Posts Tagged ‘best’


Joe Giambrone | Political Film Blog

With Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese stomps on Consumerist Christmas like Godzilla on crack.  This is the boldest, most audacious piece in recent memory, a film whose release date holds even deeper meaning than most American audiences could possibly process.  They were assaulted, intentionally, on levels far deeper than their supposed virgin eyes.  The naughty sex and drugs and runtime are the shallow criticisms currently making the mainstream rounds.  Yawn.

Wolf is not about sex and drugs.  The film is about money, power, greed, the legitimacy of this market-based wealth accumulation system.  The sex and drugs are simply window dressing to a far deeper sickness, one that claws right out from the screen like a 3D Craptacular and strangles the audience where they live: their own greedy little insatiable egos.  Because Jordan Belfort did it, he already topped them all.  They could never compete.  It’s been done.

Wolf has meaning across the society, the way we organize ourselves here as buyers and sellers, each competing to one up the next.  Scorsese has finally matured to the point where he can tell it like it is, the American experience, the actual American Way, the American Dream, the myths, the reality, the psychology we’ve all been sold.  This is a far bigger story than the tale of one super con man with a drug problem: we’re all complicit.

I’m of the opinion today that Wolf of Wall Street is indeed Scorsese’s best film, the full 2 hour and 59 minute cut.

Director Martin Scorsese arrives at The Royal Premiere of his film Hugo at the Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London

People will likely respond with Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas.  Of the three, Taxi Driver is the only film to reconsider.

Goodfellas is one of the most overrated of all Scorsese’s efforts.  From the first trailer I saw it was plainly obvious: this is no Godfather.  Scorsese’s artifice, his penchant for voiceovers and intrusive directorial voice left me distanced and unconvinced on any level.  Better gangster films are not difficult to locate.  Sorry, film geek boys; you can stop pitching this as some greatest film.  It ain’t.

Conversely, with Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese’s style meshes gloriously with this over the top exploration of excess and debauchery.  DiCaprio’s voiceovers provide a witness, a sounding board, a then-and-now take on the events that heightens the black comedy and makes for a hilarious counterpoint to the events unfolding on screen.   With Wolf, the intrusive and jarring cuts, freeze frames and confessions all serve to bring the story to life.

Raging Bull was another effort that left me cold. Jake LaMotta was a sad sack, uncharismatic, a chore to watch.  The film felt like penance rather than magic.  Interesting photography couldn’t save this drudgery, in my opinion.

That leaves Taxi Driver (or perhaps you’re rooting for Casino?  Hugo?  Mean Streets?)  Up against Taxi Driver we have an interesting dilemma.  The two productions couldn’t be more different, the budgets, the visual aesthetics, the tone.

But that was 40 years ago.  The world has moved on, and cinema has moved on.  I don’t know if one could reasonably compare the two films.  Is that even a rational thing to do?


That leaves Wolf, this week’s surprise affront to decency and American blinders.  Scorsese just came off a 3D kids’ movie, Hugo, to turn in probably the single most thought provoking film of the year.  We can’t help but see our place in Jordan Belfort’s world, because we’re not even at the servant’s quarters level.  Everything he does, he does to profit himself in the manner proscribed from on high: greed is good.  Greed is everything.  Our entire civilization is predicated on greed now.  The lurch to self-interested depravity as our religion, the cornerstone of our world, hoarding wealth for ourselves and our own, well, it needs to be acknowledged.  It needs an offensive matinee showing.  It needs shocked, flabbergasted little old ladies squirming in their seats out in Bumblefuck.



More from Indiewire today.

Check out High Maintenance now…


The Slutty Years…

Sugarboy – Kung Fu Mom

Chloe and Zoe

Ask a Slave


Wow, talk about your differences in taste.  You’re going to appreciate this list if you peruse the bloated crap fests that are some of those other lists.

