Aaron’s Top 100 Movies (2018 Edition)

In 2017, I created my first ever Top 100 Movies list. Many gray hairs formed, I’m sure, as I sat trying to distinguish between beloved films. It’s been almost a year since that list was published and I’ve now seen quite a few more classic films that managed to find their way into my heart and onto this list. As is the case for most folks, my list is ever changing, but this serves as a current reflection of my personal cinematic taste – a snapshot view of the cinephile that I am at this moment in time. My hope is that through this list you might be able to learn a little about who I am as a person by seeing what type of stories I love most.

Note: For the purposes of this list, any film with an asterisk (*) after it represents its series or trilogy. The arrows and number after them specify a film’s movement since the last edition of this list, in this case 2017.

This is my list. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

#1 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring *
#2 It’s a Wonderful Life 1
#3 Casablanca 31
#4 12 Angry Men 1
#5 The Princess Bride 1
#6 Interstellar 3
#7 La La Land 5
#8 Jaws 4
#9 Before Sunrise * 1
#10 Blade Runner * 1
#11 The Prestige 4
#12 Full Metal Jacket NEW NEW
#13 Alien 5
#14 Toy Story * NEW NEW
#15 Top Gun 1
#16 The Last of the Mohicans 1
#17 Jurassic Park 4
#18 Mary Poppins 60
#19 Raiders of the Lost Ark 14
#20 The Wizard of Oz 20
#21 The Dark Knight 1
#22 2001: A Space Odyssey 7
#23 Singin’ in the Rain 8
#24 Vertigo 6
#25 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World 6
#26 Citizen Kane 18
#27 Inception
#28 Star Wars 44
#29 Rear Window NEW NEW
#30 Almost Famous 2
#31 The Silence of the Lambs 55
#32 The Nightmare Before Christmas 6
#33 Rashomon 36
#34 Fight Club 36
#35 Gone with the Wind 4
#36 The Sound of Music 25
#37 Lawrence of Arabia NEW NEW
#38 Sleeping Beauty NEW NEW
#39 The Exorcist 27
#40 The Social Network 1
#41 The Shawshank Redemption 18
#42 All About Eve NEW NEW
#43 Scream 19
#44 The Bridge on the River Kwai 9
#45 My Neighbor Totoro 9
#46 The Empire Strikes Back 11
#47 Unforgiven 9
#48 The Godfather 37
#49 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 26
#50 Tombstone 13
#51 Gladiator 14
#52 The Lion King 11
#53 The Thin Red Line NEW NEW
#54 The Iron Giant 9
#55 Seven Samurai 12
#56 McCabe & Mrs. Miller NEW NEW
#57 Die Hard 26
#58 Your Name. 42
#59 Children of Men 38
#60 Aliens 24
#61 Back to the Future 19
#62 Network NEW NEW
#63 Apocalypse Now 19
#64 Beauty and the Beast 23
#65 Monty Python and the Holy Grail 18
#66 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation NEW NEW
#67 Memento 9
#68 The Right Stuff 3
#69 Reality Bites NEW NEW
#70 Black Hawk Down NEW NEW
#71 The Blair Witch Project 25
#72 Ex Machina 16
#73 Dead Poets Society NEW NEW
#74 3:10 to Yuma 3
#75 The NeverEnding Story 20
#76 The Incredibles 25
#77 Les Miserables NEW NEW
#78 Whiplash 28
#79 Groundhog Day 3
#80 Hell or High Water 13
#81 Into the Wild 21
#82 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 34
#83 Warrior NEW NEW
#84 The Cabin in the Woods 59
#85 Moon 1
#86 Drive 59
#87 The Red Shoes NEW NEW
#88 Reservoir Dogs 34
#89 War For the Planet of the Apes NEW NEW
#90 The Shining 10
#91 Se7en NEW NEW
#92 The Wailing 13
#93 The Departed 41
#94 The Exorcism of Emily Rose 2
#95 Fargo 12
#96 Stalker NEW NEW
#97 Pacific Rim 42
#98 Arrival NEW NEW
#99 Silence 1
#100 The Perks of Being a Wallflower NEW NEW

