Thursday, November 3, 2011


Alright, I'm half-way there. 30 Down, 30 To Go. With these ten films, there were some really hard decisions, and I often ended up picking two films instead of one. Yeah, it's probably cheating, but hey, if you love these films equally, then why not, and besides, some of these are really tough. Often, I'm not sure what I'm going to put down until I clip "send." That's okay, I was prepared for some of this to be tough, and sometimes, even I was surprised at my own answers. Anyway, lets start with a quick review of Days 1-20

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"
DAY 11: Favorite Kids Movie: "ALMOST FAMOUS"
DAY 12: Favorite Love Story: "BEFORE SUNRISE"
DAY 13: Favorite Chick Flick: "THE PHILADELPHIA STORY"
DAY 14: Favorite Documentary: "THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS"
DAY 15: Favorite Play Adaptation: "THE ODD COUPLE"
DAY 16: Favorite Book Adaptation: "ADAPTATION."
DAY 18: Favorite Guilty Pleasure: "SECRETARY"
DAY 19: Film that made you Cry the Hardest: "LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL"

Now to the latest choices:

In much the same way as Favorite Actress, it's strange to me to think about who my favorite actor is. But, going back to an actor's persona, who/what we think of when we think about that actor, to me, it's always going to be Bogie to some extent. Handsome, but not classically so. He looked like a beat-up baseball mitt. He played tough, strong-willed characters that may or may not be taken in by love. I found it strange that I had a few more preferable choices for films to pick with Bogart than I did with Hepburn. The only Bogie I've used so far is "Casablanca." I thought about "The Big Sleep," "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", and for a while there, I was tempted to find a clip from Nicholas Ray's masterpiece "In a Lonely Place," which might be his greatest performance, but if there's a Bogart movie I've seen almost as much as "Casablanca," it's "The Maltese Falcon." In my view, it's the first and greatest Film Noir, and it's always one of those movies that sucks you in. It's got everything in it. Gangsters, wit, murder, burglars, a decietful femme fatale, and of course, a little MaGuffin, that everybody's fighting over. Also, It's John Huston's first and best film.

DAY 22: Film I'd Like to Live in: TIE: "CLERKS." and "LAUREL CANYON"
Wow, is this a tought category! The whole point of film, hell, any artform really, is to escape into another world or another life for a just a couple hours even, to enter all these amazing worlds without leaving your house. I had dozens of options I was thinking about, although I was trying to be a little more specific, and really narrow my choices down a bit to not only movies that I could live, but then to try to think of movies, where I can really find a specific place for me, in particular. Not just something I'd like to live in, but can I logically fit into this film some how? A friend of mine, Kynan Dias picked for this one, "The American President." I thought that was a good choice, and if this was a TV show, "The West Wing," which was created originally from the discarded pages of his "The American President," script, I'd probably say it. But, I'm not sure exactly where in that film I'd be. I'd have to fit in, and I think film is pretty cramped in that regard. In the same regard, "My Dinner with Andre," doesn't seem to need a third wheel, and while I'd love to have toured with her in "Madonna: Truth or Dare," I can't imagine exactly what I'd be doing. On the same token though, I could go out at a Tribeca Italian Eatery like in "Dinner Rush," or possibly have attended "Woodstock," or been a passenger as there was a "Murder on the Orient Express." (As long as I'm not the one that gets killed that is.) Well, after a while, I finally narrowed it down to two films that are so different that I really couldn't decide between them. "Clerks." was one of the first films I thought of. My family's all from New Jersey, a little more South of Asbury Park, we're closer to Camden, but the films of Kevin Smith speak to me on a surprisingly clear level. I know a lot of people very much like the characters in his films, and frankly, if my mom had decided not to move out west, I would've probably grown up in New Jersey, and work at some point at a shitty little video store like Randal. Or, I'd at least, go and rent a movie there, and go to the convenient store, while having ridiculous conversations about whether any independent contractors died on the incompleted deathstar in "Return of the Jedi." Well, that last part, I kinda have a lot of now, but still, I can very easily imagine myself living in this world, playing hockey on the roof and all that. The other film, probably not as well-known, although it should be is "Laurel Canyon," takes place in that artistic area of L.A. that the titles named for. The film was written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko, who last year made "The Kids Are All Right," and while that's a great film, before that, she had made two mood pieces that aren't so much about plot and story, as they are the world discovering of these underground little drugged-up art scenes. One was "High Art," and while that is a favorite of mine, it's kinda depressing. In "Laurel Canyon," a son and his girlfriend return to their home, surprised to find his mother, a record producer, getting him with the band she's recording with, while dating the singer, just chilling, and listening to Steely Dan. The son suffers from Alex Keaton syndrome, but his girlfriend starts to get taken in, and so did I. This world of music, drugs, and yes, this more androgynous sexual lifestyle is erotic and fascinating to me. Cholodenko wrote the film, while listening to Joni Mitchell's "Ladies of the Canyon" album, and frankly I wanted to live in this canyon and listen to Joni Mitchell all day after watching the film. The plot involves one of Cholodenko's typical, complex love triangles, but frankly, even in the film, it kinda feels like so what? and I wish more films had that point of view. Also, the movie is the reason I bought an AC/DC t-shirt like the one in the movie that plays a critical role in the film. Good times.

