Lists are great. They inspire discussion, create arguments, and tend to spiral off into fun new lists. When you do a list about the “BEST” of anything it goes from being fun to becoming a hotbed for arguments. There’s no such thing as a definitive list but I’ve decided to pull from my rather extensive life of film watching and put it to good use.
This is not the “film critic’s top 100” list. There’s no guarantee Citizen Kane or The Bicycle Thief will be in the top echelon or even on the list. This is the 100 movies I would put my name on as my top 100. If I died tomorrow this would represent the 100 films I find most vital, special, or ones that bonded to whatever it is that makes me me. I’m not including documentaries, though that might make for a nice supplemental list.
The first 80 will be in no particular order. The last 20 will be in very particular order. One a day, you have my word.
#91 – JFK
Why is it here:
Oliver Stone is a polarizing filmmaker, especially to people too young to have experienced the tremendous run of films he created from Salvador on to Platoon to Wall Street to Talk Radio to Born on the Fourth of July to The Doors to this film. The 80’s was his decade whether by critical acclaim, box office success, or incendiary discussion. Stone’s mania gave his films an electricity that made them so much more that biopics. They were event films and he routinely brought career best performances from the people associated. JFK is the culmination of that decade, an assault on the senses and a heavily researched “what if” of a movie with one of the best casts ever assembled. Despite shaky accent work Kevin Costner anchors the film well (as he did in the excellent Thirteen Days) and he’s assisted heavily by everyone around him aside from Oliver Stone’s son, who is a nightmare. It’s an amazing, moving, and inspiring film. I defy anyone who loves film not to watch this to see just how far the medium can be stretched to tell a story.
And Donald Sutherland’s gigantic monologue deserves its own award.
Moments to savor:
The Mister X sequence is a masterstroke. Walter Matthau on the plane bending Jim Garrison’s ear. John Candy’s down home charm. Seeing Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman disappear into roles. The grisly revisiting of one of the most famous murders of all time. Trying to figure what the film stock is on any given shot.
Very high despite the length of the film. It’s a film that teeters back and forth in terms of the fiction/nonfiction scale and it makes it even more engaging. It seems so batshit crazy at times but Stone is such a fantastic puller of emotion that suspension of disbelief sometimes gives in to the sheet force of his vision.
This is one of those movies that really is one of the last awe-inspiring kitchen sink films of the pre-digital era. A lot of the cutting techniques and varying degrees of quality in the film stock is something that is the norm today. It’s easy to do now and the world is built around tremendous amounts of cutting and use of the frame to keep the eye diverted. Oliver Stone dug deep here and it makes the film really a kind of pioneer in the way it told its story. It’s not Stone’s creation of course, he studied from many greats on both sides of the pond and it shows.