Dropped Out: Armageddon, Batman Begins, Dr. Strangelove, Equilibrium, Finding Nemo, Forrest Gump, Gravity, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Inside Llewyn Davis, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, No Country For Old Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, Platoon, Psycho, Pulp Fiction, Serenity, Short Term 12, The Breakfast Club, The Place Beyond the Pines, True Grit (2010), Young Frankenstein

Link to list on Letterboxd

Like it? Hate it? Think I’m crazy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Feelin’ TV: July 10-16

Parks and Recreation is the greatest sitcom of all time. That’s not scientifically provable or anything, but I believe it with all my heart. I spent the last month watching the series all the way through for the sixth time. Even if you disagree with me about it being the best ever, I doubt you’ll be able to point to a comedy that had as perfect of a two-season run as Parks and Rec did for seasons 3 and 4 of its run. Even when it wasn’t great, it was still really good. Because at Feelin’ Film, we really like making lists, I decided that I would submit my picks for the best five episodes of Parks and Recreation:

5. One Last Ride (S7E12) – The final couple of seasons might have relied a little too heavily on giving its characters everything they ever wanted, and that shortcoming is definitely on full display in the series finale. But, man, it’s so good that I just don’t even care. I get tears all around as we get to see what Leslie (Amy Poehler) and the gang are up to in the future, especially when it comes to the fate of my spirit animal, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman).

4. Practice Date (S2E4) – This is the only episode on my list from before Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and Chris Traeger’s (Rob Lowe) arrival in Pawnee. The A story provides a lot of comedy as Ann (Rashida Jones) takes Leslie on a practice date to help calm the nerves she’s feeling about her first date with Dave (Louis CK). While hearing about all of Leslie’s nightmarish first dates is a lot of fun, what makes this episode so memorable for me is its B story, where all of the other members of the parks department are having a contest to see how much dirt they can dig up on their co-workers. It’s our first introduction to Duke Silver and its where we really start to get to know Jerry Gergich (Jim O’Heir) as the office punching bag. It’s a lot of fun.

3. Fancy Party (S3E9) – My favorite couple on Parks is April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy (Chris Pratt), hands down. April’s perpetually annoyed demeanor plays off of Andy’s wide-eyed man-child to a form a relationship that managed to feel both inevitable and wildly implausible at the same time. That they would invite their friends and family to bring components of a party to their house (Ben’s items to bring: Avatar, 50 pair of 3-D glasses and a 3-D capable TV) for the purpose of having a surprise wedding is sweet and hilarious and perfectly encapsulates April and Andy.

2. Ron and Tammy: Part Two (S3E4) – I couldn’t make this list without including at least one of the episodes where we get to see Ron interact with his second ex-wife (and real-life spouse Megan Mullally) Tammy 2. I picked a second one because of the ridiculously amusing gag of seeing Ron with corn rows and a mustache with a bald spot in the middle from “friction.” What puts this version of the Ron and Tammy saga on the list over the others is the B story where we learn about Ben’s paralyzing fear of policemen as he and Leslie position themselves to get a favor from Pawnee’s chief of police. It’s this episode where Ben starts to really learn what Leslie is all about. When he asks the police chief why he says that Leslie Knope gets all the favors she wants and he responds, “Because she’s the kind of person who uses favors to help other people.”

1. Flu Season (S3E2) – I realize that three of my five picks are from season three, but you have to understand that I believe that season three of Parks and Rec is the best season of TV sitcom ever. And Flu Season is 22 tight minutes of laughs and the crew splitting off into perfect comedic parings, Tom (Aziz Ansari) and Ben, April and Ann, and my personal favorite, Ron and Andy. Oh, and it also contains what show creator Michael Schur has called, and I agree with him, the funniest one liner in all seven seasons of the show, seen here.

I’m going to restrain myself from giving honorable mentions because I might list every other episode. What say you? What did I miss? What are your favorite episodes? Parks and Recreation can be streamed on Netflix. 


