#6 Gone With The Wind

“As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
Scarlett O’Hara

Margaret Mitchell’s tale of the old south comes to life in Victor Fleming’s “Gone With the Wind.” This four-hour epic broke new ground for what the film industry was able to accomplish, and the technical merits cannot be disputed. The acting was superb, the writing was… authentic, and the direction, which could have benefited from some modern techniques, was good. That being said, I did not enjoy this film at all.

The story centres on what could loosely be called a love affair between Vivien Leigh’s Sacrlett O’Hara and Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler, set to the back drop of the civil war, and the re-building period that followed. This film succeeds in depicting the harsh reality of war, but fails in its attempt to actually make me care. The “love triangle” that serves to drive this story feels forced, and any love that any of the characters feel for each other seems contrived. And, while I do not feel that it is necessary for characters to be likable, none of the characters in this film really allow you to like them. The characters all remain so guarded that any brief insight into who they actually are as people quickly passes, before any clearer picture is gained.

This film’s main success is its depiction of physical actions. Characters show exactly how they are feeling, with out creating any understanding to the viewer of why they feel this way. This is mirrored by the film’s depiction of the war. You plainly see what is happening but you fail to understand why. Because of this the film tends to glorify the south, the side that started the war so that they could keep slaves, and vilifies the north. While I am all for telling both sides of every story, it seems a bit of a stretch that the Yankees were all evil power hungry overlords, while the Confederates were kind hearted people who treated their slaves nicely and just wanted to keep things the way they were.

This film’s biggest failure, in my opinion, was its inability to make me care about what happened to any of the characters. And while it was interesting to see the affect that the world at that time had on the characters that inhabited it, the payoff simply wasn’t enough for me.

Ultimately every film on the top 100 list is going to be a good film from a technical stand point, you don’t need me to tell you that. But not every film will be wildly entertaining. This film is an example of that. The vast majority of people in today’s day and age will not appreciate this film. After sitting through a film that is four hours long, and at times lacks continuous, flow most viewers will be left with nothing more than a sour taste in their mouth.

Advertisements

#5 Singin’ In The Rain

“You can study Shakespeare and be quite elite, and you can charm the critics and have nothing to eat. Just slip on a banana peal the world’s at your feet.  Make em laugh.”

Cosmo Brown

Remember the days before special effects were able to carry poorly written movies?  In these days films relied on strong performances from their leads, well written scripts, and an intriguing story.  Or sometimes they just relied on good-looking people, and impressive dancing.  Thankfully Singin’ In the Rain was not one of  “those” films.  Don’t get me wrong, the singin’ and dancin’ were amazing.  But the truly great thing about this film was that it did not fall back on these two strengths.  Instead the film used its “musical” aspects to heighten what was already a very good story.

Singin’ revolves around the production of a silent film that is being converted into a “talkie” after the overwhelming success of the world’s first feature length talking film The Jazz Singer.  The production quickly stumbles though when it becomes clear that the female lead, Lina Lamont (played by Jean Hagen), has a voice that was meant for the silent film era. It is then that Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) suggests that they dub over Lina’s voice with the voice of Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds).  The result is a blossoming love between Kathy and Don that leaves Lina, both romantically and professionally, jealous.

This story may sound like something you’ve seen or heard a thousand times, and the film is quick to point that fact out, but I assure you, you’ve never seen this story done like this.  Gene Kelly is amazing as the lead.  His powerful voice, and mesmerizing foot work, makes you forget about all the benefits of CGI.

Not to be lost in the multitude of great performances in this picture is Cosmo Brown, who was played perfectly by Donald O’Connor.  Brown’s Chaplin-esque slap-stick style, and seemingly before his time sense of comedic timing, carries the film through scenes that would have otherwise dragged on far too long.  What is truly special about O’Connor’s performance is his chameleon like ability to control the screen one second, and submit to playing the happy sidekick the next.  O’Connor is, by far, the best part of this film.

There were some flaws in this picture.  At times it felt like Hollywood was giving itself a pat on the back, and the film started on the slow side.  These flaws are quite minor though, and after the first fifteen minutes those pats on the back seem more like satirizing daggers than self-righteous congratulations.

This film succeeds in nearly every aspect that a musical can be successful in.  Every note, every step, and every shot may not be perfect, but they all work amazingly when put together together.  This is a must watch for nearly everyone.