Wednesday, December 30, 2009

That VoDo That You Do So Well

Originally uploaded by TommyKupo_pix
How does James Cameron do it?

In a world where 40-60% drop-off’s from your films first to second week of release is common and expected, Avatar bucks the trend. Not only did Avatar not have a steep decline in its second week of release, it’s numbers actually rose by 1.8%.

It’s going to be insanely hard for Cameron’s masterpiece to make money. I heard an absurd figure like $750 million was needed before it would break even at the box office, but with two weeks under his belt and a rise in box office charts it just might be possible. Domestically Avatar has already made over $200 million dollars – in two weekends.

Cameron’s Titanic spent at least ten weeks in the number one slot of the box office charts and went on to garner a record breaking amount of Oscars. While I don’t think Avatar will walk away with top nods at the Oscars this February, I won’t be surprised if Cameron breaks box office records once again.

Whatever mojo Cameron is using, I’d like to have a little of it myself. I just hope he doesn’t take another 12 years to release his next film.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't Forget About These! (The Decade Edition)

My compatriots have been making lists of their favorite films of the decade and I could do the same thing but I figured why bother since there would be a massive amount of repeats. The best part of all this reminiscing is it makes people think about these movies and in some cases causes them to seek out and discover some of the ones they might have missed. As such I decided to compose a completely different kind of list. What follows is my list of some of the best, unheralded, unsung gems of the past 10 years. Very few of these movies ever won any kind of awards but they’re still great movies none-the-less, some just as good if not better than what’s been touched upon by my colleagues and it’d be a shame for them to slip through the cracks of these never-ending retrospectives. So without any further ado let’s jump right in shall we?

BELOW: David Twohy followed up the brilliant PITCH BLACK with this equally brilliant supernatural / WWII thriller set on a submarine. I refuse to spoil too much but the film is every kind of intense you can think of. Not only are there all kinds of possibly supernatural shenanigans going on aboard the sub but up on the surface they are being doggedly pursued by a pack of relentless German U-Boats. The danger and suspense is inescapable and this film will stick with you long after it’s over. This is one of those films that almost no one saw and it’s an outright crime because it is pure genius.

BUBBA HO-TEP: John F. Kennedy Jr. had his mind put into the body of a black man. Elvis never really died it was one of his impersonators and now black JFK and Elvis (Played by Bruce Campbell) are living out their twilight years in a convalescent home when a cursed mummy thing starts feeding on the souls of their elderly neighbors. It’s up to the King and the ex-President to stop him. If that description doesn’t make you want to instantly rush out and find this movie then I’m not sure I want to know you.

THE HOST: The Korean equivalent of JAWS? Maybe. Not only is this a spectacular monster movie but it’s also a deep, satisfying, truly engrossing family saga as well. Like JAWS you’re more invested in the characters than you ever are in the monster (And it’s a pretty darn cool monster) and that’s why it all works so well. If you consider yourself a fan of M. Night Shyamalan or Steven Spielberg you owe it to yourself to seek out this film.

NINE QUEENS: The best way to sum up this wickedly ingenious con film is to simply give you an excerpt from the review emblazoned across the theatrical one-sheet that drove my sister and me into the theatre. “Fabián Bielinski's trickster of a film, ''Nine Queens,'' is the kind of movie that seduces you into becoming putty in its manipulative card-sharking hands and making you enjoy being taken in by its shameless contrivance… The Argentine movie is the directorial debut of a filmmaker who appears to have steeped himself so thoroughly in Alfred Hitchcock and David Mamet that it's hard to imagine ''Nine Queens'' having been made without them leering metaphorically over his shoulder. The movie… combines Hitchcock's winking tongue-in-cheek vision of a paranoid universe where everyone may or may not be part of an elaborate conspiracy with Mr. Mamet's obsession with the finer points of gamesmanship and con artistry. “ If that doesn’t get your juices flowing then I don’t know what will.

OLD BOY: I can’t guarantee this film is everyone’s cup of tea because it is absolutely BRUTAL, violence, story wise – you name it. That however doesn’t make the film any less brilliant. Hands down this is one of the most visceral pieces of cinema you will EVER see. There’s a reason guys like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Will Smith fell so in love with this movie that they wanted to remake it. OLD BOY is one of the single most twisted, brutal revenge tales ever crafted and it is worth at least one viewing for the hallway / hammer fight alone.

PAYBACK STRAIGHT UP: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT: PAYBACK, starring Mel Gibson was released in 1999 and it was a pretty entertaining little movie. What very few people knew at the time was that the film was ripped out of the hands of writer / director Brian Helgeland (The genius screenwriter behind A KNIGHT’S TALE, L.A. CONFIDENTAL, etc.) re-edited, recolored (No joke they gave the whole film a blue tone) and a completely new third act was filmed and tacked on. For reasons that still defy every sort of Hollywood logic in 2006 the suits at Paramount and Mel Gibson allowed Helgeland to finish the movie the way he originally envisioned it and they released it on DVD. As strange a series of events as that is let me tell you that if they had released this version of PAYBACK the first time around it would have easily wound up on my top 10 list for any year it was released. In fact despite the fact it was originally released in 1999 I would have a hard time keeping this new version off my top 10 list of maybe even this decade. PAYBACK was originally a more faithful telling of Richard Stark’s brilliant novel The Hunter which was made once before into a pretty kick-ass Lee Marvin film called POINT BLANK. There are quite a few people that hold POINT BLANK as a classic, but in my humble opinion the director’s cut of PAYBACK has it beat in every single way. If you like hard-edged, big-balled, crime fiction, neo-noir then it is imperative you seek this sucker out on DVD. If you do you’ll see one of the better revenge / crime films I’ve ever seen. If there were only one movie on this list that you try to discover, I’d make it this one!

THE SALTON SEA: Another great piece of neo-noir / crime fiction. My sister turned me on to this film and I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. This is D.J. Caruso’s feature film directorial debut and while I’ve liked pretty much everything the guy has done I don’t think any of them hold a candle to this flick. Check this one out and you’ll also see Val Kilmer turn in one of the absolute best performances of his career.

SLITHER: This is perfect, B-Movie bliss. If you like stuff like ARMY OF DARKNESS, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and the works of Bruce Campbell then this movie is right up your alley. If you’re also a fan of Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY and Captain Malcolm Reynolds portrayer Nathan Fillion then I can’t imagine you not loving this movie. This is an awesome, fun, funny B-Movie throwback filled with huge laughs and lots of creepy blood, guts and gore. This is the kind of movie they make midnight screenings for, a total cult classic that if you’re of the right mind set you’ll fall in love with the moment you see it. This is one of those movies that I pop in anytime I just want to have fun, feel happy and have a ball.