In the age of digital streaming, everyone has a show they want you to watch. Depending on how many seasons you’ve already missed, this can be a daunting proposition. This is why I’m always excited when someone recommends I watch a show and it has less than 20 episodes. I was able to watch Luther in a week! It happened again this week when a friend recommended I watch ABC’s Downward Dog. Downward Dog had a lot going for it. First, it stars Allison Tolman who is probably best known for her role as Molly Solverson on the first season of FX’s Fargo. Tolman is great. I’m a big fan. The conceit is also pretty intriguing. Picture a Modern Family/The Office/Parks and Recreation style mockumentary style sit-com, but the only character that does the talking head portions and the narration is a middle-aged dog who is going through an existential crisis. It’s fun in a way that, as my friend put it, it will never last. And my friend was right. It’s already been cancelled. But the best thing about it is that there are only 8 episodes. I watched the whole thing in an afternoon. It’s the perfect show to begin and finish watching over the summer while your other shows are on hiatus. It’s light, it moves quick and it’s really, really funny. It’s been cancelled by ABC, but the producers are reportedly shopping it around to other networks. It’s unique and different and every viewer counts. Downward Dog can be streamed on Hulu.


Shall We Begin? After what seemed like a lifetime but really was only a year, HBO’s Game of Thrones is back! Once the dust settled from a bloody first few minutes, the rest of the episode was spent moving the pieces into place for the rest of season seven and next year’s climactic season eight. By the looks of it, they’re not going to spend much time messing around. Cersei wants her kingdom back and isn’t going to take no for an answer. Jon needs dragon glass to defeat the Night’s King and, thanks to Sam, he’s about to find out that there’s a whole mess of it at Dragonstone. It looks like we’ll get to see the family reunion that we’ve all been looking forward to but Jon and his Aunt Daenerys don’t yet know is a thing, as the Mother of Dragons has just landed at, you guessed it, Dragonstone. You’ve also got Arya and Bran doing their thing, Sansa paying a little too much attention to Littlefinger and whatever it is that Uncle Greyjoy has up his sleeve. There are a lot of moving pieces and only 12 episodes left until it’s all over.

So what do you think is going to happen? Are Ms. Breaker of Chains and Mr. Snow going to kill the Lannisters on their way to defeat the White Walkers? Or do they need to form a tentative truce with Cersei to survive the winter? And what side is Jamie going to be on? My plan for Game of Thrones is to give a weekly, mostly spoiler free recap on Feelin’ Film TV with the opportunity for more in depth, spoiler-filled discussion in the comments and on our Facebook page. Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights on HBO and can be found streaming on the HBO Now and HBO Go platforms.

That’s all for now! As always, we want this to just be the start of our discussion. Feel free to contribute your thoughts in the comments or our Facebook group. Leave us your thoughts on my list or your predictions for this season of Game of Thrones. See you next week!

Feelin’ TV: June 19-25

There’s a reason that only kids repeat the little rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It’s because It’s complete garbage. While many have experienced physical pain, careless words are what often leave the most lasting scars. Through three seasons of Better Call Saul, we’ve watched as Jimmy McGill slowly but surely transforms into Saul Goodman. While the show has taken its time to get there, this week’s season finale moved the transition along with a jolt. And it did so with one sentence, spoken to Jimmy by his brother Charles. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but the truth is, you never mattered much to me.” With these words, Charles, whose approval and respect was the motivation behind Jimmy’s quest to be a lawyer, paves the way for Slippin’ Jimmy’s rebirth Saul. And if it ends up that we don’t hear from Chuck again, it was one crushing final blow to our main character. I can’t imagine that Jimmy recovers from this. Occasionally, because of the likeable and charming way in which Jimmy is portrayed by Bob Odenkirk, it can be easy to forget that Saul Goodman doesn’t end up the good guy. He’s not the hero of this story. But until this point, he’s meant well. I’m not sure that will be the case anymore heading into season four. Previous seasons of AMC’s Better Call Saul can be found on Netflix.