Top 20, In Order


  1. The In Laws


  2. Tropic Thunder


  3. The Birdcage


  4. A Fish Called Wanda


  5. Raising Arizona


  6. Animal House


  7. Amelie


  8. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas


  9. This is Spinal Tap


  10. Life of Brian

    Film  Life of Brian

  11. City Lights


  12. The Big Lebowski


  13. Say Anything


  14. Office Space


  15. Airplane!


  16. Zoolander


  17. Bringing Up Baby


  18.  Idiocracy


  19. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off


  20. A Knight’s Tale


I had quality picks to go another 5-10 at least.  But let’s end it there.


Special Bonus:

Animated Comedies, For the Kids
  1. A Bug’s Life
  2. Wall-E


  3. Paranorman


  4. Ratatouille


  5. The Iron Giant


  6. Up


  7. The Incredibles


  8. Shrek


  9. Monsters Inc.

    Monsters, Inc

  10. A Nightmare Before Christmas



Included as many trailers as possible.  Still images don’t cut it here.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

It’s not what you’re expecting.  Tom Tykwer is a great director, and he’s on here twice.

Enter the Void

Gaspar Noe on more than good will.  The Tibetan Book of the Dead brings psychedelic reincarnation into some kind of hallucinogenic existence.


Noe again, not for the faint of heart.  Backwards storytelling… and leave grandma at home.

Liquid Sky

Mostly to fuck with your head.  Has to be seen to be believed.

Dirty Duck

Trailers From Hell explains.


Pink Floyd’s The Wall

Not sure if this movie damaged my brain.  Probably not.  You’re okay.  Go ahead: Trailer.

Jacob’s Ladder

Review here.


Review here.


I love this film,and it could be Cronenberg’s best mind messing.  Blew my mind when I saw it in the theater.  What an ending.

The Naked Lunch

Not for everyone, this is getting downright disturbing.

The Skin I Live In

Needed to include this because it’s such a damned good movie, and bonus WTF factor.

Time Crimes

Time travel anomalies, paradoxes? Review here.

Tetsuo the Iron Man

Like with Mulholland Drive, I swear there’s a logic there somewhere that can be articulated, given enough time and review.  But I don’t think most people are going to agree.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Manages to stay fun, heartfelt and somehow even real.

Mulholland Drive

Lynch finally got his insanity to work magic.  Not sure how or why, but Naomi Watts goes a long way toward keeping this thing fascinating.

Yeah, there’s more…

Excruciating decisions — many lists like this exist, and so what are the criteria? A political movie needs to say something, say it well and deliver theatrically. To me political struggles are about power and injustice, the organization of society. I’ve seen a lot of films, not as many as some but more than most.

Best / Most Impact

Bob Roberts

This may be the best American political movie of all time.


This may also be the best American political movie of all time.

Chinatown (Collector's Edition DVD)


Emotional punch, rawness that isn’t apparent until the very end.

All the President’s Men

I felt obligated to watch this again, but it sure does slice deeply, if a little short on action.

Full Metal Jacket

The military culture opened up like a festering wound.

Potemkin POSTER 12
Battleship Potempkin

Classic for a reason, quite useful to study.

I Claudius

Noticed this on another list, and was instantly sold. It’s a TV production, a mini-series but why not? This deserves to be here.

The Tudors

Similarly a mini-series, set in the court of Henry VIII, done with such perfection it has to be recognized.


The most chilling, raw film on the entire list. Mad Caesar, the fitting heir to a mad culture, the pinnacle of absolute power and atrocity.

Dr. Strangelove

The cold war in a nutshell.


A favorite of mine, and we quote it often. America continues down this path every day, and it is unlikely to ever seem dated, barring nuclear annihilation.


The US military as its own universe.

The Handmaid’s Tale

The correct take and the correct villains.

Miss Bala

How a corrupt narco empire intersects with the people under its dominion.


Fascism, absurdism, escapism.