THE TAILOR OF PANAMA: This is perhaps the best dark, political satire about the military, war and the men that wage it since DR. STRANGELOVE. This film is wickedly dark, scathing and funny as hell. If the topsy-turvy, hysterically frightening plot weren’t enough you have Pierce Brosnan turning in easily my favorite performance of his career. For all intents and purposes he plays a very “R” rated version of James Bond that has simply stopped caring about queen and country and only wants money, booze and women. After seeing this movie you’ll never look at his turn as James Bond quite the same way again.

WAY OF THE GUN: Christopher McQuarrie followed up on his Oscar winning screenplay for THE USUAL SUSPECTS with this harsh, slick, gritty bit of ass-kicking. In an interview McQuarrie referred to the film as a “Western with cell phones” and if you give this film a whirl you’ll see what he means. Guaranteed you’ll look at Ryan Phillipe in a whole new light after this film and Benecio Del Toro used this film to prove he was for sure the real deal. This is one of those films that’s been practically forgotten and that’s a shame because it’s anything but forgettable.

Oh and just to really wrap up all this “Best of the Decade” nonsense I realize I forgot to mention Darren Aronofsky, Neil Marshall and the brain trust of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost behind the instant classics SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, because seriously my list isn’t complete without mentioning them. Also I know I never really listed my favorite individual movies but after much thought and consideration I realized that if I did THE DARK KNIGHT, THE INCREDIBLES, UNBREAKABLE and ALMOST FAMOUS would have probably been at the very top so there you go. And with that other than my “Best of 2009” I’m done with this decade. Here’s hoping the next one brings us so much to talk about as well.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Cinematic Public Service Announcement

In the 17 months that we’ve written about the movies for this blog, the four of us have seen countless films, arguing over many, partly seeing eye-to-eye over some, and agreeing unequivocally on a few.

This is one of those few.

The hype over James Cameron’s Avatar has been building up steadily over the past several years, reaching fever pitch over the past few months. Avatar has been touted as an event movie of epic proportions, and the “one” that will change the way that films are made in the future. Now that we’ve all had a chance to see it, we wanted to share our excitement with you as a group, because the four of us feel so strongly about Avatar that we feel that it’s one of THOSE movies that anyone who considers himself/herself a fan of the movies really ought to go see.

Below, you’ll find our individual comments on the film.

“Twelve years is a long time to wait for anything, but James Cameron has made it more than worth the wait. AVATAR is unlike anything you have ever seen before. It’ll dazzle your senses, melt your eyeballs and pin you to your seat. It immerses you in a world up until now you only thought you could see in your dreams. In short, AVATAR is the reason they make movie theatres. If you want to see the future of film making converge with the best that modern story telling has to offer, get your butt to a theatre NOW!”
--Chris W.

“My girlfriend didn't want to see it. This isn't anything new when it comes to her feelings on movies involving fantasy. But she was adamant that it looked stupid. Fortunately, I had a coupon that was a gift from her, stating she'd go to a movie she didn't want to see. I knew we were in for a treat, and wanted her to experience it too. By the end of the movie, she was on the edge of her seat, gripping my arm with suspense and enjoyment all in one. I simply ate my popcorn, grinned with satisfaction, and enjoyed the rest of my Christmas present.

James Cameron consistently delivers fascinating stories, classic characters, amazing worlds, and he does it while raising the standard for not only the technology that he's using, but also how those effects should be used. You are emotionally involved with the world and characters you are introduced to, as if you are in an Avatar yourself. It's Dances with Wolves with a little bit of The Matrix, and the hottest and most badass version of Pocahontas you will ever see. This movie has heart, and I love it. If you haven't seen it, you are crazy. If you haven't seen it twice, sell something so you can see it again. And if you haven't seen it in IMAX 3D, then you don't know Pandora. For those of you that have done all of the above, ‘I see you.’"

Avatar is something not seen very often – a film that delivers on concept, story and craftsmanship. James Cameron promised that with Avatar we’d be visiting another planet and, while watching the film, we are. The astounding thing is that, in 2D, you are invested in the story of Jake Sully & the Na’vi people, but, in 3D, you are walking on Pandora with them. Avatar is a film that cannot be missed on the big screen, and, no matter what exhibition format you see it in, Cameron will take you into a story that you will cheer for.”
“It’s no surprise that I’ve been somewhat skeptical about Avatar for the past several months. The first trailer was somewhat unimpressive, and while the second was better, my doubts still remained as I sat in the theater last weekend. Over the course of the next 2 hours and 40 minutes, my cinematic mind was blown. Sure, the script could have used another pass, but I found myself in a strange place. I just didn’t care. Cameron’s use of visual effects is second to none and Pandora is one of the most distinctive (and beautiful) environments I’ve ever seen in a movie. Look, I’ll just say it: if you miss seeing Avatar on the big screen, you might regret it for the rest of your life.”

If you go to see only one movie the rest of the year, let that movie be Avatar.
-Chris W, FilmNinja, Megan, & Adam

Thursday, December 24, 2009

FotM: So, ya coming?

With each passing year, we travel farther and farther away from that time in our life when “grown-up” was an evil word we could put off thinking about, each moment was filled with promise, and stories had an extra tangible quality to them as though they might leap out to snatch us away.

Christmas has a unique power over many of us. It’s the one time each year when we just might have a communal moment with all of the Christmases of our other years. I remember the year I got a guitar for Christmas, and the year I selfishly thought I hadn’t gotten enough gifts. In a way, they all stack up, and on this one special day, we have a chance to see them all dangling in front of us again.

Five years ago, I was a very different person. I was a first-year college student navigating through the “big switch” from one institution to a markedly different animal. If only I’d known how strange the transition from life as a college student to life as a graduate would be. . . I might have had a few words for myself.

In 2004, I remember first seeing an advertisement for The Polar Express. I’d never read the famous book the film would be based on, but I had an inkling that it’d be one I wanted to see. So, before Christmas rolled around that year, I took my 12-year old brother and set out to see the film.

The first theater we went to had sold out, so we, resolute and undeterred, set out to find another. On our second attempt, we were successful, and we sat down and watched the film together in a crowded theater.

The Polar Express is a ground-breaking film that marked the first time that “performance capture” had been used to create an entire animated feature film. Previously, the technique of putting sensors on an actor’s body to put their movements into a computer for digital recreation had been used to a lesser degree by filmmakers like Peter Jackson and George Lucas. However, this film marks one of the first times time that performance capture was used to this degree, allowing Tom Hanks to play 5 different characters with a remarkable degree of realism.

Additionally, The Polar Express marks Robert Zemeckis’ first experiment with performance capture, an experience that has proved to be a major turning point for him as an artist. Since 2004, Zemeckis has made two other films, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol, both of which are animated films using performance capture.

With all this talk of matters of technicality and precedent, I don’t wish to make The Polar Express sound like it’s a history lesson of a film. It’s not.