It takes a lot of confidence for writers to do what they did on this season of Fargo. There were a lot of threads dangling from the season that one might assume would be wrapped into a little bow in an anthology series like this, but they would be wrong. Instead what we got was an open-ended finale that allows the viewer to decide how they want it to end. It was a wonderful twist to a season that has really played with the idea of the nature of truth. Does it matter what really happened if everyone believes something else? Do you believe that justice will be served like Carrie Coon’s Gloria Burgle does? Or will David Thewlis’ Varga be let off the hook due to the strength of the alternate story he’s created? You choose. It’s bold and I think it’s a perfect ending to this season. Prior seasons of FX’s Fargo can be found on Hulu Plus.

GLOW, which dropped on Netflix this week, is a fictionalized take on the beginnings of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling television show from the mid-1980’s. It stars Alison Brie as Ruth, a struggling actress who stumbles into an audition for the show and Marc Maron as Sam Sylvia, the B movie creator who they hired to direct it. It’s a fun take on an origin story as the wrestlers live and train together, getting ready for the filming of the pilot episode. We get to see them adopt and hone their personas as they learn about the world of fake wrestling. It’s only 10 episodes that are about a half an hour a piece, so it’s not a huge commitment. If you’ve ever been a fan of wrestling, I’d assume that you’ll enjoy this fictionalized peek behind the curtain. Thanks to Steve Clifton for giving me a heads up about the show. All 10 episodes can be streamed on Netflix. 

As always, if there’s anything you’d like to have covered, leave it in the comments or on the Facebook page. There will be no Feelin’ TV next week on Independence Day. Turn off the TV, enjoy your family and practice fire safety.

Feelin’ TV: June 12-18

The 2nd season episode, “The Injury,” is a favorite of many fans of NBC’s The Office. The laughs produced as Jim and Michael accompany Dwight to the hospital to be checked and eventually treated for a concussion are some of the show’s best. Among the memorable moments crammed into the episode’s 22 minutes are Michael wrapping his foot in bubble wrap after burning it on a George Foreman Grill, one of the all-time most awkward conference room meetings as Michael invites the handicapped building manager to speak when he feels he isn’t getting enough sympathy for his injury, Jim using a spray-bottle to keep Michael and Dwight under control in Meredith’s mini-van, Michael getting angry as Dwight gets off one of the show’s best “that’s what she said” jokes and the closing seconds when Michael trying to sneak his foot into Dwight’s CT scan. It’s a tight episode with a lot of laughs and character moments.

But none of those are the moments that stand out most to me. There’s a small conversation between Toby and Ryan after the former witnesses the latter biting his string cheese that I think about quite often. “Wow, you just dive right in!” says Toby. Ryan replies, “You know, around age 12 I just started going for it.” It’s the kind of moment that isn’t at all funny or interesting, but I think it’s what endears the show to a certain segment of its fan base. It captures the kind of meaningless chatter that someone who works in a cube experiences every single day. Person one says something because they can’t handle silence. Person two responds with the most benign and mildly amusing comment they can muster because it would be rude not to respond. Both persons laugh to be polite. I may not think scenes like this are funny and at times, they even get on my nerves, but it’s where I live. We may visit The Office for Michael Scott’s incompetence and the high jinks of Jim, Pam and Dwight, but it’s these little interactions that make us feel like we already work there. The Office is currently streaming in its entirety on Netflix.

Something that tends to surprise people who know my viewing habits is that my wife doesn’t really like to watch TV. There aren’t any TV dramas or sit-coms that I’ve been able to find that interest her. The one exception to this rule has been that we both enjoy the Food Network and we both absolutely love Food Network Star. Chef Bobby Flay (my #1 celebrity crush) and Giada De Laurentis host this show where 13 finalists compete to get their own Food Network show.  Bobby and Giada eliminate one contestant every week until one winner is crowned. It’s a perfect summer show. It’s fun, interesting, and ultimately as mindless as a beach novel. My favorite thing about the show are the guest judges that show up every week. As a connoisseur of Food Network shows, it warms my heart to no end to see folks like Robert Irvine, Anne Burrell, Alex Guarnaschelli (my #6 celebrity crush), Ted Allen, etc., have a seat at the judges table from week to week to critique the competitors who vary in their skill levels from TV ready to grossly incompetent. There are still 9 competitors left this season, so it’s not too late to jump in. Food Network Star airs on Sunday nights on Food Network. Prior episodes can be streamed on the Food Network app with cable subscription info.

