Repo Man (Alex Cox)
64. The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola)
65. Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
66. On the Town (Stanley Donan and Gene Kelly)
67. The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet)
68. Ivan’s Childhood (aka My Name Is Ivan) (Andrei Tarkovsky)
69. My Favorite Year (Richard Benjamin)
70. El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez)
71. Performance (Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell)
72. In the Company of Men (Neil LaBute)
73. They Live By Night (Nicholas Ray)
74. Love Actually (Richard Curtis)
75. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling)
76. One-Eyed Jacks (Marlon Brando)
77. Hard Eight (Paul Thomas Anderson)
78. Following (Christopher Nolan)
79. Cabin in the Sky (Vincente Minnelli)
80. George Washington (David Gordon Green)
81. Blood of a Poet (Jean Cocteau)
82. The Station Agent (Thomas McCarthy)
83. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black)
84. Away from Her (Sarah Polley)
85. Thank You for Smoking (Jason Reitman)
86. The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona)
87. Chicago (Rob Marshall)
88. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Judd Apatow)
89. Pleasantville (Gary Ross)
90. Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky)
91. Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant)
92. Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty)
93. Heathers (Michael Lehmann)
94. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie)
95. Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann)
96. Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner)
97. The Falls (Peter Greenaway)
98. Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio)
99. Get Carter (Mike Hodges)
100. Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay)

OFCS Top 100: Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s

A new OFCS Top 100 is coming soon: our “100 Best First Films” celebrates the best in directorial debut efforts. Voting is currently underway, and the list will be announced Monday, October 4. To celebrate the arrival of the new list – our first since 2004 – we’re taking a trip back in time, reposting our previous Top 100s.

The OFCS Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s was announced in 2004. Read the list after the jump.

July 27, 2004: It was the decade of Tarantino and Titanic. From Schindler’s List to The Blair Witch Project, movies and the hype that went with them seemed bigger than ever.

However, too many great films somehow got lost in the shuffle. While some were recalled by Oscar voters and many managed to squeak out a modest box office return, these films nonetheless failed to click in the memory banks of both the critics and with audiences.

The writers of the Online Film Critics Society recalls the half- and completely-forgotten treasures of the past decade cinematic canon with its list of the Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s. Join us for a trip back into the not-so-distant past and see if you recall the titles celebrated here by the OFCS writers.

The Online Film Critics Society’s Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s

1. Miller’s Crossing
2. Safe
3. The Sweet Hereafter
4. Lone Star
5. Heavenly Creatures
6. Waiting for Guffman
7. The Hudsucker Proxy
8. Babe: Pig in the City
9. Dead Man
10. Fearless
11. Bound
12. Chungking Express
13. The Straight Story
14. Searching for Bobby Fischer
15. Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai
16. That Thing You Do!
17. Dead Again
18. Sneakers
19. Zero Effect
20. The Butcher Boy
21. Truly, Madly, Deeply
22. In the Company of Men
23. Devil in a Blue Dress
24. The Red Violin
25. Cemetery Man
26. Hamlet
27. Breakdown
28. Welcome to the Dollhouse
29. The Apostle
30. Eve’s Bayou
31. Hard Eight
32. Defending Your Life
33. A Little Princess
34. Bringing Out the Dead
35. Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
36. Jacob’s Ladder
37. The Spanish Prisoner
38. Pump Up the Volume
39. Beautiful Girls
40. The Double Life of Veronique
41. Very Bad Things
42. Richard III
43. October Sky
44. Strange Days
45. My Neighbor Totoro
46. L.A. Story
47. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
48. A Bronx Tale
49. The Limey
50. A Perfect World
51. Before Sunrise
52. Bob Roberts
53. Dick
54. Raise the Red Lantern
55. One False Move
56. The Ref
57. Exotica
58. Sonatine
59. Joe Versus the Volcano
60. Matinee
61. The Ice Storm
62. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
63. Croupier
64. The Winslow Boy
65. Girl on the Bridge
66. Bullet in the Head
67. Darkman
68. Cannibal! The Musical
69. Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
70. Smoke
71. The Last Days of Disco
72. Fresh
73. Eye of God
74. Flirting with Disaster
75. Bottle Rocket
76. Ashes of Time
77. Fallen Angels
78. Great Expectations
79. Kundun
80. A Midnight Clear
81. Deep Cover
82. Ravenous
83. Twin Falls, Idaho
84. The People vs. Larry Flynt
85. Quick Change
86. The Secret of Roan Inish
87. Beloved
88. Big Night
89. Topsy-Turvy
90. Living in Oblivion
91. Jesus’ Son
92. Glengarry Glen Ross
93. Chaplin
94. Dead Alive
95. Jude
96. Cradle Will Rock
97. Proof
98. The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl
99. Titus
100. Mystery Men

