Sunday, October 30, 2011

RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS: EDITION #11: PART 2: OLDER FILMS: "ASHES OF TIME REDUX", "BATTLE ROYALE", "SENSO," 'THIS SPORTING LIFE," "DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT," AND MORE!

Whew! I watched a lot of film this week. Without a computer to write my typical blogs and screenplays, I really didn't have a lot of time to write, so I watched anything and everything I could. I'm glad I did, although some are better than others. These are all the older films that I watched in that times. Some came out a couple years a ago, some came out a while ago, and even one that did both. ("Ashes of Time": Original & Redux) Anyway,  on to the reviews!

ASHES OF TIME: REDUX (1996 original, 2008 Redux edition) Director: Wong Kar-Wai

2 1/2 STARS

I don't normally like to quote from other reviews, but Roger Ebert's review of "Ashes of Time," which Wong Kar-Wai originally made in 1994, but he considered unfinished until now, after he's done some reediting, and the "Redux," added to the title, he notes looking up Manohla Dargis's, a reviewer for the New York Times, plot description in her review. The review reads as follows: "See, there's this swordsmen...". Apparently, with the exception of a few words describing Tony Leung's character, that is all she wrote. I understand this review, completely. Wong Kar-Wai, is an inventive, and bold filmmaker. Of his films, I've seen "2046," "Chungking Express," and "In the Mood for Love," which recently won the 10th Anniversay Muriel Award, an Award I admire for, among other things, awarding belated Best Picture Awards every year, for films that came out ten years, 25 years and 50 years ago. Personally, I haven't liked anything I've seen of his yet, and "Ashes of Time," is no exception. He's skillful, and a talented director, who's really good at showing amazing imagery, and maybe I'm missing something, but half the time I can't even figure out what his films are about, this one especially. His films are beautiful, but they seem to lack.... They just seem to lack... something. Each of his films it's something different, in this case, narrative and a character that I can understand and identify with. There's a swordsmen, who's hired by a few people, a wife and her husband, and I think they're trying to kill each other, and I think there's a twin in there somewhere. If "Ashes of Time," were a collection of paintings, I'd put it on display in an art gallery. As a movie, it's spellbinding to look at, I just wish I knew, what exactly was I looking at?

BATTLE ROYALE (2001) Director: Kinji Fukasaku

1 1/2 STARS

Who exactly is this film for? Is it for Columbine-like masterminds who get their wet dream fantasies realized? Is it, for pissed-off teachers, who have similar Columbine-like fantasies about the no good, badly-behaved students? No, this doesn't feel like this. This feels like the kid who gets picked on, watches way too much professional wrestling, and wishes it were real, and that if The Rock doesn't beat the bully's ass, maybe the slutty girl who gave him chlamydia might. These thoughts kept occurring to me as I watched "Battle Royale," a movie about teenagers killing each other. Why, because it's the future, and the youth are out of control, so every year, a randomly-selected ninth grade grade gets put on an island, and forced to fight until there's only one survivor. If you throw in the stipulation that the survivor gets a title shot at Wrestlemania, you have yourselves a very entertaining and unpredictable little pay-per-view. As a movie, this is violence for the sake of violence. Granted, we kinda get to know some of the students who are placed in this horrific situation, as well as the oddly calm former teacher of theirs who acts as a game overseer, but this is a movie that's just some bizarre disturbing nightmare fantasy of somebody who I really don't particularly want to know. It's well-made and apparently well-thought out, it kinda looked to me one of those preposterous '80s movies like "Red Dawn," or something by it's look, but even if we accept this premise, there's over forty students involved, and apparently there's a couple that were supposed to care about, and some backstory about one involving a father's suicide, and some flashbacks to a basketball game and some things get said that might have otherwise been unsaid, but since everybody is going to die at the end, I couldn't understand why I would even care about such things. The backstory's too light for me to care about, and even if I did, it's still just a pile of soon-to-be-dead teenagers. This film has some cult popularity around the world, including in the states, and a sequel was even made, but I'm not sure I particularly want to know anybody who's a devoted fan of the film.

SENSO (1954) Director: Luchino Visconti

4 STARS

In the 1860s, Austria has invaded and occupied Italy. The percentage of Americans that would've known that until I wrote this is low, and that's unfortunate. (Me included, didn't know that either.) "Senso," Luchino Visconti's operatic love story between an Italian Countess (Alida Valli) and an Austrian Soldier, (Farley Granger), is a beautiful melodramatic operatic film filled with lavish costumes, and a lucious city of Venice. Planned as the most expesive movie ever made, complete with American superstar actors, "Senso," works best if it's thought of as an over-the-top big budget Hollywood blockbuster, "Gone with the Wind," type. The film begins in an opera house and stays there. The Countess is blinded by her love of Franz (Granger), so much so that she eventually betrays her family to be with him. The movie had been reworked and reedited, depending on which country it was showing in, when it was originally released (The film was originally titled "Livia," in America, the Countess's name.), and the ending was originally cut from the Italian version, and Visconti had to shoot a different one. Now, Criterion has his original version completely in tact. It's only the second Visconti film I've after "Death in Venice," which i didn't exactly care much for. This movie is better, and is very similar to his aristocratic "The Leopard," which came out a few years later. Personally, I think the movie is more hit-and-miss, but it's a very rare example of a classic Hollywood-style film made in Italy. I think it's best scene comes at the end after the movie, the one that was cut earlier, when there's a sharp character change that the Countess doesn't see coming. Soap Opera, yes, but, isn't all doomed love?

THIS SPORTING LIFE (1963) Director: Lindsay Anderson

4 1/2 STARS

"This Sporting Life," is often described as a "kitchen sink drama",  and I think that's a good definition. Richard Harris plays Frank Machin, a rugby player who got violently repressed emotions. He's a drinker, he's a brawler, and he's determined to succeed. He even injures one of his own teammates during a game, in an attempt to get more playing and showoff in front of the scouts. He rents a room from a young widow (Rachel Roberts), who he's in love with, and thinks she should love him. She's got kids to watch, which she does a haphazard job at, and she's still in a constant state of grief. When he gets the professional contract, he becomes even more possessive and impulsive. When Margaret(Roberts) finally breaks down and gives in to his advances, the scene almost comes close to coming off as a rape. The film isn't exactly a plot-driven film, it's more episodic in nature, more like real-life, which is the correct emotion for this work. It's a fascinating character piece that reminds me of many of the American youth movements films that came after it. This is also, the first Lindsay Anderson film I've ever seen, and I'm certainly looking forward to watching more of them. Few films have such a keen sense of realism, that's instantly memorable. The two lead performances, both of which earned Oscar Nominations are just as key. This doesn't just feel like two movie people, this feels like dozens of houses next store to us, somewhere next to where Willie Loman is trying to sleep.

DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT (2007) Director: Julia Loktev

5 STARS

She, (Luisa Williams) is a suicide bomber, and it's the last two days before she's goes out into the middle of Times Square, ready to blow. She's American, but her accent is non-descript, we never know her name, and we don't know why she is doing what she's preparing to do. "Day Night Day Night," kept me on the edge of my seat the entire film. It's similar to a few others movies that have come out in recent years, like "The Terrorist," which was based on an actual incident. I think an interesting comparison film might be "Maria Full of Grace," where a Colombian teenager, makes a dangerous choice to be a drug mule. That movie starred Catalina Sandino Moreno, a then-unknown, in an Oscar-nominated performance, but we also got to learn a lot about her in the film. What I've just told you about Luisa Williams's part in "Day Night Day Night," is all that we learn, and that makes it even more chilling. She seems to be a teenager. In one scene, where she's preparing the bomb in a bathroom, she overhears a conversation between other girls. It's unrelated to anything else that's happening. They have no idea what's in this girl's backpack. They don't realize she's there. This movie is made with the bare minimum. We see the hotel room she's staying at. She gets mysterious phone calls from people, telling them not to go out in front of the window, and asking her what she wants to eat, before they practice, get her passports and finds clothes that fit her. This is the first feature-length film by Julia Loktev, and it's a near-masterpiece. It's intense and claustrophobic, even when it's in the middle of a busy day in Times Square, filled with people, all stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to turn. It's Hitchcock who once said, that a bomb under the table blowing up is surprise, while a bomb that's under the table that doesn't, is suspense. "Day Night Day Night," is pure suspense.

DESTRICTED (2006) Directors: Various

1 1/2 STARS

"Destricted," is a compilation record of seven short films, combined with the intention of demystitizing the sex and porn industry. While, it does it's purpose, most of these films are bizarre art house pieces, and sometimes they're, just plain, nauseatingly. Some are more interesting that others, but overall, and some of them, as short films might hold up slightly better than others. Frankly the only thing really worth watching this for is Larry Clark's short, "Impaled," which is part documentary, part, disturbing screwed up "Punk'd" episode, where he interviews numerous guys, who answer an ad to be a porno actor, and how most of them, get strangely shy when they're around an actual porn stars, and even more intriguing, the one that isn't. Gaspar Noe, has his usual obsessive strobe lights in "We Fuck Alone," which shows some interesting and odd masturbators, still not as disturbing as Matthew Barney's "Hoist," which opens the film movie, and shows a guy having an erotic encounter with a piece of construction equipment. The movie does it's purpose, there's nothing particularly erotic about any of these shorts, but the films is almost completely unwatchable as a whole, and some of the short are your basic arts-fartsy film school crap you see at every student showcase.

COCALERO (2007) Director: Alejandro Landes

3 STARS

Part campaign video, part documentary of the changing face of Bolivia as South America slowly but surely turns into a more Socialist Political continent, "Cocalero," documents the presidential campaign of Evo Morales, a populist candidate who became Bolivia's first indigenous President. It has the typical documenting of the troubles of the country that Morales wants to change/improve, most notably, he's become a prideful figure for former coca crop farmers, many of whom are out of work after the U.S. back attempts for the Bolivian government to eradicate the crop. The more interesting moments are the behind-the-scenes and spin room footage of the campaign, and exactly how a campaign is run in a South American country. There are some interesting comparisons that can be made with certain famed American documentaries on similar subjects. (One of those films I actually saw recently, the 50-minute documentary "Primary," which showed both John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey battling for the 1960 Wisconsin Presidential Primary [Not reviewing it here, 'cause it's a little borderline on whether it's a feature-length film, but definitely worth watching, if for nothing else, but images of JFK, sitting by the phone, waiting for polls results, and smoking a cigarette, are intriguing as time capsule material) The movie however has just enough interesting stuff to give it a positive review, and it's intriguing to see another country campaign, but, it also does lack compared to similar documentaries, so it's a mild recommendation.

HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME? (2006) Director: Bertrand Blier

2 STARS

"How Much Do You Love Me?" could've worked at some point as one of thoe Farces the Europeans are often quite good at. Somehow though, it doesn't, and I'm not quite sure why. I think it might have something to do with taking too many of the plot elements, a little too seriously. The movie begins with Francois (Bernard Campon). He's approach on the streets one night by a prostitute (Monica Bellucci). He asks her to come and live with him as his wife. Proposterous even for a prostitute, but Francois, has just won the lottery, and he doesn't know what to do with the money. (Not so preposterous now, is it?) She moves in, and not much hilarity ensues. There's some sex, some of it erotic, it's not as erotic as it could be, and some scenes are funny, but they're not as funny as they could be. Francois, ultimately wants a wife out of Daniela (Bellucci), but is that even possible. Things get somewhat more complicated (and surprisingly somewhat funy) when Daniela's pimp shows up (Gerard Depardieu) asking for money, and the return of Daniela, who's actually his wife. This movie some potential for some hilarity, but it seems to play at the wrong pace throughout the whole film. Could've been funny, ended up boring.

5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND (2007) Director: Makoto Shinkai

3 STARS

"5 Centimeters Per Second," is beautifully animated, and that's certainly the biggest appeal of this Japanese import. The movie, told in three separate vignettes, in three different time periods, follows the story of Takaki and Akari, two young friends, who for one reason or another aren't really able to come together for a romantic relationship, and in fact, they sacrifice there desire for each other, so the other can fulfill their  own dreams. The title refers to the speed at which a lotus blossom pedal falls, and the film at times seems to be going at the speed of "5 Centimeters Per Second." The animation those, is gorgeous and amazing to look at, and reallly is the centerpiece of the film. Much of the movie doesn't even have dialogue but voiceover of the characters thoughts, which slows down any traditional narrative, but it allows us to watch the animation fromone scene to another. There's a memorable scene where one of them travels many miles by train to see the other, and during a badly-timed snowstorm, the train is continually delayed after each stop, and they make an interesting choice to not visualize any of the characters thoughts per se, the nightmarish "what if"'s that were sure were going through his head, and the voiceover, and a letter he writes her while waiting become critical far more critical. The movie is kinda so-so itself; I've seen this three-part structure before done in different and better ways, but never with animation, and while the characters are kids, for the first two parts anyway, the animation and animation is very adult and very powerful. It will make people think of similar relationships and missed chances they've had in their life.

Friday, October 28, 2011

RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS: EDITION #11: PART 1: NEWER-ISH FILMS: "THE LINCOLN LAWYER," "WIN WIN," "CONAN O'BRIEN CAN'T STOP," "I SAW THE DEVIL," "PEARL JAM TWENTY," AND MORE!

Well, after a week delay, my computer is back and better than ever. So still shitty, but running somewhat better now than before, and except for having to redownload Microsoft Office, it's running pretty well. What that also means is that, I've seen dozens of films in that time without the computer, and this is just about half of them. I'll post the rest of the reviews later, these are all the films I watched that were released either this year or last year, so these films are all recently released, and fairly easy to get ahold of, so this is a special Newer Films Only Edition of the blog. Hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and don't think that I didn't notice Netflix, has chosen to back out of their plans to separate the DVD-by-mail and the streaming movies options into two different websites. If you recall I wrote a blog when that happened documenting how bad an idea that was, and strongly recommended that they reverse that decision, and they have. While they have still not listened to every one of my criticisms it is a positive step forward for them. I take full responsibility for Netflix's change-of-heart, and I thank you and all of my readers for support in this endeavor. 

(Lawyer's note: David Baruffi was one of over 30,000 who complained about Netflix's planned splitting of the company's movie viewing options into two websites, his average viewership per blog is less than 10 readers per blog. He doesn't actually claim that him and/or his so-called "readers," had anything to do with Netflix's reversal of their previous decision, and there is no evidence to indicate that he had any impact on this or any business decision made by any members of Netflix.)

And now, on to the reviews!

THE LINCOLN LAWYER (2011) Director: Brad Furman

4 STARS

I can't remember the last time when Matthew McConaughey was in something decent either, but "The Lincoln Lawyer," is fairly decent.  Here, he's taking a break from his nice shirtless, southern guy schitck to play Mick Haller, an L.A. attorney, who spends his days being driven from place to place, client to client, court case to court case, in a Lincoln towncar. I know what you're thinking, product placement, but no, this was actually based off the Michael Connolly novel, and it's apparently faithfully adapted. His typical day involves getting pulled over by a motorcycle gang full of clients that owe him money, occasionally running into his ex-wife (Marisa Tomei) on the opposite side of a hearing, consulting with his investigator (William H. Macy) about what to look for in his cases. His current one involves defending Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) in a case. He's been accused of brutally raping and beating a woman to death. There seems to be enough circumstantial evidence to get him off, but then Mick realizes that their might be a connection to a case involving an old client of his (Michael Pena), who he ended up convincing to plea to life imprisonment. The movie has a Raymond Chandler/Perry Mason type style, where there's clearly a lot of disconnected parts, and you're waiting to see how and how well, they're going to fall together. There's some good supporting work here also by Frances Fisher, John Leguizamo, Katherine Moennig and Josh Lucas, as well as nice barely catchable cameo by Bryan Cranston. This is good little thriller, knows it is, and correctly doesn't strive to be more than that; it's also McConaughey's best performance in years. "The Lincoln Lawyer," is nothing essential, but it's a good solid edge-of-your-seat thriller, that succeeds at keeping you on the edge, up until maybe the ending, but the keyward for this film is, solid.

WIN WIN (2011) Director: Thomas McCarthy

4 1/2 STARS

There's probably no better actor for the intriguing and imaginative films of Tom McCarthy that Paul Giamatti. McCarthy, works regularly as a character actor, and with the money from that, he makes his own movies. This is the third film he's directed after "The Station Agent," which starred Peter Dinklage as a hermitish dwarf who's fascinated by trains, that's a great film, and he also directed "The Visitor," which made my ten best list the year it came out, and earned longtime character actor Richard Jenkins (You might know as the dead father on "Six Feet Under) a well-deserved Oscar nomination as a college professor who starts to learn the African drum after finding a Senagalese family living in his New York apartment (McCarthy also got an Oscar nomination as one of the writers for Disney's "Up") . Here, the great Paul Giamatti play Mike Flaherty, a struggling New Jersey lawyer who, along with an accountant that shares offices with him (Jeffrey Tambor) volunteers as the wrestling coach at the local high school. He's running out of money, and decides to become the guardian of one of his clients (Burt Young, yeah, the one that played Adrian's brother in "Rocky") in order to collect the check from the state. The situation seems like the ideal way out. Mike puts the old man in a local rest home, and makes sure his home is okay. Then his grandson (Alex Shaffer) unexpectedly shows up at his doorstep. He's run away from his mother (Melanie Lynskey) in Ohio, after she was put into rehab, and went to live with the grandfather he never knew. Mike and his wife (Amy Ryan) take him in temporarily until the situation can get sorted out. In the meantime, the kid turns out to be a natural wrestler, and Mike enrolls him into high school to build up the team. I'm actually just barely laying the groundwork of this film, which has lots of sudden and realistic developments, all of them believable when played by these amazing actors. I wouldn't be shocked if one or two of these actors names show up on a few Awards lists in the next few months. These are the best actors in Hollywood in this film, and they all giving amazing performances. I didn't even mention Bobby Cannavale as Mike's friend, who's suffering through a divorce. The movie is also well-written, there's never a wrong-sounding note, and without giving anything away, every step of how the story develops makes logical sense. If there's a criticism, it's that compared to his earlier work, "Win Win," doesn't to me, give the same kind of emotional hold of it characters as "The Station Agent," and "The Visitor," did. That might also be the natural complexities of the script as well though. Still, for the strong writing and the amazing performances, this is definitely one of the better films so far this year, and I'll be remembering more than a few of these performances for awhile.

CONAN O'BRIEN CAN'T STOP (2011) Director: Rodman Flender

4 1/2 STARS


After first getting and then giving up "The Tonight Show," Conan O'Brien began touring on the "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour". The behind-the-scenes of that tour are documented in the documentary "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop". The "Can't Stop," part, somewhat surprisingly refers to Conan's continuous need to perform. Maybe for those who might know him, it isn't surprising, but it was to me. Somewhat lost in the whole original late night shift, was when Conan got the job from David Letterman, he might have been the most unlikely of choices. He had no performance experience to speak of, and was basically plucked out of the writers room of "The Simpsons," when he got the job on Late Night. I guess I should've thought that somebody from a writer's room that manages to snag the second biggest hosting gig on TV must have some strong inert desire to perform. He goes and set-ups secret performances on his days off, he adds extra shows, and then goes out to greet his fans and takes pictures and sign autographs. He's almost bemused at his own celebrity. He's constantly reminding himself not to take it further. Behind-the-scenes, he's often somewhat short and his humor is dark with some of his writing staff. There's a particularly cruel scene with Jack McBrayer, of "30 Rock," where I wasn't exactly sure that he was joking or not for a while. His performances includes most of the members of his shows, and jokes that changes on a close to a nightly basis, and he even plays guitar and sings with his band. I've always like Conan. I used to constantly watch his late night show, and I even loved "The Tonight Show," which I did watch on a fairly regular basis. (I also was the one person who really liked Jay Leno's 10 o'clock show). There's an interesting way where his humor almost seems to be outside of his own comedy that's strikingly funny. I remember once, he had a bit where his staff called months earlier about having a bit with a monkey in it, but the monkey they wanted to use was out of town. Then the monkey turns out to be available for the day, so Conan just told the story of the phone call, said they didn't even remember what the bit was that they needed the monkey for, but then introduced the monkey anyway. It's odd how intense his desire to perform is, considering how his humor does come at such a 3rd person angle. After one show, he has a fascinating conversation with Jim Carrey, who did a surprise appearance on the show that night. They talked about how, no matter what he's doing, or where he goes, could be U2 concert, he just has a compulsive need to jump on the stage and start performing. Conan is erratic, and it's clear that he still feels the pain of what happened to him at NBC. He got a $40 million dollar buyout, and could've paid off most of his staff if he simply wanted to with the money, and he probably did, and yet, he still went on tour, where he proudly announced that it was the first time somebody actually paid money to see him perform. What I learned about Conan from "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop," is that he proudly would've toured for free. This will be one of the best documentaries you see all year.

