Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
Voices of Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
When I first started this film, John Lasseter, head of Pixar and director of “Toy Story”, greeted me and introduced the film, talking briefly about how much it inspired him personally. It was a warm welcome and helped me realize that I was about to witness a piece of art. The story is about a young girl who can fly on a broomstick, who travels to a costal village to learn more about her newfound gift. The film is very light on actual plot, but heavy on using emotions to guide the story, something which can be difficult to do in a fully animated feature.
“Kiki” is gentle coming of age story that wafts and lingers like the scent of a summer breeze after a peaceful rain shower. The characters are charming and endearing each playing a full symphony on your heartstrings amidst a beautiful world of colors and textures like the foundations of a daydream. I admired how early on we establish that each character has psychical weight, which the makes the scenes of flight all the more breathtaking. Everything about it was so captivating down the wind blown grass and sparkling beads of dew that I couldn’t even bring myself to look away.
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo
Directed by Nicholas Ray
The visual tone of this film has an interesting effect. The colors look rain washed, like witnessing the aftermath of a mighty storm. This perfectly reflects the struggles of the teenaged Jim (James Dean) stumbling through life and his conflicts with his parents and peers that lead to a series of rash actions.
Curiously, there are at least two TV funnymen in supporting roles such as Jim Backus (The Millionaire from “Gilligan’s Island”) as Jim’s father and Edward Platt (The Chief from “Get Smart”) as the chief of police. Despite how we may think of them today, both characters play their parts seriously while others provide the levity and humor necessary to balance such a dark story.
Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden
Directed by Billy Wilder
I tend to view movies the way connoisseurs taste wine. Testing it and seeking to understand it beforehand, moving on to writing my reviews mere minutes after end credits have rolled. Conversely, I cannot think of many times when I have reacted so much to a film as this one. I laughed longer and harder during this movie than any other film I have seen in the past year.
After snubbing the advances of his chauffeur’s daughter, Sabrina. David, a carefree playboy begins to see her in a new light, which puts his arranged engagement in jeopardy, and its up to his strictly business brother, Linus to try and straighten things out, only to end up with feeling for Sabrina himself.
All of the characters seemed to be armed with a hefty supply of one-liners and snappy comebacks. William Holden exhibits excellent comic timing and Audrey Hepburn is as charming to watch as ever.
The Searchers (1956)
John Wayne, Jeffery Hunter, Vera Miles
Directed by John Ford
John Wayne continues to demonstrate why he is an icon of the genre with this strong role as seeks to rescue his kidnapped niece from the weary and savage west.
This is quite possibly the most beautiful cinematography I have ever seen in a movie. Filmed in Utah’s Monument Valley, every shot is dynamic, conveying the expansive yet strangely beautiful loneliness and danger of the frontier, opening up a world made of solitude unlike anything before.
Emotions run raw as our heroes cross the treacherous territory, experiencing highs and lows as they encounter both hope and futility in their long quest.
With illustrative sights, a strong story, able characters and a subtle sense of humor, "The Searchers" is easily one of the best Westerns ever made.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack
Directed by Lee Unkrich
The original “Toy Story” was one the first films I can remember seeing as a child. I had the opportunity to rewatch both films in anticipation for this unexpected sequel. The two previous films, despite their age and the changes in the technology felt as fresh and inventive as they did when they were first made. In many ways watching these films as an adult helped my understanding of the some of the gags and plot points.
While I thought the film had more situational humor than the character based interactions I enjoyed so much about the first two, it does match the tone of its predecessors perfectly. I only wish that I could go back in time and prevent myself from seeing the trailers for this film, which contained some of the film’s best jokes. If I had seen these gags without knowing what to expect, I imagine I would have been completely breathless from laughing, instead I settled for roaring with amusement in my chair.
Like Pavlov’s dog salivating to the sound of the bell, my eyes well up with tears each time I view the ending. Closing with the message; cherish your memories, and pass them on. What better way to end the year then with that?
If that wasn't enough, here are my recommend rental runners up. Perhaps I'll write about them some other time.
- 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
- The Apartment
- Blade Runner
- Castle in the Sky
- Double Indemnity
- Enter the Dragon
- The Fly (1986)
- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- The Hurt Locker
- In the Heat of the Night
- Inglourious Basterds
- The Karate Kid (2010)
- Let the Right One In
- Mad Love (1935)
- Pulp Fiction
- Quiz Show
- Roman Holiday
- The Shawshank Redemption
- Some Like It Hot
- The Usual Suspects