The Player

Hollywood as a class system.

American Psycho

Ivy league Mansons: the masters of the universe.


Elite self-loathing, power disparity and the obscenity of unrestrained capitalism.

The Thin Red Line

Another take on the military, war as conquest and thought the enemy of soldiers.

A Clockwork Orange

The state vs. crime, an experiment not so difficult to imagine.

Raising Arizona

Recidivism, ethics, morality and love.


Ethics vs. morality.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

The rot at the center of American politics, pervasive corruption, social manipulation.

Thirteen Days

Nuclear brinksmanship and the madmen clamoring to wage war at any price.

The Pianist

Warsaw Ghetto, the politics of survival.

28 Days Later

At the edge of civilization, humanity is stripped away.


Corporate takeover of policing and government.

Aguirre: The Wrath of God

Fools rush in.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

Society necessitates a personality split, and can only continue in its present form by destroying.


Society as a high school.

The Road Warrior

The forces of civilization vs. the forces of anarchy, and one man caught in the middle.

Eyes Wide Shut

Elite depravity and unaccountability.

Bridge Over the River Kwai

Stockholm Syndrome, myopia, desperation clouds the mind.


New survey at Criticwire,  and here are the A listers:



The Gatekeepers

It’s a Disaster


And although Spring Breakers only got a B+, you know you’re going to see it.


NEW Additions!


ARRIVAL (2016) – Genuine new twist that should have been thought of a long time ago.

MAD MAX FURY ROAD! (2015) – How can anyone not appreciate this vision of post-apocalyptic insanity?

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) – Expecting to hate on Cruise, this meticulous, layered hard sci-fi story blew me away instead.

Her (2013) – A subtle immersion into a highly plausible near future society, and the alienation and isolation of modern life.

Original List – Ordering is not too important:
  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – The best of the series, and the most emotional story.  Also some of the greatest action sequences ever filmed, how can this not be included?
  2. District 9 (2009) – The most political and deeply resonant social commentary here (excepting possibly They Live).
  3. Brazil (1985) – Don’t ask me how many times I’ve seen Terry Gilliam’s twisted take on the fascist New World Order.  Part 1984, part Monty Python, Brazil is in a league of its own and will get inside your brain and slosh around for decades.
  4. A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Literally drugging away the ability to commit crimes?  The hair on your neck will stand.  Kubrick wins here, but loses below.
  5. The Prestige (2006) – Nolan and Bale without the bat cape.  One of the best twist endings ever.
  6. The Matrix (1999) – Sacrilege to put Keanu on such a list?  Oh well, he’s on twice.  “I know kung fu.”  Sure you do, Keanu, sure you do.  Still, this is a mind bender, and the NWO is not what you’re expecting.
  7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – Dammit the best Planet of the Apes ever.  And if you don’t agree, bite me.
  8. A Scanner Darkly (2006) –  Phillip K. Dick makes multiple appearances, along with Keanu Reeves. This smart, twisting tale of narcotics and counter-narcotics is as timeless as the semi-animated acid trip that the film’s visuals suggest.  A true visionary marvel and the perfect application for animating live-action frames.
  9. WALL-E (2008) – Check the faces of the passengers on the space liner.  You might see yourself.
  10. Blade Runner (1982 – Theatrical Version) – Avoid the Director’s Cut.  People get all geeky over this film, but it’s a visually lush world and a sick noir morality tale in one.
  11. STAR WARS TRILOGY (70s-80s) – Does this need a description?
  12. Watchmen (2009) – Absolute reinvention of the comic book, super hero genre.  Alan Moore’s world of Nixonian fascist America, bolstered by the powers of supernaturals, remains consistent and perfectly executed from beginning to end.
  13. Robocop 1 & 2 – Corporate governance meets up with their own creation, a real cop in a titanium alloy shell.
  14. ExistenZ (1999) – Cronenberg inside your brain.
  15. Idiocracy (2006) – Welcome to CostCo; I love you.
  16. ALIENS – This macho ‘space Marines’ tale grows on you, as it explores the Alien world as well as the corporate greed, which always places profits over innocent lives.
  17. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – UFO paranoia done on the grandest scale imaginable.  Spielberg can dazzle and tell a compelling story.
  18. 12 Monkeys – More Terry Gilliam, and a super dystopian end of world scenario that you have to see to appreciate.
  19. Galaxy Quest (1999) – A space comedy that lampoons Star Trek.
  20. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) – Holy shit, that last shot haunted me for years.
  21. 28 Days / Weeks Later – Yes the zombie idea reinvented with a laboratory concocted “RAGE.”  Should scare and perplex.
  22. Dawn of the Dead (2004) – As long as we’re talking zombies, this is the best of them all.
  23. Serenity (2005) – Astounding filmmaking, and Joss Whedon knows how to give it to the audience.  After Firefly was abruptly cancelled, Whedon turned it around and triumphed.
  24. The Avengers (2012) – A top notch comic book movie, unparalleled action and a lot of fun humor.
  25. Europa Report (2013) – This is a unique experience, filmed from the space ship’s built in cameras.