I SAW THE DEVIL (2011) Director: Jee-woon Kim

5 STARS

"I Saw the Devil," is the first film I've seen by Korean director Jee-woon Kim, and it's a sick, disturbing, violent, masterpiece. Asia, particularly Korea has been the home of some of the best and most interesting horror and psychological thrillers in recent years. This movie, has lots of blood, dismembered body parts and sickening characters, but it's strength lies in it's directing, and the intensity Kim tells his story. The story is basically your typical revenge story. A guy's wife is heinously raped and murdered by a sick fuck. The sick fuck isn't caught, and he's also a serial killing sick fuck, and the sickest thing is that he isn't even the sickest fuck there is. The girl's husband, decides that he's going to get even with this guy. He's going to do everything short of killing him, and then, he's going to let him go, and then, do everything short of killing him again. The movie's gruesome, but it really plays more like a revenge detective-type, almost "Death Wish"-like, but I think a better recent example might be the cat-and-mouse game played by the main characters in "No Country for Old Men." Here though, even the hero, the fiance of the victim, becomes almost as disturbing and nauseatingly violent as the the bad guys. Almost. There's been some great movies in this Asia Extreme subgenre,  even some that weren't even horror movies. There's been some crap too, but the really good ones more than make up for it, and "I Saw the Devil," is a really good film. It just teeters on that line between psychological horror/thriller and violence for the sake of violence. It succeeds because it's incredibly well made. I've only seen one other film by Jee-woon Kim before, and that was one of the shorts in the movie "Three...Extremes." His film "The Good, the Bad and the Weird," is on my netflix though, and after seeing, "I Saw the Devil," I think I might move it up a bit. It's sick and twisted violence for the sake of sick and twisted violence, but boy is it done well. 

PEARL JAM TWENTY (2011) Director: Cameron Crowe

5 STARS

The band "Pearl Jam," turns 20 this year. Wow, that sentence makes me feel old, doesn't it? "Pearl Jam Twenty," which was in limited theatrical release before airing on PBS's "American Masters" (Really, "Pearl Jam," are "American Masters," alr- I still listen to "Ten"! Jesus, this review's making me feel old), is Cameron Crowe's documentary on the band that's he's basically been following since it's beginnings. Crowe, who's life story as a teenage reporter for Rolling Stone is chronicle in his masterpiece "Almost Famous," married Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson, and has lived in and around the Seattle area since the mid-'80s. He has uncanny sense of knowing the next big thing, and has been following the band since "Mother Love Bone." (He even casted some of the band members in his movie "Singles.")  That original band that included some of the members which ended after the drug overdose death of lead singer Andy Wood. The movie shows some of the earliest footage Mother Love Bone performances, and some of the behind the scenes of the surprisingly friendly Seattle music scene that would produce the bands we now think of as Grunge Rock, like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, etc. Crowe describes Seattle as a place "Where everybody stays indoors, and have nothing to do but listen to music, and they listen to everything." After the band heard some recordings from Southern Californian Eddie Vedder, who eventually became the leader of the group, the band hit it big, and then famously rejected fame. Their only non-performance music video, for the song "Jeremy," remains one of the most haunting and memorable music videos ever made. There's loads of performance footage spanning their entire careers, and makes notes of many of the band's more memorable moments, including their war of words with Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, their battle with Ticketmaster that led to them testifying in front of Congress, and even the disastrous concert in Germany where an audience crush led to nine deaths. Now, they seem comfortable in their place and touring classic rockers known for having their set lists being completely different from one gig to the next (Leading to a lot of loyal fans that follow them on tours around the country). It isn't a perfect documentary, but it's as entertaining of one you're going to find. It's somewhat difficult to make a documentary of a band that made the conscious choice to not be the biggest band in the world, but then again, the fact that they even were allowed that choice to make, makes them one of the most interesting.

BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK (2011) Director: Richard Press

3 STARS

Bill Cunningham is the famous New York fashion photographer, infamous for riding around town on his bicycle going from fashion show to famous party, and then to whatever other big event is going on. He's 80-years old, and still takes photos constantly. There's hundreds of famous photographs by him of men and women not only from the fashion runway, but also on the streets of New York. He loves showing how an outfit looks on the runway, and then seeing the same outfit worn on the street by an average woman, revealing how real women wear many designer clothes on a cold rainy New York city morning. "Bill Cunningham New York," documents much of his life, follows Cunningham, still working nonstop today, and talks with many of the fashion elite, as well some of the more interesting subject of his photographs. While I'm giving this film a positive review, I wasn't as interested in the subject as I bet many others will be. There's a lot of interesting photos, tucked into the movie, spanning many different eras. If this was a coffeetable book, it'd probably be right under my Annie Liebowitz books, and that's perfectly fine. Bill Cunningham is certainly an interesting character. There's a memorable moment where the director ends around the question of his romantic life, until Bill finally slyly answers back "You want to know if I'm gay, right?" His answer is interesting, but no matter what sexuality you might think he is, he's really in love with fashion, and taking pictures.

THE PERFECT HOST (2011) Director: Nick Tomnay

3 STARS

Part of me knows better than to give "The Perfect Host," a positive review. It tries a lot of things, and I think it does just enough of them for me to recommend it. The movie begins with a slew of misadventures, including a robbery, the results of which finds Rupert (Cooper Barnes), injured, wanted by the cops in an apparently massive manhunt, and desperate to find a friendly house to have at least a temporary sanctuary. He finds one in the home of Warwick (David Hyde Pearce, [Niles, from "Frasier," for those who can't place it.]) who's in the beginning stages of getting ready for a dinner party. He's curious about the stranger, but allows him to enter his house, and get some treatment on his hurt leg, and for a drink. From here, I'm not going to describe any more of what happens, only to say that situation between the two characters will continually switch back-and-forth, in a very strange chess-like game. Occasionally, we see some of Cooper's flashbacks in with a girlfriend of his named Simone (Megahn Perry). Not a whole helluva of a lot of this makes much sense, and the contrivance of the set-up is somewhat outrageous. If this film caught me on a worse day, I'd probably be less inclined to be generous towards it, but there's some really good acting here from David Hyde Pearce, and while the movie switches tones a little too much, it does play those tones well. I think this is a nice little first feature-length film for co-writer/director Nick Tomnay. He has a lot of interesting ideas, and I hope for his next film, he doesn't try to just cram a lot into one film.

MY DOG TULIP (2010) Directors: Paul Fierlinger and Sandra Fierlinger

2 1/2 STARS

If you find constant wonder and enjoyment out of a dog's urinary preferences and bowel activities, then this is the animated movie for you. Based on the acclaim novel by J.R. Ackerley, "My Dog Tulip," represents a milestone in animation. It's the first completely hand-drawn animated film, to not use paper. The animation has a really nice painterly stroke to it; it reminded me of some of the illustrations in some old children's books of mine. However, the story of one man's fascination with his canine companion, frankly bored me to tears with some long passages about the manors in which J.R.'s dog expresses in great detail his dog Tulip's manor of urination, and her preferential objects to urinate on. I often talk about, somewhat flipping about my reluctant and at-times misanthrope opinions towards people, and a lot of times this is misconstrued by others to mean that I must prefer pets and animals. This must be a common occurrance that people who aren't satisfied with humanity must find joy in animals, but this baffles me? Really, something that doesn't understand most of what I say, and that doesn't answer me back, why would I prefer that? Anyway, back to the movie. J.R. Ackerley's narration is voiced by Christopher Plummer, and if the Acadamy ever decides to give out an Award for voiceover work, Plummer's name would probably be on the ballot. His narration is good, and along with a few other occasional voices, including the last performances by Lynn Redgrave, makes the movie seem like I'm listening to a book-on-tape. I think that's the intention, and on that level it succeeded, but frankly, this is just not a book that interested me. I'm not a dog hater, I gave a five stars to "Marley & Me," when that came out, but that film was about a family's struggles with a dog. This movie is about a man's love and devotion, and his almost Spock-like curiousity over his beloved animal, and animals alone just don't make interesting lives to me. 

COUNTRY STRONG (2010) Director: Shana Feste

1 1/2 STARS

"Country Strong," earned an Oscar nomination for Best Song last year for the song "Coming Home", and has greatly contributed to one of our greatest actresses, Gwyneth Paltrow, to strong consider abandoning acting for a mostly singing career, with an occasionaly role on "Glee." That's not to say that's a bad thing, she's good singer, but "Country Strong," is not a good movie. It's slow-moving and very old-fashioned. This movie feels like a Douglas Sirk melodrama from the '50s. Paltrow stars as Kelly Cantor, who's come out early from rehab at the behest of her husband/manager James (Tim McGraw) to go on tour, and in particular, to do a performance in Dallas, where she had a strange incident that according to who you believe, involved alcohol, drugs, erratic behavior, a suicide attempt, and/or a miscarriage. Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedland) is a country performer who's not particularly interested in fame, that's having an affair with Kelly, and she insists he be on tour with them. Her husband wants a young, beautiful, but shy up-and-comer in Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester, and where the hell are people getting these fucking names, "Beau," "Chiles," "Leighton," Garrett,"....- I'm half-expecting Billy Joe, Bobby Joe, and Betty Joe to show up) who's not the greatest musician, but has a good promotable look, and if treated correctly and with care, she can probably develop into a star. There's a couple obvious love triangles that develop, and more than few "how-can-they-have-not-seen-that-coming" developments in the film. This movie feels like the entertainment industry has basically been the same since, I don't know, somewhere after "The Red Shoes," and somewhere before MTV. I think it's intentional to go with this style, but there's needs a more interesting twist to this. I could've watched this movie about fifty years, and it probably would've had better music too. This is boring, slow-moving train wreck, that's just wrong on almost every level. Poor Gwyneth Paltrow, she is very good in this film, in fact most of the actors are, but this is also just, too easy a part for her.