Season 3 of Netflix’s The Ranch dropped last week, and like the other two seasons, it’s a lot of fun. Former That 70’s Show cast-mates Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson, as Colt and Rooster Bennett, anchor this sitcom about brothers living and working on the family ranch that delivers on the laughs you’d expect while also showing a surprising amount of heart. Elisha Cuthbert is delightful as Abby, Colt’s on again, off again love interest. Every episode is stolen by Sam Elliott who plays the patriarch of the Bennett family. His deep voice and old school cowboy personality is comic gold when paired with Kutcher’s goofiness and Masterson’s sarcasm. Debra Winger rounds off the cast as Maggie Bennett, the matriarch of the clan who resides in an Airstream outside of the bar she owns in town. She’s the only part of the show I’m not a big fan of. There’s a lack of comedic timing and chemistry with the rest of the cast that makes her stick out a bit, but it’s a minor quibble. It’s well worth the watch. The Ranch is currently streaming on Netflix.

Last week upon a recommendation from Patrick Hicks (if the guy that runs the site you write for recommends something, is it really a recommendation?), I worked my way through three seasons of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. The series takes a look at the advent and boom of the home computer through the eyes of fictional characters Joe McMillan (Lee Pace), Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), Gordon’s wife Donna (Kerry Bishe) and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis). The first season has its pacing issues, but it’s never less than interesting as the dialogue and chemistry among the cast is always on point. It really hits its stride in second and third seasons as our characters go their different ways and occasionally find their way back to each other again. The genius of the show is the use of fictional characters put in a real-world setting. We get to feel the urgency put upon entrepreneurs to innovate without the revisionist history that would most likely come with the territory of using historical figures. That’s not to say that there aren’t any similarities between our characters and historical people. I’ll let you figure out who those people are. The fourth and final season hits AMC in August, so there’s plenty of time left to get caught up. The first three seasons of Halt and Catch Fire is currently streaming on Netflix.

That’s all for this week! But remember if you have a show you’d like to have covered that we haven’t, let us know in the Facebook group or in the comments. Next week we’ll talk about the season finales to both Fargo and Better Call Saul!

Feelin’ TV: June 5-11

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started watching Better Call Saul. As a fan of Breaking Bad who very much enjoyed Bob Odenkirk’s portrayal of the slimy lawyer Saul Goodman, I was all in no matter what. I guess I was expecting something resembling a modern lawyer show, only funnier because the main character doesn’t care about the rules or decorum or justice or, you know, the law. What I didn’t necessarily expect, though, was a more deliberate, thoughtful and, dare I say, better version of Breaking Bad.

In 1988, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland published the famous Joker origin story, Batman: The Killing Joke. The story of the birth of the Joker was told in flashbacks as the Clown Prince of Crime put Jim Gordon through the ringer in the present day. The Joker’s hypothesis was that, much like his experience, even the best of men could be rendered insane through just one bad day. That’s the nature of the story of Walter White. Sure, through five seasons of the show we saw White go deeper and deeper into the darkness, but the truth is that Walt broke bad after one really bad day. By the end of Breaking Bad’s pilot episode, Walt has purchased an RV for the purpose of manufacturing crystal meth and he and Jesse already have two dead bodies to deal with. It was a quick trip to moral bankruptcy for Walt. This is not a complaint about Breaking Bad. I love Breaking Bad. I think it’s brilliant. But with few exceptions it was loud and bombastic and in your face storytelling. Better Call Saul is completely different. If Breaking Bad was the story of how someone can go dark because of one really bad day, Better Call Saul is the story of how the every-man, disillusioned by the often-bitter reward of attempting to do the right thing, slowly learns to embrace compromise as the fruit of those decisions yield more desirable immediate results. Over the past two and a half seasons, Vince Gilligan and his team have succeeded in turning the Breaking Bad’s comic relief into a tragic figure. We’re slowly watching the young man who put himself through law school to earn his brother’s respect become the lawyer/con-man fans of the character already hated to love. There are two episodes left in this season that has been equal parts fun and devastating. If you’re not watching, I’d recommend you start. For my money, Better Call Saul is the best show on television. Breaking Bad and the first two seasons of Better Call Saul are currently streaming on Netflix.