OFCS Top 100: Top 100 Animated Features

A new OFCS Top 100 is coming soon: our “100 Best First Films” celebrates the best in directorial debut efforts. Voting is currently underway, and the list will be announced Monday, October 4. To celebrate the arrival of the new list – our first since 2004 – we’re taking a trip back in time, reposting our previous Top 100s.

The OFCS Top 100 Animated Features was announced in 2003. Read the list after the jump.

March 4, 2003: The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), the international association of the leading Internet-based cinema journalists, is celebrating the glory of animation with its new list honoring its choices of the Top 100 Animated Features of All Time.

With a reminder list of more than 350 feature films to choose from (the list did not include animated short films), spanning the years from the 1926 silent film The Adventures of Prince Achmed to last November’s release Treasure Planet, the society invited its accredited writers to consider some of the finest films of this celebrated genre. “Looking at the list compiled by our writers, it’s evident what an impact the advances and varieties of animation had on people in the last 15 years,” says Erik Childress, editor of and a member of the OFCS Governing Committee. “While films such as Snow White and Fantasia may have been the blueprint for animation, the recent films of Pixar, Mayazaki and Trey Parker & Matt Stone have reconfigured how we view animated films and have expanded their artistic, emotional and satiric potential to new heights.”

The Online Film Critics Society’s Top 100 Animated Features of all Time

1. Toy Story (1995)
2. Fantasia (1940)
3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
4. Toy Story 2 (1999)
5. The Iron Giant (1999)
6. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
9. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
10 Spirited Away (2002)
11. Pinocchio (1940)
12. The Lion King (1994)
13. Chicken Run (2000)
14. Bambi (1942)
15. Shrek (2001)
16. Princess Mononoke (1999)
17. Monsters Inc. (2001)
18. Yellow Submarine (1968)
19. Aladdin (1992)
20. Akira (1989)
21. A Bug’s Life (1998)
22. The Little Mermaid (1989)
23. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
24. Dumbo (1941)
25. Waking Life (2001)
26. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
27. The Jungle Book (1967)
28. 101 Dalmatians (1961)
29. Ice Age (2002)
30. My Neighbor Totoro (1993)
31. Watership Down (1978)
32. Charlotte’s Web (1973)
33. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
34. The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie (1979)
35. The Secret of NIMH (1982)
36. Peter Pan (1953)
37. Cinderella (1950)
38. Ghost in the Shell (1996)
39. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
40. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
41. Antz (1998)
42. Animal Farm (1955)
43. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
44. Alice (1988)
45. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
46. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
47. Beavis & Butthead Do America (1996)
48. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
49. Mulan (1998)
50. Fantastic Planet (1973)
51. Fritz the Cat (1972)
52. Gulliver’s Travels (1939)
53. Heavy Metal (1981)
54. Metropolis (2002)
55. Robin Hood (1973)
56. Tarzan (1999)
57. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
58. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
59. Asterix et Cleopatre (1968)
60. Fantasia 2000 (2000)
61. Transformers: The Movie (1986)
62. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
63. James and the Giant Peach (1996)
64. Snoopy Come Home (1972)
65. An American Tail (1986)
66. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
67. Song of the South (1946)
68. A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)
69. When the Wind Blows (1988)
70. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
71. The Brave Little Toaster (1988)
72. Mad Monster Party (1969)
73. The Fox and the Hound (1981)
74. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)
75. Anastasia (1997)
76. The Rescuers (1977)
77. The Plague Dogs (1983)
78. The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)
79. The Land Before Time (1988)
80. The Emperor’s Nightingale (1951)
81. Arabian Knight (aka The Thief and the Cobbler) (1995)
82. Titan A.E. (2000)
83. Perfect Blue (1999)
84. Ninja Scroll (1995)
85. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
86. The Powerpuff Girls Movie (2002)
87. The Aristocats (1970)
88. Gay Purr-ee (1962)
89. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)
90. The Lord of the Rings (1978)
91. The Three Caballeros (1945)
92. Allegro Non Troppo (1977)
93. Hercules (1997)
94. Bebe’s Kids (1992)
95. Treasure Planet (2002)
96. The Last Unicorn (1982)
97. Streetfight (aka Coonskin) (1975)
98. The Adventures of Mark Twain (1986)
99. Fire and Ice (1983)
100. The Black Cauldron (1985)