CASINO JACK (2010) Director: George Hickenlooper

3 STARS

"Casino Jack," marked the last film for the late director George Hickenlooper, who passed away right as the film was about to hit theatres. His careers spanned features, shorts and documentaries, and won an Emmy for the amazing documentary "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse," who along with Fax Bahr and Eleanor Coppola, put together an epic behind-the-scenes look at the tumultuous filming of "Apocalypse Now." I like both his films "Factory Girl," about former Andy Warhol discovery Edie Sedgwick, and intriguing "The Man From Elysian Fields," which stars Andy Garcia and Mick Jagger of all people as high class male escorts. "Casino Jack," about the convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is certainly about a character that could've fallen into the lap of Kevin Spacey. To those who didn't quite follow the news of his entire scandal and misdeeds that brought down numerous members of the Republican House Leadership, including Speaker Tom Delay, I would recommend looking up the Alex Gibney documentary "Casino Jack and the United States of Money," which shows Abramoff and his close associates dating back to his start as a leader of the College Republicans, a brief movie producing career, and then eventually as a dangerous lobbyist who would screw over almost everybody from garment workers in the Marianas to even Indian tribes. Spacey, plays him with his typical eccentricities. He was a weightlifter, is deeply religious, who in his spare time, would open restaurants and eateries, and loved the movies. (Spacey's amazingly skillful mimicry is use to great effect here.) The movie is only about, half as interesting and detailed as the Gibney documentary, which is why I'm only barely recommending it. We get a jist of who Abramoff is, but only get certain parts of the details that led to his downfall, some of which I think, out of complete context, might be difficult for people to follow. I know the story, and still found myself trying to fill in some blanks. Abramoff currently teaches a screenwriting course in the federal jail he's serving in. Spacey's good here in a part that I can't imagine anybody else playing. Spacey's a perfect actor for eccentric parts like this. Some of the other actors are good, including Barry Pepper and Graham Greene, but a lot of the acting kinda get lost in the makeup of their roles. Maybe in the future, I can appreciate the more comic tone of the movie, but, the more recent and disturbing the history, the harder it is to laugh, no matter how outlandish some of it is.

THE NEXT THREE DAYS (2010) Director: Paul Haggis

3 STARS

I guess Paul Haggis wanted to take a break from films that had more important things to say. This is his third feature-length film he's directed, after the Oscar-winning Best picture, "Crash," and the underrated "In the Valley of Elah," both films which took interesting ideas and stories and was able to touch on deeper ideas, than "The Next Three Days," which is basically a jailbreak thriller. A well-made and entertaining one, but ultimately I'm a little disappointed. Even when he works as a writer on other projects, which range as wildly from "Million Dollar Baby," to "Casino Royale," even his entertaining junk is better and more interesting than most everybody's elses. In "The Next Three Days," John Brennan's (Russell Crowe) wife (Elizabeth Banks) is suddenly arrested early in the morning, in front of their kid in an obvious overstep by the police department, for murdering her boss. They were out the night before an Lara seemed particularly disgruntled. The evidence seems to convict her. One day, she tries to kill herself, and this leads John to begin plotting her escape. He even consults a man who wrote books on breaking out of prison (Liam Neesan), and soon begins on a long quest to get his wife out of prison, his take his family out of the country before the police catch up him. I had a couple observations watching this film, one, is that, I think at this moment, if I could watch an Elizabeth Banks marathon, I would. She is one of the best actresses around, and is amazing to watch on screen in anything from tackling Checkov in "The Sisters," to a First Lady in "W.", to "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," and all amazing work guest starring on "Scrubs," "30 Rock," and "Modern Family," she can literally do anything, she is the best thing about "The Next Three Days." Russell Crowe is in his usual role, but is very good as well. I don't know if the movie itself is really worth watching, but, for it is, it does it's job, and at the ending, there are times when the action sequencing actually start to get thrilling. So, a disappointing but mild recommendation.

BHUTTO (2010) Directors: Duane Baughman and Johnny O'Hara

4 1/2 STARS

Benazir Bhutto's assassination was clearly ordered by her politcal rival Pervez Musharaf. She was the first woman to be the elected leader of a Muslim nation, the golden child of a political dynasty that would be equivalent to the Kennedys in America, the documentary "Bhutto," gives us a very clear understanding of how she rose to the top in the most unlikeliest of places. The movie is pro-Bhutto, although her rivals often claimed corruption charges. She did put her husband in charage of the nation's treasury, but the only clear corruption I could find involved the videos of her assassination, which was supposedly blamed on a car bomb, even though, somebody with a gun clearly shot her multiple times before the bomb exploded. It's amazing that it's always the one's that are the most beloved that are taken away too soon. She loved Pakistan, even though she spent much of her adult life in exile from the country, being overthrown by several regimes, usually led by the Pakistani military. I wonder what Pakistan would look like now if she were in charge. Would Bin Laden have been hiding in the country if she was in charge? The kind questions that pop questions that pop into my head. Clearly her influence, especially in the Middle East is insurmountable. She's one of the most important people in the last fifty years, and this documentary allows for westerners like me, to have a greater understanding and appreciation of that fact. Oh, while Musharaf in currently in exile, her assassins have yet to be caught.

A FILM UNFINISHED (2010) Director: Yael Hersonski

5 STARS

The only word better than, denialist, to describe those who don't believe in the Holocaust is, anti-semite. I say this because, the greatest evidence that exists for the existance is provided by the Nazis themselves. They filmed almost all of their atrocities, thinking that once the Earth has been rid of Jews, the archive will provide a historical documentation of their achievement. One of these films, a never-finished propaganda film called "The Ghetto," was found in this underground vault. The footage, including many bloopers and earlier take that show what they were hiding, is shown to us and two many of the survivors of the Warsaw ghetto it depicted in "A Film Unfinished." This is a haunting documentary that will stick with you. Not just some of the more disturbing footage of skeletal-like bodies being slid into the ground, (on a slide) but those strange propaganda scenes of lavish dinners and a first-class dining room where the locals are clearly being coached to eat. One of the survivors, watching the footage says "Flowers, where did they get the flowers! We never had any flowers anywhere." They stole them from a nearby cemetary. They know this through diaries and reports that survives from both the Germans and the Jews, both of which are used to try and date and document the footage. (The German head wrote all his reports in third person, even when he ordered most of the atrocities he documents.) There are many must-see films that show the history of the Holocaust. There's so many aspects of the event, that there's no possible way an entire history of it can be documented in one movie. ("The Sorrow and the Pity," for instance is a six-hour documentary and "Shoah," is nine-hours long, both film are noted as being considered the closest). "A Film Unfinished," is one of these films. Even this small little aspect of the war, reveals a great deal more than we previously knew, and God knows, there's still tons of footage the Nazis shot that's still being sorted and documented.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

30 DAY MOVIE CHALLENGE: UPDATE: DAYS 11-20!

Well, these last ten days have been unusually trying for me in order to participate in this challenge. As I begin typing this on Monday, the 24th, I currently don't have a computer and am typing this from the library, and on the limited time that I have here. I've also been posting entries on facebook ahead of time, and when I can on the list, and his hasn't been easy, but I was able to do it, and am currently on day 21, with preparations for the next few days in order to go ahead if need be. Hopefully my computer will return from the shop in the next few days. In the meantime, lets review up 'til now.

DAY 1: Favorite Fim: "CASABLANCA"
DAY 2: Least Favorite Film: "AMANDA"
DAY 3: Favorite Comedy: "AIRPLANE!"
DAY 4: Favorite Drama: "THE GODFATHER"
DAY 5: Favorite Action: "RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK"
DAY 6: Favorite Horror: "CARRIE"
DAY 7: Favorite Animated Fim: TIE: "PRINCESS MONONOKE" and "WALL-E"
DAY 8: Favorite Thriller: "THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS"
DAY 9: Favorite Musical: "NASHVILLE"
DAY 10: Favorite Foriegn Film: "THE DECALOGUE"

And now: Days 11-20!