The Polar Express is a magical movie, the kind that makes your heart swell, puts a big smile on your face, and makes you wish that you could be a child again. For a symbol, the story uses kids in that strange in-between of knowing that the world is bigger and more complicated than they’d imagined but wanting things to stay simple to tell a tale of faith. Not religious faith, or the belief that a specialized way of living is somehow more correct or appropriate than another, but the kind of faith that encourages, uplifts, and reminds one to look for the magic present in the everyday.

And it’s wonderfully exciting. The journey to the North Pole is one filled with danger and excitement. I still remember sitting in the theater as the train careened like a roller coaster, feeling like I was, in some weird way, on it myself. The best stuff in the movie, for my money, takes place when they get to their destination. This version of the North Pole is highly industrial, a corporation, if you will, with Santa Claus as a benevolent version of Bill Gates, albeit one without a voice like Kermit the Frog’s. The elves have terrific personalities, and the scene where the kids listen in on the decision process as to what exactly constitutes a spot on the “naughty” list just might be my favorite.

As I look back over the five years that have passed since that day, a lot has changed. I’ve grown older. My life is very different in certain ways and exactly the same in others. But every year, around Christmas, I put on The Polar Express and am reminded of the magnificent years of youth and the promise present in a moment. In this time of uncertainty and a markedly existential angst, a movie about a train bound for the top of the world on Christmas Eve goes a long way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

FOTM: "Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho."

‘Twas the week before Christmas and that could mean only one thing, time to give my favorite holiday movie a quick fling.

Loaded with mayhem, action, explosions and holiday cheer, it’s just not Christmas if I don’t watch DIE HARD this time of year.

While many might snort and chuckle and call me a fool, to me there is no better film for this season of Yule.

On this grand action opus an exhaustive book I could write, but that is not what brings you to this blog this December night.

Confused and perplexed I’m sure your head you do scratch, how could this film be part of a holiday batch?

It’s quite simple you see, like two plus one is three.

The Christmas setting for the plot is essential, sans it you have a tree with nothing but tinsel.

From the terrorist plot to the way Willis hides his gun, all of it is for not if not for the holiday fun.

Christmas is laced through each part of the film, forged, mixed and joined in the creative kilm.

Tis Christmas that brings John McClane to the party, and makes the actions of the cops so fool-hardy.

With the city quiet and peaceful in a Christmas nap, the time is ripe and right for the terrorist trap to snap.

Being Christmas Eve all are caught off-guard and unaware, allowing Hans and his men to try a heist of such dare.

Enter an everyman - a hero for the ages, and for two hours plus through terrorists he rages.

The cops and the feds try to help but just get in the way, to that our lone hero would only say yippee-ki-yay.

McClane adorns dead terrorists in Santa hats and Christmas messages, twere not for the party alcohol would so docile be the hostages.

The action and tension raises and mounts, blood and led fly in copious amounts.

In the midst of it all a tale of a man yearning to regain his wife, all the while in a frantic, high-octane battle for his very life.

Forty stories of adventure hold us in awe; by the end from the floor must we remove our jaw.

From beginning to end it’s a white-knuckle ride, packed to the brim with subtext of blue collar pride

The film is genius, brilliant, pure action perfection, voted by many the greatest action selection.

At the time of its release a huge gamble and roll of the dice, it is now synonymous with all that makes action movies nice.

Its lead was a TV star as of then untested, its villain so dapper in a suit double-breasted.

In one shining moment a new movie star was made, guaranteed from your memory this movie won’t fade.

Even Michael Kamen’s score is filled with Christmas cheer, the only thing missing are Santa’s eight tiny reindeer.

While most holiday movies have peace on earth and good will towards men, this one has Twinkies, explosions, machine guns and Alan Rickman amen!

You can keep your stockings, holly sleigh bells and missile toe, I get my holiday cheer watching McClane jump off the roof as it does blow.

Smart, ground breaking, original and fun in all ways, you just don’t see many films like DIE HARD now-a-days.

So in closing I think you’ll find no Christmas movie to be rougher or tougher, and if you find you don’t agree with me well then Yippee-ki-yay mother…

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Feature: Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays is not a Christmas movie, it’s a Thanksgiving movie. With the exception of some Peanuts films I can’t think of too many things right off the top of my head that center around that holiday. However, Home for the Holidays has quickly risen on the list of my favorite holiday films.

My best friend once said that Home for the Holidays made her feel better about her holidays because nothing could be worse than what the Larson family goes through in this film, and with the exception of knife pulling, or acts of horrendous violence that is basically true. Home for the Holidays isn’t your typical holiday film, in fact the Larson family in the film is incredibly dysfunctional, each of the family members tend to keep to themselves, and they all dread getting together but like any good American family every Thanksgiving and Christmas they do it anyway.

The central lead of this ensemble piece is Claudia Larson played by Holly Hunter. Claudia is down and out depressed by the loss of her job and her personal life and having to go to her parents without even the security blanket of her daughter is tough. We soon uncover why as her parents Adele & Henry Larson are overbearing and pushy; what I love is that I am guessing most of the audience can identify with this as the Larson’s aren’t really horrific parents, but their children’s reaction to them is much the same as we’ve all felt towards out parents at least once in our lives – we just want to be allowed to run our own lives without interference and commentary.

The most outstanding member of the family is Tommy Larson played by Robert Downey Jr. Tommy is gay, but doesn’t make an issue of it. It’s part of who he is and it completely fits his already over the top personality; he is the member of the family that usually starts or aids in any of the chaos that is occurring. Tommy and Claudia are the closest of the two siblings, and it’s their bond that helps to carry the movie, turning it from a cynical holiday tale to a heartwarming film.

The Larson family has issues, issues that tend to come out when you wouldn’t want them to – in this case at Thanksgiving. Tommy & Claudia’s sister Joanne looks down on her siblings and tries to control her parents and her own family so tightly that she manages to suck the joy out of the celebration. She can’t handle the chaos that her family seems to thrive off of and her way of handling the situation is to make Tommy & Claudia the brunt of her insults and barbs to elevate herself.

Even though I’ve painted this film as a bleak picture of a holiday and a family I assure you that it’s not. The entire reason I love Home for the Holidays is that behind the chaos, the family craziness, and even the aggravating sibling is a heart. That heart is Tommy & Claudia.

Tommy & Claudia are the members of the Larson family that care about each other and their lives the most. They care about each other’s relationships, their hardships and are there for the other when it’s asked and even when it’s unspoken; their lives couldn’t be more different but Tommy & Claudia have reached through the muck and mire of family drama and found each other on the other side.