OFCS Top 100: Top 100 Villains of All Time

A new OFCS Top 100 is coming soon: our “100 Best First Films” celebrates the best in directorial debut efforts. Voting is currently underway, and the list will be announced Monday, October 4. To celebrate the arrival of the new list – our first since 2004 – we’re taking a trip back in time, reposting our previous Top 100s.

The OFCS Top 100 Villains of All Time was announced in 2002. Read the list after the jump.

October 1, 2002: The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), the international association of the leading Internet-based cinema journalists, is sharing its love with the character we’re supposed to hate. The OFCS has announced its new list celebrating the Top 100 Villains of All Time and the greatest screen villain of all time, according to the 132 members of the OFCS, is Darth Vader played by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones in the original Star Wars trilogy.

In polling the OFCS membership for this survey, with a list of more than 400 potential villains to choose from, the society invited its members to consider some of the most wonderfully charismatic examples of celluloid evil. “The Villains list spans the history of motion pictures, from Max Schreck’s landmark performance in the 1922 silent version of Nosferatu to Anthony Hopkins reprising his Hannibal Lecter role yet again in the new Red Dragon feature,” says Erik Childress, editor of and a member of the OFCS Governing Committee. “In many ways, the villains are the most important aspect of classic films–what would Star Wars be without Darth Vader or The Wizard of Oz without ‘The Wicked Witch of the West.’ With this list, we can unapologetically say that we love a great villain!”