Since we’re talking about shows that may or may not be the best shows on TV, it’s only fair that we bring Fargo into the conversation. The Coen Brothers are my favorite filmmakers. And Fargo is my favorite Coen Brothers movie. The setting, the juxtaposition between the brutal ineptitude of the hit-men vs the polite hyper-competence of Chief Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard’s slow descent into madness all mixed together perfectly to create one of the best films in my lifetime. FX’s take on Fargo has been able to expertly take a lot of these ingredients and mix them together to form their own unique stories that definitely feel flavored by the Coen’s unique sensibilities. This past week’s episode was a Coen lover’s dream. We got beautifully brutal shots that looked like they could have come straight from its namesake film, a Serious Man style Jewish folktale, a call back to season 1 of the show and, for good measure, half of the episode takes place in a bowling alley where characters receive advice from a mysterious stranger with a velvety smooth voice a la The Big Lebowski. It was a standout episode in what has been a very solid season of television. Each individual episode has stood apart well on its own as well as slowly building a great story. On top of that, it’s themes about the way we perceive what is true and what is false being largely based on who it is that is telling the story are supremely relevant in the age of “alternative facts” and “fake news.” Seasons one and two of Fargo can be viewed on Hulu Plus.

Finally, we have a little bit of good news to end our column. This week it was announced that a 5th season of BBC’s Luther will begin filming next year. Long-time fans of the show have been waiting since December of 2015 for new episodes. I recently caught the first four seasons on Netflix upon the recommendation of a reader (Thanks Phillip!). So, I’ve only been waiting for new episodes since last Thursday. But that already feels like it’s taking too long. Luther is unlike any detective show I’ve ever watched. It’s so much more about Idris Elba’s John Luther than it is about any of his cases. He’s a detective who occasionally plays a little fast and loose with the law, but always in the interest of justice and not to serve his own interests. There’s something to be liked for people who like the whodunit style detective show as well as those who would rather know who the bad guy is and figure out how the detective is going to nab him. And it should go without saying, but Elba is great. All four seasons (or series, sorry BBC) are currently on Netflix.

As always, if there’s something we’re not covering that you’d like to see covered, let me know in the comments, on Twitter or in the Facebook group.

 

Feelin’ TV: May 29-June 4

Expiration dates can be a good thing. If cows didn’t gently whisper the use by date of their milk into the ears of dairy farmers, we’d regularly be pouring chunky liquid onto our Frosted Flakes. We’d never know when to throw out sour cream. We’d neglect to change the oil in our cars and destroy our engines. We’d have human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria…but I digress. While television dramas that adhere to the old school case of the week style story structure can continue in perpetuity, some dramas need expiration dates. Dexter is my go to example of this. Much of seasons 1-4 were as good as anything on television. But it was getting less and less plausible that Dexter wouldn’t be caught every minute of every episode. Had the show-runners and the network agreed that Dexter would end after season five or season six, it might have a place in the conversation about best TV shows of the 00’s. Instead, because of viewership numbers, Showtime squeezed every last bit of creative juice from Dexter’s orange and just kept squeezing until they had four more seasons of utter garbage that spoiled the first four seasons by association. In contrast, well thought of shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men set expiration dates for themselves, allowing the creators to focus their storytelling on their eventual end game. The Leftovers and The Americans have done this and produced some of their best episodes since. While it makes me sad to think that there’s only one episode of The Leftovers and one season of The Americans to go, I appreciate the decision knowing that I’ll see quality storytelling written with the end in mind.