Home for the Holidays also works because the Larson family is easily relatable, but like any good filmic representation they are just a little larger than life. Mom walks & smokes while worrying about her wig, Dad has become over affectionate with his wife, even around his children and sneaks pie but then admits it, Joanne raises children concerned with aerobics and white meat vs. dark, Tommy talks incessantly about anything and everything, and Claudia frets constantly about the daughter she left hundreds of miles away. All of these characters together create a dynamic that is wonderful to watch and much more heartfelt than a printed blurb about the film can ever capture.

Jodie Foster made Home for the Holidays as her second directorial effort and she chose her story, cast and setting very well. One of the most wonderful things about watching talented actor-turned-directors is that they tend to have actors that deliver phenomenal performances and the interplay between characters is always astounding. This film is no exception. As an actor herself, Jodie Foster was able to bring out the nuances in the performance of not just one actor but all of them and this is what helps the film be so dang entertaining to watch. The actors have a genuine, familial chemistry on screen and disappear into their roles leaving you wondering what will happen next, or what childhood shadow will come out to play.

I highly recommend Home for the Holidays but I am very aware it is not everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to holiday films. However, if you’re looking for something different this Holiday season I think this might be the film for you, and if not, well I also recommend a few others that run the spectrum of Holiday goodness.

Megan’s Holiday Viewing:
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (original)
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Muppet Christmas Carol
When Harry Met Sally

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Megan's Decade: 2009

My list for 2009 is in flux, but as we’re still in 2009 it’s a little early to tell exactly what films will stick with me. I even think that perhaps, a few of the films that I haven’t seen yet this year will be the ones that stick with me for years to come.

Avatar: I am a 3D hater. I think it's a fad just like it was 50 years ago and it will die. However, what James Cameron has done with 3D in Avatar is unlike anything I have ever seen. He uses 3D not as a gimmick but for what I think it was originally envisioned as - a tool to pull you into the world you are watching. In Avatar this works so effectively that you literally feel like you are walking on Pandora with everyone else. This would be a wonderful achievement on it's own, but after taking 12 years to make another movie Avatar totally delivers the complete pacakge, and is an utterly amazing movie.

The Soloist: I was moved by this film. So moved that I bought the book after seeing it and picked up and watched the DVD the day it came out. This is a beautiful film that reminds me there is something we can do to make our cities and our world a better place.

Star Trek: JJ’s Trek is going to stay with me. Never in my life did I think it would be cool to like Star Trek or that it would be referenced in a favorable way by pop culture or the masses. As if that weren’t enough, this is just a dang good movie; a franchise piece that remembered it wasn’t just one in a chain of mythology, but had to be a movie, and a good one at that, on it’s own merit.

Up In The Air: I'm a member of the statistic. I was laid off in 2009. Watching Ryan Bingham travel company to company to get rid of employees should have been a horrible thing for me to experience, but it wasn't. This movie touched me in a way I never expected - it understood what my year had been like and treated it with respect. As if that weren't enough it's another Jason Reitman home run, and is an incredible movie with a master craftsmans touch.

Through these posts I hope I’ve clued you into a few films that perhaps you haven’t seen and that you’re thinking about the films that have stuck with you through the years.

With that said I am going to leave you with the closing lines from one of my favorite films of the past decade, and if you don't know what movie it is...then maybe you should see a few more films on my list.

“Thanks for coming, please stay for the end credits, if you're wondering who the best boy is, it's somebody's nephew, um, don't forget to validate your parking, and to all you good people in the Midwest, sorry we said f--k so much.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Megan's Decade: 2008

2008 is a year that was filled with the most imporant personal goal of my life so far - I shot my first feature film. I scrapped, saved, cheated and assembled a great tem but I proved to myself that I can make a I just need people to see it.

Bottle Shock: This movie is just happy and it makes me happy. You watch it and you’re inspired to follow your passion. It’s a little film, slightly fictionalized, about a real winery in Napa that took part in a wine competition in France in 1976. I get a bit choked up every time Jim Barrett runs through the law office screaming in celebration.

Charlie Bartlett: This movie is the best high school comedy since Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and no one saw it. Charlie Bartlett is the odd ball high schooler that just wants to fit in, but in reality he does anything but; instead he offers counseling to all students in the boys bathroom and becomes the hero of the school. See it and fall in love with Anton Yelchin.

Iron Man: It’s no secret that I love this movie. If I could make a Superman film that does what this film did for its namesake I would die a happy director. I love Jon Favreau for making this movie and giving us back Robert Downey Jr. on an epic scale again.

Tropic Thunder: I know I am obsessed with movies about movies, but Tropic Thunder is one of the best Hollywood satires of the past century. Ironically, by playing a racially confused, pig-headed actor Robert Downey Jr. earned his first Oscar nomination since Chaplin.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Megan's Decade: 2007

2007 was a bit of a strange year for me. I made 3 short films. I was stuck in a horrible customer service job when my contract at Paramount ended, and yet a few fun, fantastic films helped pull me through.

Grindhouse: I don’t know if there was anything more creatively inspiring to me in 2007 than spending an afternoon in the theatre with the imaginations of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. I still hope that one day the back to back versions, with trailers will be released on DVD.

Stardust: This movie is The Princess Bride for a new generation, and just like the later film Stardust went unnoticed. This is fantasy film at its finest, a fantastic fairy tale, and a film that should inspire your imagination.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Megan's Decade: 2006

This is hands down the single best year of movies in the decade that passed. I thank God for that because it also contained the single hardest event of my life so far, my younger brother almost died. I was very glad to have the escape of the movies then and if you ignore all of the other films I suggest you have to see the movies I remember here.

Children of Men: This isn’t just one of my favorite films of the decade, but one of my favorite films of all time. I’ve written about it before. If you haven’t seen it yet stop the excuses and see it.

The Fountain: During the credits of this movie it hit me; if I never fell in love it would be okay, because I know what love is really like because of The Fountain. This is not a film most people will understand, or want to see; however, if you can open your mind and just let the movie happen you might just finish the credits wondering why this movie wasn’t nominated for best picture.

The Lives of Others: I’ve never quite seen a movie like this one. People were mad at me when I was excited The Lives of Others beat Pan’s Labyrinth for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, but this film is better.

Once: An Irish kitchen sink musical. If you had told me such a movie existed I would have laughed at you. Once is one of the most fantastic movies I’ve ever seen and everyone should see this movie.

Superman Returns: I don’t think this was a great movie, and in fact it’s a pretty dang bad Superman film – it commits some cannon follies big time. However, my little brother was in the hospital when this film came out, and I am such a boy blue fan & needed to escape reality, so the movie that I saw whenever things got too heavy was Superman Returns. The fact that this film came out when it did helped me get through one of the hardest times in my life and I will forever be thankful that it did.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Megan's Decade: 2005

To date 2005 might be one of my favorite years in cinema. There were many more films I could have included here, but in the end I had to choose the ones that I talk about or pop into my DVD player constantly. It was also a great year because it's the year I graduated college, and got a jobs at Paramount..but on the downside it's the year Christopher blew an ulcer and was hospitalized between those I guess my year had a three act structure.