The OFCS Top 100 Villains of All Time

1. Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones, Star Wars, etc.)
2. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, etc.)
3. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, Psycho, etc.)
4. Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman, Die Hard)
5. Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper, Blue Velvet)
6. Rev. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum, The Night of the Hunter)
7. HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain [voice], 2001: A Space Odyssey)
8. The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton, The Wizard of Oz)
9. Graf Orlock (Max Schreck, Nosferatu)
10. Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
11. Alex (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange)
12. Keyzer Soze ([actor’s name withheld], The Usual Suspects)
13. Harry Lime (Orson Welles, The Third Man)
14. Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List)
15. Michael Myers (aka The Shape) (Nick Castle, Halloween)
16. The Joker (Jack Nicholson, Batman)
17. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
18. Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate)
19. The shark (Himself, Jaws)
20. John Doe (Kevin Spacey, Se7en)
21. T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator, etc.)
22. Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates, Misery)
23. John “Jack” Daniel Torrance (Jack Nicholson, The Shining)
24. Frank (Henry Fonda, Once Upon a Time in the West)
25. Salieri (F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus)
26. Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre, M)
27. Chad (Aaron Eckhart, In the Company of Men)
28. The alien (Himself, Alien, etc.)
29. Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten, Shadow of a Doubt)
30. Freddy Kreuger (Robert Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street)
31. Col. Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando, Apocalypse Now)
32. Noah Cross (John Huston, Chinatown)
33. Alex Forrest (Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction)
34. Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey, Full Metal Jacket)
35. Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner)
36. Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix)
37. Dracula (Bela Lugosi, Dracula)
38. Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier, Marathon Man)
39. T-1000 (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
40. Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore, It’s a Wonderful Life)
41. Pazuzu (Mercedes McCambridge [voice], The Exorcist)
42. Captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles, Touch of Evil)
43. Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman Léon/The Professional)
44. Max Cady (Robert De Niro, Cape Fear)
45. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe, Goldfinger)
46. King Richard III (Ian McKellan, Richard III)
47. Bruno Antony (Robert Walker, Strangers On a Train)
48. Albert Spica (Michael Gambon, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover)
49. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity)
50. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale, American Psycho)
51. John Ryder (Rutger Hauer, The Hitcher)
52. Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, Goodfellas)
53. Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter, All About Eve)
54. Rhoda (Patty McCormack, The Bad Seed)
55. Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death)
56. Arthur “Cody” Jarrett (James Cagney, White Heat)
57. The queen (Lucille La Verne [voice], Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
58. Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson, Rebecca)
59. Max Cady (Robert Mitchum, Cape Fear)
60. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden, Dr. Strangelove)
61. Dr. Evil (Mike Myers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, etc.)
62. Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro, Taxi Driver)
63. Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct)
64. Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
65. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas, Wall Street)
66. Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon, Rosemary’s Baby)
67. Mountain men (Bill McKinney and Herbert “Cowboy” Coward, Deliverance)
68. Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington, Training Day)
69. Jane Hudson (Bette Davis, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?)
70. Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson [voice], 101 Dalmatians)
71. The evil Maria (Brigitte Helm, Metropolis)
72. The truck driver (Carey Loftin, Duel)
73. Booth (John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire)
74. Erik (Lon Chaney, The Phantom of the Opera)
75. Wendy Kroy (Linda Fiorentino, The Last Seduction)
76. Henry (Michael Rooker, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer)
77. Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast)
78. Roat (Alan Arkin, Wait Until Dark)
79. Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen, Reservoir Dogs)
80. Aguirre (Klaus Kinski, Aguirre, the Wrath of God)
81. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt, Fight Club)
82. Catwoman (Michelle Pfieffer, Batman Returns)
83. Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth, Rob Roy)
84. Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft, The Graduate)
85. Major Heinrich Strasser (Conrad Veidt, Casablanca)
86. Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson, Back to the Future, etc.)
87. Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
88. Roger Smith (Himself, Roger & Me)
89. Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman, Unforgiven)
90. The monster (Boris Karloff, Frankenstein, etc.)
91. Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow, Flash Gordon)
92. Henry Morrison/Jerry Blake/Bill Hodgkins (Terry O’Quinn, The Stepfather)
93. Mystery Villain ([actor’s name withheld], Primal Fear)
94. Jack Wilson (Jack Palance, Shane)
95. Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm, Peeping Tom)
96. Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton, Mutiny On the Bounty)
97. The Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry, Legend)
98. Krug (David Hess, The Last House On the Left)
99. Clare Qu

ilty (Peter Sellers, Lolita
100. Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)

OFCS Top 100: Top 100 Sci-Fi Films

A new OFCS Top 100 is coming soon: our “100 Best First Films” celebrates the best in directorial debut efforts. Voting is currently underway, and the list will be announced Monday, October 4. To celebrate the arrival of the new list – our first since 2004 – we’re taking a trip back in time, reposting our previous Top 100s.

The OFCS Top 100 Top Sci-Fi Films was announced in 2002. Read the list after the jump.

June 12, 2002: The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), the international association of the leading Internet-based cinema journalists, is celebrating the first century of science fiction filmmaking with a list of the Top 100 Sci-Fi Films of the Past 100 Years. At the top of the list, according to the 115 members of the OFCS, is Stanley Kubrick’s cryptic 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Beginning with Georges Melies’ 1902 fantasy A Trip to the Moon and continuing through this summer’s top releases including Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and the upcoming Minority Report, sci-fi has proven to be among the most durable and prescient of film genres. In celebrating a century of sci-fi films, the OFCS writers considered more than 400 titles spanning every decade and a variety of formats ranging from short subjects to animation to classics of global cinema.