House of Cards needs an expiration date. Don’t get me wrong. I love House of Cards. This has been said a lot about a lot of different actors, but I would actually pay money to sit and watch Kevin Spacey read the phone book in character as Frank Underwood. Robin Wright is bone-chilling as the cold and calculating Claire. Michael Kelly is creepy as hell as the ruthlessly loyal Doug Stamper. Season five, which dropped on Netflix last week, even adds Campbell Scott and Patricia Clarkson to the mix as a pair of DC power-brokers with ambiguous motives, and predictably, they’re fantastic. There’s a lot about season five that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, so much of the narrative feels meandering and aimless. Thankfully, the final two episodes snap the story into focus and give me hope for a possible season six, but I can’t imagine that the Underwood’s story has much more than one season left in them if they want to remain interesting. The first three seasons of the show were so riveting as Frank and Claire schemed and lied and bribed and murdered their way into the White House that the last two, while still fun, paled in comparison. If you haven’t gotten to it yet, I’m not at all saying that season five was bad. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I just don’t know how much I’ll continue to enjoy it in the future if subsequent seasons don’t have the end in mind.

In other news…

• “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” I’ve already mentioned The Americans briefly above, but I wanted to take a moment to applaud the show on the completion of a tight, concise, riveting and gut-wrenching season. It looked like the Jennings family might be on the way out of the game, but as Phillip and Elizabeth find out, it’s not an easy game to quit. The finale was chock full of nice little character moments that I appreciate the show taking the time to recognize. Paige effectively saying her goodbyes to Pastor Tim, Martha being given the chance for some happiness in her new home, the entire montage set to Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and Phillip’s moment of decision about what to do with the intel that is going to keep him from doing what he wants are all given the time they need to breathe even though there’s a lot of business to get down to. All that was missing was Oleg, whose stories haven’t always interested me but whose situation I’ve found to be quite intriguing this season. As the Jennings’ begin to hear about the cracks in their idealized homeland of 1980’s Soviet Russia, there’s something that resonates with this 2017 American too. We’re seeing with Oleg’s story that as the differences between the living conditions of the rulers and the ruled widens, the ruled are less concerned with the consequences of showing their disdain for the systems that oppress them. In the past year or so, we’ve seen the kind of change that this sort of awakening can produce. As for me though, I much more enjoy watching the Jennings family than I enjoy watching the news. At least when it comes to their homeland, I know how the story ends.

• It was hard for me to think about the series finale of Damon Lindelof’s HBO series The Leftovers without thinking about the finale of his similarly themed show, ABC’s Lost. I was a big fan of Lost until that finale, at which point I became rather annoyed that I had ever watched the show at all. The problem with Lost was that it asked lots of questions and the implication was, both in the show and through interviews with the show’s creators, that it was going to eventually provide the answers to those questions for viewers. What ended up happening was, instead of providing the answers to five seasons of questions, the sixth season simply concerned itself with asking its own questions and answering those, leaving a lot unresolved. Looking back on that finale that aired in May of 2010, it would’ve been nearly impossible to pull off a satisfying conclusion to the story because there was simply too much ground to cover. It’s an interesting contrast to The Leftovers, a show that raised a whole heck of a lot of questions but, to its credit, never promised answers to any of them. Answers were not what the show was about. What The Leftovers turned out to be was a character study about how people cope when there aren’t any answers to be found. While there’s probably plenty of intrigue that could be mined from finding the answers to the questions that would arise if 2% of the world’s population suddenly disappeared, Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (the writer on whose novel the first season was based) chose to take the route of telling smaller, more personal stories of a few of the people who were left behind. There was some really, really weird stuff going on in the post-Great Departure world. It was stuff that if I really thought about it, I’d want to have its purpose explained to me. But people do weird things when they don’t have answers to the tragedies that occur in their lives, and The Leftovers is better for deciding to be concerned with those people and not the circumstances that caused or led to the tragedy. In that way, it would’ve been almost impossible for me to be disappointed with this week’s finale, and indeed I was not. In fact, I’d consider it among the best series finales that I’ve ever seen. From the opening moments with Nora (Carrie Coon) and Matt (Christopher Eccleston) doing Mad Libs (sorry, Matt Libs) by the sea to the final comforting images of two characters assuring each other that in a world where nothing is certain, they can be certain in their belief in each other. Alan Sepinwall wrote a long, detailed and spoiler filled review of the finale and the show itself over at Uproxx. If you’re a fan of the show, I suggest checking it out.