Quirks, Oddballs and Also-Rans


Ex Machina (2015) – If this wasn’t overrated elsewhere I might be convinced to slide it up to the top, but it is a very good film nonetheless, despite my few quibbles.


  •  Immortal / Ad Vitam (2004) – What a world.
  • Pitch Black (1998) – One of the best alien/human survival stories ever.
  • Moon (2009) – Sam Rockwell delivers.  No spoilers.
  • Splice (2009) – Genetic engineering and its moral implications.
  • Repo Man (1984) – Fun with radioactive repo’d cars.
  • They Live (1988) – Wear your sunglasses.
  • The Fountain (2006) – Brain scratching Aronofsky and the last man from earth.
  • AI (2001) – Spielberg transitions from commercial to artsy during the course of the story.
  • Dark City (1998) – WTF?
  • No Such Thing (2001) – Monsters do exist.  And they’re pissy.
  • Looper (2012) – The second you think about the plot, it falls apart, still very exciting and a decent ending.
  • The Fly (1986) – Great in parts, but inconsistent.
  • Star Trek (2009) – Fun but a bit too silly to be taken seriously.
  • Escape From New York (1981) – Call me Snake.
  • Back to the Future (1985) – Lighthearted time-travel comedy, but the insidious “Libyan” racist/terrorist propaganda twist turns me off today.
  • Mars Attacks (1996) –  “I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain’t bad.”
  • Young Frankenstein (1974) – It’s Frahnkenshteen.
  • Starship Troopers (1997) – Paul Verhoeven again with future fascism, mindless militarism, desperation and gigantic bugs.
  • The Thing (1982) – Creeped me out, and made me feel cold.  If that’s a positive thing to you, then…
  • Avatar (2009) – Yes, it’s hard to avoid the biggest box office draw of all time.  I liked the story, the theme, more than the execution (while most crow on about the execution and dis the story).  Still it was too long and a little heavy handed.
  • The Road Warrior (1981) – Just walk away. I spare you lives.
  • Battle For Terra (2006) – Is this a kid’s movie?
  • The Ciry of Lost Children (1995) – Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s twisted fairy tale, arguably should be on the above list.


Way Overrated:
  • 2001 A Space Odyssey (1969) – A boring space odyssey.
  • Transformers – I refuse to watch any Michael Bay Robosplosions.  Hollywood can’t get enough.


These will be in no particular order.

Glory – I think I cry at the end of this film every time I see it. Matthew Broderick is perfect. Morgan Freeman is perfect. The story, the composition, the cast, the incredible action, everything comes together to tell the story of one of the most remarkable battles of the American Civil War, one that seems to legitimize the entire bloody mess. All the films on the list are must-see, but Glory is must-must-see.