Day 11: Favorite Kids Movie: "ALMOST FAMOUS"

I hinted that I was going to pick an R rated film for my favorite kids movie, and I did. It's also a stupid R rating, for drugs use/talk, language and brief nudity that I swear to God, took me five viewings before I noticed the one brief moment where Kate Hudson is slightly topless. But, I think about the joy of being a kid when I see this film, and how impressive it can be to see some things like your rock'n'roll icons. I never really understand most of those "summer that changed your life" films, but this is one that I did understand, and I still watch like a kid that's wide-eyed and bearing witness to amazing things. This movie is perfectly fine for kids of any age, whatever the ratings.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qn3tel9FWU&feature=related

DAY 12: Favorite Love Story: "BEFORE SUNRISE"

Here's another movie with a stupid R rating. My real favorite love story is "Casablanca," but it was hard finding my second choice. I came up with about a few dozens choices, and half the time, instead of eliminating films, I usually ended up adding more. I chose "Before Sunrise," first off because it's one of my favorite movies, but also because, I think the movie is the quintessential beginning of every love story, a meeting of the minds. The whole movie takes place in Vienna, where an American boy and a French girl, meet on a train, and on a whim spend a day walking around Vienna talking about, everything from the mathematical impossibility of reincarnation to the meaning of life, and everything in between. It's a movie where the minds meets and have a strange dream-like adventure, the kind that strangers have all the time, some we might even remember, with that guy or girl we might have or should have hooked up with, and sometimes think about what could've been. It's a special movie, and one of the few films I can say this sentence about: "The sequal, "Before Sunset," is even better!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNk4tRlco7Y&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PL4E07D30553A102AD

DAY 13: Favorite Chick Flick: "THE PHILADELPHIA STORY"
 Here's a category that confused me. Again, I made a very long list, completely unsure of what a "Chick Flick," is. I know the term, the and most of those cliched movies that are associated with it, "Beaches," seems to be a popular, a film that never worked to me. I had a long list and tried a few thought about a few creative choices like "High Art," "Lost in Translation," or "Juno", but I'm pretty sure a chick flick involves strong women and very good actresses, and some kind of melodrama over men, love, marriage, and/or womanhood. At least it said something like that on wikipedia.com. Still,  I think however, "The Philadelphia Story," this wonderful witty comedy of upper crust shenanigans is my personal favorites. Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Katherine Hepburn, a drunken party, some classic farce misunderstandings, and some a crazy wedding scene, this comedy certainly has a lot of interesting and strong women, and some head-over-heels lovestruck men who love them. Directed by George Cukor, who was infamous for being a "woman's director," who made movies that glorified womanhood, this is my personal favorite of his.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i07mVNAhy68

NOTE: It's now Tuesday afternoon, and I have about an hour or so left on the computer, however, I've just been informed that my computer will be returning to me shortly, so, YEAH!

DAY 14: Favorite Documentary: "THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS"
I watch a lot of documentaries, more than most people, but the documentaries that I found myself really loving are the ones that aren't political or journalistic or even muchraking in nature. So, as much as I love Errol Morris, Michael Moore, Alex Gibney, and a few others, they were some of the great directors, most of their films I knocked out. I thought about "Woodstock," for a while here, and a few othe concert films like "Madonna: Truth or Dare," and a few movies like "Bowling for Columbine," and "This Film is Not Yet Rated," which are both funny and fascinating, I just didn't see a major need to watch them over and over again. I finally settled on a documentary that is practically a sociological experiment than anything else. In "The Five Obstructions," director Lars von Trier, who is a little mad to begin with, decides to challenge his idol Jorgen Leth to remake his movie "The Perfect Human," five different times, each under different rules, restrictions and guidelines. It's a reality show for filmmakers, and one of the most intriguing films ever about filmmaking. A must for every film fanatic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YPmRMipnSM

DAY 15: Favorite Play Adaptation: "THE ODD COUPLE"

I wish I could go to the theatre more often. I had to go to recently for a class, but frankly, there was nothing more enjoyable. "The Odd Couple," is personal for me for a couple reasons, one of them being is that I had the honor to perform a couple scenes from it in a Scene Work for Directors class last year. (I had the opportunity to play both Felix and Oscar, in different scenes.) It was unbelieveably enjoyable and challenging. Felix and Oscar are two of the toughest characters in English literature to perform. (Seriously, Hamlet is easier.) But the other reason I love this one in particular is because of how the movie is shot. Most of the movie is shot very similarly to the play. There's only three walls in this fall. Most movie adaptations open up a play from the limitations of the stage, create the world of the play more thoroughly. ("Driving Miss Daisy," for instance invents numerous characters and locations that differ from the original stageplay) I don't have a problem with opening up the play, however, as someone who doesn't get to go to the theatre as often as he'd love to, (And forget about making my way to Broadway on a regular basis) frankly I love that I can basically watch something that's really close to the theatre experience in a movie. (Note: I came close to picking "Arsenic and Old Lace," which is also shot with that 3-wall play technique, but "The Odd Couple," is just a little more personal for me.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33ZvO26hP7M

DAY 16: Favorite Book Adaptation: "ADAPTATION."

I don't read as often as I'd probably prefer, I admit that. I haven't read "The Orchid Thief," by Susan Orlean, the movie which "Adaptation." is based on. I do read books that were made into movie i love when I can, like "No Country for Old Men," "Sideways," and "Where the Truth Lies...", and recently Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy has fascinated me. (I've already written a couple blogs on that series). However, "Adaptation." is not only an adaptation of a book, it's a brilliant movie, about how hard it is to adapt a novel into a film, on top of about dozens of other things that crawl into the mind of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich," "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," "Synecdoche, New York"), the maddest of the Hollywood's mad geniuses. Also, on a personal note, "Adaptation." is one of the reasons that convinced me to go to film school. I was taking an online film class at CSN, and the final project was to do a complete film analysis on a film of our choosing (pending Professor's approval) and "Adaptation." was my choice. I wrote a 22-page complete analysis that actually involved  voice over narration criticizing the paper as I wrote it, until eventually, I starting yelling at my voiceover within the paper. (If you've seen the movie, you get the joke). It was overly-long, outlandish, and broke basically every rule on how to structure and write an essay. The Professor informed me after that he would teach that paper in the future. It was then that I knew to become a film major. Anybody that lets me get away with that, should definitely be where I start looking for a career. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2fz_elzjF4&feature=related

NOTE: It's now Tuesday night, and my computer is back. Yeah! Now, I'm trying to figure out why my Microsoft Office doesn't work, even though I saved a wordpad statement on the desktop that was entitled, "MICROSOFT OFFICE CODE NUMBER!" Happy, but annoyed.

DAY 17: Least Favorite Book Adaptation: "THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGS"

Alright, I'm in the minority on this, but the movies are just godawful, the first being really the worst. I don't like Tolkien's book to begin with, but there's a story there that under the critical eye of somebody who knows storytelling, could really be magic and spellbounding. The problem with Tolkien is that there's no science in this world. What happens, essentially just happens because Tolkien needs to happen there, not because there's any rhyme, reason or logic to the world he created. I get that he was creating mythology, and that's fine, but even the characters, who've supposedly lived in this Middle Earth all their lives aren't aware that, you know, there's talking trees up ahead, or whatever (I know that's the second movie, but still...), or Gandolf can literal appear at one place in an instant after being miles away, but dies when falling into a volcano or whatever, but no he doesn't die..., ugh. It's not told correctly this story, as I blame Peter Jackson for making a literal Tolkien-appreciative adaptation of the book, and the fact that this is just a part one of trilogy! Ugh, makes me want to puke just thinking about it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pki6jbSbXIY

DAY 18: Favorite Guilty Pleasure: "SECRETARY"

Oh boy. Well, this is a tricky category. I had a lot of options with this film as well, some were somewhat more embarrasing than even this one. Personally, I think Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance in this film is the best acting performance of the decade. I mean, she outweirds James Spader, in what's basically a weird-off. Well, kink-off. I mean, that alone should've gotten here a nomination. Although, I have enjoyed this film, a few more times than most people have. I had a few other options. "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead," "Major League," and "Psycho Beach Party", came close. I started disqualifying really well-known and respected cult films like movies like Russ Meyer's "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!", and some of John Waters's better films, and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." When does it go from cult to mainstream? Hmm, great movies some of those, but too popular. So, with reservations that this movie is on that cult favorite/respected modern classic borderline, eh, well, that's the thing with guilty pleasures, you like 'cause you like them. The same way in Luis Bunuel's "Belle de Jour," the Catherine Deneuve character liked her kinks, ( In that film, humiliation) Gyllenhaal's character likes her, and I like "Secretary," 'cause I like it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmSO07r_zTc

DAY 19: Film that made you cry the hardest: "LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL"

Some of these have been incredibly difficult to make a selection. This was not one of them. I remember it like it was yesterday. I wasn't in the best of moods. I was going through the movie selections at Smith's. I wanted something that wasn't too deep, and funny preferably. Stuff that I didn't have to think too deeply about. It wasn't the best of the days for some reason, and I thought "Life is Beautiful." Good title. I remembered the Roberto Benigni guy at the Oscars, he was funny. This looks like a funny movie. I can use a laugh. I think I also borrowed "Dogma," and "Titan A.E." that day. I know I definitely borrowed "Titan A.E.", I don't remember what the other choice was, I know it was a comedy. Probably not one as funny as "Dogma" though. Maybe it wasn't "Dogma." Anyway, I was alone that Saturday night for some reason, and I put on "Life is Beautiful." I thought I would get a few laughs, and I did. It was very funny, and then... (REST OF SENTENCE DELETED OUT FOR CONTAINING SPOILERS). I wasn't told about that going in. It's one of my favorite movies now, and I can't even think of the film without crying, and thinking about the ending. I cried, for what seemed like an hour that night, and then I watched it again, and laughed and then cried some more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZARpRCVFNuU&feature=related

DAY 20: Favorite Actress: KATHARINE HEPBURN- "GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER"

I have dozens of favorite actors and actresses, and in a similarly strange way, I actually have none. Acting and who's in a movie is really one of the last things I look at and think about when deciding what movie to watch. There's some great actors that I admire, but overall, a lot of acting, in film anyway, is choosing the best takes in the editing room. For the great actors, it won't matter, they'll always be amazing in every take, and there's so many. I mean, I have as much admiration for Elizabeth Banks as I do for Meryl Streep. Julianne Moore, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Catherine Deneuve, Judi Dench, hell, I even like Lindsay Lohan when she's given a good part and is in a good film. There's a talented people in Hollwood, and frankly liking one actor or actress over another is too narrow. Besides, you never know, in a good movie, some actors may completely surprise you. However, the older actors, in the star system of yesteryear, they were casted often based on image, and uptaining it. Parts were designed based on the personalities of certain actors. And I do like certain actors for what they represent, in the personal mystique. Somewhat the image overpowered reality, other times, I think it was close. In that respects, Katharine Hepburn, is my favorite. Smart, powerful, athletic, she didn't willingly wear a dress, and her characters were always deeper that that. I already used my favorite of her films, "The Philadelphia Story," but I thought about films as playful as "Pat and Mike," which is probably one of the films that really shows off a lot of her true personality, and then I thought about "The Lion in Winter," the wonderful performance she gives in that one. But they aren't favorites of mine. So, I went with a personal favorite of mine with "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Also, that film has two of my favorite actors in it as well, and while I'm not picking Spencer Tracy or Sidney Poitier for my favorite actor, they deserve to have at least one film on my list. It's a little flawed, and maybe it's story is a little classically don't-piss-too-many-people-off conservative, but it still holds up pretty damn well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a56FnhtuGI