In polling the OFCS membership for this survey, the society invited its members to provide their choices for the century’s greatest sci-fi offerings. “It’s very interesting to see what a broad spectrum of films can be considered science fiction,” says Erik Childress, editor of and a member of the OFCS Governing Committee. “By letting our members vote with their own thoughts instead of tying them down with an absolute final ballot AFI-style, you get to see a wide array of titles that many, including myself, wouldn’t even consider science-fiction (like Dr. Strangelove or Night of the Living Dead).”

The OFCS Top 100 Top Sci-Fi Films

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2. Blade Runner (1982)
3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
4. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
5. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
6. Metropolis (1927)
7. Brazil (1985)
8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
9. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
10. Alien (1979)
11. Aliens (1986)
12. The Matrix (1999)
13. Back to the Future (1985)
14. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
15. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
16. The Terminator (1984)
17. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
18. Planet of the Apes (1968)
19. Dark City (1998)
20. Contact (1997)
21. 12 Monkeys (1995)
22. King Kong (1933)
23. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
24. La Jetee (1962)
25. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
26. Solaris (1972)
27. The Road Warrior (1981)
28. The Thing (1982)
29. Jurassic Park (1993)
30. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
31. Robocop (1987)
32. Forbidden Planet (1956)
33. The Abyss (1989)
34. Alphaville (1965)
35. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
36. Donnie Darko (2001)
37. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
38. The Iron Giant (1999)
39. Frankenstein (1931)
40. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
41. The Truman Show (1998)
42. Videodrome (1983)
43. Pi (1998)
44. The Fly (1986)
45. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
46. The Time Machine (1960)
47. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
48. The War of The Worlds (1953)
49. Independence Day (1996)
50. The City of Lost Children (La Cité des enfants perdus) (1995)
51. The Invisible Man (1933)
52. Gattaca (1997)
53. Altered States (1980)
54. A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) (1902)
55. Ghostbusters (1984)
56. Stalker (1979)
57. The Fifth Element (1997)
58. The Thing From Another World (1951)
59. Tron (1982)
60. Them! (1954)
61. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
62. Starship Troopers (1997)
63. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
64. Superman: The Movie (1978)
65. Strange Days (1995)
66. Quatermass and the Pit (a.k.a. Five Million Years To Earth) (1967)
67. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
68. They Live (1988)
69. Things to Come (1936)
70. Sleeper (1973)
71. Mad Max (1979)
72. The Cell (2000)
73. Fantastic Voyage (1966)
74. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
75. Dead Zone (1983)
76. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
77. Akira (1988)
78. Time Bandits (1981)
79. eXistenZ (1999)
80. Invaders from Mars (1953)
81. On the Beach (1959)
82. Silent Running (1971)
83. Total Recall (1990)
84. Open Your Eyes (Abre los Ojos) (1997)
85. Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
86. THX 1138 (1970)
87. Seconds (1966)
88. Starman (1984)
89. Village of the Damned (1960)
90. Until the End of the World (1991)
91. Fantastic Planet (La Planète sauvage) (1973)
92. Men In Black (1997)
93. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
94. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
95. Highlander (1986)
96. The Andromeda Strain (1971)
97. Time After Time (1979)
98. Escape from New York (1981)
99. Slaughterhouse Five (1973)
100. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Essay Question: Our Remake Wishes

OFCS members answer the question:

If you had the chance to remake any film, which one would you remake?

Answers after the jump.

David Cornelius:

Flash Gordon. With all respect to the 1980 Mike Hodges feature (which I love), the character deserves a camp-free revival, and the crummy 2007-08 TV series (not to mention the 1996 cartoon) just didn’t do the job. Let’s get back to the comic strip/matinee serial roots with some whirlwind retro adventure – like The Rocketeer, but with Hawkmen! (Brian Blessed, of course, is invited to play every role.)