Batman Begins: This is the film that reinvented the DC movie franchise and rescued Batman from the cheese ball films that he was being treated with. Batman Begins made me appreciate Batman and his plight in a way I never had before and brought Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan to the forefront of cinema and I am very happy about that.

Brick: I bought my ticket for Brick, was handed a glossary of the slang used in the film and walked into the theatre completely unaware that I would be seeing one of the most groundbreaking little films of the decade. I walked out of that theatre a different filmmaker than I walked in.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: If I was forced to narrow this list down, this is one film that could not be taken off. Shane Black created a pitch perfect action/noir/comedy hybrid and it’s such a stunning directorial debut that I want him to try again. Val Kilmer & Robert Downey Jr. are a perfect pairing and I think this film has my favorite narration of any film, ever.

Thank You for Smoking: I once heard Jason Reitman describe this film as a joyful movie about lung cancer. That totally fits. I adore this movie and find myself quoting Jeff Magall all the time and saying: “But it's an easy fix. One line of dialogue. 'Thank God we invented the... you know, whatever device.'” I use this and a line for The Great Muppet Caper to explain things when I direct.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Megan's Decade: 2004

In 2004 I was finally being exposed to more film than I ever had in my life and because of school and a great cinematic year my film appreciation expanded exponentially. I love being able to watch a big budget blockbuster, an indie hit or even a tiny, no budget film and being able to appreciate them all for their uniqueness and craftsmanship.

EuroTrip: I knwo this is a silly movie, a teen comedy in the style of National Lampoons. But nothing you can say can make me love it less. Matt Damon makes an amazing cameo and steals the film’s opening. Also, remember “Scotty doesn’t know.” If you don't know what I'm talking about, maybe you should rent the movie.

Garden State: I saw this film in the theatre, mainly because of Scrubs and I fell in love. Zach Braff proved he’s as good of a director as he is an actor. This film is the definition of the quarter-life crisis. I think I identified with this movie then and will be able to love it my entire life.

The Machinist: This is the movie Christian Bale went down to about 100 pounds for & was a living skeleton. His commitment to this part is what enabled this film and the world of cinema is better for it. I was astounded by this film; it is a unique vision and fascinating to watch.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Up, Up and Away to Oscar Glory!

It’s incredibly rare when I agree with the film the Academy Awards picks as the “Best Picture” of the year. It’s not that the movies that win the coveted statue are bad perse; I just normally feel that there are other, more qualified films that better represent the best that a particular year of cinema had to offer. Films like THE ENGLISH PATIENT, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and SLUMDOG MILLIONARE were all good movies but none of them came close to matching the quality or impact of films like FARGO, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and THE DARK KNIGHT respectively. Well, this year when UP IN THE AIR takes the top honor at the Oscars the only sound you’ll hear from me is my rapturous, fully supportive applause because for once the Academy will have gotten it exactly right.

I’ll be perfectly upfront here. I don’t think UP IN THE AIR is my favorite film of the year, heck I’m not even sure it is the very best movie of the year. As it stands right now STAR TREK, UP, DISTRICT 9 and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS are all duking it out for that title, but UP IN THE AIR is pretty darn close. Having said that though I still fully stand by what I said in the preceding paragraph and allow me to explain why.

On a sheer quality level UP IN THE AIR deserves to be considered right up there with the best films of the year if not the decade. Jason Reitman more than proves that THANK YOU FOR SMOKING and JUNO weren’t flukes by making a film that easily tops them. No small feat indeed. The entire cast turns in award worthy performances, especially George Clooney who proves what a real movie star is actually made of by delivering a performance that at least equals, if not tops his one in MICHAEL CLAYTON. There is no one involved with the production that doesn’t completely bring their “A” game and for that alone the film deserves all the accolades that are being heaped upon it. However each of those brilliant individual pieces is only a portion of why this film deserves Oscar immortality.

Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now people will not only look back on UP IN THE AIR as one of the greatest artistic and technical achievments of this decade but also as one of the most deeply resonant and representative films of our times. It is a rare and truly wonderful thing indeed when one film can so perfectly capture one of, if not the greatest societally tumultuous conflicts of our time all while juxtaposing it with the universal truths and battles that rage within every human being’s soul.

UP IN THE AIR is a masterpiece deserving of being smothered with awards because it is not only the best cinematic snapshot of the world at large in 2009 but also perhaps one of the most real, poignant and effecting examinations of the human condition ever captured on film. I know people that have been laid off over the past 2 years that were absolutely devastated by this film. On the flip-side I know people who because of their own job stability were completely unaffected by the “downsizing” portion of the plot that were just as equally and deeply moved by the universal themes of companionship, family, friendship and belonging brought forth by Reitman and company. GQ magazine called UP IN THE AIR the “movie of the moment” and while I hate to blatantly steal while everyone is looking I couldn’t agree more. Unless you are a soulless robot UP IN THE AIR will hit you in some way, heck maybe more than one. It will make you think about the world we live in, how you fit into it and it will stick with you long after you’ve left the theatre. There’s no doubt in my mind that it will have the same exact effect decades from now, all the while giving future generations a glimpse into what it was like to be alive in 2009, by being one of the best things Hollywood had to offer that year. If that’s not the very definition of a “Best Picture” then I don’t know what is.

Megan's Decade: 2003

I don't know if I have a lot of films that moved me in 2003, and I think part of why might be this was a huge transition in my life. I started film school. I always had a great film vocabulary, but that year I spent more time watching films for class and working two jobs than I did at the theatre. I'm sure if I try I could come up with a few more, but as these two movies are what immediately popped to mind I know they are the films that I'll remember from 2003 for years to come.

Elf: “I just like to smile, smiling's my favorite.” It took me a long time to see Elf but I am so glad I did. Not only do I love Jon Favreau as a director, but I truly think that Buddy will be one of the classic characters that’s remembered from this decade.

Seabiscuit: I don’t own this movie, but I should. This movie will stick with me forever. It’s the only time I’ve been in the theatre and seen an audience cheer at a race happening onscreen the way you would actually cheer if you were there.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Megan's Decade: 2002

I'm pretty sure by 2002 I knew my heart belonged to the movies because by the end of 2002 I was looking into film school. I know for a fact that there three films carried me through that year, when I was still afraid of telling people what my major was.

Equilibrium: This is a movie that wasn’t advertised, no one heard of it and to this day most people don’t know what it is. Let me tell you that you’re missing out. Christopher dragged a bunch of us to this movie after seeing it once and I am so glad he did; I now rank this film with Blade Runner as one of my favorite visions of a dystopic future. The director even invented his own martial art style for the film.

