10 Absolute 10s!

I haven’t recently posted in a while.  My apologies to the the five people who frequent my blog.  I have been watching a lot of films lately and have come up with a list of films that I have give a 10 of 10 too.  I get into arguments with my friend Peyton about giving films a ten, I tend to give slightly more 10s out then he does, but I am constructing a cohesive list of ten films that have the equivalent rating.  So far this year, I’ve only given out two 10s, one to “Antichrist” and the other to “A Single Man”.  Enjoy…

“Apocalypse Now” – 1979.  Dir. Francis Ford Coppola.  With Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburn, Harrison Ford, Fredirc Forest, Sam Bottoms, Bill Grahm, Albert Hall, Scott Glenn and G.D. Spradin.

This is film is truly an unstoppable force.  It grabs you and pulls you in for the full 153 minutes (202 min for “Redux”).  This is my favorite war film, but then again it really isn’t a war film.  It’s a story of Willard, brilliantly played by Martin Sheen, a man who is lost in the jungle, who is lost in horrors of war.  It’s about his journey through life as he navigates his way through beaches, and through rivers, and meeting eccentric and psychopathic people – it’s his journey to The End, to Col. Kurtz, to Marlon Brando.  It’s Martin Sheen as Odysseus in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Odyssey”.

The making of this film is a story that is as, if not more, fascinating then the film itself.  The trials and tribulations that Coppola had to deal with and concur as he was forced to shut down production, forced to deal with Brando’s bad behavior, forced to deal with Sheen having a heart attack while filming.  A documentary titled: “Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” by Coppola’s wife featuring interviews with the cast and crew during filming and then contemporary interviews (circa 1992) is almost as good as the film itself.

The ensemble cast that is shown in this film is an unbelievable abundance of talent.  All the unknown faces and known faces play together in a perfect mesh to show the utter horrors that war and that life have in store for us.  Everyone excels, from Sheen to Brando, from Hopper to Ford, from Hall to Glenn, from Spradin to Duvall.  This is a film that cannot ever, ever be remade or even reworked.  The filming was to chaotic, and too filled with it’s own horrors that it couldn’t have been made without the horror of film making itself.

“Brokeback Mountain” – 2007. Dir. Ang Lee.  With Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllehaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams and Randy Quaid.

Ang Lee’s epic saga about the pain and joy we all feel from love is one of the most emotionally draining films I have ever seen.  It even matches the emotional pull and despair I feel from “The Deer Hunter”.  The homophobic backlash this film endured is beyond belief appalling and it shows us how our society isn’t near as tolerant as we should be toward gays.  But I’ll get off my liberal soap box.  This is a love story that transcends gender.  It’s a story about a love we have all felt, about a love that we can’t let go of.  It’s about a love that is just so beautiful and painful and full of joy that we can’t let go of it.  We just can’t.  Heath Ledger gives the best performance of his very brief and short career as Enis Del Mar, who is a heterosexual man who falls in love with a gay man played by Jake Gyllenhaal.  The despair, the pain, the love, the affection are all too real in the film.  We can take this period piece love story and parallel it to our lives.

Ang Lee proves himself as a master of his craft.  The way he molded Larry McMurtry and Annie Proulx’s words to the screen is a monumental feat that many can’t achieve.  The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is flawless and the heartbreaking score by Gustavo Santaolalla is pitch perfect.  This film continues to break my heart each time I watch it.  I live for films like “Brokeback Mountain”.

“The Deer Hunter” – 1978. Dir. Michael Cimino. With Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, George Dzundza, Michael Savage and John Cazale.

“The Deer Hunter” is a film that I put in once a year and it’s a landmark event if I can find the strength within myself to watch it all the way through.  I gladly make it through the beginning, where all the characters are happy.  Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep are getting married.  When the boys go deer hunting before they embark on their own personal hell in Vietnam.  The first 45 minutes or so, I’m good.  Once we reach Vietnam and see the characters forced into playing  Russian Roulette by their Vietcong captors, I start to break.  The actual scene that breaks me isn’t the end (which I’ve only made it too about five times over my twenty attempts), it’s the scene when they are DeNiro arrives back from Vietnam and they go deer hunting.  DeNiro is stalking a beautiful buck through the woods for what seems like hours upon hours.  He finally gets his “one shot” – but doesn’t take it.

