The Keith & the Movies Valhalla is a place of tribute for those movies that I hold in the highest regard. This is the movie Valhalla for films that embody everything that is great about motion pictures. These are the best of the best – ones that I truly love and that stand above the rest. There are many great movies that won’t find their way into these sacred halls. But here you will find those films that I believe personify brilliance in filmmaking, storytelling, and entertainment. These glorious 5 star accomplishments are worthy of special recognition as the very best. Oh enough already – in other words these are some of my very favorite movies.
CASABLANCA (1942) – This Humphrey Bogart movie is a classic in every sense of the word. It’s a beautifully written story driven by a superb cast including Bogart, the lovely Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Conrad Veidt. Casablanca is loaded with memorable scenes and features some of cinema’s most recognized movie lines. It’s also one of the most romantic movies of all time sparked by a genuine chemistry between the two leads. I remember the first time I saw Casablanca and how it opened me up to the glory of classic cinema. It’s the perfect movie from start to finish.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1969) – Few movies can say they forever changed a genre. George Romero’s zombie classic “Night of the Living Dead” is one of those films. Made with a miniscule budget and essentially a no-name cast, Romero managed to craft an exceptional horror film that still maintains it’s creepiness today. It develops an eerie atmosphere and tone thanks to the wonderful original black and white, the clever use of moody music and sound, and other chilling little details sprinkled throughout the film. It’s also credited with making zombies the craze they are today. This is a movie I love and for me it’s the greatest horror movie of all time.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) – It’s hard for me to find one bad thing to say about Joel and Ethan Coen’s modern masterpiece “No Country for Old Men”. As with every Coen brothers picture there is a lot of style that immediately makes this one of their films. It has its share of gritty but meaningful violence and there’s some brilliant dark humor throughout the movie. The dialogue is superb and the decision to stick close to Cormac McCarthy’s original work was a good one. There are also fine performance from Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Kelly McDonald, and the unforgettable Javier Bardem as one of the best screen villains ever. In a nutshell, this is great cinema.
REAR WINDOW (1954) – Alfred Hitchcock is remembered as one of cinema’s greatest directors. A great example of why can be seen in his film “Rear Window”. Jimmy Stewart gives a great performance as a wheel chair bound voyuer who spends his time observing his neighbors through his binoculars. It wouldn’t be Hitchcock without mystery and we get that when Stewart believes he’s witnessed a murder in a neighboring apartment. Has he truly witnessed a murder or has he allowed himself to get caught up in this pre-reality TV obsession of his. Grace Kelly is simply stunning as his level-headed girlfriend but even she soon finds herself caught up in it all. What a great film.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) – Sergio Leone is the director that changed the way that I would forever look at the western genre. His brilliance was never clearer than in this western classic. The movie mixes breathtaking cinematography, a hypnotic score by Ennio Morricone, and an absolutely superb cast featuring a young Charles Bronson, the surly Jason Robards, the beautiful Claudia Cardinale, and Henry Fonda as a truly detestable villain. “Once Upon a Time in the West” was Sergio Leone’s final salute to the spaghetti westerns and he delivered an epic sized masterpiece that is my favorite western of all time.
“THERE WILL BE BLOOD” (2007) – Very few movies feature such a bold and dominating performance as Paul Thomas Anderson’s oil boom modern classic. I may not be a big Anderson acolyte but this film shows a brilliance in filmmaking that is undeniable. The stunning cinematography and unnerving score help to perfectly set up the mood and tone. But it’s Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance that drives the entire picture. Day-Lewis’ Oscar winning work here is evidence that he’s our greatest working actor. It’s a mesmerizing performance that perfectly projects the cold and vile character Anderson is envisioning. This is an enthralling film and a true modern masterpiece.
“THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS” (1992) – I’ll never forget leaving the movie theater after seeing Michael Mann’s “The Last of the Mohicans”. The movie is brimming with gorgeous cinematography, beautiful music, thrilling action, and some truly wonderful performances. Daniel Day-Lewis is once again perfect in the role he tackles but he doesn’t have to do it alone. There is a fine supporting cast in place and a screenplay that never misses a beat. “The Last of the Mohicans” is a captivating period picture that melds together that perfect mix of action and romance. It masterfully flows from one sequence to the next and I get caught up in it every time I watch it.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) – It’s a film that often (and unfairly) gets branded with the ‘Christmas movie’ label. That has caused some viewers to keep it within that narrow box. But while it is a perennial holiday classic, Frank Capra’s portrait of small town America doesn’t fit such a small description. It filled with warm humor, indelible charm, and a host of fabulous characters none better than the ambitious but kind-hearted George Bailey. No one but Jimmy Stewart could embody George Bailey and his performance is as iconic as this masterpiece of a movie. I love it, it never grows old, and it stands the test of time.
“Aliens” (1986) – It took some guts to make a sequel to Ridley Scott’s masterful horror/sci-fi classic “Alien”. James Cameron not only took it on, but he made what is one of the best sequels ever made. “Aliens” is different than its predecessor in several ways. It’s less methodical and more action packed. It begins to expand the mystery behind these terrorizing ‘xenomorphs’. It has a surprising sense of humor among the terror. But it also nails what made the first movie great. It’s loaded with suspense. The aliens are terrifying. It features a host of great characters none better than Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley.