Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 1947 - My favorite movies from the year I was born until now (Part 2)

Continuing this perfectly selfish indulgence, I'm writing part 2 while my all-time favorite movie plays in the background (Bruce Cabot is my hero).  And I've already had a hiccup with part one.  The James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only came out in 1981, and would probably take over the number one spot over Blow Out and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  But that's what makes lists like this fun.  The debate, and the wracking of the brains to figure out where your mind is currently at.  But without further ado...

1998 - The Last Days of Disco (Smart people talking about smart things, even if they aren't doing the smartest things.  Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale absolutely kill it as roommates who are really only friends of convenience.)

1999 - Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut (A Tom Cruise double feature.  I still remember one day when I had the TV on in the morning, and Magnolia was on.  I watched about 20 minutes before I had to go to work, but when I got home that night, I watched the last two and a half hours, because I still couldn't get it out of my head even though I had seen it numerous times before.)
2000 - Requiem For a Dream (The greatest anti-drug movie you'll ever see.  Horrific, terrifying, stunning, and tragic.  An incredibly hard film to watch, but gripping in every way.)
2001 - Mulholland Dr., Ghost World, Amelie (Mulholland Dr. is like a masters thesis in surrealism and Naomi Watts gives the performance of the decade.  Ghost World is one of the very best comic book movies ever made.  And Amelie  is just both a glorious piece of filmmaking and one of the happiest movies ever made.)
2002 - Punch Drunk Love (I honestly wish Adam Sandler made more movies like this.  And the music is just amazing.)
2003 - Elephant, Kill Bill Part 1, The Matrix Reloaded, Mystic River, Love Actually (Five movies!  C'mon, make up your mind!  Elephant is about a day where a school shooting is about to occur.  Super slow, but absolutely deliberate and riveting.  Kill Bill Part1 is like the filmic equivalent of an adrenaline shot to the heart.  The Matrix Reloaded had to be on here.  There is no movie I saw more during the first run in the theater.  In my own mind it makes perfect sense, and has some of the most staggering action scenes ever.  Mystic River is so sad and tragic.  The performances enhance an already stellar story.   And Love Actually... well, I feel there are all sorts of love puns I could use.  Suffice to say, I really do love it.
2004 - The Incredibles
2005 - King Kong, Batman Begins (Peter Jackson's remake of Kong is long, self-indulgent, and has a miscast Jack Black.  But it's probably the closest approximation of the movie I would have made, and I love it because of that.  Batman Begins is my favorite Batman movie.  I never get tired of it, because I think it's perfectly constructed.
2006 - The Departed, Casino Royale, The Prestige (Martin Scorsese has really just been on fire with his last fifteen years worth of movies.  Whenever I need a two and a half hour pick-me-up, Casino Royale is where I turn.  And The Prestige is so wonderfully twisty.)
2007 - There Will be Blood (I drink your milkshake!  I drink it up!)
2008 - Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda (I refuse to justify either one of these two masterpieces.)
2009 - Funny People (Another Adam Sandler flick?  Yeah, this movie balanced comedy and drama perfectly for me.)
2010 - Exit Through the Gift Shop, Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Exit makes me question reality and look at art in ways that challenge me, and I appreciate it all the more for that.  Scott Pilgrim takes everything I love and squishes it into this perfect little movie.)
2011 - Warrior (Even knowing where the movie was going, I was still on the edge of my seat.  Repeat viewings have never diminished my love for this film.)
2012 - Moonrise Kingdom (Not my favorite Wes Anderson movie, but it's still great, and it beat out everything else that year.)
2013 - The Way, Way Back - Sam Rockwell is so good, and Steve Carell is so bad (their characters, anyway).  I really can't recommend this more highly.
2014 - Under the Skin, Whiplash (Under the Skin is the creepy, slow-paced, sci fi flick that has Scarlett Johannson as an alien(?).  Not for all tastes by any means, but I find it fascinating.  And Whiplash's thoughts on motivation and artistic skill still resonate.)
2015 - Ex Machina (Oh, how I love that ending.
2016 - Hell or High Water (Yes, Jeff Bridges does nothing new, but he's still good.  But it's the idea that all the characters' motivations, both right and wrong, are both right and wrong, elevates this for me.

Ahhh.  That was fun.  I want to rewatch a lot of these now.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Day 1944 - My favorite movies from the year I was born until now. (Part 1)

So there was a little thing going around Facebook where people would start at the year they were born and list their favorite movie in each of those years.  Apparently the rule was one movie per year.  But it also looked like people would break that rule when it suited them (like I'm going to do).  It also appeared that people put down the movies with no explanation, either.  I like doing all that writing, so, when appropriate, I'm going to have little commentaries sprinkled throughout.  I spent a stupid amount of time doing research for this, so I might as well put in the extra effort.

1972 - The Godfather
1973 - Charley Varrick (I've seen it one time only, but this tight, funny, and mean thriller with Walter Matthau has never left my brain.  Still one of the best endings I've ever seen.)
1974 - The Conversation (On almost every list I've seen, The Godfather Part 2 gets put on here.  While I do, indeed, love The Godfather Part 2, Francis Ford Coppola's other movie is one of my all-time favorites.)
1975 - Jaws (duh)
1976 - Taxi Driver
1977 - Close Encounters of the Third Kind/Star Wars (The first tie.  Star Wars is the easy pick for most people, and I really do love it just as much as everyone else.  But Close Encounters is just as magical.  If Spielberg had never made Jaws, this would be my favorite film of his.)
1978 - Halloween ("You can't kill the Boogie Man.")
1979 - Apocalypse Now (not the Redux version, the original.)
1980 - Dressed to Kill/The Empire Strikes Back/The Stunt Man (Three way tie!  Each one of these movies affects me on very deep levels.)
1981 - Blowout/Raiders of the Lost Ark (In any other year, either one would be my top movie.  In 1981 however, they get to be tied.)
1982 - Tootsie (So much funnier and heartfelt than you think it could ever be.
1983 - The Right Stuff
1984 - The Natural/Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom/Sixteen Candles (Another three-way tie.  There's a few of us who recognize that Raiders is the better movie, and we still don't care.  I like Temple of Doom.  The Natural is my favorite baseball movie.  As for Sixteen Candles - casual racism and sexism aside, I really, really like it.  So there.)
1985 -Purple Rose of Cairo/Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Behind Chaplin's City Lights, The Purple Rose of Cairo is the most touching, funny, tragic movie I've ever seen.  And on the other end of the spectrum, Pee Wee's Big Adventure is flat-out one of the funniest movies ever made.)
1986 - F/X  (I make no bones about how much I love this movie.)
1987 - Robocop ("I'd buy that for a dollar!")
1988 - My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece is just a joy to experience.)
1989 - Field of Dreams (The Little Mermaid and The Killer both gave this a run for the money, but it moves me too much to even make it a contest.)
1990 - Dances With Wolves (The First movie I ever saw three times in the theater.  I still love it.)
1991 - Silence of the Lambs/Barton Fink (If we're going to be honest, Silence of the Lambs beats out the Coen Brothers' Barton Fink by a hair, but Barton Fink is in my top 10 favorite movies of all-time a few spots behind Lambs, so that has to count for something, right?)
1992 - Hero/Hard Boiled - Hero affected me more than a lot of other people.  But I love it just the same.  And Hard-Boiled is just an action masterpiece.
1993 - True Romance/The Piano/The Fugitive/Short Cuts (True Romance is cool personified, The Piano blindsided me with how good it was, The Fugitive actually made TV show reboots a good idea, and Short Cuts is just a Robert Altman multi-character, multi-story piece of art.)
1994 - Pulp Fiction/Serial Mom  (Serial Mom?  Really?  Yes, indeed.  At the time it was made, it was about five minutes ahead of it's time.  Now it almost seems quaint.  What should have been a John Waters spoof, ends up being creepily on the nose. 
1995 - Beyond the Clouds (One of Michaelangelo Antonioni's final films, this one just carries me in every time.)
1996 - Beautiful Girls (so great.)
1997 - Titanic (yeah, that's right.)

Part 2 in a day or so.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Day 1933 - Kong: Skull Island

So, I find the fact that the day that I'm writing my Kong review- it matches the year the original was in the theaters.  I guess it was supposed to be. 

For those of you who don't know (new friends and the like), the original King Kong is my all-time favorite movie.  There's something about a giant ape that fights monsters,  finds love, gets into show business, and have it all go wrong that hits me in my sweet spot.  And the real trick to all the different King Kong films over the years is its complete disregard for its audience.  Let me clarify - in most monster movies (or giant creature movies), it doesn't take that long for the monsters to show up and start wreaking some havoc.  We live in a time where we want to see these magnificent beasts early and often.  None of the previous Kong films really subscribe to this method of storytelling.  Even the bad ones.And Kong: Skull Island is no different.

The plot - during the waning days of the Vietnam War, a group of soldiers is asked to accompany an expedition to an unchartered island, where they're going to, well, chart it.  Along for the ride is Tom Hiddleston's guide, James Conrad, and Brie Larson's Mason Weaver, an award-winning photo-journalist who knows that something epic is on the horizon.  Their traveling companions are Samuel L. Jackson playing Samuel L. Jackson (and he hates big monkeys), and John Goodman as an independent government contractor, who knows (maybe) what's on the island.  And there's a lot of soldiers.  Some of whom you'll remember and like, and others which you'll forget about five minutes after they've been eaten (or squashed).

And for giant simian action, this really is your go-to movie.  But what this misses that previous Kong movies has is a sense of weight and heft.  The previous movies speak about larger truths.  Sometimes it might be a bit much for people, but that's probably why they resonate so much with me.  And Kong: Skull Island doesn't really have that.  Sure there's a touch of, "We really need to leave the big gorilla alone,"  but there's nothing more past that.

But the lack of a greater theme, shall we say, doesn't make the movie any less enjoyable.  Kong is pretty darn impressive.  When he goes on his various rampages, it's a sight to behold.  The lizard-like bag guy creatures are also solid.  I would have probably prefered a creature that was more based off fact, as opposed to one the filmmakers just dreamed of.  Which is why, when the giant spider showed up, it was easily my favorite scene in the film.  Giant monkeys still have the number one spot in my heart, but giant spiders aren't far behind.

I had been waiting for this movie for a while now, and it was solid.  I appreciated Tom Hiddleston's role, because, even though he really didn't have a whole lot to do, he's still charismatic as all get out.  And at essentially two hours long, the movie really did fly by.  But it's simply entertainment.  It never rises above that.  Ah, well.