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Ranking Christopher Nolan’s Films: From Worst to Best

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Ranking Christopher Nolan’s Films: From Worst to Best
Ranking Christopher Nolan’s Films: From Worst to Best

There’s an engimatic quality to the role of Christopher Nolan in the current filmmaking landscape, and one that stands apart from the fact that his films so often court ambiguity with explicit intent. From the Russian-nesting-doll antics of Inception to the magicians-as-filmmakers commentary of The Prestige, Nolan’s ambition within the realm of big-budget, broad audience spectacle is comparable to the likes of few. Among those, James Cameron comes to mind, and now Nolan joins the Avatar director with his own film about interplanetary travel, the logical next step for a filmmaker so concerned with world-building, literal and otherwise. Looking back at his work thus far, what emerges—apart from his obsession with identity, reality, community, and obsession itself—is an artist who, heedless of his own shortcomings, is intent on challenging himself, a quality that salvages and even inverts a great many of his otherwise pedestrian choices. One suspects that this is an artist still in his pupa stage, and one is also fearful that the near-unanimous praise heaped upon his work since his breakout hit, Memento, will only serve to keep him there. To wit, his latest film, Dunkirk, employs the kind of chronology-bending antics that epitomize Memento and Inception.

The 15 Best Whitney Houston Singles

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The 15 Best Whitney Houston Singles
The 15 Best Whitney Houston Singles

On August 26th, Nick Broomfield's new documentary, Whitney: Can I Be Me, will make its television premiere on Showtime. The film focuses largely on Whitney Houston's tumultuous private life, and at one point a member of the singer's inner circle suggests that the whitewashed image that was crafted for Houston by her handlers was, in part, responsible for her inevitable self-destruction. It's no secret that Houston was largely an A&R creation, a traditional vocalist who emerged in the era of Michael Jackson and Madonna, two self-empowered artists who took 360-degree creative control of their careers.

The Films of Sofia Coppola Ranked

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The Films of Sofia Coppola Ranked

Focus Features

The Films of Sofia Coppola Ranked

There’s a routine of complaints traditionally leveled at Sofia Coppola. Beyond the faux pas of being born rich, she’s been drawn as more of a choreographer of tableaux than a storyteller. Critics have bemoaned her visions of character interiority signaled by dreamy music cues and symmetrical framing over wordy dialogues or dredged-up performances from her stars, who are inevitably blonde and beautiful. Particularly since Lost in Translation’s reverse-xenophobia meet-cute, Coppola has alternated between accusations of flaunting her privilege and hosannas for being honest about it.

But if The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, and (perhaps more debatably) Somewhere girded themselves against these considerations by putting their own haute-bourgeois blinkeredness front and center, the terrain is far murkier in Coppola’s The Beguiled. This is a filmmaker obsessed with feminine beauty and ephemeral tragedy of time’s passage—so just how boilerplate is her Civil War-era chamber piece supposed to be?

The 10 Best Shark Movies of All Time

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The 10 Best Shark Movies of All Time

Dimension Films

The 10 Best Shark Movies of All Time

Let’s not fool ourselves: There’s only one truly great film with a killer shark at its center. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon, or until we see a film about Katy Perry’s Super Bowl XLIX halftime performance, or one about those mysterious sharks that live inside that active underwater volcano in the Solomon Islands (and that are being investigated by robots!). This week marks the release of 47 Meters Down, the story of two sisters (played by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt) who get into a shark cage off the coast of a Mexican beach and subsequently find themselves having to contemplate if swimming toward a limited-edition vinyl copy of Radiohead’s The Bends is worth it if it means avoiding being eaten alive by a school of sharks. [Editor’s Note: The bends, also known as divers’ disease, is a condition that occurs in scuba divers or at high altitude when dissolved gasses come out of solution in bubbles and can affect any body area, including the heart and brain. Also, Radiohead’s album is pretty great.] Before catching up with the adventures of these two white girls who put way too much trust in two hot Mexican dudes and shark-watcher extraordinaire Matthew Modine, join us in revisiting some of the more impressive appearances in cinematic history. Alexa Camp

