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.
#83 – Miller’s Crossing
Why is it here:
This is where the Coen Bros. proved they can handle anything. The tone they showed here was their most serious and downright classical and though their earlier films had shown flashes of what to come this entered an entire new realm. And was a failure at the box office. Baffling. Too many great crime flicks may have damped the outlook but the film itself is golden. The look of it, the hard boiled, Hammett-inspired tone of it, the performances, and the connective tissue was like a five star hotel’s best dish. They also started to build their stable of actors here, many of whom still show up in their films. It’s a magnificent piece of work and Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, Marcia Gay Harden, JE Freeman, and Jon Polito deliver their finest work. JE Freeman blew my mind, and though the actor has retired to be an artist and enjoy his life out in the open, his work here showcased a character actor who we deserved a lot more of. It’s a classic in every sense that matters.
Moments to savor:
“Look into your heart”. The assault on Leo’s place. The richest dialogue around. Marcia Gay’s right cross. The sets. The Dane. One of the coolest cats to grace the screen.
Worth a yearly spin. At least.
1990 was a sick year for great crime flicks. Even the maligned but hardly bad The Godfather III came out, but the real choice meats were Goodfellas, The Grifters, Reversal of Fortune, Wild at Heart, the terribly underappreciated State of Grace, the even more unappreciated Miami Blues, and even Dick Tracy. It was a tough year to stick out, and Dances With Wolves trounced them all. It was an amazing year, especially considering The Hunt for Red October, Total Recall, and Presumed Innocent were in the mix. Miller’s Crossing ranks real high on that group. In my estimation second of them all. The other one is up high in this very list. That’s what you call a clue. And a no-brainer. If you can’t figure that one out you are lacking.