74. DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993, Richard Linklater)
73. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
There's not too much to say that I haven't said already, so I'll say it again:
"Jennifer Connelly plays a girl named Jennifer who can telepathically communicate with insects in this Dario Argento masterpiece. The atmosphere is exquisite- dreamlike, comforting, dangerous. Something about his use of the Swiss Alps, the rustling pine trees, the ominous mountain winds, and the over-the-top gore... it's a throwback to the original R-rated storybooks: brutal folklore like the Brothers Grimm. I love this movie. I love the fact that there is one line of narration in the entire film, spoken about twenty minutes in. I love that in that one line of narration, they mispronounce the name 'Richard Wagner.' I love that there is a chimp with a straight razor (in homage to Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"). Between this and SUSPIRIA, it is clear that Dario Argento loves maggots, retching, girls' boarding schools, brutal murders, and the volatile combination of all four. I love that he loves that. I love that there's not only ladybug POV, sleepwalking POV, murderer POV, and Great Sarcophagus POV, but there's also MAGGOT POV. I love that the supernatural is represented by fan-blown hair. I love that the ending somehow manages to be as abrupt AND more ridiculous than the screamfest at the end of TENEBRE. I love the inappropriate use of heavy metal, the baroque visuals, the viscerality, the Bee Gees & Richard Gere references, the charming and sympathetic Donald Pleasence (in spite of Argento dialogue), the evocative soundtrack, the bitchy teachers straight out of SUSPIRIA...in fact, there's nothin' NOT to love here. The only way it could be more ridiculously perfect would be if she made out with the chimp." Amen, Dario. Amen.
72. FLESH + BLOOD (1985, Paul Verhoeven)
Another sort of rehash here:
"I'll begin with two quotes by Paul Verhoeven which seem apropos to this film: "People love seeing violence and horrible things. The human being is bad and he can't stand more than five minutes of happiness. Put him in a dark theater and ask him to look at two hours of happiness and he'd walk out or fall asleep." and "Remember that Christianity is a religion grounded in one of the most violent acts of murder, the crucifixion. Otherwise, religion wouldn't have had any kind of impact."
A lot of people like to pin down Paul Verhoeven as 'the guy who did SHOWGIRLS,' and while he cannot erase the fact that he is indeed guilty of being the guy who did SHOWGIRLS, he's one of the most audacious filmmakers to emerge from post-WWII Europe. FLESH + BLOOD is Machiavellian power games, feculent whores, stillborn children, nun snipers, yellowed teeth, and dogs lapping up pools of diseased gore. This movie is absolutely BRUTAL. Every single character looks out for number one, and here, 'looking out for number one' means ripping an earring (and a chunk of flesh) from a woman as she's being raped or using 'God's word' when it's to your liking (Verhoeven has called organized religion a symptom of societal schizophrenia). Any time there's a moment for levity or genuine romance, it's immediately undercut by something like the rotting genitals or random carrion. It’s not exactly a historically accurate depiction of medieval warfare and the Black Death, and it doesn't quite take place in the 14th Century... sixty years ago it took place on the battlefields of Europe. Verhoeven was just a kid then, but he was there. As we speak, it's being waged by talking heads on TV, by hypocrites behind closed doors, and by vicious opportunists from here to the far corners of the world. Where an exploitation flick would insert a rape scene so the viewer could feel 'morally superior' as they enjoyed some T&A, Verhoeven stages sexual assault as a grotesque vortex of ever-shifting power dynamics between man, woman, and the collective. The performances are outstanding: Susan Tyrrell was born to do the Dark Ages- she enters the scene as a bawdy, pregnant, perpetually wasted whore whose life is a series of the highest, barbaric highs and the lowest, 'WHY ME?' lows; Brion James is pure animal, ruthless but bewildered; Ronald Lacey is the sinister Cardinal- malicious, but sincere (not that it matters when he's got his sword in your guts); Jack Thompson is the beleaguered hunter, embodying an almost Peckinpah-style morality (think Robert Ryan in THE WILD BUNCH); and Tom Burlinson is the man of science, but his singlemindedness gives way to a sanctimonious depravity. Rutger Hauer simmers and scowls- a calculating, towheaded, serpentine fiend, rapist, and murderer who might be the closest thing we've got to a 'hero.' Jennifer Jason Leigh- in possibly her finest performance- is a privileged, maid-beating blueblood who attends the condottiere's ‘school of hard knocks’ and emerges as perhaps the most complex and guileful of the bunch." It's nihilistic entertainment at its best, and my favorite Vehoeven (today, anyway).
71. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939, Frank Capra)