Well, my computer will be up and running on full soon. I'm downloading what I lost and putting it back online as I type. I'm already a couple days in to this week, and I'll still be updating this on facebook as I go. Some of you might have already noticed that I cheated again and picked two films for day 22. I don't know what I'm going to pick for a lot of these next ones, especially day 30, so stay tuned. I'll be blogging a lot of reviews in the next few editions, including a lot of new movies, so keep an eye for that. I'm 1/3 the way there, and many more great personal films I want to showcase. In the meantime, if you haven't seen some of the choices I've made, try and find a copy of one or all of these films. Maybe they might become as personal to you as they are for me. (Uh, more conservative filmgoers, maybe don't start with "Secretary." Check the youtube clip I posted first, and maybe look around at some of the others before making your mind up on that one.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

CANON OF FILM: TOY STORY

TOY STORY (1995)

Director: John Lasseter
Screenplay: John Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow from the story by John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton and Jon Ranft

It’s been 16 years since “Toy Story,” was first released, and in that time, the landscape of film animation has changed so dramatically that you can separate the time difference as before as after “Toy Story.” At one time, every animated feature release by Disney was a must-see event because: A. they were the results of years of painstaking detail and were made so rarely that they were once in a generation events, and B. for the most part, they were pretty much the only game in town. Japanese animation hadn’t yet reached American shores in on a wide scale and Cartoon Network wasn’t even an idea yet. From one animated feature being release maybe once every five years, they now occur so often that the Academy has now singled out there own category for them (which 'Toy Story 3" the movie's second sequel won last year), and outside of the work of Hayao Miyazaki and a few other select animators, hand-drawn animation is now all but dead. I’ve skipped more than a few Disney animated features in recent years, I’ve even now begun to skip computer-animated features. Claymation with the “Wallace and Gromit,” character still lives on, and in a few other places, and now computers generated acting with a bunch of wires connected have led to new animated films where we see the performances of actors just animated such as in “The Polar Express,” and “Monster House,” not to mention the painstaking detail Richard Linklater does by animated every scene and sequence of his finished, acted films using dozens of animators and a high tech MacIntosh program for his works “Waking Life,” and “A Scanner Darkly.” Now, more than ever, it’s clear that the dirty little secret of animation is out and about: It’s not just for children. Yet, after all that, this simple buddy-movie story that kicked off the new generation of animated features, “Toy Story,” holds true. It now takes it’s place among the greatest films of all-time. Not animated films, films. It broke the AFI’s top 100 greatest films list in 2007, a stat only shared by one other landmark animated film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The story of a friendship formed between toys competing for favoritism from their owner Andy, is as simple as could be. Even the choosing of the characters is fascinating, having, a cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks)  being replaced by an astronaut (Tim Allen), as though there’s an awareness of the changing of the old guard of animation where technology takes. There’s some of the sly humor and in-jokes that would tickle the older children and adult audiences that beloved “Shrek,”  and “The Incredibles,” but the freeness of the 3-D world of animation mastered by John Lasseter’s film, was such a breath of fresh air, that we are only now beginning to become immune to it. Maybe it’s become too easy and common, but considering how many animated films can tell such varied stories every year, even though it actually doesn’t make any sense, I think Buzz Lightyear’s prediction has come true, “To infinity, and beyond.” 

Monday, October 17, 2011

CANON OF FILM: "ALMOST FAMOUS"

ALMOST FAMOUS (2000)

Director/Screenplay: Cameron Crowe

I remember saying of “Almost Famous,” a few years ago that Cameron Crowe, who based the film on his own experience as a Rolling Stone journalist touring with bands like “Led Zeppelin,” and “The Allman Brothers Band”, that he was luckiest son-of-a-bitch kid of all-time. I realize now just how talented he had to have been to accomplish all that he did before he was even allowed to drink, back when the drinking age was 18. There’s no doubt that “Almost Famous,” is not only his best film, but his most personal, and this coming from an already well-established filmmaking career, with “Jerry MaGuire,” “Say Anything,” and the script for “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” already on his resume. He understands more than any other filmmaker how powerful music is, how just the hearing of a song can make someone reflect back to a past memory or moment from their lives, makes it far more powerful than any other art form. That his movies are capable of these emotions more than most other writer/directors is nothing short of masterful. I also once said that this is the perfect 15-year boy dream movie, and I notice now that when the movie came out, I was 15, and I still remember the magic I saw in “Almost Famous,” from the first time I watched it, and constantly feel that emotion brought back every time I see it again. Winning him the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Crowe’s film structurally isn’t much different than most films where a summer would change a boy’s life forever, but the movie doesn’t just replicate the era of a 70s Rock n Roll band touring the country, it shows the never-ending voyage of going thru a rabbit hole and ending up in another world. For William Miller, (Patrick Fugit) he has to balance the line where he befriends his idols, and yet humanizes them thru there weaknesses and excesses, such as Penny Lane (Oscar-nominated Kate Hudson, who should’ve won) a band-aid groupie who’s as much apart of the band, in terms of the backstage dynamics as the guitarist Russell (Billy Crudup) who she’s in love with, and is constantly ducking Billy's interview. Reality lies grounded in Billy’s mom, Elaine (Oscar-nominated Frances McDormand) a College Professor who is just as scary a presence over the phone as she is in person, making even Russell buckle from the tone of her voice informing them to not do drugs, also reminding us just how young our “heroes,” actually were.  I don’t know what it’s actually like touring with a band, but I imagine it probably isn’t nearly as fun or interesting in the moment, especially after the newness of it fades, but I don’t think the destinations or even the journey is important, but instead, the memories of it that forever enthrall us. Notice the film begins with ticket studs, posters, and pamphlets, and ends with picture. I believe Crowe realizes this too.

MESSAGE FROM DAVID BARUFFI: BLOG TEMPORARILY DELAYED

Dear Friends and Followers:

This is David Baruffi. Due to circumstances outside of my control, aka, my home computer is in the shop for the immediate future, "David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews," aka I, won't be able to blog on my regular schedule for the immediate future. Hopefully, I'll be able to continue my blogging schedule by the weekend. Stay tuned for further updates, in the meantime, I'll be posting "Canon of Film" blogs in a few moments, to tide you over until I can blog regularly. (Currently, I'm at my local library typing this.) Thanks for your understanding, and in the meantime, I invite all to check my back catalogue of blogs, in case some of you might have missed some, this would be the perfect time to catch up. Thank you all very very much.

Truly Sincerely,
David Baruffi

Saturday, October 15, 2011

WHAT'S "GOOD ON TV?!" A CLOSER LOOK AT NETWORK TV, AND SUBTLE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN, DECENT, GOOD, VERY GOOD, GREAT, AND CRAP.

I jumped in on a conversation with facebook friend and fellow blogger Jennifer Meachem (The Rambling Reviewer http://theramblinreviewer.blogspot.com) the other day. She was discussing how disappointed she was in premiere week on TV being a bunch of reality shows. (If anybody caught my "Premiere Week," blog, I hated it so much I wrote it as a musical number.) I jumped in and defended reality shows, noting how there's a drastic difference between good and bad reality shows. But, something else wasn't right, and it took me a while to figure it out, but then I thought, "Wait a minute, I only have basic channels, and I always manage to find the good shows on TV!" I don't think it's that hard, but maybe it is for some people. I continued to think about this as channel 8.2 on digital switched some time last week from some Spanish channel to METV, which was a whole channel of classic TV shows, all the ones that I grew up on when I was young, and watched Nick at Nite back in the '90s. All in all though,  two things I took from that. One, if there's absolutely nothing else one, that's now my go to channel (Especially for my 6:00am "Love, American Style," which is guaranteed to be better with than the News) and two, TV hasn't changed all that much, at least quality-wise. Some shows are good, some are very good, some are great, and some are decent. Not that different from TV today, even with reality TV. Except now, for some reason, some shows are complete crap, and despite popular belief, the crap category is hardly limited to just reality shows. Well, there's been crap on television since the beginning to, but you also have to recognize that TV is just about 65 years old, and it took a long time for people to realize what-the-hell was actually going to work on television, and what exactly can you do with it. The novelty of moving picture in the living room was the appeal, the fact that there happened to be talent and art on there was secondary until they figure out what exactly to do with it. By my calculations, after the '70s, when shows such as "All in the Family," "M*A*S*H," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and a few others would forever alter how we look at what TV could do. So, basically, "The Beverly Hillbillies," is decent, any show that came on after 1970's that was as good and/or worse than that show was crap. If for nothing else, because we know better now.
But now I'm rambling a bit here. I don't want to discuss shows of the past, and least not in this blog anyway. To me, there's seems to be a greater difference between shows that are worth watching, and going out of one's way to watch, and those that frankly are in some cases, just plain unwatchable. And, most of the time, the ratings seem to indicate that not only are we watching the unwatchable crap more often, but I'm wondering now if people can't tell the difference. Maybe I just see things differently, but if that's the case, I want to know how everything else sees it. Well, since I apparently can only assume certain hypothesis based on the evidence, I'm gonna tell a couple of the ways that I decide what to watch on TV. Now, first of all, let's completely forget about cable here for a second. First off, I don't have cable. Second,  I know on cable, you have a strange combination of shows that are some of the most inventive and creative of all-time, as well as lower levels of crap that make "The Jerry Springer Show," look like it's filled with MENSA candidates, but they don't run on the same schedule as basic TV.  Seasons aren't set in stone with dates and times, and often occur circular-scheduled, similar to British TV schedules actually, and for most intensive purposes, they're not really competition for the major networks, who compete against themselves. Let's also not consider hulu.com and other streaming tv outlets for this scenario. They're most helpful 'cause now we're not always limited to the watch-only-one-show-at-a-time-when-it's-on standard, but there is still preferences and we do still compare what's on.) And this leads to the main way I look at TV:  The multiple choice question!