Thanks to the people who have given me a few suggestions about some things to watch while most shows are on hiatus in July and August. I’ve almost gotten through 2 seasons of Luther this week upon the recommendation of Phillip, a loyal reader and regular participant on our Facebook page. Other shows on the docket are The Goldbergs, Halt and Catch Fire and at some point, I’m going to have to catch up with the latest season of Orphan Black that recently became available on Amazon. What am I missing? Give me your suggestions in the comments or on Facebook.

Next week we’ll cover Fargo and Better Call Saul more in depth as both have moved the pieces into place for exciting ends to their seasons.

Aaron’s Top 100 Movies (2017 Edition)

I’ve always wanted to expand my favorite films list to 100 and my birthday seemed like the perfect time for doing so. With that, I present my list. It is ever changing. This list is a current reflection of my personal cinematic taste – what speaks to me emotionally, and those films that are just too so entertaining that all evaluation of their technical quality doesn’t even matter. I’ve labored over this for quite some time and it was not an easy task, but I feel confident that the results are accurate. For today.

(For the purposes of this list, LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring and Before Sunrise represent their respective trilogy.)

This is my list. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  2. La La Land
  3. It’s a Wonderful Life
  4. Jaws
  5. 12 Angry Men
  6. The Princess Bride
  7. The Prestige
  8. Alien
  9. Interstellar
  10. Before Sunrise
  11. Blade Runner
  12. The Exorcist
  13. Jurassic Park
  14. Top Gun
  15. Singin’ in the Rain
  16. Inside Llewyn Davis
  17. The Last of the Mohicans
  18. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  19. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  20. The Dark Knight
  21. Children of Men
  22. Young Frankenstein
  23. The Shawshank Redemption
  24. Aliens
  25. The Cabin in the Woods
  26. Die Hard
  27. Inception
  28. Drive
  29. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  30. Vertigo
  31. Gone with the Wind
  32. Almost Famous
  33. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  34. Casablanca
  35. Short Term 12
  36. My Neighbor Totoro
  37. Tombstone
  38. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  39. The Social Network
  40. The Wizard of Oz
  41. The Lion King
  42. Back to the Future
  43. Seven Samurai
  44. Citizen Kane
  45. The Iron Giant
  46. The Blair Witch Project
  47. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  48. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  49. Armageddon
  50. Whiplash
  51. The Incredibles
  52. The Departed
  53. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  54. Reservoir Dogs
  55. Pacific Rim
  56. Unforgiven
  57. The Empire Strikes Back
  58. Memento
  59. Forrest Gump
  60. Into the Wild
  61. The Sound of Music
  62. Scream
  63. Gravity
  64. Pan’s Labyrinth
  65. Gladiator
  66. Batman Begins
  67. Hell or High Water
  68. Pulp Fiction
  69. Rashomon
  70. Fight Club
  71. The Right Stuff
  72. Star Wars
  73. Finding Nemo
  74. Serenity
  75. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  76. Groundhog Day
  77. 3:10 to Yuma
  78. Mary Poppins
  79. The Wailing
  80. The Shining
  81. True Grit (2010)
  82. Apocalypse Now
  83. Fargo
  84. Moon
  85. The Godfather
  86. The Silence of the Lambs
  87. Beauty and the Beast
  88. Ex Machina
  89. No Country for Old Men
  90. The Breakfast Club
  91. The Place Beyond the Pines
  92. The Exorcism of Emily Rose
  93. Platoon
  94. Equilibrium
  95. The NeverEnding Story
  96. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
  97. Psycho (1960)
  98. Silence
  99. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  100. Your Name.

Like it? Hate it? Think I’m crazy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Link to list on Letterboxd