DAY 23: Movie that Inspires You: TIE: "WINGS OF DESIRE," and "THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT."
Hmm. Another confusing category. Inspiration. What inspires me is movies themselves. I could've easily listed every shitty movie ever made in this category, because they'll inspire me more than anything that I can make something better. I think the category is really looking for those films that are supposed to inspire us, the most inspirational films. Again, I don't know what that really means, but usually I can't stand it when a film is trying to make me feel inspired. There's a bunch of clues, like uplifting music, overdramatic melodrama, dialogue that's something you here at a halftime speech in a locker room. Sometimes it works, but in general, I don't like it when movies tell me how I should feel. (In contrast, I will gladly continue to write reviews of movies where I directly tell people what they should think about a film, and expect nothing less that complete agreement that I am right about my opinions. I mentioned "The American President," earlier as I thought about it for other categories. That is a film that inspires me on a professional level. Aaron Sorkin, is the greatest writer alive, and his dialogue is masterful, and he more than anyone else really inspired me to be a writer. "The American President," was one of the first times I really remember hearing intelligent characters saying intelligent things in film. It also basically gives you a crash course on what to do and what not to do when dealing with the media from a position of celebrity and power. It's shows the people that run the country as fragile and human as the people working in the office with you, trying to get through the day without being taken over by Canada or something. See, I've been working on this paragraph for about an hour on and off now, and I still can't write anything as smart and witty as Aaron Sorkin can, but that inspires me to keep writing more. The other films "Wings of Desire," inspires me on a spiritual level. This might surprise some people. Now that the movie inspires me, but that I have  aspiritual level, but I do. Parts of the film might sound familiar to those who've seen "City of Angels," a loosely reworked American remake of the film, but in Berlin, (during the reign of the wall) two watcher angels, spend all day listening and watching humans, and making notes on what they see. They can't experience, and they can't effect, what happens, but one of them wants to. The movie is sprawling and poetic and beautiful, but it's in wonderful innate that angels would desire to be like humans, with flaws, scars, emotions, warts, and all, that I find immensely inspiring. I thought of the movie a lot recently after Peter Falk passed away earlier this year. He plays himself in the movie, an American movie star in Berlin shooting a film, with a secret past. To describe what happens in the film is frightening pointless however, because it's the way they happen, and these great otherworldly and human events and people that make it undeniably fascinating. I rarely if ever think about this film as something to shoot for for my own projects, but "Wings of Desire," makes me feel glad to be a person and to live and live on this Earth, and some days, that's all you really need to get through it. If I am down, this is the movie I turn to bring me back up. So two very different films, and two very different kinds of inspiration for me. I told you this category gets complicated.

DAY 24: Favorite Movie Soundtrack: "ONCE"
Well, there are some obvious first-thought answers to this one. It's a little tricky though, there's a lot of different kinds of soundtracks as well. Soundtrack of a musical for instance, are very different than a compilation of background songs, which is very different from the soundtrack of a movie that's mostly score, "2001: A Space Odyssey," is a good example of the latter. Yet, the best soundtrack also have the distinction of being inherently intertwined with the film itself. Intertwined, and in some cases, surpassing it. "Purple Rain," was an obvious answer to this, and it is a kick-ass album, but, I'm not exactly a devoted lover of the film. Am I devoted fan of "Tommy," but the movie came out three years after the album, which was an opera as well.... I thought of a couple others, "The Graduate," of course, although I disqualified it fairly quickly, 'cause most of the Simon & Garfunkel songs off that album were also on their album "Bookends," which came out at about the same time. For similar reasons, I also knocked off "Magnolia," which has some amazing songs, mostly be Aimee Mann, although, many of them are on her "Bachelor #2" album. I think the soundtrack should be a something that's distinctive to the fill basically. "Saturday Night Fever," a great obvious one as well; the movie and the soundtrack are practically interconnected with each other. That is the key to a great soundtrack, the music not only has to be great, but it really has to be integral to the story. Now this can come in a compilation album form like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," or "Almost Famous," but really, this wasn't one I thought about too long on. Watching "Once," is basically the same thing as playing the soundtrack of the movie. I've already posted a Canon of Film blog entry for "Once", a little while back, and the movie really works because the music is really good, and there's practically no more magical moment in film involving a song that's being than when He and She walk into that music store, and start to play. The movie, turns from something that's just interesting into something that's truly magical.