Rob Gonsalves:

The Island of Dr. Moreau. Because the basic H.G. Wells story is always relevant, and the last word on it shouldn’t be the interesting but compromised 1996 version. There have been, by my count, three major Hollywood passes at the material (the Charles Laughton Island of Lost Souls being the best by far) and three cheapjack productions that got made because the novel is in the public domain.

I would go to Warner, where they seem to respect oddity and artistry, get a healthy budget for great manimal-making (supervised by Rick Baker), get Guillermo Del Toro to produce and Vincenzo Natali to direct, and write the script myself incorporating all the best stuff from Wells and the better films. For Moreau I’d cast David Cronenberg; you really don’t want to get into a hambone contest with Laughton, Burt Lancaster and Brando, so I’d want to go the other way and make Moreau cool and clinical and, well, Cronenbergian. Although Dieter Laser from “The Human Centipede” would also be a good choice (if a bit on-the-nose). Peter Gabriel would compose the creepy jungle score. Lady Gaga would be the half-woman half-cat. Nathan Fillion would be protagonist Edward Prendick.

Who am I kidding, though? I fully expect this to be announced as yet another Tim Burton/Johnny Depp vehicle…

Phil Hall:

The 1974 film version of Jerry Herman’s delightful Broadway musical Mame was a travesty because of Gene Saks’ clumsy direction and the tragic miscasting of frog-voiced Lucille Ball in the title role. Someday, hopefully, a proper Mame film will be made.

Mark H. Harris:

Avatar, because I think the original flew under the radar. 🙂

Wesley Lovell:

Sweeney Todd. I had ideas in my head for how this should be adapted well before Burton blasphemed the entire production. So much would change and I would rebuild on the original stage production and not dismantle it as was done on the big screen.

John J. Puccio:

I think it’s time somebody remade Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. They could change the main character to a woman, Norma Bates, and get Angelina Jolie to play her, with Jon Voight as her mummified father.

Jonathan Richards:

Of course it makes the most sense to remake the bad ones, because the pressure is off. Showgirls might be fun. Or something like Reefer Madness, Howard the Duck, Battlefield Earth, or Plan 9 from Outer Space (somebody’s already going the Ed Wood route: Grave Robbers from Outer Space, based on a “concept” by Ed Wood, is currently listed as “In Production”.)

Or something really easy. Has anyone thought about doing a remake of Andy Warhol’s Empire?

Or something fun but forgotten, like Rhubarb, the 1951 charmer about a cat that inherits the Brooklyn Dodgers. Of course there are no more Brooklyn Dodgers, and I don’t think a movie about a cat inheriting the Los Angeles Dodgers would have the same appeal.

What you want to stay away from are the movies that worked so well the first time. Alan Arkin once told me that the best notices he’d had in years came in the reviews of the Douglas/Brooks remake of The In-Laws.

The movies I remake in my head always have me starring in them. Me as Captain Blood, me as Rick Blaine, me as Lawrence of Arabia, me as Atticus Finch, me as The Man With No Name. These would all be excellent choices, and if there’s someone out there with a bankroll and a sense of adventure, let’s talk.

Robert Roten:

I would remake Starship Troopers.

It is a film with a lot of potential that could be realized with modern computer graphics not available when the film was originally made. It could be a decent film by sticking closer to the original story by Robert Heinlein, but it also desperately needs a lot better writing, a much better cast and a director who is not trying to force the story into a snide Robocop satirical mold.

In director Paul Verhoeven’s defense, I think he was forced into a lot of compromises and improvisation during the making of this film due to budgetary constraints. It turned out that most of the money went into special effects and very little on acting talent and writing, a common problem in science fiction films.

I would go more for a tone similar to that of the TV series Space, Above and Beyond, which was much more in the spirit of Heinlein’s book than the Starship Troopers movie was. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was the first time I saw Starship Troopers. It would be great to wash away that disappointment.