Another emotional factor for me is knowing that while the crew and actors were filming this film they knew that John Cazale (best known as Al Pacino’s acting partner and as Fredo from “The Godfather”) was dying of a rare form of cancer, that this film was going to be his swan song.  Cazale and Streep were engaged during the filming of “The Deer Hunter”.  This film also isn’t purely a war film, even though the backdrop of the film is Vietnam.  I believe the film is more about the power of love and friendship.  Would you travel across the world in a fleeting moment to save a friend who refuses to be saved.  Would you try?

“Five Easy Pieces” – 1970.  Dir. Bob Rafelson.  With Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, and Billy Green Bush.

Jack Nicholson’s finest work came from his filmmaking partner Bob Rafelson.  In “Five Easy Pieces” Nicholson gives his best performance as Robert Erocia Dupea, a piano prodigy who left a life of wealth and prosperity to make it on his own, to live his own dilapidated life.  This film defines an era of rebels and individuals and is about the last of a dying breed.  Nicholson gives a powerful performance as a man who’s life is falling apart.  He quits his dead end oil drilling job after his best friend gets arrested, and then travels back home to see his dying father.

Dupea never stops running, and he never will.  He was born to run, to Run Like Hell.  This film is so powerful and raw that it defined Nicholson as an icon, as a Hollywood and American legend.  It’s just a shame that Nicholson couldn’t produce films like these his entire career.  The ending to this film has to be one of the most powerful endings to any film I have ever seen.

“Blue Velvet” – 1986.  Dir. David Lynch.  With Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern and Dean Stockwell.

David Lynch is one of the most original and unique film artists in cinema.  While Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, Coppola, and Tarantino are just as gifted, if not more then Lynch, they all show homages to the greats who made them who they are in their films.  The only artist David Lynch shows homage to is David Lynch.

I have never seen a film that blends two genres so well together.  A mellow-dramatic horror film.  Only David Lynch could do this.  The film transcends time, it has an ambiguous time frame, it’s a period piece mellow drama, yet once Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper who gives the best performance of his impressive career) enters the film, it’s turned upside down into a contemporary horror/thriller.  It’s a hard film to put a label on, but if I had too I would call this film a love story.

I cannot even begin to comprehend how David Lynch thinks.  I won’t even try.  It’s too perplexing to me how he does it.  He’s truly the most unique and impressive filmmaker I have ever seen.  Now I understand why Mel Brooks called Lynch “Jimmy Stewart from Mars”.

“Bad Lieutenant” – 1992.  Dir. Abel Ferrara.  With Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo and Frankie Thorn.

This is one of the rawest, and most stomach turning films I have ever seen.  The story is a simple: a cop who’s fallen from grace.  It’s a simple and generic story but the way it’s shot, and the elements it involves goes way beyond all other films like it.  This is as raw, and as gritty as filmmaking gets.  Harvey Keitel gives undoubtedly his best performance as the Bad Lieutenant.  He bares his body, his heart, and his soul on camera until he has nothing left.  The story is about a man who has fallen so far from grace, it takes the brutal raping of a nun to get him on the path to redemption.  This is a film that comes along once in a great while.  This film is the “Antichrist” of the 90s.  If you actually do come across this film, or are interested in seeing it, don’t waste your time with the R rated version, the NC-17 cut of the film is the only one that is true to the film.

“There Will Be Blood” – 2008.  Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson.  With Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano.

This is a film that is the closest thing I have ever seen to “Citizen Kane”.  One man, Daniel Plainview, whose obsession with greed and power destroys absolutely everything in his path, whether it be the towns he claims, or his son, nothing will remain standing in the rubble.  Nothing at all can stop Plainview’s lust for power.  He is truly an unstoppable force, he’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  Day-Lewis gives the biggest tour-de-force performance out of anyone’s career.  The amount of anxiety the fills you while watching this monster tear through everything, slash and burn it is truly incredible and shows the great gift PTA and DDL have in the world of film.  All I know is it scares me that I have a little bit of Daniel Plainview inside of me, but then again.  Who doesn’t?