Minority Report: Two of my favorite things – Spielberg & Sci-fi – what’s not to like? I can still pull out shots in this film that I adore and I don’t know when I watched it last. It is absolutely visually stunning.

Signs : I loved this film and I still remember going to Comic-Con in 2002, only a few days after it came out and seeing people who had made the tin foil hats. This is the movie that makes me desperately hope Joaquin Phoenix will keep acting. I’d enjoyed M. Knight Shyamalan’s other films but for me third time was the charm – Signs is my absolute favorite of his work and so many other people agree that I feel the need to quote Merrill and say “The nerds were right.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Megan's Decade: 2001

I spent most of 2001 wandering through college not sure what to do with my life. I loved movies but it hadn't dawned on me yet that I more than enjoyed movies, I didn't realize I had a passion for them.

A Knight’s Tale: Paul Bettany plays the absolute best character in this film, but if you miss Heath Ledger this is definitely a film to watch. It is unique, fun and a movie that I think of every time I hear certain Queen or David Bowie songs.

Moulin Rouge!: Baz Lurhman can do no wrong, and this movie is his best. When it didn’t get nominated for a best directing Oscar Whoopi Goldberg called the Academy out during the broadcast with one of my favorite one-liner’s ever on an Oscar broadcast – “Moulin Rouge, apparently the film that directed itself.” I also still remember that while this film was in limited release it was not advertised as a musical. The musical was dead. So when Christopher & I found a theatre playing it we were thrilled but within the first 5 minutes of the film people started to walk out of the theatre...Lurhman got the ultimate revenge of course. When the film hit wide release it was a hit.

Oceans 11: Soderbergh really managed to bring the coolness of the Rat Pack to a modern film. This had the coolest cast of any film in 2001 and not only that, it’s a dang good heist film. This film also launched the working relationships of many actors, and George Clooney is the Man and always will be.

Snatch: This is Guy Ritchie at his best, before Madonna, before Swept Away and before 9/11. He does the heist film new glory in this twisted, hyperbolic tale of British underground boxing and the multitude of con-artists that fund it, and if you have the DVD you can have fun by subtitling the Pikey.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Megan's Decade: 2000

In 2000 I graduated high school and moved on the the world of higher learning. I was a proud member of the first class of the new millenium even though the great debate still rages about the round year (00) or the odd years (01) ending or start a new decade, millenium etc. All the numbers on the calender changed for us dude. That was significant. Deal with it. While I was going through that great transition, these movies stuck with me.

O Brother Where Art Thou: A Coen retelling of The Odyssey set in the depression. This is what happens when you let the Coen’s loose and I love what they produced.

Pitch Black: If you can invent a new science fiction film I will adore you forever. David Twohy did and this film is perfect. It’s disguised as a horror film set in space, but in reality it’s a tale of redemption unlike any I’ve ever seen.

Wonder Boys: I really can’t describe how much I love this movie. The tale of a lost professor and his lost students trying to navigate their lives is moving and downright hysterical. Wonder Boys is one of Curtis Hanson’s finest, and one of the most subtly witty films of the decade.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Decade

Everyone seems to be making their best of the decade lists but me. I tend to not do things like that because while I believe in awarding great films & great people for their work, I tend to have difficulty in ranking one film against another. Since I tend to have this issue I decided instead of doing a best of the decade list, I would look at what are my favorite films of the past decade…in no particular order because asking me to rank them in order would be like asking me to rank my favorite chocolates. It’s just not gonna happen. However, this is the decade I graduated from high school, went to film school, worked at a movie studio, made my first films and movies changed my life so I the films that stuck with me through all that need to be recognized.

So, over the next week or so, come back every day to see a new post and find out what films stick with me the most out of each year of cinema.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No bull, no chaser, just the best films of the aughts.

Who’d a-thunk it? We’ve hit the end of the first decade of the new millennium! To be honest, I had it in my head that the end of the decade would be at the close of 2010, not 2009. However, after seeing list after list of the best films of the decade from everyone from the New York Times, Empire Magazine, and a pretty decent list from Paste Magazine, I decided that it would not be the proper finish to the decennium without my very own contribution to this endless stream of lists.

I’m going to do these in alphabetical order, because I really have a problem with ranking terrific films as being “better” or “worse” than each other. For my money, a great movie is just that: a great movie.

Incipit . . .

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
Written and directed by Cristian Mungiu
--The objectivity that Mungiu brings to the haunting story of two young women trying to arrange an illegal abortion in Communist Romania provides for a pitch perfect look into the difficulty of life in Eastern Europe and the horror of what these women and others like them went through in situations like this. This film is wonderfully directed, with a combination of both handheld work and beautiful, classically constructed shots. This is taut, gripping stuff.

Written by Charlie Kaufman, directed by Spike Jonze
--Charlie Kaufman took his own struggle to adapt Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief and wrote a screenplay that is the dramatization of that struggle to write the screenplay of the movie that ends up on the screen. If it sounds confusing, watch the film. You’ll understand exactly what I mean. Adaptation is staggering proof that as screenwriters go, there are people who write movies, and then there’s Charlie Kaufman.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Written for the screen by Ian Watson & Steven Spielberg, directed by Steven Spielberg
--A.I. Artificial Intelligence is widely regarded as the film Stanley Kubrick might have directed. The futuristic re-telling of the Pinnochio story works wonderfully as visual spectacle and also forms an undeniable emotional connection. Kubrick’s ending, often mistakenly attributed to Spielberg, gives him the last laugh on those who think they can figure him out. If you think David’s story ends happily, I encourage you to take a closer look. You might just be surprised.

Casino Royale
Written for the screen by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, & Paul Haggis, directed by Martin Campbell
--As an action film, Casino Royale succeeds on every front. If I had a quarter for every time I thought “They’re NOT!” only to be proved wrong, I would be a few dollars richer after watching the film. Daniel Craig is wonderful as 007 and brings a rough-edged quality to Bond’s signature devil-may-care approach to his job and his life. Just when I thought the film had reached its zenith, I was thrown back in my seat, shocked to find a beating heart present amongst the gunshots, explosions, and shaken martinis.

City of God
Written for the screen by Paulo Lins & Bráulio Mantovani, directed by Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund
--Many modern directors use all kinds of tricks to heighten the action on screen, including handheld cameras, quick cuts, time-lapse sequences, slow-motion, and speeding things up. While Meirelles and Lund use all of these tricks, the way they use them is wonderfully distinctive. Instead of distracting the viewer with gimmick after gimmick, their extensive use of these visual flourishes is wonderfully naturalistic and actually achieves the lofty goal that those who use them rarely reach: intensifying the visual experience of the film. City of God is one of the best-directed films I’ve ever seen.