Felix Vasquez:

I would remake Dawn of the Dead, and do it in a vastly unusual format. Instead of just throwing a bunch of people at us and tossing them in to a mall with sprinting zombies like the remake did, I’d stage it very much like Go, in which we follow only four or five characters, set up their own segments where they discover, and flee from the zombie apocalypse, and circumstances in which they all inevitably cross paths. I’d add much more of the social commentary from the Romero movie but not too much and actually provide a reason for wanting to be in the mall beyond just randomly coming across it in the middle of the chaos and adding some sense to it. I’d add a clear logical reason for leaving the mall in the end and slow down the zombies to where they’re more fast walkers and not marathon runners posing as deus ex machinas. Less characters, richer character development, much more conflict and we’d actually have a remake rivaling Romero’s original.

Rob Vaux:

The Running Man. Stephen King’s original novella was prescient in its depiction of reality TV and the lengths modern society will go to for titillation and thrills. The Schwarzenegger film abandoned those notions for silly costumes, bad puns and a simplistic “good vs. evil” look at the future. In the right hands, a gritty modern update could become a truly great piece of sci-fi dystopia (though we’ll let them keep Richard Dawson).

Yaroslav Vishtalyuk:

Max Payne (2008) – excellent game but abominable movie.

Essay Question: The Worst Miscasting

OFCS members answer the question:

What do you think was the most severe case of movie miscasting?

Answers after the jump.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

The all-time one would be John Wayne as Genghis Khan. But the worst one I’ve heard about recently is Scorsese supposedly considering Al Pacino as Frank Sinatra and Robert De Niro as Dean Martin. Jesus wept.

Phil Hall, Film Threat:

Hands down, Lucille Ball in Mame. She was far too old for the role (and the use of gauzy filters only accentuated her advancing age) and it was impossible for her to shake her “Lucy” persona and take over the persona of Auntie Mame. And don’t get me started on her singing!

Mike McGranahan, The Aisle Seat:

It’s a tie between Tara Reid playing an anthropologist in Alone in the Dark and Denise Richards playing a munitions expert in The World is Not Enough. This is not to suggest that pretty girls can’t also be brilliant; I’m simply suggesting that these two actresses fall far short of projecting the kind of natural intelligence that would make them credible in such roles. I mean, Reid can’t even properly pronounce “Newfoundland” in the movie, for Pete’s sake!

John Puccio, DVDTOWN:

I’d say it’s a toss-up between Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly! and Lucille Ball in Mame. Both were miscast so badly, it’s no wonder both films turned out critical disasters.

Kevin A. Ranson,

This may sound snarky, but Megan Fox in anything at all. Seriously, name one role she’s played that she seemed right for or actually contributed anything to.

Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed:

In the last five years, I’d say the worst casting in a film has to be Sam Worthington as the lead in Avatar. This was a humongous movie with amazing technology attached with an epic storyline, with an all-star cast and a vivid world and they cast the most one-dimensional bland leading man working today to take up the charge in a story that deserved a more interesting and much more appealing hero at the reigns than someone who is such a blank slate he practically has no face.

Essay Question: Unseen Classics

OFCS members answer the question:

What classic film(s) have you never seen? Why not?

Answers after the jump.

David Cornelius, eFilmCritic:

I’m destined to never see Gone with the Wind in its entirety. Oh, I’ve started several times, only to fall fast asleep every with every viewing. Something about those Tarleton boys, I guess.

Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:

More than I care to admit, count, or list. You’ve heard of They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They, with its ever-changing list of 1000 essential films? Yeah, I haven’t seen all of ’em. Not even close. In fact, I’ve only seen eight of the top ten films on that list. The taste of shame, it is bitter on my tongue.

