The MediaLog Movies 100: The 90s

This is the first installment of "The MediaLog Movies 100," my countdown of the hundred most influential movies in my life. These are not my favorite movies (necessarily) or what I think are the "greatest" movies of all time. They are movies that made an impact on me and my cinematic sensibilities, tempered by considerations of the traditional film "canon" and the conventional wisdom regarding what are the all-time "best" movies.

The "Movies 100" is not a film by film ranking in precise order, but rather groupings of ten films which have no additional discrimination within each group. This is because I do not believe in precise ranking of this kind in most cases, because who's to say whether a particular film is three slots higher than another, or another film is seven slots lower than this one, or so on? Not me. I am, however, able to roughly group these films that have been influential on me, and so that is what I have done.

A few notes about formatting: the ten films in each tier are listed in alphabetical order, with the year of release, and in the case of foreign films, the country of origin (and English translation where applicable), in parentheses after the title, with the film's director listed after that. This is followed by a brief annotation on the film, which might include capsule production or artistic details, witty asides, or a short discussion of the significance of the film to me.

The remaining tiers of the "Movies 100" countdown will appear in the coming days, so stay tuned to the MediaLog, and feel free (please!) to make comments on the countdown and the films in it.


The MediaLog Movies 100: The 90s

Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder. This early film noir (and early Wilder film) helped to set the template for all the films noir that followed. A pre-"My Three Sons" and pre-Disney Fred MacMurray plays hard-boiled detective Walter Neff, Edward G. Robinson plays his boss, and Barbara Stanwyck plays the one of the original femmes fatale.

Go (1999) Doug Liman. With an ensemble cast that includes Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr, and William Fichtner, Go is a (literally) twisted tale of a drug deal gone bad that is replayed three times from the perspective of different characters. Part of the 1990s fractured-narrative movement (which also included every film Quentin Tarantino made during the decade, The Usual Suspects, and the German Run Lola Run), you should go see this movie if you haven't already (and if you have, you should go see it again).

The Kid Brother (1927) Harold Lloyd. A silent masterpiece by underrated and little-known-today (at least in the mainstream) comic genius Harold Lloyd, this is the story of a meek fellow turned hero (the character archetype most often portrayed by Lloyd) who with the help of his damsel clears the good name of his rural father who is accused of theft.

La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) (1960-Italian) Federico Fellini. Another ensemble piece, featuring foreign film stars Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimee, and the incomparable Marcello Mastroianni, who plays a playboy gossip journalist who parties with the rich and famous and beds the movie star played by Ekberg and the socialite played by Aimee, all captured in Fellini's sublime imagery.

Memento (2000) Christopher Nolan. Another entry in the 1990s fractured-narrative movement, Memento is perhaps the ultimate fractured narrative: it is a story told in reverse. The conceit is intended to mimic the short-term memory disorder suffered by lead Guy Pearce's character, by forcing the viewer to know only as much as he does in each successive scene.

Rope (1948) Alfred Hitchcock. A lesser-known Hitchcock film, Rope was an experiment in style in which the entire film was one single shot, in the days when this was more of a technical feat than it is today with lengthy digital tapes. The film is a creative feat as well, as the continuous camera with no edits conveys the story of a pair of sophisticates who attempt the perfect murder only to be found out by a friend (played by Jimmy Stewart).

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Jonathan Demme. This is a clever psychological thriller famous for Anthony Hopkins' chilling and legitimately scary portrayal of Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. Too bad that the film's success was tainted by the horrible sequel, Hannibal.

Sunset Blvd. (1950) Billy Wilder. A tale told by a dead man, a writer who stumbles upon and is courted by a washed up and pathetic silent movie actress exquisitely played by actual silent movie actress Gloria Swanson. Legendary silent movie director Erich von Stroheim plays her former director turned butler.

Umberto D. (1952-Italian) Vittorio de Sica. A landmark film from the Italian Neorealism movement of the late-1940s/early-1950s, the title character is an elderly pensioner who has difficulty living on his pension. His resources get more and more meager, as his story is portrayed with the gritty realism and authentic locales of Neorealism.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) Victor Fleming. One of most beloved and well-known films in history, the story of the Emerald City deserves its reputation and its perennial audience. It is a great example of studio-era factory filmmaking, as well as a wonderful fantasy film.

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