The Constant Gardener
Written for the screen by Jeffrey Caine, directed by Fernando Meirelles
--This a throwback to an older version of the thriller, when the characters were what drove the story, instead of the action-packed moments designed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Ralph Fiennes is outstanding as a bureaucrat in Africa trying to uncover the conspiracy behind the murder of his wife. With wonderful direction from Meirelles, The Constant Gardener lingers in your mind after it’s over. Name another thriller that does THAT.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Screenplay by Wang Hui Ling, James Schamus, & Tsai Kuo Jung, directed by Ang Lee
--Nowadays, hyper-kinetic fight scenes are the norm, but back in 2000, this stuff was breathtakingly new. Ang Lee’s take on the wuxia film blew my teenage mind. Not only do the fight scenes achieve a sense of visual poetry, but the love stories are incredibly poignant and the ending unforgettable. Films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are why I love the movies.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Written for the screen by Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, & Pierre Bismuth, directed by Michel Gondry
--After Adaptation, the fact that this film is a cinematic mind trip is no surprise. The fact that it’s that emotionally compelling is. What’s even more shocking is the grace and poise that Jim Carrey brings to his performance as Joel, a man trying to have his ex-girlfriend erased from his memory. As it turns out, Ace Ventura can REALLY act. As for Kaufman, the literal depiction of the whirl of thoughts, feelings, and memories taking place in Joel’s mind is something that only he could do, and do this well.

Finding Nemo
Written by Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, & David Reynolds, directed by Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich
--I dare you to try to watch Finding Nemo without once cracking a smile. It can’t be done. The film is stunningly animated, wonderfully funny, and beautifully tender. The voice cast is outstanding, with particular credit going to Ellen DeGeneres’ hilarious work as Dory. In Pixar’s long line of diamonds, Finding Nemo is the crown jewel.

Gosford Park
Written by Julian Fellowes, directed by Robert Altman
--Gosford Park is a perfect addition to Altman’s storied tradition of taking a genre story and turning it on its ear. It starts as a whodunit and ends as a whydunit by using the familiar conventions of the Agatha Christie-style mystery to illuminate the socially tense delicate balance between the aristocrats visiting a country house and the servants serving their every whim. The first time you watch Gosford Park, you’re figuring out what the puzzle looks like. Every other time after that, you’re figuring out how the pieces fit together. This film fascinates like few ever do.

The Lord of the Rings
Written for the screen by Phillipa Boyens, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, & Stephen Sinclair, directed by Peter Jackson
--Peter Jackson’s project was one of the most ambitious in the history of cinema; that he succeeded so well is nothing short of a movie miracle. On their own they have their ups and downs, with The Return of the King the best film of the trilogy, but seen together? Together, The Lord of the Rings is one of the best literary adaptations, fantasy films, and trilogies ever made. Lumping three films into one slot is cheating, and I know it. They were clearly meant to be seen as one (albeit HUGE) film anyway.

La Vie En Rose
Written by Isabelle Sobelman & Olivier Dahan, directed by Olivier Dahan
--Biopics, such as they are, are nothing new. Even though it contains many of the biopic’s conventions, La Vie En Rose is so much more than that. If some actors are born to play certain roles, Marion Cotillard was born to play Edith Piaf. She’s simply radiant. The masterful final act is one of beauty, grace, and heartbreak.

Letters From Iwo Jima
Screenplay by Iris Yamashita, directed by Clint Eastwood
--I’ve seen a ton of films about war, but few of them have shaken me to the depths that this one did. Letters From Iwo Jima refuses to accept the traditional definitions of “good guy” and “bad guy.” For the first time, I felt that I truly saw those who the history books always painted were evil. I looked at their faces, and realized that they weren’t so different from my own. In a year when Eastwood released two films about the battle of Iwo Jima, this film is far-and-away the superior effort. A masterpiece from an American master.

Lost In Translation
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola
--Lost In Translation is one of those modest little films that sets out to tell a story that appears simple and straightforward. Bill Murray is the middle-aged man in crisis. Scarlett Johansson is the young woman in limbo. The impact of their encounter, set against a background of Tokyo, insomnia, and late nights, is too wonderful for me to even think of spoiling for you. Thoughtful, funny, and poignant, Sofia Coppola’s little film is one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Million Dollar Baby
Written for the screen by Paul Haggis, directed by Clint Eastwood
--Hilary Swank’s performance as an aspiring boxer is one of the single greatest pieces of acting I’ve ever seen. Morgan Freeman is excellent. Clint Eastwood is great in front of the camera, and even better behind it. I don’t like choosing “favorites,” but this film would be on the shortlist of my all-time favorite movies. Some films have the power to change the viewer. Million Dollar Baby changed me.

Moulin Rouge!
Written by Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce, directed by Baz Luhrmann
--Exhilaration! Lightning fast direction. Head-spinning songs. Vibrant colors. Elaborate production numbers. “They wouldn’t do THAT!” This is crazy! “Oh, yes they WOULD!” The musical is back and its name is Moulin Rouge!

Mulholland Dr.
Written and directed by David Lynch
--In his way, David Lynch has been the Boo Radley of American film for years. You don’t really know what he’s doing, but you sure are curious to find out. Mulholland Dr. is a hypnotic film like few modern films are. Lynch found the perfect balance between his trademark dreamy surrealism and the barest glimpse of narrative consistency. I think Mulholland Dr. actually makes perfect sense if it’s approached a certain way. . . but good luck with that. You may not have a clue what’s going on, but I dare you to try and stop watching.

Screenplay by Tony Kushner & Eric Roth, directed by Steven Spielberg
--When Munich was released in 2005, it was alternately decried in certain Israeli circles as being pro-Palestinian and in certain Palestinian circles as being pro-Israeli. The heartbreaking truth of the film is a deftly nuanced look at the history of the conflict between two great cultures that is alternately thrilling and horrifying. The performances are strong, the ending penetrating, and the final shot unforgettable. Munich is a criminally overlooked gem.

No Country For Old Men
Written for the screen and directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
--From beginning to end, No Country For Old Men is a textbook example on how to make a proper film. The writing is terrific, the direction is nearly flawless, and the cast, particularly Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Kelly Macdonald and a chilling Javier Bardem, is excellent. This is one of the best films the Coen brothers have ever made. While they’ve made a career out of putting strange characters in even stranger situations, here, Joel and Ethan Coen do the strangest thing of all. They play it straight.

Written and directed by John Carney
--The mere existence of Once is enough to restore a person’s belief in the possibility of the miraculous. The film was shot for a paltry $160,000 over 17 days, with two leads whose combined acting experience was one small part in a 1991 movie. In almost any other situation, all of those factors could have been a recipe for disaster or, at the best, mediocrity. That’s what makes the beauty of Once so astounding. It’s a musical without artificiality, a romance without clichés, and a coming-of-age story without platitudes. When people talk about movie magic, this is what they’re talking about.

