List by-Jarrett Leahy
Happy Oscars Eve! As we get closer to tomorrow night’s show, it’s time once again to announce this year’s class of Amateur Cinephile Hall of Fame. Of all the sections of the site, the Hall of Fame is the most personal and fun for me. This is where I let out my inner movie geek and honor and celebrate films that continue to entertain and inspire, viewing after viewing. When I created last year’s inaugural class I stated that the first year would contain twelve films, and each subsequent year would be six honorees. The only eligibility requirement I established (other than greatness) was a ten-year wait after a film is released in theaters. I found this allowed a proper time period to truly judge a film’s greatness. I’m saddened to say that despite there being two films from 2005 that I feel are worthy candidates, neither could beat out my six selections for this year’s class, so there will be no 1st Ballot Hall of Fame selections this year. Well, enough with the introductions and rules, I hope you enjoy this year’s class…
Boogie Nights (1997) Paul Thomas Anderson- Loosely inspired by real-life porn star John Holmes, Boogie Nights is the satirical examination of the rise and fall of 1970’s adult star, Dirk Diggler, played by Mark Wahlberg. When creating last year’s inaugural Hall of Fame class, no film’s omission pained me more than leaving P.T. Anderson’s adult industry opus off the list of inaugural honorees. My biggest solace was knowing this masterwork would be one of the crown jewels of this 2015 class. A multi-layered drama with a cast of future A-listers, Boogie Nights never ceases to entertain. Chock-full of drugs, violence, and gratuitous sex (it is about the porn industry after all) Boogie Nights officially ushered in the stellar career of one of this generation’s most gifted auteurs and remains the cinematic achievement in Wahlberg’s career. And who can forget the film’s final moment? “I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m I star, I’m a big, bright shining star.”
Chinatown (1974) Roman Polanski- For the casual movie watcher, the idea of finding enjoyment in rewatching movies over and over is a foreign concept. But for cinephiles, half the thrill of the hobby is finding a film that not only holds up to repeated viewings, but gives us new discoveries each time. Chinatown is the classic example of the film that gets better with each viewing. A private eye, murder mystery whose only crime is it came out the same year of The Godfather, Part II, Chinatown cemented the careers of stars Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and director Roman Polanski. Filled with twists, turns, and dead ends, the film remains 1970’s neo-noir classic. “Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.”
Casino (1995) Martin Scorsese- A couple of months ago I texted Jason and asked, “What would you say if I told you that the newest Hall of Fame class is going to have a Scorsese film, and it’s going to be Casino and not Goodfellas?” He playfully responded, “While Goodfellas is a better film, Casino is great too, and it doesn’t surprise me because I know how much you love that darn film.” Jason was right on both accounts, Goodfellas is every bit of a masterpiece as Casino, and will likely be a member of a future HOF class, but if forced to choose one, I have to go with Casino for sheer rewatchability. One of the last truly great performances from acting legend Robert De Niro (along with another 1995 crime drama masterpiece, Heat), Casino is a poster boy for critical re-evaluation, as after initially receiving mixed reviews back in ’95, it has only grown in stature of the last twenty years. And unlike many, I find Sharon Stone’s crazy, coked-out portrayal of wife Ginger to be an impressively entertaining performance.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Michel Gondry- An innovatively original, science fiction, love story that asks the question, would you sacrifice the cherished memories of a lost love to avoid the pain of the bad ones? There are certain movies that upon viewing, you just know you are in the presence of greatness, and Eternal Sunshine was a film like that for me. Written by this generation’s most original screenplay auteur, Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Synecdoche, NY), and starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet at the height of their careers, Eternal Sunshine sheds light on the important role memories play in our everyday existence and explores just how far we’d go to save them. Barely missing the cut last year, Eternal Sunshine is the second film from 2004 to be inducted, joining Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset. Regardless of how sad Jim Carrey’s acting career may finish up, few can claim to have one of the best movies of the 1990’s (The Truman Show) and 2000’s (Eternal Sunshine) on their acting resume.
Notorious (1946) Alfred Hitchcock- Ask one hundred movie fans which Hitchcock film is their favorite, and I bet you’ll get at least fifteen different films in response. Ask me and the answer you’ll get is his 1946 mystery masterwork, Notorious, a post-WWII spy thriller set in Rio de Janeiro involving a secret society of Nazis and a mysterious radioactive substance. Left in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, Notorious’ preposterously outlandish storyline would have been your average 1940’s B-movie thriller. Only Alfred Hitchcock could make it feel chillingly plausible. Blessed with two of Hollywood’s biggest legends, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, Notorious is credited for having one of the longest and most sensual kisses the censors of the time would allow. Filled with more classic camera shots than one could shake a stick at, few films have ended so perfectly than the shot of Claude Rains’ face as he quickly realizes his fate has been sealed. It gives me chills every time.
The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed- Set in Vienna just after the end of WWII, The Third Man is considered by many historians to be the best British film ever made, and I’m certainly not one to argue with that sentiment. Flawless black-and-white cinematography and a quirky, one-of-a-kind musical score make The Third Man a film noir to which all others will be compared. Even though the lead character, Holly Martins, is played by Joseph Cotton, the actor best recognized from The Third Man is legendary impresario Orson Welles. Welles will always be known as the creative genius responsible for the “The Greatest Movie of all Time.” But despite multiple viewings, my relationship with Citizen Kane is one built more out of reverential obligation than true love. For my humble tastes, Carol Reed’s The Third Man remains the Welles film I most treasure. Despite being on screen for a only fraction of the film, Welles’ Harry Lime has become one of cinema’s most captivating villains. Charmingly conniving with a sly, Cheshire cat grin, Lime seems like a guy who’d be a blast to hang out with—if he wasn’t wanted by the authorities for profiteering on the sales of diluted antibiotics.
That is the Amateur Cinephile Hall of Fame class of 2015. As I said last year, if you haven’t had the chance to see any of these films, I hope you take the time to seek them out, and then come back and let me know what you thought of them. I’d also love to hear what you think of this second Hall of Fame class. Feel free to leave any comments you may have or share a list of films that would be in your personal Movie Hall of Fame, and be sure to keep an eye out for the 2016 class next year during Oscar season.