DAY 25: Most Beautiful Scenery: "L'AVVENTURA"
I thought about this one for a while, and "L'Avventura," was one of the last movies I even thought about considering originally. You gotta understand, if you're paying attention to the scenery, usually that means there's something wrong with the movie. Not always, but most of the time. Also, most beautiful? Most of the time, the movies where I love and/or remember the lighting aren't beautiful and gorgeous. There's usually something that's off about them that's fascinating to me. And then, what exactly is scenery, is this outdoor shots of land or can it be a set that's designed and built on a stage. It's gets trickier the more you dig into this category. The first movie I thought about was "Days of Heaven," the great Terence Malick film that takes place in the Texas panhandle and shot all during the Magic Hour. All his movies are beautfiul. As are Zhang Yimou's films. I thought about his best film "Raise the Red Lantern," for awhile. Then I thought more unique ones like "Lost in Translation," where Sofia Coppola continues to shoot on film instead of digital, creating a luscious picture of Tokyo and Japan that completely foreign and unpenetrable for it's two lost souls. I even considered Woody Allen's "Manhattan," with the beautiful blue-lit black & white cinematography of Gordon Willis that bathes over his New York. Unsure, I took a second look at the category, and thought about what film and filmmakers really use scenery in ways that not only show how beautiful it is or can be, but really use it as essential parts of their, and suddenly the light bulb went off in my head, and I started looking through the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. His fascinations included architecture and wide frames and spaces, and deep focus photography. He can turn a building or a door in a metaphor or a character trait better than anybody. I thought about "The Passenger," for a bit, but really, "L'Avventura," is the clear choice. It's widely-considered his best film, (I tend to agree with that), and here he uses immensely designed building and elaborate hallways and wonderfully as he shows the rock-like island that the vacationers travel to, showing just how strange it is when somebody gets lost there. It not only amazing to look at it, but if you don't get entranced by the beauty of the film and its locations, it probably wouldn't work. The scenery is as critical to this movie as the desert is in "Lawrence of Arabia," and especially on some blu-ray editions, it really looks sharp and amazing.

DAY 26: Movie You're Most embarassed to say you Liked: "HOUSE OF NUMBERS"
Unlike the rest of my choices, I'm not going to post a youtube clip,, or anything about this movie here on the blog. I posted the link on the website, but that's all the publicity I should give this film. I saw the film when as a volunteer judge for a local film festival, that didn't choose the movie to be screened at their festival, but I did recommend it. It's a powerful propaganda documentary that promotes the ideas of AIDS-denialists. It's powerful 'cause it's well made, and its occasionally makes some legitimate points about AIDS. It has been somewhat overfunded in recent years, and some of the testing for HIV is suspect, and I do think that there is something to a healthy lifestyle being as good a possible cure for AIDS and HIV as the beginning steps to saving and possibly curing the disease, but it is a disesase and it's killed thousands of people. It's very good propaganda, but most of it is bullshit, with a couple interesting actual problems and annomallies thrown in. No movie do I regret liking more than this one.

DAY 27: Movie with your Favorite Villain: HARRY LIME-"THE THIRD MAN"
Well, I couple I had to eliminate because I use the movie already, "The Silence of the Lambs," most notably, but that still left me with dozens of other favorites. I finally narrowed it down to about a dozen though. A couple modern one like Hans Landsa from "Inglourious Basterds," came close, but he's more of a great character than a great villain. Same went for someone like Michael Corleone, in "The Godfather Part II", although he came close too. Favorite villains can't just be evil, they have to have great personality, sly wit, intelligence, humor, that got to really be dispicable and enjoy it. Cruella De Vil in "101 Dalmatians," is a villain, Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard," is a villain, Rev. Harry Powll in "The Night of the Hunter," which was a close second for me, he's a villain. Harry Lime in Carol Reed's "The Thrid Man," played by Orson Welles, with this sly smile, he's the ultimate villain. He fakes his own death, he turns on everybody including his girlfriend and his best friend, he sells diluted blackmarket penicillin and sells it to local hospitals, this guy is a sick fuck, and yet, he defends all his actions with complete an utter logic, and he does on a ferris wheel no less, and he even has the ability to improvise a line like Orson Welles.