The multiple-choice question:
To me, failing this question gives me serious doubts about one's ability to tell the difference between good tv and bad tv. Let's start with eight o'clock, primetime, let's say Monday. You have choices, you can watch
A. ABC
B. CBS
C. NBC
D. FOX
E. CW
F. It all sucks, put on PBS, at least you'll learn something (Or get some sleep).
G. Don't watch anything.
H. What we used to call UHF channels, but are basically reruns on some of the local channel.  (aka My Network TV, now)

Okay, now this time happens to be a good example of how this works. Checking TVGuide.dom, for this Monday's current schedule, which doesn't differentiate too much from what one would typical find their on any random monday, we have

ABC: "Dancing with the Stars"
CBS: "How I Met Your Mother"
NBC: "The Sing-Off"
FOX: "Terra Nova,"
CW: "Gossip Girl,"
PBS-IF EVERYTHING ELSE SUCKS: "Antiques Roadshow"
MYTV-"Law & Order: SVU" Rerun.
DWA-Don't watch anything.

Anybody that comes up with an answer that's not "How I Met Your Mother," should start to worry. Let's map this out, a little more clearly.

"Dancing with the Stars," is a CRAP-rated show. It's amateurs, dancing. Usually people who are moderately famous at best, and those are somewhat famous and talented, we frankly feel sorry that couldn't get a better role. (Poor Marlee Matlin).

"The Sing-Off," probably the least important of these singing talent shows, has some talent though, and barely gets a DECENT rating, but has nothing else to distinguish it, is completely forgettable, and offers absolutely almost no cultural importance.

"Gossip Girl"- Okay, first off, anybody that choose the CW answer is going to be wrong. Just get that out of the way to begin with. "Gossip Girl," is a CRAP show. It's a mellowdramatic soap opera that aims for the stupid 12-year old girl market, I should underline "Stupid," 'cause smart ones will know to stay away. It one thing to aim for a market, it's another to aim for the lowest in the marketplace.

"Terra Nova,"- New show, so we do have to give it a look, only to find, the Jurassic Park special effects are in use, to recreate "Land of the Lost," for those who liked "Lost." Concept slightly better than "Lost," so currently, this is a DECENT, but there's room for movement on both sides, this show can either go up or go down, but not a show that's worth going out of your way to see, as of yet. (While many shows can also go up and get better, it's proper to assume any show that goes down, will remain down. [See: "Jumping the Shark" concept])

"...SVU," is a RERUN, and it's on a UHF-type channel, that's different from the channel that airs new and regular episodes of the show (All shows with this delineation, will from here of in be referred to as the variable "X") . This doesn't get a rating. Watching "X" Rerun is = to Turning TV off. Remember this equation.

"How I Met Your Mother," is a show that does vary in it's rating, however, it's always remained between GOOD and GREAT, (Currently at VERY GOOD) throughout most of it's run, and either way, at GOOD, it clearly ranks a show worthy or being watched, and easily is the best choice among the option.

Now, you're all looking at me going, how can you just simply claim that? Well, I don't. I see in "How I Met Your Mother," a show that constantly plays and reimagines what a sitcom can be, one that play with structure of jokes, structure of it's timeline, and even reinvents the kind of comedy that can be done in a 3-camera sitcom, and on top of that, it's consistently been funny, and more importantly, it's got places to go. It's not just simply how good a show is, there's also, questions of how many possible good directions the show can take in the future. This is a more important note with newer shows, but "How I Met Your Mother," has one of the strongest ratings in regard to this for sitcoms. There's a few other things to look at when you're judging a projection of a show, and what the strengths and weaknesses that may include, but this show has the highest ratings to begin, is close to the highest in terms of forecasting a show into the future, and based on history, "HIMYM," seems most likely o use that strength to it's most use.

Now, I do this kind of quick analysis, with every hour or half-hour of television, and to me, it's completely logical, and you can do an analysis like this, or something similar, with any kind comparison you want to make, do one network at a time, and see there lineup, you should be able to make the same determination, and you can compare similar shows, and make these determinations, and I think they're easy. I don't know if other people do though, when I often see people getting, these most simplistic of tv viewing situations wrong. I can't explain how or why precisely with every tv choice I make, because that would take too much time to write, and it would be exhausting, but I do make these quick decisions. Sometimes I can see how people could get confused. Take the singing-competiton subgenre of reality shows. "American Idol," to me, is a DECENT show, at it's best, it can be GOOD, but that's very rarely. Right now, "The X-Factor,"  is bordering on the CRAP-DECENT line. While "The Voice," it's no contest, is easily the best of these shows, and the only one worth watching, getting a VERY GOOD-GREAT rating. Some people could look at those three shows, and sees how they're all similar and possibly indistinguishable from one another. I see hundreds of differences that distinguish them, and it's easy if you can tell what's good and what's not.

So, some of you I guess might be wondering, what am I going to do, start writing TV reviews now, on top of my weekly film reviews. Frankly, I hate TV reviews, and generally I hate people who review tv shows, especially these premiere week shows. Honestly, I think most of the TV reviewers that I have read are crap, and are usually show fetishists that are going to like only certain TV shows no matter what, instead of analyzing shows based on whether they're good.  However the real reason is that, it's too early to review TV shows. They're anthologies, they're not movies that end in two hours. This would be like writing a review on Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities," reading the first two lines, feeling the book is confusing, and then deciding to write about how the whole book is confusing, based on those first couple lines. It doesn't make much sense. Some shows have a tendency to take years before they really get good or sometimes great. I tend to only like to talk about TV shows specifically if a show is either finished, or if it's been on long enough to where we can start to make certain points and have legitimate analytical discussions on the show. (I wrote a blog about two months ago, where I compared "Two and a Half Men," and "The Office," and how both shows could remain viable even after their main character leaves the show, for example.)

But saying that, there is a lot of good on television. It's not always great, few shows are, and sometimes it seems like  most of it tends to get cancelled. It's in every genre, sitcom, drama reality, reality-competition, etc. etc., you can even dissect daytime TV if needed, if the same way, and I think sometimes people may need a little bit of help in finding that good. So, from time to time, I'm occasionally post a blog where I will showcase "Good on TV?", and try to explain exactly why it is good. I'll admit, oftentimes, the answer to that multiple-choice question is Don't Watch Anything. So, maybe I'll talk about a few things that aren't good as well. (There's a "?" there for a reason.) But, let's not just simply overly dismiss or overly praise anymore, either shows, genres, or lineups or networks, we're going to basically take closer looks at certain programs, new, current, and maybe even older ones. This can cover a lot of areas, and I don't plan on this being a regular blog, however, TV is the single most readily available entertainment source out there. You can also watch, there's always something on, and many times, some of the greatest artistic achievement occur on TV. I think it's more than worthy of something more than a simple "Cheers," or "Jeers," rating, for each week's programming. Let's not trivialize it like that anymore.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

30 DAY MOVIE CHALLENGE: UPDATE DAYS 1-10

Well, as I promised, every ten days, I've going to update everybody on the process of the 30 Day Movie Challenge, as I go through. One or two of you have even participated, I'm glad. Some of your choices, are good, some are more questionable, but that's okay, so far I've already cheated. Not the no repeats, the one movie decision. I actually named two films for one category, and technically I named 10 films for another, but that one makes sense, I'll get to it at the end. The Favorite Animated Film, I had to name 2. I honestly couldn't decide between two of them, to me, that's fine. That's the spirit of this whole exercise, some of these should be tough decisions between many different films that we all hold dear, and sometimes, we just can't separate them. I couldn't do it with one, and there were a few categories that were tough for me to make one single decision on. Occasionally I might be thinking ahead to a later category, but, maybe playing a little strategy. Use one film for musical, use another for soundtrack perhaps, but I think so far, I've picked 11 films, all very different from another, and all are just a small little piece of me to reveal to the world, in order to know me a little better. Let's start with Day one.

DAY 1
Favorite Film: "CASABLANCA".
It's not the most original answer, but it is my favorite. I wrote on facebook and on the Canon of Film Blog for the film, that's I've spent weeks where I did nothing but watch "Casablanca," and that's true. I remember because I had six other films I had borrowed from the library, and I never got to them that week. I mean, why watch anything else if you can watch "Casablanca." That's when I knew it was my favorite, I had seen it many times before, and I all I wanted to was see it again and again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vThuwa5RZU

DAY 2
Least Favorite Film: "AMANDA".
Not a lot of people saw this one, and that's the nicest thing I can say about it. I had a few choices for this one. "Jesus Christ Superstar," and "Staying Alive," will probably show up in other "least" categories, and I think there's a special place in hell for "The ButterCream Gang in the Secret of Treasure Mountain," which I had to watch in a catechism, which in hindsight, should've been a clue to not be in catechism, I realize that now. I occasionally volunteer as a review judge at the Las Vegas International Film Festival, where I get a whole bag of DVDs to watch, of films that were entered for consideration for the festival, we get to watch them and see whether they should be considered or not, and there's more than a few bad films in that bag, (There's the occasional good one though too) but "Amanda," was the worse. It has a stupid shallow protagonist, the idiot plot, a revelation of a secret that turns out to be a lie, and great news, not only is she not born a guy like she said on your wedding night, but she's rich, cause that's the answer, money. Oops, sorry, I gave away the ending, and the whole movie, there. Not only was it that bad, I couldn't press the eject button, 'cause I had to finish it to write the report. Nothing worse than that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNwH4rDluUE

