Today's list includes two of the best movies I can remember seeing ever. They both won Best Picture Oscars, and they totally, 100% deserved them. The first one is

51. (798.) The Artist (2011)
It might sound ridiculous to say this about a black and white silent movie released in the 21st century, but The Artist is moving pictures distilled to its core. Yes, the story is a sappy retelling of A Star is Born, but it is a really, really well made sappy retelling. I give it my highest recommendation.

52. (799.) California Split (1974)
Robert Altman was so determined to make movies that seemed like snapshots of real life, he frequently failed to consider just how damn boring real life is. This, like so many of his films, has great verisimilitude but weak entertainment value.

53. (800.) The Visitor (1979)
Let me start by saying this movie is bad: derivative, slow, cheap-looking, and just plain horrible. Yet it has a spark of... well, something that won't let you look away, especially if like me you grew up in Atlanta in the late 1970s, where and when this was shot. Atlanta is practically a character in this film — it was filmed in Ted Turner's house — with stars like Lance Henriksen, Shelly Winters, John Huston, Glen Ford, and Sam Peckinpah. How do you go wrong with a cast like that? See The Visitor and find out for yourself.

54. (801.) Absence of Malice (1981)
Tivo decided I should watch Absence of Malice, and I'm glad it did. I think Paul Newman became a much better actor as he matured and didn't have to inhabit every role like someone with something to prove. (Wilford Brimley is in only one scene at the climax of the movie, but he's really the best part of the whole thing.)

55. (802.) Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
The hits keep coming! Alfred Hitchcock managed to create film noir right in the heart of America with this story detailing a fatal loss of innocence. Uncharacteristic for Hitchcock, the third act has the slowest pace of the movie — once the characters have caught up with what the audience has known all along, I think it's time to take off the brakes — but still very good.

56. (803.) Chariots of Fire (1981)
Two men driven to run... run. Yay? It does look and sound great, though. I suspect that this film won Best Picture only because after The Deer Hunter in '78, Kramer vs. Kramer in '79, and Ordinary People in '80, anything that was even mildly uplifiting looked fantastic to the Academy voters.

57. (804.) Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
It's practically a crime that more people haven't seen this movie that seriously investigates the meaning of life without ever forgetting that the whole point of movie-making is entertainment. (It helps that it's filled with actors I love.) Like The Artist, another metatextural movie about actors, I give Birdman my highest recommendation.

58. (805.) John Wick (2014)
After so many deep movies in a row, I needed something a little shallower, which is what Keanu Reeves does best. Thanks, Johnny Utah.

More to come.

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To be continued...


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