Every Pixar Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best

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Every Pixar Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Every Pixar Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best

Heavy on training montages and intergenerational torch passing, Cars 3 is an old-fashioned sports film at heart. Swap out the talking cars for boxers or baseball pitchers and Pixar’s latest would sit comfortably next to such films as Rocky Balboa and Trouble with the Curve, twilit dramas about a fading athlete struggling with age-old conundrums: how to know when to retire and how to do it with dignity. It’s the sort of counterintuitively mature theme that’s marked Pixar’s best output, but while Cars 3 may be the least objectionable entry in this series to date, it never hits the bittersweet emotional highs of films like Up and Toy Story 3. On the occasion of the film’s release, join us in revisiting the Pixar canon, ranked from worst to best.

Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2016 Numbers #25-#50 and Individual Ballots

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Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2016

Paramount Pictures

Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2016

From Clayton Dillard’s introduction to Slant Magazine’s Top 25 Films of 2016: “Celebrating great art amid the transition to political catastrophe can feel like, to paraphrase the title of poet Ocean Vuong’s recent collection, a moonlit sky with exit wounds. But the phlegm of post-truths shouldn’t get caught in our throats, let alone our eyes and ears, because films from across the globe continue to present a portrait of resilience in the face of international turmoil.” Click here to read the feature and see if your favorite films of the year made our list. And see below for a list of the films that just missed making it onto our list, followed by our contributors’ individual ballots.

The Films of Pedro Almodóvar Ranked

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The Films of Pedro Almodóvar Ranked
The Films of Pedro Almodóvar Ranked

Finding the crux of a Pedro Almodóvar film is not unlike asking how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. In each case, the supposed science of the issue at hand is often short-circuited by impatience. Lest the comparison seem too glib, Almodóvar’s entire filmography is, to varying degrees, about the performance of taste, where characters often relate to one another not through their minds, but through their fingers, eyes, and teeth. Sweet tooths are more than a matter of dental hygiene; they’re a means of defining personal placement within the broader spectrum of vivid characters and self-serving interests. The bright color scheme of Almodóvar’s mise-en-scène redoubles these matters by problematizing realism as a dissenting faction amid otherwise psychologically defined characters, whose motivations are typically for sustenance of a rather short-order sort. On that note, Almodóvar’s oeuvre, and the characters that comprise it, can perhaps be best summarized by Carmen Maura’s character in Matador, who says near the film’s end: “Some things are beyond reason. This is one of them.”

The Films of Paul Verhoeven Ranked From Worst to Best

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The Films of Paul Verhoeven Ranked From Worst to Best

Rialto Pictures

The Films of Paul Verhoeven Ranked From Worst to Best

During the closing moments of John Carpenter’s They Live, a sound collage of news readers and media pundits is unfurled, one of them indignantly blasting the low culture wrought by the likes of George A. Romero and Carpenter himself. It was a none-too-subtle in-joke for fans, but also a gesture of respect, one craftsman tipping his hat to his peer across the aisle. Had the speaker continued, he might easily have spoken the name of Paul Verhoeven, whose U.S. tour of duty resulted in several of the highest-profile and least respected films of their day.

Verhoeven signed his name to at least two VCR classics (RoboCop and Total Recall), one bona-fide game changer that dominated media and water-cooler conversations for months on end (Basic Instinct), and one certified turkey (Showgirls) whose fate may still be undetermined. While his stock rose and fell several times during his volatile tenure as a Hollywood auteur, his films rarely failed to provoke excitement and contention; only the bookends (Flesh+Blood in 1985, Hollow Man in 2000) fail to contribute to the tsunami.

Verhoeven didn’t just arrive in America a fully formed auteur director; he began making features that way, arriving at his feature directorial debut, Business Is Business, equipped with a favorite set of progressive themes and a flair for instilling even small moments with a swaggering, ramshackle kineticism. Most movie buffs will now associate his name only with rank sensationalism—bare breasts and broken bones—and it isn’t as if he would decline the honor. But filmed depictions of sex and violence don’t exist within Verhoeven’s purview exclusively. What we may have been responding to was the casualness, bordering on grinning impertinence, with which he deployed images designed to titillate or shock. A girl in Turkish Delight lops off the top of a banana before using a spoon to extract the meat. Verhoeven goes after your nervous system the same way: Why peel?

In honor of Film Society of Lincoln Center’s complete retrospective of Paul Verhoeven’s work, running from November 9—23, we ranked the Dutch filmmaker’s films from worst to best.

The 20 Greatest David Bowie Singles

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The 20 Greatest David Bowie Singles
The 20 Greatest David Bowie Singles

If any single thread connected David Bowie’s now sadly completed half century-long musical journey, it was irrepressible restlessness. Bowie never, ever stopped exploring new musical avenues, which has historically been interpreted in one of two ways: that he was rock’s ultimate chameleon, refusing to be contented with any past success and constantly pushing himself to reach new heights, or that he was a shallow trend-hopping whore who parlayed a keen ear for ever-shifting popular music trends into commercial success.

If it’s ever permissible to call pop artists geniuses, then Bowie is indubitably among them; the fact that he managed to remain a giant of popular culture for decades while completely overhauling his sound every few years is a testament to that. To dismiss him as a mere copycat would be like calling the Boeing 747 a piece of hackwork because the Wright brothers existed. Marc Bolan may have been wearing makeup and playing glammy guitar first, but he didn’t come up with the invention that was Ziggy Stardust. Kraftwerk may have pioneered the cold, cerebral electronic aesthetic that influenced Bowie during his Berlin period, but they never wrote “Heroes.”

These 20 singles, not all of them chart hits, but invariably essential entries in the rock canon, span from Bowie’s first iconic song to enter the public consciousness in 1969 to the remarkable title track from his just barely pre-posthumous swan song, Blackstar, thus proving that his quest to turn and face the strange never ceased so long as there was a breath left in him. Jeremy Winograd

Every Episode of Hannibal Ranked

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Every Episode of Hannibal Ranked

NBC

Every Episode of Hannibal Ranked

NBC’s Hannibal ran for three seasons, but its concept called for at least twice as many. Undertaking a freeform adaptation of author Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter saga, producer Bryan Fuller crocheted 39 episodes out of Will Graham’s involvement with modern crime fiction’s most notable maneater without once mentioning the iconic Clarice Starling. In short, the result of the NBC severance was a bridge that reached not quite halfway across the river before being rudely interrupted by lack of funds. Happily, the unfinished symphony yielded great beauty.

In ranking all 39 episodes, the rich, once-in-a-lifetime series leads one down several paths. What’s the most fascinating aspect? Fuller’s fruitfully complex relationship with the source material, switching from solemnly pious to manically freestyle (even openly rebellious) at the drop of a hat? An equally complex study in the dynamic relationship between auteur (and not-so-auteur) directors and a showrunner who needs a stable of weirdly brilliant minds to realize his epic vision? The show’s evolution from vague Mentalist retread—possibly a canny bit of misdirection on Fuller’s part—to the grandest opera dedicated to the destructive infatuation shared by two men ever to air on network television?

Or is it simply about the story, meat and potatoes, and nothing more? Does the series rise and fall based on how tunefully a given episode renders the ballad of Will (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen)? In truth, all these concerns factor into a 39-episode ranking, to a degree that Hannibal makes for a solid, encyclopedic study of the different ways we experience pleasure (or displeasure) with episodic television drama. This ranking will endeavor to adhere to a rough calculus, weighing the complex pleasures from one episode to the next. In preparation, I revisited every episode, in its established order, but also checked in with a selection of isolated scenes, quiet and loud alike.