DAY 3
Favorite Comedy: "AIRPLANE!"
You know, it didn't used to be either, but "Airplane!," just has that effect on you, where you just find yourself watching it when it's on, and laughing hysterically. I love comedy. I write a lot of comedy in my screenplays, and that ranges from SNL-influence, to Kevin Smith, to a lot of Woody Allen influence, I get it from almost everywhere, and there's dozens of films that I easily could've and at some points in my life would called my favorite comedy. "Clerks," "Annie Hall," "The Producers," "Arsenic and Old Lace," "Lost in Translation," (Yes, that was a comedy) "Being John Malkovich," "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "Pulp Fiction," etc. etc., oh there's dozens. But, there's hundreds of jokes in "Airplane!," they're all funny, and everytime I see the movie, I catch about a dozen jokes I didn't even see before, or maybe I saw them before, but have since forgotten them, and now I get to remember them again, and either way, you just find yourself laughing. You can't help it, even the when the jokes are stupid, there's just too many of them, and you have to laugh at it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaXvFT_UyI8

DAY 4
Favorite Drama: "THE GODFATHER"
Well, being Italian, I'm practically ethnic-bound to watch it everytime it's on, but I would watch it anyway. Another one of those movies that just sucks you into the world. It's interesting, there's not really a plot in the film, it's character-driven. We see Michael change from the one member of the family who wasn't in the business to the guy who takes over and saves the family, and the film is about this little world that the Mafia has created, and just how hard it is to get out and stay out of it, and then after watching over and over again, we get caught up in the details, the characters specifically. Fredo, not being able to pull his gun when they put a hit on his father, the oranges whenever there's a death, how they don't tell Tom Hagen most of the details because they think he'll be the most likely turncoat. Roger Ebert just last week wrote a blog about Diane Keaton's orange-colored wardrobe in the film(s). How is this story ingrained in us viscerally, and yet we still find new things to look at?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAfWMr26KQk

DAY 5
Favorite Action: "RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK"
I was a little, unsure of this category at first. What exactly is an action movie, for instance. Does a movie with a lot of action in it, make it entertaining? Not really. When I see a movie where there's a lot of action, I usually start falling asleep, 'cause one explosion after another has a tendency to get repetitive. Movies need some time and pace to slow down, and then the ability to speed up. And is action, just explosions and guns and shit? I think action could just a lot of things going on, often at a breakneck pace, many times with a lot of edits and cuts. I considered almost everything from "Speed," to "City of God," in this category. A couple names kept popping up. Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," and "Inception," are both action movies that aren't simply action for action sakes. Spielberg's name kept coming up though. "Jaws," "Minority Report," "Saving Private Ryan,",,, Oh yeah, war movies, they're action films most of them, aren't they? Finally, I closed my eyes, and tried to think about what an action film was, and the only thing I could suddenly think of was the score to "Raiders of the Lost Ark." It's action in it's purest form, and always exciting. You got to love a guy, who escapes poisons arrows, a boulder, alligators, sandtraps, secret passage ways, death traps, swamps, and then gets pissed off that his pilot has a pet snake. The surreal situation, and the human character that can't believe he's in the middle of it. You get those two things, and you got an action movie, and it doesn't hurt if Spielberg's directing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYpWVehiFW8

DAY 6
Favorite Horror: "CARRIE"
The first time I saw "Carrie," it was the middle a lazy Saturday afternoon, and I didn't know anything about it going in. From that viewing, it sickened me, and then scared me half to death, and then with that final little scare at the end..., well I don't remember how I got stuck on the ceiling, but eventually I got down. Then, the older I got, and the more school I had, and suddenly it turned into a little bit of a fantasy film to me. To have that kind of power for revenge at a moment's notice, way better than being invisible in the girls shower, in terms of desired superpowers and uses for them. I watched this film on Prom night, at my anti-prom party. Well, actually we watched something else, but if we did it would've been perfect. Some movies may be scarier, others may be more violent and gruesomes, but this one is the special one to me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XFbAINOlnY

 DAY 7
Favorite Animated Feature: TIE: "PRINCESS MONONOKE," and "WALL-E"
It wasn't hard narrowing it down to these two, although "Beauty and the Beast," and "Waking Life," are right up there, but after that I didn't everything I could think of try to and distinguish them in my head, finally I couldn't. I didn't discover "Princess Mononoke," until after I saw Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away," came out and blew me away. I thought I should then check his back catalogue of films, and still, I was unprepared for this complex, beautiful movie. I think I've seen it about ten or twelve times since, and sometimes I marvel at the hand-drawn animation, in this unique story, that is way more complicated than any other feature-length animated film I'd seen up until that point. I think with films like Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, and especially, with James Cameron's "Avatar," I think they tried and failed to do what Miyazaki pulled off in this film, and that is create this amazing world that I've never seen before, and truly have a story which plays with mythology, in the absolute best story sense of that word, and even on that level, it's more complex than that. There's no good guy or bad guy, there's two sides that are fighting each other, fighting within themselves, and then there's this protagonist Ashitaka character, that gets to see both sides, and refuses to take a side. How often do you see a neutral main character that isn't a cop or something. It blew me away, and I didn't think anything could even match it, and then I saw "Wall-E." I had "Wall-E," ranked as the best film of the year in 2008, and it just grows with more viewings. There hasn't been a more amazing and powerful long wordless scene since "2001: A Space Odyssey," and it's all done with amazing CGI animation. It's amazing how little these two films have in common, but the one thing they do have is what great animation is probably born to do, and that's to create entire world. This futuristic garbage-filled Earth is as fascinating a world I've ever seen. "Wall-E," works on about five or six different levels. It's a sci-fi film, that has numerous references to the great sci-fi movies of the past. It's a film about the environment, that simultaneously offers a bleak warning of our future, and the possibility of hope and rebuilding. It a film about technology taking over, and how the differences between older and the conflict between older and newer technology. It's a love story, it's a creation story, it's even touches on the growing problem of obesity, but that's the film analyzer in me talking. These things are all there, and we can theorize all we want about them, but what really distinguishes "Wall-E," how they took all these storytelling devices and simply used them to create this futuristic story of a lonely little garbage collector, who's unaware that he isn't alone in this universe. These are two films that touch upon many deeper themes, but tell such amazing stories that could only be told through animation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoZpCmcnM_s&feature=fvst
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lkffSsImXc


DAY 8
Favorite Thriller: "THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS"
Thriller is another category that's a little bit ambiguous. In fact, this was the first category where I had to physically write down a list of movies and start narrowing them down one by one. There were 24 in all, and all kinds of thrillers were involved, but the single common ingredient is tension. What film keeps us on the edge-of-our-seat as we find out what's going to happen next? This ranges from everything from as simple as following a lead and a story in "All the President's Men," to the indecipherable, "Mulholland Drive." Finally though, "The Silence of the Lambs," started emerging as the clear frontrunner. Everything in the movie constantly builds and builds. Multiple disturbing villains, great acting, and somehow, through all the bars and glass walls, and underground tunnels, the most frightening thing shot, is a close-up of Hannibal Lecter's hand, just slightly grazing Clarice Starling's, and it sends chills up our spine, a shot that doesn't work unless everything before it does, and even then, the movie has many more twists for us, and scenes of absolute terror.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4qblq0uahw

DAY 9
Favorite Musical: "NASHVILLE"
I think some narrow-thinking people might be surprised at just how creative I could've been in this category. While the traditional classic musicals still hold the highest esteem, my favorites being "Guys and Dolls," and "My Fair Lady," musicals spread a lot of different genres. "All That Jazz," "Once," "Woodstock," "Beauty and the Beast," "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," "Tommy," musicals are everywhere, and more common than most would think. If the category was best taped musical, then "Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway," which showed the final performance of "Rent," on Broadway before it closed down for the first time, would be my favorite. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, it never screened in a movie theatre, which is the general standard that I use. I could've picked the Chris Columbus film, and thought about it for a while, before giving in to reality there. I came very close to picking "This is Spinal Tap," the great mockumentary, but after watching a few clips on youtube, I finally decided on Robert Altman's "Nashville." Not a musical in the traditional sense of the world, it's actually a movie about the goings-on in and around the country music world of Nashville, Tennessee, and like all Altman movies, multiple rows of overlapping dialogue, mistakes and strange abberations, and dozens of multiple storylines and characters, and this film, has about an hour of the film, is just musical performances, some even shot at the Grand Old Opry. It's not my favorite kind of music, not all the music is even good (Some of it's bad on purpose) but the film as an entirety is right up there as one of Altman's best, if not his greatest. And somehow, when at the end of the movie, the microphone ends up in Barbara Harris's hand, everytime, I cry, not only at the scene, but the fact that suddenly realized just how much we've cared about all of these characters, it catches me off-guard, every single time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMeDzbm7BHo&feature=related

DAY 10
Favorite Foreign Film: "THE DECALOGUE"
I believe the best movie of the 1980s, was not one movie, but ten. Ten movies, each about an hour long, each one taking place on a different floor of a Warsaw apartment building, and each film, a story representation of one of "The Ten Commandments." It's one of the most ambitious projects ever filmed, and yes, it is ten movies, and it's also ten movies deep. "The Decalogue," was a miniseries in Poland before finding it's way into film festivals and screenings in the rest of the world, and was directed by Krystof Kieslowski, one of my all-time favorite director, and this will not be the only mention of one of his films on this list, creates ten films, each that deal with very difficult moral questions, that challenge some if not all of "The Ten Commandments." Some are tragic, one of them, the last one, is funny as hell, some are even better than others, all of these stories are fascinating, and when placed together, you have one of the best collection of short stories ever composed. Kieslowski often dealt with irony and chance, and how the actions of one could have effects on others, in some ways that neither party could foresee, and in some cases, they aren't even aware that such a decision could effect someone else. Each of these films play with these little end-arounds of the world, and deal with amazing complex moral questions. I didn't mean for that to sound boring, it isn't. It thrilling to have a movie that dares to challenge and make us think, and question, what would we do if we were in this situation, and what is the morally right response, and is that even the correct thing to do. This is a movie for those who love to think, and I am a Descartian, "I think therefore I am." Watching "The Decalogue," will makes you think, and keep you fascinated.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LXpRn6etGw&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PLE6B506437FEBA362

Well, 10 down 50 to go. Day 11 is favorite kid's film, and I already, and if you want to try to guess, I'll give you a hint: My favorite kid's film, was rated R! Keep track