39. THE DARK KNIGHT - Directed by Christopher Nolan (2008)
This film was really something special. I wasn't a huge BATMAN BEGINS fan, so I was skeptical of THE DARK KNIGHT's potential, but the trailers had me really excited. I don't think I've ever felt so pleased with a film's outcome in my entire life. There are so many films that I love because they've defied my expectations, but there are very few that shatter my already high expectations. Especially when you get down to this fanboy/nerdy material, even if I like a film, I'm still going to wish that something was done just a little differently. I can't imagine a better Batman-Joker film. The opening bank-robbery sequence is one of the most memorable scenes in film history and really sets this epic tone for the rest of the movie. While watching THE DARK KNIGHT for the first time, you just know that it's going to be a classic. There's this break-neck pace to the film that is unlike anything in I've seen because it doesn't feel rushed. A lot of reviews compared it to HEAT because it doesn't feel like a superhero story, it's a well-crafted crime drama.
In addition, all of the performances are great. The Wayne/Gordon/Dent team is so great together and really recalls the fantastic storytelling of the popular Batman trade "The Long Halloween". I don't even need to say anything about Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker because anyone who's seen the film knows just how perfect it is. I know there was some unspoken anxiety before the film's release among fans who were worried the hype surrounding his portrayal was influenced by the fact that he died tragically. I don't think anyone feels that way now. I hate to even think about it, but if he were still alive today, I can only imagine he'd be giving more brilliant performances.
Awards: I still contend, and forever will, that THE DARK KNIGHT was screwed out of a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, however it was up for a lot of other awards. Won Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Supporting Actor (Ledger), Nominated Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Makeup, Best Sound, and Best Visual Effects
38. Memento - Directed by Nolan (2000)
Here's a link to the essay I wrote about MEMENTO that I've already posted: http://schmooatthemovies.blogspot.com/2009/05/memento-creating-male-victim.html
I'll just add that this is an expertly crafted film, which is even more amazing when you consider the incredibly complicated narrative structure. If I had to use one word to describe MEMENTO it would be 'gripping'.
Awards: Nominated Academy Awards for Best Editing and Best Original Screenplay, Won AFI's Screenwriter of the Year award (Nolan), currently #27 on IMDB's Top 250 list
37. THE PRESTIGE - Nolan (2006)
There's a pattern here. The last three films on my list were directed by Christopher Nolan. He's the only director that's going to appear that many times. I won't blather on about the man because I have before, but I will say again that he's one of the best directors currently working. He has a knack for taking good story material and making it so much better. THE PRESTIGE is about a rivalry between two magicians, but it goes deeper than that. On the surface, especially in today's world, magic can be a tad silly and magicians even sillier. The characters in the film, Robert Angiers (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale) are fascinating; Borden for his utter dedication to his art and Angiers for his obsession and determination. The first viewing of the film is fun and exciting because of all the twists and turns, but the second viewing is when you really see how good it is. THE SIXTH SENSE has a great twist ending, but future viewings aren't as good because you can only be shocked once. The PRESTIGE is different; the films magic isn't in it's reveal. Once you know exactly what's going on, you can truly appreciate what both characters a going through. Neither man is a villain, though both play the part at some point in the film. They're just incredibly intense individuals who've sacrificed so much. It's very powerful stuff. The two leads really put on a show, but unfortunately went unappreciated during award season.
Awards: Nominated Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction, Won Empire Award for Best Director, Currently #73 on IMDB's Top 250 List