“Why not?” Time (lack thereof). Life (gets in the way). If I had nothing to worry about except watching movies all day, I would gleefully do so. I like to think this makes me appreciate all the more the occasional slivers of time I can carve out for non-current films. My twenties were seemingly all about kicking back and watching flicks. My thirties have largely been about Taking Care of Business. Perhaps my forties will improve in this regard, or perhaps I will learn how to manage my time more efficiently. In brief, it’s not because I don’t want to see awesome films.

Phil Hall, Film Threat:

One classic film that I’ve never seen and would love to experience in the groundbreaking 1952 film This is Cinerama, which was responsible for reconfiguring film projection into widescreen proportions. The film has never been made available for home viewing, and it can only be seen at a few venues that are still capable of presenting the production in its triple-screen set-up.

A.J. Hakari, Passport Cinema:

Gone with the Wind is the one I’m most embarrassed to have never seen; as someone who sat through the Air Bud series several times over, this hurts doubly so. But other viewing commitments and a pretty daunting length have kept me from sitting down and watching it, end to end.

Roderick Heath, Ferdy on Films:

There’s a lot of “classic” films that I haven’t managed to notch up yet – too much of Douglas Sirk’s work, of Von Sternberg and Samuel Fuller and John Cassavettes and Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Chantal Akerman and really the list goes on and on. I’d say a couple of the most painful and egregious ones I’ve not yet encountered would include Wilder’s Double Indemnity and Murnau’s Sunrise. The reason for all my lacks is the same, and can be attributed to my living in a fairly small and out-of-the-way town: lack of immediate availability. I’ve never seen them come on free-to-air or cable television or in a video store when I had the money. Fortunately, the many resources for the film lover on the internet has allowed me to plug a lot of these gaps. But one can live without other people’s classics: it can encourage you to look more closely at what you can find.

Dan Lybarger, eFilmCritic:

Believe it or not, I had not seen Wes Craven’s 1984 original version of A Nightmare on Elm Street until the Sunday before I endured the current remake.

It’s even more pathetic when you consider that my first professional assignment was Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.

Although movies have taken up a disproportionate part of my life, I grew up in a town where the only indoor theater closed for good around 1980. We had a drive-in outside of town, but if I wanted to see a film, I had no choice but to go with my parents. For some reason, they were unwilling to watch horror movies. As a result, there were a series of horror films that came out during my youth that I had no chance of seeing even though several of my peers raved about them.

I didn’t see Alien, Halloween and Friday the 13th until well into my adulthood. I’m a huge fan of the first two films of that trio, but time has not been kind to the third one. I saw it after I’d seen Scream, and it managed to embody every cliché that Neve Campbell, Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven made fun of in that film. It also doesn’t help that no one in that film, even the normally terrific Kevin Bacon, seems to be able to act.

Having finally seen the original Nightmare, I’d have to say it’s remarkably effective. It’s so effective that the folks behind the remake copied some sequences shot-for-shot, but to diminishing returns.

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat:

I’ve actually spent the last six or seven years catching up on many of the classics I’d never seen. I held off seeing many of them until I could find good, restored copies on DVD, so that I could finally see these films under the best possible circumstances. However, one mega-classic has long been available in pristine DVD condition and I’ve yet to tackle it: Gone With the Wind. Part of my reason for avoiding it is the length; I rarely have the time to sit down and watch a four-hour movie in one stretch. Another reason is that the film (and many of its individual moments) are so iconic that, at some level, I feel as though I’ve already seen it. I certainly do plan to rectify this situation at some point, but I think that will take place once I’ve exhausted many of the other classics on my list that I still have to get to.

Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed:

I consider myself a hardcore film buff, but there are just a plethora of classic films I’ve never seen. Films from Fellini, from Kurosawa, from Errol Morris, from Eastwood, from Bernardo Bertolucci, from Bergman and the list literally can go on. I’m not against watching them I just do not have the time or resources to track them down. However before the time is up I intend to school myself on the basics and finally catch up to the rest of the film community. I’ve seen hundreds of classics, cult classics, and obscure films, but from those directors I’m still considerably in the dark since I live in a city that’s not the most culturally enhanced. I intend to stop that soon enough.