DAY 28: Movie with your favorite hero: ROCKY BALBOA-"ROCKY"
Again, as with villains, there's a struggle in the differences between a heroic character, like Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," for instance, and a character that's a real hero, like Passenger of United 93 in "United 93." This category had even more variety though. Superhero, anti-heroes, real-life heroes, lots of them. "Ghandi," "Milk," Brandon Teena in "Boys Don't Cry," "Malcolm X," to name a few. Well, I came close to saying "Juror #8," from "12 Angry Men. I then was thinking about what films are actually about the hero. A hero is a tough character to create realistically, from the ground up. Villains always have more interesting and fun backstories, and you can be more imaginative with them. Heroes are practically nameless sometimes. People who come in, have a very dry, baseline cause, and then they make sure nobody gets in their way as they strive to achieve it. The best heroes are the ones who aren't trying to be, the ones we hope will succeed, but might now. Now, "Rocky," will always have a personal spot in my heart, it's a requirement of having a family from Philadelphia. But as film, the movie is really about a man, who inadvertantly becomes a hero, and the finds a way to strive for it in himself. By the end of the movie, we know what's he's done and how far he's struggled to thrive, personally and professionally, and weren't not just waiting for him to come in and save the day, we actually give a damn what happens to him.

DAY 29: First Movie You Ever Remember Watching: "RUTHLESS PEOPLE"
Yeah, that's a strange one. What can I say, I watched it over and over again as a kid, 'cause I liked the scene with the Donald Duck masks. The masks were on the cover of the VHS tape, I thought that meant the movie would have more ducks in it, and I thought it would be different if I watched it the next time. I'm sure there's some psychology term like "object permanence," (well, not that one, but something like it) that explains that behavior, but I was two or three, or twenty, I don't remember how old, but I was young. I did that with a few movies, and that one is certainly the strangest of the films I obsessed over as a kid. Actually, the movie still holds up incredibly well. It's made by the Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker team that made "Airplane!", and "The Naked Gun" movies. The whole movie is on, and it's actually still pretty funny. Strange for a 3-year old, but keep in mind, it does have Donald Duck masks.

DAY 30: Last film You've Seen: "PULP FICTION" and "BEFORE SUNSET"
When this finally came up, I was watching "The Birth of a Nation." Well, that's fucked up. I mean, I have to have watched it because this is my career, and basically everything we know about editing can be found in the movie. It can also be found in better less blatantly racist films as well. So, at the library, I decided to see what netflix and hulu had available, of films I had seen, made a shortlist ahead of time anyway, and basically thought, okay, I've seen over 3,000 films, almost all of them are at my disposle on this computer, what do I want to watch. "Before Sunset," is the sequel to "Before Sunrise," which was the movie I choose for favorite love story. That film had two college-age people, both Americans, meet on a train, and with the one day that they had, decide to spend the day in Vienna getting to know each other, talking about the mysteries of life, and all other things, falling in love, eventually promising to meet again at the end. In the sequel "Before Sunset," they pick up where they left off. They're still intelligent, smart, observing people, both have extensive memories of that day and night in Vienna, but now they have even less time than before, and they're smarter and wiser, sobered to the young insucient youths they are, but still obviously enchanted with each other, but now they have their own new struggles and commitments. It's movie where two people talk. Something we don't get enough of. People talk a lot in "Pulp Fiction," as well, and they have great some great dialogue. It's strange how instantly I remember the movie considering how strangely structured it is. It's got a plot and a story, and it's not the most difficult thing in the world, to put it in chronological order, if one wants to, but that takes the fun out of it. It's these great scenes all randomly put together, that makes it so fun. There's hundreds of memorable lines and the great scenes after great scene, and the more you watch it, the better it seems to get. Few movie just enjoy being a movie the way "Pulp Fiction," does. These are both movies, that I can sit down and watch right now! They certainly appeal to different parts of me, but they're great films that are constantly growing with each viewing. You can't ask more of a movie than to want to watch it again and again.

Whew! I picked 14 movies, when I was only supposed to pick ten. Jees! Oh well. I don't understand how to pick just one most of the time, and, I think, I'm okay with it. Next time, the next thirty, including favorite trilogy, and a film by my favorite director. I'll give you a hint, both of those choices, will be by the same director, and I've already got one of his films picked for another category. Hmm. What if I told you, the director was Polish? That's the next ten. It's halftime, and since I hate halftime speech, I'm cutting this one sh-.

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