Red Cliff – Ancient China, a battle to decide an empire. This is a magnificent achievement that John Woo created in China to honor the legend that all Chinese children learn about in history class. Fantastic characters pulled from the ancient world come to life with epic battles on land and sea. Truly a film to put on a queue.

Kelley’s Heroes – If only Catch 22 was this damned funny and hit the right beats. Clint Eastwood leads a greedy band of jerks behind enemy lines to steal a bank full of gold bullion that the German army left behind. What more do you need to know, really? Cue Donald Sutherland as a free-spirited beatnik tank driver, baby.

No Man’s Land – Harsh twist of fate. War reduced to man vs. man vs. mine. The final shot just leaves a hole in your gut, and wishing for some sanity in the world.

Come and See – Russian experience of World War Two and sick Nazi genocidal atrocities. Possibly the most powerful film on the list, and the kid in the leading role is magnetic and carries the film.

Dr. Strangelove – This is on everyone’s list. I don’t find it as funny as some, but it’s undeniably a thought provoking and important Cold War insanity film that everyone should see.

The Thin Red Line – This one is filmed and lovingly crafted so beautifully that it’s an immersive experience from beginning to end. A poem about life set in the horrors of death and destruction. The terror of war, the morality of mass murder, a flip-switch inside of man, it’s all there.

Devils on the Doorstep – A recent addition. This Chinese film lacks the grandeur of a Thin Red Line, shot in black and white and on a much smaller scale. But the characters are so well performed and pitted against one another that it makes for an unforgettable viewing.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – Any opportunity to mention this one — it’s the greatest movie ever shot – and it is set against the backdrop of the Civil War, which keeps intruding into the story time and again. At one point Tuco and Blondie actually join up with the northern army to blow up a bridge. The three characters are essentially at war for most of the movie, and yet they are forced to work together, against their own worst instincts, unhappy allies at each other’s throats when they’re not saving each other’s lives.

Three KingsThree Kings tells its own side of its own story. Worth watching as a bit of modern Kelley’s Heroes, with a humanist story interwoven. I like it for its upside down twisted take on the first Iraq war.

Full Metal Jacket – Icy cold Kubrick at his best. This film freaked me out the first time I saw it. So harsh, so unexpected and twisted, yet plausible throughout.

Platoon – A little over the top in places, but a very gripping take on the US Vietnam experience. Tom Berenger delivers a hell of a performance as does Willem Dafoe. Even Charlie Sheen pulls it off, barely.

The Pianist – Polanski returns to his childhood and to his very real dealings with the Nazis in Poland. Outstanding visuals and recreation of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unforgettable, and the performance by Adrien Brody established him as a world-class actor.

Patton – Coppola turns in one of the most epic bio-pics of all time. Amazing shot selection and composition. George C. Scott scares the hell out of the enlisted men, but he taught me everything I know about tank warfare. It’s good to take an unflinching look at these guys.

Valkyrie – A surprise, Tom Cruise trying like hell to kill Hitler and end the war. The attention to accuracy and detail in this historical recreation is impressive.

Downfall – Yes the film they stole all those Hitler gets pissed videos from. Another recreation from World War Two that is just so damned believable that you think you’re in the bunker with Adolf and company.

Das Boot – The most claustrophobic movie I’ve ever seen. Performances that shine, and a perilous situation that can’t end well. Terrifying.

Lord or the Rings: The Two Towers – The best of the trilogy, which probably everyone will watch anyway. The battle at Helm’s Deep, against an army of Orcs no less, is one of the most spectacular and intricate, ever. It took several months to shoot. Not to mention Gollum growing ever more sinister and Frodo being taken over by the ring as they approach Mordor.


Hacksaw Ridge –  A unique story of an American World War Two hero you’ve probably never heard of. By remaining true to his convictions, an American conscientious objector managed to do the impossible at Iwo Jima.