91 – Spirited Away:
Ah, anime. Quite possibly one of the finest art forms ever invented. As much as I would love to rattle off a list of facts and figures about the history of anime, I’ll have to admit I’m not as much of connoisseur as other things. For example, Disney animated films were practically another resident in my home growing up. But my knowledge of anime is restricted to a handful of films and TV shows. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect the hell out of it as an art form however. In contrast to the West, where animation is for children first, anime is seen as just another filmmaking medium in Japan. Some are aimed at kids, while just as many are aimed at adults. It’s simply a different cultural standard. One particular genius of the genre is Hayao Miyazaki. After a lifetime working in anime, he intended to retire in style with the film Princess Mononoke. What was meant to be his swan song ended up as a huge success – both in Japan and America. To the delight of many, he followed that film up with Japan’s answer to Alice In Wonderland – Spirited Away.
92 – The Skeleton Key:
Ah my first horror film. Well this wasn’t my first horror film – that title belongs to the remake of The Haunting – but it’s the first horror on the list. As with comedy, animation, fantasy and other genres, horror is really looked down on. John Carpenter once said that most critics seem to view horror as only a step above pornography. There is some merit to that if one checks out the endless sequels to Halloween and Friday the 13th – or more gratuitous pieces like Hostel or Cabin Fever. But a good horror film is one that can rely on creating a suitably creepy atmosphere. While horrors do get a bit more respect these days, films such as Silence of the Lambs and Black Swan seem to have to go incognito under the ‘psychological thriller’ umbrella to appease the highbrow tastes. But as I’ve loved horrors since I entered double digits, you will see plenty of them on this list. So let’s get down to scaring ourselves with The Skeleton Key.
93 – Centurion:
Unsolved mysteries, don’t ya just love ‘em? History is full of these little loose ends that we have no record of. Things that are just forgotten over time and eventually become lost. And these unexplained cases are quite the gold mine for writers. Plenty of writers love to take a historical event and go “well what really happened?” – and the story practically writes itself. A lot of the time they go for the obvious – take An American Haunting’s interpretation of The Bell Witch. But sometimes you’ll get a very interesting or at least enjoyable story. Between the 1st century BC and the year 120 AD, there existed a legion of the Roman Imperial Army – the IX legion to be specific. They were stationed in Britain, following the Roman invasion. And at some point they marched from York into Scotland with around three thousand men. But the IX legion disappears from any Roman records after 120 AD and their fate remains a mystery to this day. Theories range from the legion simply being disbanded, to more elaborately getting wiped out in a battle against the Picts. Since the latter is more exciting, three guesses which one the following movie uses.
94 – Watership Down:
So now we get to our first animated film on the list. I was born in the 90s, so of course I grew up with Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks animation – not to mention a chock of imitators. That particular period was known as the Renaissance Age of Animation, which I’ll go into more when I get to my numerous Disney entries. But from the period when Walt Disney died to when Don Bluth started his own studio, animated films that could really capture the public’s love were few and far between. Animation has experienced a lot of the same genre snobbery as comedy and fantasy – but a different sort. Animation is often looked down on as an inferior form of entertainment. One only has to look at the condescending attitudes from a lot of people when Beauty & the Beast was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. The director of The Brave Little Toaster was outright told that the film was the best one shown at the Sundance Festival, but judges were afraid of being mocked if they gave awards to a cartoon. And if the animated film has animals as its protagonists? Well you’re about to find out the reason many generations of children have come to fear rabbits.
95 – Into The Woods:
Since I seem to be in that kind of mood, we’re having a double bill of fairy tale themed movies. But while they may deal with similar stories, they are two very different films. Namely this film originated as a Broadway musical – by none other than Stephen Sondheim. As in the genius that brought us West Side Story, Gypsy and Sweeny Todd, among many others. The musical is known for its cynical and often downright depressing look at the world of fairy tales – involving infidelity, abusive parents, mental illness and even a character’s suicide. So it should come as a huge surprise that when the film adaptation came along, it was done by Disney. As in the studio synonymous with the phrase ‘Disneyfication’. This is one of the more recent entries on my list, coming out at the end of 2014 and bleeding into 2015. I was obsessed with this movie when I saw it. I’ve already seen it multiple times since then and I’ve been recommending it to as many people as possible. I even had the soundtrack on a loop so I could listen to it at work for around two months. So you bet it earns a spot on my list. It’s not higher up because…well that reason should be obvious once we get a few minutes in. So let’s waste no time then.