Wednesday, October 12, 2011


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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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