Screenplay by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, & Roger S. H. Schulman, directed by Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson
--For all of the talk of the brilliance of Pixar, if I had to choose my out-and-out favorite computer-animated film, I might just give the nod to a little movie about an ogre and a talking donkey. Shrek’s ability to thoroughly deconstruct the fairy tale while simultaneously re-affirming its most basic principles is nothing short of genius at work.

Spider-Man 2
Written for the screen by Alvin Sargent, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, & Michael Chabon, directed by Sam Raimi
--In most superhero movies, the obligatory “regular guy” stuff is what you have to sit through until the hero emerges on screen to jump, fly, and smash his way to victory. That’s what sets Spider-Man 2 apart. The focus is squarely on the trials and tribulations of Peter Parker, not Spider-Man. As a result, the costume never overshadows the character. In many ways, the real world sequences with Peter are more interesting than Spidey’s action setpieces. Note-for-note, Spider-Man 2 is the finest superhero film I have ever seen.

There Will Be Blood
Written for the screen and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
--Anyone who watches a lot of movies gets used to certain rhythms, conventions, and stylistic tendencies that can point the way to where the film is headed. There Will Be Blood is something wondrous and rare: a truly original, honest-to-god, full-blooded, living breathing MOVIE. The performances are perfect. The music is perfect. The direction is almost flawless. Brooding and raging his way across the screen, Daniel Day-Lewis deserves a place in the pantheon usually reserved for actors like Brando. Simply put, this is what you call a masterpiece.

Screenplay by Stephen Gaghan, directed by Steven Soderbergh
--Traffic serves as an unflinching look at the world of those who buy, sell, and fight against illegal drugs. Despite juggling a number of stories, characters, and locations simultaneously, Soderbergh (who also served as the film’s cinematographer) always keeps the viewer grounded visually as to exactly where the action on screen is taking place and what’s going on. Before hyperlink cinema became all the rage, Traffic did it first, and in some cases, much, much better.

United 93
Written and directed by Paul Greengrass
--The story of the terrorist attacks of 2001 is not a story that is easy to re-visit, because, unlike many other historical films, we were there and we know how it was. When I first heard about this project, I immediately thought that 5 years didn’t seem like enough time to wait to make the film. I was wrong. The screenplay is completely respectful of those who died on board United Flight 93, and Greengrass’ signature handheld style has never been more effective. As the film neared its conclusion, I reached over and took the hand of the person I was with. Even though a part of me wanted so badly to look away, I couldn’t. United 93 is essential cinema.


Monday, December 7, 2009

They said it!

Hi folks. You should maybe, probably, kind of know something. I’m kind of going through some "stuff" that takes far too long to explain but because of this “stuff” I’m kind of land-locked and basically only able to use one hand. As such you might be seeing a few more superfluous posts from me than usual as I attempt to keep myself from losing my mind from boredom AND teach myself how to type with just my left hand. What you’ll see below is one such superfluous exercise.

The last decade brought us some great movies with some great scripts and those great scripts brought us some pretty great lines. To celebrate the best of the wordsmiths of the last decade and the words that spewed forth from them I’ve just listed SOME of my favorites. For an added bonus I’ve failed to list the movies from which these quotes originated so you can have all sorts of fun – or whatever – guessing them if you get bored at work. If you want post your guesses in the comments section and I’ll post the answers in a few days. Enjoy!

And-and I look at you, and I... and I'm home. Please... I don't want that to go away.

You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Don't forget your guns. We don't want any lyme disease popping out at us.

My friends. You bow to no-one.

Now, take this guy: armed robbery, double homicide. Got a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.

I aim to misbehave.

If you douse me again, and I'm not on fire, I'm donating you to a city college.

Sergeant Butterman, the little hand says it's time to rock and roll!

You picked the wrong house, bub.

There is no peace at the end of this.

Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race.

I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!

Damn! We're in a tight spot!

If you were in your office right now we'd be having this conversation face-to-face.

Why is the rum gone?

You don't get it, do you? This isn't "good cop, bad cop." This is fag and New Yorker. You're in a lot of trouble.

Don't pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds. Solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait till you're sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles, see if you're so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.

C'mon Roy, you can do it! Ah, no you can't, he's gonna kill ya.

You know, Dan Marino should definitely buy this car. Well, not this one, 'cause I'm gonna f&#k this one up. But he should definitely get one just like it.

You're good. You're very good. My lords, my ladies, and everybody else here not sitting on a cushion! Today... today, you find yourselves equals. For you are all equally blessed. For I have the pride, the privilege, nay, the pleasure of introducing to you to a knight, sired by knights. A knight who can trace his lineage back beyond Charlemagne. I first met him atop a mountain near Jerusalem, praying to God, asking his forgiveness for the Saracen blood spilt by his sword. Next, he amazed me still further in Italy when he saved a fatherless beauty from the would-be ravishing of her dreadful Turkish uncle. In Greece he spent a year in silence just to better understand the sound of a whisper. And so without further gilding the lily and with no more ado, I give to you, the seeker of serenity, the protector of Italian virginity, the enforcer of our Lord God, the one, the only, Sir Ulllrrrich von Lichtenstein! Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.

I am a golden god!

I said, I said I saw your dad on "Fantasy Island"!

Even a big bitch cockroach like you should know... never, but never, f&#k with the King.

In the old days if an agent did something that embarrassing he'd have a good sense to defect. God, I miss the Cold War.

But Affleck was the bomb in "Phantoms".

Okay. But dogs CAN look up!

Swing away Merrill. Merrill... swing away.

Now, that is a big trunk. It holds a tuba, a suitcase, a dead dog, and a garment bag almost perfectly.

I'm gettin' heartburn. Tony, do something terrible.

You're born, you take s#!t. You get out in the world, you take more s#!t. You climb a little higher, you take less s#!t. Till one day you're up in the rarefied atmosphere and you've forgotten what s#!t even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake son.

I have this condition.

Can't you people see there are guns here?

I'm Shiva, the God of death.

This is Tom Hanks saying if you see me in person, please, leave me be.

Mr. Musgrave, please don't interrupt me when I'm asking rhetorical questions.

Off the top of my head, I'd say you're looking at a Boeski, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever.

They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional...

A shepherd must tend his flock. And at times... fight off the wolves.

I don't know what her problem is. She takes off her shirt to do a voice-over. What's her problem? The country could draw her breasts from memory.

Go get 'em, tiger.

Actually, Werner, we're all tickled to hear you say that. Frankly, watchin' Donny beat Nazis to death is the closest we ever get to goin' to the movies.

I don't read the script. The script reads me.

What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss?

I don't want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.

I’m one stomach flu away from my ideal weight.