“The Natural” – 1984.  Dir. Barry Levinson.  With Robert Redford, Wilford Brimley, Darrin McGavin, Glenn Glose, Kim Basinger, Joe Don Baker, Michael Madsen, Richard Farnsworth and Robert Duvall.

I can’t think of a movie that has filled me with more inspiration than “The Natural”.  It is hands down the best film that deals with baseball and sports, and all that comes with it.  For all the people who say you can’t do it, you’re too old, you’re too fat, you’re too skinny, you’re not strong enough, fast enough – watch “The Natural”.  Robert Redford is truly a marvel in this film, and yet again this film isn’t just about baseball – it’s about one man’s odyssey through life, through all the bumps in the road Roy Hobbs chooses to never give up, he chooses to travel the path he was meant to take.  It may take him 10, 15, 20 years to get there, but he finally does, and it’s beautiful.  This movie fills me with pride about myself, because maybe one day, someone some where will say, “There goes Frank Mengarelli, the best there has ever been, the best there ever will be.”

“2001: A Space Odyssey” – 1968.  Dir. Stanley Kubrick.  With Keir Dullea.

What could I possibly have to say about this film or Stanley Kubrick that hasn’t already been said.  I wouldn’t be able to do either justice.

“Taxi Driver” – 1976.  Dir. Martin Scorsese.  With Robert DeNiro, Cybill Shepherd, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel.

This film is one of Scorsese’s masterpieces.  It’s one of the roughest films I’ve ever watched.  I’d say I can only watch this film about once a year and I almost loath every moment of it.  It’s too painful to watch, to hard to watch – to real.  Your just thrown into this world of absolute filth and disgust and the punchline of it is, Robert DeNiro is the character you relate to, the most sympathetic and has the most redeeming qualities to him.  What a sick joke that is!  This world where Travis Bickle becomes the antihero is just to bizarre and so strange.  I’ve never truly seen a film like this before, it’s 100% true and 100% genuine to it’s medium and too the world.  The one thing that I pride myself on is the final shot of the film I don’t think most people understand, but I think I do.  Lets talk.

Thank you for reading and I hope you disagree with me so we can argue and battle to the death about these films.  These aren’t the only 10’s I’ve ever seen, but it’s a good grouping of them.

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Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

7 thoughts on “10 Absolute 10s!”

  1. A little proofreading is needed in the Deer Hunter piece as well. Oh, and its 10s (not 10’s). The 10 doesn’t own anything… there are just multiples.

    Sorry to be a pain in the ass, but at least you know someone is reading. I’m a journalism minor and I’m in a copy editing class, so errors like that are beginning to stick out to me.

  2. Peyton, I’m assuming yours is TWBB.

    Here are 10 absolute 10s as far as I’m concerned. I never question the validity of the grades of these films:

    American Beauty
    L.A. Confidential
    Network
    Rain Man
    Zodiac
    The Wrestler
    Sunset Boulevard
    Gladiator
    Cool Hand Luke
    Schindler’s List

  3. Ohhhhhhhhhh, that scene at the end of “Brokeback Mountain,” that scene where Ennis presses Jack’s shirt against his face! Oh, I just weep at that scene every time. It’s so amazingly beautiful, and it makes me remember what Heath Ledger was capable of. It’s like he’s trying to inhale the essence of the love of his life, trying to recall some small part of the man he’s lost. I’m misting up right now just thinking about it.

    My 10 would include “Apocalypse Now” as well. Here are the other nine:

    “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
    “The Usual Suspects”
    “Blood Simple”
    “Casablanca”
    “This Is Spinal Tap”
    “Halloween”
    “On the Waterfront”
    “Aliens”
